Andy Warhol -or- Marilyn Monroe in The Dream Factory

The Andy Warhol Diaries -or- Marilyn Diptych

"The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol" was published in 1971. Nine years earlier, apparently just after he opened "The Factory", Warhol created "Marilyn Diptych" in memory of Marilyn Monroe. The calendar year 1962 was an eventful one; 

Pope John XXIII ex-communicated Fidel Castro (January 3), Marilyn Monroe suggestively sings "Happy Birthday, Mr President" to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Gardens (May 19), Warhol premiered his "Campbell's Soup Can" exhibit in Los Angeles (July 9), the Telstar satellite broadcasts the first live trans-Atlantic television signal (July 23), Marilyn Monroe is found dead in her Brentwood, Los Angeles home (August 5), the Cuban Missile Crisis begins (October 14). 

In 1975 Warhol reported having a dream (1) about Marilyn Monroe to his secretary Pat Hacket, who would later edit "The Andy Warhol Diaries". Here is Warhol's reported dream; 

"I had a glamourous dream last night. Marilyn was allowed to come back (to Earth) for one day, and she was going to be at Town Hall and Paulette Goddard took me, she got the tickets. Paulette was all in white, as usual, and you'd think that Marilyn would be, too, but she was wearing a green metallic kind of dress and that was a beauty mistake because, with the lighting on stage, the dress was throwing green light all over her skin and Paulette kept elbowing me about that. 

Everyone was asking Marilyn questions about how the famous people in heaven were, and she would say, ‘Oh, she's beautifu!' ‘Oh, he's fascinating!' And someone asked her; "How're you?" and she she said, ‘I'm divine!' And the way she said it got a laugh, but then she didn't have anything else to say-about anything-and she began walking up and down the aisles, really panicking and beginning to sweat, like she didn't have any repertoire. And then someone screamed, ‘Is there a director in the house' and I felt she was looking at me, pleading. And then suddenly we weren't in Town Hall. 

The two of us-Marilyn and I-were on First Avenue, I think, in the back corner of a dumpy restaurant that she said she used to go to a lot and I was taping her trying to get her to talk, asking her about the Kennedys and if they really killed her and things like that, but she kept saying she was saving it for her own book, and I got so upset with her; I said, ‘Look, Marilyn, you're here only for one day! How can you do a book?' But she wouldn't spill any beans, she just kept saying, ‘I could tell you things that would curl your hair.' But then she wouldn't. And then I looked at my ticket stub from the Town Hall thing and it said, ‘$1,000,000' and I didn't know how it could be that much unless prices had really, really gone up, so I wanted to know what year it was and I was trying to find a mirror to see how old I looked so I could figure out what year this was when a ticket could cost a million dollars and then the phone rang and I woke up." 

1999 -or- Warhol's American Visual Cultural Mirror of Narcissism 

There are many hermeneutic points of entry into Warhol's dream. Here are a few; 

The public circulation of rumors spead mostly by celebrity gossip columnists that Marilyn Munroe had an affair with JFK are well known. The dress that Marilyn wore to sing Happy Birthday, Mr President to Kennedy, became as famous as her stage performance. In 1999 the dress Munroe wore reportedly sold for $1.26 million, which answers Warhol's question about what year it was. The question about the Kennedys involvement in her death remains unanswered. In 1999 The American Film Institute ranked Munroe as Hollywood's sixth greatest actress

Paulette Goddard was a child fashion model, Ziegfield girl and Hollywood film actress. That Goddard accompanies Warhol to Town Hall to see Marilyn is not surprising, in that Warhol was friends with Goddard in reality. That she got the tickets may also allude to the fact that Goddard was an art collector. Goddard represented the old Hollywood elite, who apparently according to the dream was critical, perhaps even envious of Monroe. Did many in Hollywood feel desires of "schadenfreude" towards Monroe? 

The public gesture of Goddard elbowing Warhol speaks volumes. Warhol believes with Goddard that the green metallic dress was a "beauty mistake". Did her public performance for JFK cast her in the wrong Hollywood poetic light? Was Monroe's dress green, because in reality many American women envied her "glamourous" star power? Said differently, just as Warhol obsessively searches for a mirror in the dream, did Munroe's performance narcissistically reflect poorly on her American iconic status? A visual glamour image culture no, no. 

The fact that in Warhol's dream Marilyn has a panic attack in Town Hall, most likely comes closest to providing one forensic clue among many to Monroe's demise. It suggests that Monroe suffered from "stage fright" (performance anxiety), an observation that seems to have been confirmed by many directors on many Hollywood stages Monroe worked. The night that Monroe sang for the President she also reportedly had a panic attack, she was late and when she did finally come on stage Peter Lawford ironically presented her as "the late Marilyn Monroe". Reportedly, much like in Warhol's dream, the bright stage spotlight enhanced the rhinestone brilliance of Munroe's dress. 

The dream also shows how Warhol's artistic and iconic art factory has become bound to Marilyn's immortal on-going star power. His obsessive desire to see himself in a mirror, reflects Warhol's Business artistic genius to capture not only his own and Marilyn's narcissism, but instead also the American and the Hollywood dream factories artistic self-portrait of the visual culture of narcissism.   

Further Reading: 

  1. Lauren Lawrence, "Private Dreams of Public People".
All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.