"He was a nice person, he was likable, but he's given credit for things he NEVER, EVER, did," said Paul Morrissey. The "he" of course is Andy Warhol, for whom Morrissey was business manager for ten years, running the notorious "Factory", and writing, shooting, and directing all of the so-called "Warhol" films. He is credited with co-directing the film "Chelsea Girls", from 1965, after which he had total control over all aspects of the film making process. He also cast the movies, and even acted as their distributor. Morrissey also discovered the Velvet Underground, which he jokingly calls the "Velvet Underwear" (or, "those pains in the ass"), and signed the band, as well as singer Nico, to management contracts. Was he influenced by Warhol? He chuckles. "He couldn't influence anybody. He was incapable of doing anything,” said Morrissey. “He was a celebrity-I’m sure you’d ask the same questions if I once met Lady Gaga, how did she influence me?” He laughs. “He couldn't influence anybody.”
View Video Interview with Paul Morrissey at The New York Minute.
Morrissey was at Greenwich Village’s Film Forum for screenings of his classic films, “Trash”, and “Women in Revolt”, where he also met and chatted with a sold-out audience of local admirers. “I’m from New York, I was born in the north Bronx,” he said. And inevitably, this being New York, he was asked about Warhol, a man whose reputation has soared as the prices for his work have exploded. Morrissey seemed charmingly astounded with both. “I was his business manager,” he said. “And my business was to find things to do where I could bring him along, to get his name in the paper, so his dealer could raise the prices. He [Warhol] would send Polaroids to the dealer, and then to the silk screen people downtown, for illegal aliens to push paint through a thing, and then send the silk screens to the dealer. He didn’t do anything.”
He scorns the modern art business, which was the reason he and Warhol parted company in the ‘70’s. Morrissey wanted to continue making movies, while Warhol preferred to concentrate on selling art. “People pay a lot of money for that crap he never looked at,” he said. “Rich people buy art so people can ask, ‘oh, who is that?’ And they can say, ‘oh, that’s a so-and-so’, ‘oh, I’ve heard of him!’. That’s the way the business works.” And Warhol’s name is certainly the most well-known in the art world, while his work commands some of the highest prices.
Morrissey helped mold Warhol’s early image, and perhaps saw Warhol, while a friend, as an empty vessel. “He had no ideas about anything,” he said. “Nothing. He had severe autism, dyslexia, Asperger’s. He couldn’t read, he couldn’t write, and he couldn’t speak.” Morrissey recalls that at a book-signing once, someone pulled Warhol’s wig off his head, upset about something written in Warhol’s book. As Warhol plopped the wig back on his head, he turned to his publisher and asked, ’what did you put in there?’ According to Morrissey, he had never written or read a word in the book. “He did it his whole life-you’ve got to give him credit,” said Morrisey.
Morrissey hopes to make all of his movies available for streaming on the Internet at some point, and perhaps see more screenings at venues like Film Forum or Anthology Film Archives, also in the Village. When asked if he thinks that what he has accomplished could have been done in any city other than New York, he pondered for a moment. “I’ve made films in Europe, I’ve made films in Los Angeles, so yes, I think so,” he answered. “But New York is fun. I’m a born-and-raised New Yorker. I’ve been here for my whole life.” He laughs at the thought. “I must be crazy,” he said, “to be here my whole life.” From the director of underground classics set in New York, like “Heat”, “Trash”, and “Flesh”, which along with “Chelsea Girls”, created an aesthetic that influenced filmmakers from Jaglom to Jarmusch, that doesn’t sound so crazy at all.