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‘The Midnight Parasites’: Yōji Kuri’s surreal Hieronymus Bosch inspired animation from 1972
12.15.2017
10:19 am
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Yōji Kuri is the big daddy of Japanese animation. Now in his late eighties—he hits the big nine-“o” next year—Kuri was one of Japan’s key pioneering animators/artists/directors who produced around forty short animated films during the 1960s and early seventies—all of which brought independent Japanese animations to global attention. He was for a time namechecked as “the only Japanese animator whose work is known in the West,” which, although a nice piece of hyperbole, gives some idea of his importance at the expense of ignoring quite a few of his contemporaries.

Anyhow.

Kuri’s animations tend to be strange, surreal, experimental, and darkly compelling, yet often accomplished in what you might call a naive style. Take for example his Hieronymus Bosch-inspired animation The Midnight Parasites from 1972. Here Kuri imagines what would life might be like if we all lived in Bosch’s painting “Garden of Earthly Delights.” It’s a basically shit and death or rather a cycle of life where blue figures live and die; eat shit and shit gold; are skewered, and devoured; are regurgitated and reborn to carry on the cycle once again. It’s dark, dirty, oddly beautiful, with a groovy soundtrack—the kinda short flick that might pop up as a support to the late night psychedelic double-bill at the local fleapit.
 

 
Via Monster Brains.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.15.2017
10:19 am
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The strange tale of the unauthorized albums of the Beatles Christmas recordings
12.15.2017
09:39 am
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The Beatles
 
In the early 1980s, two albums of rare Beatles recordings were released with little fanfare. Consisting of the Christmas messages the Fab Four distributed to their fan club in the 1960s, these LPs weren’t authorized by the Beatles, and it appears the reasons they were put out in the first place had, oddly, little to do with financial gain—in the traditional sense, that is. There was also a third album of this material in the pipeline, and though its release was challenged in court, copies eventually made their way into the world.

Back in April, we told you about the tax shelter record labels of the 1970s and 1980s. These companies offered investments in master recordings, which would be used as the basis for albums. Tax shelters aren’t illegal, but those that focus on the tax benefits, rather than, say, the success of an album being bankrolled, are considered fraudulent by the I.R.S. Many of these labels were found to be just that, while others are believed to have been shams. In such a scenario, a record that failed to sell resulted in a significant tax credit for investors.

The tax shelter labels existed as a means to exploit the U.S. tax code, but they also exploited artists, who, more often than not, had no idea their work was being issued in such a manner. All sorts of material—demos, outtakes, rarities, etc.—was issued with little-to-no promotion. In recent years, collectors came up with a colorful descriptor to identify such LPs: “tax scam records.” Some of these albums are amongst the scarcest slabs of vinyl ever pressed.
 
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The Beatles first holiday record, 1963.

Between 1963 and 1969, the Beatles taped Christmas messages specifically for their fan club. The recordings were pressed on 7-inch flexi discs, housed in unique artwork, and shipped to fans, free of charge. The first year they established what would be the standard format: holiday greetings and year-end updates mixed with parodies of holiday classics, and the sort of tomfoolery the group was known for. As the Beatles began to stretch musically, the messages became another outlet for experimentation. By 1967, their fan club records were downright avant-garde.

 
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Cover of the 1966 flexi.

After the Beatles broke-up—and just before the 1970 holidays—Apple Records sent the Beatles’ US and UK fan club members an album of the full run of Christmas discs. Again, there was no fee.
 
1970
 
A decade later, in 1981, a selection of the Beatles holiday greetings appeared on an LP called Happy Michaelmas. The title is taken from a section of the 1968 message, in which Paul McCartney is singing a little ditty and playing off the phrase “Happy Christmas.”
 

 
SO MUCH MORE after the jump..

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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12.15.2017
09:39 am
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Chilling images of Hitler celebrating Christmas & decorations inspired by the Nazis


Christmas ornaments produced in Germany during the rise and rule of Adolf Hitler.
 
In the 1930s as Hitler and his Nazis were coming to power in Germany, they began a war on Christmas, a quest to dismantle age-old Christmas traditions and replace them with Nordic/pagan practices and folklore. The Nazis wanted everyone to follow their lead when it came to their image of the holiday—which at some point included displaying swastikas on Christmas trees. In Germany, Christmas is called “Weihnachten” which the Nazis also took it upon themselves to rename Rauhnacht, which translates in English to “the rough night.”

The Nazis’ changes to Christmas included anti-Semitic activities such as actively avoiding doing business at Jewish-owned establishments during the holiday so that their celebrations would be “free of Jews.” Christmas carols were modified to reflect socialist Nazi beliefs and ideology including replacing references to the “Savior” with a nod to Hitler himself, “Savior Führer.” While many of the Reich’s changes to Christmas took hold, there was one aspect of the holiday that they could not do away with—the image the jolly old fat man, Santa Claus—even in Hitler’s Germany, Santa remained a fixture of the newly Nazified celebration.

Other changes inflicted by the Nazis during the period before their eventual fall in the mid-1940s was the use of Christmas decorations. If you were not already aware, the tradition of decorating a tree at Christmas time got its start in Germany in the 16th century. The most problematic issue for the Nazis was the gleaming star on the top of the tree—a six-pointed star signified Judaism and the Jewish community. A five-pointed star was associated with communism which was less than appealing to the Nazis as well. Instead, Germans were encouraged to replace tree-topping stars with, you guessed it, a swastika or the symbol for the SS (the “Schutzstaffel” or “Protection Squadron” formed under Hitler). Ornaments were transformed to contain Nazi images, slogans like “Sieg Heil!,” and glass-blown baubles in the image of their beloved leader Adolf Hitler. The metamorphosis took approximately six years to complete, though it would all come to an end in 1944 which marked the very last Nazified Christmas. Hitler would meet his maker four months later on April 30th, 1945.

The images that follow are haunting historical documents of how the Nazis tried to change Christmas (and the world) and failed. 
 

 

 

 
More chilling Nazi Christmas images after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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12.15.2017
08:50 am
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‘Love You So Bad’: New video from Iggy Pop-endorsed singer Ezra Furman
12.15.2017
08:28 am
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Praise from Caesar is praise indeed, and when a lesser-known artist earns the enthusiastic endorsement of a hero, it’s validating to the core, whether it greases any real-world wheels or not. Singer-songwriter Ezra Furman has been making marvelous pop albums that teeter between eccentricity and classicism for ten years, but a couple of years ago he scored one of the most enviable rock-star affirmations one can score—the admiration of Iggy Pop. Pop does a weekly radio show for the BBC called “Iggy Confidential,” and on September 18, 2015, he played three consecutive songs from Furman’s early LPs Banging Down the Doors and Inside the Human Body, saying “I really like Ezra Furman. I think the guy’s got something. He’s got a lot of wit and nerve.”
 

 

 
Furman is back with a new album, Transangelic Exodus, with his band The Visions (exact same membership as his previous band The Boy-Friends, it’s really just a name change), and it’s pretty great—I’ve been enjoying it more with each repeat listen. Furman here gets more ambitious and experimental with production, channeling influences from the scattershot cut-up ethos expressed by the Dust Brothers on Beck’s Odelay, to the cosmic garage primitivism of Clinic, to the more baroque-pop moments to be heard in Vampire Weekend’s work. Lyrically, the album expresses a unified theme, which Furman describes thusly:

The narrative thread is I’m in love with an angel, and a government is after us, and we have to leave home because angels are illegal, as is harbouring angels. The term “transangelic” refers to the fact people become angels because they grow wings. They have an operation, and they’re transformed. And it causes panic because some people think it’s contagious, or it should just be outlawed. The album still works without the back story, though. What’s essential is the mood—paranoid, authoritarian, the way certain people are stigmatised. It’s a theme in American life right now, and other so-called democracies.

 
Videos after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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12.15.2017
08:28 am
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The Internet wants Reese’s to do something about net neutrality murderer Ajit Pai



 
Ajit Pai, who is on the fast track to becoming this season’s Martin Shkreli, has gotten major press the past few days as the FCC Chairman blamed for “murdering net neutrality.” In most of the press photos, Pai is pictured drinking from a ridiculous novelty mug, as large as his head, emblazoned with the Reese’s candy logo.

This mug is so absurdly stupid that John Oliver made fun of it last May in a “Last Week Tonight” segment in which he asked viewers to flood the FCC with calls and comments to urge the agency to retain net neutrality. Oliver drank from a bucket-sized replica of the Reese’s mug. Pai’s response was to film a segment drinking from an even larger mug than Oliver, garbage-can sized.
 

 
Pai recently drew Internet ire all over again by releasing what AV Club called “a dumb new video” which openly mocks net neutrality supporters, culminating in a collective public head-explosion when the Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to ultimately dismantle rules regulating Internet service providers, effectively “murdering net neutrality” in the public’s view.

An interesting aside to net neutrality supporters hatred of Pai has been numerous demands on the Reese’s Facebook page to “do something” about him. Though certainly most of these posts are misguided anger, one must wonder what a company might have to do to protect their brand from the negative association with one of the most-hated men in the country. Pai’s mugging with the mug is product placement of the worst possible order. Perhaps these protester’s pleas to the candy company are simply a misguided hope that someone, ANYONE will listen to their frustration. Clearly, the FCC wasn’t listening to the estimated 83% of Americans who support net neutrality. The angry masses await word from Reese’s.
 

 

 
Many more pieces of Pai after the jump…

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Posted by Christopher Bickel
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12.15.2017
08:21 am
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As long as there are beauty salons, there’ll be cheesy Patrick Nagel knockoff advertisements
12.15.2017
08:15 am
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A native of Dayton, Ohio, Patrick Nagel was a graphic artist who incorporated idealized images of women in lush, 2D settings that tended to call to mind a particularly sybaritic mutation of Art Deco. His images are well-nigh synonymous with the decade of the 1980s and are especially associated with the band Duran Duran, because the band used one of Nagel’s images on its 2nd LP, 1982’s Rio. His images frequently appeared in Playboy. There’s a vague mental association between Nagel’s work and über-yuppie Patrick Bateman, the protagonist of American Psycho, book and movie both.

Sadly, Nagel scarcely had time to enjoy the wider recognition that his association with Duran Duran brought him, as he was found dead of a myocardial infarction heart attack on February 4, 1984.

Success is seldom an unalloyed good. Even as it elevates an artist into widespread visibility, it might equally well consign the work to an artistic ghetto in the same act. You might get big, but there’s no saying that you won’t get typecast or pigeonholed or called tacky in the process.
 

 
The particular ghetto that Nagel’s work landed in is indisputably the general category of beauty salons, including nail salons and tanning salons. There’s something about Nagel’s frank invocation of conventional and affluent (and white) beauty that appears to have resonated with the advertisers within that sector, to the point that it has stopped being a signifier of the 1980s, at least in that setting. One might say that every beauty salon has a piece of Nagel art around somewhere—and if it doesn’t, it should have one.

Many of the “Nagel” images you see in beauty salons aren’t by Nagel at all, of course. Paying royalties to famous artists is nobody’s idea of a good time. In the middle of this post you can see an authentic product of Nagel’s artistry. I’m not a forensic art expert, but it’s clear enough that most if not all of the other images here are, erm, “heavily influenced” by Nagel. Indeed, it’s likely that an attorney insisted on it.
 

 

 
Sooooo much more after the jump….....
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.15.2017
08:15 am
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The psychedelic genius of Victor Moscoso
12.14.2017
02:01 pm
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Junior Wells and His Chicago Blues Band, 1966
 
Victor Moscoso was an unusually prolific and eye-catching psychedelic artist of the Bay Area who came to prominence in the mid- to late 1960s. He was born in Galicia during the first weeks of the Civil War, and by the time he was four years old, his family had relocated to Brooklyn. Moscoso had a wide-ranging education that led him to Cooper Union, Yale University, and the San Francisco Art Institute, where he later signed on as an instructor.

Kerouac’s On the Road was one of the factors that induced Moscoso to move to the West Coast, which he did in 1959. Around 1966 started a career as a designer of rock posters, creating arresting images for bands like Big Brother & the Holding Company, the Steve Miller Blues Band, the Doors, and Junior Wells. Forging this new identity required unlearn a healthy chunk of the conventional design fundamentals he had earlier absorbed in school. This he did with remarkable alacrity, which catapulted him into a select group of accomplished and successful poster artists that included his close friend and collaborator Rick Griffin as well as Stanley Mouse, Wes Wilson, and Alton Kelley.

In 1968, he met Robert Crumb, who had recently put out Zap #1. Crumb made it known that both Moscoso and Griffin would be quite welcome to join the Zap collective, which also boasted names such as Spain Rodriguez, Gilbert Shelton, S. Clay Wilson, and Robert Williams.
 

Victor Moscoso, with the mask from Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters album cover not far from his head
 
In a long and interesting interview that appeared in The Comics Journal #246 (2002), Moscoso discussed his career and process with Gary Groth. After Groth observes that the lettering in many of Moscoso’s posters was hard to read, the artist amusingly responded, “Exactly. The lettering should be as difficult to read as possible! Use vibrating colors as much as you can, and irritate the eye as much as you can. Hang the viewer up for as long as you can! A week! A month! A year, if you can! An hour will do.”

At a different point in the interview, Moscoso discussed studying color theory under Josef Albers at Yale:
 

At Cooper Union, I learned Josef Albers’ color theory and all his ideas about color from Neil Welliver, a student of his who was a teacher at Cooper Union. By the time I went to Yale and took Albers’ color class, I was already familiar with it.

-snip-

It was like he had given me a textbook, or a manual on color, because at the time I was not a colorist. If you look at my work that I did at the time, it bears no influence of Josef Albers. He did not influence my work at the time. I just filed it away in the back of my mind. Now, when I saw Wes Wilson’s Association poster, click! The red and green lettering that vibrated. I said, “Holy shit! I can do that.”

 
Moscoso found it amusing that so many people would single out his use of florescent colors, which he claims he never used—rather, his effects were achieved by juxtaposing two colors with a specific relationship on the color wheel that the eye had difficulty processing:
 

Where two colors from the opposite ends of the color scale are at equal intensity, your eye will not be able to tell which one is in front of the other. It’s what Albers called “simultaneous contrast.” They have to be equal, though, in intensity and in value. You see this at Christmastime; they’ll pick red and green for decorations because red and green are on opposite sides of the color scale; you’ll see where there’re colors buzzing at the edges. Now if it was a dark green and a light red, that wouldn’t happen. They have to be of the same value and intensity. At that point your eye cannot distinguish which one is in front and which one is back — you’re really fucking with the limits of your eyesight, of the physical limitations of your optic system. And what you see is this buzz of confusion! Excellent.


 
The cover art for the recent novel by Emma Cline called The Girls appears to be heavily influenced by Moscoso’s Chambers Brothers poster from 1967.

What follows is a selection of his posters, album covers, and comix work.
 

Avalon Ballroom, 1967
 
Much more after the jump…....
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.14.2017
02:01 pm
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‘Tight Pussy, Loose Shoes, and a Warm Place to Shit’: The song parody that trascendeth all
12.14.2017
01:13 pm
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Creepy politicians and media personalities are losing their jobs and stature left and right over revelations of sexual importuning, and we fully support that (just as we support more rapey conservative policymakers stepping into the light of the shining beacon that was Dan Johnson—grab that brass ring, Roy, you’ve got nothing left to lose!). And yet, open, unreconstructed, virulent racism no longer costs anyone face—it’s become a positive boon in right wing careering. For nostalgia’s sake, we decided to revisit an incident when a conservative figure lost his job for a racist remark, albeit one that went on to bear some rather unlikely but utterly glorious cultural fruit.

In the 1970s, Earl Butz was Secretary of Agriculture under GOP Presidents Nixon and Ford. He was a reactionary anti-New Dealer whose ridiculously pro-corporate policies arguably were main drivers of an environmental crisis North America now faces due to the various pollutants created by massive-scale factory farming, but his most memorable contribution to our culture was a terribly rude remark: When asked by I shit you not Pat Boone in 1976 to explain why African Americans tended not to vote Republican (I want to know how even Pat Boone could be that clueless—seriously how is that even a question?), he replied, “I’ll tell you what the coloreds want. It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit.”

That’s right: he actually said “the coloreds.” MAN, those were different times.

Initial reportage of the remark protected Butz’s identity, attributing the quote to “a Cabinet officer.” But once the remark’s author was outed, he resigned. He continued to serve the nation as an unholy piece of shit, being convicted of tax evasion and serving on agri-business boards of directors, until society was at long last relieved of him permanently in 2008. But his infamous remark proved enduring.
 

 
Loose Shoes is a comedy anthology movie roughly in the vein of The Groove Tube or Kentucky Fried Movie, except that unlike those films, Loose Shoes really, really sucks. It was shot in 1977, but not released until 1980—it was saved from obscurity by Bill Murray. A pre-fame Murray acted in one of its sketches, and as he had gone on to fame as Chevy Chase’s replacement in Saturday Night Live and the star of Meatballs and Caddyshack, disingenuous marketing claimed Loose Shoes as, ahem, “a Bill Murray movie.” None of the sketches are especially funny or memorable—not even Murray’s—save for one, the film’s closing set piece, “Dark Town After Dark,” an INSANE and wonderful fuck you to Butz, in the form of a Cab Calloway style revue embedded within a parody of ’30s black cinema! This clip is brilliant enough to justify the film’s existence—it features NY stage and character actor David Downing as the Calloway clone who dwells in abject poverty until MOVIE MAGIC™ transforms him into the singer of the film’s namesake song. It’s an incredible jazz arrangement performed by a fine (and sadly, uncredited) band, creatively shot, and sepia-toned to maintain a ’30s feel. I warn you: after you watch this, the obscene chorus will be stuck in your head indefinitely.
 

 

 
Here’s a rather more baffling take on the comment—one that not only pre-dates Loose Shoes’ release, but comes from The Netherlands. G.T. Walls is a singer about whom I can find almost no information except that he’s Dutch, and that he released in 1977 an album uncleverly titled Rhythm and Booze, which featured at the close of its A side a song called “A Tight Pussy, Loose Shoes And A Warm Place To Shit,” which was released as a single the following year. It features contributions from Holland’s somewhat better-known Arnie Treffers, and while it’s not remotely as catchy as the song in “Dark Town After Dark,” it boasts a pleasant enough ragtime influence.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch
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12.14.2017
01:13 pm
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Monsters, Demons, Devils, and Donald Trump: The art of Dave Lebow
12.14.2017
11:56 am
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Satan’s Muses
 
Don’t know much about art history. Don’t know much about graphology. Don’t know much about comic books. Don’t know much about the way things look. But what I do know is what I like and what I currently like are these big, colorful, classical, fantasy, pulp fiction-type canvases by artist Dave Lebow.

Lebow’s paintings mix pop culture with fairy tales and horror fiction. His byline sez he’s “old school” with “a wickedly contemporary retro style that recalls the pulp magazines of long ago.” That’s probably why his work hits the spot and fits snugly like a blue suede shoe on my size ten feet.

You may have seen his specially commissioned paintings (giant biblical canvases) on the cult TV series Dexter or maybe his paintings on ABC’s October Road or the History Channel’s Strange Rituals. His artworks look like gorgeous illustrations from old classic storybooks by the Brothers Grimm, H. P. Lovecraft, or even Stephen King. They impart a scene from a dream-like narrative which you the viewer are invited to make up as you go along, as Lebow has said:

I want my images to grab you and drag you, if not willingly, then kicking and screaming into my picture. I’m inspired and interested in imaginative storytelling pictures that evoke an emotional response.

Originally from Oklahoma, Lebow graduated in Painting from Boston University and has an MFA in Experimental Animation from Cal Arts. Now based in California, he creates his pictures by first sketching out his idea before blocking out a version in oils then painting the full image in all its fabulous technicolor glory.

More recently, Lebow’s paintings have included some pointedly political/satirical portraits of President Trump—one as a member of the KKK another as a Nazi—which don’t seem out of place beside his more fantastical work of demons and devils and two-headed monsters. In fact, he looks right at home.

Lebow certainly gets my vote and you can see more of his work here or maybe buy a print here.
 
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‘All That Glitters.’
 
Many more of Lebow’s wondrous artworks, after the jump…...
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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12.14.2017
11:56 am
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Ho ho ho! Here’s Andy Warhol as Santa and Truman Capote with a lollipop on the cover of High Times


 
It won’t surprise anyone to learn that the December 1978 issue of High Times went with a holiday theme. More surprising might be the identity of the two models masquerading as Santa Claus and one of his elves, those being, respectively, Andy Warhol, the most dominant artist of the postwar period, and Truman Capote, one of greatest literary writers the U.S. produced in the same timeframe.

Especially in 1978, Tru and Andy were more or less synonymous with the fabulous goings-on at Studio 54 and elsewhere. Both men were known to hang with an illustrious and sparkly group of personages, and both were public figures at a moment when TV had deepened its clutches on the middlebrow slice of America—hence, more creative and bizarre media opportunities for everyone.

The cover was supposed to feature Capote wearing a “little girl outfit,” but he was drunk and not in the mood to go drag that day. In The Andy Warhol Diaries, for the date of September 26, 1978, we find this:
 

Truman was coming to the Factory at 3:00 for the High Times Christmas cover photograph of him and me. Truman was early, 2:30.

...

Paul Morrissey was down, and he and Truman talked all afternoon about scripts and things. Then Toni arrived four hours late, she had a Santa costume for me and a little girl outfit for Truman. But Truman wasn’t in the mood to go into drag, he said that he was already dressed like a little boy. Truman was really drunk, hugging around.


 
Toni Brown is the “Toni” mentioned in the diary that day; she was the art director for High Times, whom Warhol had met in the spring of 1978. According to Victor Bockris’ biography of Warhol, Brown and Warhol fell into cahoots for a stretch in 1978:
 

[Warhol] had also become friendly with the art director of High Times magazine, a powerful woman named Toni Brown whose overt, humorous personality fitted his needs. Soon a lot of people at the Factory were throwing up their hands in dismay over the amount of time Andy was spending with Toni.


 
In Warhol’s diary, Brown pops up in just a handful of entries, and her appearances are entirely limited to 1978. The folks at the Factory needn’t have worried so much—Warhol’s diary entry from late September documenting the cover shoot is actually the last time her name appears in the book.

By the way, here is the final cover:
 

 
Warhol shows surprising equanimity after being made to wait for four hours—I’d've been arranging a contract hit, myself—although that may have factored into their not being as close after that; either Brown paid a price for being cavalier about Warhol’s time or else Warhol’s usefulness to Brown evaporated the moment that she had secured the desired cover photo. Or both!

Four years ago the Warhol Museum ran a note about that day on its website, in which the possible identity of the pooch is discussed:
 

An artist as prolific as Andy Warhol was bound to have their share of bizarre media coverage. In December of 1978, he and his good friend and collaborator Truman Capote appeared on the cover of an issue of High Times. Warhol is wearing a Santa suit, and is holding a dog, possibly one of his dachshunds Amos or Archie.

 
More pics from this bizarre and merry photo shoot after the jump…...
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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12.14.2017
11:06 am
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