Story by SHINAN GOVANI
For Andy Warhol, a man for whom the Who’s Who was just an extension of business hours,
it would only make sense that some social climbing took place, inevitably, at high altitudes.
“Andy loved Aspen,” a trophy wife circa the first moon landing was saying recently as she leaned back on her leather chair inside the exalted lounge of The Little Nell hotel. She knew him then. In remembering Andy Warhol — one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, and certainly America’s most famous celebrity in that realm — the tableau usually shifts to New York City: Andy with Bianca and Liza at Studio 54. Andy holding court
at his Factory, lost in the mists of time with Basquiat et al. Andy moving, gazelle-like, taking Polaroids on any given night in Manhattan.
But for such a relentless cityphile, there was also something about the yawning landscape and endless sky of colorful Colorado that lured him during the 1970s and early ‘80s. That, and the people watching.
After all, he certainly wasn’t going to miss Sonny Bono’s third wedding in 1981 — just one of the calendar entries found in The Andy Warhol Diaries. Held in a snowy chapel in Aspen, the ceremony for Bono and model Susie Coelho was a gossiplover’s delight — and what did Warhol enjoy more than gossip? The preacher flubbed an all important line: “I pronounce you, Sonny and Cherie.” Warhol wrote: “The whole audience gasped and she said, “My name isn’t Cher-ie, it’s Susie.”
No doubt, Mr. Warhol dined off that tale at many a social gathering. In the Aspen portions of his diaries — pages Pat Hackett called “the canvas of an era” — Warhol dropped a lot of names, including those of the day’s it couple, Jack Nicholson and Angelica Huston. In 1984, he claimed a Miami Vice-era Don Johnson “gave the best party I’ve been to since we’ve been coming to Aspen.” He called Johnson’s partner, model Patti D’Arbanville, “the cream of the crop,” then added: “She still can’t dress, though. Never could.” Jack and Jackie’s only daughter also earned an entry: “Saw Caroline Kennedy with that Schlossberg boy,” he wrote, “They’re madly in love.”
Warhol loved Aspen so much that he wound up buying property near it — purchased by trading some paintings for land with the collector John Powers. He also created some work there — images you’ll find in the Aspen chapter of his 1985 book, America.
Perhaps Warhol’s most treasured Aspen moment, however, was his meeting with “The Dowager of Aspen,” as he dubbed Elizabeth (Pussy) Paepcke, an arbiter of the ski town’s high culture movement. After visiting “The Grand Dame” in her Aspen home, Warhol wrote: “She’s 82, and she’s very beautiful, and looks like Katharine Hepburn.” Pussy served the pop artist ginseng tea. Of her neighbor next door, Warhol wrote: “Jack Nicholson’s not around this year. He’s filming that Prizzi’s Honor thing in L.A.”
Did Warhol ever hit the slopes? It’s a question that begs, of course. According to his diaries, he did at least once, at Buttermilk: “I decided to have just simple baby instructors on the baby slope,” he wrote. “All these two-year-olds skiing with me … but I was so tense.” At Buttermilk, Warhol said he fell three times, yet he didn’t seem to mind too much.
“The idea of falling was more fun than skiing because you fall right into the snow, and it’s really fun.” Indeed, Andy loved Aspen.