From the archives: Joe Dallesandro talks ‘Trash’

❉ Warhol’s leading man speaks – a feature originally published 45 year ago today, from the archives of Gay News.

It’s 45 years since the British Board of Film Classification finally decided, after over two years of deliberations, to allow the release of Andy Warhol’s drugs and sex film Trash in the United Kingdom.

For publicity for the first screening, the UK distributor Vaughan Films decided that the best person to bring over to London for interviews was not Warhol or the writer and director Paul Morrissey, but the star of the piece, Joe Dallesandro.

He was interviewed by, amongst others, Peter Holmes of the UK LGBT newspaper Gay News, whose 1970s editions are currently being scanned and uploaded for free by the Gay News Archive Project.

The interview is unrevealing. In any other publication at any other time, it might even be thought of as a car crash. But Gay News was only 16 fortnightly issues not its run, and still something of an amateur operation, and Dallesandro was a big score for them. Not running it was clearly not an option.

It’s not helped by the fact that Dallesandro, then and now, is not the most loquacious of interviewees. And, whilst starring in a lot of “gay” films, he himself did not appear to identify as LGBT+ at the time (he now identifies as bisexual) and, to the surprise of many of his fans, was married with children.

“I’ve got a wife at home and a child. And my wife cooks me delicious meals and I stay at home and watch television a lot. I don’t know any junkies. I don’t know any gays. I’m just a very straight sort of person.”

From the Gay News interview:

Peter Holmes: “You say you lead a very straight life. Does that mean you’re anti-drug and anti-gay?”

Joe Dallesandro: “What do you mean by ‘anti’?”

Holmes: “Do you personally, discriminate against drug-users or gays you meet?”

Dallesandro: “I can’t really because I don’t come into any contact with anyone who falls into these categories, because I spend most of my life at home when I’m not working. I believe that people should be able to do whatever they like, in ones or twos or threes or whatever outside my home. But once they’re inside they have to do what I say.

“I wouldn’t discriminate against gays — if I knew any – but then, I wouldn’t sleep with a gay guy either.”

The release of Trash came in the same month that right-wing morals campaigner Ross McWhirter had been to the high court to have a documentary made by David Bailey for ATV Network about Warhol and his Factory banned – which they did, without watching it.  ATV appealed, which led to the Appeals Court trooping off to finally see the film, with McWhirter in tow to advise them.

This dichotomy – a sex film being passed as an X-rated feature at the same time a documentary was ordered to be locked in the vaults – annoys Dallesandro in the interview, but, ever taciturn, his only comment is “That’s ridiculous”.

The interview reveals almost nothing about Joe Dallesandro, other than that he seemed to exist entirely in his own world, unaware of Kenneth Anger – also signed to Vaughan Films – or even the sexuality of his mentor, Andy Warhol.

Nevertheless, Trash became one of Warhol’s biggest grossing movies – although 1968’s Flesh, also starring Dallesandro, is probably the go-to movie for fans of either Andy or Joe – and is worth a watch even 45 years later.

Dallesandro made three more films for Warhol and Morrissey before crossing over into mainstream, albeit low budget, films in France and Italy. He returned to the United States in the 1980s, appearing as a character actor in several movies and taking guest slots in TV episodes. He stopped working in film and television in 2008 and now manages an apartment building in Los Angeles. Click here to read our article looking back on Joe Dallesandro’s career and iconic status.

❉ The Gay News Archive Project was created in 2016 to digitise and make accessible, for free to everybody, the early issues of the UK’s pioneering Gay News newspaper. The project is led by historian Russ J Graham with support from the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System. Visit their website, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter!

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