Aboard The Dreamland Choo Choo
Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey are accused of violating child pornography laws in a 1964 film directed by Morrissey called All Aboard The Dreamland Choo Choo. The suit was filed in 2009 against Warhol’s Estate and Morrissey by a lawyer representing the grown children of Richard Toelk. Toelk appeared in the film when he was 14, rolling and smoking what might or might not be a joint, giving himself electrical shocks and plunging a small knife into his leg. It is strong stuff, but how much of it was staged? Toelk died in 1990 so he’s not telling.
Morrissey has said that All Aboard The Dreamland Choo Choo was intended to send an anti-drug message and it was made a year before he met Warhol. The title of the film came from a Shirley Temple song that he would play during the silent film’s screening.
Emily Larish of The Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law doesn’t think Toelk’s children have much of a case and may actually be exploiting their father more than Warhol and Morrissey ever did:
Assuming the depiction of Toelk in All Aboard The Dreamland Choo Choo can be considered sexual exploitation, if the footage was filmed in 1964, then it could not have been in violation of federal child pornography laws; the first federal laws aimed at child pornography were not enacted until the late 1970s. As for the claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress for damaging the family’s image, it is hard to imagine that many people have even seen the film, certainly not in recent years. Moreover, even out of those who have seen the film, I doubt that many would be able to identify the young boy smoking pot as Richard Toelk, the father of the plaintiffs.
It seems that this family is attempting to do the very thing for which they are accusing the defendants: exploiting the images of a young Richard Toelk for financial gain.
You can read the complaint here
Watch the rarely seen All Aboard The Dreamland Choo Choo and make up your own mind…or don’t. In my opinion the self-torture looks no more real than what you’d see in a mainstream horror movie. The film seems to want to dramatize a young man’s desperate need to feel something, anything, some kind of kick. It’s certainly not porn. And the young actor doesn’t appear to be suffering the kind of pain you’d feel after plunging an Exacto knife in your leg. It looks like theater to me.