Picks and Pans Review: Swimming Underground: My Years in the Warhol Factory

UPDATED 02/12/1996 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 02/12/1996 at 01:00 AM EST

by Mary Woronov

If there's anyone left who thinks Andy Warhol's Factory was glamorous, this bleakly engrossing memoir should set them straight. Woronov, a Cornell art student who dropped out to join Warhol's inner circle in 1964, was initially infatuated with it all: the chance to be in Andy's movies (she starred in Chelsea Girls), the company of addicts and drag queens at the Manhattan studio where Warhol held court, and Mr. 15 Minutes of Fame himself, whom Woronov quotes as saying he'd like to be a machine because "everything would be so much easier."

No fool, Woronov kept a foot in the real world even as she embraced a life of drugs, "shoplifting, and mooching," as she tells it. She crashed at her parents' Brooklyn home between speed trips and later moved in with her "non-degenerate" friend Jane, hoping the girl's innocence—along with the unopened boxes of kitchen utensils supplied by Mary's middle-class mom—would anchor her so she could "walk into the land of shadows unharmed."

In chilling detail, Woronov chronicles how close she came to losing her way. She became addicted to speed, heading home for good only after Jane fell under the spell of a murderous heroin dealer. Woronov, now 52 and a sometime actress (she played Mary in 1982's Eating Raoul), comes across as simultaneously repulsed by and nostalgic for her decadent youth. (Journey Editions, $19.95)

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