Andy Warhol’s diaries reveal much about his attitude towards people. The topics he analyzed included (but were not limited to) the nature of reality, the world, conducting business with people, as well as how to approach and address their specific needs. Crucially, it was his dealings with people that enabled him to be resilient and persistent in his artistic efforts.
The diaries further reveal his highly commendable work ethic. He was a lone wolf. He was on his own journey, a separate world, as indeed many of us are. This isolated style (no doubt a likely consequence of his upbringing) comes through most prominently. Indeed, in the words of Pat Hackett: “He had a late adolescence – in his twenties he worked very hard on his commercial art career; he didn’t take much time out to have fun, really, until he was in his thirties. He terrorized people in the way, for instance, the most popular girl in high school would – creating cliques and setting up rivalries just for the ‘entertainment’ of watching people fight for his attention. Towards the end of the seventies though he started to mellow. Very rarely would he deliberately provoke someone – in fact, he tried to pacify more than to incite” (p. xix).
On a deep metaphysical level, Warhol could not afford to be affected by people. For him, life was too short. There was no knowing what would happen. “Live for today,” intoned Warhol solemnly, in one entry.
On March 13 1977, he said that over time “Everybody’s real personality just comes out and it’s too revealing of how boring they are.” (p. 31). In essence, Warhol acknowledged that getting to know someone well had undesirable consequences, for he believed one would soon become restless and bored. Such sentiments are exemplified clearly in his diary as he goes from one party to another, one venue to another, and persistently changes his artistic projects. These actions were the manifestation of his desire to maintain pace, to keep his business growing. He was always on the move, determinedly keeping himself out of a rut.
His career was characterized by momentum. Indeed, in Popism, Warhol described his approach as “expanding horizontally,” with different but congruent projects. He never wanted to work on anyone’s ladder but his own.
He knew that mulling over people’s problems was not conducive to productivity. The drive towards the essential work that needed to be done would stall. His publicity would not grow, nor would he become more famous.
Warhol possessed the ability to isolate himself from the influence of others, enabling him to focus upon that which was most important to him – selling his work. In August 1985, he said, “We got back to New York and I had the limo drop me on my corner. And as I walked down 66th street to my house, some girl yelled, ‘Andy!’ And when I didn’t turn around she screamed, ‘Your mother is a whore.’ That’s a strange thing for a girl to yell” (p. 672).
What people said about him was of no concern to Warhol. He acknowledged the scarcity and rapidity of life, frequently referring to the importance of health, which he believed was what life came down to, for with health came the ability to be in one’s own world, and carve one’s path independently.
Warhol further addressed how difficult it is to get to know someone on a deep level. On June 26 1983, he said, “But then, since the sixties, after years of more and more and more ‘people’ in the news, you still don’t know anything more about people. Maybe you know more, but you don’t know better. Like you can live with someone and not have any idea, either. So, what good does all this information do to you?” (p. 509).
He carried this philosophy through most of his interchanges. He did not believe you could fully understand people or their worlds. Indeed, though he embraced the chaos of the world around him, he remained in his comfort zone and pursued his own interests as he journeyed through the world of art and commerce.
Though he did at times dwell on the problems of others. An incident in his diary on July 24 1978 in which he addressed Truman Capote’s problems exemplifies this well: “Bob MacBride suggested to try to persuade Truman to go to a hospital in Minnesota. I didn’t know if he wanted me to give him advice, or what. I didn’t know what to tell him, so I just said, ‘If Truman goes to the hospital, when you go to visit him, try to get me in. I’ll tape it. Because you can’t stop people – if he’s going to kill himself, he’s going to do it” (p. 155).
Now, my intention is definitely not to mislead readers into thinking that Warhol was the kind of person that always worked and only talked about business. There were times he delved into people’s problems, often attempting to understand the psychology of a person before trying to help them.
Warhol directly states in most of his books that you cannot directly change another person’s world, but you can make them believe that they can change their own. This is what he often tried to do.
The truly fascinating element of Andy Warhol is that he managed to maintain a sense of exclusivity. He seldom went to parties, at least in the 70s and 80s, with people he did not know. He instead tended to focus upon the people who were known for something. You either had to be at a party with very famous people, or you had to offer him money to show up. You could then talk to him for an extended period of time, but you would have to keep his attention. In other words, Warhol was very selective, carrying with him an aura of exclusivity.
It is clear from reading The Diary of Andy Warhol that the artist was continually aware of his life goals. He placed value upon his time and his approach to humanity. He recognized that it was impossible to be in another person’s world, and that sensationalism and fascinating stories were the new trend.
Andy Warhol stressed that pursuing the control of others was futile, and that you cannot work with people on an individual level most of the time. We may feel like we can, but this is an illusion. It is better to focus on yourself and building your own world, and Warhol did this with aplomb.
– By Todd Persaud