Viva (Janet Susan Mary Hoffmann): SUPERSTAR
London: Sphere Books Paperback, 1972 (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1970). 317 pages. Spine sunned. Some unpretty ink notes here and there
Viva (born Janet Susan Mary Hoffmann) is an American actress, writer and former Warhol superstar: “Viva began her career in entertainment as a model and painter. She retired from both professions, claiming that she believed painting to be a dead medium, and describing her time as a model as “…a period of my life I would rather forget.” She was given the name Viva by Andy Warhol before the release of her first film but later used her married last name (Auder). She appeared in several of Warhol’s films and was a frequent guest at the Factory. Viva’s film career began in 1967, when she began filming Ciao! Manhattan, which was not completed until 1972. Viva approached Andy Warhol about being in one of his films, on the suggestion of her friend, actress Abigail Rosen McGrath. Warhol agreed but only on the condition that Viva take off her blouse for the role. Viva responded by adhering bandaids to her breasts and visiting Warhol at The Factory. Viva appeared in many of Warhol’s films. The first, Tub Girls, consists of Viva lying in a bathtub with various people of both sexes, including Brigid Berlin and Rosen McGrath. She appeared in Bike Boy, a film about a motorcyclist trying to find himself; and The Nude Restaurant, in which she played a waitress, opposite Taylor Mead. By far, Viva’s most controversial role was in Blue Movie (1969), a seminal film in the Golden Age of Porn that helped inaugurate the “porno chic” phenomenon in modern American culture. Viva starred opposite Louis Waldon. The film consists of improvised dialogue between Viva and Waldon about a multitude of topics, including the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon, and various mundane tasks. These conversations are interrupted by the main event of the film, in which Viva and Waldon perform sexual acts in front of the camera. The film was seized by New York City Police for obscenity, and the theater manager, projectionist and ticket-seller at the New Andy Warhol Garrick Theatre arrested for possession of obscene materials. Viva was on the phone with Andy Warhol when he was shot by Valerie Solanas in 1968. Following Solanas’ attempt on Warhol’s life, Viva developed a close, personal friendship with Warhol’s mother, Julia Warhola. Returning from the hospital, however, Warhol accused Viva of utilizing his absence to spy on his work and his mother, creating a rift in a relationship that was never repaired. Viva never saw Mrs. Warhola again after that. Viva’s first starring role in a non-Warhol film was in Agnès Varda’s Lions Love in 1969. The film features Viva in a ménage à trois with Gerome Ragni and James Rado. On November 1, 1968, Viva appeared on The Tonight Show on an evening that was guest-hosted by Woody Allen. Four years later Allen cast her in his 1972 film Play It Again, Sam in the role of Jennifer. Blake Gopnik points out in his book Warhol: A Life as Art that she had a bit role as happening/party hostess, standing in for Warhol who was recuperating in the hospital, in John Schlesinger’s film Midnight Cowboy. After she began making films for other directors she also began writing. Her first book, Superstar, was an insider’s look at the Factory scene, a partly fictional autobiographical account of her time there. It was distinguished from other “tell-all” memoirs by virtue of her writing, which incorporated various stylistic effects, including the use of taped conversations. She also wrote for various publications, including The Village Voice and New York Woman. Viva incorporated the use of video tapes into her second book The Baby. These tapes were later released by her former husband, video artist Michel Auder, as Chronicles: Family Diary in three parts. She was the narrator for Carla Bley’s 1971 experimental jazz composition Escalator over the Hill. Viva was one of the early pioneers in video art. During the 1970s Viva was a guest participant in Shirley Clarke’s Teepee Video Space Troupe, which she formed in the early 1970s. With former husband Michel Auder, Viva made and kept film diaries which included the birth of her first daughter, Alexandra (Alex) Auder. She was briefly engaged to the actor Anthony Herrera. They had one child together, the actress Gaby Hoffmann. Though artistically successful, Viva was never very successful financially. In 1993, she was taken to housing court by the Chelsea Hotel, where she lived with her two daughters, for not paying her $920 a month rent for two years. Her daughter Gaby said “We lived in a classless society. We’d spend a summer at Gore Vidal’s house in Italy, but we were on and off welfare.” Viva wrote a book about her daughter titled Gaby at the Chelsea, a riff on Eloise at the Plaza, as yet unpublished. Viva lives in Palm Springs, California, where she paints landscapes” (wiki).