Montauk Life

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Andy Warhol

ANDY WARHOL IN MONTAUK

Andy with his pet dog

Once upon a time, not so many years ago, an outrageous band of artists, stars, and celebrities made Montauk their home away from home. At the center was the most famous artist of his time - Andy Warhol. Together they put Montauk on the international map. It was a strange and wondrous time, one that is now drawing to a close. Andy's been dead now 14 years, and his house on the cliffs is up for sale. Soon the Warhol magic will be nothing more than a faint trace in the wind. It was a wild ride, and it all began in 1972.

ANDY WARHOL

By any standard, Andy was a strange person. Famous since the early 1960's for his Pop art impressions of modern American life - the famous Campbell soup cans prints - and enigmatic quotes - "In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes" - Warhol pioneered a style of art and artist, America in the post Eisenhower age had never seen. Born in Pittsburgh on August 6, 1928, Andy was the youngest son of Ondrej and Julia Warhola. Immigrants from an obscure corner of then Transylvania, they were uneducated, uncultured and a most unlikely gene pool for an artist.

Andy with Lee's son Tony
Andy with Lee's son Tony

Sickly from birth, Andy was stricken by St. Vitus's dance when 8. A nervous condition, it made the already frail boy's limbs shake, and skin turn white. His schoolmates started calling him Spot. Home bound his mother doted on him, showering him with what luxuries they could afford - candy bars, coloring books, and cut out books of dolls and dresses. Whiling away the days, safe in the comfort of his mother's bed, the sickly boy showed an interest and ability in art.

As Andy grew, so did his abilities. By the fifth grade he was taking Sunday art classes at the Carnegie Museum. While in high school he won first prize in an art contest held by the Pittsburgh Press. Graduating early from high school he entered Carnegie Tech where he majored in Painting and Technique. All along his teachers noted the unusual boy's unusual abilities. After graduation he moved to New York, where "Raggety Andy" for his unkempt looks, quickly became a favorite illustrator for the fashion magazines of that time. Warhola became Warhol, when a junior editor at Vogue inadvertently shorted his name by dropping the "a".


As his career progressed, the shy, retiring Andy forged an identity that would reshape the way America looked at artists. In a time when revolutionary changes tore down the walls between art, fashion and every day life, Andy held the first sledge hammer. He bought a large loft on West 47th Street and opened the Factory, an industrial approach to art. Not content to re-shape the face of modern art, he took on film, music, writing and journalism. Surrounded by an entourage of up and coming hipsters, drag queens, budding journalists, aspiring actors, drug addicts, and society cast-offs, Andy became king of New York's avant garde scene.

As wide a swath as Andy cut in the academic world, he wanted more than anything else to be famous, to rub shoulders with the brightest and best. To do that he engineered an image, as bizarre and unusual as any. Pasty faced Andy, with his white fright wig, haunted expression and monosyllabic style became as well known as any Hollywood star or Washington politician. By skillfully manipulating the publicity game, this painfully shy artist made himself into a glittering star of the social night, seen everywhere from art openings to the nightly melodrama of Studio 54.

Aerial view of main house and compound
Aerial view of main house and compound

ANDY BUYS IN

If there was one thing Andy loved more than fame, it was money. That's what first brought the intensely urban Warhol to wide open Montauk. A long time visitor to the Hamptons proper, he and Paul Morrissey, director of many of Andy's early avant garde films, decided a home here would be a great investment. Ironically, they turned to East Hampton realtor Tina Fredericks, who had been one of Andy's early champions when art director of Vogue in the mid-1950's.

Andy and Lee. 1972
Andy and Lee. 1972

One rainy weekend in early 1972, Andy and Paul piled into Tina's Eldorado for a tour of the East End. She started showing them houses in the primest of areas of the East End - Southampton's tony Gin Lane, East Hampton's posh Further Lane and Ocean Avenue, but nothing moved Andy. It wasn't until they drove into Montauk that eccentric Andy began to perk up.

According to Tina, it was the unlikely sight of the absurd architecture of the Memory Motel and Ronjo Motels that caught Andy's eye. It seems the mix of Polynesian, Tudor, and Motel Six design amused Andy. Driving east of town along the ocean Tina brought them to a dramatic compound, overlooking the Atlantic on the wind swept cliffs of Montauk.


The Church estate was a collection of 5 classic, clapboard houses built in the 1920's. Set on 20 acres high above the Atlantic, they had been designed by noted architect Stanford White. The main house, with 7 bedrooms, 5 baths, 4 stone fireplaces and large living areas would be perfect for entertaining. The 4 smaller cottages would be guest accommodations. They agreed to the price and Andy and Paul split the $225,000 cost. As it turned out, this good investment was the best buy of Andy's life. Currently on the market for a cool $50,000,000, it's the most expensive home for sale on the East End, and one of the most expensive in all of America.

THE FIRST FAMILY

Jackie and Lee at Lighthouse. 1972
Jackie and Lee at Lighthouse. 1972

Although Andy was happy with his new house, his primary concern that first year was finding a tenant to help with the bills. That started a long parade of celebrity renters for the Montauk home. That first year Andy rented the main house to Lee Radziwill, Jackie Onassis's famed sister. In her recent bio, Happy Times, Lee remembered that Summer fondly. "The main house had a floor of huge old flagstones and two enormous fireplaces opposite each other. It smelled of cedar and the sea." Andy she saw in a different light - "He was almost allergic to fresh air, but once in a while felt obliged to leave the city and check in on the happenings at his place in Montauk. Here a somewhat different person was on display. He loved children and was inventive with them, creating activities in which they became totally abandoned such as when he sat them down at a large round table in the living room to show them how to edit a film in a simple way. He was something of a pied piper, always keeping their attention, always admiring and encouraging them at whatever they did."

"We spent long lazy afternoons on the beach, talking and burying each other in the sand. At times like this, Andy wasn't as strange as he initially seemed, but revealed himself as a keen, subtle observer of everything around him."

"He had a simple supper every night at six before going out, seven nights a week to observe. He didn't eat the rich food at the dinners and parties that he constantly attended. He was too fragile after the attempt on his life and his serious operation."

That Summer, Jackie came for a number of visits with young Caroline and John John. Andy remembered - "They used to run around throwing balloons filled with water at everybody. They were always having egg fights. John John was the ring leader. He was about 12 then. He told the funniest stories and the best jokes. John John and Caroline loved to go down to the candy store to look for pictures of themselves in the movie mags."

Andy was so proud of his association with the first family of America, that Bob Colacello Interview editor and one of Andy's closest companions, remembers - "Andy joked about putting up gold plaques that said 'Lee slept here' and 'Jackie slept here'." The shy boy from the wrong side of the tracks had come a long way.

PETER BEARD

A young Peter Beard
A young Peter Beard

It seems one of the reasons Lee spent 1972 in Montauk had to do with Andy's charismatic next door neighbor, Peter Beard. Andy described him as - "one of the most fascinating men in the world ...... he's like a modern Tarzan. He jumps in and out of the snake pit he keeps at his home. He cuts himself and paints with the blood. He wears sandals and no socks in the middle of Winter. He lived in a parked car on 13th Street for six months. He moved when he woke up and found a transvestite sleeping on the roof." He also thought Peter was one of the best looking men he'd ever seen. So did Lee.

Peter was both Andy's neighbor and artist in arms. Unlike some who built his reputation around Andy, Peter had established himself as one of the great nature and fashion photographers long before meeting Andy. Grandson of a well to do western family, Manhattan/England/Yale educated, he began his career while still in college, signed to a $12,000 a year contract by Vogue in 1955. That was also the year he first traveled to Africa, a trip that would forever change his life and work. His landmark work, The End of the Game (1963), a collection of essays and photographs on the rapid decline of Africa and it's wildlife, is a testament to early ecological and sociological sencebilites.

Peter & daughter Zara
Peter & daughter Zara

Peter first came to know Andy through his uncle, Jerome Hill, one of the early partners in Andy's Interview magazine. Beard in turn came to know Lee when he was assigned a photo shoot of the Rolling Stones's Exile on Main Street tour in 1972. Long remembered as one of the most decadent rock and roll campaigns of the overly indulgent '70's, the frenzy to report this momentous event was such that the most prominent papers of the day battled to cover this bacchanalian tour. Rolling Stone magazine topped them all by assigning Truman Capote to follow the tour, and Peter to photograph.

Peter's portrait of Andy
Peter's portrait of Andy

While on tour Peter became good friends with Mick Jagger. They partied they way across the country in the "Lapping Tongue" - the Stones speciality outfitted DC-7. As has been well documented they flew considerably higher than the clouds that surrounded them. Half way through the tour, Truman Capote met the group in Kansas City. In tow was his new best friend, Lee Radziwill. The mix of rock royalty and Fortunate Four Hundred did not work well. Jagger hated Capote's mincing manners, and Capote called Mick - "...a scared little boy ..... about as sexy as a pissing toad." Stones guitarist Keith Richards welcomed the cultured Radziwill by banging on her hotel door that night, screaming "Princess Radish ....... C'mom you old tart, there's a party going' downstairs!"


The final date of the tour was scheduled for Mick's birthday - July 26, at Madison Square Garden. Afterwards a lavish party was given for the 29 year old Stone by Ashmet Ertgun, president of Atlantic Records, at his palatial roof top suite atop the St. Regis Hotel. Overlooking Manhattan, the creme de la creme of arts and society came to honor the pouting prince - including Andy, Peter, Truman, and Lee. Andy provided the high light of the party. A naked girl popped out of a towering birthday cake, and twirled her silicon tits as a dozen black tap dancers provided a chorus line. The New York Post reported - "In the perfumed twilight of the Roman Empire unspeakable things went on. Are we entering that same twilight?"

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN - THE ROLLING STONES!

Mick at Lake Montauk. 1972
Mick at Lake Montauk. 1972

The next day Peter invited the exhausted Mick and bride Bianca, to visit his house In Montauk for a quick R&R. They flew into Montauk airport and spent the next few days relaxing at the shore, water skiing on Lake Montauk, and walking the beach. It was an introduction to Montauk that would lead to a much longer stay.

By the spring of 1975, the Stones were in the midst of planning their next American tour. What better place to cool out and prepare, than quiet Montauk? Andy rented Mick and the boys the compound for a princely sum of $ 5,000 a month, and the Stones began rehearsals for what would become Black and Blue. As was then reported: "Throughout April sensationally loud music welled through the windows, into the ruts and hollows over the tangled crab-grass of an estate in Montauk. Long Island. Residents of the Ditch Plains trailer park were woken in the night - yapping dogs, even wolves, the loud grief of coyotes. From East Hampton to New York the word spread with the ferocity of a brush fire: the Rolling Stones were rehearsing!"

Lee, Mick & Bianca - Montauk Airport 1972
Lee, Mick & Bianca - Montauk Airport 1972

Andy and Jagger first met in 1963, when the Stones were invited to play a birthday party for then Warhol starlet, Baby Jane Holzer, at the New York Academy of Music. Over the years the artistically inclined Jagger kept tabs on the musically inclined Warhol. Mick was such an admirer, that in 1972 when the Stones formed their own record company, they tapped Andy to design their logo. With characteristic flair Andy came up with the stylized Jagger mouth and tongue that would grace all their albums. Andy also designed the infamous cover for that year's release, Sticky Fingers - a cover shot of Jagger from the hips down, in skin tight jeans, with a fully working zippered crotch!

Andy visited the boys often that Summer. Although the Stones tried to keep a low profile, their fans found their hide away. Andy remembers - "Mick Jagger really put Montauk on the map. All the motels were overflowing with groupies. Two girls with no hair and black cats on leashes followed them all the way to Montauk. Mr. Winters - the caretaker of the estate - found them hiding in the bushes!"


At times the attention went beyond mere fan worship. Andy remembers playing with Mick and Bianca's then 4 year old daughter, Jade. As he often did with small children he delighted in showing her how to draw and paint. At one point Andy was searching for some material, opened a drawer and much to his surprise found a loaded gun. Jade said - "That's my daddy's!" Turned out, Jagger was being hounded by a pair of Rolling Stones obsessed fans that summer, and felt the need for a little extra protection.

Black & Blue album cover
Black & Blue album cover

Little Jade was Andy's favorite Jagger - "I love Mick and Bianca, but Jade's more my speed. I taught her how to color and she showed me how to play Monopoly. She was four and I was forty-four. Mick got jealous. He said I was a bad influence because I gave her champagne."

One of Mick's favorite hang outs that summer was the Shagwong on Main Street. A little rougher around the edges in those days, it's main attractions were a pool table and a juke box full of rock and roll. Only problem was, the only Stones tune on it was the by then golden oldie "Get Off My Cloud". They'd play it every time Mick came in for a drink. One night Mick had enough. After 10 Pina Coladas, and the same number of "Get Off My Cloud", Mick got off his bar stool, put a quarter in the box, punched up the classic disco tune - " Stand, Stand, Stand" - and started singing along. The whole place got quiet at first, and then exploded.

Now as then, Jimmy Hewitt owned the Shagwong. He remembers Mick and Bianca would come in once or twice a week. "They were great for business. We had girls camped out three deep up and down the sidewalk waiting for them!" Mick would take up a stool at the end of the bar, where he's sit with his private bottle of Grand Marnier. Bianca would waltz into the kitchen to pick out dinner, and kibitz with the crew. She'd roll up the sleeves of her Yves Saint Laurent dresses and open clams. Many nights after closing, Mick would invite Jimmy back to the hose to hear the Stones rehearse. The only problem was the nocturnal Stones wouldn't even start 2 or 3 in the morning. By then it was time for Jimmy to go home.

Of course one of the indelible remains of the Stones stay in Montauk, is the song "The Memory Motel". Named for the bar and motel of same name, this lament for a lost girl has become one of the Stones signature tunes.

"Hannah honey was a peachy kind of girl
Her eyes were hazel
And her nose were slightly curved
We spent a lonely night at the Memory Motel
It's on the ocean, I guess you know it well
It took a starry to steal my breath away
Down on the water front
Her hair all drenched in spray"
(Jagger/Richards - C- Rolling Stones/Virgin Records 1975 )


As atmospheric a tune as it was, the truth is, the Memory Motel was not the center of the Stones stay in Montauk. Peter Beard remembers taking Mick there one afternoon, with disastrous results. It seems the owners, an older couple, didn't much care for the Stones. The bartender as much as told Jagger that to his face. So far as Peter can remember, that was the only time they set foot in the place! As for the "honey of a girl" mentioned in the song, it wasn't some lovely Montauk lass Mick was pining after, but the Stones traveling photographer, Annie Liebowitz.

One girl who many in Montauk pined for, was a certain Barbara Allen. The pretty young wife of Joe Allen, one of Andy's Interview backers, Barbara attracted attention where ever she went. Years before she and Peter had a fling. That summer married Mick seemed to find her company very enjoyable. According to Bob Colacello, he was inadvertently present at a night time rendezvous while staying at Peter Beard's house. One hot summer's night he was dropping off to a peaceful night's sleep, when through the open window comes none other than Mick! Seemed he's mistaken Bob's room, for Barbara Allen's. Poor Bob, it was the closest he'd get to having a rock and roll star in his bed that summer.

ANDY'S 49TH BIRTHDAY

Bob remembers his Montauk days fondly. He and the whole Warhol gang always felt comfortable in Montauk. As strange as it might seem, this merry band of ultra urban Pop stars took to the isolation of Montauk like ducks to water. More importantly, Montauk welcomed the gang with an open attitude and no problems. Of course, it helped that Andy's more extreme days were well behind him. Now a curious, but accepted member of society's elite, he had discarded most of his more bizarre hangers-on long ago. Fact is, had this been 1969 he might have brought a car load of transvestites with him, and dumped them on Main Street just for fun!

When ever they could, Bob and as many as 20 of the other "kids" as Andy called all his workers, would pile into cars on a Summer's eve and head east. Many times Frederico di Laurentis, son of Dino, would give them a lift in his trademark Land Rover. Fitted out with Italian diplomatic plates, they didn't have to worry about speeding tickets or parking! After hours of fighting their way through the Hamptons, they'd finally wind their way to the mile long dirt and gravel driveway that lead to the main house.

Once in, it was Bob's job to start mixing the first batch of that Summer's hot drink. Equal parts vodka, campari and tonic - the deadly Negron was the Cosmopolitan of 1975. The other kids would spread out in the smaller cottages, while runners would descend on Gosman's for lobsters, and Herb's Market for cases of Perrier, crates of oranges, and bushel baskets of fruits and vegetables.


Sometimes Andy would come out with the kids, most times he preferred to stay in New York. If someone special was renting the house, say Lee or Halston, he'd make an appearance. One of the few occasions he'd visit was his birthday. In his collaboration with Andy, Exposures, Bob remembers one birthday in particular. It illustrates how the world famous Warhol wasn't that far removed from the shy, sick boy who took refuge in his mother's bed so many years before.

"Andy was the outsider everywhere. Even at home, even within his Factory family. On August 6, 1977, we celebrated his forty-ninth birthday at Montauk. It was just Andy and the kids - Fred, Jed, Pat, Catherine, Vincent and his fiancé, Shelly Dunn, Jay Johnson with Tom Cashin, Susan Johnson and her beau, Billy Copley. We had a casual dinner around the big picnic table in the kitchen: barbecued chicken from the local deli, birthday cake from Andy's favorite Manhattan bakers, Les Delices de la Cote Basque, champagne and Negrons, the house Montauk drink, Campari and vodka, heavy on the vodka."

"We put some old rock n roll records on the stereo in the living room. Fred grabbed Shelly, Vincent grabbed Catherine, I grabbed Pat - we were all dancing, in quickly shifting couples and groups. Except Andy. He stood on the edge of the room, snapping an occasional Minox, looking a little bored and very lonely. I tried to pull him into our sock hop, but he pulled back and whimpered, ' You know I can't dance, Bob.' I stood with him for a few minutes, so that he wouldn't be the only wall flower at his own birthday party. ' Gee', he said, in that wistful tone he used when he was feeling sorry for himself, ' You kids get along, so well.' Then he slipped away to bed, leaving us to twist and shout."

Sad, that the man so many wanted to be seen with, party with, have portraits and articles done by, was at his heart a lonely man. As he himself said about true stars - "I wish I were like Mick. He's a somebody. I'm a nobody."

EPILOGUE

With Andy's death in 1987, the parade of celebrity guests to his Montauk estate stopped. His partner, Paul Morrissey kept the house, and donated 15 acres of the compound to a non-profit, conservancy. As it turned out, the house was the most important part of Andy's huge estate. Today it's for sale, awaiting a buyer with deep pockets and an even deeper appreciation for the real and historic drama of this unique property.


Of course Andy was not Montauk's sole celebrity - Edward Albee, Dick Cavett, Ralph Lauren, Robert DeNiro, Richard Avedon, Paul Simon to name a few have deep roots here. But never, has these wind swept moors and weathered cliffs seen a collection of white hot media types as gathered at Andy's home. Over those few years from 1972 - 1987 his house guests included Jerry Hall, Cyril Tiegs, Halston, Liza Minelli, Liz Taylor, John Lennon, John Phillips and many more. Through it all, standing just off to the corner, Polaroid camera in hand, tape recorder running, the most unlikely Pied Piper of all took it in. We'll never see another one quite like him.


IF YOU'D LIKE TO KNOW MORE

Andy Warhol's Exposures - Andy Warhol/Bob Colecello
Holy Terror - Bob Colecello
The Life and Death of Andy Warhol - Victor Bockris
The Warhol Diaries - Andy Warhol
Happy Times - Lee Radziwill
Primitive Cool - Christopher Sandford
Jagger - Davin Seay
The Rolling Stones - Robert Palmer
Symphony for the Devil - Philip Norman
50 Years of Portraits - Peter Beard
End of the Game -Peter Beard

 


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