In Warhol's Memory, Soup Cans And Coke Bottles While the cemetery that houses the artist's grave is conventional, the grave site itself is anything but. Fans and admirers regularly leave colorful mementos on his tombstone outside of Pittsburgh, and a local artist and Warhol historian even holds graveside birthday parties for the late pop art con.

In Warhol's Memory, Soup Cans And Coke Bottles

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And let's skid from Usain Bolt's incredible speed, right to a "Dead Stop."


INSKEEP: "Dead Stop" is the name of our special summer series. We've been visiting unusual final resting places. And today, we take a trip to the grave of Andy Warhol. The artist was born 84 years ago today. NPR's Travis Larchuk visited his tombstone in Pennsylvania.

TRAVIS LARCHUK, BYLINE: If you didn't know where to look, you might never know where Andy Warhol was buried. It's about 20 minutes outside of downtown Pittsburgh, at a modest graveyard on a hill overlooking a highway - St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery. Eric Shiner's the director of the Andy Warhol Museum. He says it's a pretty typical graveyard for Pennsylvanians with Eastern European roots.

ERIC SHINER: Which is, of course, ironic that the arbiter of taste and style and art of the 20th century, is laid to rest in an otherwise very mundane graveyard.

LARCHUK: Andy Warhol was buried here in 1987. He died unexpectedly at New York Hospital while recovering from gallbladder surgery. His relatives wanted him buried with his parents just outside Pittsburgh, the city where he was born. Warhol once said he'd like his tombstone to be blank, except for the word "figment." That didn't happen. His tombstone reads Andy Warhol, and is just a few feet tall - smaller than his parents', which is right behind it. There's absolutely nothing exceptional about the grave, except that on this day...

MADELYN ROEHRIG: It's decorated with striped green and blue and white wrapping paper.

LARCHUK: That's artist Madelyn Roehrig. She works at the Carnegie Museums, in Pittsburgh. Her project, for the past four years, has been to visit Warhol's grave almost every day. She documents the people who come, and the objects they leave behind. She didn't put the wrapping paper there. A local Andy Warhol impersonator did. Over the years, visitors have left objects evocative of Warhol's life and work, turning this simple grave into a shrine. Some of the items are subjects of his famous silkscreen prints - a bottle of Chanel perfume, Coca-Cola; and today, there are four cans of Campbell's soup. It's the item most commonly left at the grave. Roehrig says she's seen more than a hundred, in all sorts of flavors.

ROEHRIG: Mainly tomato and chicken noodle, and all the varieties of chicken noodle. Now, you're getting low-fat, low-salt. And then some of the competition - Cup O Noodles show up every once in a while. And I'll tell you - sometimes, there's so many soup cans up there, there's like, two rows of them.

LARCHUK: Roehrig says she's met people from all over the world who make the pilgrimage to this tiny cemetery. And locally, she's inspired a number of offbeat types to drop by the grave from time to time, and pay their respects. Dave Olson's a musician who knew one of Andy Warhol's brothers. He comes by to warm up his bagpipes.


DAVE OLSON: Oh, Andy, I'm so sorry. That was terrible.

LARCHUK: Olson read about Warhol's grave on Facebook. He says on a lark, he decided to perform at the cemetery. Now, he makes visiting the grave part of his routine.

OLSON: My band meets at Bethel Church, up over the hill. So I would just come up here, and I'd say my piece with Andy, and then rush off to band practice.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) Happy birthday, dear Andy Warhol...

LARCHUK: On Warhol's birthday, Madelyn Roehrig throws a party at the cemetery. There's cake; a belly dancer shows up. And she films it all. Donald Warhola is Andy Warhol's nephew.

DONALD WARHOLA: You know, I think that my uncle, from up in heaven, he's probably looking down and probably saying, why didn't I think of that? You know, I could have been hanging out at Marilyn Monroe's tombstone with my camera, or my tape recorder, and getting people's thoughts.

LARCHUK: Now, Madelyn Roehrig's putting together a photo book of the objects and messages left at Andy Warhol's grave. Travis Larchuk, NPR News.


INSKEEP: Now, if you'll pardon me here, I'm just watching this time-lapse video of Andy Warhol's grave - which you can find at


INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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