He wants to eliminate dad's 15 minutes of fame
It's the movie a South Jersey family hopes you'll never see. "All Aboard the Dreamland Choo Choo," a short, silent film made by cult director Paul Morrissey and pop legend Andy Warhol, is certainly obscure, but if you're determined, Scott Toelk says you can find it and watch his father, Richard Toelk, get "tortured" on film.
It's the movie a South Jersey family hopes you'll never see.
"All Aboard the Dreamland Choo Choo," a short, silent film made by cult director Paul Morrissey and pop legend Andy Warhol, is certainly obscure, but if you're determined, Scott Toelk says you can find it and watch his father, Richard Toelk, get "tortured" on film.
"I want these videos destroyed so they never existed," said Toelk, of Mullica Hill, Gloucester County.
Toelk, 38, and two of his siblings have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Philadelphia against Morrissey, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts, and a California-based DVD distributor for continuing to profit on a film that the family believes is tantamount to "exploitation" and "child pornography."
The family, according to the complaint, is seeking $300,000 in damages, but Scott Toelk claims the real purpose of the suit is to wrestle the rights to the film from Morrissey, who lives in New York City.
"My main goal is to get it off the market," he said. "I don't want my dad exploited."
A message left for Morrissey at his New York City home was returned by his attorney, Aaron Zeisler.
"The allegations are simply not true," Zeisler said. "The claims have no legal merit and Mr. Morrissey plans to defend himself in the courts."
Zeisler said there is nothing in the film that could constitute sexual exploitation or child pornography.
Scott Toelk claims his father, who died in 1990, was one of the many disillusioned teens and young adults who hung out at Warhol's "Factory" in New York City in the early 1960s, looking for their 15 minutes of fame. Richard Toelk's 15 minutes came at age 14, when, according to his son, Morrissey and Warhol offered to pay him in marijuana to appear in a film. The resulting footage became "All Aboard the Dreamland Choo Choo," and according to the complaint, it features Richard Toelk smoking marijuana and being "tortured."
Torture, Scott Toelk said, included footage of his father "stabbing" himself in the leg, as well as being electrocuted by an "arthritis" device, all while in his underwear. The complaint refers to the film as "sexual exploitation" and "child pornography," but Toelk did not elaborate on whether his father was sexually abused in the film.
"Bottom line, if my dad were alive, they would have definitely gone to jail for the things they did to him. They were pretty, sick individuals. But what I call sick, another person might call their enjoyment," he said.
Toelk said he has found and purchased the film via Blockbuster and even Amazon.com, and it's sometimes included as additional features on some of Morrissey's more well-known films or in boxed sets. Still, references or descriptions of "All Aboard the Dreamland Choo Choo's" contents are rare.
On the British Web site www.shadowsonthewall.co.uk, author Richard Cline describes Dreamland as a "silent film about a young kid trying to get high." Cline also mentions Toelk's electrocuting himself before picking up a "small knife."
"Introspective, thoughtful, pointed and, eventually, rather horrifying," Cline wrote, summarizing the film.There's no listing for the film, or mention of Richard Toelk, on the Internet Movie Database. Morrissey's biggest "mainstream" hit was the 1973 film "Flesh for Frankenstein."
Scott Toelk said "All Aboard the Dreamland Choo Choo" film was horrifying for his family when he first learned about it and watched it several years ago. He believes his father's drug use at an early age set him on a path of drug and alcohol abuse up until his death in 1990.
"It was surreal watching it," he said.
Scott Toelk said he spoke with Morrissey by phone on one occasion and that the two had a lengthy, uncomfortable conversation about his father's role in "All Aboard the Dreamland Choo Choo."
"I asked him a lot of questions. I asked him if he knew the ages of the children he filmed," Toelk said. "He stammered a lot and tried to cover his tracks."
Officials with the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts did not return several e-mails or phone calls for comment. An article on Morrissey's Web site suggests that Warhol's names are unfairly attached to many of the cult director's films.
"Warhol neither wanted nor had any say whatsoever in the casting of the films, in their stories or subject matter, nor did he ever have or take a director's credit on any films including the experiments," the article states.
Scott Toelk balks at the suggestion that either Morrissey or Warhol could be considered an artist.
"The guy [Warhol] made millions for drawing a soup can," he said. "More power to them if people are stupid enough to buy it."