Those are the words that Dr. Giuseppe Rossi, the surgeon who saved Andy Warhol’s life, wrote on the outside of an envelop he mailed to the artist. Inside the envelope was one of a long string of past-due invoices for the surgeon’s services.
In 1968, Warhol became the target of Valerie Solanas, a Factory outlier, a fringe character, and feminist extremist. She later told police that she had come to the conclusion that Warhol had “too much control” over her and was planning to steal her work.
Solanas had written a script called Up Your Ass, which she had given to Warhol to read. And, hopefully to produce. When she came to the Factory to retrieve it she was told they couldn’t find it and was turned away. The script actually had been misplaced, but Solanas didn’t believe it and devised a plan of revenge that included her killing Warhol.
She returned to the Factory with a handgun. For some time she waited for Warhol in the building’s lobby and elevator. When Warhol eventually arrived—with a few friends in tow—Solanas fired three shots from her .38 automatic, wounding art critic Mario Amaya and critically wounding Warhol. Then she turned her gun on Warhol’s manager, Fred Hughes. The gun jammed; she fled the building.
Warhol was taken into Columbus-Mother Cabrini Hospital, was pronounced dead, and remained that way for more than a minute. Dr. Giuseppe Rossi was working at Columbus Hospital that day. The surgeon refused to give up his fight to save Warhol’s life. After open heart massage and five hours of technically complicated surgery—and twelve units of blood—Dr. Rossi managed to bring him back to life.
The New York Daily News reported that, “The bullet that hit Warhol twisted crazily through his abdomen and chest, wreaking much damage. It entered through the left lung, hit his spleen, stomach, liver and esophagus before penetrating the right lung and emerging from his right side. X-rays established that only one slug had caused the damage, according to the hospital’s medical director, Dr. Massimo Bazzini.”
Following his release from the hospital, Warhol went into a state of denial about the shooting and his near death for the rest of his life. He would often say, “I’m not afraid to die; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
It seems that Warhol was a selective bill-payer. He promptly paid vendors he hoped, or knew, he would need to use again. Apparently he didn’t expect to need Columbus-Mother Cabrini Hospital or Dr Rossi in the future.
Dr. Rossi, Warhol’s Italian-American surgeon, died on Monday, March 7th 2016 in Naples, Florida. Neither he, nor Columbus Hospital where Warhol recuperated for nearly two months, were ever paid by the artist.
The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, The Village Voice, Revolver Gallery, Carnegie Magazine, and The Warhol Museum.