The scene is fascinating: Pop artist Andy Warhol sits at a table. In front of him, there’s a paper bag containing a regular meal from Burger King. Warhol takes the burger from its packaging and starts to eat it. For roughly 5 minutes we watch him eating a burger, like any ordinary person would. And simply because of his fame, we watch … and watch.
Once Warhol finishes, he sits silently for a moment, as if he were deeply reminiscing what has just taken place, and then he finishes the scene by saying these words, “My name is Andy Warhol and I just finished eating a hamburger”.
This movie was created by Danish filmmaker Jorgen Leth in 1981, and it appears in his art movie 66 Scenes from America, a film that stitched together a series of lengthy shots, each a visual postcard from a journey across America. Leth did not know Warhol, but he was a bit obsessed with him so he definitely wanted to have him in his movie. Friends told Leth that he “should forget about it” and that he could never even approach Warhol.
Anyways – Leth was stubborn so when he came to New York for his movie he simply went to the “factory”, the building Warhol had rented to work at and despite all other claims simply managed to get to Warhol’s studio inside where he met Andy Warhol while he was currently working.
Leth just told Warhol about his movie and the idea of having Andy being one of the 66 scenes along with the highly “symbolic” burger. Warhol immediately liked the idea and agreed to the scene – he liked it because it was such a real scene, something he would like to do.
Jorgen Leth was a bit afraid that Warhol would not come to record the scene. He had invited him to a photo studio in new York at 14th Street/5th Avenue that belonged to a friend of him.
Leth had his assistant buy some burgers and directly advised him to buy some in halfway neutral packaging as Leth was afraid that Warhol might reject some brands (Warhol always had an obsession with some of his favorite brands).
So Andy Warhol finally did arrive at the studio, of course along with his bodyguards, and when he saw the selection of burgers the assistant had brought he asked “Where is the McDonald’s?” and Leth – slightly in panic – was immediately like “I thought you would maybe not like to identify… ” and Warhol answered “no that is the most beautiful”. Leth offered to let his assistant quickly run to McDonald’s but Warhol refused like “No, never mind, I will take the Burger King.”
|Andy Warhol and Jorgen Leth|
Directing the video was pretty simple. Leth said to him: “You simply have to eat this hamburger. And then after you finished, you have to eat it, after you finish you should just tell the camera, to the camera, my name is Andy Warhol, I have just eaten a hamburger.”
Leth was worried during the taking as he forgot to give Warhol a glass of water and the bottle of ketchup was brand new, so it was hard to get it out. But being a real Warhol there was only one take, one try, so Warhol pulled it through in just one take, roughly 5 minutes. But Leth liked the scene and how it came out, so that is why today you can see it here.
Why Coca Cola, Campbell’s Tomato Soup and why a Whopper from Burger King?
Andy Warhol was quoted as saying: “What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”