It was early on in the Reagan era. We had such a mutual horror of this president and, looking back on it, of life in general, that we decided it might be best to hide away, read poetry and spend any spare money on Valium. It was so easily available on prescription back then, or you could always find some junkie on Delancy St, who would sell you some. We lived day to day. It never occurred to us that Reagan would get in for a second term. We were not romantically involved, just two sedated souls sitting out the Republican years in friendship and squalor.
I was a school teacher, sharing a very small “railroad” apartment in Brooklyn with an optometry nurse and another girl who did something in finance. I had no privacy. So when Buzz asked me to come and stay in the Warhol bunker while he went upstate to visit a friend, I hopped on the F train and was there before either of us had time to change our minds.
The room was about ten by five, maybe bigger, but so stacked with unsold copies of Interview that it was hard to gauge where walls ended and magazines began. There was a small sink at the back, for clean drinkable water. And for pissing in.
The covers were all just faces, painterly photos of Madonna, Sting, Tom Cruise, Grace Jones Debbie Harry, and Buzz had created furniture out of them. The bed was made from the Brooke Shields issue. She’d been in a film where her tits were covered by her hair the whole time. That was all I knew about her. The pillows were Bianca Jagger. I remember a sort of desk made entirely out of Tom Cruise’s face, a good, non-distracting choice. The chair was Grace Jones, and this presented me with a problem. I didn’t mind sitting on her face, but her teeth were bared like fangs and I always felt I might get bitten.
Sanitation was rudimentary, downright crude. Number ones were in the sink, pleasantly flushed. Number twos, however, were – in an emergency – a hollowed out chair with a bin bag containing shredded copies of the magazines, shredded faces staring up at you, expectantly. But I didn’t need to do that for the entire three days because there was no food. I’d been accidentally
locked in. Buzz had forgotten to give me the keys, and I’d forgotten to ask for them. We were heavily sedated at the time, but still. He could have remembered maybe by the time his train was a couple of hours up the Hudson Valley, but he didn’t.
So I made the best of it and read a lot over that long weekend – the interviews in Interview, transcriptions of famous people asking other famous people to pass the salt in some famous restaurant. Buzz also had a volume of Baudelaire, in French, which I couldn’t read, apart from the words “chat” and “mal” He also had a record player with one record, the Velvet Underground and Nico, keeping with the Warhol scheme of things and also a very good record.
Years later, apropos of nothing, he wrote me a letter which said, “Of course, any society that would hold Warhol up as an artist is one in deep malaise.”
Even more years later, in London, I went to a Warhol opening with my best friend. We bunged our way in, uninvited. I had an urge to tell Andy my storage space story, so that he would think oh, hey, like an installation. Or say “How cute. But you owe me a lot of rent.” He watched his money very carefully, I gleaned from his diaries. Every cab fare, every tip went recorded. But I thought better of it and anyway it was impossible to get near him, surrounded by sycophants and press. All I heard him say was that his favourite British band was “Banaaanaraaama”
During that very long weekend in the squat, I had no idea how I would get out, let alone eventually move to London and start a new kind of life. I played that one record over and over, read French poems with no comprehension, took drugs and slept on Brooke Shields face. Buzz came back on the third day. I was ink stained, hungry, and really in need of some fresh air. He just said, “Oh, sorry, I forgot to give you the key.”
Buzz is dead now. Warhol is dead. My best friend is dead, It’s probably safe to tell this story now without getting anyone into trouble.