August 11, 2022

When Harriet Woodsom Gould died in 2016 in her nineties, she left behind a trove of family heirlooms dating back to the 1700s in her Amesbury, Mass., home. Yet in her attic, she had a secret veritable shrine to pop art.

There, she had stashed her late son Jon Gould’s belongings for decades since his death in 1986 from AIDS. He had vases painted by Jean-Michel Basquiat, works by Keith Haring and dozens and dozens of gifts — photos, valentines, sketches, letters and more — from pop god Andy Warhol.

“My mother kept everything,” Jon’s twin brother, Jay Gould, told The Post. Jay knew his brother “had some type of relationship” with Warhol in the 1980s, though Jon always remained discreet about it. “We were very close, identical twins, but we never talked a lot about his sexuality,” Jay, now 68, explained. “It was a different time.”

Yet, he was still stunned to read the poetry and love notes Jon wrote to the older artist. “I didn’t realize the relationship was as deep as it was.”

Gould and Warhol on New Year’s Day in Aspen, Colorado, in 1983.
Mark Sink

Actually, no one really knew. Gould was Warhol’s last romance, a young Paramount executive with floppy hair and preppy good looks who died tragically at 33. And though Warhol frequently mentioned him in his famed diaries, published posthumously in 1989, the artist’s dashed-off musings gave the impression that Jon was more of a crush than a genuine partner. (Plus, few could get past the diaries’ droll, often mean, takes on the rich and famous. Poor Liz Taylor was described as looking “like a — belly button”!)

The new six-part Netflix series, “The Andy Warhol Diaries,” however, aims to change that. Premiering Wednesday, it digs beneath the diaries’ surface and into Warhol’s later romantic relationships and their impact on Warhol’s life and work. In doing so, it paints a more vulnerable portrait of the artist, who often presented himself as a cold, asexual weirdo.

“He was a man full of desire, full of humanity, and that comes through in his queer longing and in his search for spiritual meaning,” the series director Andrew Rossi told The Post. 

Gould, Warhol and Sylvia Miles at the NY Film Festival in 1983.
In the third row from bottom, Gould, Warhol and Sylvia Miles at the NY Film Festival in 1983.
Patrick McMullan

‘They were really in love’

Gould didn’t so much enter into Warhol’s life as Warhol willed him into it. It was April 1981, and Warhol, then 52, was still reeling from his breakup with Jed Johnson.

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Jed — everyone agreed — was an angel. He arrived at Warhol’s Factory in the spring of 1968, 19 years old and fresh off the bus from Sacramento, delivering a telegram. He started doing odd jobs around the place and in his free time taught himself how to edit film, eventually working on Warhol’s movies.

When Warhol, then 49, was shot that June, Jed moved into the East 66th Street townhouse the artist shared with his mother to help him recuperate. He stayed 12 years.

“They really were in love,” Jed’s twin brother, Jay Johnson, says in the series, confirming that the relationship was sexual. “They shared a bedroom.” (Yes, Jed — like Gould — also had a twin named Jay. As Bob Colacello, who edited Warhol’s Interview Magazine, remarks in the doc, the “Marilyn” diptych painter “loved doubles.”)

Jed Johnson and Andy Warhol
Johnson and Warhol in an undated image.
Ron Galella

Jed gave Warhol a sense of stability he craved after the traumatic shooting and the destructive chaos of the 1960s Factory scene. They adopted two dogs, and Jed decorated their new home, launching a new career as an interior designer in the process. But by 1980, Warhol’s diaries reveal “family problems,” due to some X-rated Polaroids Warhol took, his relentless partying at Studio 54 and his friendships with toxic individuals. Jed left that December, and that spring Warhol confessed to feeling lonely.

“Now I’m living alone and in a way I’m relieved, but then I don’t want to be by myself in this big house with just Nena and Aurora [Warhol’s maids] and Archie and Amos [the dogs],” he confided in his diary. “I’ve got these desperate feelings that nothing means anything. And then I decide that I should try to fall in love, and that’s what I’m doing now with Jon Gould.”

Gould was a 26-year-old Paramount exec: a New England WASP with a lithe, strong physique and charismatic personality, who looked straight. Warhol reasoned: “Jon is a good person to be in love with because he has his own career, and I can develop movie ideas with him, you know? And maybe he can even convince Paramount to advertise in Interview, too. Right? So my crush on him will be good for business.”

Andy Warhol
After Johnson and Warhol broke up, the artist pursued Paramount exec Jon Gould.
Andy Warhol Foundation/Courtesy of Netflix

Warhol began courting Gould with a vengeance, sending extravagant bouquets of roses to his office at Paramount. He even offered their mutual friend, the photographer Christopher Makos, a fancy watch if he could get Gould to be his boyfriend. “I guess he never got loved,” Makos says in the series. “Because I didn’t get my watch.” (Jay Gould also tells the camera that his brother had admitted that he was in a relationship but that he said they didn’t have sex.)

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At first, Gould resisted Warhol’s attention, but eventually the two began spending a lot of time together, though Gould would frequently pull away if things got too intense, and he often would tell Warhol not to write about him in his diary. “I think my brother was concerned about his career at that time,” Jay Gould said. But the younger man attended parties and art events with him, invited the artist skiing with his family in Aspen and even for a time moved into his place on 66th Street.

“I love going out with Jon because it’s like being on a real date,” Warhol wrote early in their relationship. “He’s tall and strong and I feel like he can take care of me.”

‘This fear and shame’

Yet it turned out that Warhol would have to take care of Gould. On Feb. 4, 1984, Jon was admitted to New York Hospital with pneumonia — though it was understood that he had AIDS. Warhol stayed with him in the hospital every night for the 30 days he was there, despite his fear of hospitals since getting shot and his fear of getting AIDS. (Warhol couldn’t bring himself to talk about Gould’s illness in the diary, but his editor notes that when Gould was released March 7, Warhol instructed his housekeepers to wash Jon’s clothes and dishes “separate from mine.”)

Around 1985, Warhol began working on his massive series of 100 works based on Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” Jessica Beck, curator at the Warhol Museum in Warhol’s native Pittsburgh, said that the paintings seem to directly reference Gould and the AIDS crisis, particularly the ones with body builder imagery (Gould was a fitness obsessive) and one with a big “C,” a reference to what Warhol called “the gay cancer.”

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Andy Warhol, icon of the Pop Art Movement, posing seriously in front of The Last Supper, a personal interpretation the American artist gave of Leonardo da Vinci's Il Cenacolo.
Around 1985, Warhol began working on his massive series of 100 works based on Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” The artist is seen above in front of one of those works.
Mondadori Portfolio

“He had this deep-rooted Catholic faith, this fear and shame, and was deeply terrified of getting AIDS,” Beck told The Post. “When I first started doing research on ‘The Last Supper’ paintings and saw that at the time he was writing so much about Jon Gould, I was taken aback. I was like, ‘Who is he, and why doesn’t anyone talk about him?’”

Gould never saw those paintings. He eventually went to Los Angeles, and died there Sept. 8, 1986. The diary has an editor’s note saying that he was down to 70 pounds and was blind. “He denied even to close friends he had AIDS,” the note concluded.

Another side of Warhol

Andy Warhol
A new six-part Netflix series, “The Andy Warhol Diaries,” reveals another side of the artist.
Andy Warhol Foundation/Courtesy of Netflix

“The Andy Warhol Diaries” book caused a sensation when it appeared, in 1989, two years after Warhol’s death at the age of 58 of cardiac arrest. The massive tome — culled from some 20,000 pages of the famed pop artist’s daily musings, dictated to and then edited by his friend Pat Hackett — included every party he attended, cab ride he took, junk he watched on TV and celebrity interaction he had in the last 11 years of his life. It is often seen as a glittery, vacuous, name-dropping guilty pleasure.

But read carefully, “The Andy Warhol Diaries” revealed another side of Warhol. 

“I think that all of the celebrities and the lists of parties are a distraction, they’re almost a false flag from the true aim which lies beneath,” Rossi told The Post. “So I went through several years and tried to almost decode the diaries and read between the lines and link events with photographs and with artworks.”

Jay Gould said he was grateful to see the relationship that had to be kept so hidden for so long explained on-screen. “When my brother passed, a lot of magazines put him in the category of hangers-on who took advantage of Andy and that really bothered me,” Jay said. “I knew my brother would want me to [set the record straight].”

He has already seen all six episodes of the series, but he plans to have a viewing party in Maui, Hawaii, where he has a restaurant and spends his winters.

“Jon was larger than life, and Andrew [Rossi] captured that,” he said. “I still miss my brother. He brought my brother back to life again.”