By Christoper Bollen
Photography Daniel Arnold
In honor of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s blockbuster exhibition “Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again,” we traversed the United States to track down some of the legendary silkscreens—and their equally legendary subjects—to hear the stories behind the portraits that defined a generation.
The actress Pia Zadora at home in Las Vegas
“Andy was a fan of mine—believe it or not, I did have one! He was at my debut at Carnegie Hall in 1986, and he pretty much came to see me perform whenever he could. Andy was kind of kitschy and knew that I was, too, so we locked into that. We’d go to the Russian Tea Room and hang out. We were polar opposites: He’d never say a word and I’d never stop talking. One day he said to me, ‘Let’s do you!’ I said, ‘Andy, at this point in our lives?’ So the guy who did the Campbell’s soup cans now wants to do me. But that’s how it happened. I said, ‘Okay, when and where?’
And on that day the limo dropped me off at his studio in Union Square. He told me not to bother with makeup and I thought that meant he’d have his own makeup artist. When I got there he handed me a gingham smock, like the kind you put on when you get a facial. He said, ‘Throw this on,’ and I said, ‘I want to throw this at you. It’s not Bob Mackie, go fuck yourself!’ I remember thinking, ‘Oh, no—what next? This is going to be a huge debacle.’ Then Andy handed me a tube of red lipstick. I said, ‘Andy, I don’t wear red lipstick!’ I was in my twenties and thought red lipstick was for older women. He said, ‘Just put it on.’ I did because I trusted him—it’s Andy Warhol, if he wants me to wear red lipstick, I will.
Then he came out with his huge Polaroid camera and said, ‘Stand over there.’ He took a Polaroid, looked at it, and asked to do another angle. So I did another angle and then he said, ‘Okay, thanks, see you later.’ And that was it. I went on the road and when I got back to New York he called me to ask what colors I liked. He’d made one in lime green and another in red. He knew green was my favorite color, but he liked the red. I said, ‘You’re the artist, give me the red. Maybe I’ll grow to like it. Stranger things have happened.’
Now I love it so much I can’t live without it. I perform a show called ‘Pia’s Place’ at a nightclub on weekends in Vegas. Right over the piano is a copy of my Warhol, and sometimes I sing looking into my Warhol face. I’ve had the original hanging in every apartment I’ve lived in since. It’s always the centerpiece of the house, which makes me a narcissist, but so what? It’s a Warhol!”