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The World of Warhol

On June 5, 1968, Warhol found himself face-to-face with a woman who could not be satisfied with so small a breach. He knew Valerie Solanas well. She'd written a script for a movie called Up Your Ass that was so vile that Warhol thought she was a police agent sent to entrap him. Later, she founded SCUM (the Society for Cutting Up Men) and railed about the perfect world that would be created by the elimination of men.

On this day, Solanas didn't come to rant. She stepped off the elevator, pulled out a .32- caliber revolver, and fired. Two bullets passed through Warhol's stomach, liver, esophagus, and lungs. "I can't breathe," he said as he fell. His business manager, Fred Hughes, tried to give him artificial respiration, but Warhol said it hurt too much. And it went on hurting for half an hour as Warhol lay on the floor, bleeding and moaning and waiting for the ambulance, quite conscious.

The shooting left Warhol at a crossroads. "Obviously, I should avoid unstable types," he wrote in POPism, his personal history of the sixties. "But choosing between which kids I would see and which ones I wouldn't went completely against my style. And more than that, what I never came right out and confided to anyone in so many words was this: I was afraid that without the crazy, druggy people around jabbering away and doing their insane things, I would lose my creativity. After all, they'd been my total inspiration since '64, and I didn't know if I could make it without them."

And then there was the matter of death. "Since I was shot, everything is such a dream to me," he said. "Like I don't know whether I'm alive or whether I died. I wasn't afraid before. And having been dead once, I shouldn't feel fear. But I am afraid. I don't understand why."

He founded Interview after being refused free tickets to the 1969 New York Film Festival.

Very quickly, Warhol made the conservative choice. "Death is like going to Bloomingdale's," he'd tell friends. "It's nothing." But that was for effect. In reality—where he increasingly resided—it was time for a major housecleaning.

The Factory was closed. Warhol renovated the Union Square West studio and turned it into an extremely businesslike office. There was a door this time, and it was locked and bolted against the freaks. Paul Morrissey took over the film operations, and Fred Hughes the art business. And Andy Warhol, who went out almost every night until the shooting—going anywhere he was asked because he really wanted to go everywhere—never returned to the fabled back room of Max's Kansas City.

With more clean-cut people representing him, Warhol was free to explore another medium. Typically, he found one that allowed him to turn his pleasure into work. And, typically, the choice was made by others, not by him.

The catalyst was the New York Film Festival, which, in 1969, inexplicably refused Warhol's request for free tickets. "Andy was really upset," Malanga recalls. "He said, 'If we start a film magazine, they'll have to let us in.' " Interview was duly founded. In the beginning, it was a mildly raunchy tabloid that featured tape-recorded interviews with dubious celebrities and a few movie reviews. Warhol didn't read it until he began to hear about the magazine's negative film reviews. Suddenly, he was very interested—and uncharacteristically directive. "I can't have this," he announced. "I'm losing all my friends." From that day on, there has never been a film review—or a critical piece—in Interview.

The seventies are seen as the nadir of Warhol's career, a decade in which his influence didn't extend beyond the walls of Studio 54. All he seemed to do was go out and stand around with Bianca, Brooke, Halston, and others of uncertain intellectual inclination. A lively night meant a photo opportunity with Debbie Harry or a sassy look from Jerry Hall. Small wonder that he retreated to the townhouse he'd bought on East 66th Street, where he lived with two housekeepers and two dachshunds.

If Warhol looks bored in photographs taken with celebrities, he usually was. On the shallow level he adored, these people were his friends. And yet he would have gladly forsaken them for people whose names were not known but who had great stories. As much as he valued fame, he preferred what he called the bottom line—the inside scoop, the gossipy, telling fact. He liked hearing it, with all the weird twists and trimmings he believed it carried, and he liked sharing it with close friends. "You'd go somewhere with Andy," a friend recalls, "and when you left, he'd tell you what really happened."

Those occasions were infrequent in the seventies. And his art seemed to give him no pleasure. "I just came back from Germany," he told de Antonio in 1979. "It was so boring. I had to paint industrialists." De Antonio asked him how much he charged for these portraits. Warhol brightened. "Fifty thousand dollars, unless they have wives and children," he said. "Then it's $75,000."