He died 20 years ago this month, and I went to his funeral as stoned as most of his entourage. Bianca Jagger made a ridiculously theatrical entrance. So did Cornelia Guest, the deb of the decade as the tabloids had dubbed her, who burst into tears as soon as she approached the waiting cameras. Everyone who was anyone among the freaks and groupies of the period attended.
The service was in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, and many of us had stayed up through the night drinking and smoking exotic cheroots. Andy Warhol was hardly a friend, and I only got wrecked because some awfully cute young groupies were upset at his sudden death. I thought I’d stick around to give them moral support. The party following the service was a real gas, to use long ago parlance. The freaks were openly injecting drugs or taking cocaine, others got sick all over the floor, and some gays were feeling each other up for the rest of us to admire. In other words, it was a typical Warhol party. Too bad he wasn’t around to enjoy it.
Andy Warhol was a unique American phenomenon. When his infamous diaries came outthe first bestseller purposely had no index so that fame groupies could not read about themselves in the bookstore and not buy the opusI was surprised to find myself mentioned almost as many times as some minor celebrities. Warhol knew more about what was going on in nightclubs than any of us because he didn’t drink or take drugs. He also did not look for sex; it was simply always on his mind. He sat for hours at a time in Studio 54 and simply observed, engaging in absolutely no conversation except for “Gee!” and “Wow!”
When I was featured in his Interview magazinethe piece, entitled “A terrorist among the rich,” was accompanied by a Bruce Weber portrait that made me look like a film starhe threw a dinner for me at the trendy Nicolas restaurant in New York’s Upper East Side. I sat next to him for sometime without exchanging words. Out of the blue he told me that I should sleep with actress Elizabeth Ashley, someone I had never met. “She really digs you, she’s always calling me asking about you,” he whispered conspiratorially.
Now I am not the naïve type, but I fell for it. When I asked my friend Bob Colacello, who worked for Andy’s magazine, I got the bad news. “Andy likes to get people involved,” said Bob. “Apparently Elizabeth is angry about your conservative politics…” It was vintage Andy.
Twenty years later, he has never been bigger. Filmmaker Ric Burns has done a two-part documentary about him, a giant book of his art has just been published by Phaidon, and “Factory Girl,” a major motion picture about doomed Warhol “star” Edie Sedgwick, has just been released.
Gee whiz, as Andy would say, who would have guessed it? I always thought his art was a rubbishy gimmick, but time has proved me wrong, as far as commercial value is concerned.
One afternoon, Andy’s minion Fred Hughes invited me to dinner with Bianca Jagger and artist Cy Twombly at “the world’s most expensive restaurant,” as Fred put it. At the time, I was keen on young Barbara Allen, who was also going, so I agreed. Andy never touched his food, sipped some mineral water, and never opened his mouth. I got totally wasted and paid the bill when I realized that no one else was going to make a move. Warhol thought it hilarious.
Somehow he managed to write in his diaries exactly what followed. Barbara locked me out of her apartment, and when I broke down the door thinking she was inside with another man, I found her fast asleep, having taken a Quaalude that could have numbed the Minotaur. Andy’s diary made it seem much funnier than it was. Both Barbara and I swear to this day we never talked to him about it.
Andy was an idiot-savant. Money was all he cared for, and it came to him effortlessly while he courted celebrities and the rich. He was cold and ruthless yet gave the impression of great vulnerability. He was the great enabler, the impotent celebrity who made it on sex appeal (or sex repeal, as I called it). He played the primitive in a sophisticated age, and he did not have to try hard at the role. Andy was quite primitive to begin with.
His 1976 interview of another tiny terror, Truman Capotea man who hated the truth more than Bill Clintonmade Warhol’s magazine, a publication on whose masthead I was proud to be the only heterosexual. Fred Hughes, the magazine’s president, and Bob Colacello, its star writer, had a lot of laughs about that.
I hated the freaks and the druggies, but looking back, Andy was an originalhowever phony his originality. His fame will grow exponentially as we become more and more Warholesque in our admiration of the cheap and the glitzy.
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