Andy Warhol's Kiss the Boot
to WINTER 1966: ANDY WARHOL FILMS KISS THE BOOT
"Kiss the boot of shiny shiny leather
Shiny leather in the dark
Tongue the thongs, the belt that does
Strike dear mistress and cure his
[lyrics from Venus in Furs by Lou Reed]
Gerard Malanga's whip dance was part of Warhol's The Exploding Plastic Inevitable show which featured Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground. Malanga "gyrated wildly, in what he described as 'a cross between the Frug and an Egyptian belly dance', while brandishing his whip." (As a teenager, Gerard had danced regularly on the Big Beat television show)
Malanga originally perfomed the whip dance with Edie Sedgwick, but as her relationship to the Warhol crowd became more tenuous, she was replaced with Mary Woronov. (During a talk at the South Bank Centre in London in 2008, Mary admitted that during her early days at the Factory she and Gerard were having an affair.)
Velvet Underground band member Sterling Morrison recalled that while the Velvets played Venus in Furs, "Malanga knelt on the stage and kissed Mary Woronov's black leather boots...'"
"Mary was someone I invented, put a whip in her hand and spread her name around and made her a star..."
Mary Woronov later noted that it was Gerard who "chose the paraphernalia and tone for our dance..."
"Gerard Malanga and I started dancing for The Velvet Underground at The Dom in New York in 1966. It was very new for a rock and roll band to have a show, much less a Warhol movie playing behind it. In art, however, it was the time of happenings and guerrilla theatre. When we performed in Philadelphia with Robert Rauschenberg, he roller-skated around a room, in and out of a movie screen.
At The Dom, Gerard was the one who chose the paraphernalia and tone for our dance. We did stuff like miming shooting up heroin with gigantic plastic needles. He got the strobe lights and gave me the costume, bought me my whip and my first pair of leather pants... you know, just your basic S&M stuff. We always wore leather boots and carried whips. We never rehearsed. It was complete guerrilla theatre. We performed wherever the Velvets played. Being a veteran of John Vaccaro's Theatre of The Ridiculous, I knew what to do. It was natural to see it as a kind of transgressive theatre.
In The Dom we were on a stage in front of the Velvets, so the audience had to watch us. The band was also dressed in black. Everyone looked the same. You could tell the Warhol people; they all dressed in black, wore huge black sunglasses. They were called the "mole people" because they came out with these big glasses only at night. We all had the same boots, except for Nico, who dressed in white. She was interested only in singing, not in performing. The band never danced. They only stood and played; they looked at each other or turned their backs to the audience. Sometimes they would stumble because they were really high, and sometimes they would just walk away and leave their instruments on. It was part of the mystique of it. Everyone was high, though Gerard and I weren't as high as the Velvets.
It was the time of hippies and communes. The Dom became an organic thing. It had a certain mystique. People moved rather than watched. There were films going on all over the walls, and there was this light show. It was a new kind of dancing - about being so high that people thought: I don't even need a partner, I'm just gonna twirl until I drop. The audience became a part of the music by dancing. There wasn't anything like that before - all you could do was go to a cocktail bar that had a little piece of floor for the mambo or the twist.
Warhol loved The Dom. He would stand up on the balcony and watch people, but he never danced. But even if you didn't dance, you felt like you were, as the whole place was vibrating.
People on the West Coast hated The Velvet Underground. They thought we were odd, weird, dark and evil. There was a big dichotomy: they took acid and were going towards enlightenment; we took amphetamines and were going towards death. They wore colours, we wore black; they were barefoot, we wore boots. All they ever said was "wow" and we talked too much. It was the old NY is smart and LA is stupid routine.
The Dom's dark communion went on for months in one form or another until Warhol and Lou Reed split. I got a job at Lincoln Centre to do "real" theatre, a pale comparison with Vaccaro's. Then I moved to Los Angeles to be in the movies."
Malanga later published an unsent letter he had written to Warhol complaining that the show's lighting in Provincetown led to "Mary and me dancing in total darkness at times:"
It seems I'm always writing you letters to explain myself, my feelings, what's bothering me as you find it easy to say nothing, sometimes, when you know what you're thinking you shouldn't say or it is explained without words or without vibrations.
I thought the Provincetown show got off to a rough but very good start, until you were so kind enough as to let Susan and everyone else not directly connected with the show to get involved with Mary and I on stage. Also, it was unfortunate that Mary had to be dancing above me and not with me.
I want to make it clear to you that (1) I was dancing with The Velvets long before you signed them into a corporation empire, and even before you knew them; (2) that my dancing is an integral part of the music and the show as is your movies; (3) I do not represent a 'go go' dancer in the show but an interpretative-visual happening. You are slowly taking this away from me by allowing outside elements to interfere with my dance routines. Also Larry was supposed to have the spotlight on me when not projected on The Velvets. Instead, that spotlight wandered away from what was supposed to be seen happening on stage. On more than one occasion I found my flashlight missing and then discovered that Roger was dancing with it somewhere near the end of the show.
On more than one occasion I also discovered other people handling the strobes which were inconveniently placed on the stage. All this led up to Mary and me dancing in total darkness, at times. The only way this can be rectified for future shows is not to have troupe dancing but two people at a time. I am willing to take turns. From my vantage point on stage to have more than two dancers the show becomes a Mothers of Invention freak-out. I feel that you will do nothing in your almost absolute power to correct the mess you are responsible for, in which case I will if you won't.
Faithfully, Gerard" (UT82-3)
to WINTER 1966: ANDY WARHOL FILMS KISS THE BOOT