GOODNIGHT MR. LEWIS: The Revenge of Andy Warhol

A long time ago I lived , worked and played in a world without end that indeed ended. I was running nightclubs and looking in the mirror a lot. I had always dreamed of meeting famous and wonderful people, gorgeous women, and smooth operators. I had little sense of reality back then as everything was moving too fast to ponder. Most of the fabulous turned out to be a little short of being the gods they were in my dreams and over time I became more and more jaded.

Then I met Andy Warhol. At first I could only mumble when he’d stop by some club I was curating; but then I relaxed. One night at The World on East 2nd Street we didn’t have a working toilet in the whole place. The cleaning crew had been stiffed by one owner or another and the place was a shambles. It was a glorious dump to begin with, but this was beyond acceptable. Andy walks in. I stutter something like, “Andy, the place is a wreck, the toilets are all busted and garbage is everywhere” Andy offered, “Don’t worry about it, any place that’s too neat or too clean, can’t be any fun; and this looks like fun.” He dove into the multitudes and the crowd parted like the Red Sea for Moses. He had calmed me down, validated my entire existence and defined my club philosophy for the next decade.

From time to time I’d see him around. At a fashion show for Kohshin Satoh at the Palladium I was talking to him when a television reporter asked him why he was at the show. Andy replied that he liked Kohshin because Don Johnson wore his clothes. The reporter asked why that impressed him. Andy deadpanned, “because I think I look like Don Johnson”. I didn’t laugh as the reporter tried to understand what was going on. She slipped away and Andy looked at me and I felt he liked that I “got it.“

Sometime later in 1987 I was co-producing another Kohshin show at The Tunnel. Miles Davis, Jerry Casale (Devo) and Andy were celebrity models. In rehearsal Andy looked sick. I turned to my partner and mentioned it. He chided, “What do you want to do, send him home? Everybody is coming to see him!” I walked over and asked Andy if he was okay. He wasn’t great and looked paler and weaker than ever. I moved him to a dressing room on the audience level with Miles Davis so he wouldn’t have to navigate some stairs that were part of the show. I didn’t send him home.

Warhol Death Daily News

He died shortly after a routine Gallbladder operation at New York Hospital. Some club people teased me in a snide, half-joking, half-truthful sort of way that I had killed the superstar. “Maybe,” one club owner said, “if you had just sent him home he would have gotten treatment sooner or the strange circumstances of neglect which to be proved fatal wouldn’t have played out.” I, after all, spotted that he was very ill, I was in a position to help and did nothing.

Over the Fourth of July weekend as I lay in Mount Sinai Hospital in Astoria with a renegade gallbladder, I thought of Andy and wondered if he was a mean spirited spirit. For me, this was the summer that wasn’t, as I spent my hours hooked up to liquid food, antibiotics and painkillers. I had incredible hallucinations until the hard stuff gave way to Percocets. It was Andy’s birthday August 6th; he would have been 88.

Lately Jean-Michel Basquiat seems to have taken the crown as the most significant artist of that era, with paintings that could have been bought for peanuts then selling for millions now. But Andy changed the way we look at the world; his influence goes way beyond paint on canvas. I have his signature tattooed on my left arm. I looked at it often as I convalesced at the Surf Lodge out in Montauk near where Andy had a home. I’ve been given another chance despite acute kidney failure, acute lung failure and lots of other organ malfunctions – I am still here to tell the tale. On September 20th I will have my gallbladder removed, and I hope Andy has no problem with that.

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