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By Robert Heide.

WARHOL, HEIDE, INGRID SUPERSTAR -1966. Photo credit: Heide Archives

I gave Andy Warhol the idea in the Silver Factory one night after a party at Bobo Rockefeller’s at which Flor Trujillo the daughter of the assassinated Dominican dictator proclaimed her recent marriage to a very handsome young man; at the party Andy had asked Flor why she married the well known male hustler, to which she replied, “He give me a good f—ck.” After the party, I pitched my idea to Andy as we sat alone together on Andy’s red plush couch; it was to continue to paint his soup cans and celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, only changing and varying the use of color: in other words, a Marilyn with a fuchsia face and orange hair or a green and purple soup can, etcetera. This was in reply to Andy’s persistent and annoying question: ‘What’ll we do next?’ Andy’s obsession with the repetition of image coupled with his profound sense of Zen emptiness caused him to remark, ‘Oh, gee, yeah,’ as he embraced the free-floating idea. And this became a major shift in his work. Four colored soup cans entered the world of Andy Warhol’s pop art the following year, and decades later in 2022, one of five images of Marilyn Monroe, called the ‘shot Marilyn’s’ sold for nearly $200 million prompting Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman of 20th and 2lst century art to state “we’re very proud that we sold the most expensive painting of the 20th century.” Back in the sixties Andy had just completed five silkscreens of a blonde Marilyn (from a publicity photo from Niagara) with different color backgrounds; they were all leaning against a wall when Dorothy Podber, the girlfriend of my pal collagist Ray Johnson, visiting the factory, asked if she could ‘shoot’ them. Andy, thinking she meant to take pictures, said sure. She pulled off her gloves, took a gun from her handbag and shot bullets into four of them. They were restored, and thus became Warhol’s most iconic silkscreens, carrying with them the aura of death—Marilyn herself had overdosed two years before, and three years later Andy was shot by Valerie Solanas, the founder of S.C.U.M., the Society for Cutting Up Men. Over the years the ‘shot Marilyns’ ended up in major collections after fetching record-breaking prices at auction. On a very positive note, in 2022 the proceeds from the champion—the ‘shot blue sage Marilyn’—all went to a foundation for helping underprivileged children.

By now everyone knows that Warhol is the foremost artist of the second half of the 20th century and continues to be the world’s most famous well into the 21st—Picasso, of course was the big one in the first half of the last century. I first met Andy Warhol in the early sixties, through a mutual friend, photographer Edward Wallowitch, who was then living with his brother John, a cabaret performer, in a floor through basement apartment at 8 Barrow Street in Greenwich Village. John had a kind of salon and actors like George C. Scott, Colleen Dewhurst, George Segal and a coterie of cabaret chanteuse style singers including Lovelady Powell, Joanne Berretta, Alice Ghostly and Eartha Kitt showed up. Andy often appeared to me a pale white-silver-gray ghost-like apparition, who was quiet, shy, and totally in his own persona—an off-handed remark or joke suddenly startled him into stillness and, hiding behind his dark sunglasses, a rigid, passive blankness seemed to overtake him. Yet on another level this strange man in a Truman Capote styled wig which sat unevenly on his head with bangs falling to one side and over one eye—seemed to be totally in control. His relationship with Edward was intensely personal; but Andy clearly was intrigued by some of the photos Edward was showing him for possible use as pop art silkscreen blow-ups. At different times in their on-again-off-again friendship Andy would present Edward with a gift of a Campbell’s Soup can painting or a silk screen of the two housewives who died from poisoning after eating tuna fish salad made from a can of tainted A&P Tuna. Edward sold these renderings early on for quick cash much to Andy’s dismay and astonishment; and their relationship came to an end. Not too long afterward, Edward died of a fall after a prolonged drinking binge. In 2013 Warhol’s Silver Car Crash or Double Disaster, a silkscreen made from one of Edward’s car crash photos, sold for $104 million.

My next encounter with Andy Warhol was when he came to the Caffe Cino on Cornelia Street to see my play The Bed. The tiny stage area at the famed Cino became an oversized slanted-forward slab of a gleaming white bed; two young men struggle to get out of their bed of discontent as they encounter time blackouts brought about by booze guzzling and drugs. Twice they play the Dave Clark Five’s Anyway You Want It on their record player, never saying a word, staring straight ahead into the audience. New York Times drama critic Elanore Lester wrote, “What we are witnessing here is the anguish of existence.” Andy, a devotee of the play came several times and gave it a glowing endorsement, a quote I used in ads and on the play’s poster—“The Bed is beautiful emptiness!—a work of genius!” Subsequently he decided to make a film of the play. It was shot in 16 mm over the weekend of November 13 and 14, 1965 at the enormous loft on the Bowery (near the Cooper Union) of Interview Magazine’s cover artist Richard Bernstein. (See Starmaker, a book of Bernstein’s Interview covers published in 2018.) Danny Williams, a talented and trained filmmaker who had edited all of Albert and David Maysle’s films, and had made over 20 films at the Factory in 1965 and 1966 co-directed The Bed with Andy with whom he had a romantic and creative relationship. (See 2007 documentary A Walk Into the Sea by Williams’ niece Esther Robinson.) Both men considered it an ambitious and complex project, grounded in the restaging and adaptation to film of the one-act play and filmed five hours of footage.

The original Caffe Cino actors, Jim Jennings and Larry Burns reprised their roles; under ultra bright light, Jack and Jim slowly wake up, smoke, drink, eat and discuss the deterioration of their relationship. At the end of the play one of them actually steps off the bed, dresses and walks out to “buy a pack of cigarettes and get a cup of coffee.” Andy decided to make The Bed an elaborate dual screen sound version; the completed hour-long film was premiered at Jonas Mekas Filmmakers Cinemateque on 41st Street in 1966 and portions of it were spliced into early versions of Andy’s breakthrough success, The Chelsea Girls. The Bed never went into distribution and after its’ initial showings was shelved, due to a lawsuit brought by one of the investors. Fortunately a film historian named Callie Angel was employed at the Whitney Museum in 1991 to bring it and other ‘lost’ films into the light. A years-long project involving the Whitney, the MOMA, the Warhol Foundation and the Warhol Museum has resulted in The Bed and many more films being dusted off, analyzed, restored, and digitized. Two catalogue raisonne’s of the films of Andy Warhol have been completed; the first features the famous three-minute ‘screen tests’ and was completed before Callie’s untimely death and published in 2006. Curatorial consultant Claire Henry took over the job and in December, 2021 the Catalogue Raisonne of Andy Warhol’s Films, 1963-1965 was published by Yale University Press. In the huge $100 book a 13-page prodigiously detailed essay on the making of The Bed by King’s College-London film historian Elena Gorfinkel with over a dozen photos both from the play at the Caffe Cino and the filming in Bernstein’s loft makes quite a splash.

Included in the big Warhol book is an essay by filmmaker Tom Kalin on the color film Lupe which has a luminous performance by Andy’s muse, the 1965 ‘Girl of the Year’––Edie Sedgwick—and also has in the cast my old friend Billy Name, who created Andy’s silvered Factory and became a photo chronicler of those early years. Not too long after The Bed was filmed Andy asked me to write a screenplay for Edie in which she ends up killing herself. I decided that the spectacular and dismal death of the Hollywood star—the Mexican spitfire—Lupe Velez, based on a story told by Kenneth Anger in his blockbuster book Hollywood Babylon would be ideal for Edie. My script, entitled The Death of Lupe Velez became just Lupe and it is one of the most popular of Andy’s films. In the end Edieas Lupe—is seen dying with her head in the toilet. Around that time Andy had asked me when I thought Edie might commit suicide. Of course I had no idea. He said “I hope she lets us know so we can film it.” Eerily, Edie more or less committed suicide of a drug overdose just a few short years later in Santa Barbara.

Robert Heide’s plays including The Bed and another Caffe Cino classic Moon and I Shop: Andy Warhol as well as the filmscript of The Death of Lupe Velez have been collected in Robert Heide—25 Plays and have been published by Fast Books Press. The book is available at fastbookspress.com and at Amazon.

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