In 1968, Andy Warhol headed west and took on two Hollywood genres: the Western and the surf film. Filmed on location at a ranch and an old Hollywood set in Arizona, Lonesome Cowboys jests at the homoeroticism of the Western, while also veering into violence and alienation. Starring Warhol regulars Viva, Taylor Mead, and Joe Dallesandro, the film focuses on sexual dynamics (including sexual assault) among a group of outlaws and the people of a small frontier town. The film’s production famously caught the attention of local authorities and led to an FBI to investigation. As Warhol recounted in his memoir POPism: The Warhol Sixties: “Eventually, the grips, the electricians, and the people who build the sets formed a vigilante committee to run us out of town, just like in a real cowboy movie.”
Warhol’s next film, San Diego Surf, features a similar cast and can be viewed a sort of sequel. Filmed in La Jolla, the largely improvised film depicts the troubled marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Mead, who rent their beach home to a group of surfers, whom they both lust after. Not long after returning from California, Warhol was shot by Valerie Solanas at the Factory, and nearly died. San Diego Surf remained incomplete until Warhol collaborator Paul Morrissey was commissioned to finish editing the film in the mid-1990s. San Diego Surf did not have a public screening until 2011.
Lonesome Cowboys screens courtesy the Museum of Modern Art Circulating Film and Video Library. San Diego Surf screens courtesy The Andy Warhol Museum.