April 4, 2011

Little Joe....Never Gave It Away!

Joe Dallesandro, the name itself has become a filmic Viagra that has stimulated the sexual fantasies of both men and women for over three decades. Joe's sexual appeal is based on a series of films he did first with Andy Warhol and later with director Paul Morrissey. Today's world of reality TV has a habit of making instant sex symbols out of lesser exotic being's than it takes to whip up a cup of coffee. Dallesandro aka "Little Joe" came to be known far and wide thanks in part to Lou Reed's ode to all things "Joe" with his memorable song, WALK ON THE WILD SIDE in which we were all informed that "Joe never gave it away---everyone had to pay and pay." The truth of the matter is more profound that since Dallesandro had, long before his Warhol encounter, walked the walk and talked the talk of a pulled-together hustler in what was then a decidely underground twilight world of gay sex. Joe is more than forthcoming regarding those days, remarking on how that lifestyle re-enforced his ability to be non-judgmental and less violent. Joe maintained a cool attitude of "come what may" in virtually all his films beginning with THE LOVES OF ONDINE (1968). By the time the 70s arrived, Joe Dallesandro had worked with Louis Malle, Serge Gainsbourg, and Jacques Rivette. 
My favorite iconic moment in Joe's rise to pop celebrity will always be the cover art for STICKY FINGERS, the infamous Rolling Stones album in which Andy Warhol chose a close-up of Joe's crotch, the crowning touch, of course, was to include a zipper that works and trust me everyone that bought one unzipped it more than once.

I met Joe during the time he had just relocated back to L.A. and had already done a small role in the troubled production of  THE COTTON CLUB. I knew Joe's manager then and he put us together. At the time I was still the Hollywood correspondent for FILMS AND FILMING magazine based in the UK. During the peek of Joe's fame with the Morrissey films, Joe had appeared on the cover of the aforementioned magazine several times, so why not put him on the cover again bringing his film career full circle for then to now?

Joe was never a chatty guy in the best of times so we did at least two or three interviews until I had around 30 typed pages based on the tapes we made. Joe would arrive at my apartment and we would begin to try and cover his career from his early days at "The Factory" right up to the time he was driving a cab out at LAX where one of his passengers turned out to be the even more transgressive Klaus Kinski who demanded to know why Joe Dallesandro was driving a cab in the first place. From what I gathered from one of our first conversations, Joe had been floating around Italy when word reached him that his brother had died which put him on a downward spiral until he found himself again working his way back to a place where films could happen for him once more. I have condensed some of our conversations for publication seen here for the first time since 1985. Joe now has his own website and more fans than ever, so I too, want to celebrate the life and times of  the legend that is LITTLE JOE: THE BEGINNING.

Andy Warhol behind the camera.
"I first came out to California when I was 16. I was out here on a visit and I didn't stay very long, so I went back to New York. I was born in Florida and grew up in New York. I got into Warhol films by accident. I just happened to be in an apartment building when they were shooting in one of the units and these friends I was visiting said "lets go downstairs and watch Andy shoot this movie." I had never heard of Andy Warhol, or knew what he'd done. I hadn't heard of his movies either. I just did it for fun. They kept calling me back for more. Andy really liked me I guess. When I saw the finished product it was really a home movie, the only difference was a bigger camera."

Andy with Paul Morrissey.
"I met Paul Morrissey then as well. By the time I'd done two films with Paul, I'd already been working with the factory for about three years. You know that book on popism is just a book made of quotes. Andy used to tape everything he did and every meeting with friends. Everything he did was that way, then his secretary would transcribe it all and put it in a book. I believe ANDY WARHOL'S B-NOVEL is supposed to be another collection of tapes."

"The most successful films during that time were directed by Paul Morrissey....the ones that developed an audience, but those films were not only directed by Paul, but they were then one's I appeared in and Andy has done a lot of films that had screenings in theaters, but they just didn't have the success that Mossissey did. There were never any scripts for the films. The dialogue was improvised. The storyline was given to us by Paul, giving us a little bit of where to go with the story and what he wanted us to do and where he wanted the story to go."

"You know, with any of Andy's movies, he tried to keep one character throughout all the scenes, and that was the character I would play. He tried to keep a beginning and a middle, and then, either it was what you saw in FLESH, or whatever, and then another character in TRASH, where I get into the profession of selling drugs. It was just all these girls. As far as the factory goes nobody ever lived there. There was Billy Name, who really took care of it. He was young and he was there all the time, but nobody ever lived at the factory."

Sylvia Miles and Little Joe in "HEAT."
"By the time Paul made HEAT we were in constant arguments about the way the scenes took place. Sylvia Miles came along and there were a lot of actors and actresses who wanted to appear in Andy's movies, and when Sylvia approached him to be in one of the films, Paul followed up on all that."

Joe gathers his thoughts in "TRASH."

"I thought with FLESH and TRASH having made a lot of money, that the movies were eventually going to be able to pay for themselves and we would be able to invest some of those profits into making better movies and getting better sound equipment and better things for the film, but the money wasn't put to that use. When anybody would come and see the films they'd say "Oh, the sound is so bad, and the lighting, you can hardly see the picture." When we sold these films to Germany, they became even more successful over there. The German's would do the dubbing of the films and they were really good at it. Holly Golightly and I were dubbed by someone who had a very similar intonation and it worked."

"When I worked at the factory it was like the old days of the studio system when they took care of you. I had a weekly salary. I was given a flat figure on each film. I used Andy's films as a kind of schooling, learning to be an actor and learning how to work with the camera and the sound. Andy never gave me any advice. I used Paul Morrissey as a mentor and took all his advice. One of the things I could see that was quite obvious to me and to the other people who were in Paul's company (Viva and a few others) was that Paul took publicity seriously. Andy was a painter, so he painted. He painted and sometimes he would get behind the camera and make movies. He was the one who made LONESOME COWBOYS with assistance from Paul. We all went down to Arizona from New York to make this Western and we all had a great time. We really weren't acting so much as just having a good time."

Young Joe.
"One of the statements that Paul tried to make in TRASH was that the factory was very anti-drug because Paul is totally against drugs. He didn't even like films like EASY RIDER because he felt it glamorized drugs. He liked to bring it down to the most realistic level of horror that drugs really are. In fact, my job at the factory was to keep the drug people out....that was my job. I had done drugs before I ever went to the factory at the age of 15 or 16, but by the time I was 18 or 19, I was already calming down. I decided during that period to give drugs up and never do them again. There was a 10-year period when I would not touch any of it, but I still drank because everybody drank, but Paul would always say, "Don't drink when you go to Europe, but when I got there, everybody drank. Here in America they would all be considered alcoholics. I decided to give it up because it just wasn't working for me. I also wanted to find out if I could do anything besides the acting thing, which was the only thing I had done with my life since I was about 18. It just felt good to be able to drive a cab for awhile. It was fun to do and have some kind of income, but what was real to me were making movies, walking around the set of COTTON CLUB with Francis Coppola was the most natural thing. It was like being with a family again."

Joe would remain a working actor in Hollywood where he still lives today. Be sure to check out The Official Joe Dallesandro Webpage.
David loves the Joe Boy.


  1. Fascinating, the icon speaks! Thanks for these snippets - I have loved Joe since I first became aware of him at the tender age of 14.

  2. Great interview yet again. You never cease to amaze me brother.