tagCelebrities & Fan FictionValerie in New York Ch. 01

Valerie in New York Ch. 01

bygunhilltrain©

[A number of years ago I became interested in the movie I Shot Andy Warhol mainly because of Lili Taylor's performance as Valerie Solanas. Although I was impressed by her work, I thought Taylor fell somewhat out of character at times and made Solanas appear more personable than she likely was in reality.

Anyway, I thought that the movie needed more detail about Solanas' life in the two or three years before her murder attempt on Andy Warhol. Of course much of this has to be fictionalized because her life was not well documented.

I'm not attempting in any way to justify her actions. In later years she was hailed by some as a visionary social critic. However I think she had more in common with other violent celebrity stalkers like Mark David Chapman.]

**********

Valerie Solanas was twenty-nine when she came to New York City in late 1965. She only had some vague ideas of what she was going to do in the vast city. Her aspirations for the future were to become a writer and maybe an activist but perhaps equally important for her was simply to get away from her past.

Part of the appeal of the city was that it allowed her to deal with her own doubts about her sexual identity. She had always felt more of an attraction to women rather than to men, but she didn't necessarily want other people's labels applied to her. Throughout her adolescence and young adulthood from the 1940s to the early 1960s she felt that her identity was hers alone to decide, but the rest of the world didn't seem to offer a chance for that. During that period she felt increasing confusion and then anger at her outsider status.

For a while she tried a life in academia and she did get a bachelor's degree in psychology at the University of Maryland. Then she drifted around to the University of Minnesota and the University of California at Berkeley for some graduate courses. Her increasing restlessness led her back to the East Coast, her original home being on the Jersey Shore near Atlantic City. She had visited New York enough times to give her a sense that she might find a permanent place there among its eight million inhabitants.

For a number of months she had supported herself through various odd jobs, most of them paying minimum wage. Being a foot messenger was one that worked well for her because she didn't have to be in one place all day with a boss looking over her shoulder. Her contact with clients was minimal; she'd just pick up a package from one, drop it off with another. It wasn't like being a waitress, a job she had done a few times in Maryland, where one had to at least pretend to have some interest in the satisfaction of the customers.

Most of her movements as a messenger were among the office buildings of midtown Manhattan with a few side trips by subway down to the financial district and an occasional journey to one of the other boroughs. In the early months she had to deal with the winter weather, but she was young and strong enough to handle that. She could spend some time in a pizza shop or hot dog place where the countermen didn't notice that she wasn't buying anything.

She was paid by the hour, not the trip, so even if she didn't dawdle excessively neither did she hustle to be the most efficient messenger in the city. Tips were rather scarce, mostly coming at those times when she delivered to a residence.

She didn't remember exactly why she started panhandling to supplement her income. At times she had run into guys in the street who asked her, "Do you have any spare change?" and she would nudge them by replying, "No, do you?" or a more elaborate jibe like, "You mean like a spare tire, money I'm not using right now?"

It occurred to her she could get away with these jokes because she was a woman and men mostly found them amusing rather than insulting. From there it was a short step to trying the hustle herself. It took some patience to go through numerous rejections but she found she could do all right if she hung in and persisted. If she could, she'd start with a story of needing local transit fare to get to Brooklyn or maybe tickets for a bus to some city in Pennsylvania or Delaware.

Valerie's turn to streetwalking was a more drastic move. She had turned a few tricks among the male students at the University of Maryland years earlier. Some of them pestered her for dates because, in fact, they just wanted to get laid. Turning the event into a transaction usually was satisfactory to both parties.

Getting out on the city streets was a different matter and she knew, or thought she knew, the risks involved. She hoped to operate solo, as a sort of freelancer, without the protection of any individual or group who would also want a cut of her earnings. If she could work part-time, she guessed, that would perhaps improve the odds against something bad happening to her. She knew that many girls had pimps who demanded extremely long working hours, often seven-day per week commitments. Maybe she could find some niche in the city's underworld sex work scene where she could preserve her independence.

The streetwalkers were at the lowest level of the hierarchy but that's where she thought she could get in the easiest. She started by positioning herself on Twelfth Avenue, upstream from the groups of woman who gathered around the various exits of the Lincoln Tunnel. Those women was not subtle, and they were among the most flamboyant and brazen hookers in a city famous for them. If the weather was warm, they basically appeared in some combination of lingerie, underwear and beach attire. In colder weather they wore overcoats which they opened to flash their costumes at passing motorists.

Valerie knew that some drivers seeking hookers were intimidated by the appearance and sheer numbers of the women by the tunnel. These guys sped north along the avenue and often would stop when they saw Valerie standing alone by a streetlight.

When she was working she would dress fairly conservatively compared to the other women on the West Side. In her off-duty life, or when panhandling or doing some gig of that nature, she almost never wore a skirt or dress. When working on the street she invariably did. Dressed like that, at most places at most times it would be assumed that she was an office worker or student. On Twelfth at night, however, under the elevated highway and across from the piers, drivers usually understood what she was there for.

She started the working the street in late 1966 and she hoped by remaining inconspicuous she could avoid the attention of both pimps and the police. Also, she didn't want to be completely consumed by the hooking life and she tried to keep it to a part-time occupation. However, the money was better than anything else she felt qualified to do. She was lucky in that for a very long time her plan worked and nothing disastrous happened to her.

There was one friend in her life at this point that she could count on. This was another young woman named Stevie who was also trying to survive as a part-time streetwalker. At times the two of them worked as a pair to gain some bit of protection by being together. Stevie accepted her own identity as a gay woman and encouraged Valerie to do the same. They become lovers; her friend was probably the first person Valerie had ever truly felt close to.

At times they would have conversations fantasizing about rich ladies, socialites who would take in young women as confidantes and lovers. Valerie asked, "What is the term for a female gigolo, if that is what it is?"

Stevie laughed, "I don't think they've invented the word yet. A companion perhaps? Besides, I think you're a bit - rough around the edges? - to be drinking tea all day in penthouses and shopping at Bergdorf Goodman or wherever they go."

Valerie answered, "The hell with tea. I'm going to be having lots of martinis if I have to deal with those stuck-up old bitches."

A Pedestrian Named Al

One mild night in at the beginning of June 1967 she had a somewhat anomalous experience during one of her stints as a streetwalker. Johns on the Far West Side either drove up in cars or had taxis bring them over. Sometimes they used the back of the taxi for their trysts, for which the driver would demand a substantial fee, almost as much Valerie herself charged.

On this night around midnight a pedestrian came loping up the sidewalk of Twelfth Avenue. That wasn't a common sight at that hour but Valerie figured he was somebody going on or coming off a late shift nearby. When he was abreast of her he stopped and looked her over. She used these moments to look back at him. He was in his mid-forties, balding but he had grown his remaining hair out so it was bushy. The effect reminded her of Larry Fine of the Three Stooges except Larry was actually somewhat better looking than this guy.

"Pardon me miss, but you have very pretty feet." She figured out everything she needed to know from that statement. Tonight she was wearing tennis shoes for comfort but she had no stockings or socks on. Her skirt came down to the top of her knees. She looked down and thought, okay, not bad if you like sneakers. She replied, "Yeah, what of it?"

He hesitated and then said, "Well, I was wondering, I mean, is it negotiable?"

"You mean am I working right now? You certainly are perceptive." She pointed towards the pier across the avenue, "Although I'm actually waiting for my ship to come in but it never does."

He seemed baffled by her banter so she got him back to the facts, "Listen, so what do you want? I assume you want me to rub you with my feet until you come. Am I missing something?"

He was somewhat abashed but managed to say, "Right, that's the idea." She gave him a price and he agreed to it. After he paid her she said, "So - you are?"

"Alfred, but you can call me Al."

"Okay Al, do you have a car, or a room somewhere?"

"No, I don't have either one."

"Then we'll have to go to the back of some parking lot around here."

"I don't want to be outdoors. There's a lobby of a loft building on 47th."

She considered that some real late-shift worker might pass through the doors while they were in there. Would the cops be called? Possibly, but they should have plenty of time to make an escape.

She said, "All right, let's go. Show me this place."

As they started to walk he said, "Could I ask your name?"

"Sure, I'm the Queen of Rumania."

"The what?"

"Just kidding. I'm Dorothy, Dorothy Parker."

"Do people call you Dottie?" Is this guy really that dumb, she thought, or is he playing games too? "No, just Dorothy, that's it."

The outer doors of the building were not locked but the inner ones were. Thus they didn't have the whole lobby to use, merely the foyer. Valerie assessed the logistics of the situation. She said, "Okay, how about you lie on the floor, face up?" It couldn't be that comfortable on the tiles but he did as she suggested.

Then she asked, "Should I keep my sneaker on?"

"Yes, I think that will do fine."

"All right, take it out already. I can't do everything for you."

Al was fully erect when he released his cock from his pants. The mere idea of all this had been enough to bring him to full arousal. Valerie balanced herself against a radiator and brought her sneaker and bare ankle against him. Within a few seconds he reached down and grasped himself, holding down the base with one hand while moving the shaft against her foot. Good, she thought, I won't have to do all the work on this.

As he was on the floor, saying his little yips and yaps of pleasure, she looked around the scene. The entire space was painted a glossy industrial gray and a fluorescent light glared from the ceiling. She thought out loud, "What a romantic place, reminds me of Venice." Al appeared to be beyond caring, but she continued anyway, "I mean the one in Italy, Al, not California."

He was not listening. In a few minutes he cried out, "Oh my God" and he ejaculated, two of the spurts going high enough to cover her shin. Valerie had seen enough of these to give him a moderately high score for distance and volume, but she also disliked getting semen on her skin. That, however, was an unavoidable aspect of the trade she was in.

"Al, you have a handkerchief?"

He was a little out of breath but he could talk, "Of course, right here . . . you have a lovely foot."

She ignored him as she daubed her leg with the cloth. When she was done he took it back and stuffed it into his pocket. She said, "You know, you can just leave that here and buy a new one."

"Why? I can wash this one."

A frugal sort, she thought. "Okay, time to get out of here."

He pulled his clothes together and got off the floor. Then he stood there as if he expected further conversation. He made an attempt, "Dorothy, I'll never forget you."

"Really? Well, I'm not wearing my ruby slippers but I'm going to click my heels right now and forget you." That seemed unnecessarily harsh, but he was probably the kind of schlub who got such abuse all the time.

They walked out the door together. She said, "You're going east I assume, to the subway or something?"

"That's right, I am."

"Well, I'm going back to Twelfth."

With that she turned and didn't look back. She assumed he was watching her go but she didn't care if he did or not.

******

[Stevie is played by Martha Plimpton in the movie but I don't know if she is a composite character or if she existed at all.]

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