Edie Sedgwick


Andy Warhol's Greatest Superstar Has Enjoyed More Than Her 15 Minutes of Fame


This Knol written by Jon Hopwood
It is copied here under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
As part of the Jon Hopwood Recovery Project

You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain't it hard when you discover that
He really wasn't where it's at
After he took from you everything he could steal.

-- Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone"
Edie Sedgwick was a bright social butterfly whose candle of fame burned brightly at both ends in the years 1965 and 1966. Born into a wealthy White Anglo-Saxon Protestant family of impressive lineage, Edie became a celebrity due to her famine beauty and style, and to the wealth and glamour that was attached to the rich then and always in American society. A native California (though her family's roots were in Massachusetts and New York City), she made her debut in Fun City in the mid-60s as very intelligent and well-spoken young lady with a certain panache that beguiled the fashionable trend-setters and those who ballyhooed those fashions and trends.
Her association with Pop Artist-extraordinaire Andy Warhol, who had started out in commercial design and brought those techniques to the fine arts, helped secure his reputation by making him seem less ridiculous as he originally was perceived. With the glamorous Edie in tow when he made the rounds of parties and gallery openings, Warhol himself became a major trend-setter in New York as the dynamic duo generated reams of copy and free publicity.

Originally an outsider, FAR OUTSIDE THE MAINSTREAM, Warhol eventually was wooed by wealthy socialites and became a major part of the art establishment. He was famous for far more than the 15 minutes prescribed by himself and was a colossus of the New York art scene at the time of his death.
Edie enjoyed her life of celebrity as Warhol's consort, but alas, her own personal fame prescription ran for 15 minutes, run down by a welter of drugs, both prescribed and obtained on the street. By the end of 1966, the transit of her star had gone into an eclipse from which she never recovered.
Edie Sedgwick was born in Santa Barbara, California on April 20, 1943 into family plagued by mental illness. Her father, Francis Minturn Sedgwick (1904-1967), was a local rancher who had experienced three nervous breakdowns prior to his 1929 marriage to Alice Delano De Forest, Edie's mother. Francis Sedgwick suffered from bipolar disorder, and his doctors told Alice's father, the Wall Street financier Henry Wheeler De Forest, that the couple should not have any children. They eventually had eight: Edie was the fourth or five daughters and the second-to-last of the children born to her parents from 1931 to 1945.

The Sedgwicks were an old line of WASPs whose lineage stretched back to the 17th century. One prominent offspring of the clan, and Francis Sedgwick's direct ancestor, was Judge Theodore Sedgwick (1746-1813), a veteran of the Revolutionary War who had served in the Continental Congress as well as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. The Judge eventually was elected to Congress in the new nation, serving both in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Theodore Sedgwick had the distinction of being elected Speaker of the House during the Sixth Congress, serving at the post during the last two years of John Adams administration. Unfortunately for the Sedgwick families, past and current, the Judge's wife, Pamela Dwight (1753-1807), had lost her sanity during mid-life. The roots of the mental illness that plagued Edie Sedgwick's family likely extend as far back as Pamela Dwight Sedgwick.
Francis and Alice Sedgwick moved to Cambridge, Mass. after their marriage, where Francis attended Harvard Business School, the graduate school alma mater of many scions of the best families, including George W. Bush, 43rd president of the U.S. However, Francis had to drop out due to asthma and anxiety, and he was counseled by his physicians to leave business behind and develop his artistic side. The couple moved to Long Island, spending their summers in a house in Santa Barbara. Eventually, in 1943, they moved to a 50-acre fruit ranch in Goleta, California (north of Santa Barbara, and the site of the University of California, Santa Barbara). Edie was born that year in Santa Barbara's Cottage Hospital.
After Edie's birth, the family relocated to a 3,000-acre ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley bought with money inherited from Alice's father, who left her half of his multi-million dollar estate. The family did not live like they were rich. In fact, Edie's older sister Saucie said, "We children were dressed in hand-me-downs from our Eastern cousins, and we got very little for Christmas or birthdays."
The adjective "improvisatory" doesn't quite embrace the sense of anarchy and "found art" that is central to the Warhol cinematic oeuvre, if not esthetic, of the 1960s). Edie was no actress, but Warhol's sense of improvisation was not that practiced at the Actors Studio, or by Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris. (It was more akin to the unplanned improvisations of He Man novelist-cum-motion picture director Norman Mailer in his late '60s trilogy Beyond the Law,Wild 90, and Maidstone.) There was no discipline and little craft in Warhol's cine-esthetic: That would have been anathema to the "found art" quality he craved. An "actress" as unpolished as Edie was exactly what he wanted.
The found art of Warhol was akin to the spontaneous prose of Jack Kerouac, whose seminal masterpiece On the Road was denounced on television as "typing" by novelist and cultural gadfly Truman Capote, and the painting technique of Jackson Pollack, who was derided as "Jack the Dripper" by the Luce press. Both artists limned the subconscious with their spontaneous modes of creation.
Andy Warhol had no illusions about Chuck Wein, but he apparently was attracted by the hustler's blonde good looks. However, other Factory regulars did not take to him. Warhol's first "superstar," Baby Jane Holzer, said of Wein that "he had a bad vibe, a very bad vibe. Too many drugs." However, Andy was smitten with Chuck & Edie, and took them both to Paris in late April for an opening of a show.
When he returned to New York City from Paris, Warhol informed his screenwriter, Ron Tavel, that he was going to crown Edie as the queen of The Factory and solicited a screenplay for her, specifically "Something in a kitchen. White and clean and plastic." The film that came out of this unlikely genesis was Kitchen, which proved to be Tavel's last with Warhol. Warhol replaced Tavel with Wein, who was credited as the screenwriter and assistant director on Beauty No. 2, which starred Edie with some forgotten beefcake in in jockey shorts.
Premiering at the Cinematheque on July 17, 1965, Beauty No. 2 make Edie Sedgwick the leading light of underground cinema. Her on-screen persona was compared by underground movie critics with a taste for hyperbole to that of the late Marilyn Monroe, and she soon was to become famous among the glitterati and those "in the know" for nothing much more than being herself, or more specifically, as a product of Warhol's Factory, akin to the silk screens of Campbell's Soup cans he and his assistants churned out for cash for the avant-garde of H.L. Mencken's Great Booboisie.
(Part of Andy Warhol's charm, in fact, the taproot of his genius, was that he knew it was all a huckle, and made few pretensions about. Since American culture essentially is a Ponzi scheme, a hustle itself from cradle to grave, Warhol's art meshed beautifully, perfectly with the American credo. As Jacque Barzun has pointed out, if the average bourgeois was derided at the turn of the last century as an esthetic philistine with no taste for modern art, by the 1960s, no self-respecting bourgeois would not be posing themselves as anything less than a connoisseur of modern art. Warhol tapped into that subconscious paradox that sees serial killers and terrorists wooed by thousands of ladies, and married in prison by a lady lawyer formerly thought to be at the top of her game -- a situation Andy would relish. In accordance with the principle of Thanatos: People are attracted to their negations.)
Edie's new found celebrity would prove to be her undoing as many new "Svengalis" appeared on the scene, urging Edie to leave Warhol for the mainstream cinema. One of these snakes invading the Garden at the Factory was Bob Dylan's assistant Bobby Neuwirth, who became Edie's lover, wooing her with the promise of starring in a film with his enigmatic boss. Edie had met Neuwirth, in the company of Dylan, in December 1964. Dylan was living at The Chelsea Hotel with former Playboy Bunny Sara Lownds, his muse and future wife. While Sara was minding her three-year old child from an earlier marriage, the two Bobbys -- Neuwirth and Zimmerman -- partook of New York's nightlife.
Dylan simultaneously was continuing his long-standing affair with the Queen of Peace Joan Baez, which lasted until May 1965, when Baez found out about Lownds during a tour of the UK. As Dylan married the pregnant Lownds in November 1965 (they tied the knot in a secret ceremony, and the marriage was unknown to many of his closest friends for months), and seeing as that she was having her own affair with Dylan's major domo, it is unlikely that Edie's amorous designs on the great troubadour were ever consummated.
Edie was of the impression that Albert Grossman, Dylan's manager, was going to offer her a contract to appear in a film with him. Grossman was a very astute businessman whose major tactic during negotiations was to say nothing letting the other party do all the talking and eventually tie themselves up in knots. Edie likely misunderstood Grossman, or Neuwirth, or perhaps even Dylan himself; she never did appear in the dreamed-of Dylan film, although D.A. Pennebaker filmed her at Dylan's studio in 1965 when he was making what became the documentary Don't Look Back.
As Edie began to wander away from his orbit, Warhol began to use other woman to play the role of his "superstar". Warhol filmed her with the intention of including her in his masterpiece The Chelsea Girls, but he replaced her with footage of the beautiful German chanteuse Nico, possibly at Edie's request. Edie's last film with Warhol was fated to be LUPE, a prophetic film in that it was Warhol's take on Lupe Valdez, a suicide who allegedly took pills to off herself, then woke up briefly feeling nauseous, only to kick the bucket for real with her head in the john, having gone to the head to throw-up. (Warhol also might have filmed her in November 1966 for inclusion in The Andy Warhol Story, a lost film the footage no longer exists, having been either lost or destroyed.)
By late 1965, Edie had become paranoid (a condition likely exacerbated by her taste for speed), convinced that she was the butt of some joke enjoyed by the whole of New York because of her starring in Warhol's "amateurish" films. Apparently, the criticism of the underground critics, steeped as they were in camp, had gone to her head and she imagined that she actually was comparable to La Marilyn. After all, hadn't she in her late teens played Liz Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer convincingly enough to keep her gay friends back in Cambridge stocked with fresh young cock? What could a girl do to get some respect in the Big Town? She was ready to break with Andy Warhol, the man who had made her a legend for all of 15 minutes. (Ironically, when Dylan got around to making his film, the product of his labors, Renaldo & Clara, was almost universally reviled for being awful -- and amateurish. Clara was played by the mystery woman of 1965, Sara Lownds Dylan.)
In 1966, the still-loyal Warhol approached his musical "discovery" Lou Reed, who was appearing with the Velvet Underground in the Warhol-produced multi-media "happening", The Plastic Exploding Inevitable and made a proposition: According to Reed, "Andy said I should write a song about Edie Sedgwick. I said 'Like what?' and he said, 'Oh, don't you think she's a femme fatale, Lou?' So I wrote 'Femme Fatale' and we gave it to Nico."
Apparently, Edie's and Warhol's relationship was further strained by her dissatisfaction with her role in Warhol's new sideline. Warhol presented a week of mixed media performances at the Film-Makers' Cinematheque during the second week of February 1966, as the Plastic Exploding Inevitable (which featured Edie's Vinyl co-star, Gerald Malanga, doing a dance with a bullwhip) morphed into "Andy Warhol Up-Tight" audio-visual show. The ad for the event promised a bill headlined by the Velvet Underground, Nico, Edie Sedgwick, and Bob Neuwirth. The Velvet Underground and Nico performed while three of Warhol's films, including Vinyl, were projected on the back wall. The "freak out" was filmed. Warhol also appeared on local TV and announced he was sponsoring a new band, The Velvet Underground. (No Albert Grossman he, Andy Warhol's tenure as the Velvet's manager was brief, as he lacked music biz savvy and was not up to managing a rock band).
On February 13, 1966, Edie appeared in photographs with Warhol and Chuck Wein in the New York Times Magazine. Although the Dylan film still hadn't come through, Edie remained optimistic; it was apparent to Warhol and The Factory regulars that she had a crush on the singer. However, she did not find out about his marriage to Sara Lownds until Warhol told her about it during an argument they had at a restaurant in late February 1966. Andy and his new cinema collaborator, Paul Morrissey, thought the Dylan crew were leading Edie on. Warhol had learned about the secret marriage from his lawyer, and when Edie was informed of the fact, she was devastated. Morrissey believes that, regarding Bob Dylan, that Edie realized that "that maybe he hadn't been truthful."
However, Factory regular and Warhol superstar Malanga remembers the argument being over money. Rich bitch Edie had always picked up the tab when the Factory regulars hit the town in John Lindsay's "Fun City", but she declined to pay this time, and attacked Warhol over his failure to pay her money from the films she had been in. Warhol claimed that there was no money as the films were unprofitable and told her to be patient, after which she made a phone-call, then returned to the table before leaving the restaurant. Whatever its genesis, the upshot of the argument and revelation was that Edie decided that night, right in the restaurant, to part ways with Warhol. According to Malanga, "Edie disappeared and that was the end of it. She never came back."
In the tapes Edie made for Ciao! Manhattan, her cinema obituary, she admitted that she had become emotionally addicted to her affair with Neuwirth. While they were together, she was consumed by lust, but when they were apart, she felt so empty, she turned to pills for comfort. "The only true, passionate, and lasting love scene," she confessed, "and I practically ended up in the psychopathic ward."
Edie is one of the women pictured on the inner sleeve of Dylan's classic Blonde on Blonde album (released May 16, 1966), and she was rumored to be the inspiration of the song "Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat.". Other songs rumored to be about her were "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again" (the reference : "your debutante") and "Just Like a Woman," which was featured on the Ciao! Manhattan soundtrack. (Dylan biographers typically believe the song was about Joan Baez, though it likely was a synthesis of the two or them and other women).
An' I say, "Aw come on now,
You must know about my debutante."
An' she says, "Your debutante just knows what you need
But I know what you want."
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.

-- Bob Dylan, "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again"
Andy Warhol said that he liked Bob Dylan, but Dylan bore an animosity towards the artist, using a silver Elvis painting he had given the young folk singer in the early days as a dart board at his place near Woodstock, in northern New York State. When Warhol made inquiries about why Dylan hated him, "I'd invariably get hearsay answers like 'I hear he feels you destroyed Edie,' or 'Listen to Like a Rolling Stone - I think you're the 'diplomat on the chrome horse,' man.' I didn't know exactly what they meant by that - I never listened much to the words of songs - but I got the tenor of what people were saying - that Dylan didn't like me, that he blamed me for Edie's drugs."
This is the impression that Edie herself gives in Ciao! Manhattan and that has become part of popular mythology, but the truth is that Edie Sedgwick had already been institutionalized twice before ever meeting Andy Warhol. Drugs were very much a part of the scene in New York and the rest of America in the 1960s, and as Edie herself admitted, she had become sexually dependent on a manipulative man (Bob Neuwirth) which left her despondent. After splitting with Warhol, Edie - who was still locked in a destructive affair with Bob Neuwirth -- became part of Dylan's entourage, who was suffering from his own problem with amphetamines at the time.
She tried modeling again and appeared in the March 15, 1966 edition of Vogue. Her modeling career never took off as the professionals in the fashion industry at the time shunned people with drug problems: There was not yet the concept of "heroin chic" that boosts careers, such as that of Kate Moss. Rejected by the fashion industry, Edie then turned back to acting, auditioning for Norman Mailer for his dramatization of his 1955 novel The Deer Park, but Mailer turned her down. Edie "wasn't very good," Mailer remembered. "She used so much of herself with every line that we knew she'd be immolated after three performances"
By the time Andy Warhol's Kitchen starring Edie made its premiere at the Cinematheque on March 3, 1966 she was so badly addicted to drugs she was "falling apart." In six months, she had spent $80,000 (approximately $500,000 in 2007 dollars, when factored for inflation) on dope. Her typical breakfast in this period was a saucer filled with speed. To keep up with her jones, she began stealing antiques and art from her grandmother's apartment, hawking them for cash to cross her pusher's palm . To supplement her income, she turned to dealing but got busted, after being briefly incarcerated, Edie was put on probation for five years. As if things weren't bad enough, during the middle of one night In October 1966, Edie's apartment on East 63rd St. was set on fire by candles she always kept burning. She suffered burns on her arms, legs and back and was treated at Lenox Hill Hospital.
Later that year, Edie visited her home in California, where he drug abuse caused her to be committed to a mental hospital. After her discharge, she moved back to New York and took a room at the Chelsea Hotel, where her drug addiction worsened. By early 1967, he drugged-fueled behavior was so erratic, Neuwirth broke up with her. Edie subsequently took up with her fellow Warhol "superstar" Paul America, a rather talent less "actor" whose qualification for being immortalized on celluloid was his good looks. America, the former Paul Johnson, claimed that he met Warhol and Edie at a bar and that he followed them home to The Factory afterwards. Warhol subsequently had crowned him "Paul America", and Johnson wound up living at The Factory for approximately three years from 1965 to 1968.
Paul America was cast by Warhol in the starring role of the 1965 film My Hustler, a sort of precursor to John Schlesinger's Oscar-winning Midnight Cowboy, which proved to be his sole Warhol acting gig. A heavy user of LSD, America claimed that he didn't even remember the shoot, and was barely conscious that he was in a movie. (The gay-themed My Hustler proved to be a big success and now is considered a landmark of gay cinema. It ranks with Chelsea Girls, which Edie almost appeared in as the most successful financially of Warhol's early films.)
Edie Sedgwick and Paul America became lovers, united in their common lust for drugs, and they lived together for a brief time at New York's Chelsea Hotel. They indulged heavily in speed, two classic co-dependents. The heavy intake of speed likely fueled Edie's paranoia, as well as caused physical problems, including brain damage. A former heroin user, Paul America was credited with Edie's former roommate with keeping her off of smack while they lived together. While they were a couple, America tried to keep Sedgwick from being exploited. Their relationship was an on-again/off-again affair, as America continually left New York for the country (his brother owned a farm in Indiana) as the city, according to those who knew him, drove him crazy. Eventually, friction over control issues forced them apart.
America later appeared with Sedgwick in the long-gestated film Ciao! Manhattan, his second and last film role. This was supposed to be Edie's breakout role, but the film's execution by Warhol acolytes was amateurish. Shooting on Ciao! Manhattan, which would prove to be Edie's final film, commenced on April 15, 1967. The idea for the movie was conceived by Edie's old promoter Chuck Wein and producer Robert Margouleff: It originally was supposed to be a porno film. Later, Wein suggested they cast Edie.
Margouleff remembers that the shooting of the film was anarchic, with the filmmakers and the actors addicted to, and needing, speed, which was injected by a physician with whom the production company had set up a charge account. In one scene, Paul America was filmed chauffeuring Baby Jane Holzer to the Pan Am building, after which he was filmed driving off. The filmmakers waited for him to return so they could shoot backup footage of the scene, but America never returned. Eight months later, he was found in a Michigan jail, where the crew had to shoot pickup scenes to finish off his characterization.
After the departure of Paul America, Edie wound up in Gracie Square Hospital. It was there that she learned of her father's death, on October 24, 1967. He believed towards the end of his life that his own mental illness was the root of his children's problems. After her discharge, Edie shacked up in the Warwick Hotel with the screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson. Carson attracted the fragile "superstar" with the promise of a bespoke screenplay written especially for her, but ultimately he was unable to deal with the erratic behavior stemming from Edie's drug abuse and left her, after which Edie wound up in Bellevue Hospital. After being discharged from Bellevue due to the intervention of her personal physician, she ODed on drugs and was committed to Manhattan State Hospital.
By late 1968, Edie was a physical and emotional wreck: By the time she returned to the family ranch for Christmas, she was barely able to walk and talk, the result of poor blood circulation in her brain. She recovered and moved into an apartment near U.C. Santa Barbara in 1969, but by August, she was institutionalized again after a drug bust. She met her future husband, Michael Post, during her stay in the psychiatric ward of Santa Barbara's Cottage Hospital, though upon her discharge, she became the moll of a motorcycle gang in order to obtain drugs. Known as "Princess" by the bikers, she was very promiscuous, sleeping with anyone who could supply her with heroin. She was institutionalized again in 1970.
Edie was furloughed from the hospital in the summer of 1970 to finish filming Ciao! Manhattan, the last parts of which feature her with a bad boob job and clearly in the throes of drug dependency. Under the supervision of two nurses, she played out her scenes, including a shock treatment scene (electro-convulsive therapy) filmed in a real clinic. Edie had received ECT back East in the past, and her familiarity with the proper procedures helped the filmmakers create a sense of verisimilitude for the scene. Ironically, she was soon back at the clinic for real, suffering from delirium tremens, where she received shock therapy for real. She underwent a minimum of 20 electro-convulsive treatments in the first six months of 1971, from January to June 4. The therapy was authorized as her personal physician thought she was suicidal
After marrying Michael Post on July 24, 1971, Edie managed to stayed clean of drugs until October, even giving up the lush. However, that fall, she was prescribed a pain pill to treat a physical debility. In addition, her doctor prescribed barbiturates, possibly to help her sleep, and she manipulated the physician to get more pills. She frequently boosted the effects of the downers with alcohol.
On the night of November 15, 1971, Edie went to fashion show at the Santa Barbara Museum and wound up being filmed for the last time in her life. The P.B.S. television documentary An American Family was being filmed at the museum that night, and Edie - attracted by the cameras as a moth is to flame - walked over and began talking to Lance Loud, one of the subjects of the documentary, whom she had already met. She always had a knack for making the scene with gay men.
After the fashion show, Edie went to a party but was asked to leave after her presence caused another guest to rave at her for being a heroin addict. Edie, who had herself been imbibing strong waters, rang up her husband to come retrieve her from the soiree. The newlyweds went back to their apartment. Edie took her prescribed pain medication, and they both went to sleep. That morning, when Post awoke at 7:30 AM, he found Edie dead next to him in the bed. Her death was ascribed as "acute barbiturate intoxication" and she was ruled an "Accident/Suicide" by the coroner. The headline of the New York Times obituary declared:
Edie Sedgwick was buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Ballard, California, which - according to her sister Suky, "[U]sed to be a dingy village so small that if you went through it at fifty miles per hour you'd miss it. It's in the Valley, but it's nothing. A few live-oak trees. No one would ever go there except to see the veterinarian." She was laid to eternal rest far from the glamour and crowds of Fun City (itself expired in the squalls of poverty and insolvency that buffeted New York City in the 1970s), where she had glistered like gold for a brief moment in the mid-'60s.



This is an awesome knol Will. I had no idea the Edie Sedgwick worked at an animal hospital for a time. That's fascinating. How did you get involved with Edie? Are you related to him? http://www.arkanimalhospitalsc.com/

Anonymous - 11 Jul 2011