The Pop Art genius was born on August 6, 1928 and died, prematurely, probably due to hospital incompetence after a routine gall bladder operation, on February 22, 1987 at the age of 58.
Here’s what Andy Warhol had to say about death:
I never understood why when you died, you didn’t just vanish, and everything could just keep going on the way it was only you just wouldn’t be there. I always thought I’d like my own tombstone to be blank. No epitaph and no name.
Well, actually, I’d like it to say “figment.”
I remember vividly when Andy Warhol died. As a New Yorker myself, it truly felt like it was the end of an era. After Warhol died, New York’s fabled nightlife took a nosedive (there were other important factors, too, like AIDS, of course). It wasn’t like you’d be able to see Warhol at a party, a fashion show, a nightclub or a restaurant ever again and think to yourself “Oh, Andy Warhol’s here. I must be in the very best party in Manhattan tonight.”
That was kind of what Warhol’s stamp of approval meant to New Yorkers. His presence alone made you feel cool. I met Warhol several times—as fate would have it, the first time was on the very day I moved to New York, at the Area nightclub. The infamous homicidal club kid king, Michael Alig, then a 18-year-old college student, asked me if I’d like to meet Andy Warhol. “Sure!” I replied and then Michael (who I had just met) proceeded to shove me—HARD, using both arms—into the artist, nearly knocking him down. Warhol just shrugged it off and blamed Michael anyway as he’d seen the whole thing go down. After that incident, I’d see Warhol around every few weeks for the next couple of years.
When he died so suddenly, I cannot stress this enough, it was like a pall had come over the city. New York would just never be quite the same ever again.
The first sign that there was something wrong with Andy Warhol, that he might be a mortal being after all, came three weeks ago. It was a Friday night, and after dinner with friends at Nippon, he was planning to see Outrageous Fortune, eat exactly three bites of a hot-fudge sundae at Serendipity, buy the newspapers, and go to bed. At dinner, though, he felt a pain. It was a sharp, bad pain, and rather than let anyone see him suffer, he excused himself. And as soon as he got home, the pain went away.
“I’m sorry I said I had to go home,” Warhol told Pat Hackett a few days later as he narrated his daily diary entry to her over the phone. “I should have gone to the movie, and no one would ever have known.”
In fact, no one remembered. And if anyone suspected trouble, it was dispelled the next week by Warhol’s ebullient spirits at the Valentine’s dinner for 30 friends that he held at Texarkana with Paige Powell, the young woman who was advertising director of Interview magazine by day and Warhol’s favorite date by night. Calvin Klein had sent him a dozen or so bottles of Obsession, and before Warhol set them out as party favors for the women, he drew hearts on them and signed his name. On one for ballerina Heather Watts he went further, inscribing the word the public never associates with Andy Warhol: “Love.”
Excerpt from “The World of Warhol” by Jesse Kornbluth, from the March 9, 1987 issue of New York Magazine.
The Figment Project, sponsored by the Andy Warhol Museum and EarthCam has a live look at the artist’s actual grave site in Pittsburgh today.
Below, art critic “Brian Badonde” (BAFTA-winner comedic genius Kyvan Novak) visits Bandy’s childhood home in Pittsburgh on Facejacker: