Enzo Titolo

Politics, Paranoispiricies, neologisms, diary, creative, ruminations

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Andy Warhol and Dick Nixon - a draft

You could barely imagine an odder pair of late Twentieth Century bookends than Andy Warhol and Richard Nixon. One was the warmongering straight guy and driven politician and the other was a the ultimately cool hipster and scenester, an enigmatic artist who made art of soup cans and celebrity.

Their nexus began in the aftermath of the 1972 election. Andy Warhol had done a pro-bono poster for the McGovern Campaign, mainly as a favor for a friend of his with the Democratic peace candidate's campaign. Shortly after this, Warhol was the subject of an intensive IRS audit that he suspected came from the Nixon Admistration as retribution.

Much of Warhol's business expenses were undocumented, so the audit was arduous and expensive. Warhol suspected that his artistic and brief foray into politics might have gotten him permently on some list at the IRS. and for this reason he employed his executive assistant to help him keep a verbal log of his daily expenses that he would phone in each day before work began. This was the birth of the "Andy Warhol Diaries." It was a log of what he bought and where he went the previous day to track his business expenses, while they were fresh in his mind, such as taking taxis, buying magazines for research (since he was the Publisher of Interview), and entertaining clients. The beginning of the Andy Warhol diaries is a dry listing of cab fares and other expenses. They soon started spicing up as Andy began embellishing the logue with his recollections of parties, observations of them and quips about the people.

Warhol as an avid collector of tchotkes and ephemera in daily time capsules, combined with his love of celebrity, fame, and fashion would naturally catalogue his experiences for posterity. He hung out with Halston, Jackie O's sister, Mick Jagger and his wives, and many other interesting people of his day in the most rarefied haunts.

Andy was also a known bitch, who since his Factory days was known for subtly observing things, recording them, and even detachedly starting fights for his own amusement. The publishing of the Diaries spawned a spate of libel lawsuits, but it is my feeling that they were faithful to Andy's words, although not always to what actually happened. I can imagine Warhol amusing himself by including embarrassing bits and even making up controversial stories just to give himself a laugh from the grave and something bitchy to do to start the next day right for himself by abusing his own celebrity.

Back to Nixon, it later emerged during the Watergate scandals that Nixon abused government agencies, including the CIA, FBI the Justice Department, and the IRS to do his political dirty work. His own undoing was the chance discovery, as the Watergate investigations were winding down, that Nixon taped all his phone and office conversations. It is not clear if Nixon implemented the taping system or if his predecessor Lyndon Johnson did. Both of them were paranoid, power hungry, full of imperial hubris, and not averse to dirty tricks to get their jobs done. Nonetheless, a nearly complete record existed of the Nixon coverup which led to the beginning of his impeachment proceedings and his resignation to avoid impeachment and prosecution. Nixon's tapes were his undoing. It was his hubris that spawned them and kept him from destroying them.

I find it amusing that the straight, square, imperial President and the gay, partyhopping, freaky hipster Warhol both obsessively recorded their dealings and observations. Warhol's Diary-keeping was spawned by Nixon's abuses, and they led to Warhol's bitchy controversial observations of celebrities from beyond the grave.

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