Warhol’s Entourage Speaks His Truth

PITTSBURGH — “Andy would have loved this!” Patrick McMullan, the party photographer, said last Saturday as he boogied with his camera around a dance floor set in a tent outside the Andy Warhol Museum. “Bob and Jane, let me get you together,” said the man who claims to have shot six million photos and to know 25,000 people by name, to Bob Colacello and Jane Holzer, a onetime Warhol superstar.

The shutter whirred with a sound like quail flushed from a canebrake. Then Mr. McMullan scuttled along to bag another quasi celebrity.

This was at the 20th-anniversary gala for the museum — rethought, revamped, hosting an unexpectedly compelling show about Halston and Warhol and now planning to build a satellite branch on the Lower East Side. And as photographers worked the big party tent, and guests searched for their tables, and ushers dressed as flight attendants called out flight times, it suddenly struck one guest that things had reached such a pop-cultural impasse — six million photos, 25,000 names — that in the future perhaps everybody would want to be not famous for 15 minutes but anonymous.

As parties go, the gala may have made Warhol’s B-list. Partly this was because so few of the faces were recognizable. But it also owed to the entertainment (a kitschy troupe of dancers wearing glitter costumes intended to evoke the disco ’70s) being neither good nor even bad enough to be “great,” to borrow one of Warhol’s favorite terms.

In Warhol’s Manhattan heyday, parties were an extension of business hours and he was out most every night. Like a lunar moth, he alighted, accompanied by whomever happened to be in his entourage of the moment, first at an art opening, then at a dinner, later perhaps at a nightclub.

He moved with alacrity, taking Polaroids, scanning whatever room he was in from behind dark glasses for prospects. This was in the days when the paintings that now sell for scores of millions were not exactly flying off the Factory floor. Back then, Warhol and his suave, social-climbing “business manager,” Fred Hughes, routinely went out on millionaire-hunting safaris, the two of them skating over the surface of the evening hours, snagging prospects for the silk-screened portraits that paid the bills.

Around midnight, Warhol would dash home in a taxi to the East Side townhouse he shared with his mother, who waited up. They’d share a snack in the basement kitchen, and he would go to bed so he could be up early for Mass.

“That’s something no one knows about Andy,” said Ms. Holzer, an art collector and real estate entrepreneur who was one of the Warhol’s early protégées and was known as Baby Jane Holzer. “He was very religious.”

Truth is, there are many things people don’t yet know about Warhol, a point Lou Reed made not long before he died. Though the myth is immense and continues to grow, there is still no definitive biography, as Mr. Reed pointed out.

“There is so much more than people realize,” Ms. Holzer added. Everyone, for instance, thinks Warhol was a cheapskate. “But he practically ran a soup kitchen at Max’s Kansas City and kept a tab going so artists could eat,” she said. He preferred to distribute his largess that way, she went on, because “if he gave them the money, they’d all run right out and buy drugs.”
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story

They bought them anyway. And, logically enough, one after another of the wonderful garrulous maniacs who endowed Warhol’s films and scene with timeless incandescence died. Edie Sedgwick, Eric Emerson, Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis, Nico: none lived long enough to attend all tomorrow’s parties.

And yet some were there at the museum, in the form of spectral images beamed in black and white on the gallery walls. Dancing in a movie spotlight that blurred her patrician features into immateriality was poor Edie Sedgwick, beautiful as ever and now immortal, in a way.

“Everybody thinks of Andy as mean and manipulative, but he was very sweet,” said Daniela Morera, a former model and the longtime European editor of Andy Warhol’s Interview. “People don’t know this, but Andy had a very good heart.”

True, those around him were often at one another’s throats, and true, too, that fact gave evidence of a calculating nature, a colossal narcissism or perhaps, Ms. Morera said, a longing to be loved.

“All his life and his art was about love and death,” Ms. Morera said, as an auctioneer hammered down the right to unseal the last of Warhol’s famous time capsules to a businessman who said he hoped to find Warhol himself inside.

“I feel so much affection for Andy because he was a person who was really not so happy and was always looking for love,” she said. “People don’t know this. They don’t realize that, when he was shot, he was practically killed, and that since then Andy always said he was living on borrowed time.”