THERE ARE MANY STORIES ABOUT THE FIRST TIME JOE DALLESANDRO MET AND ENTERED ANDY WARHOL'S FACTORY. IN POPISM: THE WARHOL '60S, THE FAMOUS AMERICAN ARTIST STATED THAT THE ENCOUNTER WAS COMPLETELY ACCIDENTAL. THE YOUNG BLONDE MODEL FROM FLORIDA WAS IN THE SAME BUILDING IN THE VILLAGE WHERE WARHOL AND PAUL MORRISEY WERE SHOOTING THE LOVES OF ONDINE. BY CHANCE, DALLESANDRO ENTERED THAT FLAT AND WAS FILMED.
It was 1967. When the two filmmakers and managers saw him on screen, they decided he had to be part of the Factory. That is how it started his acting career in underground cinema. According to Morrissey, he offered a part to him in that movie. He saw him as a new Marlon Brando or a new James Dean.
Dallesandro was incredibly handsome, his beauty impressed men and women indiscriminately. Factory‘s films were already known and shown in art or film galleries but after the trilogy directed by Paul Morrissey and starred by Joe Dallesandro, which is composed by Flesh, Trash and Heat, they met a big success. Especially in Germany, Flesh was seen by a lot of people. In that movie, and mostly in the other two, it is shown a celebration of Dallesandro. His perfect male body is shown naked most of the time, while he is just having sex, or injecting drugs, hustling, or just hanging around. That body becomes the reason of the success that made Dallesandro a star, something that usually happens to female actresses.
That young man with his statuary body, like he was a classical sculpture, his perfect features, his imperious gaze, become the symbol of the manhood of Warhol’s Factory. That manhood contained every aspect, from the strong, virile and dominant one, to ambiguity and bisexuality, to the effeminate one. A body and gaze which were passive and unperturbed, perfectly personifying Warhol’s ideal and his pop art. ‘Don’t try to act, just stand there’ – that is what Morrissey used to tell him while they were filming Trash.
But Dallesandro was able to have a career and a life after the Factory, he did not just disappear after fifteen minutes, he was not trapped by the big shadow of Warhol. Today ‘Little Joe’ (as his early tattoo on his arm says) is an almost Seventy years old gentleman, he is a husband, a grandfather and a building manager in Hollywood. He has survived to the excesses and to the deaths of 1960s New York City. In an interview on queerty.com, he stated that Paul Morrissey was very important for helping him to stay grounded and understand how much being a star may cause many troubles.
Later, in the 1970’s and in the 1980’s, Dallesandro tried to be successful in mainstream cinema, too. He firstly moved to Europe. He made films in France and in Italy, too. For example, he had the leading role in Fernando Di Leo’s Madness. He was also acting in the iconic French movie Je t’aime moi non plus, with Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin. Then, back in the USA, he played Lucky Luciano for Francis Ford Coppola’s Cotton Club and had a little role in John Water’s Cry Baby. Waters was one of the last real independent and underground filmmakers of American cinema, when that words still had some sense.
He stated that Dallesandro ‘changed forever male sexuality in cinema‘. Despite all these tries, Dallesandro is still the male icon of underground cinema. He is the ‘bundle’ in the jeans of the sleeve of The Rolling Stone’s Sticky Fingers, he is the hidden face and the half body shown (and taken from Flesh) on The Smiths first album. He is the man who was recently portrayed for important fashion brands (with Kate Moss for Calvin Klein, for example) and was, in 2016, the protagonist of the Dandy Warhols’ You Are killing Me music video.