Sunday, March 12, 2006
A Conversation between Andy Warhol and Thomas Jefferson
Time: The Present
Okay, nobody believes in hell anymore, not even the folks who live there, so how about Purgatory, that's a place we all know well, a "netherland" not unlike the Michael Jackson ranch only several hundred thousand feet above the clouds perhaps.
Well then, here you have it, two of America's best known, and most loved figures, Thomas Jefferson (aka "Tommy") and Andy Warhol (aka "Andy") Here they are stretched out on a couple of chaise lounges overlooking a pool, Lethe?, sweating their backs off. Andy has picked up quite the tan, and Tommy finds that he looks more like John Malkovich without his wig, and has shaved his head like Yul Brennar. They're both sipping Tequilla sunrises, and fanning themselves, while geisha girls posing as angels pass trays of hors d'oeuvres.
TOMMY: Too bad you and I couldn't hang out in the same century.
ANDY: Yeah, I'll bet you're a helluva poker player.
TOMMY: We hear from Jack Kennedy that the best poker game of all is upstairs.
ANDY: Wish I could have shot you.
TOMMY: I beg your pardon?
ANDY: Filmed you.
TOMMY: Whatever for?
ANDY: I'd like to ask you a lot of questions about America.
TOMMY: You can ask now. We have front row seats; in fact,
we have an even better view from here than we had when we were
in body. What is it you want to know?
Tommy gets up and walks over to the side of the pool, yawns broadly, and points into space.
ANDY: What happened to democracy?
TOMMY: Nothing happened to it. It never existed, except on paper.
ANDY: What happened to the paper it existed on?
TOMMY: Which one? The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution?
You disappoint me, Warhol, you're asking some big questions.
ANDY: Why don't we start with the Bill of Rights.
TOMMY: Oh, jeez, you ought to know the answer to that better than
I. You lived through the Nixon years. It got shredded
remember in that bungled burglary. Speaking of Dick, he
stopped by last week, said his bursitis is still killing him.
ANDY: Ha! so even if life isn't fair, death is.
TOMMY: No, if death were fair you and I wouldn't be roasting in Purgatory
ANDY: Another big question for a big mind. What do you think of America in, oh, say,
TOMMY: Hmmmmm.... from where I sit, there's still a color war, only now
it's between red states and blue states, as well as black and white. And there's
still slavery, of sorts, in our factories.
ANDY: Do you see a Civil War?
TOMMY: I don't have crystal balls, my friend, but this I can say, there's nothing civil about it.
The land of the buffalo has been
replaced by barbarians. Free enterprise has been devoured by
corporate monopolies, and consolidation. Usury, and greed, have
replaced honor, and ethics. We've got plenty of weight lifters, but no gravitas. It's all about"bottom line," and this is where the bottom line gets you, after all, now isn't it?
ANDY: What do you think about the Supreme Court annointing
-er, appointing, a president?
TOMMY: A dangerous precedent, that.
ANDY: And what about what happened four years later in Ohio?
TOMMY: Elections have been, pretty much, an under the table
thing going back to the beginning, but the difference
in '06, is that big business is in the game,
and those who fought the first revolution have now
joined the growing ranks of disenfranchised. Freedom
has been outsourced, in America, along with justice.
I warned about tyranny of the mind, and
a dictatorship of ideas, two hundred years ago.
Why do you think I said that
America needs a revolution every twenty odd years?
Trouble is, even social change is the victim of
conspicuous consumption. Maybe on account of all the
disruption, people just zone out. What is that great
Billy Yeats line----"the best lack all conviction while the worst are filled
with passionate intensity."
ANDY: You saw Yeats here?
TOMMY: Oh, he just stops by, from time to time, and doesn't live here.
He tells me he's one of a focus group that gets a passport to
travel from realm to realm in exchange for writing the occasional
op-ed piece. Walt Whitman is part of that group, too.
Walt and I had lunch last week---that guy eats like a bird. He
tells me he watched Marlon Brando shoot pool with James Dean, about a month ago; he thinks the best thing about being dead is he gets to be an eternal anachronism.
ANDY: Not to mention an oxymoron! (pause)
I've been waiting to see Marilyn for years now.
TOMMY: Trust me, you won't run into her. She graduated, from
what I'm told. It pays to be connected, even in these parts.
ANDY: Why can't we see the future? Is that what it means to be damned, not
to be able to see ahead, but only behind and to the side.
TOMMY: What a dumb question. Of course not. The living can't see
what's ahead any better than we can.
ANDY: If you could go back to earth, even for 15 minutes, what would you
TOMMY: Oh, I dunno, I'd probably get laid.
ANDY: Apart from that, if you could make a State of the Union Address, what
would you say?
TOMMY: Put down your rice krispies, America, storm clouds are brewing, and the rain
isn't far behind.
ANDY; 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall?"
TOMMY: Bob Dylan? Not bad, but I prefer "Sailing to Byzantium" myself. I'm sure
we'll run into Bob, sooner or later, probably playing chess with Jack Kerouac,
Allen Ginsberg, and that Spanish fellow, Garcia Lorca. Poets get an automatic passport
in the afterlife.
ANDY: They should, they get shit on in the other life. (pause) I hear that
only poets get to dance with the angels.
TOMMY: Yeah, if they can find them, that is.
ANDY: Close your eyes, for a minute, and make believe you're in
a large auditorium at Georgetown University, in March, 2006,
with cameras on you, and millions of people hanging on
your every word---what would you tell them,
Mr. J, if you could say one thing before coming
TOMMY: Now, now, for the last time will you call me Tommy, please.
After all, we have true democracy here!
I'd say"Take back the streets, they're your streets,
take back the halls of justice, they're your halls, take back
the Congress, and send the Imposters on their way!"
ANDY: Can I quote you on that?
TOMMY: No, but you can try.
ANDY: Amen, Mr. President, amen...
Jayne Lyn Stahl
Walnut Creek, California
March 12, 2006
Dedicated, in loving memory,to Jack Kerouac who would have turned 84 today; born March 12, 1922