Feb 2, 2011

A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and The Warhol Factory

Unfortunately, Andy Warhol may be the most popular American artist of the last century. As far as art goes, Warhol's greatest talent as an artist was being a con-Artist. Every once in a while, Warhol would 'discover' an artist with legitimate talent and exploit their creativity by advertising it as his own. For the documentary A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory, filmmaker Esther Robinson sought out to discover the mystery surrounding her uncle's mysterious assumed suicide into the sea, hence the title of the film. What Robinson discovered with her inquiries from various Warhol factory characters was a degenerate club of no talent nihilists that got off by screwing each, both literally and figuratively. Danny Williams was both a lover of Warhol's as well as a filmmaker with a niche for creating extravagant lighting setups. In A Walk into the Sea, Ms. Robinson discovers that many members of Warhol's entourage have a hard time remembering Williams, let alone giving him credit for shooting some of the most aesthetically appealing footage (including what is assumed to be the first recorded images of The Velvet Underground playing live) ever shot at the factory. As described in A Walk into the Sea, Warhol was the largest shareholder at the Warhol factory but also the smallest contributor, making millions of dollars off the work of other more artistically inclined individuals. 

At the beginning of A Walk into the Sea, Danny Williams is described as very nice, sociable guy, apparently too nice for his own good. Whereas Williams was solely motivated to create art, other more favored members of the Warhol factory were only interested in pleasing Andy and not creating. John Cale (of The Velvet Underground) says of the Warhol factory, "Everybody was afraid of being left out so they created a part for themselves." As with any artist with a true passion to create, Danny must have felt especially trapped working with Warhol, a famous art fag whose already established celebrity would intimidate most novice artists. In fact, in A Walk into the Sea it is revealed that Williams greatly hated the glaring fact that the majority of the Warhol factory people were not doing anything but standing in his way from doing something he had a dire passion for. According to the various former Warhol factory members featured in A Walk into the Sea, the main reason Danny was favored by Warhol was due to their sexual relationship, something the pomo homo artiste tried to keep hush, hush. Apparently, Andy Warhol was known for getting people to fall in love with him (Edie Sedgwick being one of them), never reciprocating it back to them, something that would devastate Danny Williams. One former friend of Danny's in A Walk into the Sea claims that Warhol psychologically tortured Williams, using him for his electrical skills at Velvet Underground shows and various other imperative Warhol productions that furthered helped establish the artistic infamy of the hack soup can painter. 

Unsurprisingly, Danny Williams greatest rival at the Warhol factory was fellow filmmaker Paul Morrissey. Although I am a fan of Morrissey's cinematic trash-art, it is quite apparent to me that he is an intolerable man of self-worship as he arrogantly flaunts in A Walk into the Sea. In the documentary, Paul Morrissey pathetically attempts to completely discredit all the work that Danny Williams contributed to the Warhol factory. According to John Cale, after completing a show for his band The Velvet Underground, he heard a bunch of noise and discovered that Danny Williams was brawling with Paul Morrissey, apparently a common occurrence between the two battling filmmakers. Supposedly, Morrissey purposely hid electrical material that Williams needed to use for his strobe-driven light shows (in which Morrissey claims never existed despite how famous they are). It is quite obvious after watching A Walk into the Sea that Danny Williams was a much better filmmaker than Morrissey, successfully experimenting with lights and time (the footage is featured throughout the documentary) before his rival ever unskillfully documented junky little Joe shooting up in his Trash trilogy. The rivalry between Morrissey and Williams is a great example of the desire for power being more important than artistic integrity when it comes to gaining cinematic notoriety. After all, look at the army of no talent hack propagandists that work in Hollywood. 

One former acquaintance of Danny Williams describes him as a circuitry wizard due to his enchanting electrical talents. It is also acknowledged in A Walk into the Sea that Williams was one of the first people to experiment with strobe lighting effects in the flashy fashion he did, something that has become the norm at concerts and night clubs nowadays. Legendary documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles also credits Danny Williams for jumpstarting his (and his brother David's) career. Williams edited together a documentary film for the Maysles brothers that impressed some financiers so much that they were given the opportunity to document the first tour that The Beatles ever did in The United States. Of course, most of the Warhol factory members have no problem writing off Danny Williams as a nobody that never deserved to breathe the same air that was in the general region of their isolated ivory towers. Paul Morrissey feels that Danny's death was the result of a methamphetamine addiction that corroded his mind as he was apparently not a depressive/suicidal individual but I find that theory to be far too simplistic, especially when you consider Morrissey's role in ousting the promising filmmaker from Warhol's favor. When Danny originally went missing, his mother attempted to call individuals associated with the Warhol factory and they were all offended by her inquiries, showing complete apathy towards their former associate's assumed death. According to Paul Morrissey, Andy Warhol did not even show a sign of mourning when his former lover died. A lot of people that befriended Andy Warhol ended up dying tragically, so what better way for him to go out than during a routine gallbladder surgery. Danny Williams was certainly a man that showed a great deal of potential as an artistic auteur filmmaker. Albert Maysles said it best regarding Danny's suicide in A Walk into the Sea when he states, "It is a poetic, beautiful image walking out to sea but I rather have him come back swimming."

-Ty E

1 comment:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

When i heard that Warhol had snuffed it in `87 i jumped for joy because i knew another faggot had thankfully been eradicated from the world (its a shame the murder attempt in `68 hadn`t been successful because then we would have had to put up with the hideous abomination that was Warhol for 19 years less). I also always had the sneaking suspicion that Warhol was also a liar, a hypocrite, a two-faced git, a piss-artist, and a coward, and reading your reveiw happily confirmed those facts for me, cheers. By the way, a couple of bits of trivia, Warhol celebrated his 17th birthday the day America dropped the A-bomb on Hiros-her-a and when he finally snuffed it in February `87 Heather still had almost a year to live. DEATH TO ALL PANSY QUEER BASTARDS.