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The World of Warhol

In retrospect, his portraits—particularly the one of his late mother—are worth looking at, for they testify to a slowly mellowing Warhol. Always a practicing Roman Catholic, he found his own form of confession: Around 1972, he began a diary. Again, the impetus was not to have a daily catharsis, but to turn a bit of pleasure—in this case, a daily phone call to writer Pat Hackett—into work.

"As we were talking every morning anyway," Hackett says, "Andy decided I should write things down as a way of keeping track of his expenses."

Five mornings a week, Hackett and Warhol began their days with a phone call that lasted at least an hour. Warhol talked about all the subjects that second-tier friends believed he always avoided. And Warhol, who was invariably polite in public, said what he really thought about people—such as Truman Capote. "Truman was condescending to Andy and called him 'a Sphinx with no secret,' " Hackett says. "But when Andy came back from afternoons with Truman, he was hilarious."

That Warhol was a brilliant and witty conversationalist with a childlike ability to read people was a secret only his closest friends knew. Right up to his death, he encouraged the public to believe that he was as mute as Harpo Marx. It was easier that way. All you had to do was listen. And if someone went on too long, you just tuned out. Bores found this terrifying—and fled.

One secret that Warhol couldn't keep was his continuing obsession with money. On this topic, above all others, he was completely focused, a total businessman. "Sometimes he wouldn't ask me about the magazine for days," recalls Bob Colacello, Interview's onetime editor, "and then he would say, 'How many subscribers do we have in Ohio, and how much do we make on each one?' " The realtor who sold Warhol a house in Montauk—mostly an investment, as Warhol couldn't take much sun—remembers getting calls every few years at the start of the summer rental season. "Warhol's staff handled the rental themselves," she says. "They just wanted to know if they were charging enough."

His friends were shocked by his death, but Warhol had a perfect sense of timing. He had just finished his version of the Last Supper.

For all his obsession with finances, this was not the calculating, cynical Warhol of old. Just the reverse: Andy Warhol spent the eighties making sure he gave as good as he got. He didn't shower people with praise, but as he passed the half-century mark, there was a sweetening in the private Warhol that the public Warhol never bothered to acknowledge.

Paige Powell was the agent of this change. Knowing that Warhol hated holidays, she took him to serve the needy at the Church of the Heavenly Rest on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. "Andy dragged around garbage cans and poured coffee," she says. "And he did something that wasn't on the program—he found Saran Wrap so people could take food home."

Warhol stayed in touch with the new generation of Factory and Interview staffers, most of them bright, clean-cut, and not interested in exploiting him. He called them "the kids" and worried about them. "How's your love life?" he'd ask, but not so he could get the information that would give him power. At night, he'd call the magazine. "Are the kids working late?" he'd ask. "If they are, don't let them go home alone."

As the inner circle expanded, Warhol became more uninhibited. He collaborated with Basquiat to encourage the troubled young painter to work every day. He consoled Stephen Sprouse when Sprouse's business failed. He hectored Tama Janowitz into writing the screenplay of Slaves of New York. Through Powell, he met Heather Watts and Peter Martins, got excited about designing a curtain for the ballet, and—after some performances—sent flowers from "Backstage Johnny."

The cumulative effect of all this friendship—friendship that Warhol was able to acknowledge and return for the first time in his life—was a renewed exuberance for work. Buoyed by the success of his photography show, which featured the usual pictures of banal subjects but showed them cunningly stitched together, he was looking forward to another. He was buying classical sculpture and looking at equipment that would have allowed him to make sculpture with lasers. And, because he was spending so much time with Paige Powell, he was full of schemes for Interview.

Warhol planned to undertake a newsstand blitz—a mad dash across Manhattan, stopping to promote Interview at every newsstand. He would have gone to more trade shows and, on the weekends, passed out more free copies on Madison Avenue. As it was, he was bubbling over with happiness about the magazine's first condom ad. "A new category!" he chortled.

One thing never changed: At 58, Warhol was the same star-struck kid he was at 19. "You called him, and he answered?" he'd say to Gael Love when she told him of her calls to movie stars. A few weeks ago, he and Powell were sitting at Nell's with Bob Dylan, Sting, and Ian McKellen. Quietly, he turned to Powell. "Do you believe who we're sitting with?" he whispered.