Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

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Holy Terror - Bob Colacello (1990)

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As editor of Interview magazine from 1971-1983 and as a regular at the Factory, Andy Warhol's studio, Colacello partook of the excesses of the beautiful people. This long, gossipy tell-all startlingly portrays the pop artist as a near-virgin who turned to voyeurism through fear of emotional involvement and whose sexual blockage bred insecurity, cynicism, jealousy and coldness. Warhol went to Catholic church services every Sunday; he was obsessed with diet and had regular facials; he thrived on working with collaborators but turned against each of them out of competitiveness. Behind these multiple images of the "soulless soul of cool," Colacello glimpses the "real Andy": wistful, touching, unhappy and smart. Dali, Robert Mapplethorpe, Mick and Bianca Jagger, Candy Darling, Diana Vreeland and many other celebs drift in and out of this memoir, which Colacello, now a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, wrote as "an act of liberation from my former boss." Photos.

Books of The Times; The Artist as Icon, Busybody and Chief Executive
New York Times
Published: August 09, 1990

Holy Terror
Andy Warhol Close Up
By Bob Colacello

Illustrated. 514 pages. HarperCollins. $22.95.

Is there really anything more to say on the subject of Andy Warhol? Since his death in 1987, at least half a dozen books have surfaced, some, to be sure - like this one - previously in the works. And one shudders to think of others still lurking on the tapes or in the minimum-security minds of other Warholics not yet heard from.

Warholicism, which can be defined as a compulsive preoccupation with Andy and his persona, deeply afflicts Bob Colacello, the artist's latest Boswell. Yet of the reminiscences that have appeared to date - including Warhol's own interminable taped diaries, published last year - Colacello's ''Holy Terror'' is certainly the best-written and the most killingly observed. Dissecting Warhol with an amiable but sharp wit, Mr. Colacello also manages to give him more of a human dimension than anyone else has succeeded in doing.

In his 13 years as the editor of Interview, the celebrity-celebrating gazette that Warhol started in 1969, Mr. Colacello got to know the Factory, as Warhol called his setup, and its boss in excruciating detail. He arrived as a Warhol-worshiper in 1970, when Warhol was no longer a mere artist but a budding corporation, involved with exhibitions, movies (the infamous ''Trash'' was released that year), television, books, plays, commissioned portraits and Interview. And in 1983 he left, fed up with the Factory and its quirks, after unsuccessfully trying to buy a piece of Interview.

Mr. Colacello's title, ''Holy Terror'' is a wry spin on a term used by the art historian John Richardson in his eulogy at Warhol's memorial service in St. Patrick's Cathedral. He referred to the artist as ''that Russian phenomenon, the holy fool: the simpleton whose quasi-divine naivete protects him from an inimical world.'' But Colacello takes a different view. The Warhol ''dumb'' act, he tells us, masked an exquisitely manipulative personality, in fact, a ''closet control freak,'' he writes.

And like many other driven chief executives, Warhol was a trying boss. A sharp businessman who drilled Factory hands on the importance of receipts for the Internal Revenue Service, he urged them often to ''bring home the bacon.'' To make sure they did, he chivied them relentlessly, often by telephone at home. When he wasn't badgering his ''kids'' about working harder, or prying into their sex lives, he was playing one off against another, encouraging dissension and rivalry. Mr. Colacello writes, ''Like a mother whose worst nightmare is an empty nest, Andy wanted his kids to be popular but unloved, confident but insecure, to be the life of the party, but not to upstage him.''

As the man behind Interview, Warhol was hardly a pillar of editorial integrity. He shamelessly traded portraits for advertisements, suggested that female Factory hands sleep with advertisers and unhesitatingly endorsed their products, like Lillet, the aperitif. For a gossip column initiated by Mr. Colacello, he said, ''When you do an author, you should say what perfume they're wearing. Perfume advertises the most. And cigarettes and liquor. Can't we have everybody smoking and drinking in every photograph, Bob?''

The higher-echelon Warhol workers - led by Fred Hughes, a Texas dandy who liked to pose as Andy's hairdresser but who was the chief architect of his success - became adept at ''popping the question.'' That meant coaxing celebrities into having their portraits done by Andy, a process involving persistent pursuit of the rich and famous, especially at their revels. Warhol himself, a no-show at conversation, was something of a liability, Mr. Colacello writes. He was given, for instance, to quizzing almost every woman he met about a certain part of her husband's or lover's anatomy. To make up for his social deficiencies, Mr. Colacello writes: ''We worked the room for Andy. We popped the question for Andy. We even ate the food for Andy, who passed things he couldn't eat onto our plates. Fred kissed the ladies' hands upon arrival, Vincent,'' Vincent Fremont, the Factory's manager, ''flattered them on their dresses or their figures, I whispered jokes in their ears, and Andy said, 'Oh, hi. Gee.' '' There are some hilarious scenes involving these portrait hustles, including a tour-de-force chapter devoted to Imelda Marcos, whose physical appearance impressed Mr. Colacello as ''a kind of cross between the middle-aged Merle Oberon and the juvenile Elvis Presley.''

Warhol's hopes rode high when he was invited for tea at her suite at the Carlyle Hotel in 1974. ''Imelda Marcos really could order up scores of her silk-screened likeness, for every cabinet member's office, Governor's mansion, and Ambassador's residence,'' writes Mr. Colacello, ''fulfilling one of Andy's fondest fantasies: the single commission that miraculously multiplied ad infinitum.''

Instead, however, Mrs. Marcos stonewalled the Warhol troupe on several occasions with a stultifying dissertation on world politics; a three-hour documentary of her state trip to China; a Filipino fashion show and a dinner at Trader Vic's, where the surrounding tables were ''occupied by Filipino musclemen dressed up as admirals, generals and colonels, with lots of medals and gold braid - and guns.'' In the end, to Warhol's chagrin, the First Lady of the Philippines proved portrait-proof. ''God, is she a phony,'' said Warhol. ''She'd make a great portrait, though,'' he said. ''She really is beautiful and I could make her more beautiful.''

Besides its usefulness as a handbook of Factory operations, ''Holy Terror'' will serve as a guide - for those who care - to the ''in'' people of the 1970's. A parade of the decade's most droppable names winds relentlessly through its pages: Diana Vreeland, Halston, Truman Capote, Elizabeth Taylor, Lee Radziwill, Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli, Steve Rubell, Calvin Klein and Paulette Goddard, whose eye-popping displays of diamonds kept Warhol riveted (he wore the diamond and emerald bracelets he bought for himself under his shirt sleeves).

Though Mr. Colacello's disenchantment with Warhol the person is manifest, he makes clear that he still respects Warhol the creative spirit. ''On one level, Andy embodied the American dream: the immigrants' son who made it to the top by dint of hard work and new ideas, like some Horatio Alger of the avant-garde,'' he writes. ''Yet he also consistently subverted that dream, in a wry and disturbing way. The same hand that glamorized fame also delineated its emptiness. The ambiguity at the core of his work reflected the deep contradictions of his personality: Andy was innocent and decadent, primitive and sophisticated, shy and pushy, the eternal outsider at the center of a series of self-created In crowds.''