December 31, 2020: Happy Birthday Joe Dallesandro.
December 26, 2020: Michael Alig died early Christmas morning of a suspected heroin overdose. Rolling Stone magazine is reporting that "According to reports, Alig was doing heroin shortly before he lost consciousness around 3 a.m., his boyfriend told police, and medics found him dead at the scene."
Alig was a reality star before reality stars existed - at least in New York. He became "famous" for being "famous" - at least in New York. His job was "club promoter" but he was mostly known for his outrageous antics, costumes. He clamoured for publicity as though his existence depended on it.
Previous to the Club Kids, there were the regulars of the nightclubbing and counterculture scene who hung out at Danceteria, Area, Save the Roberts and the Mike Todd room at the Palladium. The scene was largely ruled then by Haoui Montaug and Anita Sarko. A lot of the regulars worked in the fashion world and were part of the English invasion of New York that I detailed in The Real World. Limelight, where Alig was hired to do events, wasn't as "in" with the in-crowd as the previous clubs. Alig was copying the scene he had witnessed earlier when he worked at Danceteria as a bus boy.
Alig went into prison just as people were starting to use cell phones and came out of prison to a world of iphones, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram - none of which existed before. He tried to return to club promotion without success - clubs weren't as important as they had been. He tweeted about a book he was writing but nothing materialised and people lost interest.
With his death, Alig is probably getting the most publicity he has had in a decade. Various "club kids" have commented about his death on twitter. His cohort James St. James, who now works for World of Wonder tweeted, "Logging off. I think I'll just be alone with my thoughts for the next couple of days."
December 25, 2020: Merry Christmas from Warholstars! xxg
December 18, 2020: Workers at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh have joined the Steelworkers Union, in conjunction with other other Carnegie Museum employees.
From Trib Live:
"The workers will become part of a 500-member USW unit called the United Museum Workers. It includes scientists, educators, art handlers, front desk and administrative staff, gift shop clerks, ushers and other workers at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Science Center and the Andy Warhol Museum.
'We are thrilled to become members of the strong and diverse labor union whose founding members helped to build the fortune of our museum’s namesake,' said Gabi DiDonna, associate registrar at the Carnegie Museum of Art. 'We look forward to having a seat at the table and a voice in the decisions that affect our quality of life both on and off the job.'"
L: Front cover of Frog Pond Splash, R: Ray Johnson, Untitled, n.d.
December 16, 2020: Siglio Press has published a lovely book of Ray Johnson collages with text by William S. Wilson and a perceptive afterword by the editor, Elizabeth Zuba, which captures Bill Wilson's personality perfectly.
From the press release:
Dubbed “Ray Johnson’s Boswell,” writer and logophile William S. Wilson was one of legendary artist Ray Johnson’s closest friends and biggest champions. He was also perhaps Johnson’s most trusted poetic muse and synthesizer of referents and references. The influence was mutual: throughout their lifelong friendship, begun when both men were in their twenties, writer and artist challenged and enriched one another’s work. Frog Pond Splash intends to suspend and magnify their relationship as well as provide an intimate portrait of the fractured, disappearing Johnson that only Wilson could render, through an also diffuse lens. Editor Elizabeth Zuba (Not Nothing: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson, 1954-1994) has selected collage works by Johnson that span the many stages of Ray’s work in his almost forty years of friendship with Wilson “ordered not by chronology, but by their own morphogenetic correspondence”* and paired with short, perspicacious excerpts of texts by Wilson (from both published and unpublished writings including Wilson’s manuscript on Ray Johnson)... [*quotes from Zuba's afterword.]
Prints (with COA) sold by "theroyalpalace" on Ebay
December 14, 2020: A considerable amount of works alleged by their sellers to be by Andy Warhol, including works with signatures alleged to be by Warhol, have been appearing on Ebay since the Andy Warhol Foundation started selling authentic drawings and ephemera on the auction site.
For instance, a seller calling itself "theroyalpalace" is selling works at bargain basement prices (one currently selling at about $10). The "Royal Palace Gallery" indicates it is a "family based gallery located in Europe since 1978" and that their prints "come directly from Europe" in the Description Section at the bottom of the page of its "Warhol" prints. (The page can be accessed on a mobile by clicking on "show more" in the Item Description.) In other areas of the listing, it indicates the item is coming from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
In the UK, if someone wants to use the words "royal" or "royalty" in the "name of a business, company, or product, they have to seek permission first." Ebay has offices in the UK and are advertising the items in the UK. Their UK Headquarters are located at 1 Heron Square, Richmond, London TW9 1EJ.
The Certificate of Authenticity that accompanies the prints is NOT by the Andy Warhol Foundation. Authenticated prints, which appear in the prints cat. rais., are given a specific catalogue number. These prints do not have such a number.
The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh will be closed until January 3, 2021 due to Covid regulations.
December 10, 2020: Remember the days when Ebay was being used to sell unauthenticated works and ephemera alleged to be by Andy Warhol (such as the Pietro Psaier scandal which became one of the "Ten Art Moments of 2008" in the Daily Telegraph)?
Now the official Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts is teaming up with Ebay to sell legitimate drawings by Andy Warhol for charity. The drawings have been authenticated by the Foundation which is also the charity receiving the funds from the sale.
See "Happy Andy Warholidays."
One of the first versions of warholstars.org in 2001
December 2, 2020: This site began almost twenty years ago. It is the longest running personal website about Andy Warhol on the net. Over the years, I've been privileged to meet and correspond with many of the surviving superstars and scholars who are no longer with us. I would never have been able to do it the site without the support of people like Billy Name, Callie Angell, Matt Wrbican and Bill Wilson - all of whom are, sadly, no longer with us.
If you'd like to see one of the earliest versions of the site there is one (pictured above) at archive.org. Once you are there, check out the "messages" section which includes an early announcement about the Jackie Curtis documentary by the director, Craig Highberger, and a short plea for help by one of Eric Emerson's kids which eventually led to my Wonderboy essay.
William S. Wilson's collection of works by Ray Johnson will be exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago from January 23 to May 17, 2021. (Johnson was a friend of Andy Warhol and is on the cover of Callie Angell's Films of Andy Warhol, Part II, helping Warhol film Jill Johnston Dancing.)
Bill was a friend who I still miss dearly. The Art Institute is using his image of Elvis Presley (created before Warhol's Elvis) to advertise the show (see above). In an email from 2005 about Jackson Pollock and the comic book character Little King, Bill mentioned that he was "going back to the original title, "Oedipus" for the Elvis painting:
From: Parllw@aol.com Subject: The Little King Date: 2 September 2005 at 20:34:48 BST To: firstname.lastname@example.org three Warhol cartoon paintings: Little King
I mention "The Little King" in the essay on Pollock and Johnson in "Dear Jackson Pollock." Most significantly, Pollock had painted a painting he had titled "The Little King," but then he painted over it and retitled the canvas "Galaxy." I mention a bit of the meaning of this event in that essay. Note, for chronology, that Pollock's popular--art reference is earlier than his Abstract Expressionism, which, with its drips, was satirized by Ray Johnson with his Elvis Presley. I am going back to the original title, "Oedipus."
The obituary I wrote when Bill died is at William S. Wilson: good-bye my dear friend.
Bill was a big part of my life. He still is.
Excerpt from the excerpt of The Real World:
My friendship with Bill lasted longer than my correspondence with Mark and became deeper as time went on. Our shared gossip about the art world evolved into gossip about the world in general. Bill became my Rock of Gibraltar, my security blanket, the friend I turned in times of need. I felt closer to him than I did to most of my younger London friends. When my father died in 2005, I turned to Bill.
My reminiscing about my father caused Bill to reminisce about his. Although he talked about his mother a lot - the artist May Wilson - I realised that I hardly knew anything about his father. Bill wrote:
"My father was politically radical in the 1930s, but because serving a few terms in the legislature, followed the Democratic Party line and platform, while nursing hopes of something more socialist. He didn't budge much, so as the social policies liberalized, eventually they caught up with his positions, and in some way passed him by. Gradually he seemed relatively conservative, but still mostly voting Democratic (Eisenhower was probably the exception), and when the Soviet Empire dissolved a Marxist communist state, he said that they (Communists) had not been given enough time."
I had no idea that Bill's father had been a legislator for the state of Maryland. The only other time he mentioned his father was in regard to a story on my site about Holly Woodlawn and how she had avoided the draft during the Vietnam War. Holly, the transvestite “superstar” who co-starred with Joe Dallesandro in Trash, had shown up at the draft board during the Vietnam War era wearing “hot pants and sandals, with a dab of blush for color.” She was promptly excused from service when the doctor noticed she had breasts due to hormone treatments. Bill responded with "Oh Holly! The courage! What balls!!" Then he told me about his own experience with the draft during an earlier war and the relief his father felt when he was deemed unsuitable for military service:
"I would have to go someday, so I asked to be drafted because I was at an impasse in the horrors of graduate school. I went to the induction center, ready for the army, but when I asked the doctors about a fatal arthritis I had been diagnosed as suffering from, & showed them the diagnosis by the doctor who had taught two of them, I was sent home.. I, who thrive on ordeals, was exempted for a fatal disease I didn't know I didn't have, although part of the treatment, with radium, could have killed me. I was dismissed as we were getting into line for the bus to Camp Meade. So then I taxied to the Baltimore Museum of Art, where I was fetched by my father, he still wrecked emotionally by my departure toward killing fields..."
I envied the relationship that Bill had with his father. I’m not so sure that my father would have been “wrecked emotionally” if I had volunteered for military service during the Vietnam War. He probably would have been disappointed if I had been rejected. Fortunately, the draft had ended by the time I reached my 18th birthday. Bill's story led, as usual, to a story about Ray Johnson; in this instance an explanation of how Ray avoided being drafted. Johnson was rejected "because of a murmur of the heart,” which Bill noted was “bureaucratic code for homosexual in those days." He added, "I have a friend who still thinks that he has a heart murmur, but the doctor heard something in his voice & saw something in his demeanor, not in his heart.”
November 14, 2020: The Warhol Museum is "proud to partner with Visual AIDS for Day With(out) Art 2020 by presenting TRANSMISSIONS, an online program consisting of six new videos considering the impact of HIV and AIDS beyond the United States." The online premiere is November 30, 2020.
"This program is presented in honor of Thomas Sokolowski... who passed away in May. Tom was one of the founders of Day With(out) Art and served as director of the museum from 1996 to 2010."
November 13, 2020: There will be an online launch of Duchamp's Pipe: A Chess Romance Marcel Duchamp & George Koltanowski on November 19, 2020. Event is free, registration required.
L to R: Andy Warhol, Calvin Klein, Brook Shields, Steve Rubell at Studio 54
October 19, 2020: Studio 54: Night Magic opens at the Art Gallery of Ontario on December 26, 1920 and runs until April 5, 2021. It will be followed by the Tate Modern Warhol exhibition which opens at the AGO on May 22, 2021 and runs until August 29, 2021.
Front cover of the Richard Avedon biography
October 19, 2020: The Richard Avedon biography, What Becomes a Legend Most: Richard Avedon, by Philip Gefter is out now.
Sections and essays