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Talk on the Wild Side: Glam, Punk and Warhol 

click to enlarge The 1971 London poster for Warhol's play Pork. It warns, "This play has explicit sexual content and 'offensive' language." - PHOTO COURTESY DAVID BAILEY
  • Photo courtesy David Bailey
  • The 1971 London poster for Warhol's play Pork. It warns, "This play has explicit sexual content and 'offensive' language."

Back in 1971, Andy Warhol staged his only play, Pork, first in New York City, then in London. With nude actors, grotesque elements and a script culled from telephone conversation, it was, according to reviewers at the time, "a sequence of sketches of funny, smutty and obsessive exchanges" and "a terse documentary of sharp scenes, lost and loveless people in a permanent hotel hell."

After the run, three New Yorkers from the show -- Tony Zanetta, Leee Black Childers and Cherry Vanilla, who played "Amanda Pork" in London -- began working for David Bowie and his MainMan management company, at the transcontinental dawn of glam rock. The three will visit The Andy Warhol Museum for a presentation titled, "Talk on the Wild Side: The Effect of Andy Warhol's Pork on the evolution of Glitter, Glam and Punk Rock."

Vanilla, who has since worked as a musician, publicist and writer, recently published her memoir Lick Me: How I Became Cherry Vanilla. (Read an excerpt.) City Paper spoke with her via phone from her Los Angeles home.

 

What do you see as the Pork's significance, at that time?
I think [Warhol] changed peoples' perceptions of how they see the world, and how they see art -- and the play was just one element of it, along with the movies, and the soup cans. But he had that attitude about us, too -- he had that attitude about actors and actresses, and what he called "superstars." 

When you think about it, in a way, he was a forerunner of reality TV. When you look at his things, in a way [laughs], they're more entertaining than a lot of what's on TV now. Because again, they were shocking then -- there were people doing drugs and having sex -- you didn't see that stuff back then. 

So, I think [the play and films] had a profound effect on opening up the way people looked at art, and also, people's morals and what they would accept in watching things that were presented as art. 

If Pork were staged now, how might it be different?
I think it would still have a value because it's Warhol, like the films all do. And I guess there would be an interest, sociologically -- because these were real conversations -- to see what people really did talk about and do back then. But as far as shocking and scandalous, I don't think it would have that element anymore.

You noted that people you met in London seemed more liberated than your American friends at the time.
I was brought up in America in the 1940s and '50s, and I think the views on sexuality then were quite still Victorian -- sex was dirty and forbidden and not talked about openly. And in a way, that had the effect of making it that much more exciting. So we thought we were being rebels in the '60s and early '70s.

But when we got to London, they took it more in stride. They just didn't think that they were such hot rebels as we [did], and it kind of taught us a lesson.

During Pork's London run, you write that people coming to your dressing room gave you a "full-circle groupie satisfaction." What do you mean?
"Groupie" is just a name for a passionate fan. If you don't have passionate fans ... what good is it? OK, because we were in the middle of the sexual revolution back then, and women's lib and the Pill and everything else, a lot of it meant getting them into bed. Not all of it: A lot was about getting backstage; being close to the music; having the best seats in the house; being able to go the parties. 

So of course when I got to be the one who was the rock star for a minute, and I had people coming around showering this attention at me, it was fantastic! 

It was a way of saying, "Put this in perspective: I'm a human being and I've accomplished things, and being a groupie is the little fun, recreational part of it." It was a way of saying, "Don't make me just that. Look at the whole of me, look at the whole of everybody." [Laughs.]

Oh god, that sounds dirty! [Laughs.] W-H-O-L-E!

click to enlarge Pork in London, 1971 (Cherry Vanilla, center -- "of course, baring my tits.") - DAVID BAILEY
  • David Bailey
  • Pork in London, 1971 (Cherry Vanilla, center -- "of course, baring my tits.")

And so, how do we get from Pork to ... glam rock?
Tony put together a show with Leee, they did it Café LaMaMa about three years ago, that he called "Talk on the Wild Side." [It was] based around Leee's slides, and the knowledge of what went down, what they lived through in that period. 

There was this definite string -- the actors and the theater was leading into the rock world in New York in a big way, and the rock musicians were going a lot toward theater in London. So then we did Pork, and that was another step of it -- it was like "Oh, wait, Andy Warhol has been a part of all this too, because he's making people see reality and now reality has to do with glitter, glam, punk, Iggy, Lou Reed, Nico, David Bowie."

 

Talk on the Wild Side: The Effect of Andy Warhol's Pork on the evolution of Glitter, Glam and Punk Rock 7 p.m. Fri., Jan. 28. The Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky St., North Side. Free (with museum admission). 412-237-8300 or www.warhol.org

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