Dorothy Podber

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Dorothy Podber in 2007

Dorothy Podber (September 15, 1932 – February 9, 2008) was an American performance artist.

Born in the Bronx to a mother who had tried repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, to abort her, and to a father who worked for the Jewish mobster Dutch Schultz, Podber was later remembered as a disruptive influence by classmates from West Walton High School.[1]

A wild child of the New York art scene in the 1950s and 1960s, she helped to run the Nonagon Gallery, which showed the work of a young Yoko Ono and was known for jazz concerts by such performers as Charles Mingus. However, her greatest fame—and notoriety—came from her work as a muse and collaborator with more prominent artists. On one occasion, she turned up at Andy Warhol's studio and put a bullet through a stack of his silk-screen paintings of Marilyn Monroe, after which she was banned from the studio. These four paintings, thereafter, were called The Shot Marilyns. Podber revelled in her bad-girl reputation. In an interview in 2006, she said:

"I've been bad all my life. Playing dirty tricks on people is my specialty."[2]

In the art world, she served mostly as a muse and a co-conspirator of more prominent artists like Ray Johnson, with whom she staged impromptu happenings on Manhattan streets.

When funds were low, she found unorthodox ways of making money, engaging in businesses as diverse as dispatching maids to doctors' offices in an attempt to gain access to their drug cabinets, and running an illegal abortion referral service. She did paperwork for B'nai Brith long enough to pick their safe and use its contents on her own check-counterfeiting machine. Her attitude to these enterprises bordered on indifference. "I never worked much," she reputedly said.[3]

She was married three times, and had numerous casual liaisons. Her last husband was Lester Schwartz, a bisexual, who had a long-term relationship with actor/director Julian Beck. Schwartz died in 1986.[3] Podber cited bisexuality as something she and Schwartz had in common.[1] One boyfriend was a banker with whom she would have sexual intercourse only on the banknote-strewn floor of his firm's vault. She had no children by any of her partners. She died in her Manhattan apartment on February 9, 2008, from natural causes, aged 75.


  1. ^ a b "Dorothy Podber obituary in ''The Telegraph''". Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  2. ^ "Dorothy Podber obituary in ''The Boston Globe''". 2008-02-26. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  3. ^ a b New York Times obit on Podber


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