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Money and Art Marry: Scull Sale at Sothebys

I was in a house the other day, well stocked with art objects, where the latest prized collection of the collector was a hunk of raw beef, embalmed in a block of plastic. It looked revolting and consorted awkwardly with chinoiserie, impressionist paintings, Greek pots. and Columbian figures with which it was surrounded. But the collector told me it wouldn’t rot, and so I imagine it could be taken in a number of ways: from the spiritual aspect — corruption suspended in incorruption — to the coarsely material, an emblem of soaring beef prices and hence the satisfactory state of soybean futures, in which the collector had been briskly trading. Behind all this it could even be taken as a totemic prayer to the Almighty for a return to the great bull market of 1968. At any rate, the essense of the artist’s joke seemed to be about money and the value of commodities, whether artistic or bovine.

Eccentric or highly-strung artists sometimes get irritated by the com­modity fetishism and financial pyramiding inseparable from their trade. An Austrian painter announced a while back that he would be photographed on successive days slicing off portions of his penis with a razor. Photographers gathered and the promised amputations took place. After three or four days the man bled to death. A friend of mine who later went to an exhibition where these photographs were on show reported that they excited no unusual interest.

Apart from Robert Rauschenberg, trim as a biscuit in a light tan velvet suit, no prominent artists were present for the much touted Scull sale at the Parke-Bernet galleries last week, though dealers would have been delighted to lend them a razor, there being no artist like a dead ar­tist to accelerate the value of his work. Crowding into the third floor auction rooms were more than 1000 people to watch a purely financial operation. The terms of the spectacle can be briefly outlined.

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Over the last decade or so, and par­ticularly in the early ’60s, taxi-fleet owner Robert Scull has amassed in his apartment and warehouse a large collection of modern American pain­tings. These cheaply bought treasures have always been dear to his heart, and a source of constant pleasure to him and Mrs. Scull. In 1965 he sold 12 of them for $165,000. In 1970 he sold four more for $197,000. At the latter auction he bought back a Rothko and a Johns since he decided that not enough money was offered. For a seller this usually means he pays the auction house five per cent on the buying in price, gets the pictures back, and lives to sell another day.

By 1975 the Sculls decided the time was ripe for another testing of the temperature. The art market, after all, thrives on exchange. If there were only four Warhol pictures in the world, each of which had been bought for $1000 in 1960, and none of which had been sold, there would be uncer­tainty and confusion about the state of the Warhol market. A sale of one of these Warhols for $50,000 pleasan­tly dissipates the confusion. As Mr. Scull has himself remarked, “art has achieved the stature of a solid com­modity” — evidently the successful sale of some of his commodities would leave the Scull warehouse in­ventory in even more splendidly solid state than ever.

Scull accordingly did a deal with Sotheby Parke-Bernet, Inc. Since neither side is forward with figures, it is necessary to make some guesses, but this is the broad picture.

The conventional procedure used to be that a seller would place his piece of art in an auction. To prevent sale of his commodity for too low a figure, injurious to pocket and self-esteem, also depreciatory of outstanding stock, he would put a reserve figure on the picture. Very often he would put a high reserve on, and the auc­tion house would accordingly put on a high estimate — i.e., the ball park figure they let it be known they thought the picture might fetch — the reserve being about two-thirds of the estimate. If the picture had to be bought in by the auction house for failing to meet its reserve, the auc­tion house would pocket five per cent of the buying in price, instead of 12 ½ per cent — if the picture had been sold — and would return the com­modity to the seller.

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Recently the Sotheby Parke-Bernet worked out an altogether more relaxing system, involving a preliminary guarantee to the seller. In this procedure the auction house guaranteed that the Sculls would receive — to make a guess — $2 million less commissions for the 50 pictures they were putting up for auction. In general such an arrangement soothes the nerves of the seller. If he were in­volved in other financial transac­tions, or (to hypothesize some imaginary seller) even under finan­cial pressure, the guaranteed sum could even be used as collateral. The seller is not prompted to put high reserves on each of his pictures, since the pictures are now regarded as a commercial unit, a global reserve is put on their total value, and a sliding plus or minus scale goes into operation.

Thus let us say that Sotheby Parke-­Bernet guaranteed Scull $2 million. The low estimated price they actually put on the 50 pictures was $1,850,000 and the high estimated price was $2,509,000. Let us say that the global reserve figure was $1.5 million, although it could well have been higher. Now the first picture in the sale was by the only woman in the sale, Lee Bontecou; the low estimated price was $8000. It sold for $7500. Let us assume that it had been sold for $5000, below an expected reserve price; the auctioneer need not necessarily buy the picture in, since the next picture might go for a sum in excess of the estimate, thus re-averaging the reserve scale.

If, of course, the entire collection fetched less than $2 million, then the auctioneer’s commission would in­crease — taking in the 7½ per cent guarantee commission as well as the 12½ per cent selling commission in order to reduce the deficit against the guaranteed sum promised the seller.

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However, speaking now in the sim­ple terms of a one-picture sale, the auctioneers might decide to buy the picture in. In this case they retain the picture, and can sell it the next time they feel the market is riper. So let us say they have bought in a picture for $100,000. They charge the seller 12½ per cent auctioneers’ commission, plus a guarantee com­mission of 7½ per cent. In all, therefore, the auctioneers get a slice of $20,000 plus the actual commodity: and the seller gets his guaranteed $80,000. At this point, terrible bayings of rage can be heard from dealers, whose business lies in inventory and who say that the auctioneer’s func­tion is merely to be an entrepot, not another dealer in thin disguise, gradually accumulating an inventory of his own.

It is impossible to know what precise deal Sotheby Parke-Bernet and Scull made. One can assume that an elaborate system of sliding per­centages was laid out. If, for exam­ple, the pictures had fetched, say, $4 million, one imagines that the auc­tioneer’s cut would correspondingly have decreased from 12½ per cent, since the 7½ per cent guarantee commission could have already become inoperative.

So here we are at the auction. Everybody hopes it will go well: Sotheby Parke-Bernet because they have guaranteed Scull about $2 million; Scull because he has a lot of other pictures in his warehouse and has his artistic entrepreneurial macho to consider; the dealers because it is always nice if a whole new generation of gilt-edged artistic commodities have come into cir­culation. The artists hope for the best too, since — if they are fortunate enough to be still alive — dramatic selling success for an early work will help to promote later output.

In addition to the 100 or so people with real business on their minds there are about 1000 who have come along for the show — smart folk mostly. There is little panache to the horde as it fights through a picket of taxi drivers who are protesting Scull’s confiscation of the surplus from poor taxi drivers and his re-in­vestment of some of said surplus in poor artists — an arrangement which leaves Mr. Scull very rich, some ar­tists richer then they were, and the taxi drivers as rich or poor as taxi drivers will always be.

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Actually there are few things in life more depressing than an up-market art crowd: dealers in grain futures don’t get ideas above their station; somehow the tincture of aesthetic bathes every big occasion in hypocrisy, as though a napalm salesman kept asking you to admire the color of the flames. And there is something depressing about art auc­tions too: as if hundreds massed to watch some unsatisfactory sexual encounter — abundant foreplay; a mood of expectancy; then one person who wants it to stop and another who wants it to go on. In a minute or so it’s all over, and only the price to pay.

Why then is the auction groupie such a common sight? I suppose because it is somehow a pleasant enactment of the business process. You couldn’t get a smart crowd down at the New York Stock Exchange to watch a big trade in Campbell’s Soups, which lost ⅛ on the day of the auction, and closed at 51¾. On the other hand you could watch a Warhol Campbell soupcan painting sell for $12,000, at its high estimate, and then discover that Scull originally bought it for under $100 from Leo Castelli galleries in the early ’60s, thus realizing 12,000 per cent profit on his can. Thus people can have a good laugh about capitalism and celebrate it too.

The auction gets under way. There is bidding on closed circuit TV from the outlying rooms, and lines open to London and Los Angeles. The com­modities are dragged onto the stage; the auctioneer quacks rapidly, and off they go. There is a little stir at the third lot: this is a cushion of sculpted urethane foam from the hand of John Chamberlain, executed in 1967. It looks a little dirty, as urethane foam so often does, and it seems that no such foam-object has ever been of­fered at auction before. The estimate is between $4000 and $6000. The bid­ding is slow, and limps to a halt at $1400.

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One would like to inspect the per­son who has ventured $1400 for the urethane foam, but as always at auctions, unless you are on top of the bidder, it is impossible to know who it is. The onlookers are in a constant lather of ignorance. And even if you see the bidder, do you really, really know what he is up to? Is he a private buyer, or a dealer, buying for a buyer, and if so is the buyer Japanese or Texan. Or is he a dealer, who is in some form of cahoots with the auctioneers? On such occasions there is generally enough insider trading going on to keep the SEC in business for decades.

We press on. Everyone is waiting to see what happens to de Kooning, There are three: the first — one I don’t like — goes for $180,000. We are armed with a form sheet, supplied by Parke-Bernet, which lists previous record prices for the artist concer­ned — a sort of Benthamite approach to art criticism. De Kooning’s previous personal best has been $45,000, so he had done splendidly tonight. The auctioneer looks happy, and the next two de Koonings, both of which I would very much like to have, sell for $60,000 and $80,000, well under their estimates.

Near where I am standing a man has been vainly bidding. He preser­ves the proper impassivity in defeat. Then the Jasper Johns Double White Map comes up. This picture represents a high point in the sale: it has been estimated at between $150,000 and $200,000. My man bids, with a little nod of the head. There are other bids. He keeps on nodding. He is still nodding at $200,000. Unseen at the other end of the gallery, someone else is nodding also, solemn-faced, in the constipated etiquette of the auction room. My man goes on nodding until $240,000. Somewhere the other man shakes his head. My man allows a relapse of his features into a minute rictus of pleasure. He has got it. His wife kisses him: then he is all sternness once more, amid a little ripple of applause. It turns out that he is Ben Heller, who has recen­tly sold a Jackson Pollock to Australia for $2 million. He finally shows all his teeth to Fred McDarrah, who tells me that Ivan Karp, who was the dealer for most of these artists originally, is listening to the Mets game through an earphone.

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On and on we go: a bored pall descends. Everyone realizes it is a matter of listening to a cash register for an hour. Johns’s beer cans sell for $90,000. Barnett Newman fetches high prices, someone exhibiting great confidence in the art restorer’s skill, since one of them has been damaged in transit and is not even in the room. Oldenberg goes for less than expected. The pictures flash by: there goes Warhol’s soup can: here come Warhol’s flowers. They go for $135,000. More applause. It’s the last big buzz of the evening. Suddenly it is all over: 50 pictures have been sold for $2,242,900.

The Sculls appear for the press. He is aggressive — Maecenas at the market, instead of in his tower; she is in evident distress. She stands nose to nose with Rauschenberg, framed nicely for photographers. “It’s disgusting, horrible” she keeps saying. They totter off down stairs, and finally a gray Checker cab bears off the Sculls, her head cradled in his lap.

Certain points have been proved. Pop art — or ‘important contemporary American painting’ as the auc­tioneers like to put it — can fetch good prices, and has made the transition from a speculative commodity to gilt-edged. Fifty dealers and private buyers, half of them from Europe and half from America, have made what they regard as good investments, Sotheby Parke-Bernet, contrary to some reports, are well pleased. They have made something over $200,000 on the evening’s activity. Scull has received a check for around $1 million. One Sotheby Parke-Bernet source tells me that five pictures were bought in. The SPB p.r. people categorically deny this.

It’s true that the artists have not made any immediate cash on the evening: but at least their penises, in the case of the living males involved, are intact. ❖

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ART ARCHIVES CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives

Andy Warhol: Famous All Over Town

PITTSBURGH — The best souvenirs at last weekend’s opening of the Andy Warhol Museum might have been the T-shirts that said “ANDY VOLUNTEER.” Smacking of vintage superstar monickers, they also suggested some kind of military deployment. as though half the city of Pittsburgh had suddenly enlisted in the Warhol Reserves. And, if the A-list celebrity onslaught forecast for the three-day extravaganza never really materialized, what of it? The anonymous Warhol militia turned out in force.

For days in advance, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had rumored a glut of boldface people; crisis was even reported in the limousine sector, since the museum opening was scheduled for the same weekend as the Schenley High School prom. Would Diana Ross, said to be jetting in on her own plane, settle for a Pittsburgh Yellow Cab? What about Mick Jagger, Liza Minelli, and Madonna? How were they going to get around? Outside Rosa Villa Dinning (sic) Hall, a Family- (that family) style linguini palace across from the museum on the city’s north side, a couple of fans braced themselves for a Cindy Crawford sighting. “When Cindy comes, I’m going to run in and kneel and beg,” said Greg Bukowski. “She’ll probably just spit on you,” predicted Bukowski’s buddy John Handal. “Then you can take a picture of her spitting, and I’ll save the spit, Bukowski replied.

In the end Cindy Crawford joined most of the big star invitees in sitting out the Warhol party: loyalty in some circles is apparently billable by the hour. Still, the hundreds of folks who lined Sundusky and General Robinson streets to watch guests arrive for Friday’s $300-a-plate benefit dinner seemed ecstatic with even low-level celebrity astronomy.

“If a thousand people come, obviously 900 are not going to be brand names,” observed one paparazzo. In truth there were plenty of heavy hitters from society and the art world: Doris Ammann flew in from Zurich, Anthony d’Offay from London, and entire US Air flights were sardine-tight with dealers and curators from New York. Among the painters on hand for Friday’s black-tie dinner were Roy Lichtenstein, Francisco Clemente, Brice Marden, and Ross Bleckner, who dressed down in blue jeans and spent the evening jockeying to get cute boys moved to his table.

Although Pittsburgh is the nation’s 18th most populous city, its probably closer to the third or fourth in terms of wealth, and the city’s society ladies seemed to use the occasion as an opportunity to crack the vaults for high-wattage gems. “Normally, people would never wear jewelry to go to the North Side,” said an estate lawyer for a Forbes 400 family, as one saurian dowager staggers into the museum under the weight of a diamond-and-ruby parure. “The invitation said valet parking, though, so I guess they thought it was safe.” Better still, the society ladies may have felt it was fitting to honor Warhol by sporting their finest. It isn’t every painter, after all, who dies with 25 Cartier bracelet tucked in a drawer.

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The museum, housed in a renovated 1911 beaux arts building, opened on a cool, lovely evening in the former steel town, now known as a city of bridges and one of America’s most amenable places to live. Things were a bit different in Andy Warhol’s childhood, when the mills along the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers blacked the skies with soot, and furnaces along Second Avenue spewed tongues of fire. Over the course of the weekend, visitors would have a chance to take the Warhol Tour and visit the house-next-to-the-house on 73 Orr Street where Andy and his two brothers were born (asphalt shingles, two floors, single water closet in the basement, wretched poverties that probably looked good to Andrei and Julia Warhola at the time), the neighborhood where he was reared (set in a dreary valley know as “the Rut”), the church where his family worshipped (St. John Chrysostom, Byzantine rite Catholic), the high school where he was a star art student (Schenley High) and the department store (Joseph Horne Co.) where, as a window dresser, he launched himself into the world. What they wouldn’t get is any clear sense of how a talented Ruthenian-American kid with jug ears and a bulbous nose charted a trajectory that could carry him out of his class, out of Pittsburgh (he always claimed it was McKeesport), away from the ghetto of sexual stereotype (let’s do him the favor of remembering he was gay) and onto the face of pop (not Pop) culture, which was always Andy’s natural milieu.

They would see parts of a compendious collection that includes almost 900 paintings, 77 sculptures and collaborative works, 1500 drawings, 400 black-and-white photographs, Poloroids, photobooth strips, illustrations, 608 time capsules, the full run of Interview magazine, 2500 audiotapes and videotapes and scripts, as well as his diaries, datebooks, correspondence, and films. “It’s a relief to have so much of the work in one place so it can be properly preserved,” said Soho dealer Holly Solomon, as project architect David Mayner attempted to explain the difficulties of conserving a collection that includes fragile gold-leaf drawings, 3-D Xography, and Warhol’s nearly animate wigs.

Although many of Warhol’s early films haven’t been out of the vault in years, his Empire and Kiss played continuously throughout the weekend. “When are they going to play my films?” Warhol perennial Taylor Meade bleated, adding slyly that “twelve hours of the Empire State is a bore, my dear: I mean, one bird flies by every two hours.” Meade was one of the few Factory stalwarts to appear in Pittsburgh.

True, Ultra Violet was on hand, as was socialite Jane Holzer (she lopped the superstar prefix Baby from her name some 25 years ago). But some fans were disappointed not to see (and hear; it’s an audiovisual experience) Viva or Joe Dallesandro or Jane Forth or Donna Jordan or Brigid “Polk” Berlin or any of the surviving superstars whose infamous speed rants and pneumatic egos went a long way toward defining Warhol’s skewed worldview.

“They probably thought they’d be turned into puppets,” said Billy Name, the Factory denizen who legendarily spent two years in a closet at Warhol’s loft on Union Square. (Actually, it was a darkroom, Name’s a pho­tographer, and everyone knows how long it can take to develop pictures when you’re shooting methamphetamine.) Name and Ul­tra Violet were the weekend’s stars by de­fault, turning up incessantly on local television, compulsively presenting themselves for interviews. “Any museum is better than no museum,” declared UV, née Isabelle Du­fresne, on opening night. Taking no chances on anonymity, she’d pinned a half-­dozen rhinestone pins spelling ULTRA to her pleated purple dress. “Warhol is the imperialist artist of America,” said Ms. Vio­let. “As long as America will stand, Warhol will stand. If America will fall, Warhol will fall.”

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You could just as smartly invert the for­mulation; either way, both Warhol and the Warhol have the feel of permanence. “Recycling old buildings to show art is very im­portant,” Agnes Gund, chairwoman of the Museum of Modem Art, told the Times, in a near paraphrase of Jane Jacobs’s famous remark that “Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings; new ideas must use old buildings.” The single-artist museum, com­mon enough in Europe, is still a novelty here. And any museum of the Warhol’s scope is rare. “Here we are with Andy in his tomb,” said Taylor Mead. “His temple, his heaven.” As a monument to social transformation, the Warhol Museum is an unexpectedly stirring place. For decades, Andy Warhol’s father was a laborer at the Jones & Loughlin steel mill, source of the wealth behind the great Philips Collection in Washington, D.C. Andrei Warhola was so poor that he resoled his children’s shoes with rubber tires during the Depression and left instructions at his death that his $1400 life savings were to buy Andy two years at art school. Now the “bohunk” millworker’s son from “the Rut” has his own museum in the city of Scaifes and Mellons.

“Can you believe all this?” asked George Warhola, a nephew of Andy’s who runs a North Side scrap yard. Warhola had just finished touring the building with Richard Gluckman, the architect charged with con­verting the old Frick & Lindsay building. “It puts chills in my body,” said Warhola. To a large extent the people of Pittsburgh seemed to share the feeling. By late Sunday evening, over 8000 visitors had stood in line for hours to enter the handsome terra­cotta museum. Some may have even stopped at the fourth floor vitrine in which a clipping from an ancient edition of Art Direction magazine presents Andy Warhola as a “young man on his way up.”

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“Rich folks coming through,” quipped a policeman on Friday night as Palm Beach multimillionairess Molly Wilmot teetered past on Betty Page spike heels and a Schia­parelli-pink Chanel. “I love it,” said Wil­mot, fluttering her three-inch nails. “It’s a real fest.”

Close behind Wilmot was Dennis Hop­per, whose arrival elicited almost as much excitement from the curbside crowd as that greeting Pennsylvania governor Robert Ca­sey. Hopper’s film ouevre may have reached a special plateau when he played Taylor Mead’s stand-in during the filming of the Warhol’s 1963 Tarzan and Jane Regained, Sort Of (much of which was set in the “shark infested lagoon” of the Beverly Hills Hotel). In Pittsburgh, Hopper modestly edged his way through the crowd wearing an Armani dinner jacket that set off his mottled parchment complexion. “Isn’t that what’s his name, the guy from Easy Rider?” gasped Karen Huebner. “He looks pretty good,” said her date, “for someone who almost died.”

Hopper was followed into dinner by Pee­wee Herman, Debi Mazar, Ann-Bass, John Richardson, Michael Chow, and John Wa­ters, each receiving a commemorative Andy Warhol Museum watch from a volunteer who murmured, “Here’s your 15 minutes.” Rolling back a cuff to strap on her time­piece, Fran Lebowitz told one pesky report­er that she’d never really liked Warhol, the artist, and hadn’t much cared for Warhol, the man. Aside from professional sour­-pusses, the crowd seemed unusually giddy. “This is a room of 1000 egomaniacs,” shrilled the museum’s director Tom Arm­strong, surveying a huge rectangular tent illuminated by neon centerpieces of War­hol’s profile, each bearing a little card that read: ANDY FOR SALE ($400 plus tax). Sud­denly the Duquesne Club waitresses broke from the wings in flights carrying dessert plates laden with lemon mousse and choco­late cookies, Andy’s name written on each in fudge.

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“Timing, that’s the way to become a great artist,” said Taylor Mead. “Andy didn’t care what he did, as long as it was the right time.”

Chatting merrily, guests at Mead’s table speculated about Warhol’s notorious “Oxi­dation” pictures, painted with urine on treated canvas. “Some are Mick Jagger, I think,” one guest opined. “Some are Bianca. Some are Halston, too.”

“How can you tell whose piss is whose?” asked Barbara Allen de Kwiatkowski, the phenomenally wealthy socialite who started her career as the back-issues clerk at Interview.

“Get up close and sniff,” a tablemate replied.

Just then someone remarked that Mary McFadden had wandered into the men’s room, Fortuny-style tunic, Elizabethan hair­line and all. “She spent quite a bit of time in there,” the man said. “It was accidental, I think.”

At a service bar across the room sat a garish floral centerpiece featuring lilies, some bleary carnations, and a can of Camp­bell’s soup. Hardly anyone remembers that Cambell’s soup is owned by the Dorrance family of … Philadelphia, “Bitter rivals” as the Post-Gazette later put it, “who get the last laugh in the land of Heinz.” Such in­dustrial trivialities didn’t faze Teresa Heinz, the late senator’s wife, though. “Enjoy your evening,” Heinz, a Carnegie Institute trust­ee, instructed a crowd so boisterous that the mayor of Pittsburgh and the governor of the state both failed to silence them. “And remember that tonight we are all works of art.”

“Just don’t tell artists to suffer,” mut­tered Taylor Mead. “Don’t ever suffer for your art.” Suffering was transcended as Andy Warhol was apotheosized in Pitts­burgh to the sound of drunken laughter and the electronic chittering of a register haul­ing in cash. As party defectors drifted to­ward the Andyland exit, many stopped first at the gift shop to stock up on Warhol postcards, Warhol catalogues, Warhol post­ers, Warhol bios, Warhol notepads, and spe­cially boxed $24.95 Warhol T-shirts. While art collector Paul Walter wrote a check for his haul of Warholiana, I asked shop man­ager Jim Spitznagel what was the biggest seller so far. It was a T-shirt, he said, the one with an image of Marilyn Monroe’s lips repeated four times, in four colors, lips part­ed and full of desire. “Love Your Kiss For­ever Forever,” it’s called. ❖

Categories
ART ARCHIVES CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives

Andy Warhol: A Museum of His Own

PITTSBURGH — It’s Friday the 13th, and the Andy Warhol Museum is opening with a three-day party this city is going to remember. Warhol was never exactly God in New York, but he just became a saint in his own hometown. Pittsburgh loves Warhol. I mean loves. Nobody cares if this wasn’t always the case. This weekend, the King of Pop is ascending to his rightful throne, and there will be fireworks, literally, over the Allegheny. Warhol, of course, is dead, which is what you must be to receive the highest recognition any artist can get in this country: a major contemporary museum of your own.

The buzz is audible even at LaGuardia, where every flight to Pittsburgh is over-booked. Dealers and gossip columnists are winking at one another on the plane: the art world’s going to Pittsburgh! You can tell the Warhol people from the “real” people right away. But is wasn’t so long ago that Warhol was one of the real people. In Pittsburgh, that’s the boy they remember. The one who is soon to become an idol for every young artist, and every young queer in town. The drag queens, we are told, are dressing for the occasion. This time, Warhol is reinventing Pittsburgh, rather than abandoning it. He’s back for the long haul.

The Andy Warhol Museum is exquisite, beyond expectations. Designed by New York architect Richard Gluckman, its a vast industrial warehouse that has been turned into a $12.3 million art palace. Inside, there are six expensive spaces; a film theater; an archive floor; an addition for offices; and storage space for the thousands of Warhols in the museum’s collection. As we gaze at Warhol’s soup cans, we can glance out large windows with views of the surrounding industry that once engulfed the artist. The place is perfect.

The important questions, difficult as they are to remember throughout three days of social climbing, tours of Andy’s Pittsburgh, and a family-oriented street fair, have to do with the creation of this museum. The art world is celebrating Wahrol’s ascendancy into the pantheon, but has the artist really been let through the pearly gates? Why does he need to be isolated in a museum of his own? Was Warhol a leper, or a genius?

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Having a museum designed just for your own work must be every artist’s dream — that is, after your estate gets rejected by the Museum of Modern Art. One-person institutions are generally considered to be tacky vanity showcases: Norman Rockwell in the Berkshires. The problem with the solo museum is that the work is removed from any art-historical context, and the artist is isolated from his or her peers. The danger for Warhol is that he’ll be become singular, a potential aberration.

At first, the museum seems to lift Warhol’s reputation sky high, but there’s something bittersweet about the flight. The art is smartly installed in more or less chronological order, with a little piece of everything; the museum owns about 3000 works, and only around 500 are on display. One begins to wonder if this is the best of the lot. One also has to wonder why all these Warhols were up for grabs.

The Andy Warhol Museum is brought to us by the three cultural organizations: the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, the Dia Center for the Arts, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. “No one is quite clear how this triumvirate is going to operate. It’s never been done before,” says Mark Francis, who four and a half ears ago began as the director of the project, until Tom Armstrong (ex-director of the Whitney) was given the title, brought in to raise the additional money. Francis was renamed curator. “It’s a better description or what I do,” the good sport says. Now’s he’s the resident Warhol expert.

I want to know who’s in control. “We’re one of the Carnegie’s constituent museums,” he explains, “but we’re administered independently.” In Pittsburgh, it would be impossible to create a major institution without the Carnegie’s blessing. (Warhol was shrewd enough to have painted the patriarch’s portrait.) “The people who had the collection needed the people who knew how to make a museum,” says the curator, as if it’s a ménage a trois made in heaven. “Having three boards is difficult,” he admits.

The art came from the Warhol estate (owned by the Foundation) and Dia, the only American institution that carefully and thoroughly collected Warhol in the ’70s. “There’s a low percentage of Warhol’s work in New York museums,” the curator asserts. “The Modern has the gold Marilyns, and private collectors own some major works, but the Europeans really collected him early on. Warhol’s been considered a serious artist in Europe for the past 25 years,” says Francis, who is English. Here, Warhol’s reputation remains shaky in an art world that currently thinks everything after Abstract Expressionism is controversial.

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Now that Clement Greenberg’s dead, certain critics and curators will try to reinvent formalism. (Talk about “boring,” to cite Andy.) One might easily argue that Warhol needs a museum of his own to secure his position in the history of art — not an easy task. The Pop movement has been largely disowned. “Pop’s a loaded term,” says Francis. “It’s reducible to something ephemeral, as if people can’t distinguish between a can and a painting,” he adds, with disgust. “Pop is about the transformation of these sources into art.”

One of the most fascinating parts of the museum’s collection is a trove of Warhol’s source material, on display in glass cases on every floor. (The archive also contains the artist’s “time capsules,” cardboard boxes of things he collected, which were dated and stored.) In proximity to the Mao paintings, one of which is a monumental 15 feet tall, we see a tiny photo of the chairman clipped form one of his books; it looks like a Warhol! Warhol’s graphic skills are lauded in his museum, not buried like a dirty secret. To understand the art, one must first appreciate Warhol’s facility to reproduce what he saw and then move further into the imagery. Mao wallpaper is a far cry form the chairman’s portrait on the cover of his little red book.

This retrospective offers a definitive look at Warhol, despite complaints from the crowd that some of his greatest hits are missing. It doesn’t matter. There’s more than enough to see and lots of years for the museum to keep collecting. (“The Norton Simon has 200 Brillo boxes in its base­ment,” says Francis with envy.) There are revelations in this show, especially on the sixth floor, which alone makes an unexpect­ed argument for the importance of the art­ist. We begin with a room full of early draw­ings, sketches, and illustrations, mostly from the ’50s, that I suspect few people have seen. We meet the private Warhol and the commercial Warhol, when his talent was just beginning to be put down on pa­per. If anyone has any doubt (not to men­tion qualms) that Warhol was gay, here’s the evidence. I’m not talking about a style or sensibility, I’m talking about erotic and romantic images of men: in one particularly tender drawing, he decorated an erect penis with flowers, wrapping the gift with a rib­bon around its middle.

Warhol wasn’t exactly in the closet (where many of his contemporaries still re­side), but he never made his personal sexuality public. “Drella,” as some called him, was never embraced as a homosexual artist. Gayness, at least when it’s upfront, can still be a disadvantage for male artists; for lesbi­ans it’s virtually fatal. Warhol seemed to play, quite happily, the role of the asexual. He was a man with no country and no sexuality. It was an act that obviously worked — while he was alive. But one won­ders, now that he’s gone, if it’s possible to speak openly about the artist’s sexuality. Mark Francis doesn’t want to. “I’m not into agendas,” he says.

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Let’s go back to the imagery on the sixth floor, where an early-’60s room of soup-can paintings, Coca-Cola canvases, telephones, and factory-box sculptures takes us right to the core of Warhol’s radical intervention into art history. There’s a story, one of countless, that goes like this: Warhol initial­ly painted two versions of his world famous Coke bottle. One was drippy and moody, while the other was flat and clear. He took them both to his friend, documentary film­maker Emile de Antonio (who credits himself with the discovery of artist Frank Stel­la) and asked him which he liked better. “D” went with the flat version, which is in the museum — and the rest is history (no one knows where the other one is). A few early soup-can paintings, however, are quite evocative; one shows a squeezed Camp­bell’s can spurting up a phallic stream of soup. A group of Warhol’s later “Oxida­tion” canvases, made with a combination of paint and urine, are oxidizing on the top floor of the museum.

We’re supposed to take the elevator to the seventh floor and walk down the stairs, just like Barneys or the Guggenheim. One of the museum’s coups is an installation of Shadows (on loan from Dia), which has been shown only once, in 1978, the year it was made. Fifty-five glossy canvases, from a series of 102, wrap around the room like painting-wallpaper, creating an arena for viewers in the middle. The image (a detail of a photograph taken in Warhol’s studio), repeated throughout in different color combinations, is entirely abstract, which is what makes the series an unusual event in War­hol’s career. Shadows is dramatic, but it’s one of the artist’s least moving and most schematic works.

The amazing discoveries to be made about Warhol are in the varieties of his serial “reproductions,” many of which, of course, were not mechanical reproductions at all. We can scrutinize the works, distin­guishing silkscreen images from hand-paint­ed stencils from paintings that look like silkscreens. The confusion is brilliant. It’s like any confusion between life and art, or between what is genuine and what is not. Warhol was the first painter to play with these issues. Today, we all assume that nothing’s real and everything is, potentially, art.

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Warhol’s particular genius lay in his abili­ty to select what is ordinary to everyone, everyone except the factory laborer who actually makes the item, and turn it into art. He had the Midas touch. Yes, as a person he was obsessed with the rich and famous (not unlike the rest of the world), but his aesthetic was entirely democratic. “A Coke is a Coke,” Warhol once said, “and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking.” A small painting of a sheet of S&H green stamps looks, at first glance, as unremarkable as the real thing. But it’s a noteworthy, beautiful, painstakingly de­tailed homage.

What makes Warhol’s endeavor so com­plex is that any work can be read at least two ways. Is his well-known series of Elec­tric Chairs pro or con capital punishment? Should we celebrate the company that brings us Brillo, or the proles stuck using those brutal scrub pads? Warhol came from the latter group and spent his life trying to move up and away; the museum is trying to celebrate both ends of his life — in the War­hol tradition. At one dinner, each table has a bouquet of products from Heinz, Brillo, etc., as if this were a corporate convention.

It is Warhol’s range of works — not the fanfare — that fills the museum with electric­ity. Here’s an artist who didn’t do the same thing all his life, who allowed his obsessions to blossom. A room with silver helium-filled balloons takes us back instantly to the ’60s, when art could be just plain fun; you can enter this installation and have a pillow fight with perfect strangers. A complete col­lection of Interview — Warhol’s vehicle to the stars — is on display, and his movies, a critical part of his enterprise, are well-inte­grated into the retrospective. Many people first entered Andyland through his experi­mental movies. On the first floor, there’s a comfortable screening room (which showed films continually all weekend) and upstairs Kiss plays, endlessly, in a dark side room, as if it were a moving image — precisely what it is — hanging on a wall. It may be the most successful integration of film into a gallery experience, ever. Walking down, floor by floor, we meet Elvis, Jackie, Ethel, a room full of skulls that, much to my amazement, do not seem the least bit cliché. His collaborations with Basquiat, including a series of painted, ready-made punching bags, are his least in­teresting objects, but their existence feels poignant: there’s a connection between the artists that has less to do with their tragic deaths than how they each lived their art. The ground floor, which shows the late portraits and self-portraits, is the weakest section. Not that I wouldn’t take any one of these paintings home, it’s just that they don’t reveal much about the artist, or his subjects. (Picasso made a lot of bad work, too, and he’s got his own museum.)

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Warhol has never looked so good, or so significant, which is exactly what a retro­spective exhibition should demonstrate. When we see more, rather than less, the body of work must get richer, more compel­ling. Scholars will feast on this museum. Just the glass boxes holding innumerable things, such as party invitations, auto­graphs, rock ‘n’ roll albums, tape recorders, and a personal letter from president-elect Richard Nixon inviting Warhol to make rec­ommendations to his cabinet, offer a de­tailed picture of the artist and his milieu. Warhol not only looks original, but surpris­ingly contemporary, like the most influen­tial artist of the last few decades. He looks like he deserves his own museum. The im­pact of Warhol’s work on American culture was hard and fast, but this museum is going to slowly carry this work into the future, for posterity. The gatekeepers, in the end, have no choice. ❖

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Andy Warhol: Alive & Well

“I Thought Everyone Was Kidding”

Andy Warhol is alive and well. Last Thursday, accompanied by the inevitable coterie of business associates and superstars, Warhol went out on the town. It was the underground film-maker’s first public appearance since last June, when, as everyone knows, he was shot down by Valerie Solanas, a writer who had played in his film, “I, a Man.”

We were sitting around a table at Casey’s Restaurant. Viva, reigning superstar, and Paul Morrissey, Warhol’s producer and technical director, were regaling their chief with tales of recent assaults upon their persons.

“We are constantly under attack,” claimed Viva. Very charming she is, and plenty paranoid: “Andy’s shooting was part of a conspiracy against the cultural revolution. Recently a man leapt over three empty rows in a cinema and punched me as hard as he could.” Viva’s vexed, misunderstood expression made everyone laugh. “It was during the greenhouse scene of ‘Amities Particulieres’ and I giggled and said, ‘Gay among the gladioli or faggot among the ferns.’ It was supposedly a sensitive homosexual film — so tacky.

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“I was also attacked in my apartment the other night” — she went on in a Holly Golightly monologue — “by someone whom I had never before seen. It turns out he’s a professional attacker. All he does is beat up people. I really did a job on him. I think I fractured his skull. I’ve never seen so much blood…”

“Well, it’s our year for crazy people. It really is,” observed Warhol, wincing as though in pain.

“Feel all right?” asked the reporter.

The silver haired Warhol hesitated. “Uh mmm — sort of; I can’t really tell,” he said softly.

“Have you rethought your lifestyle since the shooting?” asked the reporter.

“I’ve been thinking about it,” conceded Warhol. “I’m trying to decide whether I should pretend to be real or fake it. I had always thought everyone was kidding. But now I know they’re not.” He looked worried. “I’m not sure if I should pretend that things are real or that they’re fake. You see,” said Warhol, craning his head absently, “to pretend something’s real, I’d have to fake it. Then people would think I’m doing it real.”

“Do you think you had any complicity in the shooting,” persisted the reporter, “in the sense of encouraging those around you to act out their fantasies?”

“I don’t know,” Warhol replied, denying that he had ever encouraged anyone to act out his fantasies. His voice trailed off. “I guess I really don’t know what people do. I just always think they’re kidding.”

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Were his stars actually shooting dope in “Chelsea Girls”?

“I never really knew,” he insisted. “I suppose they must have been. I thought they were kidding.”

Did he think Valerie Solanas was kidding when she shot him?

Warhol shrugged and said his back was turned at the time. He had known Valerie Solanas four years. At first, when she showed him her manuscript “Up Your Ass,” he had thought she was a lady cop. Later, he had come to regard her as a serious writer, but he had sensed that she was disturbed so he avoided her. Sometimes she would telephone him late at night. Her nocturnal nagging was in the nature of crank calls. Once, when she needed money, Warhol had used her in a film. She never complained that she was ill-used.

Valerie Solanas’s grievance, Warhol learned too late, was that she imagined he had conspired with publisher Maurice Girodias to defraud her of her works. Girodias had in fact given her an advance to write a book, but the publisher barely knew Warhol and had no business dealings with him. Now Valerie Solanas is in a mental institution.

“It happened so quickly,” Warhol recalled. “She met me downstairs and we rode up in the elevator together. I turned around and it sort of happened…”

“So it was a surprise?”

“Oh, it was a surprise,” Warhol said, “but the bigger surprise was that she had dressed up for the occasion. She wore lipstick, eye makeup, her hair was combed. And she looked so pretty in a dress…”

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Warhol still likes Valerie Solanas: “I’ve never really disliked anyone. And I don’t think she was responsible for what she did. It was just one of those things.”

Wasn’t that the same as his thinking that everyone was kidding? Shouldn’t he be more angry and compassionate? After all, he had been badly hurt.

“Uh mmm,” Warhol hesitated. His dark blue eyes burned straight ahead. He spoke quietly as if his voice box were soundproofed. “I can’t feel anything against Valerie Solanas,” he said. “When you hurt another person, you never know how much it pains.”

Was he in pain?

“Uh mmm, the whole idea of the shooting was painful,” Warhol nodded. “It slows you up some. I can’t do the things I want to do, and I am so scarred I look like a Dior dress. I’m afraid to take a shower.” He giggled weakly. “It’s sort of awful, looking in the mirror and seeing all the scars. It’s scary. I close my eyes. But it doesn’t look that bad. The scars are really very beautiful; they look pretty in a funny way. It’s just that they are a reminder that I’m still sick and I don’t know if I will ever be well again.” Warhol fell silent. The clatter of silver and china filled Casey’s. So did small talk.

“Since I was shot,” Warhol went on, hypnotized by the central idea of his own resurrection, “everything is such a dream to me. I don’t know what anything is about. Like I don’t even know whether or not I’m really alive or — whether I died. It’s sad. Like I can’t say hello or goodbye to people. Life is like a dream. What would you call that?”

“Are you afraid?” asked the reporter.

“That’s so funny.” Warhol laughed as if to diminish his dread. “I wasn’t afraid before. And having been dead once, I shouldn’t feel fear. But I am afraid. I don’t understand why. I am afraid of God alone, and I wasn’t before. I am afraid to go to the Factory.”

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Having spoken his fear, Warhol seemed relieved. He pulled a false mustache from his pocket and offered it to Viva who pasted it above her thin-lipped mouth. It was no good, he decided, and took it back.

“What now?” asked the reporter.

“I’m thinking about getting busy again — if I can do it,” said Warhol.

“With the same philosophical slant?”

“Well, I guess people thought we were so silly and we weren’t. Now maybe we’ll have to fake a little and be serious. But then,” Warhol said, going on like a litany, “that would be faking seriousness which is sort of faking. But we were serious before so now we might have to fake a little just to make ourselves look serious.”

“Do you laugh all the way to the bank?” asked the reporter, grasping at a realistic straw.

“For the first time we would have made some money this year,” Warhol said, “but my hospital bills took all of that. Our grosses are very big, but the net is practically nil. And we plow what we net back into our experimental films. But the Beatles have a lot of money and we’re trying to talk them into setting up a non-acting foundation for us.”

“For your non-films?”

“Yes.”

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Then Andy Warhol and company walked to a party celebrating the completion of a Hollywood movie, “Midnight Cowboy,” where Warhol, insulated by two superstars, Nico and Ultra Violet, sat on a verandah and chatted with British screen director John Schlesinger. He talked about how quickly Hollywood films had caught up with underground films. He found himself beset with admirers. He seemed glad to be alive. ❖

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Twilight of the Tribe: The Wedding that Wasn’t

SYMBOL OF GAY POWER

“I always wanted a formal wedding,” Jackie Curtis said, weeks before the wedding, as she chalked the marriage announcement on the sidewalk outside the Albert Hotel: Superstars Jackie Curtis (“Flesh,” “Cock Strong,” “The Moke-eaters”) and Eric Emerson (“Chelsea Girls,” “Lonesome Cowboys”) to Be Married on July 21. Everyone Welcome! “Even when I was a little child, I dreamed about getting married in a beautiful white gown and everything, with rice and a minister and a cake and a handsome husband. Eric is very handsome, you know, he is really very handsome.”

Last week her wedding happened— scheduled, the press release said, “to coincide spiritually and metaphysically with the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Which will be the bigger event? Only history will tell.”

It was a depressing and a discomforting occasion. About 100 of her friends were there on the East 11th Street roof, among­ them Andy Warhol, Paul Morrissey, Stefan Brecht, Danny Fields, and the Playhouse of the Ridiculous actors: Penny Arcade, Rita Red, Holly “Miss Speed” Jones, Suzanna Bankstreet, Reginald Rimmington III, Marlene D-Train. Jaime de Carlo Lotts, thin-faced, intelligent, looking like an extra in “God’s Little Acre,” moved around the roof with a wine bottle, making people feel at home while the New Andrews Sisters sang “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean,” “Stormy Weather,” “He Touched Me.”

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The guests mingled on the front section of the roof, drinking Gallo white wine and soda; they tended to bunch in small groups and stare out at one another, everyone growing nervous because the wedding was delayed in starting. It was the first time this season that the underground tribe had been together for a “public” happening — for that is what the event was, what justified it and gave it what beauty and grace it possessed, the warmth and renewal felt by all of us there, by the freaks and heads and actors and queens and the few hustlers­ and the poets and most of us, the majority, losers, the fact of being together again and of really hoping Jackie would pull off her wedding in style, that it would go well for her. Listening to David Peel and his band play, watching Melba La Rose tap-dance, Jackie Curtis and her bridal party sat nervously on the back of the roof, behind the chimneys and the pipes, waiting for the groom. He never appeared.

The wedding began about an hour late. Stewart Eaglespeed was importuned to stand in for the missing groom, Eric Emerson. Both Stewart and Eric work at Max’s Kansas City. The presiding clergyman was Louis Abolafia, who was dressed in Roman Catholic vestments plus a large “Louis Abolafia — New York’s Mayor in ’69” button. Jackie Curtis … looking quite stunning in a white ante-bellum gown, a beige shawl thrown over her right shoulder, her red-brown hair teased wildly, long simulated pearl earrings and white ribbons dangling from her ears, a bridal bouquet of daisies clutched in one hand, a carton of milk in the other, was finally carried from the back of the roof on the arms of her bridesmaid, Bunny Eisenhower, and her ersatz groom, while the maid of honor, the actress Ruby Lynn Reyner, followed in her train.

At the altar. The guests gathered around tightly, cracking jokes, giggling. A few photographers and a movie cameraman took shots, and the bridal couple paused and smiled sweetly for the press. Then sometime Reverend Abolafia began the service. At the question, “If any man can show just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him speak now,” the only man in the place to raise a protest was Jackie’s bridesmaid, Bunny Eisenhower.

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“This woman has a baby!” Bunny screeched, raising a baby-like bundle high in her hands.

Jackie: “I do not. I never saw this woman before!”

Bunny, louder, “You know me!

Pause, Jackie, irritated, speaking in her best Audrey Hepburn we-are-not-amused voice, looking with contempt at her loud-mouthed bridesmaid: “All right, for Christ’s sake. I met her in a laundromat.”

The service proceeded. Someone interrupted and asked Jackie why she was marrying Stewart and not Eric. Jackie, aloof: “Oh, my husband had to work. So I have to marry someone else.”

The couple finished their vows. Reverend Abolafia pronounced them man and wife under the laws of New York State. The guests began to dance. Jackie and Stewart moved out and into the crowd, men and women rushing to kiss the happy couple, moving carefully, stopping again and again to receive congratulations, over to the side where Andy Warhol stood by himself with a polaroid camera. He took several pictures of the couple and gave them away. Larry Re, wearing an enormous, fluffy tutu, sheer tights, ballet shoes, flitted up to the couple on his toes, twirled, and informed Jackie and everyone else that Stewart Eaglespeed, the man she had just married, had “a past.”

“I don’t care,” Jackie said. “I know Stewart has a past. What’s a past between friends?”

And Stewart, protesting his masculinity among the fluttering queens, said, rather too emphatically, “Stewart also has a cock … ”

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Larry Re twirled off and took over the center of the roof and made great, sweeping leaps and pirouettes. He was soon joined by Ruby Lynn Reyner, and they alternated in turn, each trying to out-dance the other like “Original Amateur Hour” contestants.

Penny Arcade came up to Stewart and asked if he was going to consummate the marriage. Stewart replied, “God, I hope not!”

Darkness came. The party continued under the photographers’ lights, interrupted once by a cop who appeared with a complaint to check out the noise. He left bewildered.

Jackie danced into the night, working at having fun, for it had become a disaster for her. It was to have been a real marriage, and she was to have been a real bride, like in the movies, femme, a virgin no less. Married and carried away into a Honeymoon Sunset in the arms of her Supestar. That she had believed possible, as she believed in such Shirley Temple things as happy endings and marriages-made·in-heaven and people flying like goddamn bluebirds somewhere over the rainbow. But the groom had not showed, and she could not entirely pull it off as a bride, and so she remained illegitimate somewhere between a drag queen and a woman, like Dylan’s Cinderella sweeping with echoing sound up Desolation Row.

Gradually people began to drift off, most of them heading for an informal wedding feast in the back room of Max’s. As dusk came, Jackie, now wearing a royal blue cape over her bridal gown, danced with the men, laughing too much, playing it up as Authentic Woman for all she was worth, for all she was worth trying to make it come true in time.

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I watched John Vaccaro dance. He was dressed in bermuda shorts and a short-sleeve shirt. It was he who, with Warhol and Jack Smith and a handful of others, had begun, in his early productions nearly a decade ago, what would become the underground scene. And I thought, Christ, how jaded we have become, with a kind of defensive insensitivity, jaded to the war raging while we danced, to the poverty in the city north of us, how introverted and self-regarding we had grown as we grew older, Vaccaro and Warhol and Jack Smith, among the few who created the tribe, getting older, fatigued, pressing, however distantly, middle age. Warhol especially worn through, beyond endurance, speaking tiredly in barely audible whispers, timid of crowds, conscious of their violence, his skin unusually white and drawn, the blood vessels on his face vividly scarlet, his chest scarred from the shooting. And what was worse, Warhol bored, making little games with his camera, but overwhelmingly, obviously bored. His boredom — broken only by the appearance of an incredibly handsome blond boy from Erie, Pennsylvania, straight, naive, refreshingly, comically, beautifully middle-brow, Midwestern, an inceptive quail who appeared at the non-wedding by chance and was, being utterly out of place, threatened by it and defended himself with silence broken only by occasional radical comments on the “capitalist” nature of the affair — and the undifferentiated sexuality of the gathering, unisexual, and the labored-at giddyness, the overdone homosexual gaiety, the spiritual and, yes, sexual inappetance of the tribe, this caused me to think that it had come to its conclusion, the tribe, it had become what it had once parodied, the drag queens no longer took off the falsies and the rest, Jackie Curtis was for all intents and purposes, to the tribe a woman; so far over the line, that was the pathos of the wedding, so far gone, baby, that her distress was real. She was the proverbial bride left standing humiliated at the church door, the rejected woman, marrying a man she never loved to spite a man she could not possess. Like a godawful bad novel, and the heroine was trying so goddamn hard not to admit her raging disappointment, her grief — all her life wanting to be married like a real American girl and then, on the day of her wedding, her initiation into femininity with the press and party and marriage feast and a dreamed-for marriage night, CONSUMMATION! and for the bridegroom not to come! Christ! With her lamps all lit, the feast prepared, for him not to come. At the end, alone on the roof, like Eleanor Rigby picking up rice after the wedding on the church floor.

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***

Later at Max’s Kansas City the party was reunited, Jackie straggling in late, alone, unescorted. She spent the night drinking champagne and table-hopping in the back room among her friends while her former husband-to-be, Eric Emerson, remained in the front room making cracks about her to passing friends.

Eric, thinking he had missed out on a bad thing, thinking he would be leaving for France in two weeks to be in the Paris edition of “Hair,” so what did it matter, Eric explaining. “She said I didn’t have to be faithful. Now what the hell kind of marriage is that?” And, “If she wants to be a woman let her learn to take shit.” And, “Who wants to marry a wife with a five o’clock shadow?”

And Jackie, as morning came, sat amid the empty champagne glasses, Tally Brown and the poet Gerard Malanga keeping her company, as her wedding night withered, saying to me, “If you quote me, tell them, ‘Jackie Curtis laughed!‘ ” Pause. Then changing her mind, as women will, “No, say … say, ‘I was a ravished pixie,’ say that, Dotson, say Miss Jackie Curtis, rejected by Eric Emerson, oh, wasn’t that cruel? and it wasn’t even a legal marriage, he’s cruel. Say, ‘Jackie Curtis looked like a ravished pixie.’ ”

Before I left, I spoke with John Vaccaro again. He was sitting at a booth some distance from the round table where the bride lingered. The blond boy from Erie was with him. The boy said he was an SDS member and he kept trying to place some political judgment on the event, claiming that it was capitalist.

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“Capitalist?” Vaccaro said, “how’s it capitalist? None of us have any money. Kid, this was an affair of the poor.”

The boy went on to ask rhetorically why you people are wasting your time on fag weddings and underground art crap when there was a war going on and a revolution to be made. “Those were two men who got married,” the boy said, “Two men! And Andy Warhol was shot by somebody and he still isn’t political. None of this shit has any political content. It’s counter-revolutionary bourgeois decadence. It’s going nowhere, man, I mean, really, where do you think this stuff is going to end, what’s next? After marrying two men, what else can you do? Why don’t you people wake up and do something for the Movement instead of all this decadence?”

Vaccaro, tired and more than a little bored, “I told Esquire once,” he said, “when they asked what we would do on the stage next, I said I would be interested in seeing someone murdered on stage. Maybe that’s next, huh?”

The kid did not understand.

Vaccaro: “We … I think we made the revolution, the Movement possible, in a sense we did, a long time ago, everybody who in their art attacked the basic values of American culture, all those people made you, even maybe made SDS possible. We gave you room, baby. And maybe, I think, maybe what we gave birth to, maybe what we made way for was a new batch of prudes. Where’s your tolerance, your compassion, huh, outside your speeches, where is it in your life? Jackie gets engaged and she gets jilted and she gets hurt and you have no understanding of her pain. What good is that to anything, that lack of understanding, what good is that to us?”

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***

It was growing light outside when Jackie started for home. “I think,” she said, “I think maybe for the divorce we’ll have a party, what do you think?” Maybe there, in her refusal finally to give way to defeat, in her rebellion, in her inability to give way to the destiny of her birth, maybe in that resistance, however sentimental and apolitical, she was doing what she could to save the goddamn world from the prudes. ❖

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Banal Retentive: Andy Warhol’s Romance of the Pose

THE ANDY WARHOL DIARIES
Edited by Pat Hackett
Warner Books, $29.95

Like his best art, Andy Warhol’s diaries are full of surface information and tough to figure. They dare you to find them deep. After a life spent hustling for the spotlight with close personal friends like Liza and Liz and Halston and Mick, Warhol thoughtful­ly remembered them all from Beyond. The artist’s bequest to his boldface buddies is a record of his innermost thoughts and theirs. The result is a thick, newsy volume that’s either celebrity wallpaper or a Pop Goncourt Journals. Maybe both. Who else, as Suzy says, would have thought to record the man-keeping secrets of our major thinkers? “If you only have two minutes, drop everything and give him a blow job,” Jerry Hall told Andy. “Keep a diary,” Mae West once advised, “and someday it might keep you.”

Without question The Andy Warhol Dia­ries is this summer’s heavy reading. I weighed the book myself and it’s over four pounds. In fact, the diary is a two-writer effort. Edited (or “redacted,” to use an old Interview term) by Warhol’s phone confi­dante Pat Hackett, it’s a monument to the Blavatsky style — part dictation, part re­creation. Hackett was Warhol’s secretary/stylus, skittering over the board while he telephonically gave her the words. As every People reader knows, the diaries were be­gun as a daily telephone account of the artist’s activities, made to satisfy the IRS. With their constant notations of taxi fares and dinner tabs, they also satisfy Harold Nicolson’s advice to the thorough diarist to remember what everything cost. Warhol re­members it all. The diaries started out as accountings and evolved into reckonings, but nobody expected that at the start.

Hackett met Warhol when she drifted down to the Factory from Barnard looking for part-time work. He hired her, sort of, by pointing to a desk. Warhol employees couldn’t always count on remuneration: “volunteers” was the office word for trust-fund menials with no pressing need for a paycheck. Hackett stumbled into a relation­ship with Warhol the way most of his em­ployees, stars, and friends did. Warhol seemed to have some powerful gravitational pull, a personal force field. One of the many unwholesome delights of The Andy Warhol Diaries is watching cosmic detritus get sucked into his strange orbit.

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Early ads for the book have suggested that behind Warhol’s platinum-wigged va­cancy lay a knuckle-whacking moralist: he only looked as if no one was home. The artist is portrayed as a churchgoing Big Brother, always watching. The creepy im­plication is that the Pop jester never took his world seriously. While his companions snorted and screwed themselves to oblivion, he sneaked off to light votive candles and annihilate everyone on paper. If the mar­keting’s too patly convenient — suggesting that what we secretly desire is a repudiation of the sex-drugs-and-disco decades — it’s also pitched right for the times. The tease on The Andy Warhol Diaries is that the book offers the sin and the penance in one stop. It’s a trendy notion, but Warhol’s Weltanschauung makes things a trifle more complex.

In a nice, and possibly random, touch the photo section of the book opens with a picture of the Zavackys, the Czechoslova­kian family of Julia Warhola, Andy’s mom. Posed in their kerchiefs, mustaches, and rube finery, the Zavackys appear ready to set off on the great adventure: “Up from Steerage.” They remind the reader what Warhol came from, more accurately than the usual inventions about his “coal miner” father (actually a construction worker) from McKeesport (actually Pittsburgh). In the whopping 807-page volume Warhol cites the Zavackys just once, and not by name, reminded of them by the onion dome churches in The Deer Hunter. But he doesn’t need to dwell on his forebears since they hover like shades, embodied in the moralizing, shrewd, and unforgiving peas­ant who lopped the final vowel from his surname and hit it big.

Warhol’s hardworking, penny-wise (and generous by turns) nature had deep Old Country roots. Even when he became the most famous artist in the world, he re­mained the child of immigrants and a first-­generation working-class American. This helps explain his infatuation with surface and his success in Society: he lent himself as a kooky ornament to people who valued his tactful understanding that he’d never belong.

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One of the enduring Warhol fictions casts him as a mooch. And it’s true he loved a freebie. Like a crazed conventioneer, the diary Warhol swipes silver from the Con­corde — working toward a complete set — ac­cepts ludicrous invitations, even attends the opening of an escalator. With his tape recorder or Polaroid he brings back souve­nirs. But Warhol paid his own way. Even in the druggy days of Max’s Kansas City (not covered by the diary), it was Andy who picked up the check. Which doesn’t mean he expected less than full value. He was a big tipper who got a kick out of handing employees pink slips. He had a solid prole sense of quid pro quo.

The ’60s Warhol recorded in his earlier books — among the most accurate records of the time — starred the gargantuan, drugged personalities of his superstar friends: Viva, Brigid Berlin, Ondine, Jackie Curtis. His novel a and The Philosophy of Andy War­hol (From A to B and Back Again) are all slick finish or amphetamine rant. He left the tape running on a cast of talking heads who played themselves with manic, dam­aged brilliance. But by the time The Andy Warhol Diaries begin, the superstars have faded (most aren’t dead yet), his films are in a vault, and the cast has changed.

From 1976 until his death, Warhol pre­ferred to surround himself with consorts and gold diggers. There are really two dia­ries. One is thronged with celebrities. But beneath that glittering text lies a subsidiary world, populated by Warhol’s steadies, a passel of attractive and ambitious vagrants without portfolio or evident talent — “art­ists” like Victor Hugo, the window dresser who kept Halston company; “models” like Barbara Allen, a beauty whose staggering romantic successes were accomplished de­spite mental limitations impossible to overstate. And Bianca Jagger, of course.

Jagger is one of the few characters who survives all the Diary years: she’s a tena­cious scenemaker. Over time, Jagger devel­ops as something more than a cartoon ce­lebrity in a marathon name-drop. There’s a strange quality about her, pouting with Halston, pouting with Mick, pouting for the cameras, pneumatic mouth on labial cruise control. She’s no Lily Bart, but somehow Bianca seems … better than her fate as a groupie/girlfriend/wife-of-fading-rockstar.

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Warhol has no taste for the pathos of Jagger’s trajectory from Nicaraguan nobody to celebrity nobody. He has no taste for pathos at all. He gets off on showing his friends with their pants around their ankles. He prefers that their embarrassments take place in public, as in this entry from December of 1978: “Marisa [Berenson] looked beautiful in silver, and Paul Jasmin was with her. She’s finally leaving town. She’s mad at Barbara Allen because Barbara was seeing her husband, Jim Randall, out in California, so Barbara wasn’t invited. Steve [Rubell] told us that Warren [Beatty] had fucked Jackie O., that he talked about it. Bianca said that Warren had probably just made it up, that he made it up that he slept with her, Bianca, and that when she saw him in the Beverly Wilshire she screamed, ‘Warren, I hear you say you’re fucking me. How can you say that when it’s not true?’ ”

There’s an anecdote a minute in the dia­ries. They’re thick on the ground. And if they don’t render whole, authentic-sound­ing people, it’s worth remembering that Warhol’s friends were not entirely real. The famous “stars” he cultivated have egos so strained and distended they’re like special-­effects contraptions lurching from page to page. Baryshnikov as the Little Engine That Could. Attack of the Fifty Foot Liza.

Anyway, diaries aren’t under obligation to render whole people. It’s a miniaturist’s skill, made for the slash, the wicked aside, the unflattering silhouette. Warhol becomes seductive the way Pepys or Henry (Chips) Channon or Cecil Beaton do, on the strength of his own greedy curiosity and sanguine optimism. Not to mention his gaga syntax, which becomes a form of ad­dictive baby talk. “Oh, I read a great col­umn in the Times!” he tells the diary in December of 1978. “It was something like ‘Funky, Punky, and Junky,’ and they had been talking about it at Tom Armstrong’s — ­it was about ‘silly people’ and it (laughs) had me in it a lot. No mention of Steve Rubell, no Halston — just me, Marisa, Bianca, Truman, Lorna Luft — the silly peo­ple and the silly places. And later, at Hal­ston’s, Halston said he’s glad he wasn’t mentioned because he said (imitates) ‘I’m! Not! Silly!’ And then everyone started call­ing Bianca ‘silly pussy, silly pussy.’ And Marisa came over and when she heard about the ‘silly’ column she was upset to be ‘silly.’ ” Maybe you had to be there.

Pat Hackett tells us that Warhol “mel­lowed” over the years. He outgrew “a cruel maddening way he had of provoking people to near hysteria.” Still, he kept all the barbed conversational quirks of a ’50s queen. In Warhol’s “camp” lexicon gay men were “fairies,” any “loud” woman could be a dyke, and hyperbole was the rule (especially when describing the male organ: Warhol’s diary is the Home of the Whopper). In the early days of his fame, he trained himself to talk in unintellectual monosyllables because it made for a more “butch” presentation. When he slipped with a five-dollar word (never in public), he inevitably used the occasion to mock himself.

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It was in Warhol’s Pop nature to fetishize movie stars and objects and puppies, then exploit his woozy compulsion in art. He kept a tight rein on sentimentality, or ex­posed it to gamma rays that made it larger than life. Warhol’s modus operandi, his “philosophy” was a stew of aesthetics and Czechoslovakian home truths. He disguised his politics (actively Democratic, although he only voted once in his life) and real opinions as credulous blather. He acted dumb. “Victor [Hugo] came by with his brother who’s so good looking,” he remarks one August Monday in 1983. “And Victor says his brother’s cock is so big he used to hit the table with it at breakfast. I guess they were naked at breakfast, you know these South Americans. It takes years to get nervous and live in an uptight situation like civilization.” How did people ever swallow the supposition that the real Warhol was a white-wigged idiot standing around saying, “Great”?

One of Warhols’s better card tricks was to make it all look easy: he was careful to maintain his cool. And that wasn’t always for the public’s benefit. He worked hard to conceal creepy feelings like hurt and long­ing from himself. “[Producer] Jon [Gould] told me the other night that he liked Pop­ism, but to Chris he said he didn’t think Paramount could do it,” Warhol writes in March of 1981. “But maybe eventually something will happen with it. Maybe it’s too soon. Oh, and Jon said to me that he thought it was ‘badly edited’ so I don’t know if he’s good at reading.”

This unexciting entry captures an essen­tial Warhol. It replays one of his ancient ambitions, to be taken seriously (in Holly­wood, of all places). And it displays his ego at work. Warhol knew the value of his tal­ents, and could spot his own ephemeral gar­bage faster than anyone. Just as surely he knew what would last. Although he was a literary dunce (Joan Crawford’s bio was a heavy tome), Warhol was “good at read­ing.” And writing. With the exception of a, which was written and should be read on amphetamines, his books are skillful, com­posed in his own reedy ruthless voice. By the time he came to write them, his persona had achieved fictional proportions. Having invented Andy, there was little need to manufacture stories about him. Andy could follow Andy around and record Andy’s ad­ventures and Andy’s nutty thoughts.

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One problem with the diaries is their postmortem polish. (Another is the casual proofreading: names are misspelled, luggage comes down a “shoot.”) As the reader slogs through the years with Warhol, it becomes tougher to sustain belief in the method of straight dictation. Hackett has said the book was distilled from 20,000 pages and that she used a light editing hand. But an­ecdotes drift toward the Iowa Writers’ Workshop as sentences start, “This was the day of … ” Dialogue tags (“she groaned”) stand out from the page. Hackett intrudes.

Still the book is great social history, with its lip-smacking tales of loveless, sexless marriages, its gimlet-eyed view of other people’s success, and its rampant uncloset­ings (when he mentions how Tony Perkins once hired hustlers to come through his window and pretend to rob him, you can see the libel lawyers twist and squirm). And it’s studded with gems of pure Warhol: “She was the nurse and he was Kaiser alumi­num,” he remarks. Or, “It was a Paloma Picasso day. Went to breakfast at Tiffany’s for her.” Or: “Ran into Rene Ricard who’s the George Sanders of the Lower East Side, the Rex Reed of the art world — he was with some Puerto Rican boyfriend with a name like a cigarette.”

The mellow Warhol was, if anything, even sharper in his ability to skewer with few words. “Decided to go to Peter Beard’s party at Heartbreak,” he writes of the so­cialite cocksman/photographer. “Peter was at the door showing slides. The usual. Afri­ca. Cheryl [Tiegs] on a turkey. Barbara Al­len on a turkey. Bloodstains. (Laughs.) You know.”

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By the mid-’80s, the diary Warhol has absorbed many of his rich friends’ daffy eccentricities. He becomes an unwitting caricature, extravagant and yet convinced he’s being taken (often true), obsessed with his pets, with unreturned favors, social gaffes and horrors. (When his wig is snatched during a book-signing at Rizzoli, he can’t even say the words; his editor does it for him.) He’s increasingly snookered by crystal healers, acupuncturists, and pimple experts. And, as always, he pines for affec­tion and sex — even after Jon Gould has moved into his 66th Street townhouse. New art stars have begun to upstage him, and Pop colleagues are selling higher at auction, a fact that obsesses a man whose lifelong fear was “going broke.” Scarier still, he oc­casionally goes unrecognized on the street.

The drug scene dries up as his adventur­ess friends revert to type and scramble for the altar. And the “fairies” mysteriously begin to die off. Betrayal, disappointment, and the banality of aging erode the fun quotient. Always phobic about hospitals and illness, Warhol is nastily remote when friends contract “the gay cancer.” These entries — almost any entry involving the physical difficulties of a friend — have a bald, ugly texture. Warhol was more sympa­thetic to animal distress than human. In one early entry he rails against his assistant Ronnie Cutrone for assassinating an ex­-girlfriend’s cats. Yet, later, when friends contract AIDS, Warhol refuses to sit near them at parties or share seats in a car. He begins to avoid restaurants where “fairies” prepare the food.

After 1983, the peppy atmosphere of Warhol World darkens. His long relation­ship with the decorator Jed Johnson fizzles out and his emotional shortcomings begin to redound nastily on himself. Johnson’s desertion begins a string of “divorces.” Bob Colacello (né Colaciello, as Warhol né War­hola likes to point out) quits the editorship of Interview to pursue moneyed Republi­cans. Halston sells his name to J.C. Penney. Steve Rubell is imprisoned for tax evasion. And with each cast change Warhol’s life and the book become more banal. His schedule is still frenetic but the diary rhythm flattens. There’s more time to kill.

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Part of the problem is Warhol’s new com­panions. Where he used to attract the most outlandish and beautiful people, he now settled for salaried companions and Social Register dregs like Cornelia Guest. These (sometimes titled) dullards had none of the crackling edge of his old drag queens or even his high-level hustlers. Warhol’s “stu­pid” pose was no help with this crowd, who couldn’t tell the difference. And the diary is forced to work harder on their behalf. Ca­pering from party to party with the newly anointed “celebutantes” and “millionettes,” Warhol found himself mentally slumming. It’s in these sections that you begin to notice what’s left out.

There are few entries about shopping or collecting, two of his major obsessions. And scant mention of work. Throughout the 11 years the book covers, Warhol was con­stantly turning out portraits, portfolios, new projects. But when “inspiration” crops up, the word seems like a sop tossed to the tax man, a joke.

The aging Warhol was still in demand, but he was less fun, more inward and cranky. “Cabbed up to 63rd Street ($8) … And Halston handed me a piece of pa­per in the shape of a boat and I was so thrilled. I knew it was the rent check for $40,000 [for Warhol’s Montauk house]. So that made my evening. And since it was so rainy I didn’t have any gifts with me so I wrote an I.O.U. to Halston and Victor and the niece: ‘I.O.U. One Art.’ … So anyway I went home and I opened up the paper boat and instead of a check, it was just noth­ing — like ‘Happy Birthday’ or something. It wasn’t a check and it should have been a check. All done up like a boat. It should have been a check.” The reader cringes.

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Like most people’s, Warhol’s holidays were anything but celebrations. For years, he celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas at Halston’s East 63rd Street house. The attempts at recreating family are land­marks amid seasonless loops of fun. They arrest the narrative in a way that few other events seem to do. Perhaps it’s because the touching gifts (often a dress for Andy), the Christmas trees, the roast turkey are the last thing you’d expect from a group of drugged publicity junkies. And somehow this makes them dear. The book doesn’t end until Warhol’s death in February of 1987, and the giddy pace never slackens. But for this reader, the diary hit an inad­vertent conclusion when Halston called off all tomorrow’s parties, leaving Andy with­out his little band. “Got up and it was Sun­day,” Warhol tells the diary on December 25, 1983. “Tried to dye my eyebrows and hair. I wasn’t in the mood. Went to church. Got not too many phone calls. Actually none, I guess.” ■

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ART ARCHIVES CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives MUSIC ARCHIVES NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES Scene

Notebook for Night Owls: The Velvet Underground

Nineveh

Andy Warhol’s new discotheque seems to be an attempt to instill permanence into a private joke. Presided over by the Velvet Underground, and decorated with colored lights, slides and films, it occupies a long mirrored room atop the Polski Dom on St. Mark’s Place, and has the air of a dancing party out of “The Masque of the Red Death.” Most discotheques seem to have been constructed around Sartre’s famous principle that hell is other people, but Warhol, being an innovator, has gone further than other entrepreneurs. He has so arranged his discotheque that his patrons tend to feel, after five minutes in the place, that they have wandered into some evangelist’s vision of Nineveh and that perhaps it is time to mend their ways.

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The room is, of course, very dark, and it is streaked with reddish light. The Velvet Underground, consisting of three guitarists, two dancers, and a pretty girl named Nico who sings a little, disport themselves for most of the evening on a raised stage against a back projection of films and slides. Since the musicians in the group, although loud, are comparatively unskilled, the patron’s attention is mainly focused on Gerard Malanga, who dances continuously, in a style which combines feverishness and languor, in front of the band. He wears leather pants and a tee-shirt imprinted with a picture of Marlon Brando, and he is occasionally partnered by a girl named Ingrid Superstar. But the real star of the show is a strobe beamed upon the audience but usually kept focused on Malanga. When he dances inside the strobe beam Malanga shimmers as if he were in a St. Vitus attack.

Halfway through their set Gerard Malanga and Ingrid Superstar pick up a couple of coiled leather whips and, while the musicians play a song of which the only distinguishable line is “Whip your mistress till you reach his heart,” they do a sadomasochistic ballet which ends with Malanga kneeling with his head against Ingrid Superstar’s thighs while she pantomimes whipping him. This piece seems to impress the audience profoundly. All the dancers on the floor stop to watch (all except one couple who appear to be part of the show and who continue all night to dance a sort of ritualistic Watusi), and a few people whisper to their partners that poor Malanga needs a rest. Then the group swings into a fast number, complete with whistles and sirens, the lights begin to flicker wildly, half the audience covers its ears, and Malanga dances off the stage to recover from his exertions.

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It was at this point, on the night I was there, that a thin dark girl in a blue pants suit seized her escort and announced to him that she was going immediately to church. Her partner, who was dressed like Lord Byron in a flowing ruffled shirt, pointed out quite sensibly that since it was past midnight she might be better off going to bed, but the girl said that the weight of her sins had grown so heavy upon her that she could not rest another minute without confessing them. Several people in her vicinity nodded approvingly. ♦

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CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives MUSIC ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

The Velvet Underground at Max’s: No Pale Imitation

The Velvet Underground at Max’s Kansas City? At first I thought it was some kind of joke. As if someone was trying to rig a re-run of the Terrible ’60s by conjuring up old ghosts in old haunts. The Velvets, after all, had been the darlings of the Pop/amphetamine culture, whose spiritual center was often to be found at the round table in Max’s back room, and it was not inconceivable to imagine some entrepreneur attempting to cash in on what would certainly be a premature revival of those jaded, faded years.

But no. The Velvets have changed considerably since they left Warhol’s gang. No more demonic assaults on the audience. No more ear-wrenching shrieks of art. No more esoterica. “We once did an album with a pop painter,” Lou Reed told the audience last Wednesday as the group began a two-week engagement upstairs at Max’s, “because we wanted to help him out.” “You’re doing better without him,” a fan yelled back.

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And so they are. It seems the Velvets are now back to where they once belonged, functioning as a genuine rock ‘n’ roll dance band, dedicated to laying down strong rhythms and a steady beat that gets the vital juices flowing. No fuzz tones, no academic exercises. They were always good musicians, sometimes precocious and lacking discipline, but admired by their peers, nevertheless, for originality and innovation. Now they are all bloody virtuosos, with a mature sense of knowing when they are good and enjoying it. The result can be positively exhilarating.

The audience told me that. Opening night, of course, was something of an event, a kind of Old Home Week that brought together various elements of the rock/pop hierarchy, plus nostalgia seekers and true believers, most of whom had not seen the Velvets since they exercised at the Gymnasium three years ago. I don’t know what they expected to hear, but they certainly weren’t disappointed.

The Velvets served up scads of crisp, new material, along with what Lou calls “rock ‘n’ roll versions” of the group’s old standards, like “I’ll Be Your Mirror” and “I’m Waiting for My Man.” The first set was done “in concert,” with the audience seated behind tables, but in no time at all everyone was fighting the urge to dance. People started smiling, sometimes in amazement, as the boys began pulling these incredible notes from their instruments, and then they started beating time on their knees and bobbing their heads.

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By the time they were halfway through the first set people were yelling “Right on!” and you know what that can do to a performer, especially if he’s white and the guy yelling is black. The room is small, and very conducive to that kind of rapport. After two nights of this the group was firmly convinced that they had done the right thing by coming into Max’s to make their return appearance on a New York stage.

By Friday, night they were at the peak of their power. The word must have gotten out that the Velvets were back and in rare form, because the audience was right there from the beginning. They applauded the first notes of each old number and when Doug Yule, playing lead guitar, went into the bluesy, heart-tugging solo on “Sweet Nothing,” which is the Velvets’ “Hey Jude,” they went wild, interrupting it twice with applause.

I don’t know what effect this will have on their careers, but judging from past audience reactions to the Velvets (and other groups), I would say things are at an all-time high. I, for one, have always believed that the Velvets have never received the attention they deserve, but I attributed this to the fact that they have never tried to be commercial. They seemed to enjoy being artsy and esoteric. I also think that they were so indigenous to New York City that they were probably too sophisticated for the rest of the country. Oh, they always had a loyal following, even in the most obscure burgs, but it was all purists. No mass market. They’re more eclectic now, so things may change.

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They have made significant contributions to rock music, that’s for sure. They have influenced many groups, including the Beatles, the Stones, and the Airplane (who lifted one of Maureen Tucker’s drum riffs line for line and used it on one of their biggest singles). The Velvets are also the foremost exponents of something I call white/urban East Coast rhythm and blues, a form that doesn’t rely on a white singer doing black face. All rock has black roots but the Velvets are one of the few groups around (along with the Stones) who have succeeded in developing their own style without coming off like a pale imitation. They have managed to evoke a culture born of the Long Island Expressway, and what’s wrong with that?

They’ll be at Max’s another week, at least. Two shows a night, Wednesday through Sunday, starting at 11:30. There’s a $3 admission fee, but once inside you can relax and enjoy. There’s no hustle. ♦

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1970 Village Voice review of the Velvet Underground's last performances at Max's Kansas City

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CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives Security THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Beautiful Butchers: The Shah Serves Up Caviar and Torture

The proof that torture can look better through a cham­pagne glass and taste better after a mouthful of caviar will be provided next Tues­day by the arrival in the United States of someone who can boast of a most notable achievement: He has made torturers chic. Though Hitler won the ad­miration of half the British upper classes in the 1930s, even he could not make the same boast.

Yet the Shah of Iran, whose own father was so ardent an admirer of the Nazis that he abdicated in 1941, can claim a double distinction: being the bane of the U.S. taxpayers (who paid the bills for his instal­lation on the Peacock Throne and his maintenance thereafter) and being at the same time the toast of the smart set in Washington, New York, Paris, and London. Thus does the Shah differ from Idi Amin or the Em­peror Bokassa, for, though as many pris­oners scream in his torture chambers and face his firing squads, he is socially okay —  and so are his emissaries abroad.

The social success of the Shah in the galaxy of international despots is the end result of a careful campaign, premised on two vital ingredients: snobbery and cash. Barbara Walters was recently able to confide to her ABC audience that, “There aren’t too many kings and queens around these days. Of the handful left, two couples have particular fascination for Americans. England’s own Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. And, for different, reasons, the Shah and Empress of Iran.

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It was not always thus for the House of Pahlavi. The Shah can race a regal an­cestry only to his father, Reza Shah, a fellow of common origins who was hoisted onto the Peacock Throne in the ’20s by the British. Reza Shah’s achievements — apart from looting the Iranian people in a fairly methodical manner — included the intro­duction of torture on a wide scale. Thus, when the present Shah was finally and securely installed on the throne in 1953 with the help of the CIA, he was not particularly well placed to be a truly fashionable mon­arch.

But gradually he inched ahead of his peers, who at that time included such U.S. clients as Battista of Cuba and Trujillo of the Dominican Republic. Neither of those gentlemen ever had truly overweening social ambitions beyond the amassing of huge fortunes and the total control of their dominions. The Shah’s thoughts, however, always soared higher and he yearned to be placed in the national historical pantheon ranging back to the ancient Persian kings.

And in the eyes of international society, at least, he achieved his ambition with the famed coronation at Persepolis in 1967. Virtually every king was there except Kong. In a tented city a goodly proportion of the executives, chiselers, and spongers of western capitalism gathered to marvel and stayed to gorge at a coming-out gala for a regime of unexampled savagery.

Since then the Shah has gone from strength to strength, most notably in the boom days since the oil price hikes of 1973. Tehran is, as they say, the Mecca of every investment banker, industrialist, arms salesman, developer, and straightforward adventurer with a prospectus in one pocket and a bribe in the other.

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Steady accrual of status was expressed through the increasing social success of the Shah’s plenipotentiaries abroad — most not­ably in the career of Ardeshir Zahedi, the present Iranian ambassador in Wash­ington. This Zahedi’s father, General Fuzullah Zahedi, was one of those instrumen­tal in securing the throne for the Shah in 1953. The son himself was once married to the Shah’s daughter. His function in Wash­ington has been that of every ambassador: to lie abroad for his country. Zahedi — as is evidenced in the gossip columns weekly — ­has managed to sell the beautiful people on torture by the simple expedient of throwing large parties, amply furnished with caviar. He mastered, you might say, the political economy of Elizabeth Taylor and realized that one star-studded bash, well-reported in the gossip columns, can do much to offset a couple of Amnesty reports about torture and a few intellectuals detailing exactly how the Shah’s secret police ripped out their fingernails.

Zahedi threw the parties and in they came. Henry Kissinger, Nancy Kissinger, Senator Ed Brooke, Elizabeth Taylor danc­ing wildly with Senator Ed Brooke, Marion Javits, paid by the Iranians for the pleasure of her PR. William Rogen, John Murphy, John Lindsay, Barbara Walters, Walter Cronkite, Julian Goodman, Gregory and Veronique Peck, Phyllis and Bob Evans, the Baroness Stackelberg, Mrs. Drew Pearson, Page Lee Hufty, Polly Bergen, Buffy Cafritz, Sandra McElwaine, Diane von Furstenberg, David Frost, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Braden, Mrs. Frank Ikard, Diana Vreeland, Andy Warhol, Yolanda Fox, even Birch Bayh. On and on the list of names goes, and on and on the parties go too: the political crowd, the Hollywood crowd, the art crowd, and the straight tacky crowd.

How do they like the parties and their host? Here’s a fairly representative series of remarks from Mrs. Bill Cafritz, wife of a Washington builder. “Every adjective in the book has been used to describe Ar­deshir,” she confided to The Voice‘s Jan Albert a few months back. “He’s a warm, marvelous host, expert with food and wines. He’s not just an ordinary host. His centerpieces are famous. He’s had glass globes with flowers coming out of them. For Andy Warhol’s party, he had hearts with Campbell soup cans. All his parties, in every detail, from food to music to guests to decor are highly imaginative. He makes every guest feel that he is intent and interested in them. An invitation from Ardeshir is something to be cherished. He invites all the glamour people — Polly Ber­gen and Diana Vreeland came to the Warhol party.”

Mrs. Cafritz was then asked how she felt about the matter of torture in Iran, and whether she had asked Zahedi about it. “He’s not anti-American,” she replied. “At almost all of his parties he makes after­ dinner speeches toasting the friendship of Iran and America. He is a good friend of America’s. Besides, these reports are exaggerated. There are open lines of communication between our countries and the Shah is our friend. It’s not for me to make judgments. They should be made at a higher level. Everyone just has the best to say about him.”

To a similar sort of query from Jan Albert, Mrs. Frank Ikard (wife of the head of the American Petroleum Institute) stressed the beauties of Zahedi’s charac­ter — “the most kind, warm-hearted man, the friendliest and most outgoing” — while taking a balanced view on the matter of torture. “I have never been interested in international news,” she said. adding that she was the kind of person who felt we should “clean things up in our own back yard first. Besides, if you had a brother who was a black sheep I wouldn’t hold it against you. These reports are largely youthful mutterings. Anyway, Ardeshir’s house is not the place to find out such things.” She added that her son, a reporter in Iran for the Tehran Journal, had never mentioned such subjects to her.

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And so it goes — from Elizabeth Taylor through fascist chic’s recording angel, Andy Warhol, with his Polaroid and his tape recorder.

Would they all go to a similar sort of bash, hosted by Amin’s Washington envoy? Probably not, for reasons of taste. And of course there is the fact that the Iranians are, as you might say, sophisticated — and not even Arabs at that: the children of Xerxes rather than Ham.

If the Shah’s regime were not so repul­sive, there would be something pathetic about his pronounced social ambitions and desire to make his palace a haven for the rich, the famous, and the beautiful. Not so long ago it was the turn of Farrah Faw­cett-Majors to rest up in the shadow of the Peacock Throne. In his arriviste dreams, said one journalist long in Tehran, the Shah probably thought a double-barrelled name was a sure emblem of ancient and distinguished social lineage.

The bloom is going off the rose. Despite Zahedi’s greatest efforts and the precipi­tate rush to his parties by the beautiful people, there is general recognition that the Shah’s regime is not an emblem of liberty. The U.S. will continue to sell him arms. American universities will go on taking his money, socialites will go on drinking his champagne and eating his caviar. Money always talks, but it will have to do so amid increasing clamor about one of the most savage regimes of the 20th century. ■

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How Rich is the Shah?

The present inhabitant of the Peacock Throne has attained the dream of every rich person around the world: he has funneled his assets into a private founda­tion whose proceedings are secret and whose operations are beyond scrutiny. The Pahlavi Foundation, now 19 years old, is thought to have assets of more than $1 billion and is a combined charitable foundation and family trust fund. The Shah is its chief officer and selects all board members. The income is tax-free and can be drawn only the Shah’s family.

The Shah’s father (a former army sergeant who seized the throne under the aegis of the British in 1926) laid the basis for the Pahlavi family’s wealth by simply stealing it. He confiscated vast estates which he designated as crown lands. His son later sold off some of this land and began to invest in industrial and financial enter­prises: the cement industry (which the Shah virtually controls); sugar-processing installations; insurance and banking businesses; assembly plants; hotels; computer equipment marketing, and the like. The Shah is thus not only the leader of his country; he is also its chief stockholder.

In addition, the national budget provides expenses for the imperial court, plus $1 billion for a revolving discretionary fund. Prudently mindful of the possibility of exile one day, the Shah is also thought to have over $1 billion banked abroad.

As the Pahlavi Foundation’s chief officer, the Shah is entitled to 25 percent of the income of the foundation. He has stipulated that he is not accepting this money. His son and heir will become entitled to the 25 percent take, which as Eric Pace of The New York Times pointed out last year in a report on the foundation — could run into tens of millions of dollars annually.

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New Yorkers who desire an immediate sense of the Shah’s financial status can proceed to the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street where a 36-story building for the tax-exempt Pahlavi Foun­dation of New York is being erected. The Pahlavi Foundation of New York was created by the Pahlavi Foundation of Iran in 1973. The nominal charitable purpose of the New York outfit is to provide funds for Iranian students going to American universities. In an article on the U.S. founda­tion published last fall, Ann Crittenden reported in The New York Times that, “Two individuals close to these early arrangements say that from the first, howev­er, the acquisition [of the site] was con­sidered solely as an investment for the Iranian foundation and as a showcase site for offices of Iranian companies and government agencies in New York City — such as the Iranian consulate, the National Iranian Oil Company, the Bank Melli, and various tourist offices. One man who was intimately involved and who asked not to be identified, laughed when asked if the scholarship program was ever discussed: “It’s egregious,” he said,”with all of the problems New York City has, for an immensely wealthy foreign outfit to come in and receive a tax exemption at almost the same moment when the same government has just created an oil crisis.’ ”

Vitally concerned with the establishment of the tax-exempt foundation here were several well-known local faces: one was William Rogers, former secretary of state under Nixon and partner in the law firm of Rogers and Wells. Rogers set up the foun­dation and its address is currently at his law office. Also involved was Representative John Murphy of Staten Island, a frequent visitor to Iran. He, along with Rogers, is on the board of the foundation and has acknowledged his involvement in its business affairs, particularly in the construction contracting for the Fifth Ave­nue building. And indeed, helping out one would-be contractor — John Tishman of Tishman Realty and Construction Company — was former Mayor John Lindsay. The architect is John Warnacke. Another adviser to the Pahlavi Foundation is former Assistant Treasury Secretary James A. Reed. He told Crittenden that foundation officials in Tehran had said they would not go ahead with the New York operation unless they were able to get tax-exempt status. Thus, American tax­payers help finance an operation designed to further the Shah’s personal and political interests abroad. Even Amin hasn’t the gall to demand these kinds of favors. ■

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The Iranian National Pastime: Torture

“The torture on the second day of my arrest consisted of seventy-five blows with a plaited wire whip at the soles of my feet. I was whipped on my hands as well, and the head torturer took the small finger of my left hand and broke it, saying he was going to break my fingers one by one, each day. Then I was told that if I didn’t confess my wife and thirteen-year-old daughter would be raped in front of my eyes. All this time I was being beaten from head to toe.

“Then a pistol was held at my temple by the head torturer, Dr. Azudi, and he prepared to shoot. In fact, the sound of the shooting came and I fainted. When I opened my eyes, I was being interrogated by someone called Dr. Rezvan. The interrogation, combined with psychological torture and sometimes additional beating, went on for 102 days until I was let out…

” … There were also all sizes of whips hanging from nails on the walls. Electric prods stood on little stools. The nail-pluck­ing instrument stood on the far side. I could only recognize these devices upon later remembrance and through the description of others, as well as by personal experience. The gallows stood on the other side. They hang you upside down and then someone beats you with a club on your legs, or uses the electric prod on your chest or your genitals, or they lower you down, pull your pants up and one of them tries to rape you while you’re still hanging upside down …

” … This is what happens to a prisoner of the first importance. First, he is beaten by several torturers at once, with sticks and clubs. If he doesn’t confess, he is hanged upside down and beaten; if this doesn’t work, he is raped; and if he still shows signs of resistance, he is given electric shock which turns him into a howling dog; and if he is still obstinate, his nails and sometimes all his teeth are pulled out, and in certain exceptional cases, a hot iron rod is put into one side of the face to force its way to the other side, burning the entire mouth and the tongue. A young man was killed in this way. At other times he is thrown down on his stomach on the iron bed and boiling water is pumped into his rectum by an enema.

“Other types of torture are used which have never been heard of in other despotic systems. A heavy weight is hung from the testicles of the prisoner, maiming him in only a few minutes. Even the strongest prisoners are crippled in this way. In the case of the woman, the electric baton is moved over the naked body with the power increased on the breasts and the interstices of the vagina. I have heard women screaming and laughing hysterically, shouting, ‘Don’t do it, I’ll tell you.’ Rape is also a common practice. Thirteen-year-old girls have been raped in order to betray their parents, brothers or relatives.” Reza Bahareni was finally freed from the Shah’s prisons in 1974 under international pres­sure. His descriptions come from his book, God’s Shadow and from an article by him published in The New York Review of Books on October 28, 1976. Other state­ments attributed to Bahareni in this issue of The Voice are taken from the same article. ■

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Some Facts at a Glance 

• “The Shah of Iran,” said Martin Ennals in the introduction to Amnesty International’s Annual Report for 1974-5, “retains his benevolent image despite the highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts and a history of torture which is beyond belief.” The total number of political prisoners for 1975, stated the report, “has been reported at times throughout the year to be anything from 25,000 to 100,000.”

• Thousands of people have been executed over the last 23 years. According to Bahareni, more than 300,000 people have been in and out of jail in the last 20 years.

• Ninety-five percent of the press is controlled by two families taking their orders from the Shah and the police.

• There is only one political party — the Resurgence Party — whose membership is compulsory for the entire adult popula­tion.

• The vast bulk of the population is desperately poor, undernourished, and un­educated. In Quri-Chai, the northern slums of Tabriz, there is only one school for 100,000 children.

• There are 34 million people in Iran. Only half are Persian; the rest are Azar­baijanis, Kurds, Arabs and Baluchis, along with Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. The Shah considers all Iranians to be Aryan, who must learn one language, Persian. He is attempting to purge the Persian language of all Arab and Turkish elements, thus proscribing 40 percent of the vocabulary. The Shah himself speaks Persian badly, faring better in French and English. ■

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Why the US Backs the Shah

The reason the Shah is where he is today is because the U.S. government put him there.

By 1949, the Middle East was perceived by American foreign policy planners as perhaps the most critical area in the world in the contest between the U.S. and the Soviets. As George McGhee, then assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, recently recalled in congressional testi­mony: “The governments in the area were very unstable. We had no security pact covering this area. The Soviets had threat­ened Greece, Turkey, and Iran. As a result of the very strong position taken by President Truman we were able to dislodge the Soviets from northern Iran, where they had demanded an oil concession. Although we had already bolstered Greece and Turkey through the Greek-Turkish aid program, both were still in a precarious state. The Arab states were hostile to us because of our involvement in Israeli affairs.”

McGhee pointed out, “At this time the principal threat to the Middle East lay in the possibility of nationalist leaders mov­ing to upset regimes which were relatively inept and corrupt, and not attuned to the modern world. There was also always in the background the reaction in the Arab states to what happened elsewhere. For example, had there been a Communist seizure in Iran, we would have expected a similar threat in the Arab states.” And, of course, underlying American concern for the politics of the region was the business of oil, which McGhee described as “the jackpot of world oil. To have American companies owning the concession there was a great advantage for our country.”

It was against this background that Iran’s nationalist premier, Mohammed Mossadegh, sought to increase the country’s participation in the affairs of the British-controlled Anglo-Iranian Oil Co.

When the British refused to meet his demands, Mossadegh nationalized the company. The seizure reverberated throughout the Middle East. In Saudi Ara­bia the finance minister threatened to shut down the Aramco concession if more money was not forthcoming.

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Both Aramco officials and the U.S. State Department, acting independently, con­cluded — as McGhee later put it — that a “big move had to be made.” Thereupon, the Middle East underwent political con­vulsions which eventually were felt within the U.S. itself. First, this country did a secret deal with Saudi Arabia that allowed Aramco to take a tax break, offsetting its royalty payments to Saudi Arabia against U.S. taxes. The net effect of this was a subsidy, continuing to this day, of Saudi Arabia and the oil companies by the U.S. taxpayer.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department, quite independently of other branches of government, began to press actively two grand jury investigations, attacking the international petroleum cartel. These in­vestigations followed publication of a lengthy report by the Federal Trade Com­mission, which spelled out the details of the cartel’s operations. When Dean Acheson, then secretary of state, found out about the Justice Department probe, he opposed it vigorously, on the grounds that the results of such an investigation “will probably be to cause a decrease in political stability in the region [Middle East].” Acheson’s view eventually prevailed and President Tru­man himself downgraded the inquiry from a criminal to a civil proceeding, on national security grounds.

Eisenhower, taking office at the start of 1953, held to the same line. By the middle of 1953 Allen Dulles, head of the CIA, turned up in Switzerland for meetings with Loy Henderson, the ambassador to Iran, and with the sister of the present Shah. Soon after, American intelligence agents — not­ably Kermit Roosevelt — appeared in Te­hran. The Shah dismissed Mossadegh, who paid no attention and remained in office. The Shah left the country. On August 18, units of off-duty police and soldiers joined mobs in overthrowing Mossadegh. The Shah returned from exile and, thus aided by the CIA and Iranian associates, took charge of the country.

Two months after the Shah was restored to power, Herbert Hoover, Jr., set to work reorganizing the Iranian oil industry. Hoover soon persuaded major American oil companies to join in a consortium that would exploit Iran’s oil: In part, they agreed with the plan because of the down­grading of the Justice Department’s cartel case. Eisenhower’s attorney general formally sanctioned the new deal, ruling that the proposed consortium would not, in itself, constitute an unreasonable restraint of trade. The cartel was never brought to trial and instead members of the consor­tium signed a participants’ agreement which had the effect of sanctioning the cartel and indeed making it an instrument of cold war policy.

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Hence it is no academic exercise to regard the Shah not only as a U.S.-­sponsored oppressor of his own people but of the American people as well. His role has been to help maintain the international oil cartel, with the resulting bogus shortages, price hikes, and penalties attaching to the present international system of oil extrac­tion and distribution.

Oil, of course, forms the basis for American interest in Iran. But in the last 25 years the game has changed somewhat from its original primitive terms. Now, in order to get the oil, the American government has to pay off the Shah in other ways. As part of the U.S.’s policy to maintain the Shah and his repressive apparatus, it was necessary to train and supply a police force and army for him. The tastes of the army have grown more profligate over the years.

In 1972, the U.S. was sending the Iranians a half-billion dollars worth of military armaments. In the current fiscal year the U.S. is sending $5.3 billion worth of weap­ons. This is paid for by Americans in the form of higher prices for petroleum products, and in aid. The long-term scheme for Iran is a vast process of industrialization, with American companies forming joint ventures with Iranian companies, leading toward the establishment of industries such as aluminum, steel, and a whole variety of mining exploration. The idea in this is not to make life any better for the Iranian people, but to achieve savings in manufac­ture, due to the plentiful and immediate supply of energy (natural gas).

The Shah, always a client of the United States, visits Washington next week (until the postponement of his trip, President Carter was to have dropped in on Tehran for lunch later in the month in the course of his grand tour). As Henry Kissinger remarked, the interests of the United States and Iran coincide, and Zbigniew Brzezin­ski, Carter’s security adviser, agrees. Iran is one of those impending powers, argues Brzezinski, to which the U.S. may pay court. Other nations on the Carter schedule included Venezuela, Brazil, and Ni­geria. For all the talk about human rights, the Carter administration has been careful not to offend Iran. The king of torturers will be received with decorousness and respect, even though any honest toast at the White House banquet would demand silence and sorrow for the thousands who have died for opposing a regime built in blood. ■

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Law Enforcement in Iran

Every tyranny needs an efficient secret police force and Iran can boast of one of the most awesome in recent world history —  namely, the infamous SAVAK.

The Sazamane Ettella’at va Amniyate Keshvar (State Security and Intelligence Organization) was set up in 1956 with the help of the American CIA and, according to some reports, Israeli intelligence. The Shah himself has claimed that SAVAK has about 3000 people. Other estimates put the number at more than 60,000 and beyond that to an army of agents and informants amounting to hundreds of thousands. SAVAK, controlled by the Shah, is now run by General Hossein Fardust, a former classmate of the Shah, described by him as “a special friend.”

SAVAK is not only the cutting edge of oppression and torture in Iran, but operates on a worldwide scale as well. Documented cases of its activities in Europe and the United States have received much publicity — including espionage and harassment of Iranian students working abroad and of political exiles. Agents of SAVAK have been dispatched abroad with missions of assassination.

This army of spies and torturers should have a special meaning for American citizens. As exiled writer Reza Bahareni put it: “Imagine a more tyrannical and primi­tive George III being crowned 6000 miles away by the very descendants of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin with money raised by the American taxpayer. The CIA re-created the monarchy, built up the SAVAK and trained all its prominent members, and stood by the Shah and his secret police as their powerful ally. Iran became the police state it is now.” Ba­hareni did not mention that as a final expression of courtesy Richard Nixon sent former CIA head Richard Helms to be the American ambassador in Tehran. ■

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Welcoming Committees 

Already, law enforcement officials In Washington are worried about reception committees for the Shah when he arrives next Tuesday. It is possible that as many as 20,000 demonstrators will converge from around the country for the two-day visit. A compromise supervised by the Secret Service and the National Park Service has stipulated that on Tuesday pro-Shah demonstrators will be allowed to congre­gate nearer the White House. Anti-Shah Iranian students will be given the prime spot on Wednesday, when he leaves.

According to Iranian students in the U.S. opposed to the Shah, SAVAK agents have been carefully building up for the Shah’s visit, offering individuals from all over the U.S. up to $300 to travel to Washington to demonstrate their loyalty. Iranian students in the New School’s political economy division have stated that they have been approached and offered bus fare to Washington, if they join the pro-Shah group. Anti-Shah demonstrations will also be held in San Francisco. The Shah will be staying in Blair House. No demonstrators will be allowed within 500 feet of the building.

Anti-Shah Iranian students in the United States have not only been harassed by SAVAK agents, but also by college administrations and U. S. police. Darioush Bayandor, adviser to Iran’s ex-prime min­ister Hoveida, has been quoted as saying that “SAVAK has agents outside Iranian borders to detect subversive elements and their links with other countries that might be against Iran and to penetrate the ranks of students and make sure their organizations are not used to harm Iran.” Iranian student groups at American colleges around the country have protested the interference of college administrations and police in their meetings, demonstrations, and finally their private conversations.

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At Emporia College in Kansas, a group of Iranian students were told that they would be arrested if they picketed in the presence of an Iranian government representative at a cultural day on campus. The official pretext was that the students were not an officially recognized organization. They had made repeated applications and were denied approval.

Ninety-two students in Houston, marching in front of the French Consulate at the end of 1976 to protest the expulsion of some Iranian nationals from Paris, were arrest­ed and beaten up by local police. Many witnesses have testified to the fact that the demonstration was orderly and peaceful and that the attack by police was unprovoked.

At San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, students were forbidden to form a club by school officials who insisted that tapes of any meetings held in their native tongue be made and handed over to the administration for review. If held in Eng­lish, a school representative was to be present. This harassment culminated in several students being arrested for conversing in Persian over lunch. A teacher approached them and reminded them that it was against the rules to hold meetings in “a foreign language.” Police arrived and charged students with resisting arrest and menacing police and school authorities. In this and other in­stances, the police passed the names of Iranian student transgressors along to the Iranian consulate, and received letters of congratulation on a job well done and thanks from Zahedi. ■

Categories
ART ARCHIVES CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Andy Warhol’s Pop Riot

Art: Help!
October 14, 1965

The latest Arthurian exploit of the legendary Andy Warhol occurred last Friday at the public opening of his first comprehensive exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art on the University of Pennsylvania campus. (The show closes on November 21.) At the preview opening the night before, attended by 1600, a tuna fish painting was impaled by a television light stand and Institute Director Samuel Adams Green was himself pushed to the wall against a painting. Realizing he was up against something big, Green took the unprecedented step of removing the paintings for the public opening. Left up in three spacious rooms were a few dozen flower paintings on one wall and about seven grocery carton sculptures in a corner.

Confronted by vistas of stark white walls, the milling crowd, mostly students, debated the merits of the absent art. TV reporters with mobile cameras in­terviewed earnest co-eds who pointed at nail-studded walls and made pronouncements like: “I always thought art was supposed to be creative,” “pop art is just comedy in art,” “all of his art is trash, you know it, it’s got to be a fad.” The sophisticated audience that had turned out to put down the art that was not on display provided a chilling touch of surrealism worthy of Buñuel or Fellini.

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Borne Along

By 10 p.m., one hour after opening, 1000 people had crammed into the galleries and refused to budge. On the wall op­posite the flowers, a single crutch hung on a nail where a painting had been, presumably left behind by someone now borne along by the crowd.

Andy and the Satellites were recognized by their golden and silvered locks and engulfed in a sickening crush. Forming a human chain, they sought refuge in the back room. Nearly trampled in the melee was the entire pop art brain trust — Rosalind Constable, Henry Geldzahler, and G. R. Swenson, all of them old hands at non-violent museum openings.

The crush to get into the back room was so great that three people were forced out a window on the opposite side and landed in a hospital. The unruliness of her fans prompted Edie Sedgewick — incredibly gorgeous in a floor-length, shocking pink Rudi Gernreich sheath — to shriek. Escorted by campus police, the Warhol party swept back to the front room where they scrambled up a corner stairway. “We want Andy,” the crowd chanted. ”Well, now I’ve seen Andy Warhol,” one boy crooned, while another screamed, “Get his clothing!” At the first turn in the stairs, Warhol wheeled around to look back horror-stricken through his yellow sunglasses. Like the star-crossed heroines with whom he identifies (Marilyn, Liz, and Jackie), he was menaced by the disrespectful idolatry of his fans.

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The stairway, alas, did not lead to the second floor, having been boarded up years ago. ”We were trapped like rats,” Green said, but also protected by four policemen posted at the base of the stairs. From their perch, Warhol’s party stared at the crowd and the crowd stared back; both sides seemed to be getting satisfaction. “I wish he would leave so I could leave,” a boy said. Co-eds pushed forward bearing tins of Campbell’s pork and beans and Campbell’s tomato soup that were relayed up the stairs for autographing. An attractive housewife had her book of S & H Green Stamps autographed; she said she would never redeem them.

Warhol and the Satellites were rescued by a group of students who cut a hole in the floor above, through which they made a Beatlesque escape.

Although the show received unfavorable reviews, Warhol was credited with sparking tremendous in art in Philadelphia. “All the people thanked me for doing something in Philadelphia ,” he said.

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Village Voice story about 1965 Warhol exhibit that caused riot in Philadelphia