“I love television. It is the medium I’d most like to shine in. I’m really jealous of everybody who’s got their own show on television. I want a show of my own.” — Andy Warhol
In 1979, Andy Warhol got his wish and was given his own television show on the poky public-access channel called Manhattan Cable. Running for years and with each of the 42 episodes sold to Warhol as slots for around $75 a pop, the artist fumbled his way into televisual infamy. One such episode welcomed the mercurial musical genius, Frank Zappa.
It was 1983, and yet Warhol had still done little to soften the hard edges of a post-modern artist. He was far removed from the cuddly chat show hosts we’re so used to today and was often accompanied by Richard Berlin, who played a vital role in Zappa’s interview. Being a huge fan of the prog-rock God, Berlin offered a warm glow to an otherwise frosty exchange between the artists.
The interview takes place in the boardroom of The Factory and sees Berlin doing all the heavy-lifting of the interview as Zappa and Warhol stare across the room at each other. Their histories have been intertwined and thorny for some time. “I hated Zappa even more than when it started,” said the artist after the interview.
In Warhol’s Diaries he scathingly remembers Zappa’s perceived petulance toward the Velvet Underground “I remember,” Warhol goes on, adding: “When he was so mean to us when the Mothers of Invention played with the Velvet Underground—I think both at the trip, in L.A., and at the Fillmore in San Francisco. I hated him then and I still don’t like him.”
Furthermore, Zappa would make an appearance at a separate show in New York to make a mockery of the VU and Nico. Zappa and The Mothers were attending a concert of Nico’s in New York when the German singer delivered a typically deadpan and dirgey performance.
Zappa, seemingly unimpressed, got up on the stage and sat down behind her organ and began playing a series of out-of-tune and utterly horrendous notes while singing a song about random vegetables. It was a clear shot at Nico.
It’s obvious how this could have upset Warhol. But perhaps the most important issue would be that the two operate on entirely different spectrums. At this time in the eighties, Warhol still managed to wander New York with a sense of bright-eyed wonderment. Conversely, Zappa was beginning to find the nugget of negativity in everything he saw, read, heard or ate, as is obvious in the clip below.
The history of Zappa and Warhol is a long one and now a largely forgotten one. Few remnants of their relationship remain except this clip from a poky public-access show where Andy Warhol interviews Frank Zappa.