home - about - contents - news archive - superstars - interviews - articles - soup can - films - art - timeline - abstract expressionism - sources - citations

Andy Warhol: From Nowhere to Up There

an oral history of Andy Warhol's early years

by Gary Comenas

to: page numbers and topics

page 13

Fred Lawrence Guiles: At the end of August [1949], Andy and Philip found themselves a larger, considerably more comfortable apartment by answering an ad in The New York Times. (FG65)

David Bourdon: … they answered an ad in The New York Times that led them to a large second-floor front room in a four-story building at 323 West 21st Street in the Chelsea area. The room was amply proportioned, about twenty-five by fifteen feet, with three windows overlooking the street. They sublet the space from Franziska Boas, a modern dancer who lived elsewhere on the premises with an Old English sheepdog. (DB28)

Fred Lawrence Guiles: Andy and Pearlstein shared their large end room with Boas’s huge dog called ‘Name.’ (FG67)

Barbara Browning (Assoc. Professor, Tisch School of the Arts): Franziska Boas (1902-1988) established her reputation as a dance therapist, but she was also the founder of the Boas School of Dance, which offered intercultural, or what today would probably be termed ‘multicultural,’ dance training. A surprising number of future experimentalists worked under her, including, notably, John Cage and Merce Cunningham. (BBS395)

Allana Lindgren (Assoc. Prof. University of Victoria): …the roster of students who passed through Boas’s studio over the years boasted the likes of Valerie Bettis, John Cage, Norman Coker, Merce Cunningham, Claude Marchant and Alwin Nikolais. Many of these former students, including Valerie Bettis, John Cage, Norman Coker and Claude Marchant eventually taught courses at the Boas School of Dance… Sometimes at the group’s lecture demonstrations, Boas would arrange for the dancers to improvise while visual artists sketched. (AL26/45)

Fred Lawrence Guiles: …Boas was the daughter of the noted anthropologist Franz Boas, author of the definitive work Primitive Art, first published in 1927. She was presently using her studio for dance therapy with disturbed children. (FG65)

Philip Pearlstein: These kids ran around screaming their heads off. Primal screams. She was probably one of the pioneers of that. (FG65)

David Bourdon: Andy, despite his sophistication in cultural matters, was still very naïve sexually. But he lost some of his innocence after meeting a man who frequented the West 21st Street premises. Conflicting stories portray the man as black and either a building superintendent, who came in twice a week, or a light-fingered dancer who left behind him a trail of missing jewelry. Whoever he was, this man could hardly wait to get his hands on Andy, furtively tickling him all over and trying to maneuver him toward a bed. Later, Andy would claim that he didn’t have any idea what it was all about, but at the time he was clearly upset. On one occasion, he even fled the building and ran to a pay phone to telephone Philip at work – though what he expected Perlstein to do about the situation is anybody’s guest.

In the spring of 1950, just after Boas’ sheepdog gave birth to eight puppies in Andy and Philip’s room, the two artists, the dancer, and all her dogs were evicted. Andy and Philip went their separate ways. (DB30)

Fred Lawrence Guiles: Suddenly it turned out that Franziska Boas, Philip and Andy’s leaseholding co-tenant, was behind in her rent to the landlord of the loft building on West 21st Street. In April 1950 they were all evicted, despite the young men having paid their own rent on time to Franziska. They were all out of the street – Philip, Andy, Franziska and her friend and Name and her puppies. (FG75)

Majorie Frankel Nathanson (Exec. Dir. Hunterdon Art Museum): [In] March [1950], [Warhol] moves to 103rd Street and Manhattan Avenue, where he shares an apartment with young dancers, writers, and artists. (MN404)

David Bourdon: In August, Warhol attended Pearlsteins’ wedding to their former Carnegie Tech classmate Dorothy Cantor. By then, Warhol had moved into a large ground-floor apartment at 74 West 103rd Street. Though the telephone was listed under his name ('Warhol Andy artist'), he later maintained that the apartment actually belonged to Victor Reilly, a dancer who split the $125 rent with a constantly rotating cast of young men and women, including several ballet dancers who used the place as a stopover. (DB30)

George Klauber: … that apartment in 103rd Street… was one of the most transient, uncomfortable places [that] I’ve been in my life. Dreary furniture. It had only lights, not lamps. Well, he was struggling as an illustrator at the time. (PSC24)

Elaine Finsilver (Dancer): Well, he shared his room with Tommy Quinland, and when Jack Hudson came, Jack moved in. And, depending on who came last, there were three beds in the room. It was just a large, bare room except for usually three unmade beds, and Andy had his drawing table, I remember, on the left as you walked into the room… It was like an architectural draftsman table, and he had a light over it. And all over it, he had all of his pens, and ink things were all neatly placed, and everything was in its place, and a lot of masking tape, and that’s all.

We used to go to work. I used to go to school, and, then, I’d go to my shrink, and, then, I used to go to my dance class. They never got up until two or three in the afternoon. So, by the time I got back, they were ready to have breakfast, which was, like, six o’clock in the evening.

And Andy was not at that point in his life what one would call a ‘hard worker.’ … He called Leila ‘mother.’ Leila was everybody’s mother. She sewed Jack’s [Bebber] tights, and I played the mama role when she wasn’t there. (PSC36)

Robert Fleisher (Stationary buyer for Bergdorf Goodman): The first time that I ever saw Andy – the first time that I ever saw him in his apartment, in the flesh – he was working at this little desk doing sketches that he was trying to show to the editor of Park East. But in the room were very large canvases in oils. Serious painting somewhat. And, do you know, in the late thirties there was a newsreel of a bombing in China?...Andy did a version of that in pastel oils. It was a very large canvas. Feet by feet, and so forth. I thought that it was spectacular, and it was partly line drawing with the blotted-line, but it was pastel oils. Now that’s very early, way before he was a successful illustrator. I mean, when he had one pair of pants and living in a cellar at 104th [sic] Street and Manhattan Avenue with six people. Elaine [Finsilver] was living there part of the time, and she was taking ballet lessons and met people in ballet class, who were living with Andy. Very much like young people in those days with no money and always wanted to go to parties, eating spaghetti… the usual thing that kids do when they’re first out of school. I became part of their crowd through Elaine, and I saw them quite often… I had a date with Elaine one time, and we went up there in a cab. She introduced me to her roommates, and Andy was there, and so forth. (PSC112-3)

Elaine Finsilver: …I have a vague recollection of him [Warhol] reading comic books. I could be wrong. He was not a heavy reader. Tommy Quinland was the ‘intellectual’ of the group and read all of these heavy books. Andy would just sit and listen as we would discuss something… I always had the feeling that he needed – he wanted – to be taken care of because I know when the group broke up because they demolishing the building, that’s when, you now, [his] mama came… They tore down the building, and, then, everybody went their separate ways. (PSC37)

Joseph Groell: I had an apartment [that] Philip Pearlstein had after Philip got married… on 24th Street between First and Second Avenue, and sometime in the late fall, I had to go back to Pittsburgh, and Andy moved into my apartment. (PSC30)

Matt Wrbican: Warhol moved to 319 East 24th street at an unknown date… in 1950 (we have a few bits dated December 1950 and February 1951 with that address). (E10/4/10)

Joseph Groell: …when I came back, we shared the (East 24th St.) apartment for a month or two until his mother came to New York and he found an apartment, I think in the [East] 70s. Andy was stuck paying the rent [at 103rd St.] and I think he was the primary tenant. And there were all these bizarre people who came and went and [who] ran up a huge phone bill. And finally Andy, I guess, had too much of it, and couldn’t cope with it, and he moved into my place… I guess he had at the time the kind of personality that appealed to art directors… who were doing commercial art but somehow felt that they had ‘created’ people. So, Andy would play on that sort of thing. He would call them up, and the phone conversations were quite bizarre… he would say, ‘Hello. I’m just sitting on my bed here, playing with my yo-yo.’ And ‘I planted some bird see in the park yesterday. And would you like to order a bird? And do you have any work for me?’ (PSC30)

Fred Lawrence Guiles: On Christmas Eve 1950, Andy and [George] Klauber, with some of Klauber’s male friends, attended a showing of the French film Forbidden Games, and then went back to Klauber’s Brooklyn apartment to party. Klauber recalled: ‘We had picked up a Christmas tree on the way. We set it up in my apartment and we were dancing and that’s when Andy met Ralph Thomas Ward. His nickname was Corkie.’

Ralph Ward was good-looking, about Andy’s age, and Andy got a serious crush on him… The two men collaborated on two of Andy’s little privately printed books (A is an Alphabet (1953) and Love is a Pink Cake (c.1953)) and spent many hours together in Ward’s apartment but no very solid friendship was ever formed and Klauber said that Ward told him he thought Andy was a ‘boorish peasant.’ Ralph was living with a writer who had been Isadora Duncan’s secretary at one time, and Ralph’s friends knew just about everyone of importance in the dance and art world… The 1950 Christmas party took a calamitous turn when Klauber stripped down to his undershorts… (FG83)

George Klauber: I never could stand the flannel trousers popular then… I always took them off when I danced. It used to be a joke. There Ralph and I were waltzing around when I crashed into a drafting table where I had been doing my Christmas cards and something cut me in the side. It was an incredible cut. I have the scar here. It cut the tendons, I think. When you call for an ambulance in New York City, you get the police first. They came immediately. I was bleeding. Andy was very upset and left immediately, but waited downstairs for Ralph, thinking that he and Ralph could go off together. Unfortunately for Andy, Ralph came with me to the hospital because I needed someone in attendance. (FG84)

Trevor Fairbrother (Curator): …homosexuals were an invisible minority in the larger world, yet tolerated as a sub-group in a few professions – dance, theater, and the fine and applied arts. To a degree they gravitated to the areas where a certain openness prevailed… (TR56)

[Note: Trevor Fairbrother was appointed to the Andy Warhol Authentication Board in 2005. gc.]

Daniel Arje (Bonwit Teller display director): I do remember Andy coming to the display department once, and he said, ‘I was just at Harper’s Bazaar,’ and he gave me a picture of Marlon Brando. ‘Would you like to see it?’ And I said, ‘Sure, Andy, Yeah.’ And he went into his pants and he had it in here [his crotch], and he showed the photo to me. Then he put it back in. And he was walking around New York with Marlon Brando in there. (PS11)

to page fourteen

home - about - contents - news archive - superstars - interviews - articles - soup can - films - art - timeline - abstract expressionism - sources - citations