15 Things You Might Not Know About Andy Warhol, WWF Fan And Cookbook Author
Andrew Warhola, Andy Warhol, or just Andy to his friends, was a Pop Art pioneer who turned himself into a pop-culture icon with an intense work ethic and a flair for self-mythologizing. Though we've seen his Campbell's Soup cans, Brillo boxes and Marilyn Monroes a million times, there was more to the man than that -- much more. Did you know he published a cookbook? Have you seen his episode of The Love Boat? Or did you know he was a fan of professional wrestling?
It's true that he was not Mr. Outgoing, and that he spent much of his time holed up in his Factory and made copies of copies of copies (whether or not his work was perceived as art, or original wasn’t the point), indulging his lifelong obsession with idolatry. As an increasingly insulated figure, Warhol was hard to reach, but those freaks and weirdos who made it inside the factory didn’t find a provocateur waiting for them. Instead, they found a soft-spoken and sensitive All-American boy.
He Was A Second-Generation American
Born on August 6, 1928, in Pittsburgh, Andy Warhola was the third son born to a pair of Slovakian immigrants. Andrej and Julia Warhola raised their family in a small apartment in the industrial town, Andrej worked as a construction worker and coal miner while his mother took care of the house. Warhol’s father died of tuberculosis peritonitis when the boy was only 13, leaving his mother to raise three rambunctious boys.
Andy’s biographer, Victor Bockris, notes that the pain of growing up in the depression with Eastern European parents existed in Warhol throughout his life:
If you look at photographs of Andy, a lot of times he looks like a sad child. To understand the depth of his work, we have to understand that it comes out of the Depression and European postwar pain. When he was young his father died, and his mother almost died when he was 13. He was terrified of death and terrified of hospitals because he had seen what they had done to his parents. There’s a great deal of depth in Warhol that he still felt until the end of his life. It was not the kind of pain you could ever completely escape from.
He Was A Devout Catholic
One of the more shocking things about Andy Warhol is how in touch he was with his spirituality. Even when he was playing host to some of the wildest parties in New York City and posing for photos on the dance floor of Studio 54 he never strayed too far from his Catholic upbringing. His parents raised him as a Byzantine Catholic, something that likely formed his art more than he realized.
As an adult, he continued going to mass on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and he reportedly volunteered at a church-run soup kitchen. He also carried a rosary and wore a crucifix through much of his adult life. As an artist he clearly drew from the church’s iconography, using that idea to usher in a new era of saints.
His Unique Look Was Inspired By Early Onset Balding
Readers who’ve never seen a piece of art by Warhol would still be able to recognize his unique silhouette created by a silver wig chopped into a bob. As easy as it is to write off Warhol’s look as an attempt by the artist to turn himself into a piece of his own creation, he was actually doing something both more vain and practical.
As Warhol started to go bald in his early 20s, he began wearing wigs to hide his hair loss. By the end of his life, he’d collected dozens of silver wigs, at least 40 of which made their way to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburg, PA. Each wig was made of imported Italian hair and sewn by a wig maker in New York. The labels only feature the phrase “HAIRPIECE, Original by Paul.”
He Loved His Mother
Don’t you always feel better when a celebrity reveals that they loved their mother? At his most insular Warhol always felt like he was birthed from a gold leaf egg, not from a human, and to think of him palling around with his mom in Pittsburgh is frankly just odd -- but that’s exactly what happened. Until she passed away in 1972, Julia Warhola was her son’s closest friend.
Warhol moved her from Pittsburgh to New York where she lived and worked with him, which means that the Factory was more of a family business than many people believed. She appeared in the film "Mrs. Warhol" and did much of the lettering for his early pieces.
Warhol's Greatest Rivalry Was With Truman Capote
In the same way that he could whip up an idea, Warhol had a knack for making enemies. More often than not he was the villain in the lives of art stars who he used and threw away, but in the case of Truman Capote Warhol just wanted to be friends. Warhol loved Capote’s work, but the author felt that the young man in the silver wig would never amount to anything. He described Warhol as:
One of those hopeless people that you just know nothing's ever going to happen to. Just a hopeless, born loser, the loneliest, most friendless person I'd ever seen in my life.
Somehow the two became friends. However, by 1980 they drifted apart. Warhol said of his former friend:
It's strange, he's like one of those people from outer space—the body snatchers—because it's the same person, but it's not the same person.
That Time A Woman Almost Assassinated Warhol
You’re not a superstar until someone tries to take you out. Warhol truly became famous in 1968 when he was shot in the chest by Valerie Solanas, a radical feminist who Warhol had cast for his film I, A Man. Solanas, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, believed in taking over the government and destroying all men -- and she wanted to start with Warhol.
Warhol survived the wound, but he spent months in the hospital battling the injury. When he passed away in 1987 of a heart attack following gallbladder surgery, it’s believed that his fatal condition arose from complications from the wound.
Cook Like Andy Warhol
Does a cookbook seem like it’s too commercial for Warhol? Is the idea not far out enough? If so then you simply must take a peek at Wild Raspberries, Warhol’s collaborative cookbook with Suzie Frankfurt from 1959. At the time, Warhol was working as an art director at Doubleday and the two came up with the idea of writing mock recipes to make fun of stylish French cookbooks.
The dishes were impossible to make and had names like Omelet Greta Garbo (to be eaten alone) and Gefilte of Fighting Fish. The book featured instructions like “have Hanley take the Carey Cadillac to the side entrance and receive the pig,” alongside Warhol’s childlike drawings. In the end, no one wanted to publish the book (which is a shame) and less than 50 of these books even exist.
Warhol Used To Pay People With Paintings
If this collection of stories about Andy Warhol can teach anything, it’s that you should always keep any art that a friend gives you. Who knows if they’ll be the next Warhol? Photographer Dustin Pittman told Vice that before Warhol was rolling in dough he paid his cohorts in paintings. People were either averse to the idea or they flipped them immediately for what little cash they brought in at the time. He explained:
When I hung out at the Factory late at night, Andy used to say, ‘Dustin, why don’t you go in the back and take a painting?’ But here’s the thing, the paintings were only worth between $100 and $300 dollars. Andy wanted to pay the Superstars in paintings but they all wanted the money.
He Wasn't Comfortable With His Photography
Warhol was trained in art at Carnegie Mellon where he studied pictorial design, but by the 1960s he’d branched out into photography and filmmaking. While many of the images he captured are timeless stills of the era, photographer Dustin Pittman says that Warhol was never comfortable with his abilities behind the camera:
He would always appropriate images from newspapers and when he met me, a photographer, he thought, ‘Great, now we can take our own pictures.’ His approach to photography was to ask, ‘What picture should I take?’ He was really insecure about that. That’s why we got him an automatic camera and in the end told him, ‘Just photograph everything.’
He Was A Paternal Figure
The popular version of Warhol is a figure who was intensely weird and unable to function in the real world. But that’s not the whole truth. To the people he surrounded himself with he could be a father figure, and especially when he was older he was able to guide his younger friends through the notoriously cutthroat art scene. Photographer Marcia Resnick told Vice:
In 1978, Victor Bockris brought me to the Factory where I noticed that despite the flurry of activity, Andy seemed very obliging to everyone around him. I photographed him there. The next time I saw him was at the dinner that Victor and I arranged for Mick Jagger, William Burroughs, and Andy Warhol at William's place (the Bunker). Before Mick arrived, Andy was chatting with William, mostly about attractive boys. Andy suddenly said, ‘Someone should invent a sandwich with a drink in it.’ He seemed to have a new idea every second!
That night, I was surprised how paternal Andy was toward me. We were talking about Kenneth Anger during the early '60s, when Andy was making his name as an underground film director. It was about power. Anger thought he was king of the underground film scene, so he cast a bad spell on Andy—and Andy advised me not to go near him. He was expressing a sensitive concern for me.
He Loved A Basic Look
Strange as his ideas about art celebrity were, Warhol preferred a basic look over something eye-catching or “artistic.” Maybe it was Eastern European upbringings that stressed function over fashion, or maybe he just didn’t like thinking about what he was going to wear every day because he was so busy. Whatever the case, in 1977’s The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) he explained:
A good plain look is my favorite look. If I didn’t want to look so ‘bad,’ I would want to look ‘plain’. That would be my next choice.
As far as “plain” goes, Warhol made it look pretty cool. He tended to wear black jeans, Chelsea boots and plain long sleeved t-shirts with some kind of jacket. If he was really dressing to impress he wore a suit -- a little style lesson that everyone can use.
Warhol Hated His Appearance On 'The Love Boat'
Andy Warhol was so ingrained into the fabric of pop culture that it wasn't out of the question for the silver-haired waif to have appeared on The Love Boat. The series was basically an excuse to parade famous people around for half an hour -- something that likely appealed to Mr. 15 Minutes. The show booked everyone from Charo to The Village People to Hulk Hogan, a group that Warhol fits with perfectly.
Warhol appeared on the episode “Picture from the Past,” claiming that he’s going to choose one passenger from the boat to appear as his next subject. Meanwhile, Marion Ross (The Brady Bunch) tries to avoid Warhol because she’s married to a conservative man who might not appreciate her time spent as a factory girl. Warhol reportedly hated the taping and thought that everyone on set was an “idiot.”
Wrestling Was A Huge Part Of His Life
With its spectacle, bright lights, bulging muscles and tight costumes, the world of professional wrestling could just as easily be an album cover designed by Warhol. Living in New York throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, the artist was drawn to the world of professional wrestling, especially the WWF. He was ringside at Madison Square Garden for as many shows as he could make, and in 1985 he appeared in an on-camera interview at "The War to Settle the Score" on MTV.
The interview wasn’t the mind-boggling artistic statement that many people believed it would be. When Mean Gene Okerlund asked Warhol what he thought about the nights' events the only thing he could muster was “I'm speechless. I just don't know what to say.” Stone Cold Steve Austin he was not.
Warhol Had A Love Affair With Plastic Surgery
It’s no shock that Warhol loved all things artificial. He trafficked in reproductions of reproductions, removing all meaning from an object until it was infused with new intentions. As it was with art, so it was with the human body. Warhol once said, “I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They’re so beautiful. Everything’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic,” and he meant it.
Warhol went to Dr. Pamela Lipkin to get his nose shaved down when he hit it big, but being Warhol’s plastic surgeon came with some prerequisite weirdness. Dr. Lipkin explained that Warhol would call her in the middle of the night to ask for collagen injections before trying to negotiate a cheaper fee for her work.
As A Child He Sold Drawings
If there’s one thing that Warhol was always able to do, it’s to sell art to people with more money than him. As a child, he and his brothers were tasked with selling vegetables from their family’s garden to people in the suburbs. While the brothers were in charge of the actual picking and selling, the young Andy would accompany them in order to sell drawings of stars and butterflies.
Ever the entrepreneur, he’d sell the drawings for nickels and dimes to customers who’d just picked up some vegetables. The sales had to fill the young Warhol with a particular zest -- why else go down the rabbit hole of the art world all those years later?