The Fake Warhol Lectures

So this week I gave a lecture about how collectors and the market get weird with art at the University of Utah. It was a lot of fun for me, and it seemed to go over alright. I took as a point of reference an earlier, well-known lecture at the UofU by Robert Smithson, the audio of which has posthumously been repackaged--without much justification, based on my research--into Hotel Palenque, a "multimedia installation" work that was purchased by the Guggenheim Museum.

phony_warhol_uofu_013168.jpg

It was only during a post-game wrapup with Prof. Monty Paret, the contemporary art historian who invited me, that I learned Hotel Palenque was only the university's second most infamous artist lecture. After the famous Fake Andy Warhol lecture tour of 1967, that is.

In 1967, Warhol agreed to take a cross-country college lecture tour organized by the American Program Bureau. His appearance at the University of Utah was scheduled for October 2, and created "a mild furor," according to the campus paper, The Daily Utah Chronicle. [One of Monty's students, Michelle Condrat, researched the lecture history, including the series of articles of the Daily Chronicle's investigation.]

From the lecture to the reception following, several people were suspicious that it was not, in fact, Warhol, but an impostor. The school held off on payment of the $1,000 speaking fee for several months. Then on January 31, 1968, after comparing photos of the U's speaker with film footage of the artist, the Chronicle announced "Phony Warhol Suspected, Film Reveals Hoax On U". It took about a week for Warhol--via then-manager Paul Morrissey--to come clean.

The impostor--who did not actually look anymore like Warhol than anyone with a shaggy silver 'do and a pair of Wayfarers--turned out to be Allen Midgette, a young actor and Warhol posse member who appeared a couple of months later in Warhol's Lonesome Cowboys. [Shooting for Lonesome Cowboys took place in Arizona at the end of January 1968, just as the UofU story picked up.] He appeared in the artist's place at the University of Oregon; Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore.; and at the Univ. of Montana in Missoula.

uchron_warhol_midgette_0268.jpg

The one-line mention of sending a double on a lecture tour is in Warhol's art history bio, but I've never seen or heard any details of how the lectures appeared from the duped audience's standpoint, nor how the impostor was unmasked, largely due to the doubts of people at the University of Utah and the investigations of the school paper.

The Chronicle articles are very focused on recognizing Warhol, getting Morrissey to come clean, and what should happen to the $1,000 fee. There's very little about the content of the lecture or even about Warhol's art generally beyond a couple of namechecks of Campbell's Soup.

I'll excerpt the Daily Chronicle articles below.

Suspicions started early about the fake Warhol. Here are some excerpts from Sylvia Kronstadt's first Daily Chron article on Jan 31, 1968 [actually, it's the whole thing. I couldn't stop transcribing, it's too good]:

Andy Warhol, the controversial "Peter Pan of Pop Art" acutally may never have appeared at the University, reports Paul A. Cracroft, director of Lectures and Concerts.

Although a mop-headed "swinger" who claimed to be Warhol created a mild furor during and after an appearance in the Union Ballroom Oct. 2, extensive evidence has suggested he was not Warhol "in the flesh."

His presentation was the first cause for suspicion. Advertised as an "illustrated lecture," the program consisted of a polemical film and a stale question and answer period during which "Warhol" was hardly the brilliant and dynamic genius his advertising indicated. To the question "What role do you play in the production of your films?" he replied carelessly, "I start them, I think."

Non-Warhol Has Dinner
At a reception after the program, two members of the Art Department staff who had met Warhol in New York claimed the artist and "guest of honor" was not Warhol. "I decided I'd better hold on to the $1,000 check until we were certain of his identity, "Mr. Cracroft recalls. "The contract had specified Warhol himself must appear."

Several weeks later a New York phoographer and good personal friend of Warhol was at the University in conjuneciton with the Repertory Dance program. "He informed us Warhol had told him that he'd never been out West and was laughing about his big purported appearance," Mr. Cracrof remarks. The photographer was shown numerous pictures of the man who appeared at the University. "That's not Warhol," he stated. "He's too young and too goodlooking."

Mr. Cracroft then went to New York for a convention and asked Warhol's manager Paul Morrissey if he could meet Warhol to determine if it was actually he who had appeared. Morrissey agreed, but Warhol never showed up, claiming he was too busy.

Films Don't Lie
Mr. Cracroft later obtained a documentary film from Indiana University, which featured Warhol. After comparing this with the photos taken here, Cracroft and a KUTV newsman agreed he was not the same man who had appeared here in October.

Warhol already had his money--he was paid in advance. BUt the American PRogram Bureau is still out $1,000. "We have excellent relations with the Bureau, and feel sure that they knew nothing of the alleged masquerade, Mr. Cracroft states. "We thinkg Warhol probably pulled a fast one on them and on us."

Someone claiming to be Andy Warhol, "the man who took Campbell's Soup out of the kitchen" has also appeared at univerisities in Oregon and Arizona. But, then again, Andy Warhol has never been 'out West.'

Two days later, on Feb. 2, Angelyn Nelson, Junior Editor-in-Chief, appears to have taken over the story. I'll post those article transcripts, including a phoner where the journalist wrings a confession out of Paul Morrissey, separately.

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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first published: April 6, 2007.

next older post:
Signs That Sforza Has Left The Building

next newer post:
Part II: Ute Reporters Scalp Warhol Over Fake Lectures

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