Watching the movie Capote (2005) yesterday, and it was pretty good, I got to thinking of Warhol. Turns out he was fascinated by Capote and his portrait on the back of his first book. Seems a lot of people were taken by the photo, and it became as much, or more of a cause célèbre than the book itself. Warhol wrote fan letters to Capote and called his first gallery show Fifteen Drawings Based on the Writings of Truman Capote.
There’s a scene in the movie when Capote is talking to the New Yorker editor, William Shawn, after his successful preview reading from In Cold Blood: he asks breathlessly, “Should we do more readings?” Shawn replies that they should not; they will let people talk about the book, build interest. “Let them do the work.”
Well, nobody could accuse Capote of not doing his work. As one character in the film remarks, “You’re nothing if not hard-working.” But then there’s Warhol…
I think Warhol realized that popular culture in the early 1960s was ready to step lightly over the homosexual bar, and Capote’s unabashedly affected and effeminate manner were probably an inspiration to him. His great insight was that if he just played himself straight, people would not know how to accept – process – his personality, and would assume he was ironical, sophisticated, in other words, an artist. Then he could do the things he most wanted to do: get rich; hobnob with the rich and famous; be famous; and play with pictures other people made, while others did his publicity and produced critical laurels and justifications for him. He was dead on, and his blockbuster success was the proof. The only irony was that he assumed others would assume he was an ironist, and he was happy to let them.
There’s really not much to Warhol’s work, unless you enjoy his colors and designs, at least, not much that isn’t created and put there by others. But that never mattered to him.