The Chelsea Girls

Title: The Chelsea Girls
Directed, Produced, and Photographed by: Andy Warhol
Screenwriters: Andy Warhol and Ronald Tavel (Hanoi Hannah section)
Producer: Paul Morrissey
Executive Producer: Paul Morrissey
Production Companies: Film-Makers' Cooperative/Andy Warhol Films, Inc
Music: The Velvet Underground
Strobe Lighting: Billy Linich
Sound: Gerard Malanga
Video Version: Paul Morrissey
Format: 12 reels sound color and black & white 16 mm reference print
Running Time: 195/210 minutes
Release Date: 1966-09-15 Film-Makers' Cinematheque basement theater, 125 West 41 St, New York City [US]
Cast: Ondine: [Robert Olivo] The Pope of Greenwich Village
Ingrid Superstar [Ingrid Von Scheven]
Ed Hood: Ed
Patrick Fleming: Patrick
International Velvet [Susan "Victor" Bottomly]
Gerard Malanga: Son
René Ricard
Marie Menken: Mother
Dorothy Dean
Arthur Loeb
Nico: Blonde in kitchen and in light projections
Eric Emerson Boy in kitchen
Ari Boulogne: [Christian Aaron Boulogne] Boy in kitchen
Brigid Polk: [Brigid Berlin] The Duchess
Mary Might: [Mary Woronov] Hanoi Hannah
Angelina "Pepper" Davis
Mario Montez [Rene Rivera]: Transvestite
Rona Page [Rona Schwarz]
Randy Borscheidt
Donald Lyons
Note: The film comes with very specific projection instructions detailing the order of reels and starting times (there is a five-minute delay between the start of reels on the left and right side). The film uses the technique of split screen and Nico appears in the first scene The Kitchen (Reel 1) on the right hand screen. Nico also appears in Nico Crying (reel 12), left hand screen, where she is crying alone in a room.

Andy Warhol would often have dinner at the El Quixote Restaurant downstairs from the Chelsea Hotel with other factory regulars and he "got the idea to unify all the pieces of these people's lives by stringing them together as if they lived in different rooms in the same hotel." Not all the scenes were shot at the Chelsea Hotel, 222 West 23rd Street, — some were filmed at the Velvets' apartment on West 3rd St. and some in other friend's apartments or at the Factory.

Mary Woronov: "Paul loaded the camera, Andy pointed it and Gerard started the tape recorder — there were always endless amounts of waiting. Of course there were endless amounts of drugs too, which sort of made up for it."

Twelve uncut reels, each about a half-hour in length, were projected two at a time, side-by-side, in this experimental anthology lasting between 190-210 minutes depending on when the projectionist started the reels. It's Warhol's most famous self-signed film, and — with almost all the leading Factory personalities and music by the Velvet Underground — it's easy to see why. Some of the segments were shot at New York's famous Chelsea Hotel, and include some really odd goings-on.

In January 1967 Chelsea Girls moves to the York Cinema on the East side. Andy has an arrangement with the Film-Makers' Distribution Center (FDC), headed by Jonas Mekas, Shirley Clarke, and Luis Brigante, to split the net profits fifty-fifty. In May 1967. Andy, Paul, Gerard, Lester Persky, Rodney La Rod, David Croland, International Velvet And Eric Emerson take Chelsea Girls to the Cannes Film Festival but never get to show it.

Excerpts of The Chelsea Girls are included in Pie in the Sky: The Brigid Berlin Story, a 75 minutes US documentary about the life of Brigid Berlin [Brigid Polk], directed by Vincent Fremont and Shelly Dunn Fremont, produced by Vincent Fremont Enterprises, released 2000-09-07.
Episodes: Left screen

Episode 2: Pope Ondine and Ingrid
Ondine elicits from Ingrid Superstar a confession on sexual practices, family and institutions, a no holds barred play.

Episode 4: Boys in bed
Ed has taken Patrick to bed for a little paid sex. Unfortunately the lethal drug and alcohol cocktail taken by Patrick renders him impotent. With Mary Woronow, Susan "Victor" Bottomly and Gerard Malanga.

Episode 6: Hannoi Hannah and guests
The abuse continues between the phone calls. With Mary Woronow, Susan "Victor" Bottomly, Ingrid Superstar and Angelina "Pepper" Davis. Filmed during the summer of 1966 in Velvet's room (room 116) at the Chelsea. According to Mary Woronov, who played the part of Hanoi, "Velvet was a slob." She "was a society girl from Boston hoping to follow in Edie Sedgwick's footsteps." Mary was "stoned to the gills" for the filming and, according to Mary, Velvet was drunk, slugging "out of her vodka bottle, a little too greedily for a girl of good breeding", and "Ingrid Superstar was on pills, but they had no effect, she was naturally nuts..." Mary watched Velvet applying her make-up and whispered to her: "No matter how much you put on your face, it won't make your butt any smaller." Velvet was expecting a phone call from a modeling agency and warned Andy that if the phone rings during the filming, she had to be able to answer it. But when the phone does ring during the filming, Mary pulls it out of her reach, not allowing her to answer it. Velvet asks Mary to let her answer the phone, saying "you promised" and "that's my call" but Mary just replies: "You don't have a call. You have a fat ass." The end result is that Velvet runs out of the room in anger — although she does turn to finish the scene. Ronald Tavel who wrote the 'script' for the Hanoi Hanna segment was so pleased with Mary's performance that he offered her a part in an Off-Off Broadway play three days later.

Episode 8: Mary Menken (in color)
Reel 8. The Gerard Malanga Story in other words the classic triangle made up by Mary Menken (the mother), Gerard Malanga (the son) and May Wonorow (the other) tinges itself with sadomasochistic streaks. Music by the Velvet Underground.

Episode 10: Color lights on the cast (in color, with no sound)
Ingrid Superstar, Angelina Davis and Eric Emerson heads the complete cast during the showing of "Our Town: Toby's Short."

Episode 12: Nico crying — "The Trip"
Reel 12. Room 416. Nico lets herself go and cries transported by the Velvet Underground's live music. Now we are at the extreme edge of cinema's invasive glance. Although the sound is off on reel 12 until the last ten minutes (while you listen to Pope Ondine on Reel 11 on the other screen), the instructions say "After Reel #11 ends, turn light off on Reel #12 but continue sound as exit and intermission music."

Right screen

Episode 1: Nico in kitchen
Nico wants to trim her fringe, but Eric Emerson tries to dissuade her. Between snips with scissors and a double-sided mirror with a chrome frame, and the incursions of Nico's son, Ari, Eric and Nico share a cup of coffee. She flips through a magazine, plays around with Ari, Ari has a drink.

Episode 3: Brigid holds court
At Brigid Berlin's court — along with Ingrid Superstar and Donnie, the hairdresser — there is talk of women, drugs are taken and the hair is set.

Episode 5: Hannoi Hannah
The cast plays four lesbians on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Mary, frigid and dominant, plays and dominates the hapless threesome at her whim. Abuse is served.

Episode 7: Mario sings two songs
Ed and Patrick receive a visit from their "neighbor" Mario Montez. The queen of song and charm, Mario puts on a show singing Broadway tunes. Ed, having sensed the spell that Mario's singing is casting on his bed companion, doesn't hesitate to kick him out.

Episode 9: Eric says all (in color)
Eric under the influence of illegal substances bares his body and his psyche. Narcissism, prejudice, desire, homosexuality and fear are the ingredients of an unending confession devoid of all reticence.

Episode 11: Pope Ondine
Ondine, having proclaimed himself pope, hears the confessions of his faithful and unburdens himself. Between an injection of heroine and a digression on Pepsi Cola, Ondine successfully focuses on himself as a lucidly ethical but resolutely immoral pope. Filmed during the summer of 1966, Room 732.

Nico and Andy Warhol
Nico & Andy Warhol

Chelsea Girls still
Chelsea Girls still

Chelsea Girls US Poster
Chelsea Girls US Poster

Nico & Ari
Nico, Eric Emerson & Ari
DVD: Chelsea Girls 2Dvd IT 2DVD RaroVideo RVD 40011 2003-09-00 The Chelsea Girls — double DVD (Free Code-Pal) + book — IT RaroVideo RVD 40011, 2003-09-00. 1966, USA, 197 minutes on double screen, 16mm, Black and White and Colour. DVD 1: episodes 1-12. DVD 2: extra — Paul Morrissey meets Jonas Mekas — Scenes from the life of Andy Warhol directed by Jonas Mekas — "a videocosa" by Enrico Ghezzi — Achille Bonito Oliva interview — Mario Zonta interview

Philological edition on split screen as according to the instructions of the MoMA (Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art) and the Andy Warhol Foundation. The Chelsea Girls was restored using Mathematical Technologies Inc. DRS software. In addition, a Flame Discreet system was used for a few retouches to individual frames.
The Chelsea Girls — Andy Warhol

© 1996-2011
Serge Mironneau