Solanas struggled to find stability in the city, panhandling and prostituting herself. Her itinerant lifestyle led her to lodge in hotel after hotel, including the Chelsea, where Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Patti Smith, and more countercultural figures once lived. (Solanas got evicted multiple times.) In 1965, she finished a version of her infamous play, Up Your Ass, which boasts a colorful cast of wise-cracking characters. The protagonist, Bongi, is an aggressive feminist who rejects men’s advances with lines such as “Get your apey hand off my boob, or I’ll kick you in your big, fat, hairy shins” and “I remember the time I was stomping up and down on this masochist’s chest, and I had to charge him an extra ten bucks ‘cause I broke ‘em.”
In 1967, Solanas completed her most famous manuscript, “The SCUM Manifesto.” In the work, she asserts that the only way men can further civilization is to destroy themselves. Additionally, she calls for women to “overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation.” Her writing exudes impassioned loathing—but it’s also laugh-out-loud funny, driven by a distinctly late-1960s voice that translates Summer-of-Love lingo into venom. “The female function is to relate, groove, love and be herself, irreplaceable by anyone else; the male function is to produce sperm,” she wrote. “We now have sperm banks.”
Solanas became notorious around New York as she circulated her manifesto, held SCUM meetings (both women and masochistic men showed up), and networked in order to find a producer for her play. In the spring of 1967, she appeared on a conservative television talk show, The Alan Burke Show, to discuss her sexuality—the host simply wanted to interview, and malign, an out lesbian. Burke so antagonized her that the pair ended up chasing each other around the stage. Solanas grabbed his ass, then tried to hit him with a chair.