On June 3, 1968, a radical feminist and aspiring playwright named Valerie Solanas walked into Andy Warhol's Factory with two guns and the intent to shoot the artist, art critic and curator Mario Amaya, and Warhol's business manager, Fred Hughes. The precise reason behind the attack remains the subject of fervent speculation.
So, why did Valerie Solanas shoot Andy Warhol and the others? Here's what you should know.
Why did Valerie Solanas shoot Andy Warhol?
Solanas and Warhol seem to have gotten wrapped up in a copyright-related conflict that led to the tragic turn of events at the Factory. Solanas finished writing Up Your A--, an absurdist drama detailing the experiences of a lesbian sex worker named Bongi Perez, in 1965. She started frequenting the Factory the same year, with the purpose of promoting her play, and in 1967, she gave Warhol the manuscript. Trouble would soon ensue.
According to HISTORY, Warhol told Solanas that he had misplaced the manuscript. Though it later surfaced in a forgotten trunk, Solanas began to speculate that Warhol — the artist who made a career of out repeatedly bashing the concept of authenticity — was in the process of stealing the ideas outlined in her play.
Though Solanas continued to pay visits to the Factory, Warhol stopped responding to her phone calls and threatening letters after rejecting Up Your A--, per Dazed. But Solanas wasn't about to give up on the manuscript. On the day of the shooting, she visited Margo Feiden, a trailblazing producer, telling her that the play had to get produced one way or another.
Solanas held Feiden at gunpoint, telling her that shooting Warhol would be bound to generate enough media frenzy to convince producers to back her play. (Kids, don't try this at home.)
"Yes, you will produce the play because I’ll shoot Andy Warhol and that will make me famous and the play famous, and then you’ll produce it," Solanas told Feiden, via Rolling Stone.
Solanas purchased the guns a few days before the June 3, 1968 attack. On June 3, She shot Andy three times, shot curator Mario Amaya twice in the hip (he made a full recovery), and tried but failed to shoot Warhol's manager, Fred Hughes.
Warhol had it the worst of all three victims. The bullet pierced through the artist's spleen, stomach, liver, esophagus, and both of his lungs. He was reportedly pronounced dead upon admittance to Columbus Hospital. Though he lived to tell the tale, Warhol suffered from the complications of the shooting for the rest of his life.
Solanas rejected the support of leading feminist thinker Ti-Grace Atkinson.
Like the protagonist of Up Your A--, Solanas was an out-lesbian who occasionally made money through sex work. Unlike the most radical factions of the second-wave feminist movement, she more or less advocated for a social order without men. In other words, Valerie Solanas was to feminism what the Red Army Faction was to anti-capitalist organizing.
Solanas founded a revolutionary organization, SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men), of which she was the sole member. In the SCUM Manifesto, the piece of work she is best known for, Solanas calls on "civic-minded, responsible, and thrill-seeking females" to "overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation, and destroy the male sex."
Solanas is best described as a thinker located on the fringes of the feminist movement. In a letter written from prison, she described Ti-Grace Atkinson and the rest of NOW (National Organization for Women) as "professional parasites with nothing of their own going for them." She then urged Atkinson to stop using her influence to advocate for her.
"I know you, along with all the other professional parasites with nothing of their own going for them, are eagerly awaiting my commitment to the bughouse ... I want to make perfectly clear that I am not being committed because of my views or the SCUM Manifesto," she wrote, via Dissent. "Nor do I want you to continue to mouthe [sic] your cultivated banalities about my motive for shooting Warhol."
The Andy Warhol Diaries arrives on Netflix on March 9, 2022.