October 31, 2010
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Red, White And Black
Now we get to the ostensible story which is the Red assault on Italian Somaliland. If few people today understand the partition of Africa by the European powers it might be well to recap the situation a little. The two big players were France and England with Spain and Portugal picking up some early real estate to be later joined by the bit players, Germany and Italy. The German possessions were stripped from them after the Great War and given to England.
This novel takes place in the Horn Of Africa or the Northeast corner facing the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian Ocean. The area contained Ethiopia otherwise known as Abyssinia, the only independent State in Africa save Liberia whose independence was guaranteed by the United States.
Ethiopia was bordered by Italian Eritrea and French and British Somaliland on the North, Italian Somaliland on the East, Kenya and Uganda on the South and Anglo-Egyptian Sudan on the West.
The Galla tribe with whom ERB became fascinated had been driven about by the Somals occupying lands mostly in the interior of Ethiopia after the manner of the Middle Eastern Kurds, where they were constantly in conflict with the Ethiopians and the Somals on the border. ERB deals with the Ethiopian-Galla situation in Tarzan And The Mad Man.
The Red camp is located in Ethiopia several days march from the border of Italian Somaliland. Opar which is nearby must now be located in Ethiopia.
The Reds have assembled an international cast of characters or in other words a multi-cultural outfit. Their multi-cultural nature will prove to be a liability rather than an asset as indeed it must in real life.
The organizers are Russian or Soviet Communists of whom there are four, Peter Zveri, the leader, Zora Drinov, Paul Ivitch and Michael Dorsky. They are joined by an American agent acting as a double agent, Wayne Colt.
Burroughs casually mentions that the expedition was put together in the United States by Zveri operating on both coasts. As Burroughs is writing a novel he wisely declines to preach or analyze, he is, as he says, an entertainer. As I who do function as an analyst pointed out in Marcia Of The Doorstep that the US had been used as a safe haven by every conspiratiorial revolutionary group on the planet. Burroughs is noting the same thing but only in passing as part of the story. If one is not attuned to such details they slip right by without significance as do the dots and dashes of the Morse code to the uninitiated.
The group is also composed of a Filipino Red, Antonio Mori and a Mexican revolutionary Miguel Romero. These people form the core group. Affiliated with them are the Moslem Arabs of Abu Batn who appear to have been recruited from the Mahgreb, perhaps Algeria, where some of Tarzan’s early adventures occurred. They do not appear to be Black Arabs of the Horn. While appearing to be Communists they remain Moslem Arabs whose real motive is to drive the Christians or Nasrany as they call them out of Africa. This means Whites of no or any religious affiliation.
Zveri has also patched on the Bantu tribe of Kitembo, the Basembos. This is because Kitembo has actually been to Opar, the only member of their party who has. Kitembo doesn’t appear to be a true Communist but is a former powerful chief from Kenya who had been displaced by the British. He comes from a place on Lake Victoria which should make him a Luo but for reasons perhaps not pertinent I tend to think of him as Kikiyu probably partly based on someone like Jomo Kenyatta who already had notoriety by 1930 although Kitembo’s history is close that that of the Unyoro Chief Kaba Rega whose story Burroughs was definitely familiar with from the memoirs of Samuel Baker.
Kitembo is interested only in recovering his past dignity augmented ten fold. All that becomes irrelevant when he deigns to lay his hands on Zora.
We should remember that Burroughs is writing in 1930 not 2010, so many things that are more or less clear to us now were undetermined at that time while understandings and motivations were quite different then from today and as those of today will be fifty years hence.
For one thing Africa was still a land of mystery where one wouldn’t have been too surprised if someone had discovered a lost civilization, a strange anthropoid- perhaps the so-called Missing Link, very real to the imagination at the time- and any number of things. One of the great losses of my childhood was the recognition that Africa was known; that nothing truly wonderful would be discovered in the world again. All was now cataloguing.
Abercrombie and Fitch who had built a very lucrative business outfitting ‘explorers’ or safaries, having not yet turned to teen porn, lost its raison d’etre as did all the ‘Explorer’ clubs where grown men sat around in khaki Safari gear drinking and dreaming. All that was left for me and my generation was Trader Vic’s and he’s gone now. The miracle is that the National Geographic found a way to survive when they could no longer portray exotic, naked, painted savages with necks supported by copper rings, plates in the upper lip and that. Now of course they don’t have to go as far for such exotica as Whites imitating the Africans sport massive tattooing suported by all kinds of nose rings and body piercings.
So, in 1930 Burroughs’ story still had a degree of probability. Especially in the way he joined contemporary politics to nineteenth century Africa. In one reads closely this is quite a story, a true tour de force.
Not only do the Arabs and the Bantus have their personal motivations apart from Communism, so we learn does Peter Zveri. The streak of individualism is not extinct in his collective mind, he sees the opportunity to make himself Emperor of Africa in Tarzan’s stead. Apparently Soviet intelligence has been keeping close tabs on the doings of the Big Ape Man because Zveri knows of Tarzan’s ‘fool dirigible trip’ believing him absent from Africa and possibly dead as no one has heard from him for the past year. This was before Google Alerts too.
Indeed Tarzan drops as from the clouds into a clearing filled with great apes as the story begins. Just coincidentally Jad-Bal-Ja and Nkima happen to be in this exact part of Tarzan’s estate of Africa at the same time. Zveri then is very disappointed to learn that his nemesis is back. As well he might because he has engaged himself mano a mano with the Big Bwana and Africa, believe it or not, is not big enough for both of them.
In his examination of Communism, multi-culturalism and human nature Burroughs is at his incisive best. Remember few of these stories go over a hundred ninety-two paperback pages. These are tremendously condensed stories. They’re somewhat like a zipped file with megabytes compressed into kilobytes. To really get the stories you have to unzip them and let them expand in y9ur mind. Don’t be deceived by their seeming simplicity.
The various cultures involved in this plot are only loosely held together by Communist ideology. The plot eventually falls apart because the cultures see through the phoniness of the Communist ideal. Zveri himself isn’t even that sincere a Communist as he intends to use the gold of Opar to make himself a third world power as Emperor of Africa. In the end Communism is a fatuous dream,whether utopian or dystopian is up to you.
Burroughs does not emphasize his opinions, he merely tells his story. My conclusions as to his intent are derived from the result of the story. In the end Communism fails because of internal contradictions while the big Bwana is invincible retaining his position as Guardian or Emperor of Africa. Not one world of preachment.
Wayne Colt in his rather absurd trek across Africa arrives too late for the first assault on Opar. He does happen into camp in time to spot the shaking tent and rescue Zora from Jafar, the Indian Communist, with Tarzan’s help. After killing Jafar Tarzan turns his steps to Opar traveling in a bee-line through the Middle Terraces he handily arrives before the first expedition which had left some time before him.
Let me take a moment to discuss Burroughs’ Africa. In the first place these stories are combination dreamscape, fairy tale and mythmaking. His Africa bears no more relation to this planet than Arthur’s Camelot bore to Medieval England. I find it tiresome for scholars to try to find the ‘real’ history of Arthur’s career. Arthur may have a loose connection to real historical events but the story, a great one, is a projection of psychological needs. There isn’t any such thing as a Holy Grail. No knights ever went in search of it.
In the same way Burroughs’ Africa is a psychological projection hopefully leading to his Holy Grail. There are no lower, middle or upper terraces in a nearly uniform jungle in the real Africa. Anyone who tries to find them will be severely disappointed. Such things are merely inventions of Burroughs’ dream world. I am glad he shared it with me, you and the millions.
The frequency with which the characters run into each other way out there is also impossible but in Burroughs’ dreamscape, his fairy tale, his myth, it happens all the time. There is no sense in arguing the impossibility. If you find it too offensive to your sensibilities then the oeuvre is not for you. One just accepts that these are fairy tales and in fairy tales things like this happen all the time. It’s a fantasy, fantastic things go on.
I try to fathom the psychological intent so while I may smile and jest at some impossible details it is only at the naive dream details and not the serious intent of the story. In our time these stories would have been taken at warp speed to another galaxy where in that context all things would be possible. But, that would be pure fiction hence unbelievable. I never did take Star Trek seriously, in fact, I refused to voluntarily watch it. Burroughs’ Africa can still be located on a map of the world connecting psychological reality with temporal reality in a very satisfying blend.
So, as this series is a roman a fleuve or River Story, Tarzan ruminates on his previous visits to Opar as he strides across the hot dusty desert, where the rain never falls, toward the fabled gold and red domes and turrets in the distance.
La’s love for him which began in Return Of Tarzan has caused dissension between her and her people. She has retained her position only through the active intervention of Tarzan. Defeating the revolution that had ousted her in Tarzan And The Golden Lion the big Bwana had replaced her on the throne guarded by the Bolgani of the Valley of Diamonds and the semi-human Gomangani. It is interesting to not that the Oparian revolution occurred after the Russian. Might be a connection.
As he approaches the city he believes that the Oparians appreciated his defeat of Cadj and that they love and respect him so that his reunion with them will be joyous. Not so. In the interim the Oparians who hate and resent Tarzan have deposed La putting her in a foul prison in the vast underground maze of dungeons of Opar. Passing back through the narrow cleft, bounding up the stairs, Tarzan is surprised to find himself attacked by the howling Frightful Men. The Man of the Steel Pate receives another frightful blow which lays him out.
He wakes to find himself the captive of Oah and Dooth. He is placed in a cell the details of which I have already related above.
I haven’t plumbed the signficance of Tarzan and La being imprisoned together while the city is attacked by the Communists unless the dreamworld of Opar represents a sanctuary that is now invaded in the attempt to destroy Burroughs’s literary career. In that event it might be necessary for the Anima and Animus to be together. This story also harks back to the invasion of the Emerald City in Baum’s story The Emerald City Of Oz.
In any event the various strange screams and noises from within Opar unsettle the superstitious Blacks and Arabs who lose their nerve refusing to enter Opar. The Blacks believe in spirits and the Arabs in jinns both of which they fear more than living men. Thus Burroughs is contemptuous of both cultures.
Zveri and his Russians are too cowardly to enter themselves. The only one with the nerve is the Mexican Miguel Romero who gets very good reviews from ERB. Miguel retreats in the the face of the horde of Frightful Men but he is very cool about it.
Returning to camp the Arabs are now disaffected having words with Zveri. The arrival of Colt and Mori puts a little heart into Zveri so that a second attempt on Opar is determined leaving the Arabs to guard the camp.
Tarzan and La escape from Opar between the two assaults becoming subsequently separated. Zveri takes the Blacks and Communists with him. Being left behind dissolves the Arab affinity with the Cause. Never good Communists, being interested only in ejecting the Nasrani from Africa, they decide to disappear into the desert.
About this time La wanders into camp. Sacking the camp, Abu Batn and his Arabs leave with the two women whose value in the North he knows full well. The Arabs are out of the story. The Communist coalition is breaking up. As Burroughs points out the goals of the two are not the same.
Back in Opar Zveri finds it impossible to force his Africans into service while he and his Russians remain cowards. Colt behaving bravely, as only an American can, along with Miguel Romero penetrates to the sanctuary where they are faced by the Frightful Men. Perhaps in a comment on American tactics Colt fires over the heads of the Oparians while the Mexican, Romero, fires directly into the mob.
Why when Americans go to war they are reluctant to do the dirty work of killing is beyond me. The reluctance to engage the enemy in Viet Nam cost us that war. The reluctance to do what we have to do in Iraq is costing us that war. Perhaps we think we can hide behind a wall of steel as our technology wars for us while we imagine we can remain safe. Our punishment of our own soldiers for merely humiliating the enemy must be unique in the annals of warfare. And they wonder why no one wants to join the Army.
Romero who shoots to kill is able to escape while the pussy footing Colt is downed by a thrown club and captured. A thrown club! Once again a Burroughs’ surrogate takes a blow to the head, but how does one survive a thrown club?
Just as Colt and Zora exchange partners in the jungle so now Colt takes Tarzan’s place in jail. Here, he is befriended by a nubile beauty, Nao, rather than as La did Tarzan and, pephaps as Florence was doing for ERB. Afer killing to free him Nao is left behind as Colt disappears into the dusty desert. Not a very thoughtful thing to do as Nao would certainly be discovered.
Zveri returns to his devastated camp to be handed a letter notifying him that Colt is a double agent. Abandoning any thoughts of Opar the Communists concentrate on their mission which is the simulated invasion of Italian Somaliland.
As they are about to leave Tarzan returns Zora to camp. Coldly dropping her off without a word he climbs onto a branch to spy on the conspirators. His leopard skin shorts are mistaken for the real thing. Here we go again. the shot at the imagined leopard grazes the Big Guy’s skull putting him out of commission for a full day. So that is at least two knockouts for Burroughs’ surrogates plus this concussion. Tarzan’s frequent lapses of attention become more intelligible.
Zveri wants to take advantage of his opportunity and kill Tarzan but Zora intervenes so Tarzan is bound which leads to next day’s episode when Dorsky threatens him only to be annihilated by Tantor.
The charming fairy tale between Nkima, Tantor, Tarzan and the Hyena then takes place which is a repeat of the same scene in Jewels Of Opar.
Nkima then goes in search of the Faithful Waziri to aid Tarzan while the Big Fella begins his campaign of terror against the Communist conspirators.
His strategy is to separate Kitembo and his Basembos from Zveri and his Communists. To do this he plays on their superstitious natures. A mysterious voice comes down from the trees, in other words, the sky, telling them to go back. In the meantime Little Nkima has recruited the Faithful Waziri who arrive to help out not with spears and bows and arrows but modern repeating rifles. Arranging themselves in front of the advancing Communists hidden in the tall grass -this stuff grows six feet high- they give the appearance of being many more than they are. Burroughs doesn’t make it clear how they can see the Communists through the grass while the Communists can’t see them but as Tarzan usually navigates pretty well even in total darkness I’m probably making a bigger problem out of it than it is.
Zveri does a rapid advance to the rear which act of cowardice completely destroys his credibility. Dorsky is dead while Romera and Mori renounce their Communism. Zora reveals she’s only in it for the revenge because Zveri had murdered her family twelve years earlier in the Revolution while, as we are aware, Colt is an American agent. This leaves only Zweri and Ivitch who I believe represent Frank Martin and R. H. Patchin, ERB’s old nemeses in Chicago.
Returning to camp Zveri spots Wayne Colt. Calling him a traitor he fires point blank missing while the bullet grazes Colt’s side without breaking the skin. That was a close one. Before Zveri can fire again he is brought down from behind by Zora. Burroughs replays scenes like this over and over with different variations. Just as the constant bashings on the head his surrogates take reflect his own experience in 1899 so must all these conflicts between his surrogates and another man and his surrogate woman reflect his situation with Frank Martin and Emma. In each instance in one way or another the woman rejects the other man. Thus Burroughs ‘fictionizes’ his own situation.
So now Zora kills Zveri so that she and Colt can bridge that gap.
As a sidekick Ivitch/Patchin is allowed to leave Africa. In point of fact Martin died some time before Burroughs although not until after 1934 while Patchin survived both.
Tarzan in the meantime escorts La back to Opar where he reinstalls her on the throne this time doing the sensible thing of eliminating Oah, Dooth and all their sympathizers. One must believe there will be no more trouble in Opar. In any event Opar disappears from the oeuvre.
Tarzan then returns to the camp to dispense justice as becomes the Lord Of The Jungle.
As the story ends the ‘invincible’ Tarzan seems to have solved all the problems confronting he and Burroughs in 1930. The Big Fella has not only thwarted Zveri but defeated Stalin and the whole Soviet empire.
As the exchange between Zveri and Romero explains it: pp. 183-84:
“Which proves,” declared Zveri, “what I have suspected for a long time; that there is more than one traitor among us,” and he looked meaningly at Romero.
“What it means,” said Romero’ “is that crazy, harebrained theories always fail when they are put to the test. You thought that all the blacks in Africa would rush to our standard and drive all the foreigners into th ocean. In theory, perhaps, you were right, but in practice one man, with a knowledge of native psychology, which you did not have, burst your entire dream like a bubble, and for every other harebrained theory in the world there is always the stumbling block of fact.”
Thus Tarzan not only defeats Zveri, Stalin and the Soviets but he disproves the whole Communist ideology as a harebrained theory.
On top of that the Invincible One restored order in Opar while putting his personal life to rights by separating out Colt and Zora or Burroughs and Emma and Tarzan and La or Burroughs and Florence.
The succeeding novel Tarzan The Triumphant- Invincible, Triumphant- will rescue the Russian situation while its successor Tarzan And The City Of Gold disposes of Emma/Jane/Zora/Nemone by her self-immolation while its successor Tarzan And the Leopard Men bring Kali/Florence and Old Timer/Burroughs together. The series climaxes with Tarzan And the Lion Man when Burroughs 2 kills off his early self, Stanley Obroski, or Burroughs 1 to come into his own, or so Burroughs supposes. The rest of the series is playing out the aftermath of the divorce from Emma and the marriage to Florence.
As could have been predicted the marriage to Florence was less than satisfying.
So, perhaps, Burroughs’ solution to his personal dilemma is based on a harebrained theory itself which fell to earth on ‘the stumbling block of fact.’
For the moment however Tarzan has saved Africa from the Communist menace and perhaps the World.
October 30, 2010
Maid Of Constant Sorrow
Chaps 3,4 & 5
Time Is On My Side
A problem with the sixties is the concept of time. Einstein had gummed up the investigation of the concept considerably. Time is not a static thing but moves at various speeds. Strictly speaking time does not exist but is a human construct. The basis of the construction is the diurnal rotation of the earth and the earth’s revolution around the sun. There is no starting point for the revolution and no end. Man constructed a beginning based on earth’s greatest distance from the sun and because of the Plane Of The Ecliptic, the shortest day of the revolution. This was the most recognizable point to begin. Without the day and the year there is no basis for determining time; there is no other vantage point in the Universe.
Time has no existence in the universe; there is only space and matter and space cannot be defined without matter. No changes take place in the nature of space, only in matter, and time is no operative factor in those changes. Time does not exist outside the human mind.
Time as we usually think about it is a division of the earthly day into hours, minutes and seconds; of the year into seasons, months, weeks and days. As this is objective time keeping without reference to the passing of events or the perception of the individual subjective time is unaffected by objective time.
Now, let us say that the normal rate of perception and living is done in 4/4 time. To try to be specific let us say the standard is time as lived by 18-60 year olds adjusted to their societal needs. Let us just speculate that the mind in its normal state is comfortable with 4 bits of information per second and let us say that normally, whatever that means, bits of information are occuring at 20 bits per second. That means that 16 bits a second are normally over the subject’s head; he may perceive them but he can’t record them on the spot. Part of this is made up in sleep and dreams where removed from external stimulus the individual is able to subconsciously process additional bits that went by him while waking. The remainder then can only be captured and analyzed from a distance in time where what was happening can be seen but what is gained in distance is lost in immediacy. That is history, what I am attempting here. While the big picture can be seen, vast amounts of immediate detail are lost to memory or altered to conform to desires and prejudices. But, that is the way it is.
The period of ’64-’66 was one in which amphetamines and barbiturates altered or distorted 4/4 time. Under the influence of amphetamines subjects were living in, let us say, 16/4 time. They were so alert they couldn’t sleep. So long as they could control their obsessions and not be hung up on details they could turn out prodigious amounts of work. Thus to satisfy this amphetamine induced mania for work Warhol and his assistant, Gerard Malanga, could manually turn out fifty large Presley silk screen prints in an afternoon. In fact, in this period they turned out thousands and thousands of silk screens. There are a lot of Warhols out there.
Dylan is said to have literally and steadily turned out reams of material. He left a huge sheaf at Baez’s in Carmel in Spring of ’65 which he never reclaimed. As he said, songs just flowed through his amphetamine fueled mind. This sort of activity ceased or drew to a close when both Warhol and Dylan ceased using amphetamines- in other word their time races slowed down and their brains slid back toward 4/4 time.
Now, when the subject’s brain was racing at 16/4 it couldn’t slow down to allow him to sleep. Keith Richards says that in those days he slept only two nights out of seven. Warhol said he got two hours of sleep a night during this period and some said, perhaps with exaggeration, they didn’t sleep at all for one or two years.
So, while your brain is racing along 16/4 and you feel the need for rest you have to take barbiturates, downers, to slow your time down toward 8/4 or hopefully 4/4. This pits one drug against the other, one is speeding, one is dragging. Too much manipulation and of course one’s time slows to 0/4 and you’re dead.
Between events being clustered and racing so fast that no one can keep up, even at 16/4 and certainly at a speed to defy analysis no one had any idea of who or where they were and what was happening. No matter how fast the brain is racing one is still living in 4/4 time.
For those with 16/4 racing brains and no outlets such as art or writing, music, the result was chaos and self-destruction. In addition confusion was caused by making the 18-60 years old time race as an objective standard by which all normality is measured.
When someone says that time stood still, it literally did for the subject, the duration of that stillness cannot be measured by objective time.
What may seem like a few seconds to an outside observer is literally timeless to the subject. The earth still turns but the mind doesn’t move, but no time is lost because time doesn’t exist. Thus children and mature people live in 2/4 or 3/4 time in which 4/4 time is irrelevant. It takes eons for a day or two to pass as a child while objective time becomes irrelevant if you no longer have to watch the clock. For instance, at 72 I live in a mix between natural time and objective time. I only have to enter objective time when it’s necessary to keep an appointment and I try to eliminate those as much as possible. Otherwise it’s day or night, Spring, Summer, Winter or Fall. I frequently don’t pay attention to what day it is because I don’t need to know and I don’t care. It doesn’t make any difference; it is always my time.
Doctors try to evaluate your memory by applying the needs of 18-60 year olds who are living according to the demands of objective time. So, since we live at different time races those whose speeds differ have a difficult time understanding each other.
Speeding Down The Highway
Lest we associate amphetamines at this time with illegal drugs let’s look at the scene in NYC. Sometime in the early sixties Feel Good doctors were dispensing massive does of amhetamines and vitamins. the most notorious, or well known, of these doctors were Max Jacobson and a man referred to as Dr. Roberts.
Jacobson appears first on the scene with a patient roster of astounding celebrity which included then President John F. Kennedy. Lyndon Johnson took a shot but perceived the situation for what it was and didn’t go back.
The Beatles mention a Dr. Robert in one of their songs and he’s the man we’re concerned with here in ’65 no to be confused with Dr. Roberts. Dr. Roberts administered to some of the Warhol crowd including Edie Sedgwick. There is an astonishing account of his practice in Stein and Plimpton’s Edie. Quite an extensive account. To excerpt it I’d probably have to have permission; I’ll check into it.
These doctors were carelessly giving incredibly huge injections that kept you speeding for a week or two. But needles, syringes and drug could be obtained easily and they were which brings us to a member of the Factory entourage, Brigid Berlin. She was not old money but came from a very affluent background.
She, obviously laboring under several mental disorders, was an indiscriminate and unsound dispenser of the drug. She ran around the Factory injecting all and sundry with the same dirty needle. Her forte was to inject herself straight through the seat of her jeans.
Andy, himself, used something call Obetrol which is described as a very high quality amphetamine producing a pleasant and stimulating high. While this drug kept Andy up with the exception of an hour or two of fitful sleep it also allowed him to work, work, work, industriously and with intense concentration for hours at a time. Fifty Presleys in an afternoon, think about it, assembly line pace.
Without a work outlet one had to find other ways to work off the excess energy. Non-stop talking is one but, hell, I can do that all day without the benefit of drugs. Since all these people at the Factory were living in 16/4 time they could communicate on that level with each other. There wasn’t an awful lot of intelligence being communicated. Warhol did us the service of recording 24 hours of what passed for communication and published the result as a book or novel he titled ‘a’. This book is virtually unreadable but as dedicated to my art as I am I am living proof that it can be done. Let’s hear from anyone else who had the patience. The gang was big on non-verbal communication. There are mostly a lot of incomplete sentences in the book but the conversation is forwarded in a pastiche manner each participant adding a phrase so that a sort of idea is parsed out.
As might be expected the group was low on conventional 4/4 morality, but at 16/4 they seem to have worked out a morality that all could accept but one I certainly would reject. Beatings, theft and random sex in view of others or not with anyone or anything seemed to be the moral basis. While Andy disavowed responsibility for anything that hapened at the Factory he was in fact the leader functioning as Magister Ludi. In the novel ‘a’ he is referred to as Drella, a combination of Dracula and Cinderella- a vampire and a fairy. He was in truth a bloodsucker.
He essentially took a whole group of Catholic homosexual Undermen and gave them a clubhouse and a certain immunity under the umbrella of his name and fame. Even then he and his Factory were a thorn in the side of legitimate society, the police visiting the place on a regular basis. And rightly so.
This was the scene, the environment that Chuck Wein brought Edie into. It seemed to suit her state of mind, she stayed.
Dylan also was an amphetamine freak at the same time while using alcohol, LSD, marijuana and heroin. Warhol who was a perceptive observer said that Dylan’s songs were the amphetamine speaking. According to Andy, Dylan took other people’s words (and tunes) and because of the amphetamine was able to make them sound as though his own. He also astutely divided Dylan’s output into two periods; the first, social protest and the second, personal protest. Pretty much half a side of Another Side, plus Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde. Once again, he knew whereof he spoke. We’re concerned more with the personal protest here taking little or no interest in the social side.
Dylan’s personal protest by its very nature must be autobiographical. Indeed, Suze Rotolo identifies many of Dylan’s songs as referring to her. She should know. Dylan was quite taken with her. He obviously suffered a painful feeling of desertion whan at her mother’s insistence in 1962 she left NYC to study in Italy. This absention definitely changed the relationship although as Bob was never too constant a lover it is difficult to see how. Ego was hurt, I guess.
Although the relationship was reassumed on Suze’s return her sister, Carla, and her mother disapproved finally breaking the couple up. The break up produced the autobiographical Ballad In Plain D in which Dylan vented his emotions in a loud screaming complaint that was a direct predecessor to his magic mantra ‘Like A Rolling Stone.’
I Can’t Stand The Pain In Here
According to accounts Dylan began writing Like A Rolling Stone in June of ’65. It began as 20 pages of ‘vomit’ according to Dylan, cut down to 10 and then to its released form. The 45 was a successful disc reaching the Billboard Top 10. The song is quite obviously about Edie when one learns the background. Many New Yorkers who were aware of the scene expressed their opinion that it was about Edie, pointing out further their belief that Warhol was the Napoleon in rags.
If first written in June then Dylan had made a considerable psychological investment in Edie since the previous December of ’64. One wonders where he found the time to cultivate a relationship with her between the two dates. He wrote recorded and released ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ between the meeting with Edie and April. He had performance dates. He divided his time between NYC, Woodstock and Carmel. In the last mentioned place he was staying at the home of Joan Baez while keeping Sara in Woodstock and maintaining some sort of relationship with Suze.
The extent of the rage and hatred of ‘Stone’ seems to be out of all proportion. According to the song Dylan is in a jealous rage because the ‘She’ of the song has deserted him for this ‘Napoleon in rags.’ ‘He calls to you, go to him now.’ What exactly did Dylan intend to do with Edie that he should become so emotonal? There is no question but that he intended to marry Sara; also none that he would marry either Joan, Suze or Edie. Quite simply they weren’t Jewish and Sara was. Dylan had no intention of marrying outside his religion. He intended to obey the Biblical injunction, which he takes as the literal word of God, to be fruitful and he wanted his children raised Jewish.
So what, then? What did Edie represent to him? Apart from being an uptown girl, in Volume I of his autobiographical Chronicles he suggests that one looks for the model of ‘She’ in his mother. I found this puzzling. I couldn’t make it fit the lyrics. None of the ‘facts’ of the song seemed to fit what is known of his mother. Then I saw Dylan’s 2003 movie, Masked And Anonymous. This is a delicate subject of which I am only going to skirt the edges. But, if one reads between the lines of Jack Fate’s soliloquy at his father’s death bed about his mother and faher, the lyrics of Freight Train Blues and what I’m hinting at here the fog should thin out somewhat. Remember that Dylan said his mother was connected to ‘Stone’. Since the song is about Edie it follows that Dylan associated his mother and Edie in his mind; there was a situational similarity to him.
Now, from August ’65 to the recording of Blonde On Blonde nearly the whole of Dylan’s output is centered around Edie, Warhol and the Factory. One of Dylan’s more vicious songs was ‘Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat’ which is about Edie. When Edie dissipated her inheritance she bought a slew of fur coats and a lot of jewelry. She had the leopard skin pill box hat.
Dylan’s mother was also known for having a lot of jewelry and several fur coats. Dylan recorded his version of Freight Train Blues long after 1968 when his father died. Now, immediately after his death the business owned by his father and two uncles either went bankrupt or was forced to close. In other words there was no more money left in the business. While Hibbing was not a flush market there was no competition either. So Abe Zimmerman’s exit came at a propitious moment, or…. At any rate there was no more money.
Just as Edie went through her money so Dylan’s mother kept her husband hopping in all likelihood straining the finances of the appliance store that, after all, had to support three families. Dylan, then, may have conflated Edie with his mother’s extravagance and whatever he had planned for Edie would have been done to his mother surrogate. In fact he was quite brutal to Edie, destroying her in the end. Thus one avenges oneself on one’s mother, ‘Like A Rolling Stone.’ He is probably one of those people who reject but can’t tolerate rejection because of his mother’s rejection of him per Jack Fate. According to his soliloquy in Masked And Anonymous his mother essentially rejected him plnging him into a deep depression from which he has never recovered if the movie is any indicaton. The movie too is autobiographical. He felt: ‘Nobody leaves me, I leave them.’ ‘That’ll be the day when you leave me’ as Dylan’s hero Buddy Holly put it. This was possibly the cause for the eruption of Ballad In Plain D.
In March of ’65 Edie entered the corrupt, even criminal, world of Warhol’s Factory. One can only speculate why Chuck Wein took her there. Perhaps the empresario was having a difficult time getting Edie launched and thought he could get her into Warhol’s hideous movies. Having run through her inheritance Edie was getting desperate for money. Perhaps in her naivete she thought movies were movies and movie stars made big money. Certainly one cause for her break from Andy was his refusal to pay her.
Warhol, in his own delusions believed that Hollywood would come knocking on his door cash in hand. That that never happened was probably a major disappointment. At any rate when this vision of the respectable Overmen appeared in this dump of a studio Andy went ga-ga. In fact, Edie was his ticket, his entry into the Upper East Side crowd. Just as Fred Hughes was to show him how to make money, Edie opened society doors to him.
This King of Scurf was creating quite a scene at the Factory. At the same time he gave a clubhouse to the Undermen, as a leading figure of the art world which, after all, is an upper class affair of wealth, he had a foot in that camp. Led by the more louche of celebrities the Factory was becoming a party destination. So Edie added some instant uptown glamor. Old family, old money.
Whether it was the hope of money from movies that kept her there or whether this degrading atmosphere filled some psychological need Edie stayed on thereby sacrificing her reputation. I imagine there’s always the hope that once you get your face up there something will pop.
Sometime between March and June Dylan became enraged that Edie was at the Factory making some pretty lame Warhol movies with little or no commercial appeal. Thus his work from this time on reflected his tug of war over Edie with Warhol.
Edie says that she didn’t get into heavy drugs before she joined Warhol’s menagerie. This may be true but as Warhol said: How do you stop someone from doing what they want to do? I would imagine the effects of electro-shock are very long lasting and discombobulating. Lou Reed of Velvet Underground was certainly whacked out from electro-shock. As I write my mind keeps going back to the time I stuck my finger in the socket as a child. I mean, it is vivid, so I can’t imagine what Electro-shock does to you. Perhaps speed replicates what electro-shock does do to you. Perhaps speed replicates or complements the feeling of electro-shock in some way.
Of amphetamines Edie is quoted as saying:
The nearly unendurable torment of speed, buzzarama, that acrylic high, horrorous, yodeling, repetitious echoes of an infinity so brutally harrowing that words cannot explain the devastation nor the tone of such a vicious nightmare.
Could be close to the feeling of electro-shock. Kind of reminds me of my finger in the socket. Dylan’s seach for the ‘high mercury sound’ must also have been the result of speed. Cacophonous songs like ‘Highway 61′, ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ and ‘Rainy Day Women’ come to mind.
Perhaps also the amphetamine high reflected and complemented the deranged vicious goings on Warhol allowed at the Facatory. The sado-masochism. Brigid Berlin, or the Duchess as she was alternately known, roaming around with her needle and syringe ramming it into anyone will they, nil they, not much choice there. Beatings going on back in the shadows, is it any wonder that Dylan referred to Warhol as Dr. Filth in Desolation Row.
It is difficult to ascertain dates in existing sources but possibly between June and August Dylan invited Edie and Andy to a concert in upstate NY so, there was significant interaction between the three before Highway 61 Revisited. Side one of that record doesn’t reflect Factory activity as much as side two. I suspect all three songs on that side reflect Dylan’s sitation with Andy and Edie while Desolation Row definitely does. Now, while at the time there were few listeners who had any idea of what Dylan’s lyrics meant except for possibly a few, of which Warhol definitely was one. He must have recognized the reference to himself in ‘Stone’ and also in Positively Fourth Street. These songs were hits. ‘Fourth Street’ was pulled from airplay shortly after relaease but when I first heard it the sound just blew me away. I heard the put downs but too fleetingly to grasp them. Hank Williams on steroids.
Dylan, then, was making, on Warhol a blatant attack over the airwaves of all America plus reviling Edie in a hideous manner. What did Andy think, what was his reaction? Having vented his feelings even more violently than he had in Ballad In Plain D, Dylan’s next move was obvious. Having lost Edie in March he meant to reclaim her in October. And so this epic battle for the person of Edie Sedgwick began. She was only a pawn in their game.
Chaps. 6, 7 and 8 are up on the next post.
Chaps 9,10, 11 and 12 are now up on the post following 6,7 and 8.
Chaps 13, 14 and 15 are now up also. Chap. 16 and end is in contemplation
October 21, 2010
Edie Sedgwick: Maid Of Constant Sorrow
Edie Sedgwick, Bob Dylan And Andy Warhol
Some Enchanted Evening
A movie: Factory Girl
Sedgwick, John: In My Blood: Six Generations Of Madness And Desire In An American Family, Harper Perennial, 2007
Stein, Jean: Edie: An American Biography, Pimlico, First Published 1992, 2006 Paperback edition
www.warholstars.com A comprehensive Andy Warhol site.
The sixties was a period of broken lives. It was the heyday of the users and the used. It was as Donovan aptly put it: The Season Of The Witch. It was a period when all the hounds of hell were loosed. It may be a cliche but it was both the best and worst of times. It was during this period that Edie Sedgwick came of age. Edie’s tragedy was that she was used rather than a user. She was the cat’s paw of two of the greatest users of the period, Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan. It cost her her everything including her life.
Edie was one of the Sedgwicks of Massachusetts and they were old line Americans. If the Sedgwicks missed the Mayflower they were trolling in its wake. Therein lay part of Edie’s charm for the two immigrant lads, Bob and Andy. While from Massachusetts the Sedgwicks had a notable presence in New York City and Long Island. One might say they were venerable. J.P. Marquand who married into the family wrote his novel ‘The Late George Apley’ about them.
In Massachusetts the Sedgwick family was famous for their burial plot known as the Sedgwick Pie. As their legend is intimately connected with the Pie it might be proper to dwell on the Pie for its flavor. The founder of the family back then just after the first Thanksgiving was a gentleman named Theodore Sedgwick. He was a dynast by nature. Hence, he bought a section of the Stockbridge cemetery and had himself buried in the very middle. Subsequent Sedgwick burials were laid feet first toward the Patriarch in round rows emanating outward like the wedges of a pie, thus the name Sedgwick Pie. It was said that on judgment day when reveille was blown the Sedgwicks would all arise facing the founder, Theodore. Pretty story.
Over the centuries following Theodore’s death the Sedgwicks continued to prosper there always being enough money to maintain their position. There also arose the fantastic legend of the Sedgwick Curse, as indicated by John Sedgwick’s subtitle. The idea was that the Sedgwicks were a weak stock and that there was an abnormal amount of madness and suicide in the family. Considering the extent of the family I think this was a romanticized vision of themselves. Not that there wasn’t a sort of madness and a few suicides but hardly more than in any several hundred member family over a few centuries. Nevertheless in Edie’s generation this fatalistic notion took firm hold. It’s almost as if the generation rose to embrace the notion. Her biographers speak of it in awe as though the Curse of the Pharaohs had morphed into the Curse of the Sedgwicks. Jean Stein, the author of Edie, seems entranced with it and even John Sedgwick, Edie’s younger cousin, in his memoir seems possessed by it. Feels he’s got it. Slim chance for being true in my estimation.
For an inconsequential girl Edie’s life has been well examined. There are actually several books written about or featuring her while the legacy of movies she appeared in and movies about her is fairly extensive. Most of the early information on her life here is abstracted from Jean Stein’s biography. Stein, herself, is accused of writing the biography in a fit of sour grapes because Warhol wouldn’t make her one of his superstars. No matter, it is an exceptional book of its kind.
‘Edie’ is presented as an oral biography in the voice of many participants. However as all the voices are pretty uniform it would seem as though the editor, George Plimption, is pervasively evident. George Plimpton, otherwise a nobody, began his career as a celebrity in the sixties and the seventies by becoming a professional old line American, nearly the last of a vanishing breed.
He clowned around by trying out for various professional sports teams then writing books about the experience. Thus he became the American Man Of Letters touted on his website and a well known celebrity who could actually measure his press releases in inches. He and Stein put together an excellent more than readable book in their biography of Edie Sedgwick.
Edie was the daughter of Francis Sedgwick of Long Island, NY, he otherwise being known as Fuzzy. The family left New York for Santa Barbara, California just before Edie was born so she knew nothing of New York or the East Coast. In California she led what would seem to thave been an idyllic life. The family lived on a 3000 acre ranch which was exhanged after oil was found on it for a much larger ranch and finally an 18,000 acre ranch where she spent her teens. This was a functioning cattle ranch with ranch hands and the whole works.
The Sedgwicks did not attend either public or private schools being rather schooled by private teachers along with a few neighbor children. Thus unfamiliar with the world she may have had a very diffiuclt time adjusting to real life people. She probably did not have time to do so before she was thrown into the boiling cauldron of New York City. Francis, or Fuzzy, was a difficult father; his children blamed him for their shortcomings while Edie said he had sexual relations with her. She then was, or believed herself, mentally unbalanced by the time she arrived at Radcliffe to begin college.
She may very well have been unbalanced but where I grew up I didn’t know anyone who didn’t have mental problems, parents or children, and by the time of high school graduation I was literally a basket case, nearly immobile. Yet, so far as I know, everyone got on with their lives including myself. Seems to me everyone has to work themselves out of that hole as best they can.
Of course, drugs were becoming a definite problem by the time Edie showed up in Cambridge in the early sixties. It one reads Raymond Chandler novels, for instance, drugs were a problem in the thirties and forties and further reading will show that they had been a problem for decades. Most narcotics became regulated in 1910 in the US, still, new pharmaceuticals were being developed constantly and some of them including the psychedelics were not covered by narcotics laws at the time.
The first wonder drug I heard of was Miltown about 1950. I was too young to understand but Miltown was the Valium of its time, a panacea for all forms of stress, the stressed and housewives began to line up for prescriptions. By 1960 the list of users must have been stupendous.
Along with the barbituate downers came the uppers. First Bennies and then amphetamines. My first knowledge of the pervasiveness of drugs was 1956 when I wrote a high school essay on LSD. Of course glue sniffing was endemic in high school. Then in 1958 in the Navy was the first time I saw people ingesting bennies and heard of peyote, mescaline and the actual use of LSD. By the early sixties I knew a lot of people who were smoking pot and popping pills but I was never a user myself. I watched drugs put a lot of people over the edge. In most cases they weren’t aware that they were freefalling.
So, an unsettled socially naive Edie moved into a fast, loose society in Cambridge. While I can’t see much in her from the pictures apparently she was a sensation live, possibly influenced by her seemingly casual attitude toward sex. I don’t know about on the East Coast but on the West Coast girls were either more circumspect or I was out of it.
Edie was picked up by a homosexual crowd and attended many fetes in that milieu. At the same time the other folk scene, that of Boston was burgeoning with Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band, Eric Von Schmidt and Mel Lyman being the standouts. Dylan came up to Boston at this time to meet them where, I believe, he first became acquainted with Bobby Neuwirth who was hanging out around the art and folk scene. Certainly Edie would have come to Neuwirth’s attention at this time. I wouldn’t be surprised if he and Dylan discussed the ‘hot chick’ from a distance at that time.
At some time Edie became erratic enough in her parents’ eyes that they decided to commit her to an insane asylum called Silverhill near Boston. This to me seems very extreme. Apart from Edie’s not doing things as they saw fit I can’t find anything in her behavior to have her committed. I mean, I’ve seen some pretty zany behavior and after drugs really got rolling in about ’67 half the population could have been put away with the other half waiting in line.
At some point you have to let your kid go while parents always have to take responsibility for their behavior at least for the first few years after they’ve left the nest until they work through those parental childhood traumas. The Sedgwicks had the money so as long as the offspring weren’t financially out of control they at least deserved their allowance. Edie was what would have been described as an airhead.
But then I’m sure that with the asylum experience the cure is worse than the disease. Edie was repeatedly given electro-shock ‘therapy.’ Electro-shock ranks right up there with the pre-frontal lobotomy as the most bizarre psychiatric treatments. Talk about Hitler and the Nazi doctors! If the Nazis had practiced frontal lobotomies and electro-shock you can imagine the Liberal howling from the West. It would have made the flap over Eugenics a mere whimper.
I can’t imagine what electro-shock does to the mind and nervous system. When I was four I was playing with an open socket. When I connected the jolt was such I lost consciousness. Fortunately I was repelled being thrown completely across the kitchen floor where I became alert again after a few seconds but still buzzing. Plus, I remember it as though yesterday. Imagine being strapped down and having those volts sent coursing through your existence. My god! For what purpose? That’s going to change your psychology? It doesn’t, so why they kept at it is beyond me.
Since Edie wasn’t insane when she checked in the good doctors of Silverhill checked her out as sane. Somewhere along the way she met some guy named Chuck Wein who believed himself to be an impresario of some sort who was going to take Edie to New York and make a star of some sort of her. Toward the end of 1964 then Edie and Chuck showed up in Manhattan.
Edie moved in with her grandmother on the Upper East Side. Good address. Enviable. She had come into an inheritance of 80,000 dollars which she proceeded to squander in six months. In 2010 dollars that might be the equivalent of from 300,000 to 500,000 dollars. One had to have a careless disregard for money.
In 1964 the sixties had started moving, approaching maximum velocity. The Beatles had splashed down in January of ’64 followed by the Rolling Stones, Animals, Dave Clark Five and a host of others including Freddie And The Dreamers which was the beginning of the hip explosion as rock and roll morphed into folk rock. It doesn’t matter who was the first with folk rock it was inevitable. The electric bass and guitars along with better and more powerful amplifiers ever evolving there was no other way to go. I mean, Duane Eddy and Eddie Cochran were proto-heavy metal. And they were exciting bands. The music had been loosening up for several years. Tequila by The Champs was fairly revolutionary in its day. But then the recording companies and artists put a lot of effort into trying to astonish us with new styles and forms and frequently did, every week. Mule Skinner Blues by the Fendermen, a folk song was done in a folk rock style long before Bob Dylan went electric and set us all on our ear. That song has probably never been surpassed. Besides by 1964 the whole folk thing was passe and worn out, boring, apparently the word probably hadn’t reached Peter Seeger and that bunch in New york yet.
Each day was a new adventure where you had no idea what you would see or hear. Andy Warhol’s soup can is a case in point. The arrival of the Lovin’ Spoonful in Edie’s big year of ’65 was a revelation. As far as I’m concerned, the most influential band of the era. If Yanovsky hadn’t given up his dealer there’s no telling how far they could have gone. From there everything accelerated to super sonic speed. There was even a group called the Super Sonics. Songs like Telestar. Men even walked on the moon. So, while the external world was racing with the moon the internal, personal world ran along at the same slow pace unable to keep up with developments. No one knew what was going on except in their small mental space. Thus, even while Dylan and Warhol were succeeding spectacularly in their own spheres life was racing past them making them passe while there was no way they could keep up.
In that atmosphere Edie arrived in New York City and spent her money. And then the money was gone. As ’65 progresseed her parents became disenchanted with her life style so they cut her allowance way back, and then, off. But that’s getting ahead of our story. What Chuck Wein’s plan was for turning Edie into some sort of star or celebrity isn’t clear. She did get some modeling jobs for magazines, probably because of her name, but they were put off by her drug intake and her corresponding erratic behavior.
Then Bobby Neuwirth, the legend goes, noticed she was in town. by this time Neuwirth was playing Robin to Dylan’s Batman, his sidekick in other words, and he notified Dylan that ‘there was a hot new girl in town.’ In the movie Factory Girl, sometime in ’65 Neuwirth showed up at the Factory and said: Come with me. Someone wants to meet you.’ Edie leaves with this total stranger, who cons her into paying the fare, escorts her back stage at a Dylan performance to be introduced to the Star with whom she is dazzled.
That’s one version. According to Jean Stein in Edie in December of ’64 Neuwirth invited her down from the Upper East Side to the Mafia club, Kettle of Fish, to meet the folk singer himself. Edie had arrived in NYC driving a big grey Mercedes. Her flipped out driver crashed the car so she was using a limousine service to get about. Accordingly her limousine pulled up in front of the Kettle of Fish, Edie got out of the car, entered the bar and contact was made. The history of her life over the next eighteen months, the Dance of Death, began.
Dylan, then, laid claim to the dazzling girl before Andy Warhol. Edie met Andy at the film producer Lester Persky’s a few weeks later at a party in January of ’65. Dylan and his entourage were heterosexual while Warhol, Persky and that crowd were homosexuals. Thus Edie began to fulfill her destiny as a pawn in Dylan’s and Warhol’s games.
Never Felt More Like Singin’ The Blues
Who were these guys Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol and what interest could they take in this uninteresting and rather dull girl. Interestingly both men considered themselves revolutionists. Dylan forwarded the Jewish and Underman revolutions while Warhol spearheaded the homosexual and doubled up on the Underman. Both men came from immigrant backgrounds. Dylan from Jewish immigrants and Warhol from Ruthenians. Dylan was originally Robert Zimmerman and Andy Andrew Warhola. Dylan grew up in small town Hibbing, Minnesota, Warhol in the ‘melting pot’ of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Both developed monster grudges against American society.
At the end of ’64 both men were on the way to being of the most influential people of the second half of the twentieth century.
Dylan at twenty had come to New york with the ambition of becoming a folk singer. Even though a not easily appreciated singer he was as close to an instantaneous success as it is possible to be. Arriving at the beginning of 1961, at the close of ’64 when he met Edie he was an international sensation, a prolific and successful song writer.
Strangely his success was built on resentment and hatred. The dominant characteristic of his songwriting was a rancorous bitter putting down of his society and associates. He fairly spews hatred in such songs as Hattie Carroll, Like A Rolling Stone and Positively Fourth Street to name only a few of his diatribes. His most prolific period would revolve around his desire for Edie Sedgwick and his detestation for his rival for her affections, Andy Warhol.
Dylan had a fixation on destroying the happiness of women. At the time he began his pursuit of Edie he had sequestered his future wife, Sara Lownds, who he would marry in November of ’65 and who he had purloined from another man. At the same time he was carrying on long time affairs with his first New York girl friend, Suze Rotolo and his fellow folk singer, Joan Baez. Why this need to injure the happiness of women?
Of course I’ve read most of the important works on Dylan if not all and many of secondary importance. Using that background, I’m going to concentrate on the movie Dylan wrote and starred in, Masked And Anonymous. This is a very autobiographical movie showing a Dylan who had progressed little from his heyday of the mid-sixties. Dylan believes that the journey is more important than the result so that in the various episodes he gives little symbolical vignettes of his life journey leading up to a contrived ending. Many of the most important eipisodes and people are represented. The promoter in the film, for instance, can be recognized as his manager Albert Grossman; the sidekick is Bobby Neuwirth etc. I’m not going to review the movie here but Dylan gives us some insight into when and how his world went wrong.
In the movie when Jack Fate’s, Dylan’s movie alter-ego, father, who is the dictator of ’this god-forsaken country’, lies dieing, Fate revisits him on his death bed. In fact that is where the ‘path’ of the movie actually leads. Fate reminisces about his relation with father and mother. To put it succinctly let me quote the lyrics of an old song, Freight Train Blues. Dylan would rewrite the lyrics to this song and claim it as his own:
I was born in Dixie
In a boomer’s shack,
Just a half a mile
From the railroad tracks.
My daddy was a fireman
And my mama dear,
She was the only daughter
Of an engineer.
She could spend the money
And that ain’t no joke,
It’s a shame the way
She kept a good man broke.
Well, Jack Fate’s daddy wasn’t much better and the movie couple had an unhappy marriage which probably reflects Dylan’s view of his own parents. As to his mother she just found Jack in the way and wished she never had him because it interfered with her happiness. I suspect that more or less sums up Dylan’s relationship with his mother. One can’t say for sure but I suspect that when his mother conveyed this attitude to the young Dylan it just shattered his mind and from that day forth he was one lost soul on the lost highway with the freight train blues. Now, it is impossible to avenge oneself on one’s mother directly as mother’s are sacred as the vessel of your life. Dylan never tried, even escorting his mother as a date to major events. You can take it out on yourself by becoming a derelict yourself which Dylan did thereby punishing your mother or you can take it out on surrogate women. Dylan did both. He himself was and has been a heavy drug user and a heavy drinker. He ruined the lives of several women including Rotolo, Baez and Edie; then, after making Sara a wife and mother, most importantly a mother, he completely shattered her life as his mother had his. That may have satisfied him, then again, maybe not. Since then he has been wandering aimlessly as a ‘modern troubadour.’ Ramblin’ Jack Fate.
The period of the sixties was Dylan’s time of most intense reaction. After that he waxed and waned but Andy Warhol was focused on an unwavering need for vengeance. He knew how to use people to obtain his goals without actually exposing himself. He arrived in New York in 1950 as a graphic artist where he too was an instantaneous success. He made his mark in shoe ads where his drawing, usually described as ‘fey’, but displaying real genius at the same time, brought the customers to Miller Shoes for whom he drew.
During the fifties he was a very highly paid commercial artist designing everything from his shoe ads to stationery to book and record covers. Usually very nice but not infrequently letting his sexual proclivities shine through. He was alwa;ys pushing the homosexual agenda preferring to associate his work with writers or musicians from either the Undermen or those writing on those themes.
About 1960 he decided to tackle the fine arts with the purpose of detroying them. He entered the world of painters at the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art. He had always been a sort of pop artist with his shoe ads so he was an incrdible success as a pop artist when he painted Campbell’s soup cans. With the soup cans he effected one of the most instantaneous and successful revolutions or transitions from one style to another, ever. I don’t think it would be out of line to say the sixties were born in that moment. If there is one single symbol that characterizes the sixties, for me at least, it is Andy’s soup cans. Tomato soup can. It enraged and energized so many people. It has been an inspiration for me.
I can’t remember when I first saw it but I was simply stunned. Perhaps in the pages of Time Magazine. I don’t know whether the copying of a soup can is art but as I mused about it I came to the conclusion that the can was a sort of urban landscape. It was something one gazed at frequently while grocery shopping, so I said, what difference did it make whether one copied a mountain or curling wave or a soup can. I suppose the difference is that a soup can can only be done once before the joke is stale.
My favorite image of the soup can was a poster in which a soup can had a gaping hole from being blasted with a .45 automatic. That sort of settled the arguement for me but that was as late as 1968. Andy went on attempting to outrage us by painting duplicates of Brillo boxes and such like, Heinz Bean cans, but that fell flat. The joke had been made, there was only one Campbell soup image.
Painting all those soup cans, he did all the varieties, must have been a tedious way to while away the time. Then he discovered silk screening. What a good idea. Warhol, the child of industrial processes. I can only imagine that he thought Henry Ford and his assembly line turning out identical copies of cars was the ideal expression of art. After all you can make a million cars, same model and make, but in painting a picture, prior to Warhol, they all had been one offs and then you needed another idea. In that period of rapid change an idea became obsolete immediately. Coming up with new ideas was a tough business. Warhol could turn out an idea like the Presleys like Henry Ford turned out cars. Wow! Man! The future of art had arrived.
Perhaps he thought up silk screening or perhaps the idea was suggested to him by his assistant, Gerard Malanga. Malanga thinks that’s the way it was. At the time he was hired Malanga was already an accomplished silk screener. Malanga was the beginning of Warhol’s actual use, consumption and discarding of people. One might say Malanga was exploited.
Malanga took a job with Andy at the minimum wage above which Andy never raised him. Malanga insists that he was essentially a collaborator of Warhol’s. I am inclined to agree with him. In the first place Andy never drew his own pictures. He essentially had no ideas. He had his screens made up from photos of others he found attractive. His famous flower screen was from a purloined photo. HIs Elvis paintings, posters actually, were traced from a promotional still. To me that strengthens Malanga’s claim. The screens were mechanically produced and screening is a mechanical act. Both Malanga and Warhol manipulated the screens together. There are films showing them doing it.
Between the two of them they produced fifty Presley images in an afternoon. For a show at LA’s Ferus Gallery Andy shipped them a two
hundred foot roll of Presleys and told them to cut up the roll as they saw fit. Collaboration was just Andy’s way. Hence one has single, double, triple, quadruple and octuple Presleys. I saw one display where there were twenty or more strung out for a couple hundred feet in one immense string. Enough Elvis Presleys to go around the world three or four times were produced. (That’s a joke, son.)
It is a good image although Andy never asked Presley or his studio for permission to use it and as far as I know never gave them a dime. He just appropriated the image. I can’t imagine how Andy kept the Colonel cool. He didn’t keep the flower lady cool, once she recognized her image she sued him. Of course, she took her image from God but God didn’t sue her.
Now, all this silk screening takes up a bit of space, these Presleys kept getting bigger and bigger, life size and then some. Some were twenty-five feet by twenty-five. So Andy outgrew his home facility leaving it to seek much bigger spaces. If one thinks about it all this is very daring. There was no artist in New York even approaching the concept. Finally he rented an entire floor of a building on 47th Street that became known as the Factory. Dylan would characterize it as Desolation Row. When Edie made her appearance there in March of ’65 it was at that Factory. There were subsequent and even larger ones.
This is where Dylan and Warhol stood at the beginning of 1965 when Edie became a pawn in their game. Why did they want her? As noted, the two were immigrants or the sons of immigrants so they knew the discomforts of being strangers in a strange land. They knew the sense of inferiority among the ‘natives.’ They knew what being outsiders was especially as Dylan was a Jew and Warhol a homosexual.
Edie Sedgwick was a symbol of that envy and desire. In a way she was the acme of the old line American and she was accessible. She probably could have been half ugly and it wouldn’t have made much difference.
From, say, 1870 to 1940 there was native America and there was immigrant America and they were separate but equal size. While intelligent immigrants never had it rough there was still resentment and outright hatred for Anglo-America. All this anti-America stuff comes from the immigrants or at least was fostered by them. With those of the Undermen, those of low IQ, the hatret was worse. WWII gave the immigrants a feeling of equality. They fought too. By 1950 they were superior in numbers assaulting every Anglo tradition and trashing it while doing their best to lower Anglos. Of course, the Anglos were too stupid to see it or unwilling to acknowledge it. After all, this was the magic ‘melting pot’ in which all resentments disappeared. Americans had discovered the solution to world problems. Both Dylan and Warhol shared in this resentment.
Thus when this female symhol of the old Anglo aristocracy appeared who they held responsible for their humilaition, whether they acknowledged it or not, they wanted to possess her, humiliate and destroy her. Dylan today would deny it while Warhol’s excuse at the time was ‘How do you stop someone from doing what they want to do?’ Well, Andy, at least you don’t hand them the revolver cocked and loaded. That Edie was humiliated and destroyed by her association with the two is proof enough of their intent.
The problem is to piece together the events of that year and a half over ’65 and ’66 from less than adequate documentation. I think I can produce a reasonable facsimle.
Chaps. 3, 4 and 5 are posted
Chaps. 6, 7 and 8 are posted
Chaps. 9, 10, 11 and 12 are posted
October 13, 2010
Writing in the fourteenth century Ibn Batuta had visited the East African coast trodding the soil of Kilwa Island on the southern border of Tanganyika, now Tanzania. Zanzibar replaced Kilwa as the Moslem trading entropot on the East Coast. Haggard apparently had done the same as he mentions ruins that dated back to before the tenth century. So, we have established commercial activity in Southern Africa before the arrival of the Shona people in Zimbabwe.
Ruiz stood behind a low, stone altar which appeared to have been painted a rusty brown red.For a long time Ruiz the high priest held the center of the stage. The rites where evidently of a religious nature that went on interminably. Three times Ruiz burned powder upon the altar. From the awful stench Sandra judged the powder must have consisted mostly of hair. The assemblage intoned a chant to the weird accompaniment of heathenish tom toms. The high priest occasionally made the sign of the cross, but it seemed obvious to Sandra that she had become the goddess of a bastard religion which bore no relationship to Christianity beyond the symbolism of the cross, which was evidently quite meaningless to the high priest and his followers.She heard mentioned several times Kibuka, the war god; and Walumbe the god of death, was often supplicated, while Mizimo departed spirits, held a prominent place in the chant and the progress. It was evidently a very primitive form of heathenish worship from which voodooism is derived.
Looking up, she saw a dozen naked dancing girls enter the apartment, and behind them two soldiers dragging a screaming Negro girl of about thirteen. Now the audience was alert, necks craned and every eye centered upon the child. The tom-toms beat out a wild cadence. The dancers, leaping, bending, whirling, approached the altar; and while they danced the soldiers lifted the still screaming girl and held her face up, upon its stained brown surface.The high priest made passes with his hands above the victim, the while he intoned some senseless gibberish. The child’s screams had been reduced to moaning sobs, as Ruiz drew a knife from beneath his robe. Sandra leaned forward in her throne-chair, clutching the arms, her wide eyes straining at the horrid sight below her.A deathly stillness fell upon the room broken only by the choking sobs of the girl. Ruiz’s knife flashed for an instant above his victim; and then the point was punged into her heart. Quickly he cut the throat and dabbing his hands in the spurting blood sprinkled it upon the audience, which surged forward to receive it…
“Well, what of it?’ demanded da Gama. “I am king. Do I not sit on a level with God and his goddess? I am as holy as they. I am a god as well as a king; and the gods can do no wrong.”“Rubbish!” exclaime the high priest. “You know a well as I do that the man is not a god, and the woman no goddess. Fate sent the man down from the skies- I don’t know how; but I’m sure he’s as mortal as you or I; then you get the idea that by controlling him you could control the country. You were jealous of me that’s all; then you get the idea that by controlling him you could control the church, for you know that who controls the church controls the country. You were jealous of me that’s all; then you conceived the idea of having a goddess, too, which you thought might double your power. Well, you have them; but they’re going to be just as useful to me as they are to you. Already, the people believe in them, and if I should go to them and say that you had harmed the god, they would tear you to pieces…”
“…you don’t stand any too well with the people, Chris, anyway; and there are plenty of them who think da Serra would make a better king.”“Sh-h-h,” cautioned da Gama. “Don’t talk so loud. Somebody may overhear you. But let’s not quarrel, Pedro. Our interests are identical. If Osorio da Serra becomes king of Alemtejo, Pedro Ruiz will die mysteriously; and Quesada the priest will become high priest. He might become high priest while I am king.”
“What do youwant of me?” she asked. “What are you going to do with me?”“You should know,” he said. “You are a woman.”“I am not a mortal woman. I am a goddess.” She grasped at a straw.Rateng laughed at her. “There is no god but Allah.”“If you harm me you will die.” she threatened.“You are an infidel,” said Rateng, “and for every infidel I kill, I shall have greater honor in heaven.”