Mary Woronov may not have been up there with Edie Sedgwick, Viva, and Jane Holzer as one of Andy Warhol’s “superstars,” but she got a lot of mileage out of terrorizing International Velvet in his 1966 Chelsea Girls. She went on to star in such low-budget pleasures as Death Race 2000, Rock ’n’ Roll High School and the 1982 black-comedy classic Eating Raoul. And she’s just popped up again as a creepy lady of the manor in Ti West’s House of the Devil. The writer, painter, and actress spoke to Vulture about her wild days at the Factory and how much she enjoys “homosexuals.”
In the film’s production notes, you say you’re not a Method actress, you’re a camp actress. Does that devalue what you do?
With Method, you become the person you’re acting, even if it could be a wet piece of spinach or a chair. With camp, you have no interest in trying to trick the audience. You comment on [your character], like a drag queen whose actions comment on women, how they’re too fey or too predatory.
You were in a Charlie’s Angels episode playing a butch cop who drags the Angels off to women’s prison.
I’m not sure why, but it’s my most-watched clip online. That’s one of the reasons I got work in Hollywood: They weren’t supposed to have a lesbian in the script, but if they hired me, they would get one. I was good at gender slipping.
What’s your sexuality?
Totally fixated on men. They attract me because they’re so different from me, so I guess I’m hetero. I was constantly hounded by men. The only place where I was talked to as a real person, where I was told I was good at my career, was with the homosexuals. They told me I was great and didn’t want to pound me. Warhol, the Theater of the Ridiculous. I like male homosexuals very much. I like female homosexuals, too, because now they’re so pretty. It’s bizarre. When I was young, they were always fat and ugly, but now they’re gorgeous.
Swimming Underground, your Warhol-family memoir, is pretty dark. Everyone was high on speed, paranoid, playing mind games with each other. At one point you’re all trying to get rid of the body of this sad girl, Ann, who seems to OD and die while being shot up.
We wanted to get rid of her and put her down a mail slot. What’s dark about it? It’s funny. She wasn’t even dead. We were nice to her, we were going to mail her out. You have to understand how high we were. It was pharmaceutical amphetamine, a white powder we’d snort — or shoot. My memories of that time are incredible. The ludicrousness, the insanity that went on, has never been topped.
Your mother sued Warhol over Chelsea Girls, because he didn’t get you to sign a release. In his own diaries, he wrote that he was always uncomfortable running into you because you were such a “creep” about the money. What are your feelings about him these days?
I like him. I think he was very brave, because he was certainly pro-homosexual when everybody was against it. If you saw [Robert] Rauschenberg, he’d pretend to be straight for his clients. Warhol never did. He was a complete fag to everybody. The things I don’t like about him was he was just in love with fame. If somebody famous were in the room, he’d just go to pieces. It was kind of gross.
But are you angry that he said you were a “creep” about the money?
I was a creep. I sued him. I obviously had left him, I hurt him. Also, Edie left him. He was viciously hurt by that. I was rude. So he didn’t know what to say to me, because I didn’t say, “Andy, it’s okay,” and talk to him like a human being.
It seems like the Factory was presided over by some very mean gay men and drag queens.
I was so angry during my life at that time, it was the only place I felt good. I was furious about the fact that I was going to be some stinky girl who could do absolutely nothing but get married and lick some dick for the rest of her life. I left Cornell to be with Warhol because he was more artistic. What power did I have? Women still don’t have that much power. It’s a man’s world. That’s what pissed me off, and it still does. I had to be nice, and I wanted to be powerful.
Do you have any power in your life now?
Yeah, I’m a good painter. I’m a good writer, though I don’t write enough. In my acting career, I’ve realized it hasn’t been a total flop. I also managed to realize that I didn’t want to be married [after being married twice] and have kids, so I feel good about that.
Do you see any fierce younger women around?
Yeah, what’s-her-name. Bouncy-Bouncy.
Yeah. She’s mechanical. She’s bizarre. She’s fascinating. I don’t actually like her voice. I would never listen to her. I went from punk rock to heavy metal and straight into Wagner. I only do opera now.
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