A colleague and muse of Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol, artist and author Isabelle Collin Dufresne, better known by her Warhol Superstar name Ultra Violet, passed away just days ago. She chose her Warholian stage moniker due to her lilac hair and appeared in multiple films by the artist throughout the 1960s and ‘70s (The Life of Juanita Castro and I, a Man). Her experiences were detailed in the autobiography, Famous for 15 Minutes: My Years with Andy Warhol. Andy’s cult of personalities won their 15 minutes of fame thanks to the pop icon, but many of them went on to have careers in other fields, especially cinema. Here are just a few of the Warhol Superstars and their movie projects you might have missed.
Warhol Superstar Fame: Woronov was a dancer in Andy’s multimedia musical event known as the Exploding Plastic Inevitable (often alongside fellow Superstars Edie Sedgwick and Gerard Malanga). Her first major Warhol film was Hedy (The Shoplifter), followed by Superboy, and the much-loved Chelsea Girls, Andy’s first commercial success. Woronov appears in one of the few scripted segments as Hanoi Hannah. She palled around with a Factory-familiar group known as the Mole People — a circle of speed freaks, including Billy Name and Ondine.
Film You Might Have Missed: Woronov is known as one of the reigning queens of cult cinema, appearing in a number of low-budget Roger Corman productions and horror films. Her appearance in the 1975 dystopian auto-actioner Death Race 2000 as the saucy cowgirl “Calamity” Jane Kelly, one of the drivers in the deadly competition, is great fun.
Warhol Superstar Fame: Viva and Andy didn’t warm up to each other immediately upon meeting, but after a party thrown by fashion designer Betsy Johnson, they became collaborators on several of Andy’s “pornographic” films. The artist sidestepped the censors by creating “socially redeeming” pictures that also happened to be sexually explicit. Blue Movie starred the well-spoken Viva as herself with Louis Waldon (playing himself) — a snapshot of an idyllic afternoon in a New York City apartment, having sex, talking about the war in Vietnam, and lounging around. Viva was on the phone with Andy when Valerie Solanas shot him.
Film You Might Have Missed: Viva appeared in Lions Love, directed by the godmother of the French New Wave, Agnès Varda. The 1969 vérité picture, featuring Viva as herself, found the Superstar playing an actress being courted by an avant-garde film director attempting to break it big with a major studio. The largely improvisational movie incorporated the work of poet and playwright Michael McClure.
Warhol Superstar Fame: The Puerto Rican transgender Superstar was a hit in Warhol’s Trash, playing the sexually frustrated, trash-picking girlfriend of Joe Dallesandro’s heroin addict. Director Paul Morrissey slated the star for a minor scene, but her work was so impressive she was offered a bigger part. In 1970, Oscar-winning director George Cukor petitioned to get the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to nominate Holly for an award.
Film You Might Have Missed: Holly went on to star in a number of Warhol movies and other pictures. Her appearance as a partygoer in the haunting, off-beat drama about conjoined twin brothers, Twin Falls Idaho, is over in a flash, but she’s one of many members in an oddball cast that adds to the movie’s strange allure.
Warhol Superstar Fame: the stunning transgender Velvet Underground muse appeared in Warhol’s Flesh and Women in Revolt (the last movie during which Andy filmed his own scenes), satirizing the Women’s Liberation Movement.
Film You Might Have Missed: Candy Darling bounced between indie films, low-budget horror movies, and big-screen hits after her Superstar days. She appeared in Klute with Jane Fonda and Lady Liberty with Sophia Loren. The actress appeared in 1972’s Der Tod der Maria Malibran, a flamboyant drama about a 19th-century German opera singer. “Each tableau has a different motif, and each comes across with a decadent romanticism that lies somewhere between the Pre-Raphaelites and a quick flick through the pages of a ’40s copy of Vogue. Schroeter’s film is a delight to the eye — rich, strange and perverse.”
Warhol Superstar Fame: he was the lead in Warhol’s unfinished and unauthorized Batman Dracula (1964), starring as Batman.
Film You Might Have Missed: The film that gave him his reputation was 1963’s Flaming Creatures, which was confiscated by the police during its premiere at the Bleecker Street Cinema in New York due to graphic sexual scenes. The courts ruled it to be obscene. A self-described “comedy set in a haunted music studio,” the film is difficult to come by, but worth seeking out (ahem). Susan Sontag described it as a “rare modern work of art; it is about joy and innocence.”
Warhol Superstar Fame: Glittery and gorgeous, transgender performer and artist Jackie Curtis appeared in Paul Morrissey’s Women in Revolt with Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn and Flesh with Joe Dallesandro and Candy Darling.
Film You Might Have Missed: Curtis starred in Eric Mitchell’s 1980 film Underground U.S.A., which features sound work by future filmmaker Jim Jarmusch. The movie sometimes makes the screening rounds. Watch an intro to the film by Mitchell at MoMa in 2009 for more info.
The “underground” of the title refers not to crime but to the half-hidden world of two-bit hustlers, “artistic” poseurs, aberrant lifestyles and shattered dreams. Small-time Manhattan opportunist Eric Mitchell latches onto Patti Astor, a once-popular movie star fallen into penury. He briefly lifts her spirits, but in the final analysis betrays her. Astor sorrowfully decides that she’d rather not live any longer. Lensed in 16 millimeter by producer/ director/ star Eric Mitchell, Underground USA is occasionally effective, though for much of the proceedings it suffers from trying too hard to be the Big Apple counterpart to Godard’s Breathless.
Warhol Superstar Fame: Queer film Superstar and drag performer Mario Montez, featured in Andy’s Mario Banana I (1964), Screen Test #2 (1965), and Harlot (1965), became a New York underground theater favorite. Director Jack Smith gave Montez his stage name, as Smith loved 1940s actress María Montez. Montez learned to act by watching old movies.
Film You Might Have Missed: Montez had perhaps a stronger relationship with Smith than Warhol, which is why Normal Love (co-starring Tiny Tim with an appearance from Andy), the follow-up to Smith’s raucous Flaming Creatures, is one to watch.
Warhol Superstar Fame: reportedly, Ondine met Andy at an orgy in the ’60s and kicked the artist out (without knowing who he was) since he wasn’t participating in the group fun. He made his Warhol movie debut in 1964’s Couch — which is pretty much what it sounds like (sex and conversation on an old couch in the Factory). A role as “Pope Ondine” in Chelsea Girls followed. Andy was fascinated by Ondine’s speed-fueled speech and frequently tape-recorded his conversations (read a: A Novel for more on that). He was later banned from the factory after several spats with the group, but remained friendly with Warhol.
Film You Might Have Missed: Ondine appeared in the sexploitation gem Sugar Cookies — a lesbian revenge thriller made by future president of Troma Entertainment Lloyd Kaufman and a then unknown Oliver Stone, co-starring fellow Warhol Superstar Mary Woronov.