From The Archives

Andy Land 2: Partying With the Sixties Glitterati

As the Whitney offers rolling previews of ‘Andy Warhol — From A to B and Back Again,’ we take a look at the partying class from a half-century ago

by

The world of Andy Warhol in the Sixties was a whirlwind, and late 1967 was no exception. In fact, Warhol was so busy that fall that he sent a look-alike to impersonate him on a tour of West Coast colleges. In his 1980 memoir, POPism: The Warhol Sixties, the artist wrote: “It wasn’t until about four months later that somebody at one of the colleges happened to see a picture of me in the Voice and compared it to the one he’d taken of Allen on the podium and we had to give them their money back.”

December saw the one and only screening of Warhol’s cheekily titled **** in its 25-hour entirety, at Jonas Mekas’s Film-Makers’ Cinematheque, and the release of Index, a 74-page pseudo-coffee-table book by Warhol. In the December 21, 1967, issue of the Voice, Sally Kempton and Ross Wetzsteon described the book party that Random House threw for the release. “They piped in rock ’n’ roll music and some of Warhol’s superstars,” the pair wrote, “and all those people who go to publishers’ parties came to stand around and stare at the superstars.”

The book itself has become a collector’s item. Former Voice critic Vince Aletti later described the “ingratiating array of gimmicks” that Warhol had included in the book: “Among them: a pop-up illustration of a castle under attack (with photos of Warhol & Co. collaged into its windows), a red pleated accordion tucked into a gatefold, another gatefold with Andy’s nose in profile sliced into a series of colored flaps, a balloon, a Velvets record, a Chelsea Girls ad on a spring, and a Hunt’s tomato paste can that pops up between two head shots of International Velvet.”

Finally, at the end of 1967, Warhol got word from his landlord that the East Side building that was home to the artist’s “Silver Factory” was due for demolition, and he’d have to find a new base of operations. Soon the Factory had moved to Union Square, and in June 1968, a disturbed hanger-on named Valerie Solanas shot Warhol, who was declared clinically dead when he arrived at the hospital. The artist pulled through after a heart massage and a five-and-a-half-hour operation, but the Factory was never the same.

“Andy Warhol’s Book Party: Put-On, Pop-Up, Blow-Out”
by Sally Kempton and Ross Wetzsteon
December 21, 1967

“Do you think pop art is…” “No.” “What?” “No.” “Do you think pop art is…” “No…No, I don’t.” Andy Warhol has a way without words.

Last Thursday evening Random House hung aluminum foil over its doors and gave a make-believe Andy Warhol party. They piped in rock ’n’ roll music and some of Warhol’s superstars, and all those people who go to publishers’ parties came to stand around and stare at the superstars.

What do you call a group of superstars? A tinfoil of superstars? A decadence of superstars? A gabble of superstars? Does this mean we are on the verge of creating life in a test-tube?

Bennett Cerf wandered around, waiting for O’Hara, but undaunted by the superstar sitting at his Mussolini desk, a huge desk, as vast and as empty as a television grin.

The superstars sat in a corner and talked to one another, and Warhol stood in another corner while people talked to him.

Ah, excuse me, Andy, I have a few questions…Is persona the same as self? Is “being yourself” being yourself? Should art become more lifelike or should life become theatrical? What’s the difference between calculated and spontaneity?

Everyone drank liquor and ate little sandwiches, and several young Random House editors sat on the desk in Bennett Cerf’s office, looking defiantly around to see if Cerf would notice them.

Is pop art the aesthetic justification for retaining childhood tastes? What’s the difference between parody and acquiescence? Is worship of the surface a fear of what might be underneath?

Those who were not staring at the superstars hovered by the entrance looking for Beautiful People, of whom there were few in evidence. A young lady in a knitted see-through mini-dress was mistaken for a Beautiful Person and had her picture taken by several photographers.

Is Andy Warhol the Hemingway of our generation? Defining our sexuality, refining our vocabulary? “And finally there were some words one could not bear to hear any more, and the only words that had any meaning or dignity were words like ‘yeah’ and ‘no’ and ‘I like it.’”

George Plimpton had his picture taken by several photographers. People said that William Styron was around somewhere, but no-one could find him.

Does Andy Warhol chew more than he bites off? What is he going to do when this circuit learns his job?

The superstars lay about on a large couch, dressed in various shades of excess and exuding languor, and had their pictures taken by several photographers.

Is Viva the Camille of the ’60s? Is over-ripeness all?

The book has a balloon, a record, a disappearing signature, an interview with a German reporter (Guttenberg was a German), and it was Made in Japan. It’s the book McLuhan tried to do in “The Medium is the Message.” Put-on, pop-out, blow-up. But I really can’t describe it — you had to BE there.

It was a very large party.

Next week’s opening of  “Andy Warhol — From A to B and Back Again” at the Whitney led us to the Voice‘s coverage of the original soiree for the Marcel Breuer-designed uptown headquarters of the museum. Staff photographer Fred McDarrah covered the party for the October 6, 1966 issue of the Voice. Warhol was there too, because it was a party and it was the Sixties, and wallflower or not, Warhol was never one to miss a party.

 

 

Most Popular