(Photo: Brigid Berlin)
Viva had first introduced herself to Andy Warhol in approximately 1963 at an art gallery opening. According to Warhol, she was "living with a photographer and trying to become a fashion illustrator" at the time. (POP228) Two years later, in 1965, she visited Andy at the Factory to ask him for money. She was behind with her $16 a week rent at the Chelsea Hotel and, after running into Gerard Malanga at the hotel and going to the Factory with him, she proceeded to try and get the money from Warhol.
“She’d done it with all the nonchalance of somebody asking for their paycheck - except that I didn’t even know her! What she essentially said was ‘I need twenty dollars and you can afford it...' "(POP230-1)
When Warhol told Viva that he didn't have any money, she persisted with her request.
"I said to Andy, what do you mean you don't have any money. I just saw a painting at Janis, that first Campbell soup painting at the Janis Gallery. You're famous, come on you must have some money, give me $16 and he said no, so I never went back to see him again. Before we went Gerard tried to seduce me on the bed. I said Gerard come off it. You know you're a fag and he said 'I am not, I am not, where did you hear that?... I said I heard you were Andy's lover. 'I am not,' he said. So I said try my sister but she didn't want to..." (ASL)
Two years after that incident, on August 4, 1967, she went up to Warhol at a party given by fashion designer Betsey Johnson, and asked if she could be in his next film. When he said yes, she showed up to be filmed for The Loves of Ondine the day after the party.
"[Viva] had a face that was so striking you had the choice of whether to call her beautiful or ugly. I happened to love the way she looked, and I was impressed with all the references she kept dropping to literature and politics... She talked constantly, and it was the most tiresome voice I’d ever heard - it was incredible to me that one woman’s voice could convey so much tedium.” (POP)
Viva was born Susan Hoffman on August 23, 1938 in Thousand Islands, New York. She was raised with her 8 siblings in Syracuse, where her father was an important criminal lawyer. She attended Marymount college - a Catholic college in Tarrytown, New York - and moved to Paris during her junior year to study art at the Sorbonne. In Paris she stayed in a convent on the Right Bank. When she returned to New York, she attempted to paint and also modeled for other artists. (DB260)
After her debut in The Loves of Ondine, Viva made three more films in quick succession: Bike Boy, Tub Girls and Nude Restaurant. Footage from all three films was included in **** (Four Stars). A version of Bike Boy was actually released first as a separate film before it was shown as part of **** (Four Stars). It opened at the Hudson Theater near Times Square in October 1967 after a six-week run of I A Man, whereas **** (Four Stars) was not shown until December 15 - 16, 1967. About Bike Boy, a New York Times reviewer said, "[Bike Boy] opened yesterday at the Hudson Theater. It belongs in the Hudson River." (FAW33)
Tub Girls was filmed after Bike Boy and included Abigail Rosen in the cast. Rosen was the first door lady at Max's Kansas City which had opened about two years earlier - on December 6, 1965. (HR34)
Nude Restaurant was shot after Tub Girls and also featured Taylor Mead, Louis Waldon and Ingrid Superstar in the cast, in addition to Viva. Julian Burroughs, who falsely claimed to be William Burroughs' son in real life, appeared as an anti-war activist in the film. Burroughs' real name was Andrew Dungan. He had adopted a false name because he really was a deserter from the U.S. military at the time he appeared in the film. He had spent nine months in military training before going on leave in June 1967 and never returning. (FM347) In the last scene of Nude Restaurant, the bare-chested Julian tries to get a g-string clad Taylor to make a commitment to the anti-war movement by taking in deserters from the Vietnam War, while Viva makes out with Louis Waldon at the restaurant counter.
Julian Burroughs: "Would you take a deserter into your house and hide him from the law?... If I can get your address perhaps I could talk to draft dodgers and other groups and tell them that you'll give them hospitality."
Taylor: "Oh, I won't give just anybody..."
Julian: "We need people who care... We want people who take an interest in our society and want to change it."
Taylor: "I want someone beautiful to live with."
Julian: "Well, anyone who doesn't like war must be beautiful."
Taylor: "Not necessarily."
Julian: "Well, I mean, perhaps we can send you pictures...."
Julian then thanks Taylor for his potential future involvement in the anti-war movement and asks again for his address:
Julian: "Taylor, I'm glad that you've given me your support and I will get in touch with the top organizations and hopefully someone will be knocking on your door soon."
Taylor: "They all know where I live."
Julian: "Where do you live?"
Taylor: "Well, I don't want to give my address... because, uh, there are people after me... like about 15 corner boys are after me."
Julian: "Corner boys?"
Taylor: "Yeah, guys that get you in a corner and beat the shit out of you."
Julian: "Is that what you're worried about?"
The film finishes with Burroughs looking straight into the camera asking viewers to come to a day of resistance on December 4th in front of the Federal Building and "several cities across the United States." The final line spoken in the film is Viva's. We hear her off-screen asking "Where's the Federal Building?"
Julian, Taylor, Viva and Louis also appeared in Warhol's next film - a western that would result in an FBI investigation of Andy Warhol. It was...