The Cold Coquette

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In 1952, the writer Truman Capote, a recent success in literary and social circles, began to receive an almost daily barrage of fan mail from a young man named Andy Warhol. An illustrator for shoe designers, fashion magazines, and the like, Warhol made pretty, stylized drawings, some of which he sent to Capote, hoping the author would include them in one of his books. Capote did not respond. One day he came home to find Warhol talking to his mother, with whom Capote lived. And Warhol began to telephone almost daily. Finally Capote put an end to all this: "He seemed one of those hopeless people that you just know nothing's ever going to happen to. Just a hopeless, born loser," the writer later said.

Ten years later, Andy Warhol, aspiring artist, had his first one-man show at the Stable Gallery in Manhattan. On the walls were a series of silkscreened paintings based on the Campbell's soup can and the Coca-Cola bottle. At the opening and at the party afterward, Warhol stood to the side, staring blankly, talking little. What a contrast he was to the older generation of artists, the abstract expressionists—mostly hard-drinking womanizers full of bluster and aggression, big talkers who had dominated the art scene for the previous fifteen years. And what a change from the Warhol who had badgered Capote, and art dealers and patrons as well. The critics were both until they are begging on their knees even if it takes a very long time.


When her time was come, that nymph most fair brought forth a child with whom one could have fallen in love even in his cradle, and she called him Narcissus. . . . Cephisus s child had reached his sixteenth year, and could be counted as at once boy and man. Many lads and many girls fell in love with him, but his soft young body housed a pride so unyielding that none of those boys or girls dared to touch him. One day, as he was driving timid deer into his nets, he was seen by that talkative nymph who cannot stay silent when another speaks, but yet has not learned to speak first herself. Her name is Echo, and she always answers back. .. . • So when she saw Narcissus wandering through the lonely countryside, Echo fell in love with him and followed secretly in his steps. The more closely she followed, the nearer was the fire which scorched her: just as sulphur, smeared round the tops of torches, is quickly kindled when aflame is brought near it. How often she wished to make flattering overtures to him, to approach him with tender pleas! • The boy, by chance, had wandered away from his faithful band of comrades, and he called out: "Is there anybody here?" Echo answered: "Here!" Narcissus stood still in astonishment, looking round in every baffled and intrigued by the coldness of Warhol's work; they could not fig-

direction. . . . He looked ure out how the artist felt about his subjects. What was his position? What behind him, and when no one append, cried again: was he trying to say? When they asked, he would simply reply, "I just do it "Why are you avoiding because I like it," or, "I love soup." The critics went wild with their interme? But al he heard pretations: "An art like Warhol's is necessarily parasitic upon the myths of were his own words echoed back StiU he pelted, its time, one wrote; another, The decision not to decide is a paradox that deceived by what he took to is equal to an idea which expresses nothing but then gives it dimension."

be anothers voice, a,d The show was a huge success, establishing Warhol as a leading figure in a said, "Come here, and let new movement, pop art.

us meet! Echo answered: r r

"Let us meet!" Never In 1963, Warhol rented a large Manhattan loft space that he called the again would she reply more Factory, and that soon became the hub of a large entourage—hangers-on, willingly to any sound. To actors, aspiring artists. Here, particularly at night, Warhol would simply make good her words she came out of the wood and wander about, or stand in a corner. People would gather around him, fight made to throw her arms for his attention, throw questions at him, and he would answer, in his non-

round the neck she loved: committal way. But no one could get close to him, physically or mentally;

but he fled from her, crying as he did so, "Away with he would not allow it. At the same time, if he walked by you without giv-

these embraces! I would die ing you his usual "Oh, hi," you were devastated. He hadn't noticed you;

before I would have you perhaps you were on the way out.

touch me!" . . . Thus Increasingly interested in filmmaking, Warhol cast his friends in his scorned, she concealed herself in the woods, Mding movies. In effect he was offering them a kind of instant celebrity (their her shamedface in the "fifteen minutes of fame"—the phrase is Warhol's). Soon people were shelter of the leaves, and competing for roles. He groomed women in particular for stardom: Edie ever since that day she dwells in lonely caves. Yet Sedgwick, Viva, Nico. Just being around him offered a kind of celebrity by still her love remained association. The Factory became the place to be seen, and stars like Judy firmly rooted in her heart, Garland and Tennessee Williams would go to parties there, rubbing elbows pain of having been with Sedgwick, Viva, and the bohemian lower echelons whom Warhol had rejected. . . . • Narcissus befriended. People began sending limos to bring him to parties of their had played with her own; his presence alone was enough to turn a social evening into a scene—

affections, treating her as he even though he would pass through in near silence, keeping to himself and had previously treated other spirits of the waters and leaving early.

the woods, and his male In 1967, Warhol was asked to lecture at various colleges. He hated to admirers too. Then one of talk, particularly about his own art; "The less something has to say," he felt, those he had scorned raised up his hands to heaven "the more perfect it is." But the money was good and Warhol always found and prayed: "May he it hard to say no. His solution was simple: he asked an actor, Allen rnrther fall we hrZ doL Midgette, to impersonate him. Midgette was dark-haired, tan, part Chero-

with him! May he too be kee Indian. He did not resemble Warhol in the least. But Warhol and unable to gain his loved friends covered his face with powder, sprayed his brown hair silver, gave one!" Nemesis heard and him dark glasses, and dressed him in Warhol's clothes. Since Midgette knew granted his righteous nothing about art, his answers to students' questions tended to be as short prayer. . . . • Narcissus, o ' n wearied with hunting in and enigmatic as Warhol's own. The impersonation worked. Warhol may the heat of the day, lay have been an icon, but no one really knew him, and since he often wore down here [by a clear 111 1 . r r -i- 1 ^ .1 t^i 1 1.

dark glasses, even his face was unfamiliar in any detail. The lecture audipool]: for he was attracted ^ J

by the beauy of the piace, ences were far enough away to be teased by the thought of his presence, and by the spring. While and no one got close enough to catch the deception. He remained elusive.

he sought to quench his thirst, another thirst grew

Early on in life, Andy Warhol was plagued by conflicting emotions: he desperately wanted fame, but he was naturally passive and shy "I've always had a conflict," he later said, "because I'm shy and yet I like to take up a lot of personal space. Mom always said, 'Don't be pushy, but let everyone know you're around.' " At first Warhol tried to make himself more aggressive, straining to please and court. It didn't work. After ten futile years he stopped trying and gave in to his own passivity—only to discover the power that withdrawal commands.

Warhol began this process in his artwork, which changed dramatically in the early 1960s. His new paintings of soup cans, green stamps, and other widely known images did not assault you with meaning; in fact their meaning was totally elusive, which only heightened their fascination. They drew you in by their immediacy, their visual power, their coldness. Having transformed his art, Warhol also transformed himself: like his paintings, he became pure surface. He trained himself to hold himself back, to stop talking.

The world is full of people who try, people who impose themselves aggressively. They may gain temporary victories, but the longer they are around, the more people want to confound them. They leave no space around themselves, and without space there can be no seduction. Cold Coquettes create space by remaining elusive and making others pursue them. Their coolness suggests a comfortable confidence that is exciting to be around, even though it may not actually exist; their silence makes you want to talk. Their self-containment, their appearance of having no need for other people, only makes us want to do things for them, hungry for the slightest sign of recognition and favor. Cold Coquettes may be maddening to deal with—never committing but never saying no, never allowing close-ness—but more often than not we find ourselves coming back to them, addicted to the coldness they project. Remember: seduction is a process of drawing people in, making them want to pursue and possess you. Seem distant and people will go mad to win your favor. Humans, like nature, hate a vacuum, and emotional distance and silence make them strain to fill up the empty space with words and heat of their own. Like Warhol, stand back and let them fight over you.

[Narcissistic] women have the greatest fascination for men. . . . The charm of a child lies to a great extent in his narcissism, his self-sufficiency and inaccessibility, just as does the charm of certain animals which seem not to concern themselves about us, such as cats. . . . It is as if we envied them their power of retaining a blissful state of mind—an unassailable libido-position which we ourselves have since abandoned.


in him, and as he drank, he was enchanted by the beautiful reflection that he saw. He fell in love with an insubstantial hope, mistaking a mere shadow for a real body. Spellbound by his own self, he remained there motionless, with fixed gaze, like a statue carved from Parian marble. . . . Unwittingly, he desired himself, and was himself the object of his own approval, at once seeking and sought, himself kindling the flame with which he burned. How often did he vainly kiss the treacherous pool, how often plunge his arms deep in the waters, as he tried to clasp the neck he saw! But he could not lay hold upon himself. He did not know what he was looking at, but was fired by the sight, and excited by the very illusion that deceived his eyes. Poor foolish boy, why vainly grasp at the fleeting image that eludes you? The thing you are seeking does not exist: only turn aside and you will lose what you love. What you see is but the shadow cast by your reflection; in itself it is nothing. It comes with you, and lasts while you are there; it will go when you go, ifgo you can. . . .

• He laid down his weary head on the green grass, and death closed the eyes which so admired their owner's beauty. Even then, when he was received into the abode of the dead, he kept looking at himself in the waters of the Styx. His sisters, the nymphs of the spring, mourned for him, and cut off their hair in tribute to their brother. The wood nymphs mourned him too, and Echo sang her refrain to their lament. • The pyre, the tossing torches, and the bier, were now being prepared, but his body was nowhere to be found Instead of his

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