When Andy Warhol Guest-Starred on The Love Boat (1985)

On Friday, August 31, 1979, Andy Warhol records in his diary that he took a cab to Elaine’s to “meet the guy who might get me a guest appearance on The Love Boat.” But nearly five years pass before he writes that the writers are working on his episode; with the shooting dates set, “I started to get scared, I don’t know if I can go through with it.” A couple of months later, as the appointed time approaches, he hears the plot: “There’s a girl on the boat named Mary with her husband, and she used to be a superstar of mine, and she doesn’t want her husband to know that she used to be ‘Marina Del Rey.’ And I just have a few lines, things like ‘Hello, Mary.’ But one of the lines I have to say is something like ‘Art is crass commercialism,’ which I don’t want to say.”

Whatever his objections to the script, Warhol doesn’t seem to have been an especially difficult participant, of whom The Love Boat must have had more than a few in its 250 episodes. During its run on ABC from 1977 to 1986, the series became an American pop-cultural phenomenon of a scale difficult to comprehend today. But as a connoisseur of American pop culture, Warhol would have comprehended it fully. By the time of his appearance in October 1985, The Love Boat had entered its ninth season, presumably hungrier than ever for attention-grabbing guest stars; on “his” episode, Warhol shares that billing with, among others, Milton Berle, Happy Days‘ Tom Bosley and Marion Ross, and Andy Griffith (who, Warhol notes, “seems bitter to be on The Love Boat“).

“If there was any space where painters and artists could brush shoulders with soap stars and teen idols, it was aboard the Pacific Princess,” says MeTV. “In one episode dedicated to the fashion industry, designers Gloria Vanderbilt, Geoffrey Beene and Halston all came aboard.” Warhol’s coming aboard, then, “was both unexpected and somehow inevitable.” You can witness this surprising yet unsurprising cultural crossover in the video above, which contains just the scenes from Warhol’s story within the episode (which, like most Love Boat scripts, has three different plotlines). Even if it delivers few profound insights into the nature of art, celebrity, and human aspiration, it does capture Warhol’s presence as it seems really to have been during his final years.

“My Stephen Sprouse jackets were there on the wardrobe rack,” Warhol writes in his diary during the shoot. “When I wear them, I think I finally look like people want Andy Warhol to look again.” That must have been true of the shiny silver number he wears in his first scene of the episode, when first he rolls up with his “entourage” to the ship’s reception desk. “As we’re walking off, the Love Boat girl asks Raymond St. Jacques, ‘How does an artist know when a painting is really successful?’ And he says, ‘When the check clears.'” But on one take “they did it wrong and it was better — she said, ‘When is a painting really finished.'” Unfortunately, that version of the line seems to have been a bit too Warholian for the Pacific Princess.

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