Andy Warhol Wanted to be Made of Plastic

Andy's last self-portrait
Andy's last self-portrait
Andy with the Factory crowd in 1969
Andy with the Factory crowd in 1969
Poster for the film "Chelsea Girls"
Poster for the film "Chelsea Girls"
First cover of "Interview" magazine
First cover of "Interview" magazine
Candy Darling and Andy in 1973
Candy Darling and Andy in 1973
Andy in 1977
Andy in 1977
Andy's artwork for the "Velvet Underground & Nico" album cover
Andy's artwork for the "Velvet Underground & Nico" album cover
Andy's artwork in 1954
Andy's artwork in 1954
"Sixteen Jackies"
"Sixteen Jackies"
"Gold Marilyn"
"Gold Marilyn"
"Elvis"
"Elvis"
"Red Race Riot"
"Red Race Riot"
"Five Deaths Eleven Times in Orange"
"Five Deaths Eleven Times in Orange"
Andy (at right) in 1931
Andy (at right) in 1931
Andy at Carnegie Tech in 1947
Andy at Carnegie Tech in 1947
Andy and Gerard Malanga in 1963
Andy and Gerard Malanga in 1963
Andy's first movie "Sleep"
Andy's first movie "Sleep"
Dennis Hopper (at left) filming "Tarzan and Jane Regained . . . Sort of"
Dennis Hopper (at left) filming "Tarzan and Jane Regained . . . Sort of"
Andy in 1964
Andy in 1964
Andy filming "Couch"
Andy filming "Couch"
Andy and Edie Sedgwick in 1965
Andy and Edie Sedgwick in 1965
Andy filming "Vinyl"
Andy filming "Vinyl"
Edie Sedgwick in 1966
Edie Sedgwick in 1966
Andy and Rod La Rod
Andy and Rod La Rod
Andy working at the Factory (notice the aluminum foil-covered background)
Andy working at the Factory (notice the aluminum foil-covered background)
Nico and her ciggie
Nico and her ciggie
Andy with the Velvet Underground
Andy with the Velvet Underground

Andy Warhol merchandise

Andy Said Anybody Can Do What I Do

Andy Warhol, the so-called Prince of Pop Art, is considered one of the greatest modern artists of the twentieth century. He made works of art of common objects such as paper money, soup cans and pop bottles. Departing from the dominance of Abstract Expressionism in the 1940s and ‘50s, Andy's love of banality, commercialism and repetitiveness defined a new zeitgeist in the 1960s. Simply put, Andy was truly one of a kind! Few people would have believed his life's story if it had been a work of fiction.

This article, like many of Andy's movies, has little if any narrative and is presented in a nonlinear fashion.

When Andy entered the hospital to have his gall bladder removed (and later died of a heart attack after surgery), he kept saying, "I'm not going to make it. I'm not coming out of the hospital."

* * *

Andy said that back in the 1960s reporters didn’t use tape recorders. If he had said, “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes,” it could come out, “In fifteen minutes everybody will be famous.”

* * *

A life-long Catholic, Andy regularly attended mass.

* * *

When Andy discovered that a friend's roommate had committed suicide by jumping out a window, he told the friend, "Why didn't you tell me? We could have gone down there and filmed it."

* * *

Andy's father, Andrej Warhola, was a tightfisted workaholic, which Andy eventually became.

* * *

In the early 1960s, while painting, Andy would listen to the same 45 rpm record all day long, emphasizing his fascination with repetition.

* * *

One of Andy’s many movies was titled ****, essentially a 25-hour-long home movie of the Factory crowd, circa 1966.

* * *

Between 1964 and 1966, Andy filmed about 500 "screen tests." He simply told the subject to sit on a stool and not make a move while the camera rolled. Among the subjects were actor Dennis Hopper, Pop artist James Rosenquist, Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones' guitarist Brian Jones.

* * *

At the "50 Most Beautiful People" party at the Factory in 1965, Judy Garland, while eating a plate of spaghetti, sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” a sight Andy would never forget.

* * *

In her book, Famous for Fifteen Minutes, actress Ultra Violet wrote about making movies with Andy: "I feel wonderfully liberated among the iconoclasts around him, for we are all equal - there are no saints, no sinners among us, no one is making judgments. We are free to be our worst selves or our best selves. And if that weren't joy enough, we are in the movies!"

* * *

At the beginning of 1964, Andy moved into a warehouse near Grand Central Station that would eventually become known as the Factory, where Andy created art, made movies, cavorted and partied with an assemblage of colorful characters suitable for a Fellini film.

* * *

Andy was friends with playwright Tennessee Williams. Since Andy couldn’t afford to buy the rights to any of Williams’ properties, he offered to buy a title. Williams gave Andy The for free.

* * *

As a child, Andy loved actress Shirley Temple.

* * *

While traveling in a car on a cross country trip in 1963, Andy was dazzled by all the Pop art – or new art - he saw along the way. “Once you got ‘pop’,” he said, “you could never see a sign the same way again. And once you thought Pop, you could never see America the same way again.”

* * *

At the age of 17, Andy entered college at Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was too young for the World War Two draft.

* * *

In the early 1980s, Andy decided to exhibit his "oxidation paintings." These comprised canvasses upon which people at the Factory had urinated.

* * *

In 1967, Andy made a Western titled Lonesome Cowboys, a kind of ode to the old West, featuring drag queens dressed as cowboys and, as usual, little if any plot. The movie was filmed in Tucson, Arizona. At one point, one of the locals told the film crew, “You perverted easterners, go the hell back where you came from.”

* * *

Andy wrote, "Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everybody else decide whether it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they're deciding, make even more art."

* * *

Unless otherwise noted, most of the quotes in this article come from the books: Andy Warhol, the Prince of Pop by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan and Popism: The Warhol Sixties by Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett.

* * *

In 1956, Andy took an around-the-world trip with television set designer Charles Lisanby.

* * *

In the 1960s, Andy took prescription diet pills, but not the harder drugs such as methamphetamine or speed used by many of his friends and associates at the Factory (he sometimes took Seconal to counteract the diet pills). After he was shot, he switched to Dexamyl, an amphetamine and barbiturate.

* * *

Andy's first boyfriend was Carl Willers. Andy had his first sex at 25, then his last at 26, or so he sometimes quipped.

* * *

A story entitled “Andy Warhol Inc.” in the November 2009 issue of ARTnews magazine tells of an interview Andy had with singer Deborah Harry, who told Andy that her colorful orange dress, leggings and boots were all based on one of Andy’s camouflage paintings. Andy responded, “Oh . . . it’s beautiful . . . it’s great.” When Harry asked him to sign the outfit, Andy crouched down with a pen to autograph her legging and commented, “Oh, I’m nervous. I never had a famous leg.”

* * *

Born in 1928, Andy grew up in the grimy steel town of Pittsburgh. About his early life, he wrote, "Being born is like being kidnapped. And then sold into slavery."

* * *

In 1971, Andy's play Pork, based on telephone conversations between Andy and Brigid Berlin regarding her family's private life, opened in London and ran for two weeks. When Berlin found out about the play, she was furious.

* * *

Andy began filling "Time Capsules" with the debris of his life in 1974. In 12 years he filled 600 cartons.

* * *

In 1949, with $200 in his pocket and his art portfolio in hand, Andy, along with friend and artist Philip Pearlstein, went to New York to seek their fortunes.

* * *

Andy's first assistant was Gerard Malanga, an expert on silk screen. They called each other Andy Pie and Gerry Pie.

* * *

In early 1966, when Nico started singing for the Velvet Underground, Edie Sedgwick tried to sing as well, but she didn’t have a voice. At this point, Edie felt upstaged by Nico and stopped going out with the Factory crowd.

* * *

Andy's art offended some people. A mural he painted for the 1964 World's Fair in New York, entitled The Thirteen Most Wanted Men, featuring alleged mafia suspects, was considered so insulting to Italians that Andy had to paint over it.

* * *

In the spring of 1973, Andy met aging actress Paulette Goddard while seeing a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A fan of actresses of the Silver Screen, Andy started seeing Goddard so much they were considered a romantic item for a year or so.

* * *

When very young, Andy drew flowers instead of playing baseball. Andy's brother John Warhola thought Andy would become a priest (the Warhola family was Byzantine Catholic.)

* * *

In mid 1969, Andy rented the small Fortune Theatre on East Fourth Street in New York, showing a series of hardcore male porn films.

* * *

In April 1978, while partying with Mick Jagger and others, Andy tried cocaine, snorting it and rubbing it on his gums, though he later denied that he ever tried it.

* * *

Andy's art teacher at Carnegie Tech, Russell Hyde, said Andy wouldn't be a good artist unless he did work that pleased himself.

* * *

In the early 1980s, Andy started hanging out and painting with young graffiti artist and Neo-Expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Painting with Basquiat made Andy feel young again. Eventually, though, Basquiat's behavior became so unpredictable, self-destructive and sometimes violent that he and Andy parted ways. (In 1996, David Bowie portrayed Andy Warhol in Julian Schnabel's biopic Basquiat.)

* * *

Andy liked the work of artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg; he always wanted to see what they were up to.

* * *

In July 1962, for a show at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, Andy exhibited paintings of Coca-Cola bottles. Art dealer Irving Blum promised to buy any pieces that didn't sell, and none did. So Blum paid $1,000 for the whole set. (Blum's collection was eventually sold to the Met for $7 million.)

* * *

As a teenager, Andy was effeminate and showed no signs of being attracted to girls the way other boys were. He said he would never get married and have children. Andy said, "I didn't want them to have the same problems I did. I don't think anybody deserves it."

* * *

In the 1930s, the Warhola family was poor, living in a neighborhood called Soho. The amenities in their home were meager - no toilet, heat or hot water.

* * *

In the 1970s, Andy charged $25,000 for his silk-screened celebrity portraits. Some buyers were Imelda Marcos, Liza Minnelli, President Jimmy Carter, heavy-weight boxer Muhammad Ali and Truman Capote.

* * *

Already losing his hair in his middle 20s, Andy began wearing his signature gray-silver wig.

* * *

In the middle to late 1950s, Andy became the most successful commercial illustrator of women's magazines in New York. His plum was the I. Miller account, a job paying him $50,000 per year.

* * *

From 1963 to 1964, Andy began making 8 mm silent movies. Then, when he bought a 16 mm Bolex, he shot Sleep, a film showing his boyfriend sleeping – that’s all!

* * *

Conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp understood that painting soup cans wasn't radical; rather, it was the idea of painting them.

* * *

One day at the Factory in 1964, a woman came in and asked Andy if she could shoot his Marilyn Monroe paintings. Assuming she meant to "photograph" them, Andy said yes, and then she pulled out a pistol and shot a hole through them. Andy repaired the paintings, retitling them Shot Red Marilyn and Shot Blue Marilyn, and then sold them.

* * *

At the age of eight, Andy suffered from St. Vitus' dance, a disease which causes involuntary movement of the extremities. Because of this condition, he stayed at home a lot and recuperated while listening to the radio and collecting photographs of movie stars.

* * *

Along with Andy’s commercial success, he wanted to be taken seriously as a painter, but his work was viewed by many as too homosexual. Commenting on this, his friend Emile de Antonio told Andy he was “too swish. It’s like an armor with you.”

* * *

When Andy was seven, his mother, Julia, bought him a movie projector, with which Andy watched cartoons.

* * *

In 1974, Andy's book, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again, was published. This was some of Andy's advice: "People should fall in love with their eyes closed."

* * *

At the Factory in the 1960s, some of Andy's friends and associates had unusual nicknames: Rotten Rita, Candy Darling, Rod La Rod, Silver George, Billy Name, Stanley the Turtle, Ultra Violet and the Duchess.

* * *

In Ray Manzarek's book, Light My Fire: My Life with the Doors, he tells a story about Andy. One night at the Factory late in 1966, the lead singer of the Doors, Jim Morrison, went into a back room, where a beautiful blonde woman named Nico performed an intimate sex act upon him. Hearing of this, Andy hurried into the room, but he was too late for the fun. Andy then begged Morrison to repeat the act in front of him, but Morrison refused, saying, "Screw you, Andy, I'm not gonna let you watch!"

* * *

About the crowd at the Factory, Manzarek wrote, "At the Factory it was all pleasure without consequences. An ultimately enervating pleasure that could only weaken and debilitate. This was not a Nietzschean romp in joy and light and passion. The Factory did not leave its partygoers strong and clean and infused with enthusiasm for life, for the beauty and passion of nature. For the divine warmth and radiance of the sun. There was no desire on the part of the denizens to begin the world again, to create the new Garden of Eden, to transcend ordinary reality, to enter the New Age. The debauchery itself was enough. It was not liberating, as such intoxication should be. It didn't open the doors of perception. It did not break through the walls of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim myth into freedom. It did not charge the psyche with energy . . . It was merely an end in itself. It was perpetual pleasure and perpetual darkness."

* * *

Jim Morrison was supposed to be the star in Andy’s first “blue movie.” Morrison agreed to do the deed on camera. But when the time came, he never showed up with the girl.

* * *

Andy's last self-portraits in the 1980s resembled death masks. Friends later wondered if he knew the end was near.

* * *

Because of Andy's advanced drawing ability, he was sent to the gifted children's class for young artists on Saturday mornings at the Carnegie Institute (a museum).

* * *

In 1964, Andy had his friend, Billy Name, paint the interior of the Factory silver, including the floor. Andy wrote, "Silver was the future, it was spacey - the astronauts . . . And silver was the past - the Silver Screen."

* * *

Andy's leading lady in Poor Little Rich Girl and Beauty #2 was a beautiful, though boyish, mentally imbalanced woman named Edie Sedgwick. Seemingly, everybody at the Factory loved this troubled woman. In the middle 1960s, Edie and Andy were seen as royalty in New York. But she left the Factory crowd in early 1966. Sedgwick died of a drug overdose, combining alcohol with barbiturates, at the age of 28 in 1971.

* * *

About Edie Sedgwick, Andy had this to say: “Edie was incredible on camera – just the way she moved. And she never stopped moving for a second – even when she was sleeping, her hands were wide awake. She was all energy – she didn’t know what to do with it when it came to living her life, but it was wonderful to film. The great stars are the ones who are doing something you can watch every second, even if it’s just a movement inside their eye.”

* * *

Andy was the first artist to make a portrait using multiple images of the person. Utilizing the silk-screen technique, he could do just about whatever he wanted.

* * *

Andy's last great series was his work on Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper, some canvases of which were an enormous 10 feet by 20 feet.

* * *

Andy's father died when Andy was 13, his body stretched out - per the custom of their church - on the living room floor of their house for three days, traumatizing Andy about death and leaving the family in dire straights financially.

* * *

Because Andy hadn't returned a screenplay entitled "Up Your Ass" that she had sent him, hopeful filmmaker Valerie Solanas came into the Factory one day and shot Andy twice in the abdomen. Andy lay in his own blood for one-half hour before the ambulance finally arrived. Doctors operated on Andy for five hours. He nearly died and stayed in the hospital for two months. During this time, Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated. When Andy saw the funeral on TV, he thought he had died. About the massive attention he got after being shot, Andy wrote, “If you value your privacy, don’t ever get shot, because your private life turns into an open house very quickly.”

* * *

At one point after moving to New York, Andy lived with 17 other people in a basement apartment just south of Harlem.

* * *

In 1964, Andy made the film, Eat, featuring a man slowly devouring a mushroom for 30 minutes, the reels not shown in sequence. This non-narrative, nonlinear format was Andy's distinctive style.

* * *

In 1980, Andy produced a show on cable TV called Andy Warhol's TV. Also that same year, Andy's book with Pat Hackett titled POPism: The Warhol Sixties, was published.

* * *

When Andy got a job drawing advertisement illustrations for Glamour magazine, they misspelled his name, leaving off the "a" at the end of Warhola, but Andy liked the new spelling and kept it from then on.

* * *

In his early days in New York, Andy developed a crush on writer Truman Capote, but Capote wasn't impressed. Capote said of his admirer, "He seemed one of those hopeless people that you just know nothing's ever going to happen to. Just a hopeless born loser."

* * *

Andy often said things that many people found odd, for example: "I don't believe in love. . . I want to be a machine . . . I like boring things. . . I like things to be the same over and over again . . . I love Los Angeles . . . I love Hollywood . . . They're so beautiful . . . Everything's plastic, but I love plastic . . . I want to be plastic."

* * *

In 1963, Andy started his Disaster Series, featuring images of morbid scenes taken from magazines, newspapers and tabloids. In general, Americans didn't like the Disaster pictures, but the French did. About such, Andy offered this bon mot: "You'd be surprised who'll hang an electric chair in the living room. Especially if the background matches the drapes."

* * *

In 1966, at the aging Chelsea Hotel, Andy filmed Chelsea Girls, an X-rated six and a half hour romp featuring Andy's idiosyncratic, voyeuristic brand of cinema vérité. Considered too long for most theatres, Andy then made it into two movies, which he showed side by side. This was his first movie to make money. When the flick was banned in Boston, Andy was elated, realizing the promotional potential this provided.

* * *

In mid 1952, Andy's mother Julia Warhola, feeling sorry for the way her son lived in a squalid, cold-water flat, moved in with him and stayed there for years.

* * *

Andy's his first art exhibit was at the Hugo Gallery; it was entitled, "15 Drawings Based on the Writing of Truman Capote." Nobody bought any drawings, nor did Capote see the show.

* * *

Andy designed the cover for the Rolling Stones album Sticky Fingers. The album sold in the millions. Andy later complained that he should have been paid by the albums sold, not a flat fee.

* * *

In 1965, Andy declared that he retired from painting, instead concentrating on movies. "Art," he later wrote, "just wasn't fun for me anymore."

* * *

Andy was always asking his friends for ideas of what to paint. One friend charged him $50 for the idea and told him to paint money and cans of soup. Andy promptly wrote out a check.

* * *

Art dealer Eleanor Ward sponsored Andy's first major show in New York in November 1962, and every piece sold.

* * *

By 1963, Pop Art was showing in major museums across America, many showing paintings by Andy Warhol. Bewildered by the Abstract Expressionism of artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, the public embraced Pop Art.

* * *

Throughout his life, particularly around holidays, which he didn't like, Andy worked in a nearby soup kitchen. He liked the fact that nobody knew who he was.

* * *

Andy’s first movie filmed with sound was Harlot, shot at the end of 1964.

* * *

In 1966, Andy sponsored the experimental rock group the Velvet Underground, led by singer/guitarist Lou Reed. Andy called their act "fabulous and demented." He wanted a band that could perform while he showed his films. But, thinking the band needed a female singer, Andy promptly added a blonde German model named Nico. It was said that her voice was a cross between an IBM computer and Greta Garbo.

* * *

Andy began silk-screening still lifes and celebrity portraits so he could churn them out easily and quickly. He wanted his work to resemble something anybody could produce.

* * *

For many years Paul Morrissey had been producing and directing Andy's movies. Then in 1978 when his latest film, Bad, flopped, Andy stopped making films.

* * *

In November 1969, Andy's magazine, Interview, debuted. Featuring both male and female nudes on the cover of its first issue, the slick slowly evolved into a gossip tabloid and precursor to People magazine. At first, Andy did the interviews with his tape recorder, asking questions such as, "What's your favorite color?" Interview didn't make money for 10 years, but it did promote the products of Andy Warhol Enterprises.

* * *

Growing bored with making personal appearances at colleges across America, Andy hired an unemployed actor, Alan Midgette, to impersonate him. The ruse worked until a gust of wind blew off Midgette's wig. However, Midgette continued impersonating Andy after his death. Reflecting on this, Andy wrote, “Who wants the truth? That’s what show business is for – to prove that it’s not what you are that counts, it’s what they think you are.”

* * *

About the “nude craze” of 1969, when plays such as Oh! Calcutta! were being produced, Andy wrote, “During this period I took thousands of Polaroids of genitals. Whenever somebody came up to the Factory, no matter how straight-looking he was, I’d ask him to take his pants off so I could photograph his cock and balls. It was surprising who’d let me and who wouldn’t.”

* * *

In Andy’s book Popism: The Warhol Sixties, not once does he mention having a romantic or sexual encounter with a man or woman during the 1960s!

* * *

In 1987, the year of Andy's death, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was founded for the advancement of the visual arts. For more information, see the Web site www.warholfoundation.org

 

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Comments 12 comments

Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

Nice hub. Warhol's life, his spirit and his art was all so complex it is hard to summarize. Warhol was truly unique, and this post does a nice job of demonstrating that.

Thanks.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 6 years ago from California Author

Thanks, Mike. Somebody finally left a comment for this hub! Yeah, Andy was a one-of-a-kind artist and person. Later!


uakoko profile image

uakoko 6 years ago

Well, I just read this great hub. If I had read it before I wrote the Hub I just wrote, I never would have written mine! You did a great job! Kudos!


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 6 years ago from California Author

Thanks for the kudos, Uakoko, I haven't gotten many on this hub, which puzzles me. Later!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

Campbell Soup Cans will forever be memorialized by Andy Warhol's artwork along with many other things. You did a great job on this hub and I learned much about Andy Warhol that I did not previously know. Thanks! Rating this UP!


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 6 years ago from California Author

Thanks, Peggy W, I'm really proud of this hub. It took a long time to produce, which generally translates into an interesting piece of work - in theory anyway. I love your artsy hubs, by the way. Later!


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 5 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

Kosmo,

Fascinating. Loved the layout and I normally crave linear. Very well researched and presented. Thank you! You are truly gifted.


giocatore profile image

giocatore 4 years ago

Another nice hub. I also think nonlinearly, probably because my attention span is exceedingly short! Cheers.


jhamann profile image

jhamann 4 years ago from Reno NV

This hub is incredible, I think Andy would have approved! Voted up! Thank You. Jamie


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, jhamann. I'v spent lots of time on this hub, because it has always been one of my favorites. Later!


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 4 years ago from Arizona

A walk down memory lane. You have great photos and this hub is fabulous. One of the greats in American culture. Voted UP.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, carolzzzz. This has always been one of my favorite hubs. It took lots of work to produce - maybe that's why I like it so much. Later!

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