Chaps. 6,7,8: Edie Sedgwick, Maid Of Constant Sorrow

November 20, 2010

Edie Sedgwick:  Maid Of Constant Sorrow

Chs. 6,7,8

Chapter 6

The Pillow That We Dreamed On

 

Revolt Of The Undermen

 While this is a history it is also a history I lived through.  Thus, while history from a distance in time loses much detail it gains in perspective.  While these events were transpiring in New York an interpretation of them was being dispersed throughout the country by magazines.  While I have no first hand knowledge of the scene in New York my reality at the time was formed by magazine reports.  I considered myself pretty well informed from those magazines and in an intra-social sense I guess I was although that only made me less superficial than some others.

The sixties was a fabulous time for magazines.  Endless specialized titles came and went after only a few issues, or even a single issue.  One of my favorites was the long lasting Horizon, a hard cover quarterly boasting a whole hundred thousand subscribers.  Obviously it was for the fortunate few.  Of the big bombers chief of all was Time-Life.  The two magazines were probably the backbone of American culture during the fifties and sixties.  Time lost its credibility during the sixties.

Time was founded by Henry and Clair Booth Luce in 1923.  By the fifties it was not only a money machine but gave the Luces a position from which they could actually direct the course of American culture.  A heady responsibility.  The Luce’s always claimed to be Conservatives but their publications always seemed to have a decidedly leftward bend.

For me the 60s was a most exciting intellectual period.  Things were moving fast and generally opening up the American mind.  Time-Life publications, all those mail order books.  I love mail order.  I especially love getting books through the mail.  The sixties was my time.   Horizon had annual volumes I cherish.  Time-Life published a series of paperbacks, actually linoleum like covers, called the  Time-Life Library, sent out four titles a quarter, complete set of 108.  I completed it.  They did delete one title replacing it with another that I don’t have.

However the titles seemed to further a Left agenda.  Biographies of Marx  and others with the explanation that it was important to know how the enemy thought.  True enough, I’m sure, and I bought it at the time but they issued precious little concerning other political angles.  I soured on Time-Life as it went.

I also discontinued subscribing to Time sometime in the mid-sixties although it was impossible to stop reading the magazine as there was always a copy lying around somewhere.  I became revolted when I read a marvelous piece describing Howard Hughes exit from Las Vegas.  It was an astonishing eye witness piece.  Then we learned that the whole account was fiction; it never happened.  Not only inaccurate but it never happened.  They just made it up.  That ended my fascination with Time.  Still it was where I continued to get most of my information while it had formed my mind for over a decade.

The magazines- Time, Life- were where I got my information on the NYC art scene.  Time was especially attentive to it.  Pop Art was covered pretty extensively by both magazines.  A complete collection of both Time and Life is available on line for reference.

On the West Coast where I was,  then, my personal knowledge of Warhol and the art scene pretty much came from Time-Life as did that of most others.  Probably not that many were actually interested.  Time was a big weekly magazine, how much of it could you actually read.  One looked at the magnitude of the weekend NYTimes, sniffed, and just walked away.  Who could even begin to read it.

When Edie hooked up with Warhol she gained a national recognition second to none for a nonentity, quite astounding in retrospect.

In August of ‘65 she and Warhol received a good write up in the Arts section of Time while as late as November she received a very nice photo essay in Life.  She hadn’t even done anything but hang out with Warhol.  Judging from what I read on the internet these articles impressed a number of people giving Edie a national reputation, at least in some circles.  This is quite startling because she was only a cute girl, nothing more.  She could never have achieved this without her association with Warhol.  And she was in a position to turn her allure and fame to account.

Warhol was not going to pay her for the movies.  His position was that he had given her this fame so that it was her responsibility to do something with it.  There were things she could have done to retrieve her fortunes.  Supposedly Chuck Wein was on the lookout  to make her into something.  He was useless.  He should have given his brain an enema and looked at things more clearly.  There were things that could have been attempted.  It wouldn’t have been impossible for her to set up an advice column such as Edie Says, or What Would Edie Do.  My god, she was in NYC.  The idea could have been sold to the NYTimes and from there perhaps syndicated.  She wouldn’t even have had to do anything but collect the money.  Others could have handled everything.

Edie had already modeled so she was in Fashion.  So…a line called Edie Sedgwick Party Clothes, Casual Fashion, you name it.  Heck, Warhol should have been on the ball and taken his cut, led the way, instead of stupidly taking Ondine’s chat for a novel called ‘a’.  Who bought it?

Having raised Edie then to near iconic status within just a few months Warhol, Wein and Edie let the opportunity of a life time slip through their hands.  Perhaps it was the drugs.

Chapter 7

Hatred In His Heart

 

But She Breaks Just Like A Little Girl

At the beginning of May Dylan left for a tour of England.  At the same time Warhol took Edie along with Gerard Malanga and Chuck Wein for a gallery show in Paris.   Warhol, Edie and Dylan were in Europe at the same time.  Whether this influenced Dylan’s rage or not isn’t known but in June shortly after his return he began to vent his rage as he began the composition of Like A Rolling Stone.

Now, Edie’s brother Jonathon told a story he says he got from Edie that she was impregnated by Dylan and carried his baby.  There is no time frame for this story.  According to Jonathon Edie was determined to have Dylan’s child.  As she told it it took four men to hold her down for the abortion to be performed.  If true, this is an interesting situation.  For one thing abortions were illegal at the time, so a rogue doctor was required.  Edie says that she was adamant about having the baby so that she would have had to have been either lured to the doctor or essentially kidnapped.  If she resisted and four men, who happened to be in attendance, were required to subdue her then we have a crime of some magnitude.

Bear in mind that all the alleged participants are whacked out of their minds on amphetamines so no one is thinking clearly.  At any event Dylan was committed to marry Sara if this is before the wedding or married to her if after.  Edie is a celebrity of some distinction who in all likelihood would tell everyone it was Dylan’s love child.  What effect this might have on Sara can’t be known but it might possibly have disturbed Dylan’s plans.  If he’s like the rest of us he would have held Edie responsible for getting pregnant.

The gist of it is Jonathon Sedgwick says Edie told him the story.  It is a possibility, after all if you’re having sex with somebody as she undoubtedly was with Dylan, the possibility of pregnancy is there.  But that’s in the background.

During the summer while Dylan stewed Edie and Andy’s star was rising.  New York dailies ran stories on the pair that told of Edie drawing Andy into uptown society; and then in late November Life ran its photo essay on Edie.  Let’s let Andy recap the period as he told it in his autobiography Popism, recalled in 1980, p. 107:

(At the party) There were a few guys in the latest velvets and silk shirts, but not too many- the boys were still mostly in blue jeans and button-down shirts.  Edie brought Bob Dylan to the party and they huddled by themselves over in a corner.  Dylan was spending a  lot of time then up at his manager Al Grossman’s place near Woodstock, and Edie was somehow involved with Grossman too- she said he was going to manage her career.

I’d met Dylan through the MacDougal Street/Kettle Of Fish/Café Rienzi/Hip Bagel/ Café Figaro scene, which Danny Fields claims got started when he and Donald Lyons saw Eric Andersen, they went up and asked if he wanted to be in an Andy Warhol movie.  “How many times did we all use that one?”  Danny laughed.  And after that Eric got interested in Edie and suddenly we were all around the Village together.  But I think Edie actually knew Dylan because of Bobby Neuwirth.  Bobby was a painter who originally started singing and guitar playing up in Cambridge just to make money to paint with, he told me once.  Then he hooked up with Dylan and became part of that group- he was something like Dylan’s road manager-confidant.  And Bobby was a friend of Edie’s.

At Sam’s party Dylan was in blue jeans and high-heeled boots and a sports jacket, and his hair was sort of long.  He had deep circles under his eyes, and even when he was standing he was all hunched in.  He was around twenty-four then and the kids were all just starting to talk and act and dress and swagger like he did.  But not many people except Dylan could ever pull that anti-act off- and if he wasn’t in the right mood, he couldn’t either. He was already slightly flashy when I met him, definitely not folksy anymore- I mean, he was wearing satin polka-dot shirts.  He’d released Bringing It All Back Home, so he’d already started his rock sound at this point, but he hadn’t played the Newport Folk Festival yet, or Forest Hills, the places where the old-style folk people booed him for going electric, but where the kids started getting really crazy for him.  This was just before “Like A Rolling Stone” came out.  I liked Dylan, the way he’d created a brilliant new style.  He didn’t spend his career doing homage to the past, he had to do things his own way, and that was just what I respected.  I even gave him one of my silver Elvis paintings in the days when he was first around.  Later on, though, I got paranoid when I heard rumors that he had used the Elvis as a dart board up in the country.  When I’d ask, “Why would he do that.”  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.

So it is quite clear from Andy’s recollection that he had known Dylan from the early Spring of ‘65 and that Edie was quite clearly dating him.  Whether the pregnancy story comes from this time would be an interesting question.  After the release of Highway 61 Revisited Dylan conceived a plan to take Edie away from Andy.  It would seem quite clear from the bags under Dylan’s eyes that he was no stranger to drugs.

Perhaps the August Time article on Andy and Edie was the high point of their relationship although the October art exhibit at UPennsylvania was still to come.  That show was astonishing in that Warhol was treated like a rock star with apparently the same crowd attending.  Of course, Andy’s pal Sam Green had masterfully whipped up enthusiasm with his promotion of the show preceding it by several weeks.  The show was probably the first time an artist received such adulation.

Though Andy was enough of a rage that a big crowd would come out for him.  I was in attendance at the UOregon lecture in Fall ’67 when Allen Midgette impersonated him and a crowd of about 1500 paid to see him.  It isn’t true that Midgette’s impersonation was that good.

I was standing at the end of the line waiting to enter when Midgette and Morrissey were brought in to the elevator just behind me.  The guy in front of me asked if that was him.

I was watching Midgette who was a midget, little skinny short guy.  There was a superficial resemblance but he seemed too short and he wasn’t wearing a wig.  I said, ‘It looks like him but I don’t think it is.’  Midgette raised his eyebrows while Morrissey looked like the jig was up but the admins ignored me.

During the so-called lecture there were several groups of us dispersed throughout the audience loudly debating the issue.  They got away with it but later the school learned they had been pranked and demanded their money back.  I always thought that was rude.  What did they expect of Warhol.  He had a reputation.  Didn’t the administration read Time?

In September of ‘65 Dylan began to court Edie with promises, one believes, of a good income from movies, recording or such.  One is amazed that geniuses like Dylan, Grossman and Neuwirth couldn’t come up with something more inventive to promote Edie.

Edie was torn between two lovers, Andy and Bob.  It must have been quite head turning to be the object of contention between the number one celebrity artist of the time and one of the most famous recording and performing acts at the same time as receiving national exposure in Time and Life.

Warhol, even though a homosexual, said that he was as close to in love with Edie as he had been with any other person in his life, he even took her home to meet his mother.  Mrs. Warhola who had been urging her son to marry would certainly have taken Edie’s appearance as an indication that Andy was serious about her.

Having committed himself even that far would mean that her receptiveness to Dylan was a crushing rejection of himself as, say, a male object, while her abscontsion to Dylan’s camp would be a traitorous act.  Unforgivable in his eyes.

Thus as Edie wavered between Dylan and Andy her life at the Factory became untenable.  Andy quietly brought in other superstars including Dylan’s old flame, Nico.  Whether conscious of it or not Andy was displacing Edie.  She was mocked and reviled.  While this was happening at the Factory Edie was evidently taken to Woodstock where Albert Grossman was talking contract to her as her manager.  Dylan had had his May gig in England filmed although it would be a while before it was released.  There was talk of another film of which Edie would have the starring role.  That film apparently wasn’t made for several decades until Dylan finally got it together to make Masked And Anonymous.  Perhaps the blond female lead was meant to remind the viewer of Edie.

So, rejected by her family who disapproved of her modeling as well as scorning her association with Warhol, desperately in need of money Edie was in an agonizing mental dilemma.  Remember that by this time she was a national figure having appeared in Time and even as her position disintegrated featured in Life, yet she had no money to back her celebrity status.    She couldn’t participate in the social life.

We don’t know what Dylan was promising her personally whether he hinted at marriage or stated it but it seems clear from the evidence of One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later) and Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine that Edie believed Dylan was serious about her.

Dylan married Sara in November of ‘65 secretly but how to keep a secret.  Warhol learned of the marriage tauntingly informing Edie of it in December.  Edie was incredulous.  It follows, and can’t be otherwise, that she confronted Dylan with the alleged fact.  This was undoubtedly a moment of triumph for Dylan as he could now reject Edie as he believed she had rejected him in March.

One can imagine Edie demanding of Dylan whether he was with her or Sara.  The intense mocking derision of Sooner Or Later when Dylan sings:  I couldn’t believe what I did hear- was I leaving with you or her?

At that time Edie’s game was up.  Warhol had destroyed her reputation; she could no longer get modeling jobs; she was broke with no hope of a good encore.  With a loud sneer Dylan passed her to his sidekick, Bobby Neuwirth then a song to commemorate it:  She’s Your Lover Now.

Chapter 8

Down The Trail Of Broken Hearts

 

Dylan Lifting Off

The motivations of the actors are difficult to determine.  However that insofar as any actions relate to the others than the actions of any of the others are interrelated.  Thus Andy had Edie and wished to keep her as she was as close to love as he ever came.  Perhaps he realized that he would need money to do so while perhaps his various activities from the Factory to filmmaking were keeping him financially strapped so that even if he wished to he couldn’t pay Edie.  He had expenses.

Of course today an authenticated Warhol may go for millions up to the one hundred millions paid for the Eight Elvises picture but at the time you could have scooped up several paintings for under ten thousand dollars that might have been worth tens of millions twenty to thirty years on.

Dylan is ridiculed for trading his Presley taken from Warhol for a sofa but at the time that wasn’t necessarily a bad deal depending on the sofa.  Warhol would give his actors the choice between a painting and a hundred dollars cash.  The Factoryites elected the cash over the picture.  So, it’s not like Warhol could just sell a painting anytime he needed to  raise the ready.  His question was how to raise some cash, he had overhead.

His adversaries were Dylan and Albert Grossman, one a recording artist the other a manager both swimming in cash.  There seemed like a pot of gold at the end of that particular rainbow.  Andy thought about it and came up with what he thought was a winning formula, and it actually was but he let it slip away.

Taking his cue from Bobby and Albert then Andy decided to manage a band.  He also conceived at the same time an artistic light show to create an even more unique and exciting ambience, The Exploding Plastic Inevitable.  When the student is ready the teacher will appear.  And so it was.  Andy’s scouts went looking for a band and came back with a group called the Warlocks who were renamed The Velvet Underground.  An SM band extraordinaire whose chief songs were Heroin and Waiting For My Man.  Only Andy could have shouted Eureka! at such a find.

The band came straight out of the avant garde.  The chief instrumentalist, John Cale, had belonged to the John Cage/La Monte Young musical circle.  The ostensible leader, Lou Reed, another survivor of electro-shock therapy, not much of a musician, was the group’s songwriter and lead singer.  Between Warhol, the Factory hands and the Velvets they were a Happening of the first order.

Andy now had his band and his concept but no venue.  No way to present the package for popular consumption.  But, that too appeared when someone suggested a hall called the Dom.  Andy rented the hall but, here’s the catch, he didn’t lease it.  He cautiously wanted to try it out first.  The trial was a major success, wowing hip New York while also bringing in an astonishing amount of cash for a three or four week run.  Should have been a hint.

Now, Andy negotiated a recording contract for the Velvet Underground and the band actually recorded its SM anthems Heroin and Waiting For My Man.  Remember the Velvets had no history and horrible songs but Andy’s influence was so great this unknown band was given a recording contract.  Not so bad.  Of course the record wasn’t released until 1967 but it fell flat as one would have expected with an eighteen minute song called Heroin.  Also the record was released as Andy Warhol Presents The Velvet Underground.  Andy’s credibility wasn’t too great outside NYC and I, for one, looked at the record as a probable joke, especially as the cover was a peel away banana.  After listening to the record I knew it was a joke.

A couple years earlier Dylan had been in Greece where he met a German woman going by the name of Nico.  They apparently had a short fling and he wrote the song I’ll Keep It With Mine for her.  Time passes and paths meander.  Having passed through London Nico showed up in New York City at this time where, as chance would have it, she hooked up with Warhol and became a Factory girl.  Andy in his usual way foisted her on the Velvets as a chanteuse, Nico And The Velvet Underground, did I mention that before?  So, not only did one ask what the hell was a velvet underground but who the hell was Nico?  We knew who Andy Warhol was.  And how.

Dylan undoubtedly thought of Nico as his, thus he showed up in Warhol’s scene to push songs on Nico with the intent no doubt to woo her away as he had done Edie.  The contest between Andy, Bobby and Albert was heating up.

I think it probably came to a head over the Dom.  Andy and the Velvets left for a gig in LA and when they returned they attempted to resume their shows at the Dom.  Lo and behold they found that Albert Grossman had leased the venue from under them.  They had the winning formula but once again no venue.  Albert called his place something stupid like The Balloon Farm but under different management it became The Electric Circus.  Andy was offered the light show but didn’t take it, but by then light show paraphenalia was being manufactured as a commercial product.

From my point of view the most astonishing and impressive thing Andy ever did was the Exploding Plastic Inevitable.  It had a long lasting effect.  Of course by this time the whole light show paraphernalia had turned into an industry and anyone could do it.

Toward the end of ‘65 Edie had become peripheral to both Andy and Dylan.

Chapters 9,10,11 and 12 are now up on one post.

2 Responses to “Chaps. 6,7,8: Edie Sedgwick, Maid Of Constant Sorrow”

  1. chat Says:

    nice sharing .. thanks

  2. reprindle Says:

    You’re welcome.

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