Art A Hammer
She lay there in the dim morning light, the city waking outside with its usual honky fanfare. Her dark hair disheveled, her face concealed beneath it and the pillow she crowded, she lay naked and pure, a vision of luminous transcendence. She was in her mid-forties, a trifle well fed but not fat or misshapen. No, she was a rare beauty indeed and her extras just offered more to be enamored of. To love. She shifted slightly, her breathing shallow.
We had met the previous evening at Max’s Kansas City on Park Avenue South during another one of Warhol’s perpetual gatherings. It became necessary to party in constancy as we were, for the most part, so wired from the unlimited meth at The Factory that we needed something to do when we weren’t working as sleep was not an option. In the back room at Max’s, The Factory’s debauchings could continue with readier access to public potential as well as endless well drinks. One was invited into The Factory; Max’s was open to the world, the back room for those the world favored, at least in Warhol’s shaded jaded eyes.
I was dancing with Candy, something that only happened when I was really drunk. Owing to the nature of drugs at The Factory, my addiction to pain killers of opioid base had transferred back to alcohol with a heavy emphasis on cocaine. Not that the Superstars didn’t have a fair amount of heroin aficionados among their rank and vile; it’s just that, as noted earlier, it’s not my thing. I got along famously with Candy after I explained to her, when she got frisky on our initial meeting, that I prefer women who were born as girls. Once that was clarified, we were good.
While gender preference is preeminent in our sickly puritanical society, it never seemed that big a deal to me. I weathered some unfortunate come-ons and offered some less than diplomatic piss- offs when I was young, but I can’t see how anyone can really care, beyond personal application, who someone else has sex with. With upward of 8 billion of us, it seems like a fairly futile concern. Of course many will point to God and scripture, but should such a thing as God exist, It made homosexuality in the first place, and if It has a problem with it, It will deal with it in the second place. So, we really have no place worrying about it.
I recognized her immediately when she sauntered in, oozing smoldering sexy. She was older, had me by well over a decade, but she was on the make and our eyes met immediately as she worked the awe-struck room. All of Warhol’s gay little buddies wanted to touch her clothes. I wanted to fuck her good. As it turned out, she was more interested in a good fuck than sartorial banter.
“Who do we have here?” The words simply oozed from her lips. I offered my napkin and we laughed as she wiped them up. I took her hand and kissed it – she was duly impressed as most men don’t French kiss hands – then gazed into her deep dark eyes. “Arturo Hammer, Miss Taylor. Delightified.” She looked at me amused as she wiped her hand off. “Liz.”
Her eyes twinkled and she glanced furtively at my crotch. “Do you come here often?”
I was surprised that she was able to tell. Looking down I responded, “I didn’t realize it was that obvious. Usually I can make it to the car…” She looked at me puzzled, then as it dawned on her, she smiled seductively and purred, “Well, I’ve got one waiting outside. Like to try again?”
I grappled with her bra hook in the back seat of her limo, ready to mount the glorious peeks buried beneath those restrictive constraints. The car was jammed in traffic, but as we were completely obscured to not only the driver, Joey, but the outside world, we assailed each other with wanton abandon. I had seen some of her films, but wouldn’t number myself a fan – of the actress. Of the seductress, a bigger fan could not be found.
I took her hair in my right hand and pulled her face to mine. Our lips suckled each other as our tongues intertwined, my grip on her hair holding her to me firmly, in control. On the other hand, Lefty was fairly energetic as well and had worked a couple of fingers into her from behind as we lappingly embraced. She was exceptionally juicy and my fingers were soon effectively lubed to pleasure both of her receptive apertures of ardor; all the while my thumb massaging her engorged and fecund clit.
“Oh my God!!!” she gushed. The partition between the driver and us slid down and Joey, annoyed, pointed to a sign below the window:
Sloshing, Oozing, Squirting or Gushing!
Light dripping permitted with immediate wipe up
He dropped us at my place.
I initially stayed with Pico and her friend Rico in their room at the Hotel Chelsea on West 23rd. But within a week, owe to a leak flow, Rico, then Pico started to freak; so, after critique, show direct not oblique, though decided to seek (go) new lodgings not bleak, so. Fortunately for everyone even semi-literate, there was an opening next door (the door actually being the opening) and I moved in there, so of this again we shall not speak. Oh.
Liz was aggressive and sure; she knew what she wanted, no, needed, and she realized the perfect place to get it. As that place, I was honored to offer her all the recreational benefits available here with a travel package that included passage for two around the world. She proved a ready and enthusiastic traveler and our venture to the Dark Continent was a rare and exhilarating joy, filled with danger and excitement.
Her demeanor upon waking was considerably different, unsurprisingly. I found many encounters fueled by alcohol and driven by lust end up crashing into hard reality. She was still married to Richard Burton – they’d separated after Virginia Woolf, the role translated too much to home; but she still loved Dick and was concerned about his reaction should our tryst become known. I assured her that I was a gentleman – sodomizing strangers on first encounter certainly the stuff of such types – and that our engagement was for us, not a bored and uninteresting public.
“I had the time of my life, my dear,” and I had, she a beauty incomparable, a vital and giving lover. Her driver knocked again as she adjusted her dress, gorgeous and alluring in the dim light. She smiled at me, then gave me a kiss. “I know what Andy pays and you are worth more than that. Much more.” She set $500 on my dresser. I was astounded and frankly a little offended. “I cannot accept that, for I am no whore and you, my dear, are assuredly no john. Please.”
But she was gone. Actually about forty minutes before I said any of that. It seemed important to get it right, so I wrote it down and practiced it a bit. After having a cuppa and a little breakfast. But still, my protest would be lodged for all time. No Liz, I am not for rent. I’m a slut.
The money came in handy as I had finally gotten around to having RJ cancel the last of his credit cards after squeezing $7,546.57 out of them; and Liz was correct, Warhol didn’t pay much. He obtained oodles off of others’ oddities, claimed credit for their collective creations and achieved acclaim as an applauded artist. Ass to money, while some of his butt-boys passed around the bigger piles, we on the bottom beheld basically but shit. $500 in ‘68 money was a considerable nest egg with enough left over for some branch bacon, maybe some twig toast.
Upon consideration of my work, Warhol was direct. “We don’t do that here. That’s art, Art, and my commission doesn’t allow for art. Art. I can put you to work, Art, but you can do no artwork.” So I used my skillsets to help do pop crap for shit pay and pissed it away on as much pussy as I could lap up or throw down (always preferable to lapping down and throwing up owing in no small part to reduced clean-up demand). I realized I was proffering art where only commerce mattered and that the likelihood was that the consumer would not elevate their tastes, so to reach them Art would have to stoop.
Wilhelm once, in a rare burst of clarity, imparted this to me as something of virtue to aspire to in my creative endeavor: “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer used to shape it.”
I could not but help to take it as my personal credo as it contained a deep abiding wisdom, a driven strength of purpose and my name. Not every day you get a credo from some dead genius that comes with your name in it. Art for me would have to speak to potential, not recount the eccentric or prosaic. It was originally observed by German playwright and lyricist, Bertolt Brecht, and it has, with Dali’s admonition, guided me in my work; demanded that I aspire to grander things than empty commerce and its perpetual pursuit of money. Art my will. Art I will.
All I needed to achieve it was a bunch of money. The Factory was Warhol’s cash cow; I could not advance there as I would have to retreat to even catch up with them. I had gone too far to go back now, yet still felt I hadn’t gone far enough without considering the distance. Just how far would I go? I was not accustomed to limits and refused to accept restrictions, finding them too restrictive. Though I would not dress in their gay apparel, I as well refused to wear the straight jacket, in part because it didn’t go with any of my shirts. There had to be another way.
It’s fair to say that Warhol and I were never friends. He knew what he was doing to art; he knew who he was doing it for. He didn’t care. He got his life of prosperity and acclaim and we got vapid as relevant, empty as deep, and the commercial as the show. Now the show is nothing more than a commercial, broadcasting 24/7/365 – Buy it now! Doesn’t matter what it is, if it works, or if it has any practical value. If they go to the trouble to sell it, you must foot the expense to buy it. That’s how the market works. And when it breaks, upgrade to 2.0.
As with so many of Warhol’s associates, I enjoyed my association with many of his associates, though I found him difficult to warm or even relate to. He was all show with no content. Thus we communed on a superficial level, as he did with so many others unlike me. At one point he stated that he should have been made of plastic and he may as well have been; he was as much product as the stuff he promoted as art. All on display, all for sale, and all crap.
One of his associates ended up rubbing us both the wrong way, as well as several others held in her wake. She had daddy issues, men problems and a deep abiding madness, but not in a good way like so many at The Factory who worked it out with kinky, unprotected sex. She had the heart of a killer. Fortunately, she had the aim of a target so she did as much damage to herself as she did to others. Well, other than Warhol – she damaged him good.
“We’d be better off without your sex.” She looked at me with vacant disgust, not disgust with me in particular, but disgust directed at what I represented. Viva, one of Warhol’s Superstars, glanced at her then at me. “Oh, that’s Valerie. She’s a writer.” Viva drifted into the throng, not wanting any of that – it was a Factory party, buzzing like a hive of bees, a drone defining the big picture as Nico performed a lackluster set from the stage.
She seemed malnourished and ate hungrily of the comestibles that were there, a sparse offering to be sure. We were speed freaks, who needed food? I had heard of her, she had approached Warhol about producing her script, Up Your Ass, which he claimed to have lost. While offering nothing as to the work, as though any serious artist would seek his critique, he did praise her typing, always a good way to ingratiate oneself with a writer.
Valerie Solanas. Her magnum opus was the SCUM Manifesto (SCUM being the Society for Cutting Up Men), a hate-filled screed advocating governmental overthrow, total automation, elimination of money and, more importantly, elimination of men, the overriding objective of her work, thinking and life. She advocated gendercide. While I tended to agree with her rejection of consumer controls on general principal, as a man I found myself compelled to take exception to her elimination of my gender. As many of that same gender seem committed to the prospect without her advocacy, I saw no sense encouraging them.
Valerie was serious. She hated men with a deep bias akin to racism or nationalist insanity. There would be no reasoning; she had found the one true path. I had a single conversation with her and got myself shot (again) for my failed social graceless while being reminded (again) to never underestimate crazy. If you take anything from this, Dear Reader, take this and may it serve you well: Never underestimate crazy. Ever. It will fuck you every time and not the good way.
Crazy has unlimited reserves. It has amazing pain endurance. It knows no social graces, does not operate upon accepted schedules nor bow to authority or reason. Crazy is high emotion pure and unbridled – free-range emotion, mercurial, explosive. It does what it wants when it wants and does not lend itself to outside persuasion. Only when crazy subsides does its primary victim, the perpetrator, find itself suicidal or penitent, able to be reached. This is best done with a stick, better still through the bars of a cage, for crazy is dependably unpredictable. It will bite.
“Most find that they are better off with my sex.” It hadn’t occurred to me whom I was addressing. Booze is like that. Open mouth, never mind. Drinking, so much easier than thinking. At least at first. Then come the medical bills and legal expenses, the threatening letters and late night calls. Christ, how could this drug not be popular? Our discourse occurred by the buffet, a table near the bathrooms that had various foodstuffs in various stages of comestation littering it. Valerie considered a box while I dug around for a bottle opener.
“Pig.” She glowered at me as she noshed on some concoction in a Chinese take-out container. I glanced at her sideways, still unaware of what I was up against. I found the opener and presented it triumphant. “Ah ha!” I looked at her consumption. “Oh, I see, sweet and sour pig…Yummy.”
Still chewing, she deliberately lowered the container and fixed me with her ires, “This is duck, pig.” I was drunk, I didn’t know what she was saying.
“Duck pig?” I pondered this as I sucked down some beer. I’d been to Chin Hop’s; there was no Duck/Pig on the menu. This person was clearly misinterpreting the available data. It would be uncivil of me to allow her to continue in error. Surely she would welcome my courteous clarification. “Oh you must mean Pig King Duck. A common confusion.” I finally looked her in the eye and detected the rancor evident to everyone else in the world from the beginning of this. I wondered if I could salvage it.
“Are you an idiot or are you just trying to annoy me?” It didn’t seem salvageable. But I was drunk so that served as no practical impediment. Surely I could reach her; I just needed to try harder. “I’m no idiot, my Dear.”
She stared at me in disbelief. “So you’re just trying to annoy me. And I may be a lot of things but your Dear is not one of them.” I couldn’t for the life of me understand what I had done to piss her off so. My inherent wisdom would have had me terminate the conversation at that moment and take up with a more receptive communicant elsewhere. Unfortunately my inherent wisdom is a complete lightweight and flees in shame the instant I start drinking. The big pussy.
“I assure you, I wasn’t trying to annoy you. You just seem kind of edgy…maybe need to crank it back a bit.” That should do it. I ducked the flying pig, or whatever was contained in the take-out box that hurled past me. Her eyes narrowed and I realized at that instant that I was indeed in the presence of madness. I had stepped right up to it and called it stupid and ugly, slapped its face and danced a little jig. I trembled slightly as I watched her, hoping that she might at least throw something that I wanted to eat, maybe some egg rolls.
“Did you call me a bitch?!” It seemed to be going well; all I needed to do was ease out of it. My next move demanded precision and tact, but they had both fled with my inherent wisdom, so I was on my own. “God no. Who would do such a stupid thing? You seem like a very nice person. Really…” I had started to back away slowly when I bumped into Holly. Holly Woodlawn was a drag queen from Florida; at that instant, blitzed out of its skull. He/she would diffuse the situation, I was sure of it.
“Arturo, darling, would you be a dear and help me with this? Paul is out of his mind.” Her bra had come undone causing her top to flop. “Happy to lend a hand.” I attempted fruitlessly while still holding the beer, then, after pouring about half of it on Holly, myself and very unfortunately splashing Valerie, I set it down and tried two-handed with more success, or at least less messy failure. Holly smiled at Valerie who, faced with something more her taste, softened, but her rancor returned when she saw that I had douched her shoes.
“You are why your entire gender should be eradicated. Messy, sexist, asshole,” and she set about wiping my beer droozles from her shoozles. Holly was surprised to see such ire directed at me; I was for the most part well received there, and, smiling at me, she/he spoke up, “I beg to differ, Val. Art is one of the rare reasons to keep men around. Definitely makes life more interesting.” Valerie took exception, standing and setting her beery wetnap on the food table, seething contempt. “For men, art is just another conquest, another gaudy display. Sickening…”
Holly, restrapped and flouncing with abandon, perpetuated this lovely miscommunication, “Oh no, Sugar. Art is strictly for the ladies. Knows how to treat ‘em,” and she/he/hehe gave me a little peck on the cheek. This was received much better than the first time months earlier, when a little pecker on the cheeks was offered. I was confused. Was art only for ladies or was I? I knew which way I was leaning and it was confirmed when gravity combined with alcohol toppled me to the sticky floor that very direction. Clambering footward, I leapt to my defense by making it worser still. Virtuoso!
“I’m strictly a ladies man,” remembering page 37, “but not strict about them being strict. Too restrictive.” Holly was curious where I was headed, but Valerie was remarkably on topic. “As long as we do your vile bidding, you’re fine with us, huh?!” She sneered at me. I was making progress. “As I operate with a limited budget, I prefer to do my own bidding. Keep me from getting in over my head.” Tony, one of the night’s newer faces, bounced up and started macking on Holly. They reciprocated and then all both of them boogied back into the throngs.
“Every man, deep down, knows he's a worthless piece of shit.“ I fixed her with a stare, sipping what remained of my beer. She was baiting me to no good end, that much was certain. All I had to do was agree with her and then take my leave, a walk in the park. Even hammered, I could see what was in store if I went down that road; she could not have been more obvious. “Ya think? I know lots who have no clue at all. Nice you’re about, to remind them.” I couldn’t dig myself in deeper with a steam shovel.
“You’re a real smart ass. Hole.” It hit me; I remembered the SCUM Manifesto, her call to improve humankind by eliminating man, kind or not. I fired up the steam shovel, “I’ll grant you that men are the most brutal and destructive creature on the planet, but the point I lose in your movement is that men treat other men just as awfully as they treat women. And children. Animals, plants…The point is that it is our aggressive and callous nature that has led us to this.” She was concerned, she didn’t take me for articulate.
“Yeah?” I had her, though of course I was in actuality only kicking myself in the nuts, with cleats. “The very aggression you denounce in men, you promote in women. The problem isn’t men or women; it’s aggression and hatred. How can you advance humanity when you take on man’s worst tendencies in order to do so?”
She was sickened by my pathetic attempt at reason. Reason was for cowards. “Men only respond to strength, so we use our strength against them.”
I couldn’t resist. “I have no opposition to women yet I still enjoy being against them.” She looked at me with a curious disdain; I was as hard to read as all these drag queens and dykes. Who in the fuck was anyone anyway?! Especially in this freaky place! And why was I still engaging in conversation with someone who despised me? What could I hope to gain?
“We’re done being pushed around.” Her eyes lit on this: had she come up with a new rallying cry? “We’re done.”
Considering the nature of her illness I wasn’t sure if she was speaking for herself or the movement at large. No sense treading cautiously now. None at all. “No one should be pushed around by anyone regardless of gender or position or race…unless you’re on a gurney or something. Even Malcolm X came to understand the problem wasn’t a person, or kind of person, but a mindset, a bias, a prejudice.”
As with most crusaders, the only voice she heard was her own. Voices. As with so many grand performers, who only speak to themselves but do it publically for our benefit, her agenda overrode civic or social considerations. She was the victim turned crusader, a dangerous creature if ever there was one, and her eyes looked beyond our encounter as she wallowed in her vengeful repression and stabbed an orange with a chopstick. “We’ve been burned and patronized and lied to and taken advantage of enough. The revolution starts tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?! Talk about no kinda notice, I got nothing to wear…Did you send out anything or is this a kind of ‘go as you are’ thing?” Of course I couldn’t take her seriously, she was crazy. Which is the most important reason to take anybody seriously. But people loaded up on all manner of mind altering emollient are ready to dismiss the distressing as the drugs talking, forgetting that while drugs do indeed wear off, crazy only gets stronger over time. And when it talks, the wise pay it heed.
“I’m trying to decide if I do you last or do you first.” She was joking, surely. She was just venting. Of course, when Vesuvius vented, Pompeii got their collective ashes handed to them, so there was that. I considered her. She was still staring someplace else, not necessarily anyplace anyone would want to be. She had reduced the orange to pokeymush, and rolled the juicy chopstick between her juicier fingers. It was time to go.
“Well, if I can weigh in here, uh, I’d prefer last if possible, preferably after you.” I disappeared into the noisy crowd, happy to never see her again. Happy.
Next morning I was awakened by a banging on my door. You don’t bang on doors at the Chelsea! What was this obnoxious break in tradition?! I jerked it open, sufficiently annoyed. I had never taken to wearing pants around the house and had no intention of starting with this noisy interlocutor. Though low, I still maintained standards.
She loomed in the hallway wearing a trench coat, scarf and dark glasses, looking very freaky. Her face was gaunt and her eyes held a hint of mischief as she peered over the frames. It took a moment for me to recall, my God, it was the crazy bitch from 3 paragraphs ago, the man-hater. And there I stood leaving no question as to which side of the gender equation I fell. I didn’t even remember her name. As a woman lover I had immediately proceeded from my discomfiting conversation with her to a delightful three way discussion with Shyla and Candice, which had carried over to my room and communion of a deeper nature.
I stood back, looking her over, as she looked over me to look over at the girls looking at us, me looking confused and she looking for trouble, overlooking how odd it must have looked. “You remember what we talked about?” She had her right hand in her coat pocket. I felt strangely uncomfortable. I thought a second.
“That’s right; your revolution. I told you I had nothing to wear…” I held my hands out to my sides, emphasizing my utter lack of apparel. She looked at me with her patented Man-Hate Contempt TM, then withdrew a .32 automatic pistol from her coat pocket and aimed it low upon my person. As you can well imagine, this caused me considerable concern. I held a special affinity for my lower regions, especially the one she pointed defilement at. I often wonder if it isn’t the point of all those other parts….
Regardless, I felt an undeniable disgust for her. “Almost two billion of us and you start with me?” She pondered this for an instant, her gaze distracted by Candice behind me, who peered around me to see what Kookoo was holding. With her eyes off me, I slammed the door with my left hand while twisting and diving behind it. She fired. The shot clipped the edge of the door then ripped through my lower back and I went down. I had slammed the door with sufficient force to latch it, limiting her to one shot. It was good the bullet hit me and not one of the girls, who were in her direct line of fire, as it might have set back her movement.
As it was, the shot missed my spine by about a quarter inch and grazed a two inch swath of my back, a scar I sport to this day. The girls were remarkably solicitous and as Candice was pre-med, I didn’t bother with the hospital for what was little more than a big scratch. Solanas went on to attempt to murder 5 other guys, grievously wounding Warhol in the process, and was finally sentenced to a harsh 3 years asylum supervision. Her only regret was her poor shooting and that she didn’t practice beforehand. 3 years.
I learned a valuable lesson that day: don’t answer the door. Especially if you are entertaining guests. As a blessed individual, my guests tend to be very entertaining and after that ordeal we decided to be bedridden all day and order in. Went with the Pig King Duck. It was good.