Bring back some good or bad memories


June 4, 2024

June 3 1968: The Day Andy Warhol Was Shot Dead But Came Back to Life

Moments after Valerie Solanas entered Andy Warhol’s sixth-floor office at 33 Union Square West on June 3, 1968, carrying two guns and a massive, paranoid grudge, their lives would be changed forever. She thought he was going to steal her manuscript, he ignored her calls. It was among many violent crimes that would come to define this tumultuous year in American history.

Andy Warhol undressing for a facial.

Valerie Solanas had a turbulent childhood, suffering sexual abuse from both her father and grandfather, and experiencing a volatile relationship with her mother and stepfather. She came out as a lesbian in the 1950s. After graduating with a degree in psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park, Solanas relocated to Berkeley. There she began writing the SCUM Manifesto (an acronym for Society for Cutting Up Men), which urged women to “overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.”

In New York City, Solanas asked Warhol to produce her play Up Your Ass, but he claimed to have lost her script, and hired her to perform in his film, I, a Man, by way of compensation. At this time, a Parisian publisher of censored works, Maurice Girodias, offered Solanas a contract, which she interpreted as a conspiracy between him and Warhol to steal her future writings.

On June 3, 1968, at 9:00 a.m., Solanas reportedly arrived at the Hotel Chelsea and asked for Girodias at the desk, only to be told he was gone for the weekend. She remained at the hotel for three hours before heading to the Grove Press, where she asked for Barney Rosset, who was also not available. In her 2014 biography of Solanas, Breanne Fahs argues that it is unlikely that she appeared at the Chelsea Hotel looking for Girodias, speculating that Girodias may have fabricated the account in order to boost sales for the SCUM Manifesto, which he had published.

Fahs states that “the more likely story ... places Valerie at the Actors Studio at 432 West Forty-Fourth Street early that morning.” Actress Sylvia Miles states that Solanas appeared at the Actors Studio looking for Lee Strasberg, asking to leave a copy of Up Your Ass for him. Miles said that Solanas “had a different look, a bit tousled, like somebody whose appearance is the last thing on her mind.” Miles told Solanas that Strasberg would not be in until the afternoon, accepted the script, and then “shut the door because I knew she was trouble. I didn’t know what sort of trouble, but I knew she was trouble.”

Fahs records that Solanas then traveled to producer Margo Feiden’s (then Margo Eden) residence in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, as she believed that Feiden would be willing to produce Up Your Ass. As related to Fahs, Solanas talked to Feiden for almost four hours, trying to convince her to produce the play and discussing her vision for a world without men. Throughout this time, Feiden repeatedly refused to produce the play. According to Feiden, Solanas then pulled out her gun, and when Feiden again refused to commit to producing the play, she responded, “Yes, you will produce the play because I’ll shoot Andy Warhol and that will make me famous and the play famous, and then you’ll produce it.” As she was leaving Feiden’s residence, Solanas handed Feiden a partial copy of an earlier draft of the play and other personal papers.

Fahs describes how Feiden then “frantically called her local police precinct, Andy Warhol’s precinct, police headquarters in Lower Manhattan, and the offices of Mayor John Lindsay and Governor Nelson Rockefeller to report what happened and inform them that Solanas was on her way at that very moment to shoot Andy Warhol.” In some instances, the police responded that “You can’t arrest someone because you believe she is going to kill Andy Warhol,” and even asked Feiden, “Listen lady, how would you know what a real gun looked like?” In a 2009 interview with James Barron of The New York Times, Feiden said that she knew Solanas intended to kill Warhol, but could not prevent it.

Solanas proceeded to the Factory and waited outside. Paul Morrissey arrived and asked her what she was doing there, and she replied, “I’m waiting for Andy to get money.” Morrissey tried to get rid of her by telling her that Warhol was not coming in that day, but she told him she would wait. At 2:00 p.m. Solanas went up into the studio. Morrissey told her again that Warhol was not coming in and that she had to leave. She left but rode the elevator up and down until Warhol finally boarded it.

Solanas entered The Factory with Warhol, who complimented her on her appearance as she was uncharacteristically wearing makeup. Morrissey told her to leave, threatening to “beat the hell” out of her and throw her out otherwise. The phone rang and Warhol answered while Morrissey went to the bathroom. While Warhol was on the phone, Solanas fired at him three times. Her first two shots missed, but the third went through his spleen, stomach, liver, esophagus, and lungs.

Unconscious and critically wounded, Andy Warhol is carried into an ambulance. Although he would survive the gunshot, Warhol would suffer physical effects for the rest of his life.

Moments after Andy Warhol was critically shot at his 33 Union Square office, his associate, Mario Amaya, walked to the ambulance with a back wound. The bullet narrowly missed his spine. Valerie Solanas surrendered to cops in Times Square and admitted to the shooting.

Andy Warhol being carried to an ambulance unconscious after a gunshot wound.

Warhol’s mother was photographed after she got the news of her son’s shooting. She lived in his New York City apartment for many years before the shooting. It was there she cooked and took care of her son as he lived his busy life.

She then shot art critic Mario Amaya in the hip. Solanas further tried to shoot Fred Hughes, Warhol’s manager, but her gun jammed. Hughes asked her to leave, which she did, leaving behind a paper bag with her address book on a table. Warhol was taken to Columbus–Mother Cabrini Hospital, where he underwent a successful five-hour operation.

Later that day, Solanas turned herself in to police, gave up her gun, and confessed to the shooting, telling an officer that Warhol “had too much control in my life.” She was fingerprinted and charged with felonious assault and possession of a deadly weapon. The next morning, the New York Daily News ran the front-page headline: “Actress Shoots Andy Warhol.” Solanas demanded a retraction of the statement that she was an actress. The Daily News changed the headline in its later edition and added a quote from Solanas stating, “I’m a writer, not an actress.”

Valerie Solanas on the cover of the June 4, 1968 issue of the Daily News.

At her arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court, Solanas denied shooting Warhol because he wouldn’t produce her play but said “it was for the opposite reason,” that “he has a legal claim on my works.” She told the judge that “it’s not often that I shoot somebody. I didn’t do it for nothing. Warhol had tied me up, lock, stock, and barrel. He was going to do something to me which would have ruined me.” She declared that she wanted to represent herself and she insisted that she “was right in what I did! I have nothing to regret!” The judge struck Solanas’ comments from the court record and had her admitted to Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric observation.

After a cursory evaluation, Solanas was declared mentally unstable and transferred to the prison ward of Elmhurst Hospital. She appeared at New York Supreme Court on June 13, 1968. Florynce Kennedy represented her and asked for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that Solanas was being held inappropriately at Elmhurst. The judge denied the motion and Solanas returned to Elmhurst. On June 28, Solanas was indicted on charges of attempted murder, assault, and illegal possession of a firearm. She was declared “incompetent” in August and sent to Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. That same month, Olympia Press published the SCUM Manifesto with essays by Girodias and Krassner.

In January 1969, Solanas underwent psychiatric evaluation and was diagnosed with chronic paranoid schizophrenia. In June, she was deemed fit to stand trial. She represented herself without an attorney and pleaded guilty to “reckless assault with intent to harm.” Solanas was sentenced to three years in prison, with one year of time served.

Valerie Solanas yelling while under guard Escort.

Valerie Solanas pictured center.

Three hours after the shooting, Solanas surrendered to the NYPD near Times Square, telling a traffic cop Warhol “had too much control over my life.”

After Solanas was released from the New York State Prison for Women in 1971, she stalked Warhol and others over the telephone and was arrested again in November 1971. She was subsequently institutionalized several times and then drifted into obscurity.

The shooting had a profound impact on Warhol and his art, and security at the Factory became much stronger afterward. For the rest of his life, Warhol lived in fear that Solanas would attack him again. “It was the Cardboard Andy, not the Andy I could love and play with,” said close friend and collaborator Billy Name. “He was so sensitized you couldn’t put your hand on him without him jumping. I couldn’t even love him anymore, because it hurt him to touch him.”

Post-shooting, he revisited the theme of death, painting a series of skulls and one of guns, a weapon with which he now had an intensely personal connection. “I said that I wasn’t creative since I was shot, because after that I stopped seeing creepy people,” Warhol wrote in his diary in November 1978.

Andy Warhol in 1969, showcasing the scars left on his body after surviving a shooting by Valerie Solanas the year before. Photo by Richard Avedon.

More importantly, the shooting intensified Warhol’s fear and loathing of hospitals, though he embraced alternative health treatments like healing crystals. This reticence produced fatal results on February 21, 1987, when Warhol died of cardiac arrest suffered after gallbladder surgery, a procedure that he had delayed for several years due to his fear of hospitals.

Dropping off the radar, Solanas moved to Phoenix, where she reportedly lived on the streets, and then to San Francisco. She was discovered dead in her hotel room on April 25, 1988, after the owner came to investigate her lapsed payments. Valerie Solanas died of pneumonia.


Post a Comment



Browse by Decades

Popular Posts


09 10