“If I were a girl, I’d want to be Mary Woronov.” — John Waters
Once she visited New York City and dropped out of art school, Mary Woronov became one of the memorable insta-stars churned out by Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory in the mid-’60s. Her appearances in Warhol films and as a go-go dancer on tour with the Velvet Underground in Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable production was what exalted her to cult star status.
And since that time she’s become prolific as a writer, painter and director.
Woronov is scheduled to make an appearance at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, January 12th, at Bergamot Books, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. Admission is free.
She plans to read and discuss her new books, including Blind Love, a “bitingly sexy” collection of short stories; and Swimming Underground, her account of her years in the Warhol Factory. The event is a MESS (Media Ecology Super Session) hosted by Gerry Fialka, a series based on the Marshall McLuhan insight: “If you don’t study the effects of technology, you become its slave.”
In the 40 years since she found Warhol, she has starred in numerous now-classic B-movies, including Death Race 2000 and Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, directed by king of the shoestring budget independent filmmakers Roger Corman and featuring unlikely rock ‘n’ roll superstars The Ramones.
But being a cult movie star hardly brings the fame, fortune and deification that being a Hollywood film star brings.
For Woronov, her 15-minutes of Warhol fame was not a stepping stone to a life of mainstream success and recognition as it may have been in the case of Velvet Underground vocalist Lou Reed.
Instead, it led to a career of artsy and interesting roles in some classics of outsider film.
From her Warhol days and beyond, she’s been a part of an art scene with attitude that’s part sideshow, part anti-establishment and part glitterati elitist.
Woronov attributes this to the influence of the saucy, no-holds-barred 1970s homosexual and transvestite attitudes in New York that were a prevalent part of the art and film culture there.
She starred in films including Eating Raoul (1982) and Silent Night, Bloody Night (1973).
Her role in Corman’s cult classic Rock ‘n’ Roll High School was that of a ridiculously authoritarian high school disciplinarian “Miss Togar.”
She also played an adult ninny in Suicidal Tendencies “Institutionalized,” an eighties anthem for youth rebellion and teenage nihilism that mocks hypocrisy in Moral Majority-style parental values.
In Eating Raoul, she plays a strictly platonic wife who with her husband murders sexual swingers in order to finance their restaurant business.
These roles of neurotic authority figure and ultra-square contrast sharply with her 1960s and 1970s roles as wild, sexy bad girl.
What distinguishes Woronov is that throughout her career, she has continued to be a part of projects that remain relevant generations later. When top-selling fads and trendy big-bang blockbusters fade and become played out, nauseating and dated, the projects that Woronov has been involved with often increase in relevancy and art world importance.
As the sun sets on countless pop trends, Warhol’s crowd keeps its credibility and influence on younger artists and musicians, as was seen by the popularity of Warhol’s MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) retrospective in 2002.
These days, the queen of the cooler-than-Hollywood art crowd still regularly stars in films. Her latest ones are Frog-g-g! and I Pass For Human (both from 2004), and she’s currently playing a role in The Devil’s Rejects, scheduled to be finished this year.
She also teaches graduate fiction writing at Otis College of Art + Design in Westchester.
No late-comer to art or writing, she has been painting what she describes as “dream-like exaggerations” and writing fiction since her New York days in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Woronov’s place in Warhol’s filmography (many of which are lengthy films of complete nonsense, albeit interesting, sometimes humorous nonsense) include roles in Four Stars a.k.a. The 24-Hour Movie, Chelsea Girls, Milk, Shower and The Beard.
Information, (310) 306-7330.