Fourteen years after Andy Warhol moved to New York, he started the Factory. During the previous year, Warhol used an old hook and ladder building for his studio, and prior to that he worked from home at 1342 Lexington Avenue. (The Soup Cans that Warhol exhibited at the Ferus Gallery in July 1962 were done at 1342 Lexington.)
Some biographers place the move to the Factory building in November/December 1963 although Warhol himself said that the move took place in January 1964 (POP125). The book in which Warhol kept a record of his expenses had an entry of "New Studio 231 E. 47" on January 28, 1964. (RNA014)
Gerard Malanga, recalled that the Factory "was formally a hat manufacturing company" in a 1997 interview published in Gerard Malanga: Screen Tests, Portraits, Nudes 1964-1996. However, Thomas Kiedrowski, the author of of Andy Warhol's New York City, notes that "The fourth-floor Factory space had likely housed an upholsterer's shop that outfitted newly-made furniture (Decorators Upholstery), not, as is commonly thought, a manufacturer of hats." (GM185/TKA70)
Although Kiedrowski refers to the Factory as being on the fourth floor, Warhol biographer Victor Bockris stated in his biography of the artist that the Factory was on the fifth floor. (LD188) But Sterling McIlhenny and Peter Ray, who interviewed Warhol for the September 1966 issue of Cavalier magazine, recalled it was on the fourth floor, as indicated by Kiedrowski. McIlhenny and Ray noted "we took our tape recorder to the 'Factory,' as Warhol calls his studio, which is located on the fourth floor of a rickety loft building in Manhattan's east forties." (KG97)
The person responsible for the silver look of the Factory was Billy Name. Warhol had originally met Billy in 1959 at the Serendipity 3 cafe in New York where Name worked as a waiter. Warhol hung out at the cafe and also exhibited some of his early drawings there, including commercial illustrations he had done for I. Miller that had been rejected by the shoe company. Billy and Andy had a brief sexual relationship, but then decided to become friends instead of lovers.
"Andy and I were lovers in these very early years, before fame, and as fame arrived, so, having access to all areas of his life was part of every day. I was known in the avant garde art world, pre-Billy Name (Billy Linich, my given name), at that time as an art-guy, participant in happenings and performance art, and as a lighting and stage designer for off-off broadway theater productions (N.Y. Poets' Theatre, Living Theater, Judson Poets' Theater, Cafe Cino - all downtown in the Village area) and for avant garde dance performances (James Waring, Freddie Herko, the Judson Dance Company) at the Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square Park."
Billy eventually moved into the Factory permanently. The Factory originally had two bathrooms and Billy converted one into a darkroom and living quarters where he slept on the floor. Previous to that he had lived in an apartment in New York's lower east side on 5th Street between Avenues C & D - where he would sometimes have haircutting parties. He had learned how to cut hair from his grandfather who was a barber in Poughkeepsie, New York.
In late 1963 Warhol had filmed Billy Name cutting hair for three films: Haircut No. 1 (which also featured Freddie Herko and James Waring), Haircut No. 2 (filmed in Billy's kitchen) and Haircut No. 3, filmed at the Factory (possibly in January 1964) with Billy cutting Johnny Dodd's hair. (FAW12) In 1964, Warhol would also film Dodd and Herko for a male-to-male Kiss film. It was from Dodd's apartment that Herko would catapult himself to death later in the year. (To filmography)
One of the first films that Warhol made in 1964 was Blow Job, a 41 minute silent film focusing on the face of a young actor while he received a blow job. The name of the actor who was receiving the blow job remained unknown until one of his previous classmates identified him in 1994 as DeVerne Bookwalter who also played the main villain in The Enforcer (as Deveren Bookwalter). Charles Rydell was originally booked for the lead role, but never showed up for the shoot. He thought Warhol was joking when he asked him to appear in a film while getting a blow job.
Rydell was the younger boyfriend of Jerome Hill and would later appear in the 70s in Warhol's video Fight which also featured Brigid Berlin. He also appeared as a cab driver in the non-Warhol film Union City starring Debbie Harry of Blondie fame - a film which also featured Taylor Mead in a cameo performance as a drunk. In the 70s, Hill and Rydell would also become part-owners of Interview magazine. Hill's nephew was the photographer, Peter Beard.
In Blow Job, the person who was off-screen giving the blow job was poet Willard Maas. Gerard Malanga knew Willard Maas prior to meeting Warhol. In the early sixties, Maas was a professor of English at Wagner College in Staten Island. He had secured a fellowship for Malanga to study at Wagner from October 1961 - but Malanga left without graduating after he started working as Warhol's art assistant. Maas was married to Marie Menken who later appeared in numerous Warhol films, including The Chelsea Girls.
Blow Job was screened at Ruth Kligman's Washington Square Gallery in 1964. Taylor Mead was in the audience and when he got up and left in the middle of the film, somebody called out "Taylor, why are you leaving?" Mead replied, "I came already." (M)
Although Blow Job was not shot in the Factory, Warhol's new work premises not only provided the artist with a large studio in which to work on his large multiple canvases, he could also utilize the space as a movie studio. Soon after the move to the Factory, he began making his Screen Tests - a series of silent one reel films where the sitter was told to sit still in front of the camera, often without blinking. Of the more than 400 Screen Tests which Warhol filmed from 1964 - 1966, only one was shot outside the Factory - it was of Phoebe Russell, the then girlfriend of poet Lewis MacAdams - who would later become his wife. Phoebe's Screen Test was filmed at the apartment of curator Gordon Baldwin.
Warhol also continued to make the Kiss series of films that he had started in 1963, prior to moving to the Factory. Most of the Kiss films were between men and women, however, there were several male-to-male Kiss films. In addition to the Herko/Dodd Kiss, Warhol's other male-to-male Kiss couples included Mark Lancaster and Gerard Malanga (shot in the Factory in August 1964); Andrew Meyer & John Palmer (Ivy Nicholson's husband); and Steven Holder & an unidentified male. (CA/M) Warhol had already started screening the Kiss films in 1963. At that time they were presented as the Andy Warhol Serial.
One of the subjects of both a Kiss film and a Screen Test was Warhol's first superstar. It was...