David Bowie watched the Andy Warhol play Pork at London’s Roundhouse on 12 August 1971.
Pork was Warhol’s only play. It had transferred from New York to London for a four-week run, and attracted controversy for its nudity, sexual themes, and strong language.
Bowie had been invited by the cast members the previous night, following a show at London’s Country Club. He attended with his wife Angie, plus manager Tony Defries and singer Dana Gillespie.
The castof Pork included Wayne County, Tony Zanetta, and Cherry Vanilla, and the assistant stage director was Leee Black Childers. In time they would become part of Bowie’s coterie, with some being employed by Defries’s company MainMan.
It was a total hoot, that show—a fake Andy and his fake friends sitting around on an eye-popping white PVC set, exchanging the sleaziest possible too-bored hip-mutant New York gossip over the phone, about skin-popping and speedballing and club-hopping and cum-guzzling and everything in between, and all of it the real thing, actual dialogue taken from actual phone conversations with Andy taped by Brigid Polk (hence Pork)—and it just blew them away in London. It really was very wild, vicious, cheap, perverted, boring, all those Warholian things. The newspaper ads ensured success with a simple statement: ‘This play has explicit sexual content and offensive language. If you are likely to be disturbed, do not attend.’
Who could resist? Very few. I know I was floored by the show, which defined everything to which I aspired in modern theater, and so was David. You could see it lighting the fuses of all sorts of ideas in his head as he sat there watching those people, every one of them as sharp as you could want a performance artist to be: Cherry Vanilla doing her groupie role, eating chocolate cake and flashing her tits at every opportunity; Jayne County (then Wayne, before the surgery) stopping the show; Tony Zanetta, his hair bleached, doing Andy better than Andy could do himself.
We went backstage after the show (not my first encounter; Cherry, Wayne, and Leee Black Childers had come to a show of David’s at the Country Club in north London, drawn by curiosity about ‘that guy in the dress’), and a few days later we met at the Sombrero (I remember pinching Tony Zanetta’s very cute bottom, and Cherry flashing Ronno for all she was worth—a hot one, that Cherry; I fancied her beaucoup). A little while after that we had them down to Haddon Hall and got to know everybody better.
Neither I nor David went to bed with any of them during those first encounters, but a lot of fellow feeling was experienced, and lasting bonds formed. Leee, Cherry, and Tony Zanetta would become key figures in Main Man, the management/production company Tony Defries set up to handle David and other acts, and despite the ravages of time and fortune, they’re all still very good friends of mine.
David, I think, was emboldened by it all. The fact that the Americans all lived together in a rented Notting Hill house, which the (horrified, delighted) tabloid writers promptly christened ‘Pig Mansion,’ made him feel extra good about his own semicommunal scene at Haddon Hall, and the shocking, utterly un-English openness of the Pork cast gave him some very good ideas. Lying in bed beside him in our lovely rose-colored room at Haddon Hall, I could hear the wheels turning in his head, the springs flexing and the gears clicking in, and when we talked I was pleased to hear him gaining yet greater faith in the value of shock, style, and statement.
David and Angie Bowie watched Pork again on 28 August, the final night at the Roundhouse, after which they attended the wrap party at the Hard Rock Café in Mayfair.
Also on this day...
- 1997: Live: Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
- 1991: Rehearsal: Tin Machine, The Factory, Dublin
- 1987: Live: Mile High Stadium, Denver
- 1974: Recording: Young Americans
- 1972: Rehearsal: Rainbow Theatre, London
- 1966: Live: David Bowie and the Buzz, Latin Quarter, Leicester
Want more? Visit the David Bowie history section.