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Finally, the four of them made their way back to McMinnville and set up for the show.
In contrast to what was coming the following day in Eugene, the reception at Linfield was not particularly hostile, according to the recollections of Mt. Angel College art professor Leland John, who traveled to McMinnville to attend. John recalled that “Warhol” responded to many of the questions by simply issuing an ironic laugh or giggle. When he did reply, it was with a degree of glib wittiness that tended to distract the questioner’s attention from the fact that his/her question was not being answered (remember, Midgette is a theatre guy; improv is his thing.)
“Some people say your films are crude or promiscuous,” one questioner began.
“Yes, I think they are, a lot of them,” the faux Warhol replied smoothly. “But most of those haven’t been shown.”
“Some people say your film ‘Harlot’ is a joke on the straight world,” another said; “what do you say?”
“It isn’t,” Midgette shot back. “It’s just a joke. Period.”
“Would you explain why you’re dressed and groomed the way you are?” asked another.
“Mainly because I like the way I’m dressed and groomed,” Midgette said. “I won’t model for you, but I like it. You explain why you dress the way you do.”
The performance went over reasonably well with the crowd, all things considered. There were a few actual artists in the crowd, and some of them were a little dissatisfied with having come for an art talk and been served an arch, cryptic bull session lightly seasoned with junior-grade media theory; but for the most part, the audience members figured it was just yet another piece of avant-garde Andy Warhol art that they couldn’t fathom, and out of fear of being identified as a stupid Phillistine, they nodded and smiled and golf-clapped when it was finished.
Perhaps it was just as well that Midgette saved the University of Oregon for last, because that one didn’t go nearly so well.
But soon Midgette and Morrissey were on their way back to the Eternal City with their thrift-shop treasures, no doubt yukking it up about the gullibility of the Western rubes.
MEANWHILE, CHRIS HOUGHAM at the Oregon Daily Emerald had been in contact with Register-Guard reporter Don Bishoff, and Bishoff just happened to know somebody who could help him get to the bottom of it.
“We had an aging hippie working on our copy desk, named Bill Thomas,” Bishoff recalled later. “Somehow he had the number for the pay phone on the wall at The Factory. So I called the number — and Paul Morrissey answered it.”
Morrissey had made a variety of arrangements in case the “rubes” got suspicious, but apparently it had never occurred to him that any of the hinterland yokels would be hip enough to actually know the phone number of the Factory’s ironic pay phone. Caught by surprise, Morrissey stammered a bit, then put Warhol on the line. And, after some head-scratching over how Bishoff could know it was the real Warhol this time, the artist confessed the whole thing.
“He was better than I am,” Warhol told Bishoff. “He was what the people expected. They liked him better than they would have liked me.”
“His explanation of how he sent the guy didn’t make sense,” Bishoff recalled. “I still think to this day he was pulling another Andy Warhol spoof, and proving a point that people wouldn’t know the difference.”
The student journalists in Utah, whose skepticism led to the full unmasking, were distinctly unimpressed. In a telephone interview, Morrissey told Chronicle Assistant Editor Kay Israel that impersonating each other was just regular hijinks for the art world’s self-styled avant-garde golden boys.
“We do it a lot in New York,” he explained breezily.
“Well, being from the West, I don’t think we’re quite used to it,” she shot back.
Paul Cracroft, the director of lectures and concerts at the University of Utah, was even more acerbic about the whole thing. Cracroft, who had learned of the scam early enough to withhold payment for it, said he’d be open to having other pop artists come and talk at the U of Utah — “if they’re wonderful and can assure us somehow that they’re coming themselves.” Asked how that might be accomplished, he quipped, “Blood tests and fingerprints.”