The day Andy Warhol visited The Aspen Times
Reliving Mary Eshbaugh Hayes’ encounter with the Prince of Pop Art
The Aspen Times
(This story, in which the legendary Aspen Times writer and editor Mary Eshbaugh Hayes recounts in her inimitable style the day Andy Warhol came to the paper’s historic Main Street newsroom for a visit, originally ran on p. B-9 of the Aspen Times on Sept. 3, 1981. We are reprinting it here on the occasion of the Aspen Art Museum’s “Andy Warhol: Lifetimes,” a monumental career survey, and the Powers Art Center’s “Warhol in Colorado,” which displays pieces from the collection of Carbondale’s Kimiko and John Powers, who joined Warhol on that late August 1981 pop-in at the Times.)
When Andy Warhol came to The Aspen Times on Monday, he seemed as intrigued with us as we were with him.
He was rushed through the building, past the Death Bat being built for the Art Cart Derby, out the back door for Chris Cassatt to photograph.
Then back to my office for a few quotes. Members of the Times staff nonchalantly standing around to get a look. Peeking around corners and whispering.
Warhol had white skin, white hair, and was dressed in a black tuxedo jacket with blue jeans.
“What a wonderful old-time newspaper,” he said.
I was staring at the black tuxedo jacket.
I thought of Lord Byron, remembered reading how he made dramatic entrances in his black cape and with his white skin … as much an actor as a poet.
I thought Warhol must be as much an actor as an artist.
John and Kimiko Powers were with him. So was Bob Colacello, the editor of Warhol’s “Interview” magazine. And some young man who kept running in and out, going next door, trying to get Carl to carry “Interview.”
They were an hour and a half late to the interview.
Looking at their watches they mentioned how they had to catch a plane in another half an hour.
They were in too much of a rush to sit down.
But Andy Warhol sat down. His penetrating eyes took in everything.
“What a wonderful old-time newspaper,” he said again.
They were going to fly to Colorado State University in Fort Collins where a retrospective show of Warhol’s work is hanging until Sept. 25.
Warhol really wasn’t sure what was in the Fort Collins show.
John Powers said there are more than 100 pieces, featuring work done from 1963 until 1980, lent by the Powerses, the Denver Art Museum and Gemini GEL Studios of Los Angeles.
Included in the show, said John, are silkscreen prints of Jackie Kennedy, Kimiko Powers, Mao Tse-tung and Muhammad Ali, as well as a silkscreen print of a Campbell’s Soup can and Warhol’s recent print “Shoes,” a silkscreen print accented with diamond dust.
“What direction is his new work taking?” I asked.
Warhol pulled his eyes away from starting at the writers’ cubbyholes, stared at me, and smiled with glee.
“There’s no new direction,” he said. “It’s the same old stuff. The tomato soup cans are coming back.
“And I’m also dealing with what I call American myths …Mickey Mouse and the Wicked Witch and Santa Claus.
“They’re done as silkscreen prints and some have diamond dust. I did a really good Mickey Mouse.”
I asked him where he got his Mickey Mouse.
“I looked at dozens and dozens of pictures of Mickey Mouse until I found the one I liked and that would be easiest to screen. But I had to buy the copyright.”
I wondered if Warhol had been in Aspen before.
“Many times,” he said. “Two good things happened this time. We had dinner with John Denver and lunch with Jack Nicholson, who has been giving us a tour of the town. Notice that I’m name-dropping celebrities,” he pointed out.
“I also come to see my land in Carbondale,” he said.
He’s had land on Missouri Heights for ten years (so has artist Robert Rauschenberg). The land is near John Powers’ ranch.
“I’m not going to build on the land,” said Warhol. “It’s too pretty.”
“Land is the best art.”
Warhol’s blue eyes took in the old bookcases that wall The Aspen Times, the notes and photos stuck everywhere, my old upright typewriter pushed aside to make room for the modern word processor.
“I love this place,” he said.
His editor wanted to talk about the magazine.
“Interview” is about the slickest New York magazine you’d want to see. The advertising is gorgeous.
The format features celebrities.
There are tape-recorded interviews with personalities in the world of art, fashion or entertainment, with authors and politicians.
“We try to do people first,” said Warhol. “New faces, new talent. And we always include some big stars. Every issue is a mixture.”
Warhol usually does the cover story.
“But we took my name off the cover,” he said with the grin again. “That way we sell more magazines.”
The group really wanted Carl to carry the magazine in Aspen. They think the beautiful people here will want to read about the other beautiful people.
“I now have a TV program,” volunteered Warhol. “It’s Andy Warhol’s TV TV and is like the magazine … it features fashion shows and interviews with celebrities.”
Warhol burst on the art scene in the 1960s as a Pop Art pioneer, with silkscreen prints of supermarket items such as Brillo boxes, tomato soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles.
He then began executing boldly-colored silkscreen portraits of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy and Mick Jagger.
He and John Powers became friends when Powers began collecting Warhol’s work during the 1960s.
“I was first taken to Andy’s studio by Milton Fox,” related Powers. “Fox was art editor for Harry Abram’s art publishing company and he was educating me in what to look for in contemporary art.
“My personal theory is that Pop Art represents the fact that everything can be considered as art.
“Anything visual, such as TV, the movies and media … is the art of our times. And Andy chose for his portraits the people who were in the forefront … the Marilyn Monroes, the Jackie Kennedys.
“They represented hard-sell America … sex, violence, tragedy.
“And the Pop Artists paired the things they saw around them … the soup cans, toothpaste, hamburgers, comic strips. They were painting their world. Their world of media, mass production and advertising.”
Everyone but Warhol was looking at their watches again. The 15 minutes were up.
I thought Warhol would really be neat to interview some time.
He grinned and I shook the cold and white, white hand.
“This is a wonderful old-time newspaper, he said.
Mary Eshbaugh Hayes was an award-winning writer, reporter, columnist, photographer and editor. She wrote for The Aspen Times in varying roles from 1952 until 2015 when she died at age 86.
Read more of The Aspen Times coverage of this winter’s exhibitions and Andy Warhol’s history in Aspen, look for more throughout the winter:
• “In Aspen with Andy Warhol,” Dec. 2, Aspen Times Weekly
• “Warhol exhibition begins winter-long run at Aspen Art Museum,” Dec. 4, The Aspen Times
• “Why another Warhol show?” Dec. 9, Aspen Times Weekly
• “Finding Warhol in ‘After and Before,’“ Dec. 16, Aspen Times Weekly
• “Inside the ‘Exploding Plastic Inevitable’ at the Aspen Art Museum,” Dec. 23, Aspen Times Weekly