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quarta-feira, outubro 08, 2008


"I love television," Warhol once said. "It is the medium I'd most like to shine in. I'm really jealous of everybody who's got their own show on television. I want a show of my own."

The first episode, Make-Up, offers a step-by-step guide on how to apply lip-gloss and eyeliner ("Always use the side of the pencil"). A static camera captures the transformation of a beautiful model into a disco-ready vamp. The backdrop is Day-Glo, the soundtrack is synth-pop and the whole thing feels utterly insubstantial (although the model's angular face is lit and framed so beautifully that it's hard to tear your eyes away). A less ambitious man would have drawn a line under his fledgling television career at this point, but - convinced that only TV could give him the degree of worldwide celebrity he desired - Warhol refused to be discouraged.

"Television was something Andy really cared about," says Fremont. "There was an ongoing joke that he was going to marry Brigid Berlin [a long-time member of Warhol's entourage] just because her father was chairman of the Hearst empire. That way he might have been able to get his hands not only on a TV show but a whole TV station."

No sooner had the first (and only) series of Fashion come to an end, than Warhol was back on Manhattan Cable with a brand new concept. Once again produced by Fremont and directed by Munroe, Andy Warhol's TV was conceived as a televisual companion to Interview magazine, and featured rapidly interwoven interviews with the great, the good and anyone else Warhol happened to take a shine to. An intoxicating array of stars - from Grace Jones, Debbie Harry and Paloma Picasso to Cindy Sherman, Philip Glass and Keith Haring - all passed before the camera.

In one episode, Bianca Jagger interviews the 34-year-old Steven Spielberg on a hotel bed while Warhol perches on the end. Jagger coaxes some nice anecdotes out of the hotshot director - "I can remember the day my father brought home a transistor and said, 'Son, this is the future.' So I put it in my mouth and swallowed it" - and asks Freudian questions about his boyhood.

Warhol takes a typically lighter approach. "The people in your movies are all so real," he enthuses, before spiking his praise with a rare dash of irony, "but they're good-looking, too, which is nice." After only a few minutes, an abrupt cut sweeps us away to a segment subtitled "Around the Garden with CZ Guest" and footage of Warhol standing beside a lady on a horse, a dog unceremoniously sniffing at his leg. "What's your horse's name?" Warhol asks Guest, a middle-aged socialite so well-connected that Ernest Hemingway had been best man at her wedding. Then, "How do you make a gardenia grow?"

The exercise feels completely vacuous, yet is undeniably compulsive: it sucks you in. For the viewer, Warhol's inimitable, anti-intellectual interview technique can be maddening, but it has a strangely levelling effect on his guests: whether superstar artists or unknown drag queens, they all end up looking as vain and superficial as one another.

In a late episode, the grand American painter Georgia O'Keeffe (aged 92) totters on, stoney-faced in a black shawl, looking like a corpse in a shroud. Yet within seconds, she is giggling and telling stories about her 78-year-old Hispanic gardener: "He's pretty cute." In another, a model, identified only as Marla Kay, is given just enough rope to hang herself: "I got into [modelling] because I just like the money. And the attention. I hate the fact that people think models are stupid."

In the end, she reached the conclusion that, quite simply, "Warhol was never really an analytical person. For him television is just another means of creating a one-for-one reproduction of life, like his paintings of Campbell's soup tins and plywood Brillo boxes. Throughout his work runs this obsession with reproducing the world around him. The mass medium of television, which proliferates into every living room, is the utmost extreme of reproduction and repetition that he could imagine."

Andy Warhol's TV ran for 27 episodes over three years, picking up speed (some particularly manic episodes would pack in as many as 30 guests) and momentum. In 1985, after a year of negotiation, Fremont finally secured a deal for a new incarnation of the show, called Andy Warhol's Fifteen Minutes, to run on MTV. At last, Warhol's dream of regular exposure to a national television audience had come true.

"If you were the star of the biggest show on television and took a walk down an average American street one night while you were on the air, and if you looked through windows and saw yourself on television in everybody's living room, taking up some of their space, can you imagine how you would feel?" Warhol had written back in 1975. "Someone who knows he's on everybody's television regularly… has all the space anyone could ever want, right there in the television box."

On February 22 1987, after completing only four episodes of Andy Warhol's Fifteen Minutes, Warhol died from a heart attack following routine gall bladder surgery. "At the time of his death we were just getting somewhere with the show," says Fremont. "More and more kids were watching MTV and I don't know if they knew that Andy was a famous artist, but to them he was certainly a television personality. It looked like everything was going to move ahead - Andy had so many more plans - but instead it all ended."

On the day Warhol died, David Susskind, one of America's earliest and best-known talk-show hosts, who had fronted a prime-time programme for 30 years, also passed away. Both deaths were reported on the front of the next day's New York Times, the Warhol story appearing slightly higher up the page than the Susskind. It may seem a small detail - the artist accorded a smidgen more recognition than the TV star - but it is the kind of posthumous ego-boost that would have sent Warhol on his way from this world with a smile on his lips.

Watch Andy Warhol eat a burger

posted by Luís Miguel Dias quarta-feira, outubro 08, 2008

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