By Wes Wilson
Andy Warhol came to San Francisco in 1966 to perform at the Fillmore with a troupe of entertainment associates known as the “Plastic Inevitable.” I made a poster for this event but didn’t personally meet him until he returned sometime during the following year and we were both interviewed one afternoon at a downtown San Francisco radio station.
I can’t recall why it was that he had returned in 1967 but after the interview we chatted briefly before heading off in our separate directions. Andy had asked if I knew of anything ‘fun’ that was happening that evening around town. Not knowing of anything special I suggested that perhaps he might enjoy coming up to my place and we could talk about art. Andy looked so utterly bored at that prospect that my impression was that he would not be taking me up on my offer - but I passed him my address and phone number just in case.
I was tired as I drove home afterward - having had another full day of it following several ‘long nights’ - so I decided to go to bed early that evening. Well shortly after falling asleep at around 8pm or so the doorbell rang. Soon I was downstairs answering the door – still of course in my pajamas. Two strangers were standing there. One asked “Is this Wes Wilson’s place?” “Yes” I said. One of them jauntily motioned toward the street saying “This is it!” Then more people came up from what looked like a limousine parked on the street - and yes – the one wearing dark glasses was Andy Warhol. “Welcome!” I think I stammered as I ushered them all inside.
Sometimes, in situations like this people can muddle through such unexpected circumstances to happily benefit everyone in the end - and I had firmly decided that this was going to be one of those times for me. There I was, still wearing my pajamas, sleep tousled and sleepy-eyed, with a fresh house full of guests to host – but undaunted. Well as luck would have it two of my guests had quickly sized up my hosting dilemma and understood my need completely. Immediately these two volunteered to help prepare and serve party goodies. So the three of us foraged through the kitchen and soon sufficient party food and drink was found and then being served. Nico, an attractive blonde from Munich (“Miss Pop Art ‘66”) had placed her newly released record on the phonograph and had turned up the volume. Someone else had thoughtfully rolled up a few joints and passed them around. Our ‘party’ was already happening when, again, the doorbell rang.
With some trepidation (police concerns perhaps?) I opened the door a crack. This time a smiling man and a woman were standing there. Who or what I asked? They explained that they were reporters from ‘The New York Post’ who had come to conduct their interview with me. “What interview?” I asked. They explained that they had scheduled an appointment for this interview over the phone with me a week or so earlier. “Don’t you remember?” they gently chided. “Well - no” I think I said. But there I was – peering out the door all tousled, bleary eyed and wearing only pajamas – while there was a party obviously going on inside. I certainly didn’t look like the type who ‘never forgets’ appointments I reflected. I was sorry but I didn’t want to be interviewed nor to argue about anything. However the two of them were so polite and genuine that I found myself asking them in to join our party - which they then did.
When I informally introduced these two to the party-goers who were already ensconced inside, they were flabbergasted when they realized that Andy Warhol himself was there too. Suddenly to my astonishment they literally fell on their knees in front of Andy in reverential adulation – quickly plying him with giddy questions – obviously wanting to interview him instead. I think it was Andy’s frozen ‘look’ that made this so extremely funny! I think Andy could even have been another Jack Benny.
So, by this time a nicely entertaining party had nicely evolved and was thumping along merrily into the Mill Valley night. Finally I was able to sufficiently relax to begin enjoying my unusual array of fascinating guests. There was our party’s centerpiece – Andy - parked in the middle of the living room couch - friends wedged in closely on either side – the two new guests kneeling at his feet – with Andy not looking especially pleasant as he deftly fended off questions with his steady gaze and silence. When I was finally able to speak with Andy a bit I too found him not the least inclined to be at all ‘conversational.’ He preferred watching and listening - occasionally fielding brief irrelevant comic responses when queried. I was reduced to being silly just ‘to keep up’ with his nonsense.
No one seemed to care that I was wearing only pajamas - except ‘Ultra-Violet,’ sitting beside Andy. She made note of my odd attire at one point by playfully undoing my pajama waistband with a wicked little grin. Mostly Andy sat quietly as if he were a ‘shy child’ – hopelessly lost behind those cool dark glasses. Often though he seemed to use his studied expressionless ‘look’ as a way of affecting his underlying arrogance. After a while Andy seemed to tire of all this and managed to ask me to show him my studio. I was most happy to oblige him and change the subject so up the stairs we promptly went to check it out. This signaled most of the other guests to follow – all were curious to see what Wes Wilson’s art studio looked like as well.
My studio contained odd stacks of rock posters scattered about on the floor, a sprayed on manikin or two, my work tables and a business desk all covered at the time with numerous business cards, notes, receipts, newspapers and magazines. Andy took it all in slowly and said very little. Andy’s only comment of note that I remember came when he noticed a magazine (CA Magazine) laying on my desk which had pictured on its cover a number of political buttons depicting various symbols or funny sayings with contemporary 1967 meanings – such as “Make Love, Not War,” etc. One button in particular caught Andy’s eye and he suddenly laughed for perhaps the first time that evening. He pointed out to me a pink button that read “Pop Art Stinks!” Then, grinning, Andy distinctly said “It does.” In that instant I think I understood Andy. He had just framed the essence of his artistic agenda – i.e. ‘making a stink!’ You can certainly see this principle at work in all his ‘art’ I thought. We had both laughed. Such fun!
We returned downstairs and after about an hour and the party had wound down. There were no more drinks, no more cigarettes for the hard line tobacco smokers, the talk had been talked out and the phonograph gone silent, most of my best pot had gone up in smoke. It was time to go. When Andy rose to leave he thanked me and kindly invited me to be sure and visit his place in New York City sometime. He called his place ‘the factory’ and gave me his address and phone number. I thanked him and said that I certainly would visit his place whenever I got back to New York City. Ultra Violet added a ‘see ya’– and off they went.
I did travel to New York City the following year, July of 1968, but Andy had just been shot and lay isolated in an ‘intensive care’ of some hospital. Unfortunately I was never to see Andy again.
"In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." -- Andy Warhol, 1968