Friday, August 07, 2009

Lord Warhol


 In honor of what would have been his 81st birthday, Michael and I attended a packed screening of VH1's new Andy Warhol documentary last night at the Paley Center (thanks, Mona!), which was followed by a panel discussion with Factory intimates Billy Name, Danny Fields, Robert Heide and Bibbe Hansen. (Martin Torgoff, a former contributing editor to INTERVIEW, more than capably stepped in as moderator when Richard Belzer had to cancel at the 11th hour.) The film is one of five in the network's "Lords of the Revolution," which examines an eclectic group of people who helped shape the culture wars of the '60s and '70s (Timothy Leary, Muhammad Ali, the Black Panthers and Cheech & Chong are the subjects of the other four).

The Warhol installment moves quickly and is filled with rare clips and interesting anecdotes from people inside the artist's inner circle, with the Warhol-Sedgwick-Dylan love "triangle" spelled out more blatantly than I've ever seen it before. It doesn't set out to be the definitive Warhol documentary, instead focusing on his most influential period in the mid-1960s during the Silver Factory heyday, and makes a compelling argument that Warhol's work forever changed the way art, television and films are made.

Billy Name is flanked by two who shall remain Nameless

A couple interesting things came up during the post-film talk. Hansen was asked what she remembers about the first time she set foot in the Factory ("were you overwhelmed?") and she said it was just the opposite, almost a respite from the crazy stuff going on all over town with the people artists typically hung out with. She said for all the talk about the Factory being such a "scene" and the place for wild parties, she distinctly remembers that it was a place of serious business, with photographs being shot, paintings being painted and films being filmed. ("They called it the Factory for a reason -- it wasn't called the Party.") The others readily agreed, with Billy Name admitting that there had probably only been two "big parties" ever, and that he was a very stern manager. And while there may have been occasional chaos, he said, it was "organized chaos." Also, much was made of the way Warhol is often portrayed as cold and heartless, and this film certainly doesn't shy away from the idea. But everyone on board took exception with this notion, saying that Warhol may have taken an existential view of certain tragedies (they were apparently all huge fans of Jean-Paul Sartre, you know!), they remember their days at the Factory as being filled with friendships and people who ultimately cared about each other. Much has been written to dispute this, but Fields insists the bitterness many still feel toward Andy tends to stem from not being financially compensated to their liking or not being "recognized" adequately for their contributions rather than any inherent evilness by way of Warhol. (Of course, one could easily argue that to a fellow artist, these two shortcomings are the very definition of evil.) Grade: A fresh look at a familiar topic. I give it an A minus. "Andy Warhol" premieres on VH1 on Friday, Aug. 14, at 8 p.m.

1 comment:

Richard Wall said...

Holly Woodlawn and I made a movie together! It's called "Take Off". I play Bessie Mae Mucho. I'm not making that up!