Dylan, Warhol and Elvis, photo by Nat Finkelstein
Famous visitors and “beautiful people” with “star potential” who visited Andy Wahol’s Factory studio in the 1960s were often shot for Warhol’s “screen tests,” his silent “parodies” of the Hollywood studio system. No one was really auditioning for anything, it was just an excuse to run a single reel of 16mm film through his Bolex camera and engage someone in a staring contest with it, one they normally lost (after a minute or so of trying to look “cool,” the mask was normally dropped and the simple portraits become quite revealing). The two and a half minute reels were then slowed down and printed.
Some of the more notable subjects included Italian model Benedetta Barzini, model/actrress Marisa Berenson, poet Ted Berrigan, Salvador Dalí, Donovan, Marcel Duchamp, Mama Cass, Allen Ginsberg, Beck’s mother, Bibbe Hansen, Baby Jane Holzer, Dennis Hopper, actress Sally Kirkland, Nico, Yoko Ono, Lou Reed, photographer Francesco Scavullo, Edie Sedgwick, Susan Sontag, artist Paul Thek, Viva and Mary Woronov
When Dylan stopped by the tin-foil covered Factory, he is alleged to have taken an immediate dislike to Warhol and the “phonies” of his entourage. It has long been suspected that the spitting lyrics of “Like a Rolling Stone,” in part, describe Dylan’s feelings about Warhol—was he “the diplomat on the chrome horse”?—and how he felt about the artist’s perceived exploitation of Edie Sedgwick, who Dylan was at one point romantically involved with (and who was his muse for some of Blonde on Blonde).
After the screen test was shot, Dylan grabbed a large silkscreen (as “payment”) that Warhol was going to give him anyway and headed for the door (before allegedly strapping the canvas to the roof of a station wagon). Such was his dislike of the artist that he later traded the piece to his manager, Albert Grossman, for a couch. That silkscreen, “Double Elvis,” is now part of the permanent collection at MOMA.
Here’s Factory photographer Nat Finkelstein’s account of what happened:
“Andy gave Bobby a great double image of Elvis. Bobby gave Andy short shrift. Shooting and plundering finished, the Dylan gang headed for the door, me and my Nikon on their heels. They left as they had entered…‘Bobby the Waif’ emerging as ‘Robert the Triumphant’. They departed having tied the Elvis image to the top of their station wagon, like a deer poached out of season. Much later, Bobby told me he’d traded the Elvis (now worth millions) to his manager Albert Grossman for a couch!”