Piero Heliczer

Piero Heliczer on Rue Mouffetard in Paris circa 1961. © by Harold Chapman

Piero Giorgio Heliczer (June 20, 1937 in Rome, Italy – July 22, 1993 in Préaux-du-Perche, France) was an Italian-American writer, screenwriter, poet, actor, publisher and underground filmmaker.

Piero Heliczer Checklist:

Section A: Books and Broadsides
Section B: Contributions to Books and Anthologies
Section C: Contributions to Periodicals
Section D: Film
Section E: Publications Edited, Printed, and Published
Section F: Ephemera
Section G: Biography and Bibliography


· Gregory Corso
· Olivia de Haulleville
· Anselm Hollo
· Angus Maclise
· Tom Raworth / Matrix Press

· Jonas Mekas

Heliczer moved to Paris in 1957, where he established his imprint The Dead Language press, publishing his own poetry and later, work by authors Anselm Hollo, Gregory Corso, Jack Smith, and others.

In the 1960s, Heliczer moved from Paris to London to New York, and, during that time, made his first film in collaboration with fledgling British filmmaker Jeff Keen (The Autumn Feast [1961]). Back in New York in 1962, Heliczer fell in with the crowd that was buzzing around Andy Warhol’s Factory, appearing as an actor in Jack ph_flyer_presSmith’s Flaming Creatures and in several of Warhol’s films. Heliczer had obtained his own camera by 1964 and began to make films in standard 8 mm, the smallest and least expensive of home-movie gauges. Although he sometimes blew his films up to 16 mm, Heliczer was one of only a few underground filmmakers in New York at the time to work with so-called “regular 8” as his primary tool. His films are similar to Smith’s in their inspired lunacy, primitive technical quality, heavy doses of anti-Catholic sentiment, and alternative sexuality. Heliczer’s film Satisfaction so enraged one moviegoer at the Filmmaker’s Cinematheque in 1965 that he knocked the projector over and attacked a couple of his fellow patrons. 

Heliczer usually shot his films silent and added sound on tape; in fact, his “screen adaptation” of William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch in 1968 is “a film for tape recorder, no projector needed.” But, in some instances, Heliczer used live musicians to provide a soundtrack to his films, and ph_flyer_firstrushesone ad hoc group playing behind the screen at a Heliczer installation entitled The Launching of the Dream Weapon in early 1965 changed its name later that year to the Velvet Underground. In November, Heliczer had the Velvet Underground perform on the set of his film Venus in Furs and this shooting was filmed by a CBS News crew for an episode of Walter Cronkite Presents entitled “The Making of an Underground Film,” which was, in part, a profile of Piero Heliczer and turned out to be the only network television exposure for both the band and the filmmaker.

Heliczer made about 17 films which are now either lost or held in a variety of places, and no more than a third of them are in circulation. His publications are equally rare; for some pamphlets, there are no known extant copies. In 2001, poet Gerard Malanga was able to assemble what was retrievable of Heliczer’s literary works into a handsome volume entitled A Purchase in the White Botanica (Granary Books). Hopefully, a similar treatment of his films will not be far behind.

References Consulted:

Andrew Sclanders,  BeatBooks.com catalogues 71 and 86

Alençon: Les Bains-Douches, 2015
Published on the occasion of the exhibition “Piero Heliczer” curated by Rose & Wynn Heliczer, and Sophie Vinet held at Les Bains-Douches.

Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2008

LITTLE CAESAR, No. 9, edited by Gerard Malanga
Los Angeles: Dennis Cooper, 1979

Alençon: Les Bains-Douches, 2015
Published on the occasion of the exhibition “Piero Heliczer” curated by Rose & Wynn Heliczer, and Sophie Vinet held at Les Bains-Douches.

New York: Boo-Hooray, 2014
Published on the occasion of the exhibition “Piero Heliczer & The Dead Language Press” curated by Jonas Mekas and Johan Kugelberg held at

PIERO HELICZER POEMS & DOCUMENTS, edited by Benjamin Thorel and Sophie Vinet
Paris: After 8 Books, 2021

Online Resources:

· Allen Ginsberg Project – photos and links
· Discogs – discography
· The Film-Makers’ Coop – film
· Boiler Room – film
· Independent – obituary
· Jacob Lawrence Gallery – exhibition
· Mimeo-Mimeo – bibliography
· Mubi -film
· Piero Heliczer Web Page – bibliography
· UBU – film