Paul America being filmed for one of Andy Warhol's Screen Tests in 1965
February 25, 1944
New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||October 19, 1982
Ormond Beach, Florida, U.S.
Paul Johnson (February 25, 1944 – October 19, 1982), better known as Paul America, was a member of Andy Warhol's Warhol Superstars group who starred in one Warhol-directed film, My Hustler. He also appeared in Edie Sedgwick's last film Ciao! Manhattan (1972) and in the documentary Superartist.
According to most stories, Warhol discovered America at a discotheque called Ondine sometime in mid-1965, and soon invited him to visit The Factory. At first he simply hung around making repairs to a motorcycle, eventually forming close relationships with the Warhol crowd; living briefly with Chuck Wein and engaging in a short-lived romance with Edie Sedgwick.
Warhol described America as "unbelievably good looking - like a comic strip drawing of Mr. America, clean cut, handsome, very symmetrical," and also suggested that perhaps he may have gotten his name because of an apartment in which he had lived at the Hotel America, "a super-funky midtown hotel that was the kind of place Lenny Bruce, say, stayed in." He himself often had problems with the name given:
|“||I went through a period of paranoia about it. I mean, every time I saw that word - and it's everywhere - I related it to myself. The country's problems were my problems. I think that if I weren't called Paul America it would have been easier for me to register in hotels.||”|
America has seemingly become a gay icon, mainly for his performance in the title role of Warhol's, My Hustler. After My Hustler, America appeared in several other Warhol films from 1965: the unreleased sequels, My Hustler: In Apartment and My Hustler: Ingrid, and also Dan Williams's silent film Harold Stevenson, in which America, Gerard Malanga, Stevenson, Sedgwick, and others converse and drink wine while posing photogenically on a couch in a New York hotel suite. Another four-minute silent portrait of Paul America, shot on the beach during the making of My Hustler, had been found in the "long version" of that film, in the edited montage by Dan Williams that was added to the sixty-six-minute film in 1967.
Later years and death
Also, that same year, after a brief stint in the U.S. Army, America obtained legal assistance and convinced Warhol to reimburse him retroactively for his role in the by-then commercially-successful My Hustler. He reportedly received around $1,000 in several installments.
America also starred alongside Edie Sedgwick in John Palmer and David Weisman's film Ciao! Manhattan (1972), filmed from 1967 to 1971. His role in the film was severely diminished when he was imprisoned in Michigan on drug-related charges. America tried to contact Warhol for the last time in 1982.
On October 19, 1982, Paul America was hit by a car and killed while walking home from a dental appointment in Ormond Beach, Florida.