Andy Warhol, the American artist who arguably pioneered the visual art movement known as pop art, staged his one and only theatre production in 1971 and it was suitably surreal.
The play, entitled Andy Warhol’s Pork, was adapted and directed by Anthony J. Ingrassia and opened at La Mama for a two week “trial run” on May 5, 1971.
Pork was based on tape-recorded conversations between Brigid Berlin and Andy during which Brigid would play for Andy tapes she had made of phone conversations between herself and her mother, socialite Honey Berlin. The play featured Jayne County as “Vulva” and Cherry Vanilla as “Amanda Pork”.
“Andy Warhol contacted Tony Ingrassia and told him he wanted to do a play from all the tapes he’d been making of his private telephone conversations with the Factory crowd, people like Brigid Polk and Viva,” Jayne County once explained. “He turned all these incredible tapes over to Tony, who had to transcribe them and put them into play form. Warhol thought Tony was the perfect person to do it… and he wanted me and Jaime DeCarlo Lotts and Tony Zanetta to be in it.”
County continued: “It would be Andy Warhol’s first stage production, and basically it was just all of the Factory people portrayed on stage in an exaggerated, ridiculous way.”
After running for two weeks in New York and some favourable reviews, Pork was brought to the Roundhouse in London for a longer run in August 1971.
If the critic’s reviews of the show weren’t enough to convince people of the quality of Warhol’s one and only foray into theatre, then the backing of David Bowie might well have swung it. Apparently, while talking to William S. Burroughs in 1974, Bowie said: “I want to get Pork on to TV. TV has eaten up everything else, and Warhol films are all that is left, which is fabulous.”
Bowie added: “Pork could become the next I Love Lucy, the great American domestic comedy. It’s about how people really live, not like Lucy who never touched a dishwasher. It’s about people living and hustling to survive, that’s what Pork is all about, a smashing of the spectacle.”
Warning, these images are NSFW: