David Bowie meets Andy Warhol

David Bowie met artist and filmmaker Andy Warhol on 10 September 1971.

Bowie was in New York to sign a contract with RCA Records. The following day he was taken to The Factory, Warhol’s studio at 33 Union Square West in Manhattan.

He was taken there by Tony Zanetta, who had appeared in Warhol’s play Pork at London’s Roundhouse the previous month. Also invited to The Factory was Bowie’s wife Angie, his manager Tony Defries, and guitarist Mick Ronson.

Zanetta became Bowie’s handler in New York, taking him to parties and introducing him to key figures in the city. At the time Defries hoped that Warhol would join Bowie on a future US tour, to give credence to the singer, but the approach was unsuccessful.

I remember a space done in aluminum foil and a bunch of incredibly pale people lounging around in various states approaching coma, squeezing out the occasional nihilistic statement or existentialist non sequitur or meaningless triviality (the closer to coma and meaninglessness, the hipper). I remember nobody paying even the slightest attention to me – I might as well have been wood, or nonreflective wallpaper – and I recall many moments of silent, relatively acute social discomfort before David took the initiative and played a tape of his new song ‘Andy Warhol’ to its subject.

That broke the silence, but only temporarily. Andy got up and left the room without a word just after the last note.

There was some doubt, unexpressed of course, as to whether or not that signaled the end of our encounter, but Andy returned after a few minutes, said, ‘That was great, thank you,’ in that little windup-toy-faggot voice of his, and then applied himself, in silence, to the task of taking Polaroids of David, peeling them off one by one, and laying them out before him on a coffee table.

Angela Bowie
Backstage Passes

In addition to Warhol taking photos of Bowie, reportedly focusing mainly on his bright yellow patent leather shoes, part of the encounter was filmed in black and white by a member of the artist’s retinue. Bowie later said of the encounter: “He had nothing to say at all, absolutely nothing.”

In the evening Bowie and Ronson met Lou Reed at Max’s Kansas City.

Last updated: 6 April 2023
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