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Monday, March 03, 2014

Art Apart

From the Bookshelf Dept.: The Andy Warhol Diaries was supposed to be the big beach read for 1989, but I’m sure that more discriminating readers realized it was more fun to enjoy the sun of a beach. Here’s my brief review.


SAMUEL PEPYS HE WAS NOT. Where Pepys’s massive diaries were literary and offered both insightful and satiric commentary among the juicier episodes, Andy Warhol’s diaries are little else but the jucier episodes. If your idea of juicy includes snide accounts of drug consumption by bitchy models, fashion designers and the like.

That’s the stuff of best-sellerdom today, and this book has been up there on the lists for several weeks now. If you’ve ever wondered what your friends think about you, be glad you weren’t a pal of Andy. His friends now know. In lavish detail. (If you were a friend of Andy and didn’t make it into the book, you mustn’t have attended the right parties. Or you simply behaved with uncommon restraint.)

The diaries are the product of Warhol’s daily reminiscences with onetime secretary Pat Hackett, who recorded his musings from 1976 to 1987, shortly before his death. She edited the manuscript, she explains, by excising reports about some of the many parties Andy attended. Apparently we also were spared some of the less-than-desirable behavior of a Warner Books executive or two.

What you wish Andy had spent some time talking about is his art, but that’s noted only in a most perfunctory passage, most vividly by accounts of various celebrities micturating on canvas for one series of paintings.

What we’re left with, then, are the parties. The celebrities. Bianca. Halston. Warhol emerges as the Henny Youngman of gossip mongering, slipping us tale after tale until it seems he can’t possibly have more to say.

For example: “Jerry Hall called. She said that poor Mick has been down in Peru with the Herzog movie and it rains all day and he has to sleep on a wet mattress and Jason Robards was taken away with pneumonia to a hospital in New York and now he doesn’t want to go back.”

Or this account of a trip to Monte Carlo in 1980: “...We had to get in line to meet Princess Grace. I was the first one, and we were just all making funny jokes about standing in line and finally when we turned around there she was, and she had a little tummy. We were supposed to kiss her hand but I refused to kiss her hand so we shook hands, and she didn’t really like me...”

People magazine would report such a meeting, but only Andy will share such tidbits as the tummy. Eight hundred pages of Andy’s sauced-up People-type tale-telling is the mental equivalent of drinking a Jolt Cola-and-Valium cocktail. It’s fun, but after a while you wonder what you’re doing to yourself.

The Andy Warhol Diaries was published without an index, and it’s become something of a competition sport to see which third-party vendor can come up with one. For my money, Spy magazine’s August issue had the best, concentrating on the drug and sex scandals we’d want to repeat to our friends.

It’s a handsomely printed, oversized volume with a classic coffee-table look, but I think Andy himself would be pleased to be responsible for what may be the decade’s best leave-it-in-the-bathroom book.

The Andy Warhol Diaries
Edited by Pat Hackett
Warner Books, 807 pp. $29.95.

– Schenectady Daily Gazette, 23 August 1989

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