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.
Here are a few other pics from the High Times cover shoot:
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
William Burroughs’ cold-blooded letter to Truman Capote
‘Two Days in the Life of Andy….’: Candid photos of Andy Warhol, 1981