Dispatches

Remembering Andy

Janet Warner

The first time I met Andy Warhol he was wearing a black sweater and pants; the second time he was wearing white tie and tails (it was at Lincoln Center). The third time I met him, at Arthur, the disco opened in the sixties by Sibyl Burton, he was wearing a jersey made of silver mail.

I had gone to New York to visit my friend John, who was an assistant in curatorial at the Metropolitan Museum. Andy was one of his friends, and John had known him before he’d been taken up by the Sculls and become fashionable. Andy had been very kind to John and brought him chicken soup when he was sick.

Andy spoke in monosyllables whenever we met, and this evening at Arthur was no exception. But the others at our table did talk. John shared his attention between me and a sad-faced young Englishwoman who was connected to the Bloomsbury Group. That woman, two or three beautiful androgynous creatures and a young woman called National Velvet were all eccentrically dressed, and I felt quite self-conscious in my little sleeveless black dress in the Jackie Kennedy style.

Everyone else at the table got up to dance, leaving me and Andy alone. He then uttered the one sentence of the evening: “I’m going to Toronto with my band.” He was speaking of his rock band, which was notorious for brandishing whips on stage.

“Yes, that’s where I live,” I ventured. Somehow it didn’t seem the thing to do to invite him to look me up.

The silence stretched on as Andy, the world’s greatest observer, watched the writhings on the dance floor, expressionless.

When the dancers came back to the table, I turned to one of the beautiful androgynes. “What do you do?” I asked.

“Oh, I’m in Andy’s movies,” he said. I couldn’t think of what to say next. I was thirty-three years old, the mother of two children, a graduate student in English literature, and I felt hopelessly gauche.

I would have asked the sad-faced English girl about Virginia and Vanessa, but she was not speaking either.

I looked around to see who was at the next table. It was Natalie Wood. Andy just sat there in his coat of mail, with his pale hair, pale eyes, pale skin.

I went back to Toronto in the morning.

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Janet Warner

"Remembering Andy" was the first published piece by Janet Warner, who passed away in 2006. She lived in Aldergrove, B.C.


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