Sunday 25th March

| BY 10Magazine

ANDY WARHOL & FRED HUGHES (IMAGINED): FACTORY BOYS

I was shopping in the Greenmarket, minding my own business, looking for purple fingerling potatoes. Union Square always makes me think of Andy Warhol, two of whose factories were located here. Now there’s even a silver statue, where tourists stop and pose. I happened to glance up at the Romanesque facade of number 33 Union Square West and noticed two figures, on the narrow sixth-floor balcony, surveying the noonday crowd like Mr and Mrs Mussolini. I yelled up and they waved to me. I walked inside and, weirdly enough, stepped into the same creaking elevator in which Valerie Solanas ascended with an unsuspecting Andy on a summer day in 1968, the third day of June.

Ten: “Silver was your favorite colour, Andy, but after Valerie Solanas shot you, would you say you went for the gold?”

Andy Warhol: “What a clumsy syllabic segue, and as you well know I only respond in monosyllables in interviews.”

Ten: “But since you’re dead we thought you might flesh out your answers a bit.”

Andy Warhol: “What do you want to know? Fred can answer for me, he did all the work in real life, well him and Bob, talking all the grandes dames into having their portraits done.”

Fred Hughes: “Oh don’t be so modest, Andy. If it weren’t for your genius, none of this would have happened anyway.”

Ten: “There is so much history, three or four Factories, movies, Interview magazine, a million silk-screened portraits, each different… so many Andys, really. By the way, which Andy did you like best in the recent films?”

Andy Warhol: “Well, David Bowie tried hard in Julian’s film [Basquiat], but he made me seem so camp and kind of empty headed. Guy Pearce was really good but Factory Girl wasn’t so good. In the Mary Harron one, I hated Jared Harris’s wigs. And Mary made Valerie way too simpatico, like Valerie was a mistreated feminist artist, when in fact she was also a raving lunatic.”

Ten: “Yes people tend to forget that, but they also say it was your own fault, surrounding yourself with these zero-talent superstars. Did you find some kind of artistic stimulation in having so many of those hardcore speed freaks around?”

Andy Warhol: “Yes, not a tooth left among them now, but they always gave me lots of ideas, and they were so great in the films.”

Ten: “Let’s talk about the films. You have said several times that they are better talked about than seen, and having seen a few, I would tend to agree with you. Except for The Chelsea Girls, which I love. That sequence of Nico combing her hair for 10 minutes – priceless! And Brigid Polk endlessly squawking and poking.

Andy Warhol: “The thing was we thought it would be terrific to have just the star on camera for the whole time, even if nothing happens, you can totally focus on the star. That’s what’s genius about Sleep, it’s just John Giorno sleeping for five hours, though we billed it as eight hours, which is a good night’s sleep.”

Ten: “You just have to be in the right frame of mind to watch those movies. They say Thorazine helps. But conceptually they were brilliant, like so many of your ideas. Your superstars were very loyal to you but most of them had disastrous biographies, and died very young. Andrea Feldman, Jackie Curtis, Candy Darling, Ondine, Edie Sedgwick – none of them ever really broke out from Factory stardom to real stardom.”

Andy Warhol: “In my eyes they were real stars. That’s why we put them in our movies.”

Ten: “Well, they weren’t moneymakers. And money is something you seem to have become more and more obsessed with, as your career went on.”

Andy Warhol: “Oh, was I? Was I, Fred? Fred wanted to be rich like the de Menils who first schooled him in art appreciation. He succeeded fantastically well in that.”

Ten: “Money seems to be an overweening theme in the Warhol story, the endless hustle for money, and yet, Andy, you were tighter than a duck’s arse when it came to paying the people who worked for you. All the early superstars ended up with nothing much. It must pain them terribly, those who are still alive, to see how much your canvases go for now, sold for millions to this new crowd of hedge funders, a group you would doubtless love, Andy, because all they care about is money, and they have so much of it.”

Andy Warhol: “Yes, I’d paint every man jack at Goldman Sachs if I could. At the same time I admire those kids camping out on Wall Street.”

Fred Hughes: “Hmm, always on both sides of the fence, Andy. Let’s face it, you were obsessed with money, and how much rich people had and how to shake them down. And I was, too. But it was only money in the end. Money couldn’t buy me a cure for MS. I guess that’s why I got so mad. Most people stopped visiting me for the last seven years of my life.”

Ten: “Well you have a right to be angry, bedridden at 50, and slowly degenerating. Ed Hayes, the lawyer with whom you fought so bitterly over the value of the Warhol estate, credits you as being largely responsible for Andy’s tremendous commercial success. He mentions your ‘brilliant eye and a great sense of art history’.”

Fred Hughes: “I was the son of a Houston furniture-store salesman, and having successfully hidden my own lower-class roots I was tutored by the de Menils and proceeded to play out my ‘old money’ fantasy with hand-tailored suits and a sense of style that transcended everything around me at the Factory. Andy loved that, because he had his own issues with his working-class background – right, Andy?”

Andy Warhol: “Huh? Oh, yeah, I guess.”

Ten: “You had a thing for those upper-class English girls, right? ‘Posh totty’, as they are collectively known in UK parlance. Lady Ann Lambton – just the name alone could give a working-class lad a stiffy, same with Catherine Guinness. Lord knows, even Hugo Guinness – get him bent over a Regency chair in the old baronial hall, right, Andy? Now, Fred, weren’t you about to get married to Loulou de la Falaise at one point?”

Andy Warhol: “He was, but she ran off with Eric de Rothschild. I always wanted Fred to marry into royalty. And Bob Colacello, too. That would have gotten us so much more portrait work.”

Ten: “Andy, when did you finally feel comfortable around rich people?”

Andy Warhol: “You never feel entirely comfortable around them because they never let you. That’s partly why I started buying jewellery, so I would look as rich as they were, have as many diamonds and jewels as they did.”

Ten: “This shopping thing, tell us about it. Seems to verge on mania almost. Everyone loves a little retail therapy, but you never even opened the boxes half the time. After you died, almost every room in your townhouse was just stuffed with stuff. Ten thousand gewgaws, half of them still giftwrapped. And then Sotheby’s came and sold it all for another $25 million. Did you have fun at least, doing the shopping?”

Andy Warhol: “Oh yes, I loved shopping, and I loved spending cash. Of course in certain places it’s so hard to get them to take your cash. Like Bloomingdales – they want cards, cards, cards. But I looked at my Bloomies card once and saw that even though I got 15% off with purchases, the interest on the card was 24%, so in fact I was paying 9% more than I would have with cash. So tricky.”

Ten: “I’m curious why you left so many fresh retail items unopened, that’s an essential part of the therapy for most people.”

Andy Warhol: “I just never got round to them. Mostly I liked to be able to buy big-ticket items.”

Ten: “And yet you were notoriously cheap to your staff for many years. In his tell-all book, Holy Terror, Bob Colacello details the tiny salaries of most of the Factory staff over a period of many years, even though everyone was working their asses off, and getting you commissions left and right.”

Andy Warhol: “Oh Bob, he had such a glamorous life because of me, and then he spends 500 pages complaining about all the lunches and dinners and weekends on private islands that he had to attend. Poor Bob.”

Ten: “You were an incredibly hard worker, but you always seemed to give the impression that you’d rather just do stuff like Duchamp did, sign things and thus transform them into art, like he did with a snow shovel.”

Andy Warhol: “And a urinal – even sexier! I had one of the limited-edition urinals. I even peed in it.”

Ten: “That would make it much more valuable. The photographer Chris Makos’s pictures of you in drag were an homage to Duchamp, weren’t they? But you were quite taken with yourself in drag, weren’t you?”

Andy Warhol: “Yes, I liked Chris’s photos a lot, after he talked me into that. Everybody at the office hated them.”

Ten: “You basically disliked the way you looked your whole life, from when you were very small, right up to your death.”

Andy Warhol: “Yes, I wasn’t very keen on my body. And after I got shot it was even worse. Avedon’s photo made my chest look kind of sexy, though, don’t you think?

Ten: “Yes. And how many people get recognised by their chest? Man Ray was another favourite of yours. You photographed each other in his apartment, then you made a portrait of him.”

Andy Warhol: “Yes, Man Ray was fabulous, and his wife was so lovely, too, Juliet Browner. He lived in a tiny apartment, but he was so rich. It had a really beautiful toilet; I wish I had photographed that. I wish I could have had more artist friends, but most people seem so jealous, worried that you’re going to steal ideas from them or something.”

Ten: “You started at the first Factory, in the 1960s, the one that’s probably the most well known, with a really weird, drugged-up crowd. Did you take drugs to keep up with them?”

Andy Warhol: “Only a few pep pills, Obetrol mostly, to keep me zippy, but none of the heavy stuff that a lot of people got into.” 

Ten: “And then Valerie Solanas showed up here in 1968 and shot you. What I’m most impressed about with you, Fred, is that you out-butched Valerie totally, with a gun at your head, after she had already shot two people.”

Fred Hughes: “I was begging for my life – are you kidding?! Her gun jammed, then, by some weird chance, the elevator door opened and I just said, ‘Here’s the elevator, Valerie, take it now!’ and she did.”

Ten: “The manuscript she was bitching about, a play called Up Your Ass, was found years later in a trunk belonging to Billy Name. So if it had been lying around that day you could have just given it to her and nobody would have gotten shot.”

Andy Warhol: “In a way I wish Valerie had killed me. I wouldn’t have had to go through all that pain for years afterwards, and being terrified of the next person wanting to kill me.”

Ten: “It was a bad year for America, 1968. You got shot, then Robert Kennedy, then Martin Luther King.”

Andy Warhol: “Yeah, I got kicked right off the front page when Bobby got shot. I lived and he died, and a lot of people weren’t happy about that either.”

Ten: “The Factory certainly changed after the shooting, all the lunatics and freaks were quickly phased out, you moved into a whole different circle. But you stayed thrifty. I heard you tried to make everybody carry stuff when you moved across the street, to 17th and Broadway, to save money on the movers.”

Andy Warhol: “Well, we were all just going right across the street, so why not carry something when you go?”

www.warholfoundation.org  

by Max Blagg