Valerie Solanas spent the morning and afternoon of June 3, 1968, in a search for a chance to commit a violent act that would, in her words that day, “make her famous.” By afternoon, she had committed the act: she shot Andy Warhol, gravely wounding him.
She was probably looking for an act of violence that would match the violence roiling her inner world.
She brought a script to the Actor’s Studio and said she wanted to show it to founder Lee Strasberg; he was not present. She stopped by the offices of the Grove Press, where she asked for publisher Barney Rosset. He was not present. She visited a little-known theatrical producer, Margo Feiden, who told Interview magazine (Warhol’s publication) in 2009 about a four-hour long visit Solanas had with her:
“I said to her, ‘Valerie, I’m absolutely not going to produce this play. I’m not.’ And she said, ‘Oh, yes you will. You’ll say you will.’ And she said that with such confidence that I asked her what was it that made her so sure of this, and she said … [whispers, tears up] Sorry … [pauses] She said, ‘I’m going now to shoot Andy Warhol and that will make me famous, and that will make the play famous, and you will produce it. You will.’—“History Re-Write,” Interview, March 2009
Solanas then reached into a handbag made of scraps of cloth and showed a handgun to Feiden.
(Olympia Press owner Maurice Girodias later claimed that he learned that Solanas had visited his offices that morning, but this is considered unverified by historians and a possible lie by Girodias to use as publicity to sell copies of Solanas’ book, The S.C.U.M. Manifesto, which Girodias had decided to publish before the shooting happened.)
Police records show that Feiden phoned several police precincts after Solanas left, to warn them of the threatened shooting. Her warnings went unheeded.
Solanas arrived at Warhol’s studio, the Factory, where she had performed in one of his movies the year before. (She had presented him a script to produce that was so pornographic he thought it was a trap from a prosecutor’s office. He told her he had liked the typing in it. She was insulted but he decided to include her in a film.) Solanas told people she was waiting for Warhol to give her some money. She got on the elevator and rode it up and down the few floors in the building until he arrived.
Solanas was dressed for winter (in June) and according to Feiden, “smelled loud,” and she was wearing makeup, something she never did. Warhol complimented this change in appearance and took a phone call. She shot the gun, missed, shot it again, missed, fired it a third time and hit Warhol; the bullet went through both lungs, his spleen, stomach, liver, and esophagus. The gun jammed after. In the chaos, she walked out of the Factory, but turned herself in to the police that afternoon.
Solanas was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia but was eventually deemed fit to stand trial, at which she represented herself. She pleaded guilty to assault and served time. She continued to stalk Warhol by phone until he pressed charges against her in the early 1970s. He died in February 1987; she outlived him by ten months, dying in poverty in April 1988.
“I Believe,” from Songs for Drella by Lou Reed and John Cale (I disagree with Reed’s eye-for-eye ethos, myself):
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Anthony Quinn died 15 years ago today.
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Tony Curtis was born on this date in 1925. Allen Ginsberg was born 90 years ago today.
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Larry McMurtry is 80 today. Ian Hunter is 77. Anderson Cooper is 49 today. Rafael Nadal is 30.
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