Saturday, December 15, 2012

An Ode to Edie (Sedgwick)


The 1960s -- the old values, the old uniforms were changing.  The language changed, the art changed, the drugs changed, the clothes changed.  The Sixties were a decade preternaturally conscious of its need to be new and different.  Edie arrived right after the first moon-landing and at a point in the popular culture when a person's heroic qualities were measured by their fantastic escapades and the stories being told about them.  


She truly was the first person touted for being famous for doing nothing at all -- she is the harbinger of celebrity culture.  Edie has lingered in pop culture for... for what?  Edie is famous for appearing in a few Warhol films that very few people have seen and a large number of photographs of her looking cool, beautiful, vulnerable, child-like, wrecked, etc. in what is the briefest "career" of any famous person.  Edie is famous for being Edie.



"The first time I ever saw her was at a New York party.  She was with about six boys and she was in the middle of the floor, dancing.  The boys were a little Oscar Wilde bunch with big, floppy neckties and their handkerchiefs always flipped out a lot... a fey group of guys who were trying to get into society and were riding along with her because she was the new girl in town, and that was very evident.  That was the time of new girls in town in New York; every once in a while somebody would arrive and make quite a stir.  Edie was certainly one of them, but she went a different way than anyone else ever had.  The other girls went through the usual bunch of guys at the club and would maybe marry one of them, or go out and marry someone else.  But Edie went through that immediately.  She was in strange places faster than anybody else.


Up until the early Sixties, social life in New York was extremely predictable.  There was a form to the whole thing:  if someone had a black tie dinner, everyone there was in black tie.  If people were invited to a brunch, they were attired in a certain way.  Everyone held on to the values of the Fifties, those standards which had been created by life in and around El Morocco, the Stork Club, by polo players and debutantes -- patterns that were followed by the nouveaux riches.  No one told the truth.  People lied.  Society was a group of liars.  People pretended that they weren't unfaithful.  They pretended that they weren't homosexual.  They pretended that they weren't horrible.  If you wanted to social climb or socialize in New York City, you had to follow these rules.


Edie came in at the destruction of those rules.  The Robert Sculls were just about to move out of their suburban life in Great Neck and buy the kind of apartment and things to put in it that people from Great Neck had never thought of before.  Showing up late to someone's dinner, or never showing up at all, became a way of life.  People were going to start shooting up in the bathroom.  Freaks were going to become sought after.  Overnight you could become famous for having big hair or short skirts or a neon bra.  There was such a desperate hunger.  Suddenly all these women in little black dresses and men in pinstripe suits from Meledandri and Sills and Saville Row would be rushing down to Trude Heller's on the corner of 9th St and 6th, right across from the Women's House of Detention.  There they would see Monte Rock.  Or they would rush down to the Dom in St. Mark's Place where only the black people used to dance.


The wild stuff began coming out of the woodwork.  People showing off.  'Look at me!  I've got something to say!  I am something!'  And the more freakish you could be about it, so much the better.  Look at Edie.   Or Tiger Morse, who was a society girl from a good family wearing very straight clothes, and all of a sudden the next day she was a speed freak with her hair wired, wearing electric dresses and green glasses.  And then dead.  These insane people wallowed in self-destruction... almost as if they were trying to punish their parents and the world of rigid systems that had been so painful to them in their formative years.  Edie came into the world of people getting ready to come out and make that kind of statement." -- Joel Schumacher, House Designer for Paraphernalia, contemporary Hollywood heavyweight



Raised and home-schooled on an isolated cattle ranch in California, Edie was descended from a long line of New England puritanical money.  Her forefathers were friends of those who signed the Declaration of Independence, and almost every male in the lineage had attended Harvard with great accolade.   Though her direct family had since relocated to the West Coast, Edie was brought up to act as an aristocrat, emulating a life of freedom and excess that one could expect from an secluded and wealthy family.  


The social isolation and domineering presence of her father would underlie her personality for the rest of her life.  One of eight children, two of whom would eventually commit suicide, Edie became the rebellious youth typical of adolescence.  Her sharp tongue and refusal to play by her family's rules led her very rigid parents to take action -- placing her in boarding schools and mental institutions for behavioral correction in her teen years.  Harsh as this may seem by today's standards, it was common practice in the Fifties.  Such experiences in one's formative years can have quite the lasting effect, as can been seen with the case of Edie Sedgwick.  Instead of becoming cautious and timid, Edie's personality soared.  She craved the attention she would receive from acting out, and would seek more limelight through her charm and beauty.  It would seem that she could beguile any with whom came into contact.

A teenaged Edie in Silver Hill, a Conneticut-based mental institution.

Upon hitting her twenties in 1963, Edie moved from California to Cambridge, MA, where she pursued an academic sculpting career under the guidance of her cousin, Lily Saarinen.


"The first thing you ever knew about Edie was that she came from this truly remarkable and totally insane family in California.  Somebody would say 'Oh, see over there?  That's one of the Sedgwicks, they come from California and they're all crazy.'  Of course, growing up around Boston, everybody's slightly mad.  Old families have strange people in the attic." -- Patricia Sullivan, Cambridge friend of Edie


"She was the most talented young person I've taught art to.  She'd come in late and very tired.  Sometimes she'd stay an hour, sometimes she'd stay five.  She'd have her friends come in, and pretty soon more came.  I had the feeling that she needed an audience.  She was very insecure about men, though all the men loved her.  She was always chic and adorable.  Pretty soon my life was Edie because I couldn't do anything else.  She worked frantically.  She wanted to do a horse.  She said she'd ridden them all her life and knew every inch of them.  So she worked on this one horse, it looked like a T'ang horse.  It took her all winter.  Edie was the only one I was teaching that season.  I had to fit my day to hers.  She was completely erratic.  She'd say she was going to come and she wouldn't.  Or she'd come when she wasn't supposed to.  She was a will-o'-the-wisp, very energetic, very high-strung.   She never came out with much about herself, but she had so much to give and be creative about.  She needed an outlet; she didn't have any exercise except to go tearing from one high spot to another.  That's not exercise, is it?" -- Lily Saarinen, cousin and instructor to Edie, wife of architect Eero Saarinen

Edie in Cambridge, working on her horse sculpture.

"Edie was always pleading with me to let her into the Casablanca when I was the bartender.  She wanted to be there with the crowd, but she was under twenty-one.  'Jack, I don't have to leave, do I?  Can't I just stay?  I love it here so much.'  It was like her home away from home.  'It's only two more months before I'm twenty-one.'  She'd plead as if it was everything in life to her.  It was very disturbing that anybody would put that much importance on a bar." -- Jack Reilly, Casablanca bartender in Cambridge

"There was a young man at Harvard, and what he said was 'Every boy at Harvard was trying to save Edie from herself.'  And that's the quality I think she had, of being quite vulnerable and quite odd, maybe sort of a little loony but very beautiful and very, very attractive.  And that, more than her physical appearance, had to do with her great appeal." -- Fred Eberstadt, fashion photographer who photographed Edie on two occasions for LIFE magazine.


"I mean, she never set her cap for anyone or went after people... The thing about Edie is that not much meant anything to her.  That was just one of the things about her, she just had no connection to the normal.  That really was part of the charm." -- Chase Mellen, Harvard student of the early '60s and friend of Edie's.  


"The one thing that was intriguing about Edie was not just the fact that she was attractive and sexy and all that, and a little on the wild side, but she really, her intellect, I think, is one of the things that really hooked people, because this gal was no dummy, and even in whack-job state, she could make some very, could say some very profound things.  She would see what's going on in a room or make a statement about what was happening then, it was so, you know, that would would summarize it, and make it all so clear and relevant." -- Sepp Donahower,  friend of Edie's as she left New York to reside in California, 1967


Upon Edie's 21st birthday (Cambridge, 1964), a party was held to commemorate the receipt of a large trust fund from her maternal grandmother.  With her reliance on parental financial support over, Edie packed up shortly thereafter to try her hand at life in New York City.  Accompanied by a few male Cambridge companions, Edie was not hard-pressed to find a niche.


"We wanted to make such a production [for the birthday party]... The party was at the Harvard Boat House.  Edie danced divinely.  Oh, God!  Everyone wanted to dance with her.  She changed dresses three times during the evening.  That confused a lot of people.  'Do you think someone spilled a drink on her?'  Then she'd be in another dress.  'Oh, my goodness, she must have some very drunk friends.  How resourceful to have extra dresses on hand if one gets spilled on!'  Oh, she was something different.  She was something different in Cambridge! -- Ed Hennessy, one of Edie's closes friends in both Cambridge and New York

Edie's 21st Birthday Party, held at the Harvard Boat House in Cambridge, MA.  This is one of three dresses worn throughout the night.
Edie's 21st Birthday Party, held at the Harvard Boat House in Cambridge, MA.  This is one of three dresses worn throughout the night.
Edie with Cambridge friend, Ed Hennessey at her 21st Birthday Party.


 "Edie pursued her social life with missionary zeal.  She traveled in a bubble, always by limo, insulated from the world (even taxis were too real).  Chartered limos were always on hand whenever she needed to go anywhere.  As for public transportation, she didn't even know what that was." -- Nat Finklestein, art assistant to Warhol


"One didn't know what to do with this incredible charm and life force and willingness to live and cleverness at seizing what is beautiful in life.  One didn't know what to say... Because, after all, she was evolving into something that had not been seen yet, the international superstar, whatever we should call it.  She was becoming the Edie Sedgwick of the day; there had been nothing like it." -- Donald Lyons, friend from both Cambridge and New York, co-actor in several Warhol films


"In every era, there have always been people who are illuminated from within, possessed or blessed.  It might be your great aunt or the woman who had the house on the top of the hill, but unless she was an actor or a famous artist, we never got to see those shooting stars.  The difference between Edie and many of these unique people who've faded from memory was that Andy was there to shine a spotlight on her and capture her.  With the coming of the democratization of celebrity -- which Andy predicted -- many more of these unusual people will come to be known and appreciated.  Edie was the first real example of that, and she quite rose to the occasion."  -- Bibbe Hansen, Factory regular and mother to musician Beck


Not long after arriving in New York, Edie meets Andy Warhol and they quickly became what would be known as "Style Icons of the Sixties Subculture", showing up as a pair to every opening, every party, every theatrical event.  Everyone knew who they were, gossip reporters followed them to every event, and even well-respected magazines like Vogue and LIFE took notice with small columns dedicated to this new trend-setting socialite.  Edie became Andy's consort, and together they captured the imagination of the art world and the press.  Their creative collaboration spanned several films, countless audio tapes, and endless dramatic entrances at parties.   


"It was at Lester Persky's place that Edie met Andy Warhol.  It was early 1965.  She was doing her dance there --  a sort of ballet-like rock 'n' roll.  We had an idea of opening up an underwater discotheque where Edie'd dance her ballet to Bach played at rock 'n' roll tempo.  So Andy invited us down to the Factory the next day and he said, 'Why don't we do some things together?'  Andy spotted her energy." -- Chuck Wein, Edie's Cambridge companion who accompanied her to New York and subsequently produced many Warhol films


"Andy and I became good friends in the early Sixties... I'm a big party-giver.  In those days I would invite six, and Andy would account for twenty uninvited... He had Baby Jane Holzer, but she was sort of running out of speed.  I told him: 'You've got to have a new superstar.  You've got to meet this girl Edie Sedgwick.  She'll be your new superstar.'  So I arranged to have Edie at the party.  She had a friend in tow, Chuck Wein, and they wanted to be involved in film and in theater.  She had a certain quiet dignity and a beauty that was quite extraordinary.  Although she was surrounded by these somewhat manque people, she herself always had a fantastic poise.  And it was at my house, at this marble table, that I brought the two -- Andy and Edie -- together.  Andy, as I recall, sucked in his breath and did the usual popeye thing and said 'Oh, she's so bee-you-ti-ful,' making every single letter sound like a whole syllable, as he does.  He was very impressed." -- Lester Persky, advertising agent and later television producer


"He knew that in Edie he had found something exceptional, unique.  Edie encapsulated that whole era just with that nonchalant/intentional Holly Golightly look: five pairs of lashes, lip gloss, heavy black make-up, that Vidal Sassoon haircut.  And Edie ran with the wild horses.  I mean, Edie was not only the look, she had the head, she had the body, she had the screwed-up background.  I mean, she's a perfect candidate.  Young, gorgeous, the look of the time, on Andy's arm, and able to really hold her own.  Falling down, standing up, whatever, she was one in a zillion.  There's never been a period in time as... heavy!  As street-theater breathtaking!  And real!  And Edie was just there with it.  She was it.  I don't know know what it is, but Andy always wanted to be around people who lived it, were born it, did it all, did anything they wanted to do -- and that was Edie." -- Betsey Johnson, House Designer for Paraphernalia and contemporary fashion powerhouse

Edie and Andy
Edie and Andy
Edie and Andy -- note the knee scar, received from a car accident in her teens while in California.  She had taken her father's car out for a joy ride... The car was totaled and her fellow passenger hospitalized.
Edie and Andy
Edie with Andy, Gerard Melanga, and Chuck Wein
Edie with Andy and Chuck Wein

"When Edie entered the Factory scene, I thought it was so nice that the Cambridge boys had imported their own private princess.  It seemed a nice transfer of domain because, before that, she'd just been a Cambridge legend.  She was rich, glamorous, beautiful, and she was instantly adored.  Edie was the First Lady and Andy's prime companion, so there was an on-going struggle for her favor and attention... a rivalry for her affection.  She was the greatest of the superstars." -- Danny Fields, Factory regular and seminal figure in the early New York Punk scene


"She transformed him.  Andy before that was sort of a very grubby dresser.  Most of the time in the early days, he was not so dressed up.  I remember him in a pair of dungarees at the Factory with a hole in the back and his bare ass showing, so maybe it was Andy who started that trend of the ripped and torn designer jeans!  He always wanted style but didn't know what style was.  Later on, particularly after he was shot, he became piss elegant.  But before that he was always a little ragged.  Edie had an impeccable sense of style -- with those long legs and the little striped shirt -- she invented that shirt, by the way, it wasn't Andy.  She came in with that.  He took it on as part of his fashion statement, because, as you know, Andy was a great absorber." -- Robert Heide, playwright and occasional Warhol screenwriter

Rudy Genreich dress, also worn to the Philadelphia premiere of Warhol's first solo exhibition.  This exhibition resulted in a riot, full of rabid Warhol fans desperate for contact. 
Warhol's first solo exhibition, held in Philadelphia.

"For the preview [of the exhibition], the press came with their television cameras.  It was the biggest thing that happened in Philadelphia ever... terribly sensational, with lots of cameras and people.  The television lights in the crush began to fall on the paintings and tear them; people were crushed up against them... Andy was mobbed.  We were pretty scared because we arrived late from drinks and thousands were jammed into the museum.  Somehow, once inside, we managed to get to an old iron staircase that led up to the ceiling ... and there we were, stuck up above the heads of this unruly crowd pushing and shoving and swearing.  The police were keeping the crowds off the stairs with their sticks.  Edie was wearing this dress, a long thing like a T-shirt with sleeves that must have been twenty feet long, rolled up and bunched at the wrist.  Then, in this incredible performance, she began baiting the audience; she began to let her sleeves down over the crowd like an elephant's trunk and then to draw them up again... teasing the crowd and working them up. " -- Sam Green, Curator at the
Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Edie dancing in her Rudy Genreich dress.
"She looked fabulous in everything!  At Max's [Kansas City], it was as if Queen Elizabeth had arrived.  I remember going out with her in the afternoon when she had on what she called her 'Mini Evening Gown.'  She'd seen a full-length velvet gown in the window at Bergdorf's trimmed in egret feathers.  She went in and bought it, and because the mini skirt was in such vogue back then, she had the evening dress cut to mini size and had the feathers put back on.  That was her 'Mini Evening Gown.'  Over that, she wore a black ostrich-plume coat, peacock-feather earrings, and black satin gloves up to here with ostrich-plume bows at the top.  For broad daylight in the East Village, she was incredible!  With a huge black straw hat over it." -- Bobby Anderson, NYC caretaker of Edie in the late 1960s
Edie with Andy, in her "Mini Evening Gown" ensemble.


Edie quickly became a fashion icon amongst New York society -- her staples of false eyelashes, heavy make-up, leotards, and black tights made a splash as "The New Look of the Sixties."


LIFE fashion layout, November 1965

Left Caption:  "Though she still goes for an occasional t-shirt like the one at center by Cole ($4), Edie is now on a dress kick.  The pale dress above, with halter neckline, is made of wool knit by Rude Gernreich ($35).  The checked silk print at far right, also by Gernreich, has a turtleneck that ties over the head ($155)."

Middle Caption:  "This cropped-mop girl with the eloquent legs is doing more for black tights than anybody since Hamlet.  She is Edie Sedgwick, a 22-year-old New York socialite, great-granddaughter of the founder of Groton and currently the 'superstar' of Andy Warhol's underground movies.  She used to wear her tights with only a t-shirt for a top but lately has taken to wearing them with mid-thigh-length dresses -- 'the simplest, stretchiest ones I can find.'  Her style may not be for everybody, but its spirited wackiness is just right for lively girls with legs like Edie's." 

Right Caption:  "A favorite outfit of Edie's last summer combined her black tights with a white-banded T-shirt and floppy hat."
Vogue, August 1965

Caption: "Edith Sedgwick, twenty-to, white-haired with anthracite-black eyes and legs to swoon over, who stars in Andy Warhol's underground movies.  'It's like watching a Henry Moore sculpture out of focus,' said Edith Sedgwick, who toyed with the movie name Mazda Isphahan for Poor Little Rich Girl.  With Pop artist Andy Warhol on camera, undergrounds roll out like crepes:  Vinyl is in the can; Vacuum about to turn 'when we have a pure white kitchen.'  Rich Girl was made in Miss Sedgwick's apartment, where she is shown here arabesquing on her leather rhino to a record of The Kinks... In Paris, Warhol's gang startled the dancers at Chez Castel by appearing with fifteen rabbits and Edie Sedgwick in a black leotard and a white mink coat.  In her deep, campy voice, strained through smoke and Boston, she said: 'It's all I have to wear.'"

NOTE:  Leather rhino purchased through Abercrombie and Fitch, horse drawing behind Edie was sketched onto the wall by Edie herself.





 "The leotards and the shirt, I mean, that's what every girl wants.  That's all you need in the world.  It was like the underground version of the little black dress with the pearls." -- Billy Name, Factory designer and caretaker


"Of course it was very economical, a very cheap, repeatable costume, which to her was tights and a baggy top.  She did have a little thing for fur.  Leopard." -- Danny Fields, Factory regular and seminal figure in the early New York Punk scene


"The outfits she wore were certainly calculated... she had no breasts, but she had legs that didn't quit, so why not show everybody the legs all the time?" -- Ronald Tavel, early screenwriter for Andy Warhol


"I really like good, beautiful clothes.  I love the space, Courreges things.  I love Rudi Gernreich.  I hate to go through seventeen buttons.  I'm nervous enough about going someplace."  -- Edie Sedgwick

Edie at The Factory
Edie with Gerard Malanga
Edie with Gerard Malanga

"She loves 'the idea of light hair and dark eyes.'  She emphasizes them with blue and grey watercolor paint instead of eyeshadow." -- New York Times, 1964


"She would drive us insane sitting there, you know, on more than one occasion with her make-up case, sitting there, just endlessly, endlessly, doing her make-up while everybody was, like, starving and late for the party and late for this and wanting to go and everybody becoming so irate.  But look at these celebrities of today, at the army of people putting them together for these events.  They have make-up, they have Botox, they have Pilates, they have a special guy for eyebrows, they get everything waxed, they have people bringing in clothes and bringing in jewelry, and the whole thing.  Edie did that all by herself.  And yeah, it took a couple of hours, but when she was done, she looked fabulous." -- Bibbe Hansen, Factory regular and mother to musician Beck

  
"There was this club called Ondine, it was on 59th Street, under the 59th Street bridge... this was before Max's Kansas City... this was the beginning of a mixture of society with artists, money, no money, blah blah blah.  Some nights you could see Tennessee Williams at a table, and Jim Morrison all in leather against the walls, and then another night would have Diana Ross and the Supremes.  It was before they were really known, singing two feet away from you in little black dresses, so it was quite a place.  One night I was there... wearing my little black sophisticated dresses and high-heel shoes.  I went to the bathroom, and there I saw the most incredible creature I have ever seen, and it was this young woman with alabaster skin, incredibly pale, paler than me, actually, which was difficult to do.  She had short, Jean Seberg kind of platinum hair, and the shortest, shortest, shortest garment I have ever seen on anybody ever, also white.  It was barely covering her derriere and devant... and white.  I don't know, I guess she was not wearing stockings but had white shoes.  So I was looking at this creature, and then I went to the mirror to fix my false eyelashes 'cause in those days you wore them on top, on the bottom, and one-by-one, they used to fall down.  So I'm fixing my eyelashes, and I see her in the mirror with an eyeliner pencil, painting a scar on her forehead in black with cross-stitches.  I wasn't sure if she had a scar already and she was just exaggerating it or it was just some trick.  I don't know what it meant, but I was terrified." -- Larissa, Factory regular


"I would read about these discotheques [in NYC].  I would come all the way up to New York to loiter in front of a discotheque, watch people go in... For me, it was like seeing Hollywood.  I saw Edie dance once.  It was the big moment of my life.  I think I said I had to use the bathroom, and some weak guy at the door let me go through.  I remember I had on a green wool mini-skirt.  For New Jersey, I looked pretty hot, but I didn't look so hot there.  What I remember most of all were her earrings.  I thought she was a really neat dancer but unusual.  We didn't dance like that in New Jersey.  I thought they danced like weird chickens -- everything was angles.  Everybody was skinny, and it was elbows and angles and knees and earrings." -- Patti Smith, singer / songwriter


"Life was a perpetual dance party... The great temptation about the Factory was that it was a perpetual party in one place or another.  So that there was an opportunity to endlessly experience the sense of life as a joy." -- Donald Lyons, friend from both Cambridge and New York, co-actor in several Warhol films


"We enjoyed ourselves most by going to parties.  Entering the door was like going on stage." -- Ed Hennessey, one of Edie's closes friends in both Cambridge and New York

Joining the Factory Family turned Edie on to a new world of excess.  All night parties of drinks and the occasional street drug were not unbeknownst to this Cambridge transplant, but Edie now found herself exposed to levels that were far more potent and readily available... not to mention encouraged.  And with Edie footing the bill via her inheritance, there was no reason to stop.


"It was getting very scary at the Factory.  There were too many crazy people around who were stoned and using too many drugs.  They had some laughing gas that everybody was sniffing.  The whole thing freaked me out, and I figured it was becoming too faggy and sick and druggy.  I couldn't take it.  Edie had arrived, but she was very happy to put up with that sort of ambience." -- Baby Jane Holzer, former Warhol Superstar


"Typical day for Edie when not sleeping off the night before or filming with Andy:  Late lunch at a nice restaurant with a group of about eight to twelve people, with Edie picking up the tab.  Then mad shopping expeditions, charging mountains of clothes, jewelry, ransacking cosmetics departments.  An outstanding amount of clothes -- often buying the same outfit twice -- sometimes deliberately (you can't have too many miniskirts), sometimes because she'd forgotten she already had it.  Then late afternoon, off to Dr. Robert's office on E. 48th Street for a poke of amphetamine to start the night.  Then back to her apartment to prepare for the evening, hours spent focused on her make-up alone, then out the door, which was always left open as she dashed out on some urgent quest, leaving behind her fellow speedfreaks who would then rifle through her apartment like kleptomaniacs.  Edie was pretty light-fingered herself -- anything that she thought was rightfully hers and wasted on them: coats, hats, jewelry, tcotchkes, drugs.  Occasionally, she'd leave a meaningless I.O.U. for the object she'd just appropriated.  She never left an apartment without a momento.  A kleptomaniac who gave everything away." -- Nat Finklestein, art assistant to Andy Warhol


"She'd take the bills out of a big envelope and put them in piles depending on which drug store they came from.  And they'd all be in the neighborhood of $600 to $900 a month, and this was in the Sixties!  She would go in and they'd say 'Oh, Miss Sedgwick, the new Helena Rubinstein lipstick line just came out.'  And she'd say 'Oh, let me see the colors.'  And then she'd just stare at these twenty new things, but she didn't want to have to make up her mind and so she'd buy them all.  Very lovable but very spoiled." -- Danny Fields, Factory regular and seminal figure in the early New York Punk scene


"Edie would take off on these enormous shopping sprees; her closets and drawers were crammed full.  I've never seen so many clothes in my life!  Never!  Never!  It was just incredible." -- Saucie Sedgwick, sister

"As soon as I would arrive [somewhere], Edie'd be after me.  'Oh, do you have any downs?' I'd say nope.  'Aw, come on, I just need a Tuinal to get through 'til tomorrow.  I need three Tuinals a day and I've only had two.  Last night I took six and they didn't work.'  In fact, I would have some pills with me but I wasn't going to let her near them.  Relationships were built entirely on drugs... the only thing going.  'Do you have any junk for tonight?'  I hid my suitcase under my bed that night.  I took the pills out and hid them somewhere in the room.  A few hours later, and don't you know, Edie found them?  They were all gone.  She must have had a nose for them, because she didn't have to rip the room apart to find them." -- Danny Fields, Factory regular and seminal figure in the early New York Punk scene


"It was what was happening.  You could go back home and say, 'We went to the Factory.'  Everyone would, you, 'Oh my god, you were there?!'  And Edie, in there, just going on and people saying she's been doing this, you know, for hours... she'd sit on a table and talk and sort of do stuff and laugh.  I don't know, I guess it was my first real view of performance art... Maybe she became aware of how it rather fascinated and attracted people and ended up, you know, doing it for the camera, with people more trying to script it." -- Robin Sedgwick, cousin to Edie


Edie at The Factory
Edie at The Factory
Edie at The Factory
  
As Andy's muse, a majority of his films would be loosely scripted, allowing Edie to converse with whomever in free form as the camera rolled. 


"It was a make-believe movie studio.  Factory Features.  Warhol was the studio head, producer, director, casting agent, distributor, and publicity agent all rolled into one.  It was an efficient system, and the best thing about it was that you didn't even have to be particularly talented at anything to be in one of his movies.  You just had to be there -- and have something a little, well, quirky about you." -- Nat Finklestein, art assistant to Warhol


"We call what we were doing synscintima-- 'syn' for synthetic, 'scin' for scintillating, and 'intima' for the personal nature or intimate nature of the films.  We have dubbed the whole thing 'reel-real,' or the idea of the reel of film creating the reality." -- Chuck Wein, Edie's Cambridge companion who accompanied her to New York and subsequently produced many Warhol films


"You know, Andy as a director didn't exist.  Andy turned on the lights or had Gerard or Paul turn them on.  He thought that the setting was amusing or viable, and let people carry on as they willed." -- Donald Lyons, friend from both Cambridge and New York, co-actor in several Warhol films
Screen Shot, Poor Little Rich Girl
Screen Shot, Kitchen
Set Shot, Vinyl

Andy's method of applying a less-than-complete script to a setting comprised of over-the-top personalities can almost be seen as the precursor to today's reality TV.  He would gather his stars, give them a stage, and just watch the proceedings.  He let his subjects be as free as they desired, there were no limits.  In fact, the higher they flew, the more interesting they would become to Warhol.  Exploitation at its finest.  The only downside:  these were real people, not manufactured stars with a script.  They would skyrocket and ultimately crash, and when they crashed, they would no longer be of any entertainment value for the Factory.  


"A yin and a yang, if you want to put it that way.  It was great in that there a totally permissive quality to [the Factory], and theoretically you could do any damn thing you wanted to.  Although, there was something quite tyrannical about Andy, so on the other hand there was a quality of exploitation that bordered on the sadistic sometimes.  I was not enthusiastic about it, in the sense it was none of my business.  But on the other hand I thought at first it was exploitative on Andy's part, and then I changed my mind, maybe it was exploitative on Edie's part.  Then I thought, well, what the hell, they're two publicity-seekers, attention-seekers, and I guess they're binding each other's wounds." -- Fred Eberstadt, fashion photographer who photographed Edie on two occasions for LIFE magazine


"Andy was very kind to Edie, and to everybody.  He never promised more than he could deliver.  He was a fun director and a photographer.  He didn't promise a life to these people, he promised just the afternoon to them.  Andy, insofar as he had a coherent philosophy and letting everybody run amok, in filming them destroying themselves, and he didn't care.  He was willing to be kind, but that was as far as it went." -- Donald Lyons, friend from both Cambridge and New York, co-actor in several Warhol films


"People say that Andy didn't destroy people, that those who got involved with him were bent over to destruction before they even met him, but Andy was not the saint his acolytes would have you believe.  He loved to see people on drugs because drugs made the actors more animated.  But drugs inevitably destroyed these people.  [Edie] just burned up, poor thing, and the world loves nothing better than destruction."  -- Ultra Violet, former Warhol superstar


"The essential thing about the whole Warhol world, and the reason I got out of it... had to get out of it to save myself, is that Andy's a voyeur, and he needs exhibitionists around... which is all right.  But he's also kind of a sadist.  He's a voyeur-sadist, and he needs exhibitionist-masochists in order to fulfill both halves of his destiny.  And it's obvious that an exhibitionist-masochist is not going to last very long.  You know,  you go up in a burst of flames, and then you die out.  And then the voyeur-sadist needs another exhibitionist-masochist." -- Henry Geldzahler, first curator of contemporary art at the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art 


"By the time I saw her at my birthday party with Andy, I could see that she had succumbed to her weakness of sort of adapting to the drama of the moment and that sort of powerful aura of Andy's culture and excitement and drugs and all that stuff was beginning to lure her, and she was getting into it and surrendering to it.  I thought she was on a dangerous path... I think, that the people she was hanging around with have a moral burden for what happened to her and also for the general corruption they spread by making young people think that decadent self-destructive behavior was charming.  So I think they have quite a lot to answer for." -- Bartle Bull, Cambridge friend of Edie and publisher of The Village Voice from 1970 - 1976


Set Shot, Beauty No. 2
Screen Shot, Inner and Outer Space

As Warhol's "Underground Films" began to gain popularity, Edie began to aspire to legitimate stardom.  No longer content with simply being a Superstar Socialite, she began to use her connections within New York's Pop Culture scene to find a way out.  She aligned herself with newfound friend Bob Dylan, and started to take his guidance of her career seriously.


"She wanted to move on.  Edie used to wonder: 'Should I go to Hollywood?  Should I break away from Andy?  Should I get a real agent?'  People were toying around with her, all sorts of leads.  But she'd meet them and come back and say 'Oh, God, they're such assholes!  I can't work with them, I have to be with my friends.  I want to be with people that I love.  I could never love those people, they're all stupid.  Morons.  Forget it.'  That's not your most professional of attitudes.  I'd say to Edie: 'You have to do it.  If you want to make it in show business, you have to deal with morons.  It doesn't matter if they don't like you for exactly the right reasons, or pamper you the right way, or are too stupid to appreciate you for what you really are.'  But it was hard to get away from the whole Andy thing.  It was so much fun; it was party time.  She felt she couldn't make the transition into the real crap you have to deal with in order to make it." -- Danny Fields, Factory regular and seminal figure in the early New York Punk scene


"Edie would vacillate between enjoying the camp of making movies with us and worrying about her image, and by vacillate I mean she'd go back and forth from hour to hour.  She could be standing, talking to a reporter, and she'd look over at us and giggle, then tell him something arch like 'I don't mind being a public fool -- as long as I'm communicating myself and reaching people.'  That was one side of her, putting the media on like that.  But fifteen minutes later, she'd be having a dead serious tantrum that shewasn't being taken seriously as an actress.  It was a little insane."  -- Andy Warhol


"At that time, she was really being courted by [Dylan's managerial team] the Grossmans.  Her [question] was: Should I stay with this crowd referred to by the Grossmans as 'those art faggots' or should I associate myself with the very powerful emerging Albert Grossman / Bob Dylan stable, which was the rock 'n' roll heterosexual world?  I think the Grossmans said to her, 'You can be a real movie star, you can be a real, genuine...'  They had this thing for being genuine, and Andy had this thing for being fraudulent." -- Danny Fields, Factory regular and seminal figure in the early New York Punk scene


The dilemma was that only spontaneity felt safe to her.  Bob Dylan, along with his legendary manager, Albert Grossman and his management partner John Court, were drawn to Edie's star potential and wanted to help her craft a more "legitimate" career.  Grossman's advice that she get away from Warhol's world clearly tore at Edie.  A movie starring Edie and Dylan was under discussion, and Edie became ensconced in "the Dylan scene," which included his creative partner Bob Neuwirth.  Her romantic flirtation with Dylan was short but intense, and it is widely believed that Edie had been the inspiration for his album Blonde on Blonde -- specifically "Just Like a Woman," "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat," and "Like A Rolling Stone."


"I think Dylan and Neuwirth had become friendly with Edie, and they wanted Grossman to meet her... I think Dylan wanted him and Grossman to do something with her because they just felt that there was something there.  There was a sort of magic in her.  Just looking at her was magic." -- Jerry Schatzberg, photographer and owner of the Ondine discotheque


"[Andy] just realized she was kind of selfish when she said, 'Please don't show my films anymore.  Mr. Grossman thinks they'd be bad for my reputation now that I'm going to become a real film actress.'  Which he thought was rather peculiar, since nobody was interested in her [as an underground actress] except once every four months... somebody would see a [Warhol] film and then write about it, and nobody else would see the films.  They would just see her picture in the magazines all the time, thanks to Andy. It was a strange evening because she was trying to assert herself [with Andy].  It was just the three of us, and Andy, for some strange reason, had heard that very day something that Edie obviously didn't know, and he said 'Edie, do you realize that yesterday or today, Bob Dylan got married?'  And she sort of turned white almost.  She was really surprised.  So I don't know, I guess she hoped for better connections and involvement by going with that crowd.  Who knows what she had in her head." -- Paul Morrissey, Factory regular and manager of both Warhol and the Velvet Underground


Even though by now Edie had thrown herself into a full-fledged relationship with Bob Neuwirth, who was firmly entrenched in the Dylan circle as Dylan's right-hand-man, the prospect of a thriving professional career never materialized.  Warhol and his circle had at this point shunned her after she had stated her intentions to leave, replacing her with an Edie look-a-like named Ingrid Superstar.  Upon realizing this, a hurt Edie changed direction, making attempts to become a serious model.  She posed for Betsey Johnson (then a house designer for the mod boutique Paraphernalia) and sat for test shots with Vogue.  


"After Edie split with Andy and the Dylan thing collapsed, she desperately wanted to model.  She looked so incredible at that period... not unlike Twiggy, but much sexier and much more the American Girl.  She was the total essence of the fragmentation, the explosion, the uncertainty, the madness that we all went through in the Sixties.  The more outrageous you were, the more of a hero you became.  The clothes, it was almost a contest to see who could come out with the most outrageous things next." -- Joel Schumacher, House Designer for Paraphernalia, contemporary Hollywood heavyweight


"Edie became Betsey's fitting model and Betsey began to model her designs on Edie.  Zipped into Edie's mini-tanks and silverfish dresses, Edie encapsulated the essence of '60s style.  All the old rules were thrown out.  Futuristic, theatrical, playful, child-dressing up clothes.  Betsey Johnson's body-conscious clothes were a perfect fit on Edie, who was the very imp of the T-shirts and tights look." -- Nat Finklestein, art assitant to Andy Warhol

Edie modeling for Parapharnelia
Edie wearing a Betsey Johnson dress from Parapharnelia -- hand bandaged to cover burns from a fire she had started in her room at the Chelsea Hotel.
Edie wearing a Betsey Johnson ensemble from Paraphernalia, dancing with the Velvet Underground at an early show.
Edie modeling for Parapharnelia
"She was a model, a model of the day, but one who transcended that category.  Edie's style was her own; her clothes, her hair, her earrings all became part of her personality (something quite different from the chameleon-like quality professional models project).  She was uncannily photogenic, a 'Youthquaker,' the epitome of that mid-60s spark and shimmer.  Along with Twiggy, Edie, with the asexual body of a twelve-year-old boy, was one of the first child-women in pop culture.  But you need more that to be a professional.  Edie didn't have the patience or discipline for modeling, and being a model was very different from being a Warhol superstar.  You're a mannequin; it's not really about you, it's about the clothes, and it's boring." -- Nat Finklestein, art assistant to Andy Warhol


"Somebody told me that Edie was adorable and available to be photographed for Vogue.  So we made an appointment for a session to take place out in Brooklyn Heights.  She came dressed in a very Bohemian, very unsoigne way -- a pair of blue jeans and possibly a pea jacket of some kind.  The elevator man would certainly not have turned to look at her.  No way!  Some of those young girls can turn up in a rather conspicuous way. Twiggy would always appear beautifully turned out, along with her agent; there was always some sort of excitement in the hall when Twiggy or one of those girls would walk in.  Professionals come with a bill, and their nails done, and so is their hair.  But not Edie.  She came in as an innocent, but with all that terrible make-up.  You don't want that much make-up on a face like hers, and her hair was a bit of a problem because it was not in what is called 'first-rate condition'.  Fortunately, we had some hairpieces.  She kind of loosened up a bit [after shooting began]... giggling and laughing, kind of oblivious to the camera, and you realized what wonderful things could happen to her as a model or a star.  There was a tremendous range in how she looked and the way she projected.  I remember going with the pictures to Diana Vreeland, who was editor-in-chief, saying 'We've got a star! There's no doubt about it, she's terrific!  A great model!'" -- Gloria Schiff, Vogue editor

Unused photos from Vogue session
Edie in Vogue

 "She was charming.  She suggested springtime and freshness.  Freshness and proportion and sense of the sort of rollick of life, you know, the fun of life.  She was a Youthquaker, wasn't she?  One of the true personalities of the Sixties... But if you're an honest-to-god model, you go to a gym before you come to work; you have one boyfriend who buys you your dinner.  You go to bed good and early.  No nonsense.  You'd never see one in a nightclub.  That wasn't Edie, though Edie had a wonderful look about her." -- Diana Vreeland, Vogue Editor-In-Chief


"There was some sort of problem about continuing with Edie at Vogue. Perhaps the magazine's policy became involved, and the whole thing kind of collapsed.  It was never pursued again.  Edie's timing was a fraction off.  She almost did become a part of the family at Vogue.  But she was identified in the gossip columns with the drug scene, and back then there was a certain apprehension about being involved in that scene... people were really terrified by it.  So unless it involved very important artists or musicians, we played it cool as much as we could -- drugs had done so much damage to young, creative, brilliant people that we were just anti- that scene as a policy." -- Gloria Schiff, Vogue editor


Edie was subsequently thrust back into her old habits of drug abuse, alternating between shots of amphetamine and heroin, spending her days and nights with no direction other than socializing, hanging on to the few people from her old Warhol crowd who still called her a friend.   She was running out of money and her social connections were drying up aside from those who could provide her with more drugs.  Edie had descended into a full-fledged addict.


"The brief period of Edie's incandescent openness to life seemed to me to be coming to an end.  She had a wonderful appetite for all that life had to offer and for having fun with it that , at least to me, seemed to be clouding over, to be dimming, through drugs, although I didn't know what, but she seemed to be a coarser, sadder person.  I could see that things were beginning to spiral out of control.  And that's why [Neuwirth] was, I thought, so good for her.  Both before and after [Neuwirth] there was no order to her drug-ridden life." -- Donald Lyons

"She was taken out of being a functional, operational human being long before she passed.  If the drugs hadn't been there, who knows what might have developed, and generally people who are that non-functioning and use that many drugs, they don't develop.  That is the tragedy.  So we get to see how much, in spite of all the shots against her, in spite of the damage done in her early years, and despite the drugs, she did achieve.   The drugs weren't a sign of indulgence, they were medication, babe -- she was, like, majorly medicating herself with some very serious stuff."  -- Bibbe Hansen, Factory regular and mother to musician Beck


"I was 'Girl of the Year' and 'Superstar' and all that crap.  Everything I did was really underneath, I guess, motivated by psychological disturbances.  I'd make a mask out of my face with make-up because I didn't realize I was quite beautiful, God blessed me so.  I practically destroyed it.  I had to wear heavy black eyelashes like batwings, and dark lines under my eyes, and cut all my hair off, my long, dark hair. Cut it off and strip it silver and blond and all those little maneuvers I did due to things that were happening in my life that upset me.  I'd freak out in a very physical way.  And it was all taken as a fashion trend!" -- Edie Sedgwick


In 1967, Edie packed up and returned to her native state, California, hitching out on a whim with a friend to drive cross-country back home.  Once there, she quickly realized that the California sixties culture was a whole new thing -- hippies were looking to slow down and feel rather than to speed up and think.  Despite the constraints of her new society, she swept through the social strata.  After first falling back in with her old New York crowd, a few of whom had recently relocated to the West Coast, she moved on to college students, biker gangs, and eventually, fellow hospital patients as she floated in and out of mental institutions and rehabilitation facilities at the behest of her family.  


By 1970, however, Edie was itching to be back in the spotlight even though her drug dependency and emotional neediness raged on.  While working with friends on an old pet film project, Ciao! Manhattan, she was given one final chance at latching on to a more mainstream opportunity.


"In December 1970, we began filming footage for Ciao! Manhattan in Santa Barbara.  I asked [French filmmaker] Roger Vadim to play [a small role].  He drove up with his pal [French actor] Christian Marquand, the two of them flirting with Edie during the shoot, a whole routine.  These two debonair French directors enthralled with Edie and she enthralled with them.  But it took a turn where Edie really felt that Vadim and her had reached an understanding -- he'd just broken up with Jane Fonda, and Edie somehow saw herself as his next muse.  Brigette Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, other great European beauties of the mid-twentieth century -- Vadim was the Casanova of his era.  He clearly saw something in Edie.  So there was a day trip out to see him in Malibu.  I remember him asking 'Da-veed, do you think Edith likes cracked crab?' Vadim always believed Edie just needed a little bit of love.  All through the shoot Edie kept asking 'When is Vadim coming?'  The night she went home with him, I got the phone call at 3am from Vadim.  'Can you come and collect Edith?  It's a bit much.'" -- David Weisman, director of Ciao! Manhattan

Edie on set of Ciao! Manhattan
Edie on set of Ciao! Manhattan
  
While Edie still had her charm, her spark had dimmed considerably over the years.  


"I think as she got older, the recklessness got stronger, and it really would have been far more brave for her to try to do otherwise than what she was doing.  But she gave in to it.  She was the opposite of brave.  She let the tide carry her on.  And the tide was a destructive one, and she became a smaller and smaller speck as she simply let herself be swept along in its flow." -- Robin Sedgwick, cousin to Edie


Edie eventually began to settle, and attempted to live a simpler life clean of drugs.  She married fellow hospital patient Michael Post in July of 1971, and the two moved into an apartment together in Santa Barbara.  Under his influence, she remained drug-free for only a few short months, until pain medication was prescribed to treat a physical illness.  Her husband was put in charge of administering her medication, but Edie would often find ways to finagle more pills undetected.

Wedding to Michael Post in Santa Barbara, July 1971
Wedding to Michael Post in Santa Barbara, July 1971

On the night of November 15th, 1971, Edie attended a fashion show at the Santa Barbara Museum, a segment of which was being filmed for the television show An American Family


"My clothes were the ones being shown that night.  I had six models and the girls had sixty changes.  We showed day clothes, suits, coats, cocktail clothes, evening clothes, fur trims... It lasted for about an hour, quite an elaborate show.  After the show was over, she came backstage and introduced herself.  She said she had never known such moments of happiness as she had watching the clothes; the clothes were so beautiful; the models were like gazelles.  She said she'd had the greatest impulse to get up on the runway and model herself -- to model what she was wearing.  She wanted to see some of the clothes close-up; there was a particular red chiffon which she adored.  She tried it on.  She said 'I haven't seen clothes like this in so many years, I have been away.' 


Just before Edie left, she went and stood in front of the standing mirror; it was a natural pose, the champagne glass in her hand, and she stood there staring, no change of emotion, very quiet, intense... the mid-morning stare that one has at times.  You know?  You've had a bad night, it's ten in the morning, and you look in the mirror wondering 'Why did I drink so much last night?' with that almost disgusted, hard-edged stare..." -- Michael Novarese, fashion designer


Santa Barabara Museum Fashion Show, November 1971.  Edie is in the audience, highlighted in black-and-white.

Later that night, Edie returned home, took her daily allotment of medication, and died in her sleep.  


"She had a drink in her hand when I got there [to retrieve her from the Museum].  It was vodka.  She'd definitely had a couple of drinks before...she had this look... a sort of sad look, as if she were feeling an overall physical and mental ache of some sort.  I took her home, gave her her meds, and she started falling asleep really fast.  Her breathing was bad -- it sounded like there was a big hole in her lungs... this sort of flopping, rough noise.  She was such a cigarette fiend.  It was a fixation with Edie, to feel the heaviness of smoke in her lungs.  She wanted to stop when she was thirty.  That night it sounded so bad that I thought of waking her up to tell her that if she didn't stop tomorrow I was going to give her a spanking or something.  


The alarm went off the next morning.  It was 7:30am.  I opened my eyes, closed them, and opened them again... started to get up and move around.  I looked over and I noticed Edie was still in that exact same position... on her right side with her head facing down on the corner of the pillow.  It was odd because usually she would flop the pillow on the floor and lay flat on the bed.  Well, I thought... well, I had done that once or twice in my life... woken up in the same position I'd gone to sleep in.


But that morning I touched her shoulder... and she was just... just cold.  I sort of freaked out.  My whole body was lifted off the bed.  I fiddled with the phone and started screaming and yelling. 'I think my wife's dead! Get someone over here!  Haul ass!' Then I rolled her over and tried resuscitation.  Her jaw was locked... cold and stiff.  I kept at the mouth-to-mouth until I heard the doorbell ring and a policeman came in. 


Edie didn't have any clothes on.  They wanted to take her body away.  I said 'Well, not without any clothes on.'  They kept asking about the drugs and her medications.  She just looked so helpless." -- Michael Post, husband to Edie


The coroner ruled Edie's death as "undetermined / accident / suicide."  Her death certificate was signed at 9:20am and states the immediate cause was "probable acute barbiturate intoxication."  She was 28 years old.


"I went to see [Factory friend] Brigid Berlin about an article I was writing.  Anyway, she played a tape for me on which she phoned Andy Warhol to tell him about Edie's death.  A rather strange, cryptic tape, vague, though it went something like this:

Brigid told Andy that Edie had suffocated, and Andy asked when?, not sounding particularly surprised or shaken.  But then, that's Andy.  Brigid pointed out to him that Edie hadn't died of drugs, she had suffocated in her sleep.  And Andy asked how could she do a thing like that.  Brigid didn't know.  Then Andy asked whether he would inherit all the money? (He as a reference to Edie's husband).  Brigid said that Edie didn't have any money.  Then, after a pause, Andy continued with something like 'Well, what have you been doing?' and Brigid started talking about going to the dentist." -- Bruce Williamson, TIME magazine writer (1963-1966) and Playboy editor (since 1967)
Screen Test for Andy Warhol
"If you look at a still from Edie's screen test with Warhol, you can see there the whole story.  She is exquisite, but looking more closely you see something quite disturbing: a beautiful frightened animal that has been tracked down, shot in other words, by Andy Warhol, and preserved as a kind of trophy, like the head of a deer on a big game hunter's wall.  Her face is vacant and afraid.  She just isn't there.  As to her enduring appeal, it is very simple: she was beautiful, had fantastic style -- she had the agile style of a dancer.  You can't go wrong with that -- tights and a fur coat.  She was a born blue blood who ran away from her family to become part of that wild scene at the Factory -- the rebellious debutante.  That alone is a story.  And she became inseparable from Andy Warhol.  With a new Warhol book coming out every minute practically, his immortality is also bestowed on her. " -- Ultra Violet, former Warhol Superstar


Screen Test for Andy Warhol
Screen Test for Andy Warhol

For further reading, please pick up "Edie: Girl on Fire" by David Weisman and "Edie: American Girl" by Jean Stein and George Plimpton.  Also noteworthy is "Edie Factory Girl" by David Dalton and Nat Finklestein.

3 comments:

  1. Brilliant article! Love Edie and love the book American Girl. You have lots of pics I haven't seen before too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks! I spent a lot of time scouring for photos, and I kept seeing the same ones over and over again. I wanted to make sure the ones I used were indicative of the timeframe I was referring to in Edie's life, in addition to being as fresh as decades-old pics can be.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Best article on Edie I have yet to read. Well researched and well written. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete