warholstars.org

King Andy's German Conquest
by Bob Colacello
(repr. from Village Voice, March 11, 1971, pp. 6, 8, 72)

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Sir Norman St. John-Steves, Conservative member of her Majesty's Parliament, is not the sort of gentleman one would expect to be a great fan of Andy Warhol films. He is.

For that matter, Lady Beryl Devere-Gibson, his delicately old-fashioned aunt, is not the sort of lady one would expect to enjoy the company of Jane Forth. But she did.

In fact, at a recent House of Commons reception for Andy Warhol, the Lady and the Superstar, finding they shared an equal, if inversely inspired, fascination with Roman Catholicism, became rather fast friends, conversing for well over an hour about the various saints and sacraments, taking time out, of course, to smile for the numerous photographers who followed Jane around London with the persistence of CIA agents stalking Black Panthers in Algiers.

Sir Norman, one of the staunchest Parliamentary defenders of Flesh after it was seized by London police last February, and host of this totally refined reception, seemed as pleased with Joe Dallesandro as his aunt was with Jane Forth.

As for Andy, engaged in polite talk with Father Ryan, one of London's most distinguished clerics, and Edna O'Brien, one of London's most respected novelists, well, Andy felt quite at home at the House of Commons. The sheer prestige of it all may even have gone to his head a bit: "Gee, maybe we can take L'Amour to the White House," he said upon leaving. Andy Warhol at the White House? Well, why not? After his German tour, which was something not to be believed, after this unbelievable evening at the House of Commons, I am ready to believe anything.

* * *

Andy Warhol and Company, to use the hotel-desk phrase for a group which included Paul Morrissey, Joe Dallesandro, Jane Forth, Fred Hughes (Andy's all-purpose assistant, adviser, and agent), and Jed Johnson (the Factory film editor and, recently, cameraman) began their German tour on February 17 in cologne after a stop-over in London for the opening of the Warhol retrospective at the Tate Gallery. Detained in New York to put together the latest issue of inter/VIEW, Andy's film newspaper, I joined them two days later, just in time for the grand premiere of Trash in Munich. From there we traveled to Frankfurt, Berlin, back to Munich, back to London, back to New York - quite a trip!

All along the way, there seemed to be no limit to the number of photographers, autograph seekers, well-wishers, tv crews, interviews, press conferences, fancy luncheons, formal dinners, parties, posters, champagne toasts, handshakes, kisses and smiles so that eventually everything - days and nights, food and drink, faces and places - merged into one frenetic whirlwind of fantasy and fame. It was, to use the ultimate cliché, like a dream come true. What amazed and bewildered me most about it all was how Andy, still considered something of a fraud, a freak, in this country, was greeted in Germany with an enthusiasm bordering on adoration, a respect verging on reverence. As Paul Morrissey, half-jokingly, half-seriously, repeated at every opportunity: "A prophet in his own land is without honor."

Andy's stature here, is not, obviously, as low as Paul's usuage of that Biblical proverb suggests, but it is true that he is not nearly as popular as in Germany, where both the mass public and the art-critical establishment appear to agree on his greatness. Not only did Frankfurt boys of 15 or 16 chase after us in the street clutching Rainer Crone's Warhol book, begging Andy for his autograph, beaming ecstatically as he signed each and every one "To Mary - Andy Warhol," but in Darmstadt we were received into the home of Herr Dalem, one of German's leading art collectors, and then escorted to the Hessiches Landesmuseum for a private after-hours tour; in Munich the largest newspaper, Abendzeitung, presented Paul and Joe with awards for the best film and best star of the year at an elegant dinner in the elegant Hotel Conti; in Munich, too, Andy was taken on a tour of the 1972 Olympic grounds and asked to design a mural for the Olympic stadium now under construction.

In short , everywhere we went we were made to feel more like visiting royalty than visiting film workers, Andy more like a popular monarch than a pop artist. Indeed, in the castle at Neuschwanstein the photographers from Stern, Germany's leading magazine, were granted special permission to have Andy pose within the golden alcove intended for the throne of Ludwig II, King of Bavaria.

Why so much fanfare and such fervor surrounding the opening of just one more American film in Germany, and why the German's spectacular affinity for the work of Americas most American artist? Before I attempt an explanation, I think it best to describe in some detail and in chronological sequence our trip through Germany, to illuminate more vividly the exact nature of the phenomenon. What fellows, then, are more or less excerpts from the daily diary I kept during the trip.

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