Allen Midgette, an Ersatz Andy Warhol, dies at 82
Andy Warhol died in 1987. The guy people heard at the 1967 Pop Art conferences and thought Andy Warhol died at his home in Woodstock, NY on Wednesday
His name was Allen Midgette, and he was an actor recruited by Warhol to impersonate him on a speaking tour, in one of the strangest episodes of Warhol’s defining career.
Mr. Midgette, his hair painted and powdered in silvery white and his face covered in pale makeup, posed as Warhol in several colleges with Warhol’s blessing, answering questions after Warhol movie screenings, though he rarely responds with anything specific. Whether the stunt was a simple farce or a piece of Warholian performance art commenting on media identity and manipulation has been debated since.
Mr. Midgette died of cardiopulmonary disease, said Raymond Foye, a writer and artistic curator who was also his health care attorney. He was 82 years old.
Mr. Midgette succeeded in his imitation at a time when Warhol’s reputation had started to spread beyond New York City, but where, for most of the United States, he was still more of a vague concept than a recognizable personality. . This helped Mr. Midgette when he embarked on a tour presented as illustrated lectures on “Pop Art in Action”, especially when it came to answering questions from the audience.
âThe only thing I knew about Andy was you could answer any question however you wanted and that would be good,â he said in an interview Mr. Foye conducted for a issue of Gagosian Quarterly last year. âIt might not have been the same thing he would have said, but it would make just as much sense. “
Reporters from the University of Utah student newspaper The Daily Chronicle were apparently the first to confirm that the man who spoke to a large crowd there in October 1967 was not Warhol. Mr. Midgette’s appearance had left many onlookers unhappy, some in the art faculty were suspicious, and a few weeks later when a photographer from New York who knew Warhol was on campus and that one showed him photographs of the speaker, he allegedly remarked, âIt’s not Warhol. He is too young and too handsome.
In January 1968, The Chronicle published an article titled “Phony Warhol Suspected, Film Reveals Hoax on U”. A few days later, The Eugene Register-Guard (Mr. non-Warhol had also appeared at the University of Oregon in that town) got Warhol to admit the ruse and explain it, in a way.
âHe was better than me,â the artist said. âHe was what people expected. They loved him better than they would have loved me.
Minor fury ensued once the deception was exposed, with some institutions vexed at the lecturer fees they paid. Mr. Midgette, at least, got a preview of the episode, noting that even people he met on the speaking tour who had met the real Warhol were taken care of.
“It made me realize how many things in life people assume,” he told Mr. Foye. “Just because you’ve met Andy twice, does that mean you remember exactly what he looked like and what he would look like under different circumstances?” If you are told it’s Andy and everyone accepts it, you’ll agree. It shows you how people just aren’t very curious about what’s in front of them.
Allen Joseph Midgett – he added an E to the surname later – was born on February 2, 1939 in Camden, NJ. Her father, Jarvis Midgett, was a ship captain in the Army Corps of Engineers and later harbor master in North Carolina and her mother, Dorothy (Jones) Midgett, was a housewife.
As a young man, he lived in New York and studied acting, “although classes only taught him to be more neurotic about acting,” a 2006 profile in the Chronogram newspaper said. He auditioned for the role of Tony in the film version of “West Side Story” from 1961, according to this article, but ended up as an extra.
He lived in Italy for a while and appeared there in several films, including “The Grim Reaper” by Bernardo Bertolucci (1962, the director’s first feature film) and “Before the Revolution” (1964). In 1965 he returned to New York and worked at Arthur, the Manhattan nightclub, where, that year, he met Warhol, who saw him in “Before the Revolution” and invited him to make films. with him. Mr. Midgette became part of the scene at The Factory, Warhol’s studio, although he told Chronogram he hadn’t been as immersed there as some of Warhol’s superstars.
In early 1967, he said, Paul Morrissey, Warhol’s assistant and collaborator, approached him with a request: would he go to the Rochester Institute of Technology the next day and pose as Warhol during a screening of one of his films? The $ 600 offered by Mr. Morrissey sealed the deal.
âI knew Andy enough to know that I didn’t have to worry about talking too much, because he didn’t,â Mr. Midgette said. “And I knew I could deal with people a lot easier than him, because I did.”
Mr. Morrissey accompanied him to help keep the ruse on track. The deception went well enough that Mr. Midgette was then booked for a four-stop tour of Western colleges: the University of Utah, the University of Oregon, the University of Montana at Missoula and Linfield College (now Linfield University) in McMinnville, Ore.
In Montana, students showed him around local apartments and studios and tried to convince him to move there. In Eugene, the students asked him to sign their card projects. The Register-Guard reported that after this appearance, the number of registrations for a course on underground films at the university had increased from 65 to 350.
Mr. Midgette has also appeared in Warhol films, including “The Nude Restaurant” (1967) and “Lonesome Cowboys” (1968). And he continued to wear the Warhol disguise on occasion, even playing Warhol in a 1991 Italian film, “Suffocating Heat”. His acting career, however, was limited. In his later years he produced works of art of all kinds.
Mr. Midgette is survived by a sister, Sylvia Taylor. A brother, Jarvis, died aged 20 from a football injury.
Although Mr. Midgette sometimes used his reputation as a Warhol lookalike, in the Chronogram interview he expressed his ambivalence about his most well-known role.
âI helped Andy to be recognized,â he said, âbut he helped me to remain unrecognized.â
Alain Delaqueriere contributed to the research.