Allen Midgette Interview
by Gary Comenas
Allen Midgette impersonated Andy Warhol during a 1967 college lecture tour. He also appeared in Warhol's films including Lonesome Cowboys and Nude Restaurant. He currently lives in Woodstock, New York where he continues to work on his own paintings.
Allen Midgette in Bernardo Bertolucci's Before the Revolution
Prior to working with Andy Warhol, you appeared in films directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and Pier Paolo Pasolini. How did this come about? What was Pasolini like in real life?
After stowing away on the USS Independence in 1960 Johnny Nicholson (owner of The Cafe Nicholson) offered me a ticket to Italy to see a painting exhibit by Bill Morrow, who introduced me to Pasolini, Alberto Moravia and his wife Elsa Morante. She had a photo of me on her wall and 21 year old poet Bertolucci saw it and wanted me for his first film (written by Pasolini): The Grim Reaper- La Commare Seca.
After we became friends Bertolucci wrote the role of Augustino in his second film Before The Revolution [Prima della rivoluzione] for me. Then I played a soldier in his film The Spider's Stratagem [La Strategia del ragno], written by Louis Borges. Then he wrote the role of the vagabond in his film 1900 for me. At that same time I appeared in Nanny Loy's Four Days in Naples and also was the camera man character for Orson Welles in Pasolini's Riccotta, Gianni Amico's The Fourth Season playing a leather craftsman, Ciulla- The Raven by Jean Luigi Calderone in Sicily, and Wind From the East written by French revolutionary Danny LaRouge.
Because Elsa Morante was such good friends with Pasolini it meant getting to know him as a real person including spending time with his mother - they all loved and enjoyed the simple people/"peasants". He always seemed serious, with something on his mind.
Did Andy Warhol or Paul Morrissey ever shoot any footage of you other than that which appears in Four Stars, Nude Restaurant, Lonesome Cowboys or your Screen Test?
Yes, lots and lots of them: Allen & Dicken; 24 hour Movie; a film when Andy visited me and friends in Haight Ashbury after the 1967 college tour when I impersonated him in Rochester NY, Eugene OR, Salt Lake City UT & Missula MT (see the book "Edie" or Andy's "A to Z"); a film with David Bowie in the beginning of his career; a hitchhiking film; and I was the original lead in Nude Restaurant in the first version that has been lost Hopefully they will all be released on video and dvd soon as the Whitney Museum has been restoring them for the past several years.
When did you first meet Warhol? Was it through Susan Bottomly [International Velvet]? If so, when did you meet Susan?
The first time I encountered Andy was at the factory in 1963 or 4. Montgomery Cliff invited me to "the party of the century" for Nureyev. Through Monty I met Tennessee Williams, Judy Garland & Nureyev. At the after party at Lester Persky's, Andy and Edie arrived with dark glasses. After sitting in the corner for a while, Edie invited me for a weekend with them. I replied that "I am too busy right now."
A few years later I was working at the hot Arthur discotheque and then I met Susan and David Croland - she asked me to dance - then she asked me to work with Andy with her. I was more interested in working with Susan than Andy. Eventually she brought him [Warhol] to Arthur and he said, "Will you star in my next movie?" And one day I was bored and he called me and I went with him to Philadelphia. Henry McIlhenny (the Tabasco Heir) got us into the museum when it was closed to film. I was on very high with a loin cloth on. Ivy [Nicholson] directed as per Andy's instructions. I decided to jump up onto a huge lion sphinx statue. Ultra Violet and Mary Woronov were also in that film.
You appeared with Eric Emerson in Lonesome Cowboys. Did you know Eric very well? Were you around when he died?
The first time I met him I was dancing at Max's Kansas City and he pulled my pants down. When I was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico making films with John Chamberlain - Eric came through town and John asked me to put him up - my place was so small. He spent the night and in the morning he said "I felt like I was sleeping in a prince's room". While I was there I was trying not to be in Lonesome Cowboys. Louis [Waldon] even said to me on film "come be in the movie".
You traveled with Vera Cruz to Arizona to film Lonesome Cowboys. Did you keep in touch with Vera? According to Popism, Vera was in the same prison as Valerie Solanas. In Vera's case she was there for car theft. Did you have any contact with Vera during this time? Did you know Valerie Solanas? If so, what was your impression of her?
I was present at he factory many times when Valerie was there but I didn't really know her. John Chamberlain had told Vera Cruz to give me a ride in her jaguar. She would stop for nothing but fuel or kaopectate until the fan belt melted at the Alamo. She jumped under the car to take the plates off, because it was stolen. I said "good-bye, I'm taking the bus" and that was the last time I ever saw her.
Were you friends with the "mole people"?
In Nude Restaurant, Julian Burroughs plays an anti-war activist. Was he expressing his own convictions or was his dialogue scripted?
Not being the son of William Burroughs like he said he was - his whole life was self-scripted rants. In the first version of Nude Restaurant - in which I starred as the nude waiter - there was no script and I was the only one standing.
Did you know Jackie Curtis very well? Did you attend his funeral? What about Candy Darling?
I met Candy outside the factory - we got along well - but I knew Jackie much better through mutual friends. Once we saw each other on the street and she screamed "Audrey Hepburn, darling!" to me. She would often come by my place in her trench coat.
Did you ever hear of somebody whose nickname was the "black widow?"
When did you start painting? Who influenced you?
I've been painting since I was kid. I was always influenced by nature, Etruscan & Native American art.
Your paintings combine elements of Asian Indian art and American Indian art. How did you come to combine the two? Are there similarities in their philosophies/religions?
They are related by being native and shamanistic. Wildness is what it is about.
Are you a practicing Buddhist? Is it Tibetan, Theravada or Hindu Buddhism - or none of the above?
I have met many teachers and practioners of many lineages, but I am not a member of any.
Where were you when Warhol died? What, if any, was your reaction?
When Andy died I was living in my leatherwork shop on Ave. A and East 7th St. in New York City - many people called me. One is always moved when someone dies that you have known and by others reaction to it.
Also one other thing that I don't think many people realize (and I noticed that is not on your website) is the fact that my screen test photo was on the cover of the book Popism (with "Andy Warhol" printed over it.)
Many thanks to Allen Midgette for his comments. He can be contacted at 6 Hillcrest Avenue, Woodstock, New York 12498/Tel: 845 679 3880
[Note: Allen Midgette's photo (by Billy Name) actually appeared on the back of the Andy Warhol's Index book. The photo was of Midgette's face with the Andy Warhol signature stamp over his upper lip - a reference to his lecture tour when he impersonated Warhol. The David Bowie footage he mentioned may be video footage that appears in the Factory Diaries of 1971-8.]