George Lawler always knew his father was a criminal — his mug shot had been on New York City’s most wanted list in 1962. What he did not know was that his father had been a muse, of sorts, for Andy Warhol.
Mr. Lawler’s father, Thomas Francis (Duke) Connelly, was one of Warhol’s subjects in the installation “13 Most Wanted Men,” which was briefly displayed at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. He was sought for robbing at gunpoint a Chase Manhattan Bank branch in Woodside, Queens, in 1955, and making off with over $300,000.
He and his wife, Ann Connelly, went on the run with their two children, whom they later abandoned. The couple were never found.
Now, Mr. Connelly’s portrait, or police photo, depending on how you look at it, is one of nine on view at the Queens Museum as part of an exhibition titled “13 Most Wanted Men: Andy Warhol and the 1964 World’s Fair.”
On Thursday, Mr. Lawler and his wife traveled from their home in Essex, Conn., to view his father as a work of art. “I still can’t believe that my father, the bank robber, is associated with Andy Warhol,” he said. “That completely blows my mind.”
Mr. Lawler and his sister, Veronica Gural, a nurse at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, never saw their parents after 1955, when Mr. Lawler was left by his mother in a church in Wilmington, Del., and his sister at a 5 & 10 store in Baltimore.
“I was only 2 years old at the time,” Mr. Lawler said, “and I swear I remember this, although my wife doesn’t believe me, but I knew my mother was full of soup when she left me at that church and said she’d be right back.”
Mr. Lawler and his sister were adopted by their mother’s sister and her husband, Mary and Joseph Lawler, and raised in Richmond Hill, Queens. Joseph Lawler was a police officer. When the younger Mr. Lawler was 14, his adopted father told him who his real father was: a thief who had run with a much tougher group of Irish gangsters and hit men on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Larissa Harris, one of the show’s curators, said that meeting Mr. Lawler and hearing his story added a new dimension to the show, and that it helped bring it from the 1960s into the present.
“The show is about art, but it’s also about political and social history,” she said. “And now we have a fantastic story that helps it all come to life.”
Mr. Lawler looked around the gallery, taking it all in. He looked at his father’s portrait and said: “Wasn’t it Andy Warhol who said everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame? Here’s mine, I guess.”
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