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Andy Warhol: From Nowhere to Up There

an oral history of Andy Warhol's early years

by Gary Comenas

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page eighteen

George Klauber: Ralph ('Corkie') is a very close friend of mine, and I introduced him to Andy. And after awhile, they became very good friends. They were very close. It’s the sort of thing when two close friends become closer to themselves than they are at that point of life, and that’s how it was at that point. And they did these books together, and Ralph… was a very good poet. (PSC26)

Trevor Fairbrother: In the same year [1953], [Ralph] Ward and Warhol collaborated on another humorous book, Love Is A Pink Cake, with verse and illustrations devoted to such romantic figures as Romeo and Juliet and Napoleon and Josephine. Two of the nineteen poems were about gay predicaments: ‘a man who was beguiled when he was a little child by the author Oscar Wilde,’ and an angel despairing over ‘a problem quite complex… concerning sex – whether André Gide should stay in heaven or go to hell.’ (TR59-60)

Patrick S. Smith:  In fact, Warhol’s use of popular imagery includes tracing the hand coloured lithographs and chromolithographs of Currier and Ives. Two such prints, from 1846, are entitled The Lovers’ Quarrel and The Lovers’ Reconciliation. Warhol traced these prints for two of the 24 un-blotted drawings in his 1953 promotional book Love Is A Pink Cake. This book was printed on light blue paper. Text by ‘Corkie’ (Ralph Thomas Ward) is below each drawing of famous historical lovers. This unbound book of Warhol's drawings features his line illustrations from this period. In Love Is A Pink Cake, the drawing of Chopin and George Sand is the result of Warhol’s deconstruction of the Currier and Ives print The Lovers’ Reconciliation… Likewise, Warhol’s drawing of Oscar Wilde is a delineation of the male figure in the Currier and Ives lithograph The Lovers’ Quarrel. The figure is still similar to the print, but becomes eroticized by Warhol, who adds an emphatic line at the crotch. (PS50)

Mark Shulgasser: I have twenty-one similar sheets from Love is A Pink Cake, most with backs used as stationery by Dudley Huppler. They are among several hundred letters written by Huppler to composer Lee Hoiby... It seems that Huppler, living in Wisconsin, sought out Warhol by letter and telephone to express his admiration for Warhol's illustrative work. He writes that meeting Warhol is one of his principal goals in coming to New York.... (E10/7/10)

Robert Cozzolino: … Huppler sold his book, postcard sets, and drawings at Manhattan shops and galleries. One of these was Serendipity 3, a restaurant and boutique that was friendly to its gay clientele… At Serendipity Huppler probably met photographer Otto Fenn, who introduced Huppler to Andy Warhol... In Huppler’s letters to Karl Priebe during the 1950s he [Huppler] wrote cattily about Warhol, hitting at just those aspects of the younger artist that made him insecure. On the reverse pages of Warhol’s 1953 book Love Is A Pink Cake Huppler told Priebe, ‘These are by Warthole, as Carol [Blanchard] calls him. Andy Warhol. He’s dumb and nice – with bulb nose. Awful young and callow.’ Later, after Warhol became famous as a Pop artist, Huppler’s derision increased. ‘In Time [magazine] it sez in first note on society doings that Wartnose Warhole is one of desirable men every hostess has to have one of. Have to laugh… So, quite a comment on current society, if he’s a plum. (RCD10-11)

[Note: Cozzilini notes that both letters referred to are undated – “probably 1954 and 1964 respectively. Priebe Papers, Hupper correspondence, folder 2.” g.c.]

Mark Shulgasser: Perhaps because Huppler, Warhol and Karl Priebe were all three artists some professional competitiveness colours Huppler's negative remarks about Warhol in his letter to Priebe. The letters I have give a very different picture of Warhol and his effect on Huppler... So that Dudley does not go down in history with the malicious remark you quote, allow me to quote from a letter of Huppler's to Hoiby dated 24 September 1954:

If I don't explain Andy very clearly, it's because he is all a delightful atmosphere that doesn't take shape. He writes letters of just one phrase or indeed sometimes nothing at all, but every time I get one something jumps in me - I feel, This is a uniqueness, a quintessentialness  - a real invention in personality. Never saw him but talked on the phone, when he offered me enough drawings to paper a room, and then when I said 'No, a cat' - my choice of 17 Siamese! . . . . . (E10/7/10)

Rainer Crone: Warhol’s career received a significant stimulus when… he met a group in September of 1953 that read plays on a cooperative basis in the manner of the off-Broadway theatre, and subsequently presented them within their own group… The initiator of the group was Denis Vaughan, who had studied English literature at an east coast university, and had already directed a number of plays for the university theatre. It was he who drew up the program. In addition to such classical authors as Shakespeare (Titus Andronicus, Coriolanus, Macbeth, Hamlet), Chekhov (The Seagull, 1898; The Cherry Orchard, 1904; Three Sisters), Ibsen, and Ivanov… readings were also held of William Wycherley’s play The Country Wife… as well as of the English seventeenth-century drama A Woman Killed with Kindness. The group also turned its attention to contemporary plays; some of the plays written by members of he group were actually performed. Performances were also given of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milkwood (in 1954) and of Kafka’s The Trial. Sartre’s The Flies was read in the summer of 1954 and was comprehensively discussed. At the time this was one of the few plays that were performed, and it even received a comprehensive and positive review in the New York Times in September 1954.  (RCA73-74)

Fritzie Wood: ... I do remember that he [Warhol] did a program for us, and he may have done a poster for us. I'm not sure. We weren't so grand to have a poster. Our really first professional venture was when we did The Flies at the Provincetown Theatre, and we ran with that for six weeks... We just scrounged around for every piece of help that we could, what could be donated. The Flies was a very serious, mounted production. It wasn't a reading. It was a proper production. So, probably, George Klauber said, 'Oh, let's get Andy to do the program for us.' I mean, you took whatever help you could, tapped all your friends. You know how it goes, like in a church bazaar or whatnot... Andy may have gone to performances. I don't have any recollection... but I don't think that writing or acting was Andy's thing - not at all. Andy liked people, and liked drawings. (PSC45-6)

Bert Greene: Theatre 12 was begun by me and Dennis Vaughan, who now lives in Petersburg, Virginia. Dennis was an actor who wanted to direct, and I was in advertising, wrote some short stories and wanted to direct. We began it here in my apartment [on West 12th Street] and, hence, 'Theatre 12.' I’d known George [Klauber] from Pratt, and he brought Andy in. What happened was, we’d meet here on Mondays and read plays. We started reading American plays and then more profound plays, such as Brecht, George Kaiser and became interested in German Expressionism.

The first time that Andy came here, as I remember, we did The Way of the World by [William] Congreve. He was a dreadful reader. I mean, he’s hopeless - hopeless actor. I mean, he has no talent at all in this direction. I, of course, knew who he was because even then in 1953, he had a small reputation in advertising. And I don’t know if I told you this, but I wasn't an art director all the while I was trying to be a writer. I don't do that now at all. That's all forgotten and over, but I was always an art director - usually advertising agencies and the last job I had I was at a magazine - at Esquire. But I knew Andy from that because of my interest in graphics, and I was impressed with his reputation. It certainly was not his persona. He was always strange. He was shy and very different looking….

I don’t know why Andy wasn’t a part of us when we moved to a real theatre. He offered to do sets when we were still in my apartment. One set had black and white drawings for a Sardi’s Restaurant set and a cardboard bar. He did sets for three plays. The Sardi’s set was for a play by William Larner. He also did sets for [James M.] Barrie's The Twelve Pound Look. (PSC39-40)

Rainer Crone: We know of four drawings by Warhol dating from this period. They consist of caricatures based in turn on other caricatures, from the 1920s, of leading actors and opera singers, on display in the famous New York theatre-district restaurant Sardi’s. Each has a descriptive title such as Diva, Disieuse, Soubrette, and Diving Sarah, the latter a caricature of Sarah Bernhardt. Many such caricatures were pinned on a movable partition, and, as described above, the remainder of the set was designed in an equally rudimentary manner by Warhol. (RCA 74)

Bert Greene: ... there’s a man who was in the group, who’s now dead, named Aaron Fine. I don’t know if you know anything about him. He was a poster artist. He did collage. He did a lot. He was very successful - he worked for Pan American Airways - all those great posters – that great era of great posters in the early 1950s. I think, 10 years he did them, and he wrote a couple of children’s books, and he was a playwright. And it was his play, My Blackmailer, that Andy did his best set for. And it was very original. It was based on a set of screens, and Andy decorated them, and, then the screens were folded and they became other things. They were turned around, and they were still other things. They were just, really folding screens… I have photographs of them somewhere here. I mean, they’re in a scrapbook on Theatre 12. I think, as it was called: The 12th Street Players.

After Andy began his Pop Art, Aaron [Fine] asked him why he was doing it, and Andy said,  'It’s the synthesis of nothingness,' which is, of course, the Dada reply. (PS338-39)

Ronald Tavel (Warhol's later scriptwriter): When a friend of Andy's, Aaron Fine, dying of cancer in September 1962, inquired why he chose to depict the Campbell's soup can, Andy answered, 'I wanted to paint nothing. I was looking for something that was the essence of nothing, and that was it.' (RTS)

to page nineteen

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