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Andy Warhol: Billy Name and the superstar game
As Andy Warhol lay upon the factory floor, profusely bleeding from the bullet wounds administered by actress and author Valerie Solanas, it was Billy Name who clutched him to his breast and supported him, as he supported him throughout his entire star-studded career. From the opening of the factory on East 47th Street in 1962, Warhol thought of Name, his lover, friend and contemporary, as a man who ‘inspired confidence. He gave the impression of being generally creative ... I picked up a lot from Billy.’
Name and Warhol first came into contact in the early days of the 1960s, when the former was working as a lighting designer with Nick Cernovich and playing as a musician at the Theatre of Eternal Music. Name recalls ‘it was the end of the period of the romantic avant-garde bohemia, when artists ‘kept’ younger artists and a male artist would always have a young man around.’ Soon enough, Warhol and Name began a relationship of both professional and personal passion. ‘I started working with Andy when he first got the loft space which became the factory in January 1963’ he tells me. ‘We were friends and lovers for some years before that.’
Name’s work at the factory was famous. It was Name that instigated the iconic ‘silverising’ of the factory, bedecking every inch of the place with tin foil, shattered mirrors and silver ornament - a look Warhol picked up from Name’s identically silverised apartment. As Warhol’s work rocketed to renown, Name became chief photographer at the factory, converting a bathroom into a darkroom and taking up residence in a storage cupboard. Name captured celebrated shots of Warhol’s self-titled superstars in all their avant-garde glory – polished to perfection at legendary parties and orgies, celebrating fake weddings and crashing on the factory’s beloved red sofa after amphetamine-addled adventures.
Even today, Name’s identity is defined by this flurry of photography, his brief capturing of a world of pop, plastic and primary colours. Silk screen prints of his factory photos are to be displayed at the New York Metropolitan museum of art this September. As I question him about his artistic legacy, and the legacy the factory left with him, his role in the Warhol story becomes clear. ‘I was a character at the factory in its day. My work as narrator began after Andy died. Many people are interested in the work and scene of the factory. I respond to these people.’ Warhol created the idea of the fifteen minutes of fame, and it is because of Name’s continuing work that his own legacy has not been lost in the blink and speed of a shutter.