I think because both of my parents were essentially salespeople, and Italian-Americans, I always seemed to get along with people; I had a knack of finding something to talk about.
The funny thing about me is I'm kind of schizophrenic, because after four or five nights in a row of going out to parties, I just have to be alone. I hate people and feel like they're keeping me from what I really want to do, like write a fabulous novel, which I probably never will.
Well, it wasn't really a decision on my part although you always hope as an author that a book that goes out of print somehow winds up back in print. These days publishers like to put out-of-print books into e-book form, but I really wanted to do an update.
And out of the blue, I got a call from an editor friend at Knopf and she said that they were interested in putting out an update for their vintage paperback line. So I was more than thrilled and it was suggested that perhaps I could do a 1,000 word new introduction covering what's happened with the whole Warhol thing since 1990 when the first edition hardcover came out and, uh, that was about August 1st and I sat down at my computer here in East Hampton and on on August 30th I'd written almost 10,000 words!
He was, as Billy Name said in the acclaimed Ric Burns documentary about Andy Warhol, uninterested in being a second-tier artist. He was uninterested in being a first-tier artist! He wanted to be, you know, a god. Someone who completely changed the...he wanted to be Zeus with the lightning bolt and nothing less would have satisfied him.
Andy [Warhol] put on his fey kind of act, but he wanted to be number one and he succeeded. But you never know. Fifty years from now he might not be seen as so important, but the way our whole culture has gone, and the way it continues to go, is his way - for better or for worse.
I could write an entirely new book about Andy Warhol, but I don't think I will. I certainly don't think Nancy Reagan would like that, as she's been patiently waiting for Volume 2 of my chronicle of the life of her and Ronnie.
Fortunately I had a great intern who did a lot of the research on Andy's prices, which of course are phenomenal, but getting them straight - you know, he's reached this $100million plateau that only a handful of other artists have reached, which puts him in the company of Cezanne, Klimt, Picasso, and such.
It's been so long now and so much has happened that I am able now to look back with much less emotion and my take on Andy as an artist now comes down to a simple sentence: he made religious art for a secular society which is why it has so much appeal.
I think his portraits of Jackie, Liz, Marilyn, Mao, Elvis, Lenin - and objects like the soup cans, the dollar signs, the hammer and sickle, it's all about icons. Its all about what people worship in an irreligious or secular world. In terms of Andy's personality and Andy Warhol as a human being who I was very close to, I still feel kind of sorry for him on a personal level. I mean, he was the ultimate example of great success wrapped around inner turmoil and emotional pain.
Very few people actually saw Andy's films like Chelsea Girls where he filmed seven hours, ran it on two screens, where each scene was in a different room at the Chelsea Hotel with these people he called 'Superstars" who were basically super-exhibitionists - the guy in one room high on LSD talking about masturbation, Brigid Berlin in another room playing a lesbian and shooting up people with amphetamines right through their jeans, it was all real and they were really doing it (though Brigid is now a proper lady), but yo
His [Andy warhol] films were way ahead of the times...and I'm not suggesting this has all necessarily been a good thing for America, mind you. I kind of think we're all in a really big mess, kind of like the end days of the Roman Empire.
One thing about Andy Warhol that was remarkable and also key to his widespread appeal is that he was so open! He would get on the phone and talk to the kid who called to say he was a fan - you know, Andy would walk from his house every morning down to the Factory carrying a bunch of Interviews - people would stop him and he would sign them, and what have you.
He [Andy Warhol] engaged people and I think all of that is what helped keep him keyed in to the times beyond all of the celebrity stuff that was going on around him. He was much more like a fan than a celebrity himself.
A lot of people found themselves working at the Factory and some even in his bed as a result of random occurrences like your call. Most famous artists have never been all that interested in meeting strangers. That was not the case with Andy Warhol at all.
He [Andy warhol] went out every evening to five or six parties with a tape recorder in one pocket and a camera with extra film and batteries in the other pocket, constantly recording and photographing everyone he came across.
Anyway, when I finished the book, I handed it in, didn't want to read it again, but when it finally was in print I felt like OK, I have to read this. And yeah, I thought God, this is petty, this is silly, too emotional, too raw...and maybe it was then, but now it all seems that it's so much better because all the stuff that felt petty and silly now seems more relevant because Andy was so important.
I mean when the book first came out it was not a bestseller, but it got good reviews and at that point I was done writing about Andy, done talking about Andy....but now, I kind of love it. All these smart, attractive young people think I'm cool! So here I am a guy in his sixties with all of these interesting friends in their twenties. It's very stimulating and keeps me very much in the present.
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