One of the most enigmatic characters in Mulholland Drive – a film that has its fair share of enigmatic personalities – is Coco Lenoix. She is an archetype of a once young and beautiful actress who has matured into a sort of matriarchal mystic of the Hollywood Hills, towards whom younger Angelenos seem to show great deference. In Lynch’s tour de force she plays a landlady and mother to the young director Adam Kesher. She radiates wisdom and it is obvious that despite her dowdy oriental clothes and archaic airs that she was once a screen siren; a woman possessing incredible ethereal beauty who lived an astonishing life.

Cocos are – alas – few and far between these days, how can a town that cultivates neophytes as limited as Taylor Kitsch and Mischa Barton and produces films as cynical as New Years Eve possibly retain sentimentality for ‘it-girls’ of long forgotten cinematic subcultures? They can’t and yet, they are out there, now running galleries out in Venice (LA or Italy), campaigning in Siem Reap for clean drinking water for Khmers or simply looking after their grandchildren in the late evening whilst their daughters perform in off-broadway shows with an avant-garde theatre troupe. One such woman is Mary Woronov…

Woronov was born in 1943, to a family of means. Her stepfather was an eminent surgeon who could afford to send her to The Packer Collegiate Institute, a New York based independent school. She then began a degree at Cornell University, where a chance meeting with the poet Gerard Malanga paired with her strong, maybe masculine, beauty landed her a screen test with Andy Warhol (who Malanga worked for) at Warhol’s famous studio. Famously these tests did not require much other than the subject looking into the camera for about half an hour and Mary passed the test. She became a Warhol staple and though she did not gain the same recognition as the likes of Edie Sedgwick and Mario Montez, she starred in some of his most reputable films – most notably the 1966 experimental piece: Chelsea Girls.

Woronov was able to become immersed in the eccentric opulence of Warhol’s ‘factory’ but managed to leave the scene without the psychological scars that ultimately resulted in the deaths of Sedgwick, Andrea Feldman, Jackie Curtis and others. Possessing a strength and stoicism perhaps reflected in her strong features she moved onto acting in feature films and television and after meeting the director Paul Bartel she began to land roles in several low budget, camp, cult films. These films were often directed by Bartel amd produced by the famous B-movie director/producer Roger Corman and were known for their obscure themes, sensibilities and humour. So much can be written on the B-movie subculture that Bartel and Corman belonged to that there is no point talking about the likes of Eating RaoulRock ‘n’ Roll High School and Private Parts – these films really have to be seen to be believed. Some are very good, some are very bad and most of the films in this peculiar canon subvert the lexicon of post-war Americana in tasteless and even offensive ways.

According to a sizeable interview that Mary Woronov gave to to the online entertainment website ‘The A.V. Club’ – she has now officially retired. Her final film was, rather predictably, a Roger Corman produced film called Attack of the  50ft Cheerleader… As the acting has dried up Woronov has focused mainly on painting and writing; she has had exhibitions put on all around America and has had a biography, two collections of short stories and two novels published to date. Her final curtain call will materialise in the form of a documentary about her life, called Confessions of a Cult Queen (working title), currently in production. For a woman who started out with Warhol and was with Stallone, Carradine and Tommy Lee Jones at the inception of their careers – this will be a fitting tribute. Mary Woronov’s fifty years of surrealism, semi-fame and a bohemian disregard for a traditional career trajectory makes her what she is; the real siren.


One thought on “Mary Woronov; the real siren

  1. Pingback: Random Double Feature: Eating Raoul and The Naked Kiss | Tragic Farce

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