kevin sessums on andy… and brigid
Andy Warhol died on this date in 1987. I was then the Executive Editor of his Interview magazine and will never forget that day as long as I live. It was over a weekend – a Sunday i think – and I had been out all day and my neighbor came to his door when he heard me turning my key. “You’re boss died today,” he said. I gasped and ran to my little portable black and white TV I kept on the floor in my six-floor walk up on Bleecker and Sixth Avenue and plugged it in and watched the news reports. Later that week I found myself serving as an usher at his funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
He was very sweet to me during my days at Interview and he and his best friend, Brigid Berlin, kind of brought me under their collective wings when I first started working there. The daughter of the head of Hearst, she was once known as Brigid Polk during the early Factory days because she would poke herself with needles full of amphetamines in Andy’s early movies. But she had already sobered up when I arrived and she was more of the grown-up Hearst heiress who literally tended to her knitting all day long as she sat being he receptionist on the art side of the Factory which at that point was located in an old Con Ed building in the 30s just west of 5th Avenue. I’d go over to Brigid in the morning and feed her pugs Fame and Fortune bits of my cranberry muffin and dish with her and Andy and have a few giggles like in the clip below.
After Andy’s death, I interviewed Brigid for an issue of Interview with Andy on the cover that coincided with his retrospective at MoMA. It is one of the best interviews I’ve ever done and I am including it in my next book in the chapter titled The Factory Worker. Here is how that long rambling interview with Brigid ends:
KS: Did you always have a job at the Factory or did you just hang out?
BB: The job part sort of started at 860 Broadway. I never went every day to Union Square. I got involved when Interview started up. But I think Interview might have begun upstairs at Union Square originally. You know, Andy always said he started Interview for me. Because of Daddy. He wanted to have his own Hearst empire.
KS: Why do you think Andy always had to have people around him at the Factories.
BB; Because that was part of his art. He had to be stimulated by other people. He used to walk through here every day going, “What am I going to do, Brigid? I need some ideas. I can’t think of any art to do. Everybody else is doing such great things. I’m doing awful stuff.” And I’d say, “You gotta pay me for my ideas, Andy.” Then it would be, “Brig, when is your mother going to have her portrait done by me?” And I’d say, “Andy, my mother would never have her portrait done by you. I don’t want a portrait by you. I can’t stand them. I wouldn’t have one of your portraits hanging on my wall if you paid me a million dollars!” Maybe that’s why we were so close, because I used to tell him the truth. I never liked his art! He used to offer his art to me for Christmas, and I told him I’d rather he get me a washing machine and dryer. And he did! Wasn’t I a fool?
KS: Forget about the material things. What sort of emotional sustenance did Andy’s friendship give you over the years?
BB: He just understood. If I was drinking and doing speed, he understood. If I was going to me A.A. meetings, as I do now, he understood. You know, he always wanted to write a book on me. All that taping he did of me all those years was the research he was doing for my life story. So, in a way, I’m really doing my book now for him. I don’t know. What can you call something that you really, really love., that you have near you every single solitary day, but that you you’re not even aware of? Some people can can be your best friends and you don’t see them all the time, but I saw Andy practically every day for over twenty years. It’s ironic – it’s hard to describe because in reality there was no mystery in it. It was all so comfortable. If I didn’t still come to the Factory every day I’d probably feel very lonely. I was just thinking this morning when I got to the Factory – I get here pretty early – how Andy used to call me around 8:30 knowing I was usually alone in the place. Sometimes I really do miss him. He’d call up – especially at 860 Broadway – and say, “Gee, Brig, what’s new? Who’s called?” And I’d say, “Nobody’s called, Andy.” And he’d say again, “What’s new?” I’d say, “Nothing’s new.” What’s new?” “Nothing’s new.” “What’s new?” “Nothing.”