Viva was born in Syracuse, New York, the daughter of Mary Alice (née McNicholas) and Wilfred Ernest Hoffmann. Hoffmann was the eldest of nine children born into a family of strict Roman Catholics. Her father was a prosperous attorney, and her parents were stalwart supporters of the Army–McCarthy hearings held to expose Communist government infiltration. The Hoffmann children were required to watch the televised proceedings. Raised in devout Catholicism, she considered becoming a nun.
Viva began her career in entertainment as a model and painter. She retired from both professions however, claiming that she believed painting to be a dead medium, and describing her time as a model as “…a period of my life I would rather forget.” She was given the name Viva by Andy Warhol before the release of her first film but later used her married last name (Auder). She appeared in several of Warhol’s films and was a frequent guest at the Factory.
Viva’s film career began in 1967, when she began filming Ciao! Manhattan, which was not completed until 1972. Viva approached Andy Warhol about being in one of his films, on the suggestion of her friend, actress Abigail Rosen McGrath. Warhol agreed, but only on the condition that Viva take off her blouse for the role. Viva responded by adhering bandaids to her breasts and visiting Andy at The Factory.
Viva appeared in many of Warhol’s films. The first, Tub Girls, consists of Viva lying in a bathtub with various people of both sexes, including Brigid Berlin and Rosen McGrath. She appeared in Bike Boy, a film centered around a motorcyclist trying to find himself; and The Nude Restaurant, in which she played a waitress, opposite Taylor Mead.
By far, Viva’s most controversial role was in Blue Movie (1969), a seminal film in the Golden Age of Porn that helped inaugurate the “porno chic“ phenomenon in modern American culture. Viva played opposite Louis Waldon. The film consists of improvised dialogue between Viva and Waldon about a multitude of topics, including The Vietnam War, President Nixon, and various mundane tasks. These conversations are interrupted by the main event of the film, in which Viva and Waldon actually perform sexual acts in front of the camera. The film was seized by New York City Police for obscenity, and the theater manager, projectionist, and ticket-seller at the New Andy Warhol Garrick Theatre arrested for possession of obscene materials.
Viva was on the phone with Andy Warhol when he was shot by Valerie Solanas in 1968. Following Solanas’ attempt on Warhol’s life, Viva developed a close, personal friendship with Warhol’s mother, Julia Warhola. Returning from the hospital, however, Andy accused Viva of utilizing his absence to spy on his work and his mother, creating a rift in a relationship that was never repaired. Viva never saw Mrs. Warhola again after that.
Viva’s first starring role in a non-Warhol film was in Agnès Varda‘s Lions Love in 1969. The film features Viva in a ménage à trois with Gerome Ragni and James Rado. On November 1, 1968, Viva appeared on The Tonight Show on an evening that was guest-hosted by Woody Allen. Four years later Allen cast her in his 1972 film Play It Again, Sam in the role of Jennifer.
After she began making films for other directors she also began writing. Her first book, Superstar, was an insider’s look at the Factory scene, a partly fictional autobiographical account of her time there. It was distinguished from other “tell-all” memoirs by virtue of her writing, which incorporated various stylistic effects, including the use of taped conversations. She also wrote for various publications, including The Village Voice and New York Woman.
Viva incorporated the use of video tapes into her second book The Baby. These tapes were later released by her former husband, video artist Michel Auder, as Chronicles: Family Diary in three parts.
During the 1970s Viva was a guest participant in Shirley Clarke‘s Teepee Video Space Troupe, which she formed in the early 1970s.
With former husband Michel Auder, Viva made and kept film diaries which included the birth of her first daughter, Alexandra (Alex) Auder. She was briefly engaged to the actor Anthony Herrera. They had one child together, the actress Gaby Hoffmann.
Though artistically successful, Viva was never very successful financially. In 1993, she was taken to housing court by the Chelsea Hotel, where she lived with her two daughters, for not paying her $920 a month rent for two years. Her daughter, Gaby, reflects, “We lived in a classless society. We’d spend a summer at Gore Vidal’s house in Italy, but we were on and off welfare.”
- The Nude Restaurant (1967) The Waitress
- Bike Boy (October 1967) Girl on couch
- Tub Girls (1967)
- Lonesome Cowboys (1968) Ramona D’Alvarez
- San Diego Surf (1968) Susan Hoffman
- The Loves of Ondine (August 1968) Girl in Bed
- Lions Love (1969) Viva
- Blue Movie (1969) Girl in Bed
- Sam’s Song (1969) Girl with the Hourglass
- Midnight Cowboy (1969) Gretel McAlbertson – The Party
- Keeping Busy (1969)
- Trapianto, consunzione e morte di Franco Brocani (1969)
- Necropolis (1970) Countess Bathory (as Viva Auder)
- Cleopatra (1970) Cleopatra
- Play It Again, Sam (1972) Jennifer
- Ciao! Manhattan (1972) Diana – Vogue editor
- Cisco Pike (1972) Merna
- New Old (1979)
- Seduction of Patrick (short) (1979)
- Flash Gordon (1980) Cytherian Girl
- The State of Things (1982) Kate
- Forbidden Zone (1982) Ex-Queen
- Paris, Texas (1984) Woman on TV (as Viva Auder)
- The Man Without a Face (1993) Mrs. Cooper
- The Feature (as Viva Superstar) (2008)
- News From Nowhere (2010) Viva
- Superstar (1970)
- The Baby (1974)