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On This Day: Valerie Solanas Shoots Andy Warhol

Written By Isabel Cowles
Last updated: February 15, 2023

On June 3, 1968, radical feminist Valerie Solanas shot pop culture artist Andy Warhol in his Manhattan studio. Though he was initially pronounced dead, Warhol survived.

Andy Warhol Nearly Killed

Valerie Solanas angered that Andy Warhol had lost a script of hers, made an afternoon visit to Warhol’s Midtown Manhattan studio, known as The Factory, with a .32 revolver stashed in a brown paper bag. Warhol, accompanied by his boyfriend, Jed Johnson, and art critic Mario Amaya, saw Solanas outside The Factory and invited her in.

Once inside, Solanas pulled out the gun. The Village Voice’s Howard Smith described: “Warhol turned and saw the gun. ‘Valerie,’ he yelled. ‘Don’t do it! No! No!’ She fired three shots, and Warhol fell to the floor.”

Solanas then shot Amaya and aimed at Warhol’s manager, Fred Hughes, but her gun jammed and she fled. She later turned herself in to rookie traffic cop William Shemalix, handing him her gun and saying she had shot Andy Warhol “because he had too much control of my life.”

After the shooting, Warhol was taken to Columbus Hospital and was pronounced dead, but doctors resuscitated him and he survived after emergency surgery.

Biography: Andy Warhol

Sources in this Story

  • Warholstars: The Shooting of Andy Warhol
  • Village Voice: Andy Warhol Shot by Factory Actress Valerie Solanas
  • The Guardian: Valerie Jean Solanas (1936-88)
  • PBS: Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film

Andy Warhol was an eccentric artist and filmmaker who frequently collaborated with other artists and writers, often employing them for his films. He became one of the most influential personalities of his generation, entertaining the young and hip in his New York City “Factory.” Holding an unabashed fascination with celebrity, Warhol famously remarked, “In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.”

He created art that embraced consumerism and a culture of mass production. The famous “Campbell’s Soup Cans” series in the early 1960s made Warhol a world-renowned artist and something of a celebrity. Warhol, who also delved into sculpture and filmmaking, is credited with fathering Pop Art.

Warhol’s life became more subdued after the shooting. He died at the age of 58 in February 1987 due to complications after gall bladder surgery.

The BBC offers a glimpse of Warhol’s methods and inspiration through a series of recorded interviews in which the artist discusses his technique, his favorite subject, (Liza Minelli) and his love of his Sony Walkman.

Background: Solanas’ philosophy and motivation

Solanas’ story is detailed in the 1996 film “I Shot Andy Warhol,” starring Lili Taylor.

A troubled woman, Valerie Solanas had been abandoned by her father as a child. She gave birth at age 15 and later worked as a prostitute in New York City.

In the early 1960s, hoping to become a member of Warhol’s entourage, Solanas had showed him one of her plays, “Up Your Ass.” Warhol later said of the play, “I looked through it briefly and it was so dirty, I thought she might be working for the police department and that this was some kind of entrapment.” Hoping to appease Solanas, Warhol paid her 25 dollars to be in his film, “I, a Man.”

Solanas began hanging around Warhol and The Factory, but received little attention. In 1967, she outlined her radical feminist ideology in the SCUM Manifesto, described by American Heritage’s Elizabeth Hoover as “an anti-male, anti-capitalist screed that called on women to ‘eliminate’ men.”

She served three years in prison for the shootings, and spent much of her life on the streets and in mental hospitals for schizophrenia before her death in 1988.

Charles Eames

Isabel was a writer for findingDulcinea from spring 2007 until March 2009. Before joining the team, Isabel worked as a freelance editor for Alfred A. Knopf and harvested heirloom tomatoes from an organic farm. Isabel has a B.A. in Comparative Literature and Cinema Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. Read TASTE, Isabel’s personal blog about her cooking-related trials and errors.

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