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July 19, 2024

Andy Warhol’s Rules for Partying

We often hear in the media and academic institutions to attend job fairs and network, but we often don’t consider how to do this effectively to save time and money.  Warhol knew how to do this and he talks a great deal about it in his 800-page tome, The Andy Warhol Diaries. It’s not exactly codified like the 10 Commandments is, but the knowledge is there for all of those with the patience, tenacity, and interest to wade through it. But if you’re not like me and actually have a life, this article will give you the basic prominent party themes that emerge from reading about the last 10 years of Warhol’s life, as depicted in the diaries.

Rule #1: Don’t go to a party when everybody is like you

His first rule of partying was don’t go to a party when everybody is like you. Be a different person. He says on March 18th, 1977, “Just the kind of party I hate because they’re all like me. So similar and so peculiar, but they’re being so artistic and I’m being so commercial that I feel funny. I guess, if I thought I were really good, I wouldn’t feel funny seeing them all.”

Warhol, in his diaries, talks a lot about being the black sheep of the party. He cared about this because it allowed him to get more attention, draw more eyes, and keep conversations fun, interesting, fresh, and dynamic. Being different among a sea of different people (all accomplished, noteworthy, overachievers) just livened up events and made it that much easier to be able to get work done! Why? Because you stood out and you were The person to approach about whatever topic you specialized in. Further, you were around people who got things done. This can’t be stressed enough. Warhol didn’t just go to any party. He went to parties where people were known for taking action. What better hack to life is there?  

Rule #2: Have a definite purpose for being there

Warhol also went to places where you could sign autographs or provide support to others when it was a special event or occasion (like a birthday party or a wedding). Sometimes he would pass out his latest achievement with Interview magazine. He would sometimes autograph books and magazines. Whatever the party was, he often had a reason for going, whether to remind people of who he was and what he was up to, to provide moral support to strengthen his relationships with his present customers and social network, or to make sales. There was never “I’m going to a party to see what happens.” All of this was designed to broker and leverage relationships which could lead to further opportunities and projects (and thus more money).

Rule #3: Delegate or find a consultant to talk about money

 “’Well, will you do this art poster for us, and then we will sell it for you and isn’t that wonderful?’ And it’s mixed in with hippie talk and phrases. And then everyone was too embarrassed to talk about money. So finally, Fred said, ‘Look, man, what’s in it for Andy?’” (p. 139, 1989).

Here, Andy talks about how uncomfortable he was with quoting anybody on a price when a deal was arranged at a party. He frequently deferred to his promoter, Fred Hughes, to negotiate with people who wanted to get paintings done by Warhol.

This freed up Warhol to just focus on the already arduous task of socializing, focusing on other people’s issues, and giving them a general feeling of superiority and importance, possibly with the hope of having a portrait commissioned out of the exchange. This is what Warhol did almost effortlessly, while leaving the stench of negotiation to other people, namely Fred Hughes, his longtime promoter.

Rule #4: Buy low, sell high

At one point in his partying, Warhol mentions people handing him drugs and says, “Everybody hands me Quaaludes, and I always accept them now because they’re so expensive, and I can sell them.” Although I bring this quote up in jest, Warhol could often take drugs with the best of them, but most often (99% of the time) didn’t. His approach rather was to let other people work themselves up into a feeling of comfort where they felt they could take drugs and become inhibited, more relaxed and ready to pay someone for work.

Had Warhol been on drugs most of the time, he wouldn’t have nearly been able to capitalize on all of the potential projects that did end up materializing from these parties, although it should be noted that most of his deals were never brokered at these events. They proved mostly “touches,” in a sequence of events that could eventually culminate in a sale of a portrait. Think of it like a sort of “sales funnel,” or a “pipeline.” Parties were a sort of lead generation for Warhol, ways of attracting potentials, although not necessarily establishing deals on the spot. After all, building and nurturing relationships takes time! It happens over the span of an entire career.

Rule #5: Be with somebodies

 “It was such a weird party when you go to places where people are sort of nobodies and you have to think of what to say to them. It’s so hard” (p. 221, 1989).

One of Warhol’s most prominent rules was to be with somebodies. Meaning to be with distinguished people who were accomplished and well-known. He also wanted to be around diverse people who could be in a position to give him more interesting projects worth a lot of money. Key word: A lot of money. Warhol could socialize with anyone, but he also knew the market he was after and wanted only those people who could afford high-commissioned portraits and series. How else was he going to build his empire and sustain the incomes of legions of people working for him without this critical exclusivity? The answer is he couldn’t.

Rule #6: You should not be the most famous person at a party

“When we got to the party, one of the photographers told me, ‘You’re the biggest one here.’ So, that’s always a letdown” (p. 287, 1989).

Warhol did not like to be the most famous person at a party. He wanted to be around people who were more accomplished than he was. Like the old adage about improving yourself by working with people who are much better at it than you, whatever that thing may be.  “To get a mentor or a guide,” we often hear, that is if you want to improve. Call it a form of social proof or positioning.

Certainly most entries in The Diaries indicate that Warhol believed this to some extent or else he wouldn’t have been as discerning and guarded with his time. Which brings us to the next rule!

Rule #7: If you can avoid a party, avoid a party

Another interesting facet about Warhol’s life was that if he could avoid a party, he would avoid a party. If the definite chief objective is accomplished, what more do you need to do?

 “There was a party at the Statue of Liberty,” says Warhol, “but I’d already read publicity of me going to it. So, I felt it was done already” (p. 511, 1989). Warhol did not often go to parties unless he could be seen by photographers and/or get interviews, sell space ads for his Interview magazine, negotiate a deal for a portrait or a series, or strengthen his contacts and keep his presence top-of-mind while increasing the likelihood of referrals. Bottom line: if the publicity was already done before the party, then he often wouldn’t go.

Rule #8: Keep being seen

Warhol was very intrigued by film. We often think of Warhol as someone interested in exploring the impact of film, but in the Diaries, we also learn how indifferent Warhol could be with film, noting its lack of impact on the lives of the masses. For the most part, if his diary entries are any indication of his true beliefs, film was deceptively ineffective, that it appeared more effective than it really was, and ultimately, Warhol was aware if you didn’t keep treading water and if you didn’t keep getting seen by others, people would just forget you because that was the nature of them. They couldn’t sustain focus for very long because they were so wrapped up in their own lives, their own worlds, and the simulacra that competes for their attention. Warhol fought to prevent this by being seen constantly, usually at parties, but also through other means, by the most relevant people, with the most influence, authority, and credibility.


Parties were the basis for most of Warhol’s marketing achievements and the eventual building of his empire. Without them, he couldn’t have made a dent in the universe the way he did. They were invaluable tools in an overall campaign to get noticed and be noticed by only those with the most power to increase his influence and expand his universe. Most people can’t imagine the level of meticulousness and control that went into these planned parties. Most people today will just go to parties without so much as a second thought about their time and how much it is worth and what they are trying to achieve when they go to one. With Warhol, not so. Warhol knew the value of his time and planned accordingly. No party was ever a random one.

Undoubtedly, using some of these rules will help those of you considering “grassroots,” promotion and publicity efforts outside of social media; integrating at least some of these rules—any of these rules—into your own life could certainly go a long way towards helping you achieve the levels of success that Warhol did in his time, to clear a path for you in your own journey.

By – Todd Persaud

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