Andy Warhol's Wigs: Guy Trebay's Thoroughly Entertaining Takedown of the Icon's Late-Period Hairpieces

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Bob Adelman
Andy Warhol reading the Village Voice in 1965. Wig looks just fine there.

This past Wednesday, February 22, 2012, marked the 25th anniversary of Andy Warhol's death, which we remembered with this week's cover. As an institution, the Village Voice has a history of Warhol interactions, from the pop artist's many cameos in Jonas Mekas's seminal "Movie Journal" column to Warhol-related party reporting (both then and now) to documenting Warhol's first public appearance after Valerie Solanas nearly killed him.

The Voice also gets 12 mentions in The Andy Warhol Diaries (1989), the daily dictations his former secretary and collaborator Pat Hackett took down every morning from November 1976 until the artist's death. Some of the Voice references are newsy ("I was also on the front page of the Voice, photographed next to the empress of Iran for an article about torture in Iran," reads the entry from November 9, 1977), others acknowledge the publication in passing as part of the city's downtown fabric. (In explaining the location of where Lou Reed's summer of 1978 apartment, Warhol clarified, "It's on Christopher Street, between Sixth and Seventh, sort of where the Voice used to be.")

But one entry in particular sticks out. Warhol began his began his April 12, 1983 recollection by relaying, "Everyone was calling because the Village Voice ran a three-page putdown of my wig. It was a write-up of the Studio 54 party for our TV show."

A three-page putdown of Warhol's wig in the 1983 Voice? Has to be amazing. So we dug through our bound-galley archives and found the piece. It was a Guy Trebay dispatch from Studio 24 that ran in the April 5, 1983 issue. The relevant passage:

So I am standing at the edge of a crowd watching on a huge screen Andy Warhol's TV, because the party is celebrating the contract Andy Warhol has signed with Madison Square Garden Cable TV and Andy Warhol is on the screen interviewing either Hall or Oates, I hope I never have to learn which, and two things occur to my Irie self in the midst of these people. One: New York has become a town full of provincials, fleeing the mini-protectorates of the NATO alliance, and Two: Andy Warhol needs a new wig.

That old one is getting on my nerves.

There is in New York a cult that has watched the evolution of Andy Warhol's wigs with a mixture of wonder and indigestion. These same people have also been known to cast an appraising eye on world affairs, but foremost in their minds are the Wigs. Silver white and choppy. Dead white to set off the sandblasted skin. Yellow-white (left lying within leg-lifting aim of Archie? Remember Archie, the dachshund as accessory?) Dove gray. Then Clorox gray, then soot white, then white in any of several shades, all the while with the part moving up the scalp, then sliding down again to a point just above the ear, wisps of the real brown stuff left sticking out underneath. (And underneath? Is it a Hubert Humphrey horseshoe of naked scalp? Or an Elton John/Paul Anka thatch of sore surgical plugs?)

So. On screen, in a doorway, a snowy day, in the wind, waiting with Hall (Oates?) for a tour bus (airbrushed eagles on the side) is Andy (of Warhol's TV fame) in a wig that seems to have black roots woven into it, kind of hiked up, too, so the bangs fall into his eyes and the dark hair shows on the stringy nape of his neck. Yick! Barf! Sweet mother of mercy, somebody call a specialist--Way Bandy. William Shatner. George Clinton--before this goes too far.

I'm serious!

Round of applause, please. Written in a blog-less world, no less.

Warhol's real-life "specialist" was actually Paul Bocchicchio, owner of the West 42nd business Hairpieces by Paul, who personally delivered Warhol's wigs to the Factory for the last decade-plus of his life. The woven-roots effect Trebay mocks was, according to Warhol researcher Thomas Kiedrowski, a deliberate effect. He writes in his book Andy Warhol's New York City: Four Walks Uptown to Downtown, "At home [Warhol] spent hours dyeing the lower portion of the back of each wig a dark color, giving it the appearance of real hair sticking out at the back--even though his gray hair also poked out from under the back of the hairpieces."

Yick, barf, wow.


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