Andy Warhol Slept Here?
by Will South
I want everybody to think alike. I think everyone should be a machine.
[p.65] In the early 1960s Andy Warhol was already internationally famous as the father of Pop Art, a style that derived its subject matter from the world of consumerism. Obsessed with the ideas of repetition and mass-production, he painted quotidian subject matter such as soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles over and over. In a decade of outrageousness and revolution, Warhol became a cult hero.
Described as “one of the most controversial young men in the world” by the Daily Utah Chronicle, Andy Warhol was invited to speak at the University of Utah on 2 October 1967. Tickets for the lecture entitled “Pop Art in Action” were not free–students were charged a dollar; non-students a dollar and a half; and reserved seating was two dollars.
Paul Cracroft, director of Lectures and Concerts, expected a crowd of about forty people. Instead, 1,100 showed up, including “every hippie in the state.” The vast majority in attendance were dismayed by Warhol’s blasé attitude. He began his presentation by walking up to the microphone and flatly asking, “Any questions?” He then showed a half-hour segment of his planned twenty-four hour film, ****. He offered no explanation of the movie, saying that “My films are to look at.”
[p.66] Andy Warhol.
In the audience one future University of Utah art professor, Tony [p.67] Smith, was looking at more than the film: he was looking hard at the speaker, who just didn’t resemble Andy Warhol. Smith had been to a party with Warhol in New York’s Greenwich Village a couple of years earlier, and realized the person speaking lacked Warhol’s pronounced cheek bones and ultra-stringy hair. He mentioned the apparent discrepancy to Cracroft, who subsequently withheld the $1,000 dollar lecture fee until the matter was cleared up.
Alan Midgett, a.k.a. Andy Warhol.
Photograph courtesy Deseret News.
A couple of months later the front-page headline of the [p.68] Daily Chronicle read, “Phony Warhol Suspected, Film Reveals Hoax on U.” After some admirable amateur sleuthing on the part of the Chronicle staff, the hoax was confirmed on 8 February 1968—Warhol had, indeed, sent a body double in his place. In effect, he had replicated himself, just as if he were a Campbell’s soup can. Warhol became his own medium and his own message.
His manager confessed that “Andy Warhol thought that his substitute would be better for public consumption. … We didn’t mean to upset you, we just thought it was an interesting idea.” And what of the lecture money? The university withheld payment, but Warhol had been paid in advance by the American Programs Bureau of Boston for not only the Utah appearance, but for three other fake appearances as well. Warhol’s much better looking substitute, one Alan Midgett, had taken the money and gone to Europe to act in Italian films. The University of Utah decided not to sue, while one of the other duped schools, the University of Oregon at Eugene, actually considered inviting the real Warhol again.
Warhol’s reaction to the entire scam, which would be called performance art in today’s parlance, was wholly predictable: “Because I don’t really have that much to say, he was better than I am. … He was what the people expected.”
A fitting conclusion to Andy Warhol’s hoax/experiment was that University of Utah students were not offered a refund. Perhaps the university saw the intellectual merit in Warhol’s commentary on image, repetition, and meaning. Or maybe they were just cheap.
• • • • • • •
Instead of causing us to remember the past like the old monuments, the new monuments seem to cause us to forget the future. Instead of being made of natural materials, such as marble, granite, or other kinds of rock, the new monuments are made of artificial materials, plastic, chrome, and electric light. They are not built for the ages, but against the ages.
—Robert Smithson, 1966
[p.69] When Robert Smithson was looking for a spot to build a gigantic work of art out of earth and rocks in a dead sea, he no doubt looked out on the Great Salt Lake and said, “This is the place.”
For most Utah natives who are even aware of it, however, the Spiral Jetty, made in 1970, is more of a curiosity than a work of art. The Salt Lake Tribune recently called it “Utah’s answer to Stonehenge.” At least none of its critics disparage the Jetty by saying, “My six-year-old could do that,” because, as we all know, a six-year-old could not haul 6,650 tons of rocks out into the Great Salt Lake.
What is most disturbing for some locals is being told that the Spiral Jetty is, for people outside of Utah, the most famous work of art in Utah–more famous even than the Eagle Gate Monument. How could this be, they wonder, when no one even knows the name of the artist who made this thing? It’s not as if the Jetty were a bronze cowboy by Frederic Remington.
On the other hand, many Utahns who visit the Jetty are fascinated by its presence. These visitors are moved to contemplate the lake and the huge man-made promontory spiraling out into the water, to reflect on things natural and artificial, and how these things co-exist.
The Spiral Jetty, Great Salt Lake, Utah, 1970, by Robert Smithson.
Photograph by Gianfranco Gorgoni.
Robert Smithson is, admittedly, not a household name. But for [p.71] serious students of contemporary culture, his work reflects the changing attitudes about what art is and should do in the late twentieth century. Among Smithson’s interests were ancient earth rituals, environmental decay, and the future. Dissatisfied with traditional museums, galleries, art history, and the art world in general, Smithson aspired to create works that defied traditional museum or gallery space and conventional notions regarding the function of art. The Spiral Jetty is a monument, but unlike traditional monuments it does not commemorate a specific time, place, or event; rather, the 1,500-foot jetty reaches out into the mirror-like water, then curls up on itself, mimicking the movement of water spinning down a drain. Forever subject to the rising and receding water of the lake that contains it, the Spiral Jetty suggests these words written by Smithson: “There is nothing more tentative than an established order.”
• • • • • • •
Information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, wisdom is not truth, truth is not beauty, beauty is not love, love is not music. Music is best.
—Frank Zappa, Joe’s Garage, 1979
[p.72] Frank Zappa was an extraordinary individual. He was a musician with a wild sense of humor, as well as a political activist who testified before Congress against censorship. He was called bizarre and depraved during his lifetime for his preposterous songs, yet he abstained from drugs and alcohol and campaigned against their use. When Zappa visited the campus of Westminster College in Salt Lake City in 1973, he was already famous for his eccentric behavior (he lived in Los Angeles and yet didn’t drive) and vivid imagination (who else would name his son Dweezil?), but he also greatly impressed students with his business acumen.
A local Salt Lake musician, Tom Fowler, was the bass player at the time for Zappa’s group, The Mothers of Invention. Tom’s father, Dr. William Fowler, was involved with the jazz program at Westminster and arranged for a workshop with Frank and the band. In addition to playing, Zappa advised the future musicians present about the grim realities of the cut-throat music business. Joe Muscolino, now a well-known and successful jazzman on the Salt Lake scene, was one of the students at the Zappa workshop and recalled the brief couple of days as “the highpoint of my college career.”
[p.73] Frank Zappa.
Photo by Greg Gorman.
According to Muscolino, Zappa explained in no [p.74] uncertain terms the necessity of blending creativity with practicality, and, Muscolino recalls with emphasis, “Zappa took care of business.”
Frank Zappa certainly had mastered the art of mixing music and business. One such occasion came very early in his career, long before he visited Utah, when he first encountered Mormons in Southern California. Frank himself tells this story:
One of the other great jobs [I had] was as a rhythm guitarist in a pickup band at a Christmas dance in a Mormon recreation hall. The room was decorated with wads of cotton hanging on black thread (snowballs, get it?). The band consisted of sax, drums and guitar. I borrowed a fake-book so I could follow the chord changes, since I didn’t know any of the tunes. The sax player was, in civilian life, a Spanish teacher from the local high school. He had no sense of rhythm and couldn’t even count the tunes off, but he was the leader of the band.
I didn’t know anything about Mormons at the time, so, during a break when I lit up a cigarette, it was as if The Devil Himself had just made a rare personal appearance. A bunch of guys who looked like they weren’t quite ready to shave yet started flailing over to me and, in a brotherly sort of way, escorted my ass out the door. I knew I was going to love show business if I ever got into it.
• • • • • • •
Born 8 January 1942,
three hundred years to the day after the death of Galileo
Einstein said that God does not play dice with the Universe! But all evidence points to the proposition that God is, indeed, an inveterate gambler. He throws the dice to determine the outcome of every observation.
[p.75] For millions of science enthusiasts, technology buffs, and starry-eyed dreamers, British physicist Stephen Hawking represents the future. Hawking thinks in terms of creative mathematical equations, and his thoughts have reshaped our ideas about the very structure of time and space. His book A Brief History of Time has sold more than eight million copies in Great Britain, second only to the Bible.
Hawking has visited Salt Lake City twice, most recently in 1995. Perhaps the more memorable visit was his first in July 1993 to view the documentary film and star show, The Fate of the Universe, that he co-authored with Diane Beam, a scientist formerly in residence at the city’s Hansen Planetarium. Beam and planetarium officials also arranged for Hawking to deliver a free lecture at Abravanel Hall. Once news of the in-person appearance spread, the planetarium was inundated with phone calls requesting reserved seating. Callers were told that seating would be on a first-come, first-served basis. On Saturday, 3 July, Abravanel Hall was jammed to capacity, while an estimated overflow crowd of 10,000 to 15,000 were left outside.
Inside the hall the eminent scientist who holds the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a chair once held by Sir Isaac Newton, discussed the theories of black-holes and baby universes [p.76] that have led his peers to call him “the intellectual successor to Einstein.” And this he did from the wheelchair that permanently confines him—Hawking has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Paralyzed and unable to speak, he nonetheless communicated with eloquence and a sense of humor through a computer-controlled voice synthesizer.
Photograph by Debby Bessford for the HansenPlanetarium, Salt Lake City.
A poignant moment during Hawking’s visit came when he met with eleven-year-old Salt Laker Britt Allen. Like his idol, Britt is highly [p.77] intelligent and fascinated by science. Britt is also confined to a wheel chair and speaks through a voice synthesizer. The two had yet one more thing in common when they met: in solving his personal computer needs, Hawking in another time and another place actually helped to develop the software for the synthesizer system Britt uses. Their meeting in Salt Lake City in 1993 might be seen simply as a coincidence in a universe full of random occurrences. It might also be seen as symbolic of the tenacity of the human spirit to transcend physical limitations, to engage the world of which it is part, and to be heard.
Stephen Hawking with the staff of the Hansen Planetarium, 1993.
Photograph by Patrick Wiggins, courtesy Hansen Planetarium.