Watch Andy Warhol Eat an Entire Burger King Whopper–While Wishing the Burger Came from McDonald’s (1981)

In the ear­ly 1980s, Dan­ish exper­i­men­tal film­mak­er Jør­gen Leth came to Amer­i­ca intent on cap­tur­ing it live as it was actu­al­ly lived across that vast, still-new, and often strange coun­try. The result, 66 Scenes from Amer­i­ca, offers images of road­side motels and din­ers, desert land­scapes, the Man­hat­tan sky­line, miles of lone­ly high­way, and stars and stripes aplen­ty. Halfway through it all comes the longest, and per­haps most Amer­i­can, scene of all: Andy Warhol eat­ing a fast-food ham­burg­er. A few moments after he accom­plish­es that task, he deliv­ers the film’s most mem­o­rable line by far: “My name is Andy Warhol, and I just fin­ished eat­ing a ham­burg­er.”

“Leth did not know Warhol, but he was a bit obsessed with him so he def­i­nite­ly want­ed to have him in his movie,” writes Dai­l­yArt’s Zuzan­na Stan­s­ka. And so when Leth came to New York, he sim­ply showed up at Warhol’s Fac­to­ry and pitched him the idea of con­sum­ing a “sym­bol­ic” burg­er on film. “Warhol imme­di­ate­ly liked the idea and agreed to the scene – he liked it because it was such a real scene, some­thing he would like to do.”

When Warhol showed up at the pho­to stu­dio Leth had set up to shoot the scene, com­plete with a vari­ety of fast-food ham­burg­ers from which he could choose, he had only one ques­tion: “Where is the McDon­ald’s?” Leth had­n’t thought to pick one up from the Gold­en Arch­es as well, not know­ing that Warhol con­sid­ered McDon­ald’s pack­ag­ing “the most beau­ti­ful.”

Warhol had a deep inter­est in Amer­i­can brands. “What’s great about this coun­try is that Amer­i­ca start­ed the tra­di­tion where the rich­est con­sumers buy essen­tial­ly the same things as the poor­est,” he wrote in The Phi­los­o­phy of Andy Warhol. “You can be watch­ing TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the Pres­i­dent drinks Coke, Liz Tay­lor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of mon­ey can get you a bet­ter Coke than the one the bum on the cor­ner is drink­ing. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good.” Sure­ly the same could be said of any par­tic­u­lar fast-food burg­er, even if Warhol could­n’t have his pre­ferred brand on that par­tic­u­lar day in New York in 1981. In the event, he chose a Whop­per from Burg­er King, still a well-known brand if hard­ly as icon­ic as McDon­ald’s — or, for that mat­ter, as icon­ic as Warhol him­self.

Above, you can see Leth talk­ing years lat­er about his expe­ri­ence film­ing Warhol.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

130,000 Pho­tographs by Andy Warhol Are Now Avail­able Online, Cour­tesy of Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty

When Steve Jobs Taught Andy Warhol to Make Art on the Very First Mac­in­tosh (1984)

Andy Warhol Dig­i­tal­ly Paints Deb­bie Har­ry with the Ami­ga 1000 Com­put­er (1985)

Warhol’s Cin­e­ma: A Mir­ror for the Six­ties (1989)

The Case for Andy Warhol in Three Min­utes

Ernest Hemingway’s Favorite Ham­burg­er Recipe

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (7)
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  • Bill W. says:

    Mes­mer­iz­ing the watch, I was actu­al­ly sur­prised he fin­ished it! Weird how he dipped with the ketchup though.

  • Mike c says:

    Very inter­est­ing to watch, though I must say Andy seems a tri­fle dis­ap­point­ed, Am I wrong or is he strug­gling to com­plete the burg­er? Not sure I have ever seen any­one enjoy the expe­ri­ence less!

  • Patrick O says:

    That seems like a very small Whop­per bun and pat­ty to me. B/K was my favorite fast food out­let in the 1980’s and I would ven­ture to say that Mr. Warhol is more like­ly eat­ing a plain ham­burg­er from B/K and not a Whop­per. Yes, I saw that it was in a Whop­per box, but I have to believe that some­one put a small­er B/K plain ham­burg­er in the Whop­per box for artis­tic pur­pos­es.

    1. That burg­er is SMALL com­pared to the clas­sic Whop­per.
    2. The Whop­per sand­wich has ALWAYS had a sesame seed bun. The burg­er in the wrap­per has a plain bun.
    3. The Whop­per has LOTS of messy extras, and this burg­er is plain.

    Now, one might right­ly observe that B/K’s mem­o­rable jin­gle notes clear­ly that spe­cial orders do not upset them as a cor­po­rate food enti­ty, and the film mak­er may have tai­lored the ingre­di­ents to suit Andy’s par­tic­u­lar tastes. But then, if he knew his tastes, why neglect the McD’s burg­er, which pains are tak­en to tell us he most enjoyed?

    If you order a Whop­per and ask for a plain bun, hold ALL of the oth­er ingre­di­ents save the bun and pat­ty, I would argue on those grounds alone that this was NOT a Whop­per. It’s anal­o­gous to spe­cial order­ing the Ford auto­mo­tive com­pa­ny to build you a truck using ONLY Pin­to parts. The result would be a low­ly Pin­to, not a Ford truck, even if they tacked on a “F150” plate on the rear hatch door.

    That said, I am now dis­tinct­ly desirous of a Triple Whop­per, no onions. Except my wife made pork chops for din­ner and she’d be mighty angry with me.

    Dang it.

  • Patrick O says:

    Hav­ing now watched the director’s recount­ing of the film, I believe that the choice of plain burg­er and plain bun is in line with his desire to present a “neu­tral” set of props. Strange that he regrets not giv­ing Andy a glass of water, but has no com­punc­tion in with­hold­ing a nice SODA instead. By God, a burg­er WITHOUT a soda — Mr. Warhol did NOT need to scrimp on calo­ries, for good­ness sake! So a dry, sesame seed-less — no doubt room tem­per­a­ture — ham­burg­er prob­a­bly led to Andy NOT eat­ing all of his burg­er. It wasn’t so much his thin neck that caused him to strug­gle to eat the burg­er. Dude was dehy­drat­ed after the fourth bite. Come on!

    Poor guy couldn’t ful­ly eat one small burg­er. He was care­ful to say he “fin­ished eat­ing” a ham­burg­er. Note well he did not say he “fin­ished a ham­burg­er.” I mean, if I’m eat­ing a Whop­per, I eat all of it — then I lick the wrap­per if no one’s watch­ing (pro tip). And, there is a soda to help. Deli­cious (pork chops…dang it).

    My Doc­tor says I shouldn’t eat like I do, but that guy is cru­el. He recent­ly asked me at an appoint­ment to open my mouth and say “oink.” Come on!

    BTW, the duo behind Good Myth­i­cal Morn­ing, Rhett and Link, do their own ver­sion of this Warhol/hamburger film. Up to today I did not know the inspi­ra­tion.

    Good set of videos you’ve post­ed. Thanks

  • Patrick O says:

    Hon­est­ly, I wish Warhol had lived a long life. He was one of the most out­ra­geous­ly inter­est­ing peo­ple of the 20th cen­tu­ry.

  • submandave says:

    Indeed. It was so noto­ri­ous­ly large that the adver­tis­ing catch phrase was, “It takes two hands to han­dle a Whop­per.”

  • Liana says:

    thanks for info

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