Andy Warhol (1928-1993) was an ardent, practicing Catholic of the Eastern Byzantine strain, going to mass every day. But, he was also a secular artist, a champion of LGBTQ culture and an advocate of all things hip. Warhol was openly and undeniably gay, amazing for his era. Yet, he never actually spoke openly about his gayness or his private life even though being a public figure was the essence of who he was.
He painted, filmed, and photographed the obscene, the homoerotic, the trashy and the lewd, but never really engaged in it. Warhol:
“After 25 you should look but never touch.“
“The most exciting thing is not doing it. If you fall in love with someone and never do it, it’s much more exciting.“
Warhol always seemed to me to be other worldly, amazingly untainted by the druggies, leather boys, and drag queens that moved in his circle. He projected a kind of naiveté and humility. The Factory was a center for the NYC avant-garde eager to engage in debauchery, staying up all night, but Warhol was noted for leaving by 10 pm to go home and go to bed. His longtime boyfriend was the remarkable interior designer Jed Johnson who kept his own place.
“Everybody winds up kissing the wrong person good night.“
In 1973, Johnson persuaded Warhol to get a dog. They chose a brown, short-haired dachshund puppy that they named Archie, but Warhol insisted: “his stage name is Amos”. Warhol was totally in love. He took Archie to The Factory and art openings. At restaurants, Archie was always on Warhol’s lap, eating bits of food that he was slipped, always carefully hidden under Warhol’s napkin. He even used to take Archie to press conferences as his alter ego, deflecting questions to the dachshund that he did not want to answer.
I would certainly place Warhol as an ultimate Gay Icon although there is still plenty of speculation about his sex life. His legendary friend, poet, editor, artist Charles Henri Ford wrote:
“Everything is sexual to Andy without the sex act actually taking place.“
Warhol documented the newly blossoming LGBTQ community of New York City in those pioneering 1970s, chronicling the cultural underground, including nights at the discos, parties at Fire Island and the tragic beginnings of the plague. Much of his most famous works such as his portraits of Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland and Elizabeth Taylor; films such as Blow Job (1964), My Hustler (1965) and Lonesome Cowboys (1968), were all inspired by gay underground culture, and they openly looked at the complexity of gay male desire. Some of his films even had their premieres in gay porn theaters.
The Andy Warhol Diaries (Netflix) is Andrew Rossi‘s exhaustive six-part documentary series based on Warhol’s own journals: