Tue, Aug 09, 2011 - Page 16 News List

Manhattan as Andy knew it

Hardcore Warholite Thomas Kiedrowski arranges comprehensive tours of the pop artist’s life in New York

By Jan Hoffman  /  NY Times News Service, New York

Photo: Bloomberg

On this summer afternoon, the Andy Warhol’s New York City Tour does not begin at any location where the artist lived, worked or partied. Instead, it starts at 1060 Park Avenue.

That is where Truman Capote was living with his mother in 1952, and where a young worshipper from Pittsburgh, Andy Warhol, could once be spotted, standing outside.

“Capote was an overnight sensation,” said Thomas Kiedrowski, the tour guide. “Andy Warhol was thinking, ‘This guy has my life.’ So Andy did what he could to be friends with Capote. He sent him postcards. He became friends with Capote’s mother. I could just see Warhol lingering here, waiting to meet him.”

To say that Kiedrowski has a passion for all things Warhol would be an understatement. Bald and beaming, he owns close to 175 books about the artist, who would have turned 83 on Saturday last week. He has just published his own addition to the pile: Andy Warhol’s New York City: Four Walks, Uptown to Downtown. Vito Giallo, who ran an antiques store frequented by Warhol, contributed illustrations.

The pocket guide is almost as sweet and earnest as Kiedrowski himself, who, since 2004, has studied phone books from the early 1960s to pinpoint addresses in Warhol’s life, immersed himself in the history of those buildings and befriended aging Warholites.

“They have become family to me,” said Kiedrowski, who is 37 but seems a decade younger. His meticulous guide reimagines Manhattan as Andy Land.

“Thomas has dedicated his life to finding out arcane facts about Warhol,” said Eric Shiner, director of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. “He does a very good job of getting to the bottom of mysteries. I love to see the architectural side of Andy articulated.”

Kiedrowski stood in front of 1342 Lexington Avenue at 89th, an 1889 Northern Renaissance row-house where Warhol lived from 1960 to 1974, much of that time with his mother, like Capote.

“It was just sold again,” Kiedrowski said. “A few weeks ago the realtor was going in and I happened to be here. I said, ‘Could you? Could you?’ And he said, ‘Sure!’ I was so excited.”

Although Warhol died at age 58 in 1987, celebrations of his myth-making life as a pop artist, filmmaker, magazine publisher, music entrepreneur, shopper, scene maker and gossip keep surging. Shiner said the Pittsburgh museum will send exhibits to Singapore, Istanbul and Mexico City. A musical about Warhol called Pop! played in Washington this summer. And Kiedrowski, who receives about two dozen tour requests a year (warholtour.com), took one Australian fan on a tour that lasted six hours.

Warhol has been a spiritual light for Kiedrowski since he was a teenager in a blue-collar family just outside of Milwaukee.

“I was a little lonely and I didn’t know I was gay till the end of high school,” he said. An indifferent student, he thought he would become a factory worker. Then he read David Bourdon’s 1989 biography of Warhol.

“He was poor and he showed that if you worked hard, you could make something of your life,” Kiedrowski said of the artist. “And he was a loner who learned to get out of his shell, like me.”

After high school, Kiedrowski followed a boyfriend to Alabama, where he worked in a sock mill. Eventually he returned to Milwaukee, where he graduated from the University of Wisconsin, majoring in film production. He worked as a gofer for a C-minus list Hollywood couple. When that position crumbled, he moved to New York, in 2002.

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