One Hell of An Eye
The Official Blog of Mike Salisbury
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“I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They’re beautiful. Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.“ –Andy Warhol

To me it is still the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where Andy is thinking about my question as to what we should shoot of him the next day..

To me this is still the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where Andy sits thinking about my question as to what we should shoot of him the next day. Photo by Mike Salisbury.

That was almost the extent of conversation I had with Andy Warhol when I took his picture for three days. One-way conversation if any.  But he wanted proof that he had been in that plastic world.

Andy never spoke directly.  Who did speak for him?  I can’t recall.  But he was always silent; surrounded by his lieutenants, all of them moving around him like a scene from Fantasia during the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.”

Today we are surprisingly alone in his hotel room.  I ask, “Any ideas for shots I should take of you in L.A.?”

Suddenly Andy’s deep, seeming indifference is interrupted as if by Zeus  — who decides to have a little fun by throwing lightning bolts into Fantasia.  Andy turns to me and says, “I want to be photographed making a Hollywood entrance through the Paramount Gate…like Norma Desmond’s entrance back into Hollywood in Sunset Boulevard.”

Andy, picture right, photographing Holly Woodlawn center; me, picture left, taking Andy’s picture at the Paramount gate. Photo by writer/director Alan Metter.

Andy, picture right, photographing Donna Jordan center; me, picture left, taking Andy’s picture at the Paramount gate. Photo by writer/director Alan Metter.

Today the official address for the “gates” is 5555 Melrose Avenue.  The new double-arch Paramount Gates on Melrose.  These are not that gates that the blasé Gloria Swanson was driven through, vamping in the back seat of her relic, open limousine by Erich von Stronheim to meet with Cecil B. DeMille in his jodhpurs and riding boots, tweed coat on top.

The new Melrose gates are a plastic Hollywood replica of Hollywood plastic.

Built in 1926, the actual arched plaster gateway is located at the north end of Bronson Avenue and is The Bronson Gate.  Charles Bronson, whose name was originally Charles Buchinski, took his new name from this gate.  Would Mister Death Wish choose Charles Melrose?

The iconic iron filigree on top of the gate was allegedly added after crazed female fans of Rudolph Valentino overwhelmed security and climbed over the original unfortified gate.  Filigree or not, even the reigning wizard of modern art, Andy Warhol, could not get through the original Paramount Gate.

On the big day of Andy’s grand entrance into Hollywood with all of The Factory crew in the rented Cad limo (which was much more Hollywood than a governmental-looking Lincoln Town Car), they were stopped on the asphalt jungle in front of The Bronson Gate, with no next act in their “Hollywood is Plastic” script.

Now I am thinking, everyone is looking to me to be The Sorcerer’s Apprentice of Fantasia because the Wizard Warhol has abandoned his Wizard’s hat.  “We are not getting through the Paramount gate for our grand entrance into Hollywood,” was the silent but politely deadly message I was getting.

Contest number 2—name all the players here with Andy. From left to right.

Contest number 2—name all the players here with Andy. From left to right. Photo by Mike Salisbury.

Like Mickey Mouse in that Fantasia episode, I imagined myself taking the Wizard’s hat and then magically causing a gate of faux classical columns with a wrought iron crown to come to life.  I shot all of the Wizard and his Barbarians embraced by the gate they couldn’t get through. Framed by their beloved pastiche that is the gate to the real Hollywood.

Polaroid of Holly Woodlawn by Andy

Polaroid of Donna Jordan by Andy.

When we finished, Andy graciously gave me Polaroids he took of Shelly Winters, Leslie Caron and his crew on that trip to Hollywood.

“So am I famous now for 15 minutes?” I asked Andy.

“I’m bored with that line.  I never use it anymore. My new line is ‘In 15 minutes everybody will be famous.’”

Start counting.

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Great story; even greater pictures here.  Thanks.  Jeff G.

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God, I love these! Lee L.

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That’s cool! Joe M.

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Nice… Charlie M.

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This is great! Gunner W.

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He died when I was living in the city and I was dating one of his assistants who was helping in trying to put his estate in order.  I was in lust with her and she was gorgeous and exotic looking…damn if I can remember her name now and this was when I was sober!  Chris N.

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Awesome. I love that he couldn’t get through the gates!  Nelson Q.

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Behind the tinsel and glitter of Hollywood, there’s more tinsel and glitter.” …Johnny Carson.  Kenneth A.

Love it! Mike

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Hey, Brother.  This is another great passage and exposé into the life and times of Mike Salisbury and the moving images of pop culture.  Liked the reference to Charles Bronson.  Knew him, worked on Death Wish while at Dino de Laurentiis…and, of course, the visits to the fabled studio.  Hallowed Hollywood ground…ah, Valentino.  Attached, from the Academy Collection.  Who doesn’t love Sunset Boulevard?  “You used to be big,” screenwriter Joe Gillis says to a reclusive silent film star named Norma Desmond in the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard. “I am big,” Desmond declares.  “It’s the pictures that got small.”  Cheers, Ken M.

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Mike, you’re the best! Skip

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