THE EKLUND ǀ GOMES TEAM

ANDY WARHOL IN GREENWICH VILLAGE

I first met Andy in the early l960s through Edward Wallowitch, a photographer and Edward Steichen protégé at Aldo’s, a restaurant on Bleecker Street that is now Manatus. An upscale place, Aldo’s catered primarily to a gay clientele. Edward and I had known each other in Chicago when I was studying theater at Northwestern University and we had reconnected in New York.

Andy’s dinner companion was a gossipy New York stylist named Edgar Davies. At this time, a shy, somewhat passive Andy was finding his way out of the advertising business and had begun moving into the world of Pop Art, already painting soup cans and also making giant lithos from photos sold to Andy by Wallowitch.

Edward was then living in Greenwich Village with his brother John at 8 Barrow Street in a Bohemian style floor-thru basement apartment that became a kind of salon for artists, writers, musicians, actors and singers. John composed and played his own songs and became a well-known cabaret performer himself.

One night, when I was invited to a makeshift potluck dinner, Eartha Kitt and Alice Ghostly performed songs with John pounding the ivories. Others who showed up at the Wallowitch salon at which Andy and myself became regulars were actors Colleen Dewhurst, George C. Scott, George Segal and a coterie of cabaret chanteuse-style singers, including Lovelady Powell, Joanne Berretta, and Jo Ann Worley, who performed at Jan Wallman’s ‘Upstairs at the Duplex’ when it was on Grove Street.

Edward Wallowitch and Andy had become a glamorous New York twosome who loved to carry on at parties uptown and downtown in Greenwich Village. I remember that Andy rarely joined in on conversations, preferring to just listen and watch; he always appeared though to be having a good time. Ghostly pale and wearing a white wig, he was a strange presence and had an immediate impact on anyone he encountered. Known as an eccentric bon-vivant character about town, he was finding his way into the New York art world and before long he would change it forever.

In those happy, frantic and crazy years, Andy was everywhere in the Village. He liked to go to Lenny’s Hideaway (now Smalls), a notorious gay cellar dive on 10th Street. The bar at Julius’ was another hot spot Andy enjoyed visiting. He also went to the Caffe Cino on Cornelia Street to see my play “The Bed” and later filmed it in a loft on the Bowery.

Warhol, an avid collector of bric-a-brac including cookie jars, Bakelite Dime-Store Deco jewelry, Mickey Mouse memorabilia, litho-on-metal soda pop signs and other popular culture artifacts, haunted the antique shops on Bleecker Street like Michael Malce’s and Johnny Jupiter’s. On Christopher Street, he shopped at The Leather Man. He visited me many times at my apartment, which was just across the street and, on one occasion, he orchestrated a ‘bleach party’ there.

Paul America and Gerard Malanga, both Warhol superstars, arrived for the white-henna-ammonia-peroxide spontaneous Warhol Happening. Also included was Jersey girl Ingrid Superstar who Andy said he was grooming to replace the temperamental Edie Sedgwick, though Factory regulars felt Ingrid lacked the star quality, charisma, gamin grace, glamour and glow of Edie. Later, at some point, Ingrid disappeared from the Factory and was never heard from again. Brigid Berlin said at this bleach party event that Andy wanted everyone to be platinumized for an opening at a supermarket in Pennsylvania in which he was going to be signing Campbell’s Soup cans.

One afternoon Andy asked me to meet him at the Kettle of Fish at 114 MacDougal Street but when I got there he was nowhere in sight. Sitting alone at a table was Edie Sedgwick, who had been working on the movie “Lupe” for which I had written the script at Andy’s request. He asked for a scenario in which Edie commits suicide at the end and I delivered one about the death of movie star Lupe Velez via sleeping pills. Velez died while vomiting into the toilet, and that is how the Warhol film ends.

At this point in her life, Edie was strung out on drugs herself and, as I sat down with her, she began to sob, “I just can’t get close to him. I try but….” Assuming she meant Andy, I asked her how the film was going and she answered, “Oh, we finished that yesterday.” I stared at her as she sipped her Bloody Mary and then I recalled that she had a reputation for never being able to remember lines. Finally, Andy burst into the bar wearing a brand new baby-blue suede suit custom-made at The Leather Man. He pulled a bar stool up to our table, but did not utter a word. A few moments later, a limousine drove up in front and Bob Dylan walked in with his blonde Afro-hair, wearing pointy high-heeled black boots, a black designer suit and dark oversized Italian sunglasses. He sat down right next to Edie. It was his ‘Blonde on Blonde’ period when he was spidery thin, and he had just written the song “Just Like a Woman” for Edie. A Rolling Stone song that was popular on the jukeboxes then also written about Edie was “Here Comes Your 19th Nervous Breakdown.”

There at ‘The Kettle,’ I felt caught in the middle of a tense juggernaught tug-of-war between the Girl-of-the-Year, Andy and Bobby. Suddenly Dylan said “Let’s split,” grabbing Edie and leaving. Andy seemed perturbed by their fast exit, but then said in a matter-of-fact manner that he wanted me to take him to the exact spot where the dancer Freddy Herko, who appeared with Billy Name and John Daly in Warhol’s “Haircut,” took a ballet leap out of a 5th floor window at 5 Cornelia Street after taking LSD. When we arrived at the building Andy stared up at the window and said, “I wonder when Edie will commit suicide… I hope she lets us know so we can film it.”

Two years ago, I met Thomas Kiedrowski, author of the book “Andy Warhol’s New York City,” at the Reggio Café. This meeting took place as he was putting together his guide book for publication, and he wanted to ask me about places in the Village that Andy frequented. I also told him some of my stories. I pointed out to Thomas the exact table near the entranceway at Reggio’s where I sat with Andy just after he had been released from the hospital and was recovering from having been shot by Valerie Solanis (the head of a cult group of crazed women called ‘Society for Cutting Up Men’ – S.C.U.M). On that day, a frail Andy said to me about the shooting, “I think you should write about this.”

ROBERT HEIDE has written about Warhol in his book “Greenwich Village – A Primo Guide to True Bohemia” (St. Martin’s Press). Recently his play “I Shop: Andy Warhol” was produced by Peculiar Works.

Leave a Reply