Andy Warhol is signing his new book of Polaroids in a large bookshop in Manhattan with hundreds of people gathering on the tables. A young man standing at the far end of the crowd walks to the side of the counter, arms-length away from Warhol who, with aplomb, grabs his wig and throws it over to a companion standing near the entrance. They both run off into the streets of New York.
THE YEAR is 1985. As organizer of an author event at Boston Public Library Boston Public Library, I am just informed by an agent that I need to create a wig-safe space in order to accommodate Andy Warhol when he autographs his latest book. I am anxious about his appearance, but less than the next evening’s event featuring James Baldwin. “Just be calm and measured when you meet them, nonchalant,” I am thinking. “Just keep your eyes off the wig.”
Andy Warhol arrived at the library, accompanied by an entourage (of obviously). When introducing himself Warhol’s inexplicably slow “hello” left my outstretched right hand without a where to go I then threw the arm up in my chest like I was overwhelmed by his presence. The silver-colored blonde and the bland, sporting his signature red-rimmed, over-sized glasses Warhol disengaged his gaze from the surroundings. He appeared distracted, disinterested with his surroundings, which were a suffocating force field. When I took him and his companions down to the green space I made a calm gesture towards a table that was set back into an alcove in the stairs, stating on the location where the signing of the book would occur. I was not surprised when I realized that Warhol did not reply with a silence that lasted throughout his green space. The audience did not voice any complaints when he settled down. The editor was not there however, Warhol’s younger consort from Interview Who did not speak in the fake presentation, was seated behind the table, looking like a protector angel. Was he the one who was wig-making?
A crowd of hundreds of people gathered to the table, not a line at all–waiting to purchase the book, or to offer Warhol a variety of things to sign Campbell’s soup cans as well as reproductions of his famous artworks, and even an athlete. Warhol signed everything with a good will , even as the force field shrank at times. I started to think maybe it was the case that he was not timid as I observed his occasional smile, often without comment, but smiling at the praises thrown at him by the fans who were adoring him. Though they jostled and fought to get their place but it wasn’t an encroaching mob, which was thankfully and I sat back a little.
I was awed by the kindness of Warhol’s fans of autographs. Nearly two hours after the final item was signed by me, I felt sincere in my thanks to him for his patience , and obviously for visiting the library. At that point, I didn’t anticipate an acknowledgement and was not surprised by the following request. I was directed back to the entrance of the library in order to check whether a limousine was on the way to transport the couple to the grand opening for an exhibition located on Newbury Street, a mere three blocks away.