Although it covers much the same ground as Factory Made, an earlier book about the Warhol ’60s, Tony Scherman and David Dalton’s Pop more vividly evokes the moment when the macho painters of the ’50s were dethroned by a dough-faced gay graphic designer from Pittsburgh. It’s shocking to read of de Kooning being turned away by wealthy patrons hosting a party for Pop artists, just as it’s funny to encounter a model preparing to pose for an ambitious young artist new to the big city: “I was sitting with my pants down, with a daffodil wound around my dick. That was my first meeting with Andy.”
Despite their book’s rather generic title, the authors memorably describe some of Warhol’s antecedents—”Duchamp’s art-life border patrols”—and capture the changing of America’s cultural guard: “Pop’s handful of artists barnstormed the country like an old-time baseball team, riding the same train, met at the station like celebrities, or at least curiosities.” The Shirelles provided the soundtrack as Andy perfected his act as “a wallflower at his own party”; later in the decade, Andy’s house band, the Velvet Underground, drove guests to flee a black-tie dinner honoring psychiatrists. Critiquing Warhol’s 1965 film Kitchen, Norman Mailer thundered about Vietnam and pollution and predicted that future generations would see in the movie “why the horror came down.” Heavy freight for the King of Pop, but this compulsive read gets at why Warhol remains under our skin two decades after his death.