“You know who would’ve completely gotten [Osama bin Laden]? Andy Warhol.”
—William Gibson, Oct. 30, 2004
Jan. 3, 2005
The phone rang, and it was W. “America needs you,” he said. “I’m creating a new cabinet position just for you, Andy.” I didn’t quite understand what W wanted, so I had someone else talk for me. I went out for tea and bought silk plants. When I came back to the studio, there was a helicopter waiting for me on the roof. The men in dark suits showed me their shiny badges, and I thought, “Wow, Dennis Hopper would love these.”
Jan. 4, 2005
There were a lot of people at the White House press conference. Reporters make me nervous. I always feel like they’re looking at my pants. I get very pants-conscious onstage, so I was constantly smoothing them out with my hands. The reporters asked me questions, and I tried to answer as best I could. Someone from the Times asked if I liked puppies, and I said, “Yes, of course.” Someone asked me what my favorite soup was, and I said that they already knew the answer to that. Another reporter from the Post asked me how I planned to coordinate the CIA and the FBI, and I said that I’d give them a call every morning, or they could call me, too. The reporter nodded and jotted something in his notepad. I looked around and saw that they were waiting for me to say something more, but I just stared at them and wished I had a peanut-butter sandwich on me. No one said anything for almost a minute. I think they were all happy just to be sitting in the White House press room. This must be this town’s Studio 54. W winked at me and gave me a thumbs-up.
After the press was dismissed, W paraded me around D.C. I met a lot of really old people and took a lot of pictures with my Polaroid. I think he was showing me off, and trying to impress me, too. He said he had a few of my silkscreens at his Texas ranch.
“I’ve always loved your art,” W said. “I’ve always admired your championing of true American brands and icons.”
“I think you’re perfect for this job.”
“What am I supposed to do as terrorism czar?”
“I want you to catch Osama bin Laden. I want you to stay the course. Spread democracy and freedom. Smoke them out.”
I noticed that W looked better than he had when I last saw him. He was really good at being rich, but he was also good at pretending to be poor. In his less political days W crashed on my couch for a few months after he took off from the Texas Air National Guard. At the Factory, he had a big crush on this girl Jane, but Jane didn’t respond well to his howdies. He slept a lot and was always hitting up people for money. Everybody called him Wafflenuts, because of something that happened at a party, but I called him W. He once told me that being at the Factory was the best thing that had ever happened to him. I patted him on the head and gave him a twenty. Who knew his dad was the ambassador to China at the time?
Jan. 8, 2005
Confirmation hearings couldn’t be any easier. Again, I just sat there. W had an aide whisper to me what I needed to say. When I wasn’t saying anything, I looked around as much as I wanted to, because I had on my sunglasses. I felt very grand on the Senate floor. The ceilings were high and the chamber was large and airy. At times it made me feel like I was sitting in a museum or a gallery. I imagined this was how the Met or the Guggenheim might be if you stuffed it full of truly hideous people. The hearing reminded me of a party Francesco threw for me at his townhouse where everyone had to put on a Nixon mask and drink a liter of vodka. Soon every Nixon was making out with other Nixons. If you stare at ugliness for a long time, it becomes beautiful and you can even fall in love with it. I wonder what everyone here in D.C. is in love with. Is it the beauty or the ugliness? I think I have the answer, but I have to go to sleep now. Had too much of everything at Karl Rove’s.
Jan. 10, 2005
I like to start from scratch. The wheel should be reinvented as many times as possible. Tomorrow, I redo the department. I am going to paint everything silver.
Jan. 14, 2005
If you want to find O, you should make him less famous. Right now he doesn’t even have to work for his fame. He figures he has it made for life. He’s getting to become almost like Santa, Jesus and Prince. No one ever sees him, but he’s always in the papers. W likes to talk about him a lot. He’s always saying O this and O that. I think he might be in love with O. At the Factory, W was always in love with one of my Janes. When Jane wouldn’t talk to him, he tried to woo another Jane. When they ran away from him, he’d try to look for them. He’d come back on a rainy night, soaked like a wet dog. Joe would say, “I just saw Jane down the block at Max’s Kansas City,” and W would run back into the rain, but instead of winding up at Max’s, he’d later appear 20 blocks downtown, passed out on the Bowery. W thought he could find those Janes and convince them to love him. Maybe he’d have better luck with O.
I talked a little to W on the phone this afternoon. He asked me how everything was going, and I said, “Fine.” Then he asked, “Anything else going on? Did you come up with any plans or strategies to fight terrorism?”
“Yes,” I said. “I am sending David Bowie to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.”
Jan. 18, 2005
Condi Rice wanted to talk about plans to catch O, so I stopped by the State Department for breakfast at her office. They brought our food on a gleaming silver tray. I had peppermint tea with bran muffins, and Condi ordered some toast and orange juice. While Condi talked, I stared at my reflection in the lacquered table, thinking that I needed to do my eyebrows again.
“So what do you think?” Condi asked when she finished.
“That’s wonderful, Condi. You’ve really thought about this. I’m speechless.”
She nodded in approval. “I have to admit that at first I was skeptical about our ability to work together, but I believe now that my suspicions were unwarranted,” she said. So I told her, “You know, Condi, you have a strong, willful face, but I think you must be a gentle and kind person inside.” She blushed when I said this. Condi reminds me a little bit of Edie Sedgwick. Edie knew everyone who mattered. Until Dylan stole her from me, I could always count on Edie to help me get things done. I miss Edie—but Condy is W’s Edie, not mine. When the meeting was over, I took a Polaroid of Condi. She definitely has a wild side.
Jan. 20, 2005
I’m beginning to think D.C. might not be entirely bad, even with all the ugly and stuffy people. Still, I wanted to avoid the inauguration madness down by the Capitol today, so I went to Dupont Circle and slurped some tofu noodles at a Japanese restaurant. A tourist recognized me outside the noodle shop and asked her husband to take a picture with me. I wonder what she’ll say to her children when she shows them the picture. She might say, “There I was with the artist Andy Warhol,” or she might say, “There I was with Andy Warhol, terrorism czar.” And all I really ever wanted to be was an undergarment salesperson.
Note: Encouraging reports from Operation Stardust.
Feb. 5, 2005
Karl Rove threw another party at his house. Karl himself greeted me at the door and showed me in. He had on a pink tie that really lit up his face. Something about him reminded me of Candy Darling, not that he looked like a transvestite. It’s just that the strain shows in his smile. I know how hard Candy worked to become ladylike and in the same way, Karl did whatever he had to do to become the Karl Rove that he is.
(W sometimes calls Karl “Turd Blossom.” At first I took a liking to Karl’s nickname. Now I love it. We’re all turd blossoms, really. Every one of us sprouted out of something dirty.)
Dick Cheney was also at the party and I wanted to talk to him about my terrorism program, but he was in closed-door meetings in Karl’s laundry room the whole time. I tried to join in the conversation with the other guests, but before long, no one was talking anymore about Iraq or terrorism or faith-based anything else. They were all flocking to the conga line Jenna Bush had started. I excused myself to find the bathroom. I ended up running into W in the kitchen.
“Come out to the terrace with me, Andy.”
We walked out, followed by two Secret Service agents. He took a swig from his Pepsi bottle when we stopped at the wrought-iron railing. He patted me on the shoulder, and said, “I’m the president of the United States, Andy.”
“And do you know, Andy, what I miss the most?”
“No, I really don’t.”
“I miss moving that squeegee across that silkscreen, Andy. I was really good at it.” He squinted and made a couple of strokes in the air with his hand.
“You were,” I said. I suddenly remembered how he and some girls once got drunk and shot at my Marilyn Monroe paintings.
“I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to be like you, Andy.” He hadn’t been paying attention to the bottle in his hand, and as he leaned on the railing, he tilted the bottle enough that nearly all the Pepsi spilled down his white shirt. The Secret Service guys scrambled for towels. W barely seemed to notice.
Feb. 8, 2005
Karl and Dick met with me at a White House conference room. Karl was apparently upset about W’s recent behavior.
“What did you say to him? He hasn’t left the couch in two days. He keeps making wiping motions with his hands.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Well, Mr. Warhol, don’t say anything to him anymore. Just go on and paint or something, OK?”
“But I’m fighting terrorism.”
“No, Warhol, you’re not fighting anything. You’re just a 20th-century pop artist.”
“I’m also terrorism czar.”
“Mr. Warhol, you are a fraud that we let happen. Now, please leave.”
Dick Cheney just sat in his chair and grumbled. An aide showed me my way out. They were all pretty rude, but I only like rude people when they’re rude on my behalf.
Feb. 19, 2005
Rumblings inside the Department. Someone leaked a memo about Operation Stardust to the papers. The newspapers are hounding my office. I said as little as possible at the press conference. Helen Thomas, I could handle. It was the reporter from Artforum who made me want to cry. I ate Dexamyl for dinner.
Also: No new reports from Operation Stardust. Lost radio contact with the unit last night.
Feb. 22, 2005
I went to the White House to try to meet with W, but Dick Cheney came out to the guard post and growled at me until I left.
I decided to take a walk in Rock Creek Park. It was a damp and cool day, and it was even more so under the trees. I sat on a bench and thought about the Factory. I missed everyone. I once had people all around me, and lost many of them to suicides, psychological breakdowns, and drugs. Others I lost to horrible diseases that withered them to skeletons. Maybe Karl and Dick were right. What business do I have protecting America, when I let everybody around me turn to dust? How could I ever catch O and dismantle al Qaeda?
Feb. 24, 2005
David Bowie drops off O at Guatanamo before flying to Iceland for a video shoot.
Feb. 25, 2005
W came to thank me for catching O. He reminded me that there was much work to be done still.
“Just stay the course. Spread democracy and freedom. Smoke them out.”
“When will this be over?” I asked him wearily.
“Evil lurks. Perils draw closer and closer. The war has only begun.”
“I don’t know, W. I don’t think I’m really made for this. I think you know how it feels.”
He paused and bit his lip. His eyes opened wider. He sighed.
“I know what you mean, Andy. I do.”
Feb. 27, 2005.
Today is my last day on the job. I wrote W a resignation letter, and then I took a picture of it. Maybe someday I’ll make a silkscreen of the letter. The letter wasn’t long at all. The note attached to it was longer. In the note I told W to come see me at the Factory when he’s done with D.C. I’ll keep a few extra Pepsis in the fridge. There’s a place on my couch for him, just like the old days, and a squeegee waiting for him in my studio.