Chapter 14 Edie Sedgwick, Maid Of Constant Sorrow

June 23, 2011

Chapter 14

Edie Sedgwick, Maid Of Constant Sorrow

by

R.E. Prindle

Edie

In the interest of keeping things in perspective and since a huge part of the readership obviously didn’t experience the sixties, I’d like, if I may, to give a little additional background to understand what happened here.  I hope I don’t offend by mixing in some of my own background, not merely from vanity, but so the reader will have some understanding of both my limitations and strengths in interpreting Edie, Andy and Dylan.

Nearly everything you read about the sixties today is written by former activists, usually Jewish, or dopers of one stripe or another.  Shall we say they skew the period in the direction of their beliefs.  Theirs was only the point of view of small minority.  In fact, they seized the leadership playing a much different game than the majority who were busy getting on with their lives.

The period now coming under discussion is 1966-’68 which changed the direction of the sixties. In mid-’66 Dylan had his motorcycle accident and was effectively removed from the scene for the duration. When he resurfaced in the seventies it was in a much diminished role. The first Bob Dylan was dead and the second was busy being  born. No matter what he’s done since then, compared to his mid-sixties trilogy it has had minimal impact.

Warhol reached his apogee in this period while he was shot by Vallerie Solanas in 1968 which changed the direction of his career when like Dylan he became a corporation while business affairs were managed by other men, most notably Fred Hughes.

Edie was heartbreakingly dragged through the mud in these years until her evil genius, Chuck Wein, connected her to the movie Ciao, Manhattan which was the most degrading, humiliating experience possible.  It eventually killed her.  All three of our participants then suffered life threatening experiences within two or three years of each other.  Edie was the only one not to survive.

Andy, Edie And Friends

The sixties were tumultuous times; it was like walking around with a perpetual thunderstorm over your head.  I was on the West Coast in the San Francisco Bay area till 1966 and at grad school at UOregon in Eugene from ‘66 to ‘68 and then in the record business for the rest of the period.  I got my degree from California State College At Hayward now Cal State U. East Bay in 1966.  It’s a long and irrelevant story but I entered Cal State in ‘64 taking enormous credit loads of up to 24 hours a quarter.  You can do things like that when you’re young and not too bright.  Hayward is just South of UC Berkeley.  Cal State was a new school with a very small library so we were allowed library privileges at Berkeley of which I availed myself so I was around the Free Speech Movement scene but not of it.  I was a first hand observer.

Once in Eugene in the fall of ‘66 things were getting in full swing in our own cultural revolution that would be joined to that of Chairman Mao in ‘68.  I was entranced by the poster art work coming out of San Francisco eventually dropping out of grad school to sell posters and then phonograph records at which I was successful.  Thus I was involved in the scene on an intimate basis from 1967 on.

While other generations were characterized by their literature our, the, generation was depicted by songwriters on phonograph records, thus records were central to the scene, don’t look for it in novels.  The first efflorescence occurred in the US during the mid-fifties while going into an incubation period in England from then until the early sixties when in 1964 the Beatles, Stones and Animals among others provided the transition from fifties Rock n’ Roll to sixties rock.  I don’t know how true it is but for me the revolution really got underway with the breathtaking first Doors LP in ‘66.  The blues bands and the next wave of British bands provided the impetus to move things into the seventies where the creative impulse ended by 1974 although inertia carried things through until sometime in ‘78.  Disco doesn’t count that was the beginning of an entire new ethic based in the homosexual revolution.

Morrison, Densmore, Krieger, Manzarek

When Andy, then in his quest for money, moved into records by managing the Velvet Underground, probably in imitation of Dylan, he did so just before the music scene broke.  New York bands were never that popular on the West Coast and the Velvets were no exception.  Andy, however, was an innovative guy.  Light shows were already news on the West Coast but Andy came up with a new multi-media formulation that blew our minds, as we used to say, while having a very lasting cultural effect.

In the Spring of ‘66 he rented a hall called the Dom in NYC.  Using the Velvets as his house band and his light show he managed to overwhelm the hipsters of the Big Apple.  He would have had a major success had he continued on but he was fixated on movies, wanting to do his Western put down, so the Factory crowd decamped for Tucson, Arizona, thinking to pick up the strand on their return.

While away Albert Grossman and Dylan leased the Dom from under Warhol and opened it as The Balloon Farm.  Between taking Edie from Andy and then the ballroom I’m convinced that Dylan sealed his doom.  I hope there aren’t too many people who think the rear wheel of his motorcycle locking was an accident.  Once again, conclusive proof is lacking, but there are indications that Andy and the Factory crowd did it.

Before The Fall

By late ‘66 Andy’s brief period in the spotlight was over.  His creative burst had run its course and while afloat financially, there was not any great income in sight.  Paul Morrissey had come on board as a filmmaker and his vision was more commercial than Andy’s but Andy was in charge so Paul had to bide his time waiting for his opportunity.  At the same time a man from Houston by the name of Fred Hughes came on board who knew how to monetize Andy’s reputation and art skills and then, Bang! Andy was writhing on the floor in pain.  One of those little zig-zags fate has in store for us sometimes.  The sixties were over for Andy but the change in direction made his future in the seventies and eighties.

Now, let’s go back to ‘64 and take a look at one of the defining members of the decade I’ve slighted till now, Prof. Tim Leary.  I’m convinced Leary was not in his right mind or, if he was, he shouldn’t have been there.  By the time Timmy latched onto psychedelics they were pretty well established.  LSD, discovered in 1938 by Hoffman and brought to prominence in 1943 was almost passe when Leary was turned on.  Aldous Huxley had published his Doors Of Perception in 1954 and Heaven And Hell in ‘56, that celebrated the joys of mescaline.

When I was in high school maybe ‘54 the kids of Scarsdale were notorious for using marijuana, written up in Time if I remember right.  Those were rich kids and by ‘56 our elite were very covertly using it.  In the Navy aboard ship from ‘57 to ‘59 Bennies and other pills were prominent while the occasional heroin addict passed through.  The Marines of Camp Pendleton were heavy into everything, barbiturates, mescaline, peyote buttons, LSD, you name it.  For cryin’ out loud, Hollywood had been the drug capitol of the US for decades.  One only has to read Raymond Chandler.  There wasn’t anything they didn’t know.  Cary Grant had been an old LSD hand for years before Leary, the apostle of acid, made it to town bearing the good news in 1960.  He was received with some amusement.

A very amusing story Leary tells in his autobiography is that Marilyn Monroe fell to his lot at a party.  They were actually in bed together.  As you may know Marilyn knew more about drugs than any pharmacologist.  Probably disgusted by Timmy’s ranting about LSD she handed him a pill and said take this.  Timmy did then decided to get up to go the dresser for something.  ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’ Marilyn asked.  Timmy was.  He took about two steps and seemed to sink through the carpet until only his nose was above the rug.  He lay there inert all night while Marilyn laughed softly from the bed.

From his position on the faculty of Harvard Timmy was a very visible advocate of LSD hogging headlines in Time and other mags that were the envy of Andy.  Tim was to amuse us with his antics all through the sixties.  Now, all this stuff was happening very fast.  It was impossible almost to keep up with the headlines let alone any indepth reporting or analysis.  Besides there was no internet so all news was comparatively old news, perhaps weeks after the occurrence if you heard of it at all.  Also it was impossible to be where it was happening unless it was happening where you were and then you didn’t know it was happening because you were in the middle of it.  I happened on the Free Speech Movement because I was in school but I missed the SF scene going on at the same time because I couldn’t be in two places at once and keep up grades in the third place at the same time.  New York was out of the question, London was across a wide, deep ocean, and LA hadn’t caught on yet.  Thus, I was invited to the Kesey/Dead Trips Festival but passed on it.  For various reasons I only caught the end of the Fillmore/Family Dog scene and then only fleetingly.

Even Morrison and the Doors who can claim to have been in the center could only have caught their small share however central it was.  Nobody got it all.  How could you be in Swinging London, New York, San Francisco and LA at the same time?  Couldn’t be done although there were many who tried spending their time criss crossing the country from West to East and reversed and for all I know popping into London too trying to be jetsetters but they were merely vagrants peripheral to everything.

So marijuana, acid, speed and barbiturates or downers as they were called then made up the pharmacopeia.  Amphetamines were obviously big in NYC from the early sixties and must have been in the West too but my first acquaintance with that was the Speed Kills buttons.  Heroin was a danger drug for the addict type only.  Cocaine came along in the seventies.  At the time little or none of the marijuana crop was home grown.  It came from Mexico and there are smuggling and pot running stories galore.  At first the dealers were amateurs, boys and girls next door, but that slowly turned into the criminal professionals.

Andy’s crew were all what he called A-heads, but you may be sure they smoked and did booze too.  It must have been uproarious in the early years but by ‘66 psychotic and physical reactions were beginning to slow the troops down.  It was hard to keep up that pace.

Now, Edie when she came to New York in late ‘64 was a naif.  Not many of us knew much better but she was a true naif, fresh from the farm, so to speak, while having had her brains addled by electro-shock treatment at Silver Hill Sanitarium.  At Radcliffe-Harvard she had hung out with homosexual men gaining the reputation as a fag hag.  Alright, I suppose, as she didn’t know how to handle herself around boys anyway.  She came down to New York with the group of homosexuals that Andy called the Harvard kids with some distaste.  She associated herself with her evil genius, Chuck Wein, who, as a homosexual, sought her destruction.

The Factory of Andy Warhol she entered was created in Andy’s image.  In reading of it, I was never there, it comes across as a hell hole from which any reasonable person would have fled at first glance.  Many did.  Andy hurt a lot of people being of a sado-masochistic frame of mind.  Outside his circle he was universally referred to as ‘that Warhol creep’ and yet events conspired with him to realize his perverted dreams and triumph over all.

Andy considered himself ugly and descriptions of him by others are unpleasant but whatever everyone and himself saw doesn’t show up so clearly in his pictures.  He may not be the handsomest fellow around but he has a cherubic, pleasant look that I don’t find unattractive.  But, because of this feeling he surrounded himself with beautiful people.  Fred Hughes his business manager was quite handsome.  Morrissey was OK, Malanga had his moments, Edie was considered a knockout, although I can’t see it, and the other women he associated with were quite attractive.

And then, as a little immigrant boy who wasn’t acceptable to mainliners of Pittsburgh Andy was especially pleased to have society women attached to him and especially the titled or rich English girls.  Edie fit in as a beauty, as Andy called her then, and as an old line New York society girl.  The combination was almost too tantalizing  for this lifetime homosexual.  Andy said Edie was as close to love with a woman that he ever got.  He even took her home to meet mom.  Edie apparently missed the import of that.

Andy has been blamed for making an A-head out of Edie.  Once she tasted amphetamines it is clear that there was no stopping her.  In truth the Factory was no place for her and Chuck Wein who introduced her into it must have known that.  Still, as Dylan sang, there’s something going on here and you don’t know what it is, do you?  Most people didn’t including Dylan, and I certainly was out of my depth.  It was disconcerting metaphorically to step on what was once solid ground to feel it giving beneath your feet.

Actually there were several revolutions going on which would result in massive social changes.  Those of us firmly grounded could only see the so-called change as a rising tide of insanity.  Aided by drugs these revolutionists became totally  dissociated from reality.  Drugs alone cause a withdrawal into an inner fantasy world of wishful thinking.  The external world appears as something that wishful thinking can manipulate to one’s desires in some magical way.  When the two got really out of sync as they inevitably must you ended up in Bellevue psychiatric wards as happened to a heavy user like Edie many times while most of Warhol’s crew checked in at least once.

Andy, who used these people for entertainment and self-aggrandizement, provided a hospitable retreat or club house where the cognitive dissociation wasn’t quite so apparent or, at least, normal.  The scene must have been incoherent.  A reading of Warhol’s so-called novel, ‘a’,  shows that by 1966 his crew was indeed incoherent.  Ostensibly a tape recording of Ondine’s conversation over twenty-four hours, whose conversation Andy found engaging, the tapes show Ondine unable to complete a sentence along with Rotten Rita and the rest of the crew including Edie.

Further the whole bunch were absolute thieves.  In Edie’s decline through sixty-six they walked into her apartment and chose their favorites from her collection of fur coats along with anything else of value.  In her demented state all she could say is that everyone was wearing her coats.  One wonders how much internal anguish there was as she knew there was nothing she could do about it.

At the same time Andy was a leader of the Homosexual and Underman revolutions.  Perhaps nobody knew what was going on but Warhol, Rotten and others were working for homosexual liberation which they achieved with the Stonewall Riot of 1969.

New York was unique in that for decades homosexuals from the South and Midwest flowed into New York each year in a great internal migration.  The chief destination was the Village.  Christopher Street was the  main fag drag.  The Stonewall Tavern was on Christopher.  Why the cops would disturb the lads in their own colony is beyond me, but they did and then gave up without a fight.

Perhaps the most astounding revolution of all was that of the Undermen.  Untermensch in German.  While Warhol’s crew was a prime example of the Other Half rising to control the direction of society, the main impetus seems to have been the West Coast, San Francisco and Haight-Ashbury, specifically the Hippies.  It was really there that the poverty look took hold, torn, faded jeans and whatever.  LA never really went for it but it spread up the coast to Eugene, Portland and Seattle.  The Sorority and Fraternity look went out the window with millionaire’s kids posing as the down and out.

I would imagine a naïve thing like Edie got caught up in the so-called sexual revolution too.  We’re not talking Feminist Movement here but the sexual aspect of the Communist Revolution in which women are common property to be had anytime or anyplace by whoever.  The Pill that came along in 1960 really facilitated the change in sexual mores.  Nothing exemplified that more than the mini-skirt.  So you’ve got drugs, the Pill, the Mini Skirt and the Ideology.  The world was not so slowly turning upside down.

All these revolutions might have gotten not too far but they were all collected and subsumed under the directing force of the Communist Revolution under the leadership of Chairman Mao and the Chinese Party.  The money really flowed in after 1968.  Driving the whole thing and what made the turmoil possible was the Viet Nam War.  It served the Communist cause more than the American as while taking a beating in Viet Nam the Communists subverted the United States.  Strangely Viet Nam had no effect on Warhol at all.  His disaster paintings ignored Viet Nam  while a couple napalm drops would have made a terrific topic.

In the early days of the war it was filmed like a reality TV show with the daily haps relayed on TV to the US.  The reality of napalm drops while our soldiers cheered and howled while a couple dozen Vietnamese where incinerated  was too much for the entertainment starved public to take. I sure couldn’t handle it.   The films were quickly removed.  The reality of war is a private thing between the armies, not quite like the Super Bowl.

I don’t recall a single mention of Viet Nam in Andy’s Diaries, Philosophy From A To B or ‘a’.  The war appears in none of the biographies or auto-biographies or even novels written by various denizens of the Factory.  Rather strange, but then I can recall no references to it in Dylan’s songs either.

The Communist Revolution connection developed when John and Yoko arrived in NYC in 1971.  The two of them were clearly involved  in revolutionary activities linking various art and entertainment figures with them including, Dylan, Warhol, David Bowie and others.  What exactly they were doing isn’t clear to me yet.  Yoko was and is on some Feminist rag.

So, in 1966 while an apparent apex for Warhol, his world was actually coming apart while Edie’s was descending like a Stuka dive bomber.

The period from December ‘65 to Easter of ‘66 must have been traumatic for a crazed and confused A-head like Edie.  She sacrificed her position with Andy, seduced by the fallacious promises of Dylan and Grossman  who certainly had no plans to make a movie, and if they did, to put Edie in it.

Velvet Underground & Nico

Warhol had all the sadistic cruelty characteristic of homosexuals that he turned on to the distraught girl.  Edie must have been thoroughly crushed when Dylan rejected her love while passing her on to Neuwirth.  Edie was not at her wit’s end with no money, cut off by her parents who objected to this life style, while having no means to make money to support the station in life she had seemingly attained.  Both Dylan and Warhol abandoned her after accepting her largesse for several months.  Warhol is especially reprehensible.  Dylan sure is a close second.

Her heavy dependence on amphetamines was literally eating away her brain, her body and her personality.

I really can’t believe that Edie loved Neuwirth as she claimed.  I  don’t think either was capable of love.  Yet, she abandoned her body to him claiming she could make love for forty-eight hours straight but crashed whenever he left her.  That is a sign of despair and fear.  I can only imagine the horror she felt when she looked into the future and saw only a blank wall.  As Dylan was to sing of her:  Time will tell just who has fell and who’s been left behind.

Perhaps the cruelest trick of all was played on Edie by Dylan, Grossman and Neuwirth at the Easter Parade of 1966 when Neuwirth filmed the promised movie.

In a November issue of Life Magazine in 1965 Edie had been photographed standing on top of a toy leather rhinoceros about two feet high and three feet long, popular at the time.  Whether the three of them, Grossman, Dylan and Neuwirth, put their heads together to come up with this or Dylan brainstormed it by himself, Neuwirth persuaded Edie to pull the rhino down Fifth Avenue as the parade progressed, filming as they went.  Then Bobby tied the rhino to a parking meter and persuaded a passing cop to write Edie a ticket.  Thus Grossman and Dylan fulfilled their obligation to put Edie in a movie while mocking her cruelly.  Those guys had a reputation for cruel put downs.  They live up to it here.

It was just after Easter that Warhol opened the Dom to stage his Exploding Plastic Inevitable.  The reports we got of it on the West Coast made it sound absolutely astounding.  If any one thing characterized the sixties I would have to say it was the Exploding Plastic Inevitable.  It brought everything the era valued together.  As usual with Warhol he couldn’t resist turning it into a sado-masochistic experience.  The chaos must have been extraordinary.  One can imagine the scene with dope peddlers trying to push their drugs on you, the lights flashing, strobing and pulsing, the howling music, the bodies bumping against each other, Malanga doing his whip dance, Edie bopping around the stage with her odd skip and step.  They talk about the Velvet Underground being loud but they must mean for the times.  Blue Cheer with its wall of Marshalls was just around the corner while the electronics improved almost daily until the sound passed the limits of endurance.  Created a whole generation of deaf Beethovens.  Musicians literally without ears.

I actually promoted the Underground once in either ‘68 ot ‘69, might have been pre-Blue Cheer.  BC’s main claim to fame was that they were the first mega blasters, loudest band alive for their brief moment.  Sort of a Great Divide in Rock music.

Things were still building but it wasn’t that the Velvets were that loud; they were just super strange.  Reed was the original one-note man, he played it over and over fast.  Sterling was there but he must have been background noise because I don’t remember much of an effect there.  Whatever Cale was doing passed over my head but it must have been some kind of La Monte Young dynamo hum, all the songs were.  I was most fascinated by Mo on drum.  Yeah, right, drum, in the singular.  She had a six inch deep tom with an under slung mallet.  The mallet hammered away at the bottom skin while Mo pounded the upper skin with the sticks.  In keeping with the dynamo hum she never varied the beat once but she was right on time just in case time was important.  Quite an experience.  You shoulda been there, and paid at the door.  I wouldn’t have lost as much money.

Andy made a bundle in the month long run and then he made what would have been the mistake of his life in leaving for Arizona, or would have been if he hadn’t been shot.  While he was out of it Hughes and Morrissey put together the means to put Andy over the top.

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

Chaper 15 follows.

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