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3 June 2011

On this day in history: Andy Warhol shot, 1968

Valerie Solanas was born in Ventnor City, New Jersey in 1936. Throughout Valerie's childhood her father subjected her to sexual abuse, before divorcing her mother in the 1940s. Valerie moved to Washington D.C. with her mother who remarried following their relocation. After clashing with her stepfather Valerie left home at the age of fifteen, but nevertheless managed to complete high-school and gain a degree in psychology from the University of Maryland.

In 1966 she gravitated to Greenwich Village where she wrote a play called Up Your Ass about a man-hating prostitute, which (according to some accounts) may be based on Solanas' own experiences. The next year, Solanas had a fateful encounter with the artist Andy Warhol, who agreed to look at the play with a view to producing it; however, he later said that he was wary that Solanas may have been a police officer attempting to entrap him because the play was so pornographic and the police had already shut down filming on some of his other movies on the grounds that they were obscene.

It was at this time that Solanas wrote the satirical radical feminist tract the SCUM Manifesto. SCUM being an acronym of Society for Cutting Up Men. Later in 1967, she demanded that Warhol return the script of her play. When Warhol said that he could not do so (because he has lost it), she demanded payment for the work. In compensation Warhol offered her a small role in one of his movies, I, A Man. Solanas took the role but was far from satisfied.


At around 4:15pm on 3rd June 1968, Solanas took the elevator with Warhol up to his artistic headquarters, the Factory. She had been waiting there most of the day, taking the same lift up there to see the artist in order to get money for the play. Paul Morrissey, one of Warhol's associates, had rebuffed her on every occasion and again demanded that she leave or he would have to throw her out. Solanas then took a .32 automatic pistol from a paper bag, which she fired at Warhol three times, hitting him with the third attempt. She then fired twice at the art critic Mario Amaya - one bullet finding its target - before putting the gun to the head of Warhol's manager, Fred Hughes. The pistol jammed just as the elevator arrived and Hughes suggested that she take it. Solanas agreed and departed.

Warhol barely survived the shooting. The bullet had struck both his lungs as well as his spleen, stomach, liver, and oesophagus. He never made a full recovery and in order to prevent the wounds from worsening, he had to wear a corset for the rest of his life. Solanas turned herself in to the police that evening saying, "He had too much control of my life." The police charged her with attempted murder along with other offences. Pleading guilty, Solanas received a three year sentence. After release, she made threatening telephone calls to Warhol as well as others and was arrested again in November 1971. She spent time in psychiatric institutions (she may well have been suffering from some form of mental disorder at the time of the shooting) before drifting into prostitution in San Francisco, where she died of emphysema and pneumonia at the age of 52, in 1988.

The SCUM Manifesto is available for download in pdf format from zinelibrary.info.

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2 comments:

Don E. Chute said...

Very Sad indeed. Definably a nut job though.

Stepterix said...

That's not saying much. Through a stick in any direction at Warhol's Factory and you'd hit a 'nut job' of some sort.