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Little Joe Gives It Away

[whitespace] Joe Dallesandro Hunk Du Jour: Film icon Joe Dallesandro, whose erotic image captured the hearts of men and women alike, tells all in the new book 'Little Joe, Superstar: The Films of Joe Dallesandro.'

From 'Little Joe, Superstar'

A new book details the career of Joe Dallesandro, Andy Warhol superstar

By Simone Stein

Joe Dallesandro, actor, Warhol superstar, the Little Joe who "never once gave it away" in Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side," wants to prove that he's more than just a footnote to the history of The Factory. That's why, after years of hostility toward reporters, he's collaborated with film writer and devout fan Michael Ferguson on the first book ever about his career. The result is Little Joe, Superstar (Companion), a photo-filled, 216-page compendium of biography, film synopsis and nude pin-up shots.

Apparently, his fans were hungry for it. The back yard of A Different Light Books on Castro Street is mobbed for a recent signing of the book. Gay men, old punks and wannabe hipster auteurs cram into the courtyard to have Dallesandro sign oceans of ephemera: old movie posters for Warhol films like Trash, Heat and Flesh, yellowed newspaper clippings from 20 years ago, naked pictures. "God, I was 15 years old here! This is kiddie porn! You could get arrested for this!" he laughs as one collector waits for his signature.

"Joe hasn't had this kind of exposure with his fans in ages," Ferguson says. "Everybody wants to talk to this guy because he's been such an enigma all these years." Though Dallesandro has continued to make films since his Warhol days, says Ferguson, people are often pleasantly surprised to learn Dallesandro's still alive. "I hope that because of this book Tarantino puts him in a movie," he says.

Dallesandro, now a grandfather, jokes and blusters his way through the Different Light event, utterly bemused at his unasked-for status as sexual icon. "I'm not brain-dead," he says, mocking his bimbo reputation. "I just met so many people in my life, and I thought I was the most important person I knew."

With his impossibly thick Brooklyn accent and Robert De Niro leer, Dallesandro no longer looks like the angelically blank boy toy who once captivated Warhol audiences. But that doesn't deter people from waiting nearly an hour for a chance to shake his hand or take his picture. "You look so great!" says a woman with pink hair, leopard-print pants and red vinyl boots. "Good drugs!" he replies, laughing.

"I'm happy about this book. It finally covers a body of my work that says that I did more than just five Andy Warhol movies," Dallesandro tells me. "Though those were the beginning of my career. I also worked with some great, fantastic directors over in France whose work I love, like Louis Malle [with whom he made the 1975 sci-fi film Black Moon] and Serge Gainsbourg."

Of his collaborator, Dallesandro says, "I appreciated Michael for his willingness to go out and do the research before he came to meet with me. I'm sick of reporters that come to meet me and know absolutely nothing about me and want me to tell them the same old inane stories that have been asked of me for 30 years. It's time to move on and say hey, I've been asked this question a hundred times, and I give the same answer over and over again. Michael was the first one who didn't come down and ask what it was like working with Edie Sedgwick. He knew all those answers, and we didn't have to do that again. Our first night together, we spent an all-nighter talking about me and my work."

The book is quite ambivalent about Warhol's role in Dallesandro's career, and Dallesandro obviously resents the fact that people think his life began and ended with The Factory. A Brooklyn street kid constantly in trouble with the law, Dallesandro met Warhol and Paul Morrissey when he wandered into an apartment building where they were shooting. They grabbed the beautiful teenager and asked him to be in their film, and his career was born.

But his time with Warhol ended badly, because he felt The Factory people were trying to hinder his attempts to move on to bigger things. "[Warhol and Morrissey] didn't even want to put more money into fixing up the cameras, and I decided that it was time for me to move on. They had this notion that I was not able to do a script, and they never pushed me to leave their group." I ask if it was true that they sabotaged his attempts to get other work by trashing him to other directors. "Yeah, kind of," he answers.

Still, Dallesandro realizes that without Warhol, he never would have gone from street tough to the international '70s celebrity who graced the cover of Rolling Stone. "Paul Morrissey told me years ago, he said, 'Joe, you do these movies now, and they'll be in museums for the rest of your life. You may think it's porno, that you shouldn't take your clothes off, but take 'em off anyway because this is art!' And I believed him and trusted him, and they are art, kind of. So yeah, I'm real proud of that work."

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From the August 10-23, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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