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Warhol Tickled Some Toes

Before Andy Warhol achieved fame - for rather more than 15 minutes - by endless repetitions of soup cans, Marilyns, dollar bills, and Elvises, he had won a reputation as a commercial illustrator. He specialized in fanciful ads for women's fashion accessories. Above all, shoes.

His shoe ads for the I. Miller Co. had more to do with his fey, camp-kitsch notion of strangely old-fashioned glamour than with portraying footwear for the 1950s woman. Nevertheless, they brought him accolades. Perversely, perhaps, they also helped boost I. Miller shoe sales. David Bourdon, in his 1989 book "Warhol," repeats the (apocryphal?) story that Women's Wear Daily dubbed Warhol the "Leonardo da Vinci of the shoe trade."

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Bourdon records that the success of Warhol's shoe ads led him to make a promotional portfolio devoted to shoes. In it, pleasing himself rather than a client, he could indulge in "uninhibited parody." Proust's classic novel was the first victim: The portfolio's title was "A la Recherche du Shoe Perdu." The words were written in Warhol's mother's ornate, spidery hand. So were the "jokey, one-line takeoffs on famous phrases" by Ralph Pomeroy under each watercolored print. Among these labels are: "Shoe of the evening, beautiful shoe," "Dial M for shoe," and the one at left.

Maybe this tag is a rewrite of "My house is your house," replacing "house" with "shoe"? It is a theory certainly supported by a famous old woman who lived in one.

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