Sex with Andy Warhol: An Excerpt From John Giorno’s Memoir Great Demon Kings
For no other reason than that our editor, Mel Ottenberg, decreed it, here is an excerpt from the late artist John Giorno’s memoir Great Demon Kings, published in paperback this year.
In early October, Peter asked, “John, who do you want to do your book cover? You know, artists do poets’ covers.”
“I don’t know.” I hadn’t thought about it.
“What about Andy Warhol?” said Peter [Schjeldahl]. “Why don’t you ask Andy?” I was horrified. It was the curse of my life: people wanting me because they wanted something from Andy. I was finished with Andy, I didn’t want to ask him to do anything, and I was Bob Rauschenberg’s lover. How embarrassing!
“I don’t know,” I replied.
“Think about it,” said Peter. Over the weeks, I saw Peter at readings, parties, and meetings about the book. He said again and again, “Have you asked Andy?”
It was like a toothache. There was no way out. I reluctantly bit the bullet and telephoned Andy.
“Yes! I’ll do it,” said Andy, laughing happily. “Let me think about it.”
A while later Peter asked again, “Have you spoken to Andy about the cover?” I called Andy, and he was still thinking about it.
In early November, Andy called, and said, “I have an idea for your cover. A condom laminated between two sheets of plastic, and you write the name on it.”
“Andy, what a great idea!” I completely trusted Andy; all of his ideas were great. “It’s brilliant.”
“Yes, I know.”
I told Peter, and he said, “Wow! That’s amazing! Let me check out the costs.”
Another time on the phone with Andy, I asked, “New condoms, or used ones? We’ll need a lot, maybe from the street, isn’t that hot?”
“Oh!” said Andy in a low drawl.
“Yes, scumbags from the street.” I was stoned on speed and pot, and the idea seemed pure and sexual.
But the cost of laminating a one-thousand–plus print run was too much.
As an alternative, Andy proposed on the phone, “Let me take some photos of you with a condom.”
We made a date, and I knew from the beginning it was an excuse for Andy to suck my dick, and the photos probably wouldn’t be usable. It was a long shot, but I wasn’t sexually exclusive with Bob, and I was a pragmatist; anything for a great book cover. I went to the Factory at nine at night when everybody was gone, and we did the shoot.
Andy was happy being with me and I was happy to see him again, and for something real, a shoot. In a corner, we started by doing relaxed, sexy poses with a condom, holding the packet up like in a straight magazine ad, every pose possible. Then came the inevitable: I took out my dick, and said, “Andy, suck it, and get it hard.”
“Oh John!” That was just what he wanted to hear. He was down on his knees sucking. He got my dick hard, I put on a condom, and he took photos. He sucked it again with the condom on, and took more photos. I sniffed poppers to try to enhance it. I jerked off in the condom as he took pictures.
I don’t think Andy had sex often, and maybe not at all during this time, and sex was always traumatic for him. His head was shaking, his forehead was sweating (I remembered to be careful of the wig), his body and his hands trembled. The Nikon shook in his hands as he tried to focus, eyeglasses disheveled, stumbling around in the dim light, almost having a nervous breakdown, taking photos of a condom on a hard, half-hard, soft dick.
The passion between us was gone, the sex was not great, but it was still a pleasure. There was a sweetness in seeing Andy overcome. We still loved each other, despite how completely our lives had changed. It was a funny, wonderful moment together.
A week later, I called Andy. “How are the photos?” “I don’t know,” said Andy.
“You mean not right for the book cover.” “Yes.”
“That’s okay. I’ll do something else. Andy, thank you!” What a relief ! My dick would not be memorialized on the cover of my book.
Forty-six years later, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh dug up two of the condom photos from their archive and published them in a show catalogue. In one photo, I’m holding up a condom like in a magazine ad; in the second, I’m unrolling a condom at my crotch with my pants on. I am wearing a new white button-down shirt with thin blue stripes that Bob had just bought me.
Great Demon Kings by John Giorno. Published by Picador.Copyright © 2020 by John Giorno. All rights reserved.