The Factory was a breeding ground for all kinds of experimental art, including music. The legendary rock band The Velvet Underground, with key members Lou Reed and John Cale, were central to Warhol’s scene at The Factory. Adorned in black, and performing songs with such titles as “Venus in Furs,” The Velvet Underground became a cult favorite when they performed as part of Warhol’s multimedia show, Exploding Plastic Inevitable, in 1966-1967. Warhol connected the Velvets with the German-born singer Nico, who contributed vocals to their debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico. Now considered a classic, the album cover was designed by Warhol, and featured a yellow banana sticker adorned with the words “Peel slowly and see.”
Among the most well-known figures associated with The Factory was the actress, heiress and model Edith “Edie” Sedgwick. Edie Sedgwick started visiting The Factory regularly in 1965. Warhol quickly saw her appeal, and helped catapult her to celebrity status by casting her in his avant-garde films including Vinyl (his reinterpretation of Stanley Kubrick‘s novel A Clockwork Orange) as well as Poor Little Rich Girl and Kitchen. With short hair spray-painted silver to match Warhol’s look, Sedgwick became known for her fashionable style, which included leotards, short dresses and large, dangling earrings. For her larger-than-life demeanor, Warhol nicknamed her “Superstar.” Sadly, Sedgwick died of an overdose in 1971, at the age of 28.
By the time The Factory started to gain notoriety, Bob Dylan was already a huge star in the music world. Dylan, Mick Jagger and other musicians stopped by The Factory from time to time to check out the latest avant-garde happenings and participate in the non-stop atmosphere of creativity. Dylan paid a famous visit to The Factory in 1965. Photographer Nat Finklestein, in his book The Factory Years: 1964-1967 notes that people anxiously awaited Dylan’s announced visit with “Bobby’s coming, Bobby’s coming.” As a parting gift, Warhol gave Dylan one of his classic double images of Elvis.
Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol were both artists and eccentrics to the core. The Surrealist Dali, never one to miss out on an outrageous scene, visited The Factory and had several meetings with Warhol. One Factory regular, known as Ultra Violet, had previously dated Dali and became magnetized to Warhol’s scene, in just one of many connections between the artists. In one classic meeting between the two at the St. Regis Hotel in 1965 that was captured in an iconic photo, Dali placed an Inca headdress on Warhol’s head. Warhol, who rarely drank, was sipping wine to relax his nerves around the theatrical Dali.
Today, Betsey Johnson is known worldwide for her fashion designs, and her signature, off-beat style. But few know that Johnson was a regular in Andy Warhol’s Factory scene in the 1960s. Johnson had became a Manhattan “It” girl after she won a contest to be a Guest Editor for Mademoiselle magazine. She upped her caché at The Factory, where she mingled with The Velvet Underground (she was briefly married to John Cale), Edie Sedgwick and others. Today, Johnson has over 65 stores throughout the world.