Grief has a funny way of creeping up on you. I hadn’t planned on writing this post, but like the tears stinging my cheeks, and the source of my maudlin mood, the words came unexpectedly. Twenty-six years ago today the world lost pop artist Andy Warhol, and my then husband Nick Rhodes lost his dearest friend.
Nick and I were sound asleep at the house we’d rented on Stone Canyon Rd. in Bel Air, California when the phone rang at 7:00AM February 22nd, 1987. I knew something was wrong the minute I heard my mother’s voice warning, “Julie, do not turn on the television. Andy is dead, and you need to tell Nick before he hears it elsewhere.” I felt like someone was standing on my chest pressing all the air from my lungs. I was in such shock I think I put the phone down without uttering a word.
It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, but I gently woke Nick to relay what I’d just been told. Neither one of us could wrap our heads around it – we’d just spoken to Fred Hughes (Andy’s business manager) the night before, and he had assured us that Andy had come through the surgery with flying colors and was doing well. It had been a relief, because we knew how terrified of having the gallbladder surgery Andy had been – he endured acute pain for a long time trying to put it off. It was as if he instinctively knew that surgery would be the end.
Nick called Fred, “is it true?” I knew immediately from the tears streaming down Nick’s cheeks that denial would not shield us from the devastation any longer. “How, what…?” Andy had come through the surgery, and was stable in the intensive care unit of the hospital. We were told that during the night he’d gone into cardiac arrest, and for some unknown reason the nurse on duty did not respond in time. He should not have died, so the senselessness of “why?” made it that much harder to accept.
It was no secret Andy had a huge crush on Nick, but he was also a tremendous mentor, and dear friend. He was also one of my heroes – I bought my first Warhol when I was 16 years old. He was my favorite artist long before I ever met him, and he welcomed me into the inner sanctum of The Factory, and his glamorous world the moment Nick introduced us. In fact, the Interview Magazine engagement announcement I referred to a few posts back had been at Andy’s personal behest. One of the most instantly recognizable faces of his day, rivaled only by Jackie O, and Princess Di – he was also probably the most misunderstood. In spite of his public image, he was a very kind, intelligent, down to earth person whose shy nature was often misread as eccentric (although I believe he enjoyed cultivating that misconception).
New York would never be the same again. You see, Andy didn’t just have his finger on the pulse of the New York scene – to us, he WAS the pulse of New York City. He was always our first call upon arrival, and every night was spent out on the town with him either at Odeon, or holding court at Mr. Chows with his close friend Tina Chow, and then onto the Michael Todd room at Palladium. Nicks 21st birthday party at Studio 54, and my 25th (both arranged by Andy) are still two of the most spectacular parties I’ve ever attended. Those were heady days, I’m so grateful to have been a part of.
Andy also taught us a great deal about business. I’m not saying this pigheaded girl took to it like a duck to water, but much of the success I enjoy today is directly attributable to the wise advice he shared with us back then. He loved to mentor the people he cared for. The memories are smiling through the tears, but I must also honor the sadness of missing a very special friend. Thank you Andy for enriching our lives. I will miss you always.
Seeing Tina Chow’s gorgeous daughter, China Chow backstage at a Duran Duran concert a couple years ago also brought back some wonderful memories of those decadent years. Here’s my rendition of my of my favorite Mr. Chow dishes – Chicken Satay.
Don’t let all the ingredients scare you. It is very easy to make. The great thing about this recipe is that you can taste as you go along, and alter slightly to suit your specific taste. If you don’t care for spicy? Cut back on the Srirracha sauce. Prefer a less sweet flavor? Use less coconut sugar. If you can’t find an ingredient, others are easily substituted, or you can omit some of the spices without losing the complete integrity of the dish – just a little of the complexity.