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Oral Histories

WALTER HOPPS, curator and co-founder (with artist Ed Kienholz) of the Ferus Gallery

Andy didn‘t come to L.A. for the ”Soup Can“ show at Ferus in 1962, so the next time I saw him was in 1963, when he came for the Ferus exhibition of his Elvis Presley pictures. While he was in town, he and Taylor Mead came to the opening of the Duchamp retrospective I curated for the Pasadena Museum. There’s a photograph from that night of a bunch of artists down on their knees giving the finger to Duchamp‘s Bottle Rack, and although Andy didn’t get on his knees, he‘s standing there watching with a smile. Andy wasn’t a participant, he was a watcher.

DAVID FAHEY, photography gallerist and West Coast contributing editor for Interview, 1985--1988

We got talking about the famous [Richard] Avedon photo of his scarred torso. Andy was complaining that he never got a copy of the print, and then he related a story to me, a curious little story. It was after he was shot and was in the hospital for some time. He was going in and out of consciousness. And he woke up and saw all the activity surrounding Bobby Kennedy‘s funeral on TV. It was 1968. And he thought that all the activity had to do with him, that it was his own funeral. He thought he was seeing his own funeral being broadcast.

MARY WORONOV, artist, writer and actor who toured with the Velvet Underground and appeared in nine Warhol films during the 1960s

Gerard [Malanga] and I were the dancers with the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, the show Andy developed around the Velvet Underground, and we all came to L.A. in 1966. Andy had a show at Ferus of the Silver Clouds -- which he referred to as his ”goodbye to art“ -- and the Velvets had an engagement at The Trip. The minute we got to town we hit Sunset Boulevard, which was full of people in brightly colored hippie clothes. We were all in black, of course, and were staying at the Tropicana, where the pool had no water in it. We sat around it anyway. A tiny theater on Sunset was screening some of Andy’s films while he was in town, and one afternoon Michael McClure did a reading there. Midway through the reading Jim Morrison wandered in, then he too did a reading that blew McClure away.

After the Velvets had done a few shows, our gig at The Trip was shut down by the police, but to get paid we had to stay in town for the duration of the engagement. So we moved from the Tropicana to this old castle owned by [actor] Phillip Law, who often made it available to stranded bands. I remember sitting there one afternoon with Andy eating vanilla ice cream -- we each had a quart, which we both finished. I remember that as a really nice moment.

GAVIN LAMBERT, author (Inside Daisy Clover, The Slide Area, The Goodbye People)

Andy was out in Los Angeles, and somehow we got onto the topic of Tiny Tim, who I had met. Andy said, ”I would love to meet him,“ and I said, ”Well, why don‘t I throw a party?“ So I called Tiny Tim. He said, ”Yes, I will come, and I will perform, but on one condition: Tuesday Weld has to be there.“ So I called Tuesday and I said, ”Look, it all depends on you, because Tiny Tim is mad about you.“ And she came. And Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Natalie Wood, Polanski, and poor Sharon, completely stoned. Anyway, Tiny Tim sang. It was quite a party. And Warhol just loved it.

Everybody always said that he never talked because he had nothing to say. The thing about Andy that always struck me was that his deadpan was a mask that he put on when he didn’t want to talk to a person. If Andy was interested in something, he talked a lot. He was fascinated by the movies, and since I was moving around in the movie-star crowd, we had many long fan conversations. Why did Natalie break up with Warren? Things like that. His mind wasn‘t empty. It was just a mask.

JACK LARSON, actor, poet

I had grown up in the film industry, and had done a lot of acting until I quit because of the Jimmy Olsen typecasting thing. Anyhow, the art of film has always been in the editing. But then I saw Chelsea Girls with Ned Rorem. It was an entire new grammar of film. Someone would be doing a rap, Bridget Berlin or someone, and it lasted the whole reel of film. No cuts. Ned said, ”This is the most musical work of art that isn’t music . . . and the most perverse.“ We tried to tell Andy how extraordinary it was, but he didn‘t seem to understand. He said, ”Oh, well, it was fun, but we’ll make good films soon. We‘re learning to edit.“

In the first film that Andy did with Gerry Malanga, I played a native. It was called Tarzan and Jane Regained . . . Sort Of. This was before Paul Morrissey and Chelsea Girls. Andy and Gerry came down to Malibu with Taylor Mead and Naomi Levine as Tarzan and Jane, and they asked us to chase them down the beach. Dennis Hopper was also one of the natives. It was all catch as catch can. Then we were at the Bel-Air Hotel for drinks, and Andy introduced Taylor as a ”superstar.“ Taylor! Who looked, well, everything but cross-eyed. I had never heard that word before, ”superstar.“


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