As It Happens

Former editor remembers Interview magazine — the 'school newspaper of Andy Warhol's factory'

Interview magazine is folding after 50 years. Former editor Bob Colacello recalls its halcyon days in the '70s, under the watchful eye and stylish wig of Andy Warhol.

'Every issue was like some crazy dinner party where nobody really knew anybody else,' says Bob Colacello

Warhol only had two rules for Interview magazine: every photograph should be full page and no type on photos. (John Minihan/Getty Images)

A beloved magazine launched by artist Andy Warhol has filed for bankruptcy and announced it will be folding "effective immediately" after more than 50 years in print.

Launched in 1969, Interview magazine published raw, mostly unedited transcripts of conversations with people like David Bowie, Nancy Reagan and Salvador Dali.

Sometimes, the interviews were dead boring — the kind of mundane chit-chat you might make with a friend. Other times, they were so revealing, it was almost too intimate.

Former Interview editor Bob Colacello, who cut his teeth at the magazine in the 1970s alongside Warhol, spoke to As It Happens Carol Off host about the publication's legacy.

Here is part of their conversation.

What would Andy Warhol say today if he knew Interview magazine had folded?

Andy always liked to pretend that he didn't care and he didn't have feelings. So he would probably say, "Oh gee, well. We should start something new."

But I think he would be crushed. He really loved Interview. He loved having a magazine where he could put all his friends.

He could discover new young talents, whether it be in acting, or art, or fashion. He loved the magazine. He loved the idea of having a magazine.

A wall of Interview magazine covers is one of the displays seen at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. (Archie Carpenter/Getty Images)

It's a magazine unlike anything else. Even in 50 years, we've never seen another thing like it. So how would you describe it if you were talking to someone from Mars?

I think it was the first magazine that focused entirely on people. Every story was on a person, not a theme or a subject.

It was kind of more like a documentary than journalism, really. It was like the school newspaper of Andy Warhol's factory, is how it started off.

It was basically like Andy and his friends — Mick Jagger, Truman Capote, Diana Ross and Cher — tape recording each other.

It  was kind of an elite celebrity magazine or an avant-garde celebrity magazine. People magazine actually came out after us.

Every issue was like some crazy dinner party where nobody really knew anybody else but they all ended up having a great time.- Bob Colacello, former editor of Interview magazine

Like everything Andy did, I think Andy was the pioneer in mixing the high and the low. You know, art and gossip, or the serious and the humorous.

I mean people say — even about Andy's paintings like Campbell's Soup or when he did Mao or something 16 feet high — "Is this a joke?"

And he'd say, "Well, it's sort of a joke, but it's also really serious."

It was always visually beautiful. Very simple lay out, big photographs. He told me there's only two rules for you as editor: every photograph should be full page, and no type on photos. He really believed in photography as an art form.

Bob Colacello is the former editor of Andy Warhol's Interview magazine, which announced it would be folding after nearly 50 years in circulation. (Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

You were 22 years old when you started there. What was the direction you got about what you were suppose to do with these interviews?

I remember one of the first issues I edited with my deputy, who also was at Columbia film school, his name was Glenn O'Brien. He passed away earlier this year.

We did this special Elvis Presley issue. We both wrote poems about Elvis, and Andy looked at those poems and said, "No more poetry. No more writing, just tape recording — that's what's modern."

Andy always said that everything he did should be fast, easy, cheap and modern. And by modern, he meant new.

He thought if anything was too hard to do, or cost too much money to do, he shouldn't be doing it. We were learning on the job and he was learning on the job. He had never published a magazine before.

Andy Warhol's iconic Interview magazine announced it is folding after nearly 50 years in circulation. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)

And of course, you had this high-tech innovation called the cassette tape recorder.

Right, which Andy carried everywhere he went. He called it his wife, Sony.

What was your favourite? What was your best moment?

A kind of surreal moment was going to the White House to interview Nancy Reagan with Andy because Andy and Nancy were just like on two different planets.

She was really square and she just didn't get Andy. And Andy started off by saying, "Gee, Hollywood people are so mean. They talk behind your back before you even leave the room."

And Mrs. Reagan said, "Andy, I think I am a Hollywood person."

I mean, that's what Interview did. We just put together a lot of bizarre combinations of people.

Even if they weren't interviewing each other, it was in an issue. You would go from Paul Vogler, chairman of the Federal Reserve Commission, to Iman, to Diane von Furstenberg.

Every issue was like some crazy dinner party where nobody really knew anybody else, but they all ended up having a great time.

Written by Jeanne Armstrong and John McGill. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.


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