Harlot (1964)


Screenwriter: Ronald Tavel
(filmed December 1964)

Gerard Malanga/Philip Fagan/Mario Montez/Carol Koshinskie
Offscreen Voices: Ronald Tavel/Billy Name/Harry Fainlight (poet)

Harlot was the first sound film that Andy Warhol made with the Auricon camera he had purchased in the summer of 1964. Prior to the Auricon Warhol owned a silent Bolex 16mm camera. Sleep was the first film that Warhol made with the Bolex.

Unlike the Bolex, the Auricon was capable of shooting a film with sync sound, without the need for a soundtrack recorded separately. Although the quality was not as good as recording a separate soundtrack, it was very convenient and often used by television reporters for covering news events. Empire was the first film that Warhol made with the new camera - however, it was a silent film so it didn't utilize the camera's sound capabilities. Empire was originally conceived as a sound film with Henry Geldzahler, Gerard Malanga, Jonas Mekas and filmmaker, John Palmer, talking in the background (L&D206).

Harlot marked the beginning of Ronald Tavel's collaboration with Warhol as screenwriter. Warhol had seen Tavel reading his poetry and extracts from a novel he had written at the one of the regular Wednesday night poetry readings that Warhol attended in 1964 with Gerard Malanga at the Cafe Le Metro. Needing sound to use with his new Auricon camera, Warhol asked Tavel to come to the Factory "and just sit in a lounge chair off-camera and talk" while they shot Mario Montez in Harlot. (POP90) Tavel would go on to write scripts for numerous other Warhol films including, Screen Test No. 2, The Life of Juanita Castro, Vinyl, Horse, Hedy (The Shoplifter), and Kitchen. (POP90-1)

Tavel was born in Brooklyn in May 1941 (IMDB). Although he wrote plays from the age of fifteen, none of them were produced until he had already started writing films. Prior to working with Warhol, he had worked with Jack Smith, including doing props for Flaming Creatures.

Ronald Tavel:

"So, I knew all those people with Ron Rice, who did the Flower Thief and those are a whole community of Underground filmmakers to which, in a sense, Warhol was Johnny-Come-Lately 'cause it was... you know... he would have entered at almost the last phase of its heyday." (PS475)

Tavel's scripts were taken as a starting point for the films. The actors would often improvise (as they often forgot the lines that had been given to them) or handwritten signs would be held up telling them what to do as they were being filmed.

Ronald Tavel:

"We discovered... when we used stars or potential stars that very few had enough steam to go their own, and that a great many of them panicked when the camera was turned on and they didn't have the security of a script to work with." (SG64)

The star of Harlot, Mario Montez, was Andy's first drag queen superstar - although Montez preferred to call his dressing up as a female as "going into costume". Montez worked for the post office when he wasn't making films. As a "very religious" Roman Catholic Puerto Rican, Montez thought (according to POPism) that although being in drag was a sin, if God really hated it, He would have struck him dead. Montez had appeared in off-off-Broadway plays and had done a lot of acting in the underground films of Jack Smith as well appearing in the films of Ron Rice, Jose Rodriquez-Soltero, Bill Vehr and Helio Oiticica. (POP91/FC19)

Harlot begins with a shot of Mario Montez in full drag on the Factory couch. Beside him is Carol Koshinskie. Behind the couch is Gerard Malanga in a tuxedo and Phillip Fagan (Andy's assistant/boyfriend at the time). Montez devours banana after banana as Carol Koshinskie stares into the distance, holding a small dog in her lap, while Tavel, Billy Name and Harry Fainlight talk off - screen about a myriad of subjects including what is going on on-screen.

Gary Comenas