Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol

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Recently I had the privilege of watching this Chuck Workman documentary on Andy Warhol. It’s kind of impossible to be in any way culturally aware and not to have some sort of familiarity with Warhol and his work, but I wasn’t really familiar with who he was as a person, beyond the outlandish persona. The film offered some really fun, often intimate details about Warhol’s work and life that were sometimes funny, oftentimes incredibly sad.

For instance, I’d only been familiar with Warhol through his persona, which led me to believe he was kind of an ass. And I was right. In the film, it’s mentioned how, upon learning of the death of “friend” and colleague Edie Sedgewick, Andy replied “Edie who?” The other “superstars” and factory workers also lamented on how much of a tightwad Warhol was: they practically had to beg him for money, and Warhol would revel in their begging.

Despite these less-than-flattering details, I also realized something about Warhol during the film that made me sympathize with him. Apparently, Warhol lived, perhaps even entirely, a celibate/asexual life. He was also quite sickly (being described as “anemic,”) and this showed in his appearance. I saw this as incredibly tragic, and I even started to better understand his trademark obsession with celebrity culture. Celebrities offer us this very strange sort or relationship, in that we know them, but we don’t really know them. We often know very intimate details about their lives, but couldn’t even call them acquaintances. One of Warhol’s friends in the film mentions how Warhol didn’t like the “messiness” of intimate relationships. In some way, I think Warhol’s celebrity worship/obsessions acted as a sort of surrogate relationship. You can’t really be “hurt” by the ending of such a relationship. Their presence just sort of cleanly fades out of your life…

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Andy Warhol, Marilyn Diptych, 1962. Silkscreen on Canvas

Overall, a very compelling and entertaining documentary. Lots of very notable people also appear in the film (Grace Jones! Liza Minnelli! Fran Lebowitz!) Definitely worth the watch if you can get your hands on a copy (online or otherwise.)

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