Happy birthday, Andy! The late artist would have been 71 today. One of the 20th century's best-known painters, he is ironically most famous for his quote about being famous (for 15 minutes). But still, there are many simple facts about the man's life that the ordinary person may not know. I thought I'd share some.
- He was gay. It's obvious now, but it wasn't to the public at large during Warhol's life. Keep in mind that in the '70s and early '80s, most Americans were clueless about gay signifiers; few even guessed that the Village People were gay, much less Andy Warhol.
- He was bald. Even I didn't know for years that his funky silver-white hair was, in fact, a wig. Warhol went bald in his early twenties.
- He was celibate. Though gay, Warhol claimed never to have engaged in any sexual intercourse. It was reported in an early biography that he lost his virginity at 25 to his first boyfriend, but I've found no accounts of him consummating any of his subsequent relationships.
- His real last name was Warhola. Warhol was the son of Czech immigrants. He dropped the "a" at the end of his surname early in his career.
- He almost never lived apart from his mother. Even during the wildest days of Warhol's notorious '60s parties, he would go home to Julia Warhola, who moved from Pittsburgh to New York to be with her son in 1952, just three years after Andy moved there himself. She returned to Pittsburgh in 1971, a year before her death. Thus they only lived apart for a cumulative four years.
- He went to church every Sunday. Hard to believe, but after a hectic Saturday night of carousing with all his fabulous friends, this devout Catholic would go to church – usually with his mother – the next morning. Often he went straight from party to church.
- He didn't do (too many) drugs. Though one equates Warhol's constant partying during the '60s and '70s with the heavy drug use of the era, the truth is that he mostly stayed away from drugs during the '60s, stopped drinking in the late '70s, and finally became a clean-living vegetarian in the '80s.
- He loved his bluejeans. As hip as Warhol was, his trousers of choice, no matter what party or event, were nearly always bluejeans.
- He could draw! Before he became famous for his silk screen prints of Marilyn Monroe and Campbell's soup cans – which some might say shows no painterly skill – Warhol worked in New York for years as an artist for fashion catalogs and magazines such as Vanity Fair. When he had his first art exhibit, he was already an in-demand illustrator.