Every morning, almost without fail, Warhol told Pat Hackett (aka "the Diary") of his experiences the previous day, starting in November 1976 and ending a few days before his death on February 22 1987. His diary entries generated more than 20,000 pages of manuscript, which Hackett has whistled down to the 808 pages found here. Warhol had originally angled her to work for him for free by saying - in that half-manipulative way so common of his treatment of his employees - that it would only take 5 minutes each day.
These diaries offer a fascinating insight into New York society at that time. John Lennon is fatally shot by a crazed fan; Michael Jackson's fame reaches global proportions; Madonna marries Sean Penn; Robert De Niro becomes a hugely successful filmstar; Cher storms the charts; Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Schriver tie the knot...Warhol comments on all of these events - sometimes favourably, often bitchily, and seldom emotionally. His deadpan humour threads through the entries: "I hung up on a few people, but it'll be good for their memoirs" (July 20 1981). At home on East 66th Street with his two dachshunds Archie and Amos, he tells Hackett: "The dog had peed on my bed and I beat him up" (March 13 1984). After a Newsweek party, he remarks nonchalantly: "it was boring...No stars. Just Nancy Reagan and President and Mrs Carter" (February 7 1983).
Warhol could be snobbishly spiteful when indulging in society gossip: of Liz Taylor, he says she "looked like a bellybutton. Like a fat little Kewpie doll" (March 6 1978); of Sophia Loren, he asks, "didn't she just f*$! her way to the top?" (September 20 1977) and of sometime friend Bianca Jagger, he was just exasperated: "God, she's dumb" (May 2 1985). For Jean Stein, author of the biography of Edie Sedgwick that put Warhol down, he cannot even summon enough energy for a double-edged remark, settling for: "I just hate her" (March 15, 1982). Warhol could be especially cruel about weight gain: seeing Elton John perform at Madison Square Garden, he cannot help himself - "oh God, is he fat" (September 13 1986); Boy George doesn't fare any better: "I just couldn't like him...Boy George is so fat" (November 22 1984); and he is even harder on Robert De Niro after he put on 30 kilos for his role in Scorsese's Raging Bull: "he looks so ugly. He must be crazy, because he's really fat" (December 31 1979). Warhol himself was borderline anorexic, he monitors his weight almost daily, cursing himself for indulging in junk food: "I was being good and not eating" (August 27 1979); "I'm not anorexic anymore, but I want to be" (April 27 1982). He was an artist utterly obsessed with appearances - he was fascinated by Truman Capote's facelift, for example, and is acidic about Patti Smith and Jerry Hall having bad bodily odour when he meets them.
His values (at least his social ones) become clearer as the pages of this tome unravel: what he adores is beauty, fame, fashion, a good body and - perhaps above all - money, especially inherited wealth. When stars fall off the radar or die, Warhol quickly loses interest. Capote (a man with whom he had shared many a dinner and a degree of friendship) dies and he has to force himself to go to his memorial. Ex-superstars of the Factory phone up (Paul America, Ingrid Superstar, Ivy Nicholson) and he either doesn't take their calls or he denies knowing them, even though they appeared in his movies in the 1960s. He is adept - and it seems, he would have been one of the first to admit it - at taking the benefits without the responsibility.
Yet Warhol could also be so crushingly rejecting of himself, not only of others. Being cold-shouldered by gay lovers like Jed Johnson and Jon Gould sends him into bouts of depression, during which traumatic recollections of being shot by radical feminist Valerie Solanas in 1968 frequently resurface. Watching one of his occasional TV appearances, he reaches the conclusion: "I'm just a freak. I can't change it. I'm too unusual" (January 25 1983). Critics accused him in his final years of no longer being a serious artist, but instead a society figure who would do portraits for almost any famous person upon commission. He would seem to have recognised it himself two years before his death: "I guess I'm a commercial artist. I guess that's the score" (April 25 1985).
But then: "Really, what is life about? You get sick and die. That's it. So you've just got to keep busy" (26 March 1986).