Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Andy Warhol Was a Perfume Loving Smellaholic


World Wide Web Logo by Robert Cailliau

I'm engaged in research for a spring 2019 Smell & Tell program on Andy Warhol called Drella Was a Smellaholic. I've kept my nose out of recent articles that chronicle Warhol's love of perfumes because it's important to support findings and opinions against an historical timeline as a way of testing my theories to see if they're true. Historical patterns examined against olfactory narratives reveal facts, some of which are novel. This is especially important when examining an artist like Andy Warhol: culture maker, culture vulture and everything in between.

Keeping the research process fluid and open allows you to find facts you’re not looking for. Some of these facts will provide clues and take you where you need to go. It's not uncommon for a researcher to reference the fact-finding of others in order to support their opinion, but there's a caveat. Don't use other people’s research to bolster your own in place of doing the work yourself. Think everything through. This will allow you to detect and interpret patterns.

Journalists who are critical thinkers present multiple points of view when supporting their own opinion because bias is the enemy of forming an evaluative opinion while maintaining your own. This skill is one of the reasons why great journalists win awards. Personal bias, be it conscious or unconscious, shouldn't be a main course at the research banquet if one wishes to dine on the experience of discovery that comes by way of inquiry. It shouldn't even be on the menu.

Vintage Bottle of Youth Dew Perfume via Perfume Fetish

There are missing pieces of information regarding Andy Warhol's love of perfumes. Andy isn't here to tell us his perfume stories, but his ghostwritten books provide more clues than a Ouija board. My premise was, is and continues to be that Warhol's commercial work as an illustrator (in addition to the postwar perfume scentscape of the 1950s) inspired his love of collecting perfumes, which began in the 1960s. Warhol's pursuit of perfume was further supported by the influence of counterculture, disco, punk rock, and the full-throttle era of 1980s designer perfumes.

Perfume immortalizes time and allows one to be transported in a single whiff. Solitary and social experiences are supported by this effect, so it doesn't matter if you're smelling someone else's perfume or enjoying whiffs in solitude (which many people do and is also why looking at someone smelling a paper perfume blotter with their eyes closed feels voyeuristic). Andy Warhol was a culture vulture and culture maker who didn't have trouble living in the overlapping space between these two distinct ways of being in the world. He was an astute, sensitive and keen observer. If Andy Warhol hated perfume he wouldn't be Andy Warhol.

Mary Magdalene, Patron Saint of Perfumers

One of the effects returned to Andy Warhol's family after he died following routine gallbladder surgery on February 22, 1987 was a small bottle of Youth Dew (1953) by Estée Lauder. Go back in time and walk in Andy's shoes for a minute. You're going to have surgery and you bring a bottle of Estée Lauder's Youth Dew perfume to the hospital. Youth Dew. The historic fragrance that kick-started American perfumery after the Second World War. It's like bringing a myrrh-weeping icon of Mary Magdalene, patron saint of perfumers, to the hospital. Warhol was raised as a Byzantine Catholic. Youth Dew may have reminded him of church and family, in addition to the promise of alluring rejuvenescence that infuses the name of the fragrance.

Andy Warhol was purportedly buried with a bottle of Beautiful (1985) and copy of Interview Magazine that Paige Powell threw into his grave before the casket was lowered during a private burial attended by family and close friends. Warhol was introduced to Beautiful at a 1986 promotional event hosted by The Estée Lauder Companies. This is what he told Evelyn Lauder when he found out that the perfume being launched was called Beautiful, “Beautiful?” he said. “Are you serious? That’s the name? I love it. Are they giving a party for it? When? I have about ten bottles of Poison, yes. I love it. And Coco. I have one bottle of that, but I want to get another bottle before I open it. Obsession, that’s great.” Andy Warhol was a full-on smellaholic. The story is recounted by Evelyn Lauder in The New Yorker.

"In the future everybody will be world-famous for 15 minutes" is a quote attributed to Andy Warhol. Though he denied saying this, it stuck. It's perfumed with the ethos of the Warhol brand and continues to inform his legacy as an innovative artist who wasn't afraid to blur the lines between art, commerce and multiple disciplines.  The history of the World Wide Web may contain a nod to Andy Warhol, who was born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928. Fact: the Internet went worldwide on August 6, 1991, opening the playground of world famousness to everyone on the 63rd anniversary of Andy Warhol's birth.

Think of that when you hear the phrase “World Wide Web” or see "www" in a URL. Robert Cailliau designed the historic triple "w" logo as a representation of the World Wide Web. Something about it looks Warholesque, but that might be my bias talking...

Notes:
Never been to a Smell & Tell at the Ann Arbor District Library? Click here to find out what all the buzz is about. The program will celebrate it's seventh anniversary year in June. Events take place monthly (and will include offsite flavor events in 2019).

Andy Warhol and his family attended St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Orthodox iconography is an art onto itself. Holy icons are known to exude myrrh, an ingredient in the formula for Youth Dew by Estée Lauder.

Drella is a nickname that was given to Andy Warhol by superstar Ondine. It's a mash-up of Dracula and Cinderella. Songs for Drella is an album by John Cale and Lou Reed dedicated to Andy Warhol.

The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again, (1975), ghostwritten by Pat Hackett and Bob Colacello (editor at Interview Magazine). The contents of the book were drawn from taped conversations with Pat Hackett (who did a lot of this kind of collaborative work with Warhol) and conversations that Warhol taped between himself and Bob Colacello, and former Warhol superstar and artist Brigid Berlin. Chapter 10 on Atmospheres is where smell and perfume are discussed in detail. One can't help wondering what life would have been like for Andy Warhol had he lived long enough to discover fragrance blogs.

A quote worth remembering if inquiry is your thing:
“Stealing from one author is plagiarism; from many authors, research.” ― Walter Moers, The City of Dreaming Books

Image of vintage Youth Dew perfume via © Perfume Fetish on Etsy. I'm looking forward to a small bottle of vintage Halston that I ordered for the Drella Was a Smellaholic Smell & Tell. I missed out on the gorgeous vintage bottle of Youth Dew and will stare admiringly at the picture in an attempt to will into my life.