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I Shot Andy Warhol


Andy Warhol (1930-1987) was born in Pennsylvania.  Leader of the pop art movement.  His works are notable for the repetition of everyday images, such as Campbell's soup cans, and for figures from popular culture, such as Marilyn Monroe (both series begun in 1962).


In 1996 the critics for the New York Times voted the following as the ten best films of the year: Breaking the Waves, The Crucible, The English Patient, Fargo, Flirting with Disaster, Jerry Maguire, Lone Star, Looking for Richard, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and Secrets and Lies.


I Shot Andy Warhol also came out in 1996 and has certain themes that are at least as important if not more worthy of learning than any one of the above.  But, films are not rated in terms of the worthiness of their message.


Based on the true story of Valarie Solaras, the film focuses on her 15 minutes of fame achieved when she shot Warhol in 1968. 


Obviously, Warhol survived, as did the other man who was in the apartment at the time that Solaras opened fire.  She would have shot the third man but ran out of bullets.  After the shooting she approached a policeman and gave him the gun along with her confession.  Solaras was a psychology major who graduated from the University of Maryland with straight "As" in her major.   She then went to New York City and lived a hand-to-mouth existence panhandling, prostituting, stealing, occasionally getting a few dollars for a brief acting scene in one of Warhol's unsuccessful movies, and even landed a book contract with a $500 advance.  (Her book, the SCUM Manifesto eventually was published a number of times all over the world and became a feminist classic….SCUM stands for Society for Cutting Up Men…..she often sold copies of portions of the Manifesto on the street to anyone who would stop long enough to listen to her.)


After shooting Warhol she served 3 years in Manhattan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.  Upon her release she was often homeless and died of pneumonia in a welfare hotel in San Francisco in 1989.


A lesbian, perhaps a bisexual, always a radical, Solaras was consistently brilliant but often in ways unacceptable to polite society.  She shot Warhol because he became the focus of her anger.  He had taken a movie script that she had written and never elected to produce it and didn't return it…..most likely he had lost it along the way.  Warhol  lived a life of celebrity and drugs.  Solaras most likely would have shot someone else, if not  Warhol, perhaps the book editor who she also felt had cheated her.


How do we encourage change agents like Valarie?

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