Yesterday when browsing the "Andy's Randy Summer" auction at Christie's, I noticed more than a few friends and many “unidentified men” in the pics and it got me to thinking. Like many of my peers, I knew Andy. My friend Benjamin Liu was his assistant for years (and he’s the reason I have my Warhol purple cow wallpaper. Thanks, Ben…) But loads of other friends of mine like John Sex, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf and many others knew Andy much better. He liked young people but specifically young, cute gay men.
Andy’s boyfriend in the 70s was Jed Johnson, the twin brother of Jay Johnson, boyfriend then and now of Tom Cashin. I’ve known Jay & Tom for years. They run Jed Johnson Interiors (named for Jed who sadly perished in TWA Flight 800 in 1996) and Christie’s recently talked to Tom about Andy;
“I met Andy Warhol for the first time in Paris at the Hôtel de Crillon. My partner Jay Johnson, who I’m still with today, had a brother named Jed – he was dating Andy at the time. We ended up ordering food to his room and I couldn’t believe my eyes that Andy ordered his dog a steak – it was a riot”.
He would call me if he had an issue… Jay was the bad boy and Jed was not. He would call me about all sorts of things that were happening in his life – and I always answered…”
He wasn’t shy about bringing his partners over the years around or having all the guys over to his house in Montauk. That’s usually where he would have them do those incredible torso pictures – but he always maintained some level of privacy.
He was a real voyeur in terms of watching ‘the young kids’ misbehave, carry on, take drugs, dance at Studio 54 or wherever people were going. What Andy thrived on was being at the part and taking it all in. I have no doubt he would be as inspired today as he was back then.”
Lots of those drawing and photos, some very explicit, are on auction now at Christie’s now and a few of those “unidentified men” were easily identifiable to me. My ex-boyfriend was very friendly with Andy, who was always dropping by to give him presents and flirt. He was also on Andy’s “Christmas list”. Those who were, received original artwork made especially for the holidays, like two fish drawings silkscreened on a silk scarf or a black and white silkscreen of a supermarket steak ad.
I had a few encounters with Andy over the years, all of which –if I’m being honest– were thrilling at the time. But Andy wasn’t such a mystery really. He seemed to let his guard down the most with other gay men. Pittsburg and the art world try to claim him now (neither wanted that much to do with him when he was alive) but us downtown misfits, WE were really his tribe –especially gay artists.
The last two photos are of Andy and his last boyfriend Jon Gould. Jon died of AIDS in 1986, and Andy didn't deal with it very well. It really broke his heart and I don’t think he ever really got over it. People said he was heartless, but he was always just protecting himself from being hurt, I think. He was very available in person, but there was usually a mote of protective distance around him –even when he let someone in a little. But I don’t want to make him seem like some pathetic gay recluse. He really wasn’t. He loved having fun and cute boys –gay or straight. More than anything, that’s really what he wanted to be.