Who are you?
My name is Gerard Malanga and I am a poet and a photographer and a film maker, and I have been at it, started writing poetry in 1959, published my first works in 1962, in 1963. I was introduced to Andy Warhol who hired me as his silk-screen assistant and we silked-screened many important paintings between 1963 to 1967 and a little bit into 1968.
I grew up in the Bronx, I was a first generation American Italian. Grew up in very modest circumstances, went to an art high school, studied Graphic and advertising design. I started writing poetry in my senior year, all of a sudden I realized I was discovering a secret language that seemed much more interesting than what I was doing, in comparing me going into the work force of Madison Avenue. So I decided I wanted to become a poet, more glamorous, not realizing that I wasn’t going to make any money out of it. Three years after I graduated high school, I met Andy Warhol, and he asked me to come to work for him, because he realized I had silk-screening experience and he needed someone to help him silk screen his paintings. And so what started out as a summer job, because I was in college at the time, wound up being a job for seven years.
Tell me first about how you met Andy and what your early impressions were?
I met (Andy) through a mutual friend, a poet named Charles Henri Ford, and Charles knew of my artistic background and my skills at silk-screening, so Charles is really the catalyst that brought Andy and me together. Charles was living in New York, but he also had an atelier in Paris on the Ile St. Louis, so he was going back and forth. He lived in the Dakota, his sister lived in the Dakota, Ruth Ford, an actress, and she was married to Zachary Scott, who was a really wonderful man, whom I knew quite well. So Charles lived a charmed life.
So the first time you met Andy?
My actual meeting with Andy occurred in, I would say in November 1962 at a party at the home of Marie Mencken and Willard Maas, who were film makers, husband and wife film makers, and Willard was also my English professor at College. Andy was brought to their party by Charles Heni Ford who many months later was the one who was the catalyst to arrange for Andy and I to meet. That would be early June of 1963. So actually my early impressions of Andy, I was not really impressed, I kind of snubbed him at this party. I was more interested in the poets. I did not even know who Andy Warhol was at this time.
I don’t even think Andy knew who he was. The pop art movement was still on the runway; it was still waiting to take off, so none of them were really famous at that time. They were just starting out all of them, including Andy. So I had no sense of who Andy was, except when I went back to his house the first day we worked together, I saw some of his Campbell Soup Can artworks in the living room, although Andy was not really famous at that point. So I Started working for Andy in June of ’63.