Rabu, 07 April 2010

Me and Andy Warhol

Me in the late 60's. 
(I'm the one on the left, wearing a Victorian frock coat)

Roger Law and Peter Fluck, creators of  the TV programme 'Spitting Image' as Luck and Flaw, had been at Cambridge Art School shortly before I arrived. Roger lived in Cambridge and became an acquaintance. In 1969 I ran into him on a train from London and we had lunch in the dining car (yes British Rail as it was then, still had the quaint idea of service in those days). I told Roger that I was off to New York the following week, knowing he'd been the summer before. He told me he'd seen Andy Warhol at the Factory and that I too should go. It wouldn't have occurred to me but for Roger but after finding lodgings on the Upper East Side I duly found the Factory at 33 Union Square. The lift arrived at the 3rd floor directly opening into the Factory as lifts often do in NY. I immediately recognised Viva 'Superstar' waiting for the lift, who looked me over and said loudly "You never know who you're going to meet when this elevator turns up!" While I was at the Factory over the next few weeks Viva did a cameo part for John Schlesinger. It turned out to be a scene with Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy, being filmed while I was in NY.

Viva with Andy

I was met by Fred Hughes, Andy's right hand man, and the one who later inherited Andy's large Brownstone house. He had also caught a bullet the year before when Andy was shot. I got on well with Fred and we both had an interest in early cinema (yes there was even earlier cinema than 1969) and we'ed go see old black and white films together.
Here's a quote from Ed Hayes, the attorney brought in to settle Warhol's estate:
"If Andy Warhol was the most significant American artist of the second half of the 20th century, then Fred Hughes was certainly material to that success, if not the most important person in Warhol's life. He was largely responsible for Warhol's tremendous commercial success. He had a brilliant eye and a great sense of art history."

Fred in managerial mode

Andy was always polite and interested to meet people. He remembered Roger Law (you would - he's big and loud) and asked if I'd like to consider some layout concepts for a new magazine he was producing that year called 'Interview'. The idea was to feature interviews with the increasing number of stars Warhol was meeting.

The large format Interview folded in half (like Rolling Stone) 
to form a front and back cover.

You don't need me to tell you that Warhol was an odd fish and the bizarre set up at the Factory is well recorded elsewhere. In the sweltering heat of NY in late '69 I'd taken to only wearing white clothes; white muslin shirt, white US Navy bellbottoms, and whitened tennis shoes. This ensemble seemed to fascinate Andy and I wrote this slightly comic poem after recalling a conversation with him:

Andy

He met Viva
coming out of the elevator –
she said she had some cameo
to do for Schlesinger.

On the third floor
Fred was at the desk,
Andy in the back
on the big white sofa.

Your shoes are so white,
Andy said. The tennis shoes
glowed in the gloom. Andy’s toupee
was slipping over his eyes –

the tips were cut out
of his battered brown brogues
showing the toes of his socks –
he had problem feet.

Your white trousers are so neat,
Andy said.
His black jeans sagged at the knees
and crumpled at the ankles.

Your white shirt is crisp in this heat,
Andy said.
His black shirt was damp and creased.
He was having a bad hair day.

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