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Q&A: Barbara Colaciello spins Warhol stories

February 9, 2016 // by Denise M. Reagan

Storyteller, improv queen, educator. Barbara Colaciello returns to MOCA Jacksonville to share her experiences about life at Andy Warhol's Factory as a public program for In Living Color. We asked her some questions as she prepares for her Art and Ideas talk on February 18.

When did you first become interested in art (visual/performance/music)?

Visual: I was obsessed with the fashion photography. I saw in Harper's Bazaar and Vogue in the late '50s and '60s. I'd spend hours studying and drawing the images by Richard Avedon, Horst, and Louise Dahl-Wolfe. I discovered Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein this way, as editors like Diana Vreeland totally embraced the “pop” look.

Music: My mother introduced me to Sophie Tucker early on. She had me imitate her singing torch songs like Some of These Days. But my favorite singer was Lena Horne. I'd spend hours in the basement singing with her album. I can do a mean Lena imitation. Oh, and then came The Beatles. I saw them at their first USA tour at Shea Stadium.

Performance: My first exposure to Broadway was going to the original production of TheSound of Music with Mary Martin. I was hooked!

Andy Warhol Barbara Colaciello b
Andy Warhol and Barbara Colaciello.

Tell us about the first time you met Andy Warhol.

I met Andy in 1971 at my home in Rockville Centre, New York. At the time, my brother, Bob, was writing for Andy's film magazine Interview. Andy and his entourage stopped by our house on the way to his Montauk, Long Island, compound. The whole time, he flirted with my boyfriend Larry, who had a Brando/James Dean thing going on. But I remember everyone sitting on the patio outside, and Bob got me to entertain them with a bunch of stories. Andy thought I was so funny.

Who was your favorite person to see in the Factory?

I loved the people I worked with and saw every day-each unique and funny. But when Fran Lebowitz (author, social commentator) came to the office to deliver her monthly column, it was the best. Fran has been described as the modern-day Dorothy Parker. Definitely read Metropolitan Life and Social Studies.

Barbara Colaciello Dances
Barbara Colaciello dances with Bryan Adams, her date for the evening, at Studio 54 in 1979. Photographed by George DuBose, a freelance contributing photographer for Andy Warhol's Interview Magazine who covered the music scene in New York City.

Currently, who are your favorite visual artists?

Liking the Brooklyn-based artist Torey Thornton. And apparently so does everyone else. Eric Fischl always. Louise Bourgeois sculptures totally get to me. Loved Princess Simpson Rashid's red/black/white series immediately when I saw the paintings last year at the Ritz Theatre and Museum. She calls her process controlled spontaneity. That's what I teach-improvisation.

What is the best performance you've seen in the past year?

The Douglas Anderson School of the Arts production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Physically daring choreography-the ensemble numbers were so outstanding, I wanted do-overs. Many of my former students like Emily Suarez and Gena Heylock were superb. Oh, and the set design worked. And I absolutely loved educator and activist Mark McCombs' passionate talk “Why Every Kid Should Learn How to Build a Robot” at the TEDx Jacksonville 2015 conference.

What is your next project?

My focus is on storytelling. I am in the middle of developing a couple of my stories into plays: Finding ColacielloMoving Mom from NY to FL in 12 Weeks, and To Pop or Not To Pop. I am the kind of “painter” who works on more than one canvas at a time. But I have to tell you I am ecstatic to be the narrative coach and director for Jane & Carol conFABulate. That would be Jane Condon, founder of Douglas Anderson and LaVilla schools of the arts, and Carol Grimes, recently retired speech professor at Florida State College at Jacksonville. They are simply extraordinary, inspirational women who know how to tell stories.

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