When Andy Warhol comes to Washington, he works. He worksthe embassies, the bookstores, the galleries, the bars. Hesigns a thousand autographs, takes a thousand photographs, and tape-records nonstop. It might seem like bliss to hug Liza Minnelli (she's beautiful), lunch with Helga Orfila (she's beautiful, too), party with Brzezinski, and then take teain David Lloyd Kreeger's beautiful art-filled house. But play for Andy Warhol is no break in his routine.
"This only reason to play hard is to work hard, no the other way around like most people think," he says.
Because Warhol is asfamous as the folks he photographs (Mick, Jimmy, Jackie, Liz, Truman and Bianca), almost everybody thinks they know what he is really like. They are both right and wrong.
Everybody thinks his hair is dyed silver. Wrong. His hair is close to black -- what is silver is his wig.
Many regard Warhol as the best portrait painter living. They're right. When 150 of his commissioned portraits go on view Tuesday atthe Whitney in New York, it will be apparent that no one else comes close.
People think he's shy, but Warhol isn't hiding. He's a mirror that reflects America's pop culture. Also he's a medium -- the demigods of popular workship speakthrough Warhol's art as Apollo used to speak through the oracles at Delphi in a voice part his, part theirs. Warhol mints celebrities, certifies the stars.
He ought to be a star himself, but he isn't really. He does arrive in limousines and his entourage does glitter, but Warhol does not glow. He gets close to people because he is so juiceless and so still.
He got close enough to Bianca to photograph her shaving her armpit, or Truman getting hair transplants, or Rosalynn Carter in her pseudo-denium leisure suit, or ElizabethTaylor kissing Henry Kissinger. One might expect such stars to preen and pose for Warhol. But he is so polite, so close to invisible, that they hardly know he's there.
"My idea of a good picture," he writes, "is one that's in focus and of a famous person doing something infamous." He has spent20 years at, or near, the top. ("But the top is the bottom," Warhol says.)
Not only is Warhol blank, he is always surprisingly nice. At luncheon Tuesday afternoon he was nice to Helga Orfila. He told her New York is "just great." He was nice to Liza Minnelli too. He sat beside her quitely at a dinner at the Moroccan ambassador's residence -- until she gave up talking and got up and left.
He was just as nice to the Dupont Circle crowd who stood in line for autographs at Kramer's book shop Tuesday. He signed their books, their wrists, and the Campbell's soup cans they brought him.He also signed their photographs, their T-shirt and their underwear. "Sign my underpants," they ordered. Warhol did as he was told.
He is a workaholic. He signed and signed and signed. His signature began to shrink as the evening wore on, but he kept on signing. It is, of course, exhilarating to shake the pale hands of a famous person, but that exhilaration quickly fades. Those who chat with Warhol think they've hit the big time -- you see that in their shyness, in their glinting eyes. But Warhol's in the same old place. He is not a star. He is an industry.
Everyone thinks thatWarhol has two lines of work: He parties and he paints. Heactually has eight: Partying: painting; making photographs (Warhol says he's taken 50,000; many have been published in the book "Exposures" that he is here to hype); film-making (he's made 30 in the past decade); television ("Fashion" is the title of the new show he's producing for cable TV in New York); magazine publishing (Interview, his monthly magazine,has amazing covers). And Warhol is a businessman, with 30 employes. He is a writer, too.
Here he is on "The Best Family:"
"I think the best family in the world is the Kennedy-Onassis-Bouvier-Beale-Radziwill family. They have everything. Power, money, beauty and religion. They have so manygreat characters in the faimly: Rose, Teddy, Jackie, Lee, Joan, Ethel, Pat. . . . Jackie and Lee were waiting in the lobby. They were wearing trenchcoats just like any two normalwomen . . . Jackie wanted to know all about Elizabeth Taylor . . . Jackie kept asking, 'What's Elizabeth Taylor really like?'"
Here is Andy Warhol on Stuido 54:
The key to the success of Studio 54 is that it's a dictatorship at the door and a democracy on the floor. It's hard to get in, but once you're in you could end up dancing with Liza Minelli. Or Rollerina, the drag queen bride who dates on skates. at 54, the stars are nobody because everybody is a star. It's the place where my prediction from the '60s finally came true: "In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.' I'm bored with that line. I never use it any more. My new line is, 'In 15 minutes, everybody will be famous.'"
Here is Warhol on Mick Jagger:
"At one point it was the thing toput diamonds in your teeth. Mick liked the idea, but he wanted to be original. He had an emerald put in one of his said teeth. Every time he smiled someone said, 'Mick, is thata piece of spinach stuck on your tooth? Mick was forced toswitch to a diamond, because rubies look like beets."
Washington is not Warhol's kind of town. Washington retires early, Warhol stays up late. Here people dress in suits. Hisblack jacket looks like velvet (actually its corduroy); hisjeans are Levi's, with buttoned flies; and his cowboy bootsaren't for cowboys -- they're Lucheses and Italian. He keeps a black tie in his pocket (with his Minox and his Sony) so he can go anywhere.
His talk is sort of thin and boring, like much of his art. Ask him what he thinks about Miss Lillian, or the new East Wing, or Ardeshir Zahedi, and Warholsays, with feeling, "Wonderful, just great." He came here Tuesday morning for a two-day stay. At Ina Ginsburg's party,in Treasury Secretary G. William Miller's box at the Kennedy Center, backstage with Liza, or a dinner at the Moroccan ambassador's residence, Warhol does the same old thing. He sits there looking bland.
"I like doing the same thing," he says. "It's just great."
But life is unpredictable, andeven Andy Warhol has occasional adventures.
Some of theseare personal. The other day a woman had him autograph her methadone cup. Then she followed him -- and bit him -- at Studio 54.
Warhol, who was once shot by one of his film actresses, who used to paint "Disasters," is happiest when hisadventures are vicarious.He seemed actually to enjoy the problem of Bob Colacello's tooth.
When Warhol comes to Washington he does not come alone. He brings Bob Colacello (the editor of Interview) and Fred Hughes (Its president) -- both charming, well-dressed men. "Employes make the best dates," said Warhol. "You don't have to pick them up, and they're always tax-deductible.I also like having several of myemployes all around a party -- it's like being at the office." Though Hughes is a stoic "He doesn't even whimper when guard dogs bit his legs," say Warhol), Colacello can't take pain. He tells you when his tooth hurts, when it gets a little better, or a little worse.
It was getting worse and worse, evoking what passes for excitement in Warhol's entourage. Then, late Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Teed Fields, the Washington dentist who likes artists, fixed it and wrote out a prescription for penicillin and the excitement faded. But when a drugstore, by mistake, provided Colacello with someone else's drugs, most of which he swallowed, also by mistake, the excitement seemed to rise.
"Oh my god, the label says 'for nausea,'" observed Colacello, who complained that his stomack was "swelling." Warhol's dark eyes twinkled. Behind his pale mask, he almost seemed to grin.
The ladies at yesterday's luncheon at the Corcoran asked him many questions.They told him that Lord Snowdon feels photographs do not belong in art museums. "Do you think he really meant it?" Warhol wondered. When they asked the artist what kind of photos he collects, he said snapshots: "The kind that people leave in drugstores. They're the best ones."
This book is full of snapshots. He writes that he always has been fascinated with movie stars -- seven before he was "a starving windowdresser from Pittsburgh." He believes that "The White HouseCalled" is "really the most glamorous message you can get in the world," and writes that he agreed to make some fund-raising pictures for the Carter campaign "because if he won I knew I'd be invited to the White House a lot. The Fords didn't invite me back after I went with Bianca."
His world isframed in the book, especially in a story about two of his actresses, Sylvia Miles and Monique Van Vooren:
"People say that Sylvia will go to the opening of anything. A door. An envelope. A hamburger. Light a candle and she's battingagainst the window to get in. People say the same things about me. In my case, it's true.
"I've gone to the opening of a window -- Victor Hugo's. A bottle -- of perfume. A street corner -- Sylvia was there. And Monique, too . . . I always say, one's company, two a crowd, and three's a party.
"Monique and Sylvia can't keep their names out of the papers. Publicity is like eating peanuts. Once you start you can't stop."