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Warhol Questionnaire: Billy Hough

This month, Billy Hough will don a Warhol-appropriate fright wig and perform “Scream Along with Billy”, his self-described “punk cabaret act” with Susan Goldberg, at Joe’s Pub in New York City. Hilton Als writes in The New Yorker, “Hough’s rough, melancholy voice is a big instrument that belies his diminutive size.” In a new twist, Hough and Goldberg will pay tribute to Warhol as well as the late Lou Reed with “Songs For Drella”, a provocative show that would likely make Andy titter. We caught up with Hough via email in advance of our upcoming sale, Andy Warhol @ Christie’s: Love, and Hough revealed his appreciation of Basquiat, the Velvet Underground, and more.

 

What was your first Warholian moment, and when did you first encounter him?

I was always intrigued with the artwork, but in college I found the Velvet Underground and the Paul Morrissey movies (Flesh and Trash) simultaneously.  They seemed to call to me from a hidden universe I then became determined to find; and though it was 20 years later, and the original cast was mostly gone by then, it was of no matter. A year later, “Songs for Drella” came out, and I was a goner.  Still am.

What or who would be Andy’s muse if he were alive today?

Andy’s shifts of focus and inspiration were always surprising, if not shocking. Therefore, I am almost destined to mis-guess; however, I do think he would have made some comment on the recent crop of celebrities who are simply the mainstream’s validation of some of his ’60s Superstars [who were] famous for having sex and doing drugs on camera. Not to say that any of our TMZ crop could hold a candle to Jackie Curtis or Edie [Sedgwick], Little Joe or Holly, but perhaps Andy would have found a way to dignify some of the baseness of modern stardom.

What are your latest cultural obsessions?

Personally I’m a bit burned out on the disposable nature of everything, so I’ve gone back to the tried and true, “in” classics: The Iliad (Stephen Mitchell’s brilliant new translation), Ted Hughes’ gorgeous “Tales from Ovid”, and I am working with the Altman clan on a critical re-appraisal of the films of Robert Altman. That and my usual punk rock.

What would you consider Warhol’s most memorable quote or action?

The blank stare.

If you could collaborate with Andy on a project, what would it be?

I wouldn’t deign to, not being a visual artist, but I’m most jealous of the idea of he and [Jean-Michel] Basquiat [urinating] on canvases.  That I’d get in on in a heartbeat.

Dream dinner-party: you, Warhol, and…?

Now…sadly…Mr. Reed. Though in truth, if I had a fantasy night, I’d skip dinner and do amphetamine all night with Billy Name and the girls from the a: A Novel era.

Imagine Warhol had a Twitter account. What kind of thing might he say in 140 characters or less?

I have the feeling that he would have found a use for Twitter that we haven’t seen yet.

Whose portrait would Andy most want to do now?

With the “celebritization” of anyone, I wonder if Andy would focus on those out of the spotlight. But this time, instead of making them Superstars, he would leave them, happily, under the radar.

Soup can or coke bottle?

Soup can.

Drag everyday or only on special occasions?

Every day is a special occasion.

 

“Songs for Drella” will take place on Monday January 6, 2014, at 9:30 PM. at Joe’s Pub in New York City.

(Image: (c) 2013 by Nina West.)

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