Nov 8, 2012

Bike Boy

Without question, out of all of Andy Warhol’s early pre-"Paul Morrissey Trilogy" autistic-garde films, the color feature-length work Bike Boy (1967) – a minimalistic drama about a buff, braindead bohunk biker who goes head-to-head verbally with a number of Warhol Superstars – is the greatest and most entertaining, not least of all because the supposed ‘cinematographer’ (Paul Morrissey) contributed immensely (and some would say solely) to the overall thematic and aesthetic essence of the film. In fact, the filmmaking roles were quite the opposite of what is listed on, as Paul Morrissey explained in an interview in the book The Eyeball Compedium (2003) that: “He himself (Warhol) could not physically, was not capable of making his own experiments, someone else had to make his experiments for him. He wanted them to be experiments. To keep Andy involved with the experiment, he operated the camera. He operated the camera on LONESOME COWBOYS and BIKE BOY and things like that” and in another interview: “There wasn’t much direction in these experiments but whatever directing was done, I did. Andy just aimed the camera.” Indeed, Bike Boy has the unmistakable feel of a Paul Morrissey work, especially when compared to his original factory film trilogy (Flesh, Trash, Heat), albeit more archaic and gritty; traits that ultimately work in the favor of this early experiment in realist pseudo-cinéma vérité anti-aesthetics. Instead of Joe Dallesandro as the beautiful and verbally brutish beefcake star, Bike Boy features quasi-wop Joseph Spencer (whose sole other acting credit is a cameo on terribly trashy TV series Baywatch Nights) as ‘Joe, the Motorcyclist’; a cliché and cryptically gay bonafide ‘bad boy’ with the tattoo “Born To Lose” branded on his arm. To Warhol’s minor credit, the pop-con-artist was apparently heavily influenced by Kenneth Anger’s iconic short Scorpio Rising (1964); a work that Bike Boy seems to be quite conscious of with its flagrant biker fetishism, fearless flaunting of the male body, and flirtation with themes of Nazism, yet depicted in a marvelously mock-heroic fashion. In short, Bike Boy decisively deconstructs and demystifies the proto-leather-fag motorcycle rebel that first made its appearance in the American public’s conscious via the outlaw biker movie The Wild One (1953) starring Marlon Brando as the enigmatic rebel-without-a-cause. Anti-anti-hero Joe of Bike Boy is nothing short of a rebel-without-a-brain-and-an-erection who can’t even keep up with casual conversations between Warhol’s speed-addled Superstars nor does he have the chic fashion sense to pick out an urbane urban uniform without the help of raving and snidely snickering queens, let alone takeover an entire town as Brando and his crew The Black Rebels Motorcycle Club do in The Wild One.  In short, Joe is, at best, a blue-collar fashion victim that is as wild and warring as a wet Chinese wang on Sunday in the dead of winter.

Like with Morrissey’s subsequent work Trash (1968) starring Joe Dallesandro, Bike Boy begins with a scene of the philistine protagonist in a gratuitous, if gauche, scene totally stark-naked. Joe is neither a gentlemen nor a scholar, but he does know how to use running water as demonstrated by the fact that the first 5 minutes of Bike Boy essentially revolve around him taking a less than sexy shower in an underlit room. Of course, all things go downhill for Joe Schmo biker after he runs into members of Warhol’s dick and drug addicted Superstars, not only because they make him feel stupid due to their semi-literate linguistic skills, but also because they are the queens (especially the homo clothing salesmen) of verbal diarrhea and marvelously mundane mental masturbation. After enduring the seemingly unending verbal venom of two clothing store queers – who have a fond time glancing at the bike boy’s bulging underwear and discussing perfume on penises, the fertility of flower children, and an imaginary film “Transparent Transvestite” – Joe goes to a flower store and hangs out with a man that proclaims to be a fellow bike boy, listed in the credits as “Joe’s Buddy” (Ed Wiener). Joe and his bald-headed buddy discuss such important problems as the recent assassination of American Nazi Party founder and Führer George Lincoln Rockwell (who was killed by a brown-complexion brownshirt of Greek descent named John Patler that was expelled from the party due to his “bolshevik leanings”), the bike boy’s plans to blow-off the head of an enemy with a shotgun, the pros and cons of bestiality (Joe states he would rather fuck a sheep, which he claims to have done once before, than bugger a hefty “horse” aka a big-boned blonde chick), and the merits of being a “cunning linguist” (Joe claims to have a big tongue and be a master of oral sex). Next, Joe has the grand pleasure of engaging in a one-sided conversation with Ingrid Superstar; a hyperactive and seemingly neurotic chick that absurdly proclaims, “That’s what I hate about you men, you all know that you’re good looking” while clearly but failingly attempting to get in the apathetic bike boy’s pants. While Ingrid rants incessantly on a variety of pointless topics like how “soup is so divine,” how “men drive her nuts,” and her narcissistic claim that “what matters is what I (Ingrid) like, not what you like,” Joe merely stares into space, paying literally nil attention to the hyper-horny hysterical broad spewing verbal venom at him. Thoroughly dismayed, Ingrid even pulls her tits out and accuses Joe of being a “faggot” but he is never once phased nor impressed. By far the most repellant Superstar that Joe undergoes is big bloated bitch Brigid Berlin – an arrogant and aggressive amphetamine addict with a passively and seemingly homosexual husband – who accuses the Brando-esque biker of being a “faggot,” “motorcycle queen,” and “leather lady”;and he describes her as a “Faggot” and “dyke” with “the face of a dyke” (aka “a horny looking face”) that likes to “do 69s all the time.” Needless to say, Joe blow biker never gets a blow-job from bulky bull Brigid Berlin.

Out of all the gorgeous and not so gaudy gals ‘bikey’ (as he calls himself) Joey encounters, only Viva – a vehement she-bitch notorious for her vivacious viciousness against the male gender, especially in regard to sexual scenarios – catches his fancy, so much so that attempt to engage in carnal knowledge, but – to the utter amusement of the deranged Warhol darling – the bike boy is no Don Juan and his peeled penis remains noticeably pendulous during the entirety of their exceedingly endless and uneventful sensual encounter. To her credit, Viva seems genuinely interested in Joe, his tattoos, and what little he has to say, thereupon discovering that his swastika tat (which, incidentally, is turned the wrong way) was the result of a drunken night that the bike boy cannot recollect and that he has a ‘Born To Lose’ brand on his arm because he’s a “Born Loser.” In the end, like Paul Morrissey’s subsequent trilogy with Little Joe and his post-Factory efforts, Bike Boy ridicules, rebukes, and rather harshly but relevantly reams another romanticized but ultimately shallow, sterile (literally in Joe’s case), and stupid American rebel icon: the Outlaw Biker.  In Bike Boy, Scorpio is falling and he cannot get his dick up; themes that utilize against the counter-culture movements to 'polished' and potent degree via Trash, Flesh, and Heat.  If anything makes Bike Boy stick out from Warhol's and Morrissey's other films, it is the 'humanity' that is brought to the character of Joe.  Indeed, the would-be-bad bike boy may be a half-retarded wop with an acute case of nauseating narcissism, a broken ego, and sadomasochistic tendencies, but he is certainly more sympathetic and sincere than Warhol's wayward gang and at least he does real work for a living.  That being said, if you plan to see one of 'Warhol's' celluloid trainwrecks, make it Bike Boy; a marvelous meandering motion-picture where bombastic bad boys and slap-happy speed-queens play a gay game of survival of the unfittest. 

-Ty E

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