Have you ever wondered what it was like to know Andy Warhol? Nicola Weymouth, the once hugely popular English beauty “with fire-engine red hair and enormous carnelian eyes” became the subject of one of Warhol’s famous works. Dulwich OnView met her to find out how she remembers Andy, The Factory and the wild, bohemian lifestyle they all indulged in during the Swinging Sixties. The team visited her on a rainy and cold May weekend in Wales where she now lives remotely and peacefully in the middle of the beautiful countryside.
- Nicky, give us an insight of the bohemian lifestyle you’ve had and how you first met Warhol…
The first time I ever met Andy was in the sixties not long after he’d been shot. I just happened to be going to the factory with my husband….we weren’t even married then, I was only seventeen and we were staying in Chelsea Hotel in New York. It was the same time when Robert (Robert Mapplethorpe – the Editor) and Patty Smith lived there together.
That was the time when we went to the Factory to show them a film made on tantric art in India by a friend of ours, Nick Douglas. Andy appeared just after we had finished shooting and we were talking to Paul Morrissey, who was Andy’s filming side kick, who said: “Oh gee, we went to India and we just took a movie of lots of maharajas in Rolls Royces!”
“Andy Warhol never met one of those people before I cast them. They were not his coterie, and they were not hanging out at his gallery. These were selections of mine! I’ve had this all my life! The horror of it! His celebrityhood, which is an invention of the media, dominating my films!” (Morrissey to Kevin Mahler of The Times)
This was, sort of, our first meeting with Andy but then in a year or so I went to New York on my own, a young British girl in America. I was quite pretty… so I got asked everywhere. I think the first dinner I had with Andy was with someone called Maxime McKendry (fashion muse and designer associated with Yves Saint-Laurent. Andy Warhol envisioned her as part of Andy Warhol’s Nothing Serious, his 1971 video project designed for television. Her association with Warhol was such that one source called her “The Factory” mother – the Editor). Andy, Fred Hughes (Frederick Hughes, Collector and Warhol’s manager for 25 years) and Bob Colaccelo they were all great friends and it was a wonderful house where you go for dinner and would be always surrounded by interesting people. Real bohemians. I remember Maxime always cooked awful food and she thought that she is an amazing cook! She was always testing her 16th century menus on us!
Through these people I also became very good friends with John Richardson (what he said about Maxime). Generally, with friendships also came the drugs. New York was like that in those days and I… sort of joined in this rather fascinating group of people. Andy got very into making money and doing portraits. That’s all he was interested in: making money.
There is a famous story from Diana Vreeland suggesting Andy to paint in order to make lots of money. Andy was unsure about what to paint though. Then Diana said: well, what do you love Andy? “Money, I love money” – said Warhol. Paint money then – suggested Diana. And that’s how the Dollar Bills came about.
When I knew him, Fred Hughes (Frederick Hughes: an art dealer who met Warhol in 1966 and became one of the manageries of characters at Warhol’s Factory. In 1968 Hughes probably saved Warhol’s life by giving him mouth to mouth resuscitation after the artist had been shot by Valerie Solaris- The Editor) was managing his art side of things and it was all the time Andy was saying “will they ask us for a commission”? Even if it was a second rate bank in Arkansas…he’d do it.
I remember travelling around with them a bit; I went with them for an exhibition in Paris and later to Italy. It was an extraordinary lifestyle, and then I came back to London where I had a wonderful studio house. Any time I missed New York I just had to ring Fred or Bob Colacello and that was your next week completely planned for you, you just joined in to whatever they were up to. It was 1968 when Jed Johnson, Andy’s boyfriend at the time (a very great looking guy), an excellent interior decorator, wasn’t just brilliant at looking after their dog, Archie but also had the most wonderful taste. Andy was doing up his fourth floor townhouse in Manhattan and Jed was in charge of the decoration. Jed and I went to New England and Pittsburgh, all over the place, looking for furniture which I really enjoyed doing.
Andy only ever liked going to junk shops. The only thing he was interested in ever buying was if he could get a bargain. Did you look at the catalogues from the sale they had of his house? It was all sweet jars and things as he just loved anything from thrift shops. Jed, with his best attempt organized Andy’s possessions and lived with him for twelve years. Tragically, he died in the 1996 Pan Am crash near New York harbour.
- Is it true that Andy was very voyeuristic?
Yes, indeed, and he was very, very shy. I mean, his whole idea of life is to look on. I think he would have been in heaven today watching something like Big Brother. That’s what he liked, he liked to see others interacting and he just looking at it. I haven’t seen Big Brother for years but when it first came out I was thinking, god that would have been Andy’s dream. I imagine he would have been watching it 24/7 because that is exactly what he wanted to do with people around him. He was just always a voyeur looking on at you.
If, during a party, he went home early, 10 o’clock at night, first thing in the morning would be: “What did you do? Did you go to bed with him?” He always wanted to know exactly.
- Would you say that you knew him well or was it difficult to get close to him?
I think other people knew him better than me; however, it was quite difficult to know him. You think it’s fascinating to have known him but he was no different from the rest of us. He was shy and did not want people to know him. I think he was also very self-conscious…he always had that wig on and masses and masses of make-up due to that childhood illness. (In third grade Andy Warhol suffered from complication of scarlet fever what caused his skin pigmentation – the Editor) He was very aware that he didn’t think he was good looking. He was kind as well, I remember after a terrible trip to Barisano we the went to Monte Carlo where he said at the hotel: “Ok, Nicky put up with Borisano so we are paying her bill here” I had great fun with them…also, it was a free ride as they paid for everything.
- Can you describe the first Factory for us?
The old Factory was just like an old, enormous warehouse all falling apart. Lots of silver paper was on the walls and things. They were moving out of that into the new Factory which was then all done by Fred so it became incredibly posh, very grand: a posh dining room, an office for Andy, a workshop at the back where he did his paintings. The front was set out like you are walking into Unilever, very pretty glamorous girls sitting on the front desk. It was really a front for Interview Magazine: I think Catherine Guinness and Barbara Allen were working there. (The magazine was founded in 1969 by Warhol and featured intimate conversations between some of the world’s biggest celebrities, artists, musicians – the Editor)
When Andy knew me, he knew me before he realized that English girls had titles I think really, so after that he became obsessed with people’s titles in England. I didn’t have a title so I was sort of a misfit he met! But I wasn’t some hippy either. (laughs) The first time I went to New York was the time when I was married to Nigel Waymouth, who started Granny takes a trip, a rock-chic fashion boutique in 1966. Then the second time, when I met Andy, I knew quite a lot of people through other people, John Richardson I suppose was a good linchpin and Maxime McKendry because she was actually English. Her husband was a very sweet man called John McKendry….and I knew David Hockney in London, his best friend in New York was someone who worked at the Metropolitan Museum called Henry Geldzahler. It was a bit like today in London, you are into certain groups, except that it was less of us in those days.
That’s how I met my second husband through that group, Ken (Kenneth Jay Lane -the Editor) who was a jewellery designer. There were much less of us jet setting around. Paloma Picasso was also in our group with Andy, and Barbara Allen, the pretty young wife of Joe Allen, one of Andy’s Interview backers, who attracted attention where ever she went.
- Were you very happy for Andy to paint you or did you have any reservations?
People always seem fascinated to be painted by Andy, but actually all he did was taking a couple of polaroids after lunch in my hotel room and then you’d go and look at them (the finished works – the Editor).
- Did you like them?
I liked them indeed. The sad thing was I wanted one which I brought back then and he’d done four or five and when I married Ken Lane and Ken said “Give the picture back to Andy he will give it to us as a wedding present”. I said Andy would never give us a painting as a wedding present; and of course he didn’t! I was really annoyed, and upset with him, it wasn’t a nice thing he’d done. Then some 15 years ago I did buy one of them from the Warhol Collection.
- Are you still in touch with any of them?
Not really, since I lend my pictures and clothes to exhibitions, I just stay here. Fred has sadly died, Jed is dead, Andy is dead so from the original lot really it is only Bob Colacello who now writes books about Andy. If I bumped into Bob in London tomorrow morning we would take up where we left off, one’s old friends, years haven’t intervened. Nothing has changed…we just look a lot older…(laughs). So… shall we have some lunch?
Andy Warhol: The Portfolios Late Night Viewing - Dulwich Picture Gallery
Thursday 13 September 5 – 9pm
Come and enjoy the exhibition, a glass of wine and a dance performance during a Late Night Viewing.
Late Night Performance:
Inspired by the Rambert piece, Rainforest (which originally incorporated Andy Warhol’s Silver Mylar Pillows), as well as paintings from the Andy Warhol exhibition The Movement Factory Dancers (members of the dance troupe Bruk Out) have worked with Rambert animateurs and will perform a stunning dance spectacle for visitors.
The work has been produced as part of Dulwich Picture Gallery’s successful Youth Engagement Programme.