Hedwig Is Busy, Reluctantly Celibate

John Cameron Mitchell in London, October 2006Photo by Getty Images

Last weekend in the East Village, indie-film wunderkinds like John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and Josh Marston (Maria Full of Grace) packed in for a Tribeca screening of A Walk Into the Sea, Esther Robinson's documentary about her uncle, Danny Williams, who mysteriously disappeared off the Massachusetts coast in the sixties, shortly after being pushed to the margins of Andy Warhol's Factory scene. Williams's beautifully lit footage of Edie Sedgwick and the other Factorians making merry is on display in the documentary, and Warhol's posthumous reputation as a creepy, emotionless predator is further cemented. "Andy had a nice ass," remembers Factory-era survivor Danny Wein but, "he was a very limited type of person."

Still, it's hard to believe that the Factory would have been eschewed by Mitchell, who knocked back red wine at the doc's AmEx-sponsored after-party. "I've always found that Factory scene very cold and manipulative and scary," said JCM, 44, adding that he aimed to make Shortbus, the sex club featured in his film of the same name, "the Factory, but with hugs instead of drugs." But didn't Shortbus, with its decidedly anti-pornish live sex scenes, elicit some of the bourgeois outrage elicited by such Warhol films as The Chelsea Girls? "One middle-age Asian woman in D.C. asked me if I actually paid my actors to have sex in such a moronic movie," he recalled. "But right after her, some guy in a raincoat told me he'd wanted to see more butt-fucking." Not that there's much of that for JCM right now. "I'm celibate," he says, "by accident." Though he's working on a new film script. "It's a little bit about my family," he says. "About loss and disconnection."

So, we asked JCM, were there really no drugs on the set of Shortbus? "Only Viagra," he said. — Tim Murphy