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Joe likes to wear simple motorcycle T-Shirts and sunglasses and keeps his hair grease-mucked into a rocker quaff. He has a tattoo of a skull on one arm and a tattoo of a swastika on the other, which when asked about, he is reluctant to explain, but that he also can’t be bothered to hide. He wears almost all black, sometimes dark blue, and in particular doesn’t like to wear orange because it’s f*ggy. Or so he tells the flirtatious clothes shop owners who can’t wait to fuss over who gets to measure the inseam of his pants. He moves with a strange macho yet almost bow legged waddle, but there is confidence in this man, regardless of the fact that he often looks towards Andy Warhol’s camera as if he isn’t sure why a movie is being made about him.

This is Joe Spencer, titular Bike Boy, a member of an unnamed motorcycle gang who likes to smoke and drink and eat pussy and either sneer at or laugh off everyone who crosses his path. But as fully formed as this rebel without a cause character seems to be, almost as if he was born with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve of his shirt, when we are first introduced to him he feels destined to be a very different brand of Bike Boy. This is an Andy Warhol film, after all, and there are certain homoerotic connotations with a title like that.

In the cold opening to the film we will find ourselves suddenly peering in on Joe as he showers. There will be no context to who this man is. We only know that he is naked, young, shivering, seemingly not permitted to speak (the camera cuts whenever he begins to say anything) and often looking towards the camera pensively to check that the film is still recording. As the scene carries on for nearly ten minutes, only the sound of the water cascading down on him to be heard, these moments present Joe as intensely vulnerable. Not only has he not yet donned the uniform that makes him who he is, there is a sense that he seems slightly unaware as to whose gaze these moments are made for. Initially branded as a sex flick, marketed more to the sort of New Yorkers that Spencer would be more than happy to flick a cigarette at and call fairies, he seems to be little more than yet another bit of nubile flesh that Warhol has dangled stardom in front of in exchange to see him get wet and wash his dick. There is hardly any expectation that once he gets out of the shower, dries himself and gets dressed, that he will suddenly be transformed into the local tough he will appear as in the next scene. It turns out he is a very different kind of Bike Boy, one that may not end up appreciating what the film soon plans to do with him.

In this opening scene what Warhol has done is permitted his voyeuristic audience to glimpse the pale underbelly the keeps itself hidden beneath the leather and the sunglasses and all of the talk of sexual conquests (which includes a completely unashamed how-to-****-a-sheep-proper tutorial, performed on the knees for authenticity). From the get-go we know there is something there that can be attacked, maybe even hurt, as much as Joe may seem unaware we know this. This will be what makes Warhol’s next step particularly cruel in its intentions.

Proceeding to lock his Bike Boy into one New York apartment after another, leaving him to fend for himself as a series of cold, calculating, mean spirited and highly esteemed members of Warhol’s entourage attack his seeming simpleness, his difficulty in pronouncing certain unfamiliar words and his working class accent, there is a deliberate maliciousness on display here. What is being attempted is to undress him yet again for the audience, but this time symbolically and through a method of unrelenting teasing, insults and pointed attacks. Warhol seemingly wants us to see through his disguise straight to that hidden vulnerability once again. He is not satisfied with the notion that Spencer be allowed to maintain this image he presents to the outside world, a world that has by now already seen him showering and shivering and under instruction to lather up his crotch just one more time.

It will be through these constant attacks that the sympathies of the audiences will slowly return to Spencer, regardless of whatever unpleasantness his masculine bravura has shown the camera. We can now manage to view the claims of bestiality, and the swastikas, and the disdain for homosexuals, and the treatment of women as spare parts, as elements similar to that tough leather jacket and sunglasses he uses to disguise that unsure looking man we first met in the shower. While the attempts to emasculate their whipping boy have mostly failed, they still manage to show the human beneath the getup regardless. There is a joy in watching the considerably more articulate and educated Warhol Superstars, slowly begin to meet their match in a man who, while clumsily tongued and often struggling to find words, has his own street level wit that is strong enough to fend off the likes of the merciless Brigid Berlin or the ice princess Viva. In their attempt to expose his artifice, his unflinching defense against their attacks in turn exposes them. We can now see how the aloofness and ironically detached manner of his attackers just so happen to be the disguises they have cloaked themselves in.

In the end, the film will eventually succeed in its attempts to yet again get Spencer’s cock out, but in these final frames his nudity will now seem as more of a victory for Spencer, and not necessarily for Warhol’s amphetemized army. This second go round with baring himself to the camera will this time only be spurred into being by the naked image of Viva sprawled out on a couch beneath him, calling to him to join her. While she may have spent the last twenty minutes of the movie acting casually disinterested in his flirtations, and teasing him for his terrible kissing technique, and her undressing may mostly be her final weapon to draw Spencer in, there is a sense that her seduction is no longer just a part of some calculated Warholian plan. She has, just like us, grown enamored of him, his simple resolve, that strange earnestness that lies at the core of this motorcycling bad boy. And as he pulls off his boots, and then his pants and lays on top of her just as she instructs, it will be at that moment that the film will suddenly end. In the abruptness of this finale it will seem that Spencer will be claiming even yet another victory, as all of those in the darkened audience who have come here to see this very moment are blue balled at this cruelest of all moments. And so we can only presume Joe Spencer is the one having the last laugh as we imagine, off camera, he gets himself one more notch on his bedpost. And everything will all be fine with him as far as he’s concerned, regardless of how many times Viva pants into his ear that he’s doing everything wrong.