I'm going to need a new copy of the Andy Warhol Diaries in a year or two. The binding on my current copy is really creased from periodic re-examinations. For me, the highpoints of this book are in the 1977 - late 1978 sections, and the early 80s (1982 - 1984). There seemed to be a constant energy in the entries in those years.
Prior to Steve Rubell's (owner of Studio 54) arrest for tax evasion, the entries were dominated by descriptions of New York City nightlife and name dropping. In 1982, there seemed to be a renaissance of social activity, albeit tempered, with a new group of regulars (Chris Makos and his boyfriend Peter, Jon Gould, etc.). AIDS was originally referred to as "gay cancer." What is striking me most in this re-reading of the Diaries is how much has been left out. There are a lot of gaps, especially when it comes to Warhol's personal relationships. For an overview of NYC's nightlife and artworld circa 1977 - early 1987, this book is essential. Social and popular culture historians will delight at Warhol's wry observations of celebrities and superstars in his immediate sphere. I remember when this book was first published, without an index. That was, in retrospect, a public relations coup. People were forced to comb through the volume to see who merited a mention.
Sadly, many of the Diary's notables came to a bad end: Andy himself died unexpectedly - and prematurely - after gall bladder surgery in February 1987. Jed Johnson died in the TWA plane crash in 1996. Steve Rubell, Jon Gould, Robert Hayes, Keith Haring, Halston, and so many others died of complications from AIDS. Jean-Michel Basquiat died from a drug overdose. Truman Capote died, relatively young, after decades of alcohol and drug abuse. Berry Berenson (Marisa Berenson's sister and one-time wife of Anthony Perkins) died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Despite the "gaps" I referred to previously, this volume is a remarkably fluid, entertaining document spanning a ten-year period. Pat Hackett did an admirable job in compiling and editing this massive tome into a readable, fascinating, and enduring pop-culture history. Warhol describes creating "time capsules," where he would throw items dating from a certain year into a box and then storing it for years before opening it again. Invariably, upon opening the time capsule, he would become transfixed in its contents. That is what this book is like at its best.
If you are at all interested in Warhol's work -- either as artist or observer -- this book is a must. Given its size and scope, this is not a book you will read from cover to cover, but, rather, one to be skimmed through, referred to again and again, and enjoyed each time you do. Warhol emerges as an immensely likable figure: funny, whimsical, shy, insecure, and very smart, despite his disingenuous protestations to the contrary.