Andy Warhol’s 15 Minutes: Discover the Postmodern MTV Variety Show That Made Warhol a Star in the Television Age (1985–87)

“In the future, every­one will be world-famous for 15 min­utes,” said Andy Warhol. Actu­al­ly, no, he didn’t. But Warhol sug­gest­ed to pho­tog­ra­ph­er Nat Finkel­stein that every­one want­ed to be famous, to which Finkel­stein added, “yeah, for 15 min­utes.” It’s a slight­ly dif­fer­ent mean­ing. (The idea first appeared in its well-known form in a 1968 pro­gram for a Warhol exhi­bi­tion in Swe­den.)

Is it true that every­one wants to be famous? It’s cer­tain­ly true that Andy Warhol want­ed to, and for much longer than 15 min­utes. Like the hard­est-work­ing YouTube celebri­ty today, he didn’t wait to be dis­cov­ered but set about mak­ing it hap­pen him­self.

But while he achieved pop art star­dom in the 60s, Warhol tru­ly longed to be on TV, a dream that took a lit­tle longer to mate­ri­al­ize. His first pro­gram, a New York pub­lic-access inter­view show, debuted in 1979, then a sec­ond ver­sion in 1980 (see Richard Berlin inter­view Frank Zap­pa on Andy Warhol’s T.V. in 1983). Over a peri­od of four years, he brought on a host of major celebri­ties, but attract­ed a nec­es­sar­i­ly lim­it­ed audi­ence.

In ’81, Warhol final­ly got a main­stream TV break when he “made his way to NBC,” notes Alexxa Got­thardt, “with a series of spots for Sat­ur­day Night Live…. Warhol’s for­ay into tele­vi­sion allowed him to become even more of a celebri­ty him­self.” His per­sis­tent efforts paid div­i­dends when he joined the nascent 1985 MTV line­up with one of its first non-music-video shows, Andy Warhol’s Fif­teen Min­utes.

As you can see in the pro­mo at the top of the post, the show promised a “ride down­town” and a “ride to the wild side.” It did not dis­ap­point. A sort of post­mod­ern vari­ety show, the pro­gram “put every­body togeth­er,” explains Andy Warhol Muse­um cura­tor Ger­a­lyn Hux­ley, “The high and the low. The rich and the famous. The strug­gling artists and the ris­ing stars.” Just above, you can see Ian McK­ellen recite Shake­speare while garage rock­ers the Flesh­tones play some psy­che­del­ic grooves behind him.

Above, see Deb­bie Har­ry inter­view Court­ney Love, “a flam­boy­ant ris­ing star,” just come from the suc­cess of Sid and Nan­cy.  Fur­ther down, the Ramones bitch about the state of rock and roll in 1987, then play “Bon­zo Goes to Bit­burg,” a scathing response to Ronald Reagan’s dis­turb­ing vis­it to Ger­many on the 40th anniver­sary of V‑E Day. (The song con­tains the line, “You’re a politi­cian don’t become one of Hitler’s chil­dren.”) These are but a tiny sam­pling of the many hun­dreds of artists who traipsed through the sound­stage of Warhol’s show: dozens of peo­ple appeared in a sin­gle episode—as many as 30 guests in some of the lat­er shows.

Run­ning for two years, until his death in 1987, Andy Warhol’s Fif­teen Min­utes intro­duced mil­lions of peo­ple to the artist in just the way he’d always want­ed. “More and more kids were watch­ing MTV,” says his pro­duc­er Vin­cent Fre­mont. “I don’t know if they knew that Andy was a famous artist, but to them he was cer­tain­ly a tele­vi­sion per­son­al­i­ty.” And on TV, Warhol wrote in 1975, a per­son “has all the space any­one could ever want, right there in the tele­vi­sion box.” If you’re Andy Warhol, you also have all the celebri­ty guests any­one could ever want.

See a com­plete list of the five episodes that aired between 1985 and 1987—full of stars, ris­ing stars, and scores of fas­ci­nat­ing unknowns—at

via Art­sy

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Andy Warhol Hosts Frank Zap­pa on His Cable TV Show, and Lat­er Recalls, “I Hat­ed Him More Than Ever” After the Show

Andy Warhol’s Brief Moment of Pro­fes­sion­al Wrestling Fame (1985)

The Case for Andy Warhol in Three Min­utes

The Big Ideas Behind Andy Warhol’s Art, and How They Can Help Us Build a Bet­ter World

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.