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From Publishers Weekly:
October 14, 2003

With this new chronicle of Warhol's Factory years, independent scholar Watson makes a fresh pass at the already heavily picked-apart Warhol corpus. By focusing on more marginal personalities rather than the Factory's silver-haired figurehead, Watson provides an agreeable, if far from groundbreaking, addition to the already long shelf of Warholiana. Billy Name, Lou Reed, Nico, Joe Dallesandro, Brigid Berlin and others receive more than their 15 minutes here; many even have their childhood biographies written up as partially expxlanatory of future exlpoits. The main focus is on the Silver Factory period, stretching from roughly 1960 to 1968, when Warhol was shot by enraged hanger-on Valerie Solanas. As with his books Strange Bedfellows (on early modernism) and The Birth of the Beat Generation, Watson brings in historical background and multiple cross-cultural references (along with myriad b&w photos and illustrations), but he is often outpaced here by Warhol's own Popism or Wayne Koestenbaum's Andy Warhol. Still, it's nice to have deep background on all the Factory players in one place, and the book's margins are peppered with appealing lists, definitions and piquant quotes by everybody from Truman Capote to Diana Vreeland and Allan Midgette, an actor who, with the artist's approval, impersonated Warhol at his lectures, and later said, "The Sixties happened, and Andy took credit."


From the San Francisco Chronicle:
"A new coat of paint for Warhol's '60s art scene"
October 31, 2003
by Kenneth Baker, Chronicle Art Critic

Every time the media or a public figure makes reference to the '60s, popular memory of the period seems to go a little further out of focus. Steven Watson's "Factory Made" reminds us of the kind of work it takes to sketch even the slenderest cross-sectional view of an era. Most of Watson's hefty book, with a narrative drive that makes it wonderfully readable, takes place in the orbit of the abandoned Manhattan hat factory that served Andy Warhol and his crowd as a communal studio from 1963 to 1968.

As in his previous cultural histories, such as the excellent "Birth of the Beat Generation," Watson proceeds by overlapping biographies of the major figures involved.

Telling quotes that do not find a place in the main text appear in page margins, along with lists—such as "Nicknames for Andy Warhol"— capsule biographies of people tangential to the story and etymologies of period slang.

For people oriented to the visual arts, Warhol (1924-1987) and his shifting entourage personified the '60s. Yet by the very wealth of information about them that he provides, Watson ironically makes them appear less, not more, representative of the time.

"The concerns of the Factory overlapped minimally with the revolutionary developments of 1968," Watson writes, "although in the haze of memory 1968 = Sixties style = Andy Warhol. In the Factory, little attention was paid to Vietnam, abortion, civil rights, legalization of drugs, or any political position that was consciously countercultural."

Only in their libertine sexuality and eager embrace of drugs did the Factory crowd mirror larger tendencies of the time. The improbable popular success of Warhol's movies "The Chelsea Girls" and "My Hustler" symbolize this convergence, though throughout his career Warhol personified by temperament the culture's preference for style over substance.

Warhol's paintings and graphics being so much more visible today than his movies, people think of him primarily as a painter. The staggering prices his early works fetch at auction bolster this idea. Watson re-weights his readers' notion of Warhol's career, showing how central to it the movies were. In the process, he usefully disentangles the facts from the legends surrounding Warhol's collaborations.

Like other critical biographers, Watson portrays Warhol as someone who wanted to become famous to change his feelings about himself and to control his distance from the world.

He became more famous than he ever dreamed possible, and he enjoyed the collateral leveling effects of Pop Art notoriety. "It's fun to see the Museum of Modern Art people next to the teeny-boppers next to the amphetamine queens next to the fashion editors," Watson quotes him as saying.

But not even access to the toniest social circles brought Warhol the hoped-for deliverance from himself. "It was so strange," he said after attending Truman Capote's Black and White Ball. "I thought: you get to the point in life where you're actually invited to the party of parties . . . and it still didn't guarantee that you wouldn't feel like a complete dud."

Besides restoring the films, good and awful alike, to their rightful place at the center of Warhol's career, Watson also re-situates drugs there, identifying amphetamines as the propellant of the Factory's most productive years.

Nothing changed Warhol more than the near-death experience of being shot by the deranged feminist Valerie Solanas in 1968, the event that culminates Watson's history, as anyone who met Warhol afterward suspected. The ghostly quality he once affected became something he apparently neither could nor wanted to transcend.

David Dalton evokes the change in Warhol, even before the shooting, in his introduction to David McCabe's collection of commissioned photographs, "A Year in the Life of Andy Warhol." "When I first met him in December 1961, he was a little shy, but unless he was cornered he never played dumb like he did later on. . . . But a couple of years later I noticed Andy consciously shutting down, becoming more elusive and secretive, developing his social catechism -- those exasperating responses: 'Oh, I love everything. Uh, I dunno.' " McCabe shot thousands of pictures of the Warhol crowd, at the artist's behest, in 1964 and 1965. Some 400 of them collected in his book mark the pictures' recent rediscovery.

Watson relies heavily on the photographs of Factory insiders Billy Linich and Stephen Shore.

McCabe's pictures give a wider sense of the period, of Warhol brushing up against celebrities, working on his own celebrity. Not a pleasure to see, but a worthwhile record and a good supplement to "Factory Made."


From Booklist:
November 1, 2003
by Donna Seaman

Watson has been exploring the dynamics of avant-garde circles, or "constellations" of creative people, in a series of generously illustrated volumes that deftly combine vivid biographical, sociological, and aesthetic commentary, including Prepare for Saints (1999). In his latest scintillating mosaic, he charts the coalescence and violent disintegration of Andy Warhol's infamous and enormously influential Silver Factory, an "arena for collaborative experimentation" that drew drag queens, musicians, filmmakers, fashion models, speed freaks, poets, and would-be actors like dizzy moths to a flame. From 1964 through 1968, a former Manhattan hat factory served as a feverishly productive and indulgently sleazy art, music, and film studio and ultra-hip hangout. Watson's scanning of the difficult childhoods of the Factory's core group establishes the intense psychological quests that underlie Warhol's highly controversial films, the Velvet Underground, and the rest of the art that miraculously emerged from this amphetamine-stoked crucible. With a cast of dozens of extreme individuals and shrewd assessment of the Factory's radical output, Watson's many-faceted chronicle illuminates one of art's riskiest and most sardonic and eviscerating movements.


From the Village Voice:
"Daily Andy: Warhol as soap star in Steven Watson's fresh factory history"
November 10, 2003
by Jori Finkel

Long before reality TV assumed its misleading name, Andy Warhol understood how to turn the cameras on the cameramen. His Temptation Island was the Factory, a loose group of speed freaks and drag queens, poets and painters, filmmakers and superstars who frequented the same studio in Manhattan. Warhol captured in photographs and films the full range of activity that occurred within those walls—drawing, painting, acting, acting out, stripping, fucking, and more.

Not surprisingly, Warhol left behind a massive estate and archive when he died in 1987. But what's good for the biography is not always good for the biographer. Who needs another Factory souvenir when the artist himself prepared, in standard-issue cardboard boxes, over 600 time capsules? Almost a dozen Warhol bios have foundered for this reason. There's been critical insight along the way: Stephen Koch appreciating Warhol's contribution to modern culture as a Duchampian checkmate, Wayne Koestenbaum rhapsodizing about the blank slate of Warhol's persona and the Lacanian effects of his films. But Steven Watson, in his new Factory Made, is a better all-around historian. Along with describing Warhol's rise as Pop Artist and pop philosopher, he accounts for the lesser-known artists and performers who too often crashed to the ground, and recognizes that it can take an entire Factory to produce one unmistakably famous face.

The first chapter spins different narrative strands that will eventually meet in New York: Andrew Warhola with his mother in Pittsburgh, where she carved tin cans into flower sculptures to sell door-to-door, decades before he painted flowers for art dealer Leo Castelli; Brigid Berlin bingeing on donuts in her parents' Fifth Avenue apartment, before she graduates to amphetamines; a pre-teen Jimmy Slattery in Massapequa making himself up as Lana Turner, before he casts himself as the infamous Candy Darling; and Lewis Alan Reed as a young musician a few miles away, before the shock treatment begins.

All of them are ultimately heading to the so-called Silver Factory—the studio at 231 East 47th Street named for its glittering tinfoil decor. Watson manages, though, to generate suspense—pausing one story line, cueing another. Intentionally or not, Watson has written cultural history as soap opera, surely the most powerful narrative form for this tangle of desires and relationships.

And like a soap, Factory Made is most compelling when a single event cuts through the subplots. One such event is the day JFK died; another is the day Warhol didn't. On June 3, 1968, Warhol was shot and critically injured 19 years before he died by Valerie Solanas, author of The SCUM Manifesto. Paranoid that Warhol was poaching her ideas, she entered the Factory that day with a gun in hand and revenge in mind.

No one showed any awareness of what she was doing until they heard the first explosive crack, which missed. Each person interpreted the sound in a different way. Mario Amaya thought it was a sniper firing at them from another building. Fred Hughes thought it was a bomb detonating at the headquarters of the Communist Party two floors above. Hearing it over the phone, Viva thought someone was cracking a whip.

Watson effectively reports the event from different points of view, conveying empathy for Solanas as well as Warhol. who barely survives. Perhaps this is because Watson wasn't there. He does not have a record to set straight. Rather, he gained his intelligence the old fashioned way, reading the requisite memoirs and interviewing the surviving Factory members, videotaping many of these for a documentary now in progress.

Indeed, out of all the books written about the Factory, this one has the most historical perspective and clear-minded authority. Watson shows up late to the party, but he makes the most of it.


From the Washinton Post:
"Making the Scene: Factory Made: Warhol and the Sixties by Steven Watson"
November 16, 2003
by Dennis Drabelle

Andy Warhol's coup was to create a Bizarro World of the Arts in which almost everything was turned inside-out. A world in which near-photographic representations of commercial products (Campbell soup cans, Brillo boxes) were meta-statements on art itself. In which minions did the grunt work of fabricating Warhol's works (Gerard Malanga making the silk screens, Paul Morrissey directing the movies) while he got the credit. In which skinny drag-queens and homely chatterboxes on speed became superstars and—to paraphrase Warhol's most quotable line—everyone chalked up 15 minutes of fame. In which the dish of Warhol's shyness, glazed with the syrup of his lassitude and topped off by the cherry of his self-absorption, proved irresistible to the lost souls who hovered around him, even as an impersonator handled Warhol's gigs at college auditoriums and got away with it.

It was Warhol's good luck to flourish at just the right time—the mid-'60s—when the questioning of values occasioned by the Vietnam War and the continued denial of civil rights to African Americans made an ideal climate for reversals, outrages and put-ons. (Remember Nehru jackets, Mrs. Miller and Tiny Tim?) Don't get me wrong. I admire Warhol. To have sniffed out the anything-goes zeitgeist; to have seized so many opportunities; to find the kernels of interest in items and events that overall were stupefyingly boring; to have built an empire on the foundation of a modest talent for drawing, an unquenchable passion for American consumer products and an uncanny sense of what titillates—all this is no mean achievement. Much of it took place in the Factory, Warhol's Manhattan studio and glorified treehouse, during a period (1964-68) that Steven Watson has brought vividly back to life in Factory Made.

The place itself was a loft on the fourth floor of "a fifty-by-one-hundred-foot former hat factory on 231 East Forty-seventh Street." Its trademark silvered look was contributed by Billy Name (real name, Billy Linich), who stapled aluminum foil to its walls and ceiling. Its cynosure was born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh on August 6, 1928, to parents who had immigrated from Ruthenia, in what is now Ukraine. As Watson tells it, the young man managed to convert his limitations into assets:

"Instead of being handsome, verbally adept, and charming, Warhol was self-conscious, blank, and unattractive. He could barely accomplish the most basic things: start a conversation, tell a story, move a camera, write a letter, make a meal, or arrange a party. His lack of competence in daily living skills sharpened his receptive perceptors [receptors?]. He relied on surface readings. He scanned headlines and tabloids, listened to the radio, flipped through fashion magazines; he played the same rock-and-roll records over and over; he watched television. The deployment of Warhol's inadequacies, and his benign permission inspired those around him to fill the vacuum."

Another oddity was that, although the apolitical Warhol took a powder while students demonstrated against the Vietnam War and civil-rights activists organized sit-ins, the Factory's welcoming of unapologetic druggies and misfits gave it an air of being integral to the '60s revolution.

One thing Warhol was not backward about was self-promotion. Watson cites a clever practice from the '50s by which the then-commercial artist made an impression on the ad people whom he depended upon for work: giving away hand-made yearbooks that touted his drawings. "Long after other artists' postcards and posters had been thrown away," Watson writes, "Andy's gifts had become collectors' items."

Warhol graduated from commercial to high art by taking Marcel Duchamp's "readymades" a step further. Duchamp had seized upon actual objects—a urinal, say—and exhibited them as art. Warhol made reproductions of objects—notably shipping boxes for food and household products—and put them on display. The box sculptures didn't sell (not at first, anyway), but they did generate buzz. Warhol was now hot, and one by one the acolytes, many of them Catholic by upbringing and homosexual by orientation, dropped in at the Factory: Billy Name, Malanga, Morrissey, Taylor Mead, Ondine, Nico, Lou Reed, Brigid Berlin, Edie Sedgwick, Jane Holzer, Viva—the list goes on. If they weren't naturally amusing, drugs—especially amphetamines—came to the rescue: They talked so much that by the law of averages some of what they said came out sounding clever. Warhol served as their passive-aggressive ringmaster.

Mead, an elfin curio of a person who acted regularly in underground films, called Warhol "the Voltaire of the United States," which is rank nonsense. But why make sense when you could make movies? And with absolutely no technique. "You can just shoot," said Warhol, "and every picture comes out right." His early films included "Kiss," whose kissers included a male duo. Erotic presentations of men were rare before the '60s, and Warhol's emphasis on same may have been the secret of his cinematic success. If the interminable "Chelsea Girls" was watchable at all, it was for the possibility that the handsome guy playing a hustler in a recurrent episode might be inveigled out of his underpants (full disclosure: I left too soon to find out if there was full disclosure). Joe Dallesandro, centerpiece of "Flesh," "Heat" and "Trash"—all directed by Morrissey but marketed as Warhol films—became the first male soft-core porn star.

Watson, who has also written about the Harlem Renaissance and the Beats, presents most of this matter-of-factly, but now and then he quotes a Warhol detractor at such length that you can almost detect a smidgen of authorial disapproval. Here, for example, is the late Henry Geldzahler, for a time Warhol's best friend, explaining why he had to bail out on Warhol & Co. "He's a voyeur sadist, and he needs exhibitionist-masochists in order to fulfill both halves of his destiny. And it's obvious that an exhibitionist-masochist is not going to last very long. You know, you go up in a fine burst of flames and then you die out. And then the voyeur-sadist needs another exhibitionist-masochist."

Among those who flamed out were Edie Sedgwick, dead of an overdose at age 28, and the subject of Edie (1982), an indispensable oral history of the period by Jean Stein. Warhol himself became a casualty when an obsessed woman, convinced he was stifling her nonexistent career, shot him at the Factory in 1968. He recovered and lived for 19 more years, but after the shooting his Bizarro World flickered out. "It was the Cardboard Andy," said Billy Name of the later Warhol, "not the Andy I could love and play with. He was so sensitized you couldn't put your hand on him without him jumping. I couldn't even love him anymore, because it hurt him to touch him."

How faded it all seems. Except for rock musician Lou Reed, one of the few Factory folk to use Warhol more effectively than Warhol used him, the acolytes and wannabes and hangers-on have all dropped out of sight, while Warhol is now enshrined in his own Pittsburgh museum, a kind of St. Andy's Basilica. Yet 15 minutes of fame, let alone five years' worth of sex, drugs and cutting-edgeness, is not nothing. Watson tracked down and interviewed most of the living Factoryoids, and none of them expressed regret for those high-flying years (though it still galls Morrissey that films he directed are attributed to Warhol). After all, it's likely that during their time on East 47th Street, most of the Factory workers realized far more than their innate potential.


From the Boston Globe:
November 23, 2003
by Michael Kammen

Much has already been written about Andy Warhol, perhaps the most influential American artist of the past generation, and even more about the distinctively tumultuous 1960s. Yet Steven Watson provides a fresh contribution with this engaging and profusely illustrated look at Warhol's world as a filmmaker during the mid- and later 1960s, when experimentation with underground movies enjoyed a strange surge despite their total disconnect from the civil rights movement and the war in Vietnam. Warhol was utterly apolitical, and as Watson explains, he "found his signature cinematic style very quickly: an emotionally uninflected camera that neither panned nor zoomed, the use of real time instead of edited time, and a frame dominated by tightly cropped parts of the anatomy, usually a face. . . . Saying something was like 'a Warhol movie' became shorthand for saying it was boring, blank, and long."

This book is neither boring nor blank, packed as it is with interlaced biographies of Warhol's wacky acolytes, performers, and the supporting cast at his Silver Factory in Manhattan—zany figures like Viva, Holly Woodlawn, Ultra Violet, Ondine, Nico, Ingrid Superstar, Paul America, and more mundanely named yet intriguing individuals like Baby Jane Holzer, Gerard Malanga, Taylor Mead, and the sad young beauty Edie Sedgwick. Common ground for this cast of characters seems to have been a big appetite for amphetamines (not yet a controlled substance), homosexuality or bisexuality (many males appear in the films as females), and discontent with life in their (often quite affluent) families of origin. Hence the appeal of Greenwich Village and the desire to join a surrogate family that gravitated around Warhol's world of "Up Art," his buzzword derived from the various kinds of uppers that most of them ingested in wholesale amounts.

The movies they made tended to be long and poorly plotted—such as "Sleep," "The Chelsea Girls," "The Velvet Underground," and "Trash." "Flaming Creatures" (1964), made by Jack Smith with Warhol's support, became important because its unabashed portrayal of gay lifestyles made it a legal test case for freedom of expression. It was censored and, along with "Thirteen Most Wanted Men," gave rise to the New York Sexual Freedom League. All of which is important, despite its marginality at the time, because the offbeat humor (and bathos) paved the way for big hits years later like "La Cage aux Folles" and "Mrs. Doubtfire." Cross-dressing and covert lifestyles that have become an accepted part of American entertainment were novel and transgressive in the 1960s. Andy Warhol pioneered in more ways than one.

It is a valuable dividend of "Factory Made" that we learn a fair amount about Warhol's distinctive approach to "art" in the broadest sense of the word: his fascination with serial repetition and doubleness; his aesthetic of "unaltered reality" and spontaneous performance; his obsession with portraits and the ordinary ("commonist" art); his enthusiasm for art that was mechanically produced and fast. "Factory is as good a name as any," he declared of his multipurpose studio. "A factory is where you build things. This is where I make or build my work. In my artwork hand painting would take much too long, and anyway that's not the age we live in. Mechanical means are today, and using them I can get more art to more people. Art should be for everyone."

Warhol's obsession with fame, money, and celebrity culture is well known. What "Factory Made" adds to that mix is that his self-styled "freaks" now emerge as celebrities in their own right: intense but pretentious, aspiring "superstars" but self-deluding, and creative but too often self-destructive. One of them, the embittered Valerie Solanas, nearly destroyed Warhol in 1968 with a bullet that ripped apart his innards. Solanas was the sole member of SCUM, a Society for Cutting Up Men, and the author in 1967 of "The SCUM Manifesto," which Maurice Girodias refused to publish. Although her assassination attempt failed, Warhol's intimations of mortality soon brought his enthusiasm for filmmaking to a close. He grew weary of the counterculture exposing itself through nudity, narcissism, and notoriety. As Watson puts it: "The closing of an era can't be described with chronological precision, but the shooting of Andy Warhol, combined with the move to the Union Square Factory [the Silver Factory had previously been located on the East Side near the United Nations], clearly marked such an end. In the previous few years all kinds of experiments were encouraged, all layers of society were welcomed, and the commercial motives were minimal." After Solanas tried to kill Warhol, all of that changed and his attention turned to retrospective exhibitions that would inflate the value of his art, and to lucrative celebrity portraits of the rich and famous.

Despite some needless repetition and occasional hyperbole (Warhol's influence "has permeated more aspects of modern life than that of any other artist of the twentieth century"), Watson's work is so richly anecdotal and his dramatis personae so daffy that the book makes for swift reading. It could have used a bit more context to make the story meaningful, such as connections to and comparisons with other segments of the counterculture. Warhol's stripped-down films, for example, coincided with the advent of minimalism in art. Above all, I believe, there is a clear link between the timing of Warhol's belief in the mid-1960s that traditional art was "dead" and what critic/philosopher Arthur Danto and others have designated as the "death of art," meaning the turn away from traditional art-on-the-easel and a long-standing element of narrative in art.

Nevertheless, Warhol's brief fling with essentially non-narrative filmmaking seems more significant in retrospect than it did at the time, and more fun to read about than to watch. Like much else in the American 1960s, it was an extended happening. One of his musical performers, John Cale, summed up why Warhol served as a polestar: "What Andy did was provide an intellectual location for us; everybody around us was of the same frame of mind, had the same intention. Although it was chaos we were after, this was a very beautiful chaos we were in." Watson has interwoven all of their antic stories into an unchaotic tapestry—no small feat with this alienated and utterly bizarre bunch.


From Newsday:
November 23, 2003
by Tom Beer

If you stroll along East 47th Street, the block between Second and Third avenues seems typical of midtown Manhattan's polite East Side: a quiet coffee shop, a "pocket" park with benches and begonias, clean, modern apartment buildings with uniformed doormen.

It's difficult to imagine that for several years in the 1960s this sober block drew a dazzling array of junkies, transvestites, art dealers, society ladies, fashion models, speed freaks, rock stars, debutantes, poets and the odd homicidal feminist. The attraction for these various personalities was an industrial loft (where hats were once manufactured) on the fourth floor of number 231, the space known as Andy Warhol's Factory. But then, Warhol, who would have turned 75 last month, was always a master of juxtaposition, deriving an adolescent glee from the inappropriate, the incongruous and the perverse.

The Factory (both at East 47th and in its short-lived incarnation at 33 Union Square West) is the subject of Steven Watson's new book, "Factory Made." The place was part atelier, where Warhol and his assistants cranked out silkscreened "Marilyns" and "Flowers"; part movie studio, the backdrop for artless black-and-white films of "superstars" chewing gum or engaging in oral congress on a couch; part crash pad for any that found their way there.

Watson, the author of previous books on the Beats, the Harlem Renaissance and early American modernism, is less interested in Warhol as Great Artist than in the Factory as a collaborative, multimedia exercise. He writes: "One of Warhol's greatest 'works' was, in fact, psychological: the creation of a physical/social space where people 'performed themselves.' They determined how they would present themselves to the camera or to the tape recorder; Andy Warhol framed them and pushed the button."

A hand-drawn chart near the front of the book schematizes the many characters and subplots of "Factory Made." At the center of the constellation is the trinity of Warhol, Billy Linich (aka Billy Name, a photographer and the Factory's unofficial superintendent) and Gerard Malanga (Warhol's assistant and a poet). Orbiting them are the worlds of "Fashion," "Harvard," "Art," "Music," "Amphetamine Drug Scene," "Poetry," "Underground Movies" and "Dance/Theater," each with its own luminaries—some now famous (Betsey Johnson, Lou Reed, Allen Ginsberg), others, after 40 years, fairly obscure (filmmaker Barbara Rubin, musician LaMonte Young, model Ivy Nicholson).

Watson's significant achievement is to have mapped out the Warholian cosmos in painstaking detail, but the sheer variety of it often renders "Factory Made" a frustrating read. The narrative hops and skips its jittery way through the launch of Warhol's art career, the celebrity-studded "50 Most Beautiful People Party," production of the Factory's blasé experimental films, the formation of the influential rock band The Velvet Underground and the 1968 shooting of Warhol by Valerie Solanas, which effectively brought the Factory heyday to an end.

The reader comes to wish that Watson would linger and tell any one of these stories more coherently—with less frantic cross-cutting and more dramatic flair. In its wide reach, this may be the most exhaustive study yet of Warhol's world, but by the end it feels rather exhausted by its own overwhelming mission.


From New York Magazine:
"Daddy Warhol"
November 24, 2003
by John Homans

Steven Watson's excellent new history of Warhol in the sixties shows him as a highly permissive father in a Manhattan avant-garde sitcom.

A large part of Andy Warhol's hold on the New York imagination has to do with how flawlessly he fits into the fundamental Manhattan dream of the social scene as idealized family—a world without rules or boundaries where you can be loved for what you are, whatever your race, sexual orientation, or artificial hair color. Among the habitués of Warhol's Factory in the sixties—the subject of Steven Watson's excellent and comprehensive new history, Factory Made—one of Warhol's nicknames was the Great White Father—a highly permissive if distant parent. He praised everything—"Great! Wow!"—and forbade nothing. He followed suggestions, no matter how seemingly harebrained. He was always ready to play. Who hasn't wanted a dad like that?

Looking at Warhol's soup cans and Brillo boxes, Jasper Johns grudgingly admired the "dumbness of the relationship between the thought and the technology." He didn't know the half of it. In Factory Made, Watson gets as close as anyone has to Warhol's brilliant passivity, a genius polluted by nothing so crude as an idea. An in-joke among regulars at his East 47th Street Factory was to try to get Andy to pan the camera. He never did. Paul Morrissey came upon his wallpaper of silk-screened cows at Leo Castelli and tried to give him some technical advice. "I know this isn't the way to do wallpaper," Warhol said. "That's why I'm doing it this way."

Factory Made is an ensemble drama—a Cheers of the sixties Manhattan avant-garde—and Warhol is only one of the stars. At the beginning of the sixties, he was at the height of his profession as a commercial artist, with a closetful of Brooks Brothers suits and Italian shoes in his own townhouse. Inspired by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, he was searching for a way to break into the art-world major leagues. As always, his schemes were winningly transparent. The gallery director Ivan Karp, looking at his earliest product paintings, asked him why some of them had drips and smudges. "But you have to drip," he said. "Otherwise they think you are not sensitive."

Johns and Rauschenberg, lovers at the time, reportedly found Warhol "too swish"—not the way a major artist should comport himself. But if the remark, passed along by a mutual friend, distressed him, he didn't show it. He furnished his new studio with homosexuals and misfits from the outer boroughs and even more Podunky places (the girls, from Baby Jane Holzer to Edie Sedgwick to Nico, tended to have more illustrious pedigrees). When they arrived, they were in the process of transformation, but their Manhattan identities were embryonic. The stars of this book are Ondine, né Bob Olivio, an opera lover from Red Hook with a famously biting wit, and Billy Name, formerly Billy Linich, a tall, handsome, outwardly all-American boy who'd been president of his high-school class in Poughkeepsie.

Name had the amphetamine-inspired idea to paper his apartment in aluminum. Warhol saw it and decreed that it would be the perfect look for his new 47th Street studio. Name moved in and began unfurling countless rolls of Reynolds Wrap, filling in with silver spray paint.

In the Silver Factory, Billy Name was the mom, providing stability, keeping the family albums, making sure the chaos didn't spin out of control. In their early homemaking phase, Name and Warhol were lovers, but the sex part didn't work out. "We were both too Jimmy Dean-ish," Name said later. But the two stayed married. "It was a total wedding," said Ondine, speaking of their collaboration.

For all but a couple of them, the Factory wasn't a paying job. Ondine spent a summer living in Central Park. He'd wake up "by the lake," writes Watson, "take a morning swim, and then drop in on Rotten Rita, the amphetamine dealer on 86th Street. They shot speed and put on Maria Callas very loud, with Rotten singing along." Then he'd go to Edie Sedgwick's apartment to wake her up.

As the decade accelerated, the Factory began to seem like just one more kooky subculture, the Manhattan equivalent of a commune. And the Factory denizens didn't like being part of the sixties. When Warhol's road show, the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, went to San Francisco, Paul Morrissey would shout "get a haircut" at passersby and asked concert promoter Bill Graham about one of his bands, "Why don't they take heroin? That's what all the really good musicians take." (Frank Zappa, on the same Fillmore Auditorium bill, said into an open mike that the Velvets "really suck.")

Warhol's crowd was realizing that they stood for something. Of course, the notion of standing for something had been foreign to the Factory of a couple of years before. Morrissey, with his more conventional ideas, had been on the scene for a few years, but he'd gradually gotten closer to Warhol. He was a control freak, at least in that chaotic context; the movies he presided over had beginnings, middles, and ends. In 1968, they moved into a more polished space on Union Square, one much less hospitable to Silver Factory denizens, chief among them Billy Name. "It's going to be a problem," Morrissey told Warhol, "because he'll come here now and live in the back and at night he'll come out and spray everything silver again."

Warhol would likely have rejected the narrative unities Watson finds in his story, but they are hard to get around. Valerie Solanas, the most marginal of Factory hangers-on (she had major daddy issues, having been molested by her own father), circles closer, fueled by a poisonous, distorted mixture of literary ambition and proto-feminism. Finally, she corners him. After Morrissey cuttingly tells her to leave, she fires, hitting Warhol in the stomach. Warhol, head cradled in Billy Name's lap, says, "Don't make me laugh, Billy. It hurts too much." As Warhol hovers in the hospital between life and death, Warhol's friend Henry Geldzahler, the Met curator, says to his lover, "Do you know what that does to the value of the paintings?" Then, embarrassed, he instructs him to forget he ever said it.

Unlike most of the superstars he helped create, Warhol had an extensive second act, and he abandoned most of his children, overshadowing the rest. Almost alone among them, Morrissey bridled at the credit he got. "It can only be deemed ironic," he said, that people persist in crediting Warhol for movies he, Paul Morrissey, directed—simultaneously getting the point and totally missing it.


From SLATE:
November 25, 2003

The best Warhol chronicle yet, critics say. The Village Voice thinks it has the most historical perspective, and New York says Watson gets as close as anyone has to Warhol's brilliant passivity. The book restores the movies, good and awful alike, to their rightful place at the center of Warhol's career, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. And it gives Warhol's acolytes and associates their due, says New York, portraying the Factory as a Cheers of the sixties Manhattan avant-garde, with Warhol as only one of the stars. There are dissenters: City Pages complains that Factory Made cycles through already published Warhol-movie-land confessional literature, and the Boston Globe wishes Watson would linger and tell any one of these stories more coherently "with less frantic cross-cutting and more dramatic flair.


From Seattle Post Intelligencer:
November 28, 2003

Picasso's Paris and Warhol's New York are each in their own way versions of a Jerry Lee Lewis song, "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On." Steven Watson takes you through Warhol's factory. If you're been paying attention, you know about it already. Watson's version has the advantage of distance and the gift of total access. Plus, he's a lucid writer with a talent for transparency.


From Toronto Sun:
December 7, 2003

Apply Andy Warhol's prophecy that "In the future everyone will be fa-mous for 15 minutes" to Andy Warhol himself, and the famous sound byte becomes a bit of an understatement. Perhaps a more apt quip when dealing with a celebrity of Warhol's stature would be something like: "In the future anyone who's as famous as me will have at least 15 books written about them."

It's true. There are just so many books already written about Warhol that it's become redundant to kill any more trees on his behalf. Yet almost 17 years after his unexpected death on February 22, 1987, Warhol remains as written and talked about as ever. His paintings continue to fetch record-breaking prices, and the public's captivation continues unabated.

But honestly, how much more can be said about the man Lou Reed dubbed the Pope in the Silver Castle?

About 490 pages more, according to cultural historian Steven Watson, author of Factory Made: Warhol And The Sixties. For a man as obviously talented at gathering factual tidbits as he is, Watson had to have known that when it comes to tackling the mythological status surrounding Warhol, many came before him.

To start with (and if you are a Warhol fan, you should) there's The Andy Warhol Diaries, a gossipy phonebook of who-said-what-to-whom spanning the final ten years of Warhol's life—an immensely entertaining yarn, but perhaps only appreciated by the most ardent fan. Then there's the brilliant Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, by Vanity Fair writer and former Interview magazine editor Bob Colacello, a compulsively readable account of New York's decadent '70s (the best of the bunch, in my opinion), as well as other tomes by Victor Bockris, David Bourdon (also recommended), Ultra Violet, not to mention books authored (if you could call it that -- he didn't do much of the actual writing) by Warhol himself.

I wouldn't want to say that Watson's book isn't impressive, because it is. The detail here is sweeping, rich and meticulous, from the "Childhood Snapshots" of the off-the-wall characters who comprised Warhol's Silver Factory period, to the fascinating "Aftermath" section, a sobering where-are-they-now compendium of the bright lights that made up Warhol's circle during the heady '60s.

It's just that most of the stories pertaining to Warhol and his Silver Factory were on record long before Watson began to report them. My guess is that Watson thought he could do a better job of piecing the information together, and by and large, he succeeds by taking a distinctly epidemiological approach to Warhol's extensive and influential social network, telling us when and exactly where Andy met so-and-so, including his meeting with Edie Sedgwick, his 1965 superstar, at movie producer Lester Persky's party on March 26, 1965. Watson (who interviewed many of the Factory figures) relays that "Edie was wearing her brunette hair in a beehive hairdo, a leopard shawl thrown over her gown, and a plaster cast on her leg. When he saw her, Andy sucked in his breath and said, 'Oh she's so bee-you-ti-ful.'"

It's that kind of reporting that makes the body of work here commendable. However, detail doesn't necessarily translate into great storytelling, as most of Factory Made reads like a historical textbook. It's actually the 25 pages of "Aftermath" at book's end that warrant the most interest in Factory Made. Perhaps because these pages provide the only truly new and current information, perhaps because this is when the writer gets the most personal with his subjects: "The biographical vignettes that follow don't intend to project an overarching post-Sixties narrative," Watson writes. "They are individual stories, and they suggest the variety of ways that the Factory people coped with the end of an era, the transformations they made, and the prices they paid."

Although quite morbid, most compelling is the account of the death of Valerie Solanas, who tried to kill Warhol by shooting him in June, 1968: "One of the last sightings of Valerie Solanas was by a hotel employee who saw her typing, with a pile of pages by her side. On April 25, 1988, she was found dead of bronchial pneumonia, brought on by emphysema, in her room in a large welfare hotel at 56 Mason Street, in the heart of San Francisco's seedy Tenderloin district. The police report read: Victim was found kneeling on the floor of the one room apt., and her upper torso was facing down on the side of the bed. Her body was covered with maggots and the room appeared orderly."

It's this kind of raw data that makes Factory Made worthy of recommendation, although the prose at times is so straightforward it seems factory made itself. Still, for those interested in the phenomenon that was the 1960s New York avant-garde, this book should not be overlooked.


From Arts Journal:
by John Perreault

Watson, author of Prepare for Saints: Gertrude Stein, Virgil Thomson and the Mainstreaming of American Modernism and other well-received tomes, gives the full treatment to the surviving denizens of the Warhol factory, genuine super stars all. This may be the Warhol book to end all Warhol books. The oral history is priceless and makes one anxiously await Watson's documentary film based on hundreds of DVD interviews. The film he made based on Prepare for Saints was a knockout. For samplings of the Warhol material, check out: www.factorymade.org