5. Fame

B: What did those record people want?

A: They want me to cut a record. They'll make my voice sound like it's singing.

A: I love your Daily News commercial on television. I've seen it fifteen times.

Some company recently was interested in buying my "aura." They didn't want my product. They kept saying, "We want your aura." I never figured out what they wanted. But they were willing to pay a lot for it. So then I thought that if somebody was willing to pay that much for my it, I should try to figure out what it is.

I think "aura" is something that only somebody else can see, and they only see as much of it as they want to. It's all in the other person's eyes. You can only see an aura on people you don't know very well or don't know at all. I was having dinner the other night with everybody from my office. The kids at the office treat me like dirt, because they know me and they see me every day. But then there was this nice friend that somebody had brought along who had never met me, and this kid could hardly believe that he was having dinner with me! Everybody else was seeing me, but he was seeing my "aura."

When you just see somebody on the street, they can really have an aura. But then when they open their mouth, there goes the aura. "Aura" must be until you open your mouth.

The people who have the best fame are those who have their name on stores. The people with very big stores named after them are the ones I'm really jealous of. Like Marshall Field.

But being famous isn't all that important. If I weren't famous, I wouldn't have been shot for being Andy Warhol. Maybe I would have been shot for being in the Army. Or maybe I would be a fat schoolteacher. How do you ever know?

A good reason to be famous, though, is so you can read all the big magazines and know everybody in all the stories. Page after page it's just all people you've met. I love that kind of reading experience and that's the best reason to be famous.

I'm confused about who the news belongs to. I always have it in my head that if your name's in the news, then the news should be paying you. Because it's your news and they're taking it and selling it as their product. But then they always say that they're helping you, and that's true too, but still, if people didn't give the news their news, and if everybody kept their news to themselves, the news wouldn't have any news. So I guess you should pay each other. But I haven't figured it out fully yet.

The worst, most cruel review of me that I ever read was the Time magazine review of me getting shot.

I've found that almost all interviews are preordained. They know what they want to write about you and they know what they think about you before they ever talk to you, so they're just looking for words and details from here and there to back up what they've already decided they're going to say. If you go into an interview blind, there is absolutely no way of guessing what kind of article the person you're talking to is going to write. The nicest, laughingest people can write the meanest articles, and the people you think are hating you can write the funniest, nicest articles. It's harder to tell with journalists than with politicians.

When somebody writes a really mean article, I always Just let it go by because who are you to say it isn't the truth?

People used to say that I tried to "put on" the media when I would give one autobiography to one newspaper and another autobiography to another newspaper. I used to like to give different information to different magazines because it was like putting a tracer on where people get their information. That way I could always tell when I met people what newspapers and magazines they were reading by the things they would tell me I had said. Sometimes funny pieces of information come back to you years and years later when an interviewer says, "You once said that Lefrak City was the most beautiful place in the world," and then you know that they've read what you once told Architectural Forum.

The right story in the right place can really put you up-there for months or even years. I lived next to a Gristedes grocery for twelve years, and every day I would go in and drift around the aisles, picking out what I wanted—that's a ritual I really enjoy. For twelve years I did this just about every day. Then one afternoon the New York Post ran a color picture of Monique Van Vooren and Rudolf Nureyev and me on the front page, and when I next went into the store all the stockboys started yelling "Here he is!" and "I told you it was him!" I didn't want to go back there ever again. Then after my picture was in Time, I couldn't take my dog to the park for a week because people were pointing at me.

Up until a year ago I was a real nobody in Italy. I was somebody—maybe—in Germany and England—which is why I no longer go to those countries—but in Italy they couldn't even spell my name. Then L'Uomo Vogue found out how to spell my name from a superstar of ours who started going with one of their photographers—pillow talk I guess—but anyway, he leaked the correct spelling of my name to L'Uomo and then he leaked the titles of my movies and photos of my paintings and now I'm a fad in Italy. In fact, I was just in a very small town called Boissano, on the wrong side of the Riviera, and I was having an aperitif on the terrace of the local newsstand and a young fellow, a high school student, came up to me and said, "Hi, Andy, how's Holly Woodlawn doing?" I was shocked. He knew about five words of English and four of them were FLESH, TRASH, HEAT, and DALLE-SANDRO, which maybe doesn't count because it's Italian.

I'm always interested in talk-show hosts. A person I know told me he can look at people who do interviews on television and know where they're from, what kind of schools they went to, what religion they are, just by seeing what kind of guests they have on their show and by hearing what kind of questions they ask their guests. I'd love to be able to know everything about a person from watching them on television—to be able to tell what their problem is. Can you imagine watching a talk show and knowing immediately things like—

"This one's problem is HE WANTS TO BE A BEAUTY." "This one's problem is HE HATES RICH PEOPLE." "This one's problem is HE CAN'T GET IT UP." "That one's problem is HE WANTS TO BE MISERABLE."

"This one's problem is HE WANTS TO BE INTELLIGENT."

And maybe you'd also be able to figure out—


I would also be thrilled to be able to know what color eyes a person has just from looking at them, because color TV still can't help you too much there.

Certain people have TV magic: they fall completely apart off-camera but they are completely together on-camera. They shake and sweat before they go on, they shake and sweat during commercials, they shake and sweat when it's all over; but while the camera is filming them, they're poised and confident-looking. The camera turns them on and off.

I never fall apart because I never fall together. I just sit there saying "I'm going to faint. I'm going to faint. I know I'm going to faint. Have I fainted yet? I'm going to faint." When I'm on television I can't think about anything they're going to ask me, I can't think about anything that's going to come out of my mouth—all I can think is, "Is this a live show? It is? Well then forget it, I'm going to faint. I'm waiting for a faint." That's my live television appearance stream-of-conscious-ness. Taped is different.

And I always thought that talk-show hosts and other television personalities could never know what it's like to feel that nervous, but then I realized that some of them might actually have a variation of the same problem—maybe every minute they're thinking "I'm going to blow it, I'm going to blow it . . . there goes the summer house in East Hampton . . . there goes the Park Avenue co-op . . . there goes the sauna . . ." The difference is that while they're thinking their version of "I'm going to faint," they can somehow— through their TV magic—keep pulling out the lines and stuff they have stored somewhere.

There are some people who just begin performing when they're "on." "On" is different things to different people. I was watching a young actor accepting his Emmy on television and he went up there on the stage, and he turned right on, he went right into his acting to say, "I want to say thanks, thanks to my wife—" and he was doing a "meaningful moment" scene. He was having a ball. I started thinking what a big fantastic moment getting an award like that must be for a person who can only turn "on" when he's in front of people. If that's what turns him on, when he gets that chance, he has to be up there feeling fine, thinking, "I can do anything, anything, ANYTHING!"

So I guess everybody has their own time and place when they turn themselves on. Where do I turn on?

I turn on when I turn off and go to bed. That's my big moment that I'm always waiting for.

"Good performers," I think, are all-inclusive recorders, because they can mimic emotions as well as speech and looks and atmosphere—they're more inclusive than tape recordings or videotapes or novels. Good performers can somehow record complete experiences and people and situations and then pull out these recordings when they need them. They can repeat a line exactly the way it should sound and look exactly the way they should look when they repeat it because they've seen the scene before somewhere and they've shelved it away. So they know what the lines should be and the way the lines should come out of them. Or stay in them.

I can only understand really amateur performers or realty bad performers, because whatever they do never really comes off, so therefore it can't be phoney. But I can never understand really good, professional performers.

Every professional performer I've ever seen always does exactly the same thing at exactly the same moment in every show they do. They know when the audience is going to laugh and when it's going to get really interested. What I like are things that are different every time. That's why I like amateur performers and bad performers—you can never tell what they'll do next.

Jackie Curtis used to write plays and stage them on Second Avenue, and the play would change every night—the lines and even the plot. Only the name of the play would stay the same. If two people saw the show on different nights and started talking about it to each other, they found out that nothing was the same in the two shows. The runs of these plays were "evolutionary," as the play kept changing all the time.

I know that "professional" is fast, and it's good, and people are on time, and they show up, and they do it right, and they're on key, and they do their numbers, and there are no problems. You watch them perform and they look so natural you just can't believe they're not ad-libbing—it looks like the funny line just occurred to them at the moment they said it. But then you go to see them the next night and the same funny line is just occurring to them all over again.

If I ever have to cast an acting role, I want the wrong person for the part. I can never visualize the right person in a part. The right person for the right part would be too much. Besides, no person is ever completely right for any part, because a part is a role is never real, so if you can't get someone who's perfectly right, it's more satisfying to get someone who's perfectly wrong. Then you know you've really got something.

The wrong people always look so right to me. And when you've got a lot of people and they're all "good," it's hard to make distinctions, the easiest thing is to pick the really bad person. And I always go after the easiest thing, because if it's the easiest, for me it's usually the best.

I was doing a commercial the other day for some sound equipment, and I could have pretended to say all the words they gave me that I would never say that way, but I just couldn't do it.

When I played an airport person in a movie with Elizabeth Taylor the lines they gave me were something like "Let's go. I have an important date," but it kept coming out of my mouth, "Come on, girls." But in Italy they dub everything in afterwards, so no matter what you don't say, you say it anyway.

I did an airline commercial once with Sonny Liston— "If you've got it, flaunt it!" I liked saying that, but then later they dubbed my voice, although they didn't dub his.

Some people say that you're only impressed with somebody famous if you've known about them since you were little or for a long time before you met them. They say that if you've never heard of an individual and you meet them, and then afterwards somebody comes over and tells you that you've just met the richest, most famous person in, say, Germany, you would not be so impressed at having met them, because you yourself had never put any of your own time into thinking about how famous they are. However, I feel just the opposite: I'm not impressed with all these funny people that everybody thinks are famous, because I always feel they're the easiest to meet. What I'm most impressed with is when I meet somebody I thought I could never meet— that I'd never dream I'd be talking to some day. People like Kate Smith, Lassie, Paloma Picasso's mother, Nixon, Mamie Eisenhower, Tab Hunter, Charlie Chaplin.

When I was little I used to listen to The Singing Lady on the radio all the time while I was in bed coloring. Then in 1972 I was at a party in New York and I was introduced to a woman and they said, "She used to be The Singing Lady on the radio." I was just incredulous. I could hardly believe that I was really meeting her, because I never dreamed that I would ever meet her. I'd just assumed that there was no chance at all. When you meet someone you never dreamed you'd meet, you're taken by surprise, so you haven't made up any fantasies and you're not let down.

Some people spend their whole lives thinking about one particular famous person. They pick one person who's famous, and they dwell on him or her. They devote almost their entire consciousness to thinking about this person they've never even met, or maybe met once. If you ask any famous person about the kind of mail they get, you'll find that almost every one of them has at least one person who's obsessed with them and writes constantly. It feels so strange to think that someone is spending their whole time thinking about you.

Nutty people are always writing me. I always think I must be on some nutty mailing list.

I always worry that when nutty people do something, they'll do the same thing again a few years later without ever remembering that they've done it before—and they'll think it's a whole new thing they're doing. I was shot in 1968, so that was the 1968 version. But then I have to think, "Will someone want to do a 1970s remake of shooting me?" So that's another kind of fan.

In the early days of film, fans used to idolize a whole star—they would take one star and love everything about that star. Today there are different fan levels. Now, fans only idolize parts of the stars. Today people can idolize a star in one area and forget about him in another. A big rock star might sell millions and millions of records, but then if he makes a bad movie, and when the word gets around that it's bad, forget it.

New categories of people are now being put up there as stars. The sports people are making themselves into great new stars. (Something I think about when I'm watching things like Olympic meets is "When will a person not break a record?" If somebody runs at 2.2, does that mean that people will next be able to do it at 2.1 and 2.0 and 1.9 and so on until they can do it in 0.0? So at what point will they not break a record? Will they have to change the time or change the record?)

Nowadays if you're a crook you're still considered up-there. You can write books, go on TV, give interviews— you're a big celebrity and nobody even looks down on you because you're a crook. You're still really up-there. This is because more than anything people just want stars.

Good b.o. means good "box office." You can smell it from a mile away. The more you spell it out, the bigger the smell, and the bigger the smell, the more b.o. you get.

Working for a lot of money can throw your self-image off. When I used to do shoe drawings for the magazines I would get a certain amount for each shoe, so then I would count up my shoes to figure out how much I was going to get. I lived by the number of shoe drawings—when I counted them I knew how much money I had.

Models can sometimes be very rude. Because they get paid by the hour and put in their eight-hour day, when they go home they think they should still be getting paid. Movie stars get millions of dollars for nothing, so when someone asks them to do something for nothing, they go crazy—they think that if they're going to talk to somebody at the grocery store they should get fifty dollars an hour.

So you should always have a product that's not just "you." An actress should count up her plays and movies and a model should count up her photographs and a writer should count up his words and an artist should count up his pictures so you always know exactly what you're worth, and you don't get stuck thinking your product is you and your fame, and your aura.

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