Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni bares all on the Pop art king, in After Andy
In the late 1980s, Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni was living in Andy Warhol’s New York City – or “Warhol Land,” as she calls it. Between regular trips to legendary nightclub Area with the rest of Warhol’s inner circle, this former “It” girl was the last employee (and final “English Muffin”) to be hired at the Factory before Andy Warhol’s death in 1987. Now, with her book, After Andy: Adventures in Warhol Land, Fraser-Cavassoni captures the Pop artist’s impact on the world of art and fashion, and his final moments, all while sharing her own personal experiences in Warhol Land.
From dating Mick Jagger, to handling the aftermath of Warhol’s death, Fraser-Cavassoni’s adventures offer a first-hand peek into what life in the Eighties was really like – in London, New York and Paris. As you’re about to find out: It’s no Mommie Dearest, but it’s definitely a must-read. We briefly met up with the author on her busy book tour for a quick glimpse into one of this summer’s most anticipated memoirs – and most talked-about writers.
COOLS: Your book, After Andy: Adventures in Warhol Land, hit shelves last week. What can you tell us about it?
Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni: [The book] is a memoir using the Pop artist as a thread. I met Andy Warhol when I was sixteen and an “It” girl whose portrait was in British Vogue. My mother was [the writer] Antonia Fraser and my father was the politician Sir Hugh Fraser. After Andy covers London, Los Angeles, New York and Paris until 1994. My aim was to make it an easy, often funny yet informative read. Resembling Warhol’s work, it’s as light or as layered as the reader decides.
COOLS: This isn’t your first time writing about a major icon. Already, you’ve penned nine books about Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Loulou de la Falaise, among others. What inspired you to write After Andy?
NFC: Andy Warhol is the most important icon that I’ve ever written about; a prophet who predicted social media, his influence has had a profound [effect] on every world, from art to fashion to cinema. It was seeing Warhol’s giant “Mao” painting at Chicago’s Art Institute that motivated me. Suddenly, all my Andy memories flooded back, such as meeting him when I was sixteen, or when he wanted me to date an Armani model whose father collected [his work].
Five years [after we met], Andy advised me to write a Mommie Dearest-type autobiography about my childhood. Then I had dinner with him at Mr Chow, after he had attended the Madonna and Sean Penn nuptials. Finally, I had a handshake agreement to work at the Warhol Studio a few hours before he checked into hospital. I became the last person to work at the studio, or the final “English Muffin,” an expression to describe the well-born English women working at the Factory.
COOLS: When you first met Andy Warhol, in the 1980s, he was already a major player in art, fashion and pop culture; what was that experience like?
NFC: When I met Andy, he was not a global phenomenon like he is now. He was the famous Pop artist who had painted Elvis, Marilyn and Jackie Kennedy – a friend of my parents – and the celebrity who hung out at Studio 54 with Halston and Bianca Jagger. I liked [him] immediately; he was charming, very self-effacing and curious, and all these qualities were both attractive and unusual. He kept taking photographs without putting his eye through the lens. I was amazed and pointed this out, but he ignored me and continued! In the mid-80s, due to his MTV program and experiences on “The Love Boat,” he began to become more of a household name.
COOLS: How would you describe the overall atmosphere of Warhol’s world during that time?
NFC: I was a schoolgirl in 1980, and Andy was always travelling with Fred Hughes, his business manager, and relied on Vincent Fremont who ran the administrative side of things. Nevertheless, it was known that cool, well-born English women – like Anne Lambton, Catherine Hesketh (née Guinness) and Geraldine Harmsworth – worked at Warhol’s Factory; they were called the “English Muffins.”
COOLS: And you were the last hire made before Warhol’s death in 1987?
NFC: Yes, I was the very last hire made before Andy died. I was 23 years old, and I was meant to be working on Andy’s MTV program. [We] met for the final time on Thursday and he died on Sunday. At our last meeting, I recall how flustered he was and how he was going through bags; I had no idea he was about to leave for the hospital under the name of Bob Roberts. My first-ever Monday at Warhol Studio, I sat outside Fred Hughes’s office and fielded calls about Andy’s death. The first person was Diane von Furstenberg who was calling from Paris. It was very sad. Everyone was devastated. As the weeks followed, Andy’s memorial was organized – it was held at St Patrick’s Cathedral on April 1, 1987 – and all the early Warhol artwork started coming out of the woodwork.
COOLS: While writing After Andy, you interviewed major art world powerhouses, like Larry Gagosian and Peter Brant, as well as most of Warhol’s inner circle. What did you discover from those conversations?
NFC: That Andy hung the artwork of Jasper Johns and other artists but hid his paintings in the closet. Andy referred to his Sixties work as his “rainy day paintings.” And, to one of his favorite walkers, Wilfredo Rosado, he’d often say, “I’ve got to keep the lights on.”
COOLS: Throughout the book, you share many exciting stories and anecdotes. Which was your most memorable adventure in Warhol Land?
NFC: When I was seventeen, it was extremely exciting to meet Mick Jagger, and then get to know him. Our first date was to a Stevie Wonder concert, and I remember wearing my “seduction outfit” – a tight, cotton sweater and camouflage skirt – that I bought at Kensington Market for under sixty pounds. It was an outfit that lasted a year and had a fabulous success rate.
COOLS: Did any not make the final cut?
NFC: Nothing jumps to mind. My aim was to be as honest as possible.
COOLS: In the years since, you’ve had a remarkable career; you’ve worked with Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, served as the European Arts editor at W and Women’s Wear Daily, and the European Editor at Harper’s Bazaar. Was there any advice from Warhol that continues to push you forward?
NFC: Yes, he was the first to suggest that I write a memoir – but After Andy is far from a Mommie Dearest.
Listen to Natasha reading from her new book, After Andy: Adventures in Warhol Land, here.