In May 1968, blocks from what is now Governor Mitt Romney’s $12 million waterfront vacation home in La Jolla (311 Dunemere Dr. - stop in and say “hello”), pop art legend Andy Warhol spent two weeks making a film he would never finish.
San Diego Surf was to tell the story of a married couple, their interactions with surfers at Windansea Beach and the entire group’s hetero- and homosexual tensions. But after returning to New York to edit the film, Warhol was shot three times by feminist artist (and paranoid schizophrenic) Valerie Solanas.
The nearly successful assassination attempt put Warhol in the hospital and San Diego Surf on hold, not to be touched for almost 30 years. Shooting the film would be the last time Warhol got behind the camera, adding more mystery to his forgotten work.
Well, not completely forgotten, it turns out.
In 1996, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts commissioned Paul Morrissey, the filmmaker who had worked closely with Warhol on San Diego Surf in 1968, to complete the editing based on Warhol’s notes. Now, for the first time (and another 17 years later), the 90-minute film will be released to the public, beginning with a weeklong showing (January 23-28) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MOMA).
Seeing the film for the first time is sure to bring back memories for San Diegans who spotted Warhol’s blonde locks bobbing in the ocean breeze.
“When he came into my shop, there was a cop sitting outside watching him,” says legendary surfboard shaper Carl Ekstrom, whom Warhol visited to get boards for the film, as well as for his personal collection. “They were keeping their eye on him, because he had this kind of entourage there.”
Intrigued by the era’s Americana surf craze, Warhol had previously visited San Diego to speak at local universities, but it’s speculated that it was more than just waves that propelled the openly gay artist to crash the local scene.
“I think it was cute boys wearing bathing suits running around on a beach,” says Rajendra Roy, chief curator of film at MOMA. “I think that laidback-ness, that openness and the inherent sexiness [of surf culture] was probably something he wasn’t opposed to.”
“Everybody was so happy being in La Jolla that the New York problems we usually made our movies about went away - the edge came right off everybody,” Warhol recounts in his book POPism: The Warhol Sixties. “I guess that’s why the whole thing turned out to be more of a memento of a bunch of friends taking a vacation together than a movie.”
The production comes full circle with its first San Diego showing, March 16 at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla, 45 years after Warhol dipped his toes (and who knows what else) in the sands of Windansea Beach.
(Hint: Make sure to watch the last scene. It involves two men and a shower - a golden one.)
San Diego Surf show times
Musem of Modern Art, New York
(first public theatrical showing)
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla
(first San Diego showing)
The story behind Velvet Underground’s a-peel-ing album cover
A yellow banana on a stark white background - it’s the iconic image emblazoned on the cover of The Velvet Underground & Nico (the debut album of ‘60s rock group Velvet Underground) and one of Andy Warhol’s most recognizable pieces of art.
But why a banana?
First, the image is sexual. The fruit’s phallic shape is enhanced by the phrase “peel slowly and see” printed above it. From original copies of the cover, fans could remove the banana skin (it was a sticker) to reveal another drawing of a peeled banana, this one printed with pink tones to look even more like genitalia.
Another reason, writes Steven Watson in his book Factory Made: Warhol and the Sixties, was "...the recent craze for getting high by smoking banana peels.”
For Warhol, hallucinogenic properties plus an erotic appearance equaled the perfect album cover for a band (fronted by Lou Reed) looking to appear edgy and provocative.
Pop Goes the Easel
Painting a picture of the life of Andy Warhol
His debut film, Sleep, was six hours long and consisted of nothing but footage of his friend sleeping. Other titles from his 60 movies include Suicide, Blowjob and Bitch.
He created two shows for MTV: Andy Warhol’s TV (1983-1984) and Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes (1985-1987).
He opened a nightclub and founded Interview magazine.
His famed New York City studio was nicknamed “The Factory.”
After being told he had lazy eyes, he wore opaque glasses with a small hole to see through.