Great Groupies Of The Sixties Series
Cherry Vanilla: Lick Me
Vanilla, Cherry: Lick Me, How I Became Cherry Vanilla, 2010, Chicago Review Press
The sixties were the first period of excessive drug use. Nearly everyone carried something, whether prescription or street. How influential drugs would have been without psychedelics is questionable. Psychedelics were legal for most of the sixties while enjoying great cachet. LSD led many a poor boy and girl into drug use. Live Better Through Chemistry was the parody of the motto. LSD stories are legendary, people taking thousands of mics. People dropping LSD daily for months on end. Doug Dillard of the Dillards Band according to legend dropped daily for a couple of years or so. Hendrix found in the desert crawling around on his hands and knees. Incredible stuff.
Cherry Vanilla, nee Kathy Dorritie, certainly qualifies as a heavy drug and LSD user. Staggering amounts. She tells of a friend of hers who had a vial of what she believed to be pure liquid LSD. She describes him saturating sugar cubes with it until the cubes began to disintegrate, then swallowing the cube. I can’t comprehend the dosage. After one massive dose she experienced a white out of her mind during which she went blind experiencing only a sense of blinding light. She doesn’t say, probably doesn’t know, how long it lasted. Life changing though.
Kathie was already an accomplished writer before beginning her autobiography so needed no co-writer. I had recognized her style of writing before I read the account of her LSD intake. LSD has an amazing effect on the mind which produces a very distinctive writing style. Very clear, very organized, written at a very intense level with the little variation in dynamics that inevitably becomes a numbing bore, but so well constructed that it reflects the blinding light that Kathy experienced.
Tim Leary who was a major acid freak wrote some truly amazing books reflecting the LSD experience while if you want to read an amazing virtuoso performance find a copy of Stephen Gaskins Haight Ashbury Flashbacks. These authors write with such amazing clarity and precision as to astound.
But, LSD is a totally inward experience, a complete divorce from the outside world which ceases to exist or becomes a sort of movie set. There is such an intense preoccupation with self that even though the writing is crisp and exciting the tone becomes boring as the inner self isn’t that interesting. The writing is on such an intense, unvarying level that there are no dynamics. (That I’ve repeated myself means I mean it.)
The dissociation from external reality is so complete that one loses all self-consciousness, thus Kathie, or Cherry Vanilla, is able to copulate in public without any sense of embarrassment, indeed, even with a sense of liberation. One might think she was an exhibitionist except that she is so preoccupied that she is almost unaware.
In time the inner world takes such precedence that one is unable to distinguish between the inner world of wishful thinking and the outer world of appearances. Thus Tim Leary could imagine shrinking a few acres of earth into a small size to take with him on a space trip to other planets and believe it possible. As if he wasn’t spaced enough. His final fantasy was incredible enough and he was actually able to realize it.
When he died he willed that he be cremated and his ashes put in a real space ship and rocketed into space. He’s up there now orbiting the planet every couple hours. As his orbit degrades he will one day reenter the atmosphere as a shooting star. Just absolutely incredible.
I don’t know how far out Kathy is but I imagine she finds it quite easy to draw a straight line from Point A to Point 9.
Now, not only did Kathy do amazing amounts of LSD but she was on the money on other drugs too provided they gave the proper result. She rejected heroin after a few times because it didn’t take her where she wanted to go.
She was a perfect child of the sixties even having a fine Dr. Feelgood. One finds her memoirs less than trustworthy because she feels compelled to change names, not all, but some, we just don’t know which ones.
For instance she calls her Feelgood, Dr. Bishop. That good doctor is the same as Dr. Roberts in Jean Stein and George Plimpton’s book, Edie about Edie Sedgwick. Dr. Roberts is also a false name so we can’t be sure. Perhaps Dr. Bishop is his real name but I can’t be sure. Jean Stein and George Plimpton also quote Kathy under the name of Cherry Vanilla concerning an encounter with Dr. Roberts/Bishop that Kathy repeats here but quite differently. Kathy’s memoirs were published in 2010 while Edie was published in 1982 so Kathy has had plenty of time to think about Dr. Bishop; while on the other hand Stein and Plimpton appear to have used a heavy editing hand. All of the dozens of people they interviewed sound remarkably alike so the interviews may reflect more of Stein and Plimpton’s modes of thought. Perhaps they edited to make the text more exciting.
It is quite possible that Dr. Roberts/Bishop may have been with the CIA doing drug experiments. The CIA was certainly active in the field at the time. Bishop was even happy to participate as his own guinea pig. This is an interesting topic so I am going to quote Kathy extensively as she repeats and edits her account from Edie.
By the summer of 1963 (when she was twenty) I had already become quite familiar with booze, grass, hash, coke, speed, opium, uppers, downers, and hallucinogens like mescaline, peyote and psilocybin because they were my favorites.
Those were just her favorites. So in two years since she left home she had really been doing some living while at the same time performing well at her advertising job on Madison Avenue.
And then, pp 50-53:
I’m in with the in crowd;
I go where the in crowd goes,
I’m in with the in crowd:
And I know what the in crowd knows.
By Billy Page as sung by Dobie Gray
c. Warner/Chappell Music
The Jet Set and the In Crowd
Two sixties institutions
Keeping up with the schedule I was on back then would have been impossible were it not for the drugs. And in 1966 I got introduced to the in crowd’s newest elixir. Dr. Bishop’s vitamin shots. At thirty-five dollars a pop, they were pretty expensive, but one or two a day would keep you up forever, and keep you looking fresh and vibrant the whole time. I forget who first introduced me to Dr. Bishop. It might have been Joel Schumacher (one of the original designers of the Paraphernalia store), whom I’d recently met at the Pines (Fire Island homosexual hangout), or Wally Clapham, a friend of Joel’s I knew from Mad Ave. Anyway, someone had to bring you there. You couldn’t just walk in off the street.
Dr. Bishop’s office was located on the ground floor of a highrise near First Avenue and later in a mansion at 53rd and Madison. It was a scene so quintessentially sixties you couldn’t even imagine a doctor’s office like it today. The clubby drug buzz in the waiting room was so dense and intense, you got high on anticipation just walking in there. The “nurses” (none of us knew or cared if they were really nurses or not) wore seductively modern sportswear and often pulled down your pants and gave you your shot in the hallway, while the examining room might be occupied by Dr. Bishop giving someone the sixty dollar special and/or somebody “having a bad reaction.” Everyone was always in a rush, wanted to be seen first, had somewhere to be, had a taxi waiting, whatever. But then once they got that shot in the ass, they often couldn’t tear themselves away from the clinically and socially charged atmosphere and would get caught up in the speed rap session that was always going on among the patients.
When the taste of the iron, or whatever it was, hit your mouth, you started getting off on the shot. And as long as the soreness in your ass lasted, your stamina pretty well lasted too, a good six to eight hours anyway. The first half hour after the shot was dangerous, because you often got a sudden urge to shop, buy someone a gift, spend the rent money on something pretty. And right across the street from the 53rd Street office was a shop called Hunter’s World and, oh my God, how many elephant hair bracelets and zebra skin notebooks could anyone possibly need?….The other temptation was a nearby crystal and rock shop, where it was especially hard to resist the colorful sparklers.
Dr. Bishop had his favorite patients, especially the one male and one female he’d singled out from each sign of the zodiac. I was his Libra girl. I can’t believe I had a huge sense of pride about that. It meant that, along with the vitamins and speed, my shot might get an extra dose of whatever he was experimenting with that week- things like adrenaline stimulants, niacin and even LSD. And he’d have his favorites call him about an hour after getting a shot to let him know what we were feeling. The guy was using us all as guinea pigs, and I thought he was some kind of savior, freeing us all from the need for food and sleep.
One night Dr. Bishop came by Aux Puces while I was spinning and offered me a free shot of something special if I’d come to his office after work. All night at the turntables my mouth was watering at the prospect of what was to come. And as soon as we closed I ran the two blocks over there to take him up on his offer. As his building’s open-sided elevator rose through its day-glo painted, black-lit shaft, I felt positively dizzy with excitement. A minute later I was alone with Dr. B. in his fabulous office space, with it high ceilings, mahogany paneled walls, dance studio, and all those delicious drugs in the cabinets. He loaded the needles and instructed me to slap his ass, poke him fast, and slowly push the plunger on the first one. And then he shot me up on the second. A few minutes later, he had his fingers up my pussy and I was rushing beyond belief.
Pretty soon, I was going numb all over, even in my brain. Then all of a sudden there was blood everywhere and Dr. Bishop just laughed and said rather flippantly, “My dear, you’re bleeding. Maybe you should see a doctor.” I knew I didn’t have my period and I didn’t feel any pain, but the shock of seeing the blood running down my legs made me come to my senses. Even though the bleeding seemed to be subsiding, I just wanted to get out of there and get away from him as fast as I could. It wasn’t easy, since he’d become perturbed and paranoid about the fact I was leaving.
I went back to Aux Puces, where the new maitre d’, David Smith, was tripping after hours with Jay Martin and a couple of friends. I banged desperately hard on the locked front door and, luckily, they heard me above the loud music they were playing. My shaken state and gory story must have been a real bummer for them on their LSD high but they snapped into action immediately and got a limo to take me to the emergency room. Turned out I had cuts and scratches inside my vagina made by a ring or more sinister object, though the doctors said no major damage had been done. By that time the bleeding had stopped and I still wasn’t feeling any pain. Though questioned I refused to rat out Dr. Bishop and was quickly released. I went back to join the gang at Aux Puces, where we opened a few bottles of Chateau Lafitte Rothschild ‘60, smoked some hash-oiled joints and partied until dawn.
Let’s examine the above. As I said Stein’s Edie was about twenty-eight years old when Kathy wrote this. She undoubtedly read Edie so was familiar with her testimony then and as the account combines and adds to Joel Schumacher’s and her own story it is possible she had a copy of the book before her and wrote from it.
The time she is writing about is 1966 which was the heyday of the Doctor Feelgoods. I don’t know that a study has been done on them yet but there were apparently dozens of these guys practicing dope medicine beginning in approximately 1960. As is well known a Dr. Max Jacobson was operating in the early sixties with an extensive elite clientele that included then President John F. Kennedy. Dr. Jacobson even accompanied Kennedy to the Khruschev summit meeting where he kept Kennedy loaded on these shots. So for roughly six years New York City had been speeding along and whatnot.
At the same time the uptown Doctor, E. 87th, that the Beatles refer to as Dr. Robert was managing an extensive clientele. Kathy refers to her guy as Dr. Bishop who is the same guy Jean Stein refers to as Dr. Roberts. We may assume that neither name is correct. Both Dr. Robert and Jacobson were Jewish, I believe Bishop probably was also. In fact all, or nearly all, of these doctors were probably Jewish.
Now Kathy believed Dr. Bishop was experimenting on his clients. If he was shooting them up with unknown drugs without their knowledge that was at the very least unethical not to mention shooting them up with amphetamines at all. To say that no one knew the effects of amphetamines at the time is nonsense. Amphetamines had been around since 1887 while every army of WWII issued tablets to their troops. Hitler’s own Dr. Feelgood kept him filled with amphetamines for years and his deterioration was obvious. But, perhaps, more clinical observations were wanted or a more precise understanding of how large numbers of people reacted and could be controlled was needed. Maybe they wanted to know how easy it would be to control and direct populations on drugs.
It is well known that the CIA and other governmental agencies experimented with drugs on soldiers and even to unknowing members of the civilian population. Extensive experiments with LSD were carried on by the CIA in the late fifties and early sixties. Stanford and UC Berkeley for instance were running programs in the mid-sixties running ads in the newspapers for volunteers as this was happening in NYC.
So who would have been the beneficiaries of knowledge obtained by these Jewish Dr. Feelgoods who had very large supplies of amphetamines, cocaine which wasn’t too common in ‘66 and was definitely illegal, LSD was just being made illegal, and who knows what experimental drugs? It could have been conducted under the auspices of the US Government agencies who were researching mind control. But the information most likely was going two ways- one to the US authorities, the other way to Jewish psychological ops who could draw their own conclusions for their own purposes. Let’s face it old drugs have been made available while new drugs are invented everyday and find easy distribution so every young person has had his or her consciousness altered beyond recognition.
At any rate with all those doctors with crowded waiting rooms the buzz over New York City must have been audible for miles and miles. And all that didn’t include freelancers like Brigit Berlin of the Andy Warhol crowd.
July 23, 2011
Edie Sedgwick: Maid Of Constant Sorrow
We are now at the beginning of June 1966. Life was careening very fast for Edie, Andy and Bob. Oddly enough all three were headed for life threatening experiences. The first to take a hit was Dylan. He had his famous spill from his motorcycle in July of that summer. His back wheel locked up sending him flying over the handlebars. It has never been made clear how badly he was hurt or if he was even hurt at all but he was observed in a neck brace so a report that he had a cracked vertebra in his neck may be accurate. He may have come within an ace then of being paralyzed from the neck down or killed.
It seems to me unlikely that the rear wheel accidentally locked up. As Dylan was one whose conduct from, say, ‘63 to ‘66 should have made him a lot of enemies it seems likely that someone was seeking revenge. There are strong indications if not evidence that Andy Warhol was the most likely candidate.
Andy was not one to wear his heart on his sleeve but my thinking after reading extensively and thinking deeply is that in his own way Andy was deeply in love with Edie. Given his homosexuality there was apparently no way for him to express his feelings to her. Edie on her part remarked to Dylan that she had really tried to get close to Andy. While Andy strove to appear indifferent he expressed his resentment at David Weisman and his movie Ciao Manhattan that exploited Edie’s fame while destroying whatever was left of her reputation.
At the same time too he resented Dylan for purloining Edie and then discarding her. Andy was controlled by the notion that there was no stopping a person from following their bent or as he put it: How do you stop someone from doing what they want to do. Indeed, all one can do is step out of the way and let them do it. Thus, while the attitude is callous he was heard to remark that if Edie was going to commit suicide he hoped that she let him film it. The logic is not unreasonable but the attitude comes across cold.
As Edie seemed intent on going with Dylan Andy felt that there was no way to stop her. It never occurred to him that he himself was exploiting her by using her in his movies. As he saw it he was creating avenues to success for his people and it was up to them to create their own opportunities from that fame. Not too much different than he was doing for himself. It apparently never occurred to him that none of his people had the talent to do anything on their own although some did try.
He does not seem to have been aware that what was fame for him was mere notoriety for them. He had merely created a clubhouse for drugged out buffoons. Thus when things began to fall apart in mid-’66 when the mise en scene began to be broken up by Andy’s trip to Hollywood his entourage was merely dispersed with no direction home.
The case with Ondine was as pathetic as that with Edie. With the accession of Paul Morrissey and Fred Hughes who encouraged Andy to drop the whole A-head and Silver Factory crowd which they correctly saw as a liability the Silver Factory’s days were numbered. This was made easier by the end of ‘67 when Warhol was advised that his lease would not be renewed. Everyone was told there would be no place for them at the new quarters. The Factory building was subsequently torn down in 1969 to make room for the Dag Hammerskjold project.
For Ondine who was completely burned out by the amphetamines this was disastrous. He ended up at the post office for a while then tried to capitalize on his notoriety by stealing a film in which he starred from Andy trying to make money by exhibiting it while lecturing on his Factory days. He was apparently pathetic while Andy turned his back on him without a thought.
The same was true of Gerard Malanga who was dumped in 1967. Andy’s treatment of this most competent and valuable assistant is a real blot on his record. Malanga was a man of some talent and ability. I don’t think much of poetry but Malanga has a position in the NYC poetry scene. He introduced Andy into a milieu beneficial to him that he would not have known otherwise.
At a time when Andy was turning his art in the direction of multiple copies, essentially posters, Malanga who was knowledgeable in silk screening taught Andy the process. I am of the opinion that Gerard was essentially a collaborator in Warhol’s art. He assisted in the screening contributing skill and know how while undoubtedly making good suggestions. Of course he followed Andy’s lead. All this time he was paid only the minimum wage so, in a sense, he sacrificed a half dozen of his most valuable years for little recompense and as it turned out nothing in the way of thanks. In 1967 he went to Italy in an attempt to further his fortunes. While there he ran out of money having no way to pay his fare home. Andy refused his pleas for help, so Gerard who was completely familiar with Andy’s process of selecting photographs, such as the Presleys, selected a photo of Che Guevara and screened a few copies representing them as genuine Warhols. From my point of view they were authentic Warhols produced without the Master’s hand but still, perhaps, genuine.
When art authorities checked with Warhol, Andy dropped the ball. He should have confirmed them as no one could tell the difference and rescued Gerard. Instead he made Gerard guilty of art fraud which gave Gerard some very trying moments with the Italian authorities. Gerard made it back to New York but now having served as Warhol’s apprentice during his twenties, at thirty he had no marketable skills while being essentially a convicted criminal. Having no other recourse and some rights in my estimation, he expropriated, as the Leftist criminals used to say, some of Andy’s multiples and sold them. In a way in Andy’s mind this acknowledged his primacy and he didn’t press charges but he did disavow authentic prints as genuine.
We now move to ‘68, Andy under the influence of Morrissey and Hughes while forced to change quarters as his former space was condemned, disavowed the whole former Factory crowd telling them to get lost, that they were no longer welcome at the new Factory.
You can’t do this without making a large number of enemies. Andy just before his shooting was not so popular a fellow. And we are not quite there yet.
Edie going into the last half of ‘66 and into ‘67 was in dire straits. She was now completely unable to function without amphetamines. Cut off from all sources of income she was forced into thievery to support her habit. She was caught and did time. She was to spend more time at public mental hospitals that were quite unlike the posh Silver Hill of Connecticut. One can only guess the effect this disastrous series of events, a series with no seeming end, had on her psychology. Or perhaps we can get a glimmer from the biker group she hung out when she returned to Santa Barbara after the stunning humiliation of Ciao Manhattan. There she became a biker chick offering herself to all comers for a dose of drugs. Certainly her self-respect had been obliterated. Certainly she no longer thought she had any value as a human being. The mind can only be battered so much before it gives way. The men in her life had treated her shamefully, her father, Fuzzy, Warhol and Dylan as well as her evil mentor, Chuck Wein.
If, as claimed in the movie Factory Girl, her father had sexual relations with her as a young girl then his obligations extended much further than a paltry allowance that he cut off . Then he is morally liable for her degradation. If as Warhol thought there was no way to stop someone from doing what they want to do, then he was under no obligation to provide the ways and means. In all probability in the environment of NYC of the early and mid-sixties Edie would have drifted into amphetamines anyway. Indeed, as Andy said, Edie was a regular patron of the feel good doctor, Roberts.
Roberts was a licensed physician as was that other chief Dr. Feelgood, Max Jacobson. Doesn’t society have to obligation to protect its citizens from charlatans and quacks? Didn’t they throw some poor innocent Jim Bakker in jail because they disliked his religion? Didn’t society pursue hapless marijuana smokers and criminalize them by the thousands? Can the doctors actually claim they didn’t know the deleterious effects of amphetamines when they had the example of the most notorious amphetamine user ever, Adolf Hitler, before them?
Even if they tried they were still were medical malpractitioners and criminally liable. Read this quote from Edie by Jean Stein for an account of these doctors’ methods and practices. This is absolutely terrifying. There is a problem with Stein and Plimpton however. Apparently there was no Dr. Charles Roberts; Roberts is a name substituted by Stein to ‘protect’ the real doctor, who in any event would likely have been discredited c. 1968 when the Dr. Feelgoods were finally discountenanced. Also there may be confusion with the Dr. Robert, without an ‘s’ of the Beatles’ song. He was apparently Dr. Robert Feynman, a sixty year old man who was discredited in 1968. In any event since Stein and Plimpton didn’t announce the name change their whole history of Edie is compromised more than somewhat. Who knows what edits the two authors made. To quote the account, p.261, Edie:
Joel Schmacher reporting:
I’ll give a description of what it was like to go to Dr. Roberts. The time is two-thirty in the afternoon. I’m going back for my second shot of the day. I open the door. There are twenty-five people in the waiting room; businessmen, beautiful teenagers on the floor with long hair playing guitars, pregnant women with babies in their arms, designers, actors, models, record people, freaks, non-freaks…waiting. Everyone is waiting for a shot, so the tension in the office is beyond belief.
Lucky you, being a special Dr. Roberts person who can whip right in without waiting. Naturally there’s a terrible resentful, tense moment as you rush by because you’re going to get your shot.
You attack one of the nurses. By that I mean you grab her and say, “Listen, Susan! Give me a shot!” You’re in the corridor with your pants half off, ready to get the shot in your rear. Meanwhile Dr. Roberts comes floating by. Dr. Roberts has had a few shots already, right? So in the middle of this corridor he decides to tell you his complete plan to rejuvenate the entire earth. It’s a thirteen part plan, but he has lots of time to tell it to you, and as the shots start to work-Susan having given it to you- you have lots of time to listen.
In Dr. Roberts’s room would be Edie…so thin that she cannot be given her shots standing up; she has to lie down on her stomach. It was a big shot- all those vitamins, niacin, methedrine. God knows what else- for a little girl she has to take it lying down.
Meanwhile everyone who’s back in the corridor for the second or third time that day complains that the shots they received that morning haven’t worked. Out in the waiting room you can hear the people complaining that they haven’t even received their first shot yet.
And Dr. Roberts is still going on. In the middle of his thirteen-part plan he decides to tell you about a movie he saw on television…in detail. You however, are telling him your ideas for whatever you are going to do. But then Dr. Roberts begins to describe his idea for a plastic Kabuki house. Someone else is showing his sketches for redesigning the Boeing 707 with a psychedelic interior. Big doings at Dr. Roberts all the time.
Now you decide to go back out through the waiting room, right? Now you have all the time in the world. Life is a breeze. You’ve used the sun lamp, I mean, you were in a great rush when you came in; now, finally, you decide you’ll leave.
But there in the room are all these people who are not Dr. Roberts special people and who still haven’t been served. They’re there to spend as much money as you have, but they’re not part of the “in” crowd. So they’re drifting off into craziness because they haven’t gotten their shots. A couple of people are wandering around…their poor systems are so riddled with the methedrine they got half an hour ago they feel is not working that they’ve come back for what Dr. Roberts call “the booster.” The basic Dr. Roberts shot goes for from ten dollars to fifteen dollars. As your resistance to the drug gets to the point of diminishing returns, you move on up. There is a big shot for twenty-five dollars, and if it doesn’t work you go right back and get the “the booster’ for five dollars. That’s what some of these poor people are doing- standing out there waiting for the booster. But you …you are flying high, having just had your twenty-five dollar special, and you walk out ino the outer office and say: “Hi, Oh, hi! What a beautiful sweater! Gee you look wonderful! How are you? Oh, hi! Isn’t it wonderful to see you! What’s happening?”
Before leaving, I’d often go and find Edie in Dr. Roberts’ sauna. If we’d been up all night on drugs, the sauna and steam-bath were wonderful things. We’d go and walk for blocks and blocks…just be together, because we didn’t know what we were saying half the time.
The speed thing was so wonderful because everyone was walking around scared to death…scared because they couldn’t sustain the pace. And so these shots from Dr. Roberts and all those other speed doctors gave you a false sense of being together. You cold face everybody when you went out at night. You could dance all night. It was like “the answer.” Nobody knew much about speed in those days.
Once Edie’s mother came to Dr. Roberts! I remember she was on crutches. She looked like Betty Crocker-gray hair with a little hairnet, a blue print dress, and little glasses. She looked like a librarian from the Mid-west standing next to Edie with her cut-off blond hair with the dark roots, thigh-high boots, and mini-skirt, and a kind of chubby fur jacket that looked like it was made out of old cocker spaniels. There they were- the two of them. Mrs. Sedgwick had come to see if Dr. Roberts was taking good care of her little girl…and I guess the parents paid for her treatment. It cost a lot for those shots.
I’m not sure I trust Joel’s memories but that is sure good speed freak talk. Love it. And then there’s this from Cherry Vanilla, p. 265:
I became like an acid queen. I loved it. My looks got crazier and crazier. I started getting into things like pink wigs, teasing them up to make them real big and like bubbles. I’d wear goggle glasses and real crazy make-up: spidery lashes and white lips, and micro-minis. I saw a micro-mini on Edie and immediately started cutting everything off. Kenneth Jay Lane earrings. Big Robert Indiana LOVE earrings, giant love paintings on my ears. Little bikini undies, a band around the top; and we made these silver dresses that were just silver strings hanging on us. I was surrounded by a lot of gay boys in designing and decorating who would always give me a hand in pulling some look together. I would go out half-naked with see through things. You took a scarf and wrapped it around you and thought you were dressed.
I gave Dr. Roberts a shot once. In the ass, in his office about five o’ clock in the morning. I had been playing records at Aux Puce- I was the disc jockey there- and he had come around to visit and said, “If you come back to my office with me, I’ll give you a shot.” It was a freebie, which was nice because those shots were not cheap.
I really got into having a needle in my ass. Just the feeling of it. You get the shot, then this taste in your mouth, and you get a rush and you knew you were getting high. It was all very sexual in a way, and very “in” and social and stylish to do it. So I went back to his office with him and I gave him one and he gave me one.
I don’t know what he shot me up with, but it was something I had certainly never had before. I was really very numbed. Maybe it was cocaine. Sometimes he would shoot you with LSD. You never knew what he was going to shoot you with. So we got involved in a rather heavy sex encounter.
All of a sudden there was blood everywhere. I was bleeding like crazy. He laughed and said, “Oh, I think you should go and see a doctor.” Very bizarre. I started freaking out. I thought, “Oh, my God, this man has done something to me.. He’s killed me. I’m going to die here in his office, all shot up with drugs, and it’s going to be a disgrace and terrible.” I told him I had to get out. He said, “No, no, you can’t leave. I’ll fix you. I’ll give you a shot.” I said, “No, no, no more shots!” I got dressed. I never thought he was going to let me out. Perhaps he was scared I would go to the police.
When I did get out, I ran around the corner to Aux Puces. Some of the staff used to hang out there very late at night taking LSD. Sure enough, they were there. We called doctors. We couldn’t get anybody. Then the bleeding began to subside suddenly- about seven in the morning. I never actually knew what happened. I had been cut inside- scratched with something, fingernails or jewelry…probably by accident. I think we both just got carried away.
Exciting times. And finally we have this from Edie. This is a transcript from Ciao Manhattan.
It’s hard to choose between the climactic ecstasies of speed and cocaine. They’re similar. Oh, they are so fabulous. That fabulous sexual exhilaration. Which is better, coke or speed?” It’s hard to choose. The purest speed, the purest coke, and sex is a deadlock.
Speeding and booze. That gets funny. You get chattering at about fifty miles an hour over the downdraft, and booze kind of cools it. It can get very funny. Utterly ridiculous. It’s a good combination for a party. Not for an orgy, though.
Speedball! Speed and heroin. That was the first time I had a shot in each arm. Closed my eyes. Opened my arms. Closed my fists, and jab, jab. A shot of cocaine and speed, and a shot of heroin. Stripped off all my clothes, leapt downstairs, and ran out on Park Avenue and two blocks down it before my friends caught me. Naked. Naked as a lima bean. A speedball is from another world. It’s a little bit dangerous. Pure coke, pure speed, and pure sex. Wow! The ultimate in climax. Once I went over to Dr. Roberts for a shot of cocaine. It was very strange because he wouldn’t tell me what it was, and I was playing it cool. It was my first intravenous shot, and I said, “Well, I don’t feel it.” And he gave me another one, and all of a sudden I went blind. I just flipped out of my skull! I ended up wildly balling him and flipping him out of his skull. He was probably shot up…he was always shooting up around the corner anyway.
It would appear that Edie was very familiar with drugs and very welcoming to them. The quote doesn’t tell us whether Edie was first introduced to amphetamines at the Factory and then found Dr. Roberts or vice-versa but we do have an environment at the factory in which Brigit Berlin walked around injecting people with or without their consent. The question then is how innocent is Andy really. What sort of milieu had he created for his amusement.
The Factory was a clubhouse for what were essentially lowlife homosexual drug addicts. This must have been the overriding first impression. As such the women had to be accessories to attract men and outsiders. They were there essentially to be abused. They put the Factory in bad odor. As Andy says the police were through the Factory so often it might as well have been the precinct house. Warhol himself was generally known as ‘that creep’ while the more respectable people thought the place poison.
Andy’s genius however did turn it into an ‘in’ place by 1966 where certain celebrities with cachet found the place exciting and for a short period gave it a certain status.
As I have pointed out Warhol was a leader in both the Homosexual Revolution and the Underman Revolution. By late 1966, early 1967 we are not too far from the Stonewall Riot of ‘69 that ended restriction and harassment of homosexuals in NYC and the rest of the country. It was the end of rock n’ roll. After Stonewall the period began that homosexuals called the Candy Store Era. It was a time when anything went that ended about ten years later when AIDS made its appearance on the scene. Of course if any of us had heard of the Stonewall Riot we would have missed its significance nor did anyone understand the astounding change that was the Candy Store Era or even know they were in it. A sub-text of the Homosexual Revolution is the subversion of heterosexuality which goes without saying. Thus the Factory was a prototype of the nightclub that would realize the ideal of absolutely promiscuous sex- Studio 54. Thus as the homosexually led nightlife of the Candy Store Era developed Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager created the ultimate Factory in Studio 54. That club was everything Andy wanted the Factory to be- a celebrity paradise. The place was filled with celebrities, sexual perversion and drugs. All inhibitions were down. Studio 54 became Andy’s clubhouse where he spent his nights as a voyeur.
Rubell and Schrager were not overly discreet so that the Feds, at least, were onto them from the beginning although NYC authorities must have been paid off as they didn’t harass the club. At Studio 54 the Undermen forged a very destructive attack on elite White America. According to Anthony Haden-Guest in his book, Studio 54, a concerted assault was made to corrupt prep school youth- boys and girls by using drugs, liquor and sex. According to Haden-Guest the conspirators were quite successful in debasing both boys and girls in much the same manner Edie had been debauched under Warhol’s tutelage.
This raises the question again of how innocent Andy really was. His competitor Bob Dylan is supposed to have hated Andy for debauching Edie but that may have been the pot calling the kettle black.
Andy’s record of the treatment of women is not good but in keeping with the homosexual ethos. The gays dislike women as competitors, as they believe, for men’s favors. While not considering themselves psychotic they believe that if there were no women all men would be theirs. The irrationality of the belief shall pass without comment. Hence they imitate women to attract men. An inevitable consequence of their attitude is the need to debase and humiliate women.
While being of this mindset Andy as the little Ruthenian immigrant boy who was himself humiliated and rejected by the upper crust of Pittsburgh found delight in debasing and humiliating upper crust women. This runs through his whole career. Edie came from a very old American family that was very prominent in both Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Boston, from whence they arose and New York City. Her father had moved West from New York only shortly before she was born. Although raised as a half wild girl on a vast ranch near Santa Barbara Edie could claim to be a New York society girl. Indeed, her grandmother still maintained her position on the East Side.
While Andy may indeed have loved Edie it was probably more for her background than for herself. The prize of an Anglo-American princess must have been beyond Andy’s juvenile dreams. Indeed, it was through her that Andy first tasted any social success. If they were inseparable during that glorious summer of ‘65 it was because Andy was basking in Edie’s social glamour. And yet one doesn’t find reverence or respect for Edie as a person. Andy allowed her to pick up the check at expensive restaurants not only for himself but his whole entourage of freeloaders. As these were all Underclass people you may be sure they took full advantage of her largesse. I am perhaps a trifle old fashioned but to me this is unforgivable in Andy.
While Andy may have been hard pressed financially to maintain his large and growing establishment there appears to have been no gratitude for Edie relieving the strain. As his entourage grew Andy began to yearn for a restaurant where he could exchange art for food and drink. This was provided in 1966, after Edie was out of favor, when Mickey Ruskin opened Max’s Kansas City in December of ‘65.
The rest of women at the Factory were treated with disrespect although they submitted to it with stoic resignation. One reads with horror the treatment of Viva in Tucson during the filming of Warhol’s cowboy parody and putdown, once again a homosexual extravaganza.
And then there was the ever present sado-masochism that permeated the Factory. An acceptance and celebration of the perversion. The attitude was expressed successfully in the films of Paul Morrissey begun while Warhol was recuperating from Valerie Solanas’ assault. With Andy unable to interfere Morrissey quickly turned out the movie Flesh with Joe Dallesandro which turned out to be a success in Germany. This gave Andy confidence and Morrissey produced several more movies among them Flesh For Frankenstein. I have no intention of reviewing the movie here but certain barbarities of the French arch-sadist Gilles de Rais were celebrated.
Women of some prominence played roles in the nude while performing sexually deviant acts. This rather negative attitude toward women was reflected all through the history of the various Factorys carried on in the most degrading circumstances.
To add insult to injury when Edie was actually falling into her psychological abyss Andy shot The Andy Warhol Story with Rene Ricard and Edie in which both expressed their hatred and revulsion of Andy. ( http://.warholstars.org/warhol/warhol1/warhol1f/warhol.html )
So by this time she had been debased more than any man or woman should ever be debased. Edie herself lay her destruction at the feet of Andy, the great facilitator, the sado-masochistic doyen of New York. I think Andy, then bears a great deal of responsibility for Edie’s shame.
Now, it will be noted. The Andy Warhol Story was filmed at about the same time as his Bob Dylan Story so Edie and Dylan were connected in Andy’s mind.
As I said Warhol and his troupe left for LA in May of ‘66 after a successful month of the EPI. When he returned to resume this lucrative enterprise he found that his hall, the Dom, had been leased from under him by- Albert Grossman and Bob Dylan. They turned it into a venue inanely named The Balloon Farm. Another act of plagiarism by Dylan. I think this was too much for Warhol. First Edie and then the Dom. This was surely provocation asking for trouble, demanding it.
Now, if you’ve watched the post-1968 Warhol movie Bad how far is it from Bad to conjecture that Andy and his crew were responsible for Dylan’s accident? Bad concerns a woman who runs a clearing house for dirty deeds written by Andy’s amanuensis, Pat Hackett. Andy had to have been angry at Dylan and Grossman and indeed he filmed a put down of the two. Quoting Warholstars.org:
Sterling Morrison of the Velvet Underground:
“Dylan was always around, giving Nico songs. There was one film Andy made with Paul Caruso called The Bob Dylan Story. I don’t think Andy has ever shown it. It was hysterical. They got Marlowe Dupont to play Al Grossman. Paul Caruso not looks like Bob Dylan but as a super caricature he makes even Hendrix look pale by comparison. This was around 1966 when the film was made and his hair was way out to here…On the eve of the filming, Paul had a change of heart and got his hair cut off- close to his head and he must have removed about a foot so everyone was upset about that. Then Dylan had his accident and that is why the film was never shown.”
So, in July smarting from the indignities imposed on him by Dylan and Grossman Andy was making a ‘hilarious’ film about the two. Perhaps Andy thought that was not enough so somewhere during the filming, one conjectures, he conceived this motorcycle rigging. Thus, in late July Dylan went over the handlebars when his rear wheel locked. Anything could have happened to him from paralysis to death. As it was he fractured his neck coming within an ace of serious injury.
Andy hadn’t finished with The Bob Dylan Story. He wanted to work in the accident. Probably aggrieved at Dylan’s survival Andy recommenced the film in October of ‘66 probably with the Andy Warhol Story starring Edie in mind.
Warholstars once again:
Susan Pile speaking:
Andy filmed the Bob Dylan Story starring Paul Caruso…Ingrid Superstar and I were folkrock groupies who rushed in (to Paul Caruso) attacked his body and taped him to the motorcycle…Paul Morrissey suggested all of Paul Caruso’s lines be from songs, but Andy, knowing it was a good idea (this is a direct relay from Paul Morrissey) vetoed it…My one line (what I wasn’t supposed to say; I was to remain mutely sinister) was “You’re just like P.F. Sloan and all the rest- you want to become famous so you can get rid of those pimples.” (accompanied by quick slaps to P. Caruso’s acne remnanted cheeks.)…
So, what do we have here? Bear in the mind the subject matter of Bad which is a very violent movie of revenges made in the most casual manner. Morrison’s account is given before the accident while Pile’s is after.
Pile and Ingrid attack Caruso/Dylan and mockingly tape him to the motorcycle so that he can’t fall off. (ha, ha, ha). Pile then delivers a devastating putdown comparing Dylan unfavorably to P.F. Sloan. Sloan was the guy who wrote the puerile Eve Of Destruction that was very near to being a humorous parody of Dylan’s songs such as Blowin’ In The Wind. If Dylan had seen the film he would likely have been enraged. Pile than calls Dylan’s song ‘pimple music’ another put down as rock n’ roll was derisively called pimple music because teenagers had pimples. And then Caruso/Dylan is physically abused by having his face slapped while being unable to retort because he is taped to the bike.
Psychologically then what Andy is saying is that he felt the filching of Edie as a slap in the face while when he was in LA he was unable to foil the filching of the Dom.
This combination of Dylan and the motorcycle in a film called The Bob Dylan Story points clearly to Andy as the perp.
And so the final chapter will concern the filming of Ciao Manhattan and the demise of Edie. I have some other work to be done so there will be a delay before Chapter 16 appears.
June 23, 2011
Edie Sedgwick, Maid Of Constant Sorrow
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Chaper 15 follows.
April 17, 2011
Maid Of Constant Sorrow
Blonde On Blonde
One can only guess at Edie’s feelings when Dylan dismissed her so brutally from the lines of One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later). She must have intuited if not known that her short and glorious career as the toast of New York was going nowhere. She came to New York with a handsome inheritance that she squandered in a trice, her parents disapproved of her conduct to the the point that they cut her off from support leaving her as Dylan had sneered in Like A Rolling Stone, a poor little rich girl ‘who had never lived out on the streets but now she was going to have to get used to it.’ Screamingly in pain from amphetamines one can only imagine her bewilderment with no way to rectify the situation. Whatever golden opportunities she may have had were now gone forever. Frome here to her death in 1971 would be one long wailing ‘horrorous’ nosedive that is terrifying to relive as a writer even. My stomach quakes as I try to organize the course of events.
Chuck Wein, one of the Harvard homosexuals she had associated with and who had come to New York with her was her evil genius, some say Svengali, who had guided her to Warhol and the
Factory and then presided over her self-destruction. Then for that brief glorious summer of ’65 she had set New York on its ear as a companion to Andy Warhol. Made her feel giddy and indestructible. Andy was apparently in love with her but as a self-centered homosexual was too flaky to work out a relationship that would give her dignity while he was unable to support her more than extravagant tastes.
Behind Warhol was Dylan competing for Edie’s favors which he won in December of ’65 and then discarded her like an old shoe. He recorded the course of his relationship with Edie in various songs from mid-1965 to the completion of Blonde On Blonde in the Spring of ’66. His own career course was changed dramatically in July of ’66 when he had his motorcycle accident.
It might be well to review the songs that comprise Blonde On Blonde now. The song list of Blonde On Blonde is as follows:
1. Rainy Day Women #12 And 35
2. Pledging My Time
3. Visions Of Johanna
4. One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)
5. I Want You
6. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
7. Leopard Sking Pillbox Hat
8. Just Like A Woman
9. Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine
10. Temporary Like Achilles
11. Absolutely Sweet Marie
12. Fourth Time Around
13. Obviously Five Believers
14. Sad Eyed Lady Of The Low Lands
With a knowledge of the lyrics the titles themselves read consecutively tell story while the lyrics confirm the tale. The story hinges on who the two women are. One is Dylan’s mother who blasted herson’s psyche when at about the age of twelve she told him in so many words that he had ruined her life by being born. Apparently it was more than Dylan could handle because it was then that his lifelong misogyny began. It is forbidden for a son to revenge himself on his mother so his only recourse was to take it out on another woman or women. Dylan has been a serial misogynist.
One of the women he chose to vent his spleen on was Edie Sedgwick. Thus the two rainy day women most likely are his mother and Edie. All the time Dylan was bedeviling Edie he was courting Sara Lowndes who he eventually married in November of ’65. It was a quiet wedding that didn’t became known for several months and not widely known until later than that. He married just before he succeeded in abstracting Edie from Andy’s entourage so there is no doubt that he was only toying with Edie as a surrogate for his mother.
He may actually have cherished her vulnerability from drugs, inexperience in the world and low self-esteem. She would have been as helpless as a baby, almost like shot gunning fish in a barrel. Sara was his Madonna, Edie his whore. He waits to the very end of Blonde On Blonde to mention Sara and then he wrote Sad Eyed Lady Of The Low Lands for her. Of course, this was all very mysterious for us back in ’66 because we knew nothing of what was happening in New York. None of us had even heard of Sara Lowndes until she showed up as Dylan’s wife
As blogger Jim De Rogatis says, when he sat down to listen to Blonde: What I discovered was an artist who sneered and snarled with more venom and conviction than Johnny Rotten, and
finally it dawned on me: Dylan was a punk…
Jim wasn’t there at the creation as I was, he is a younger man. I guess my soul was so canchred at the time that I welcomed the sneering and snarling as an expression of my own trauma while today I find the venom is so grating that I can no longer listen to Dylan’s records. Besides he borrows nearly everything.
The album opens on a note of forced sardonic merriment as though in a house of ill fame and ends with the dirge dedicated to his wife, Sara. I leave the interpretation of that up to you. I can’t pretend at this date to understand the lyrics to Sad Eyed Lady. One would have to know more of her and Dylan’s courtship. Dylan thought she was supposed to be impressed that he wrote a song for her with a title that sounds like another of his caustic insults.
To take the songs in order: Rainy Day Women is a raucous, very noisy mocking song along the lines of Like A Rolling Stone with its refrain of ‘How does it feel?’ On release the song was so noisy it was nearly unlistenable, certainly objectionable and barely music. Time has conditioned our ears. The refrain here: Everyboyd must get stoned, has layers of possible meaning. While the allegory of stoned meaning pelted with rocks is present, stoned can also have a secondary meaning of smoking marijuana. I don’t think the meaning has anything to do with getting ‘stoned’ from dope. I think it’s a combination of the first meaning and what was perceived by Dylan as a devastating insult from his mother.
The refrain must refer on one hand to his mothers perceived ‘stoning’ of Dylan by her announcement to him that he had been basically unwanted. That stoning is turned around to apply to his ‘stoning’ of Edie in vengeance. He then gleefully taunts and mocks her with the refrain: Do not feel so all alone, everybody must get stoned (How does it feel?) which refers back to his earlier song about Edie, Like A Rolling Stone.
In order to make ‘poetry’ of his taunt, our incipient ‘Shakespeare’ gives several poetic references that have nothing to do with rocks or joints. For instance the line ‘They’ll stone you when you’re riding in your car’ must refer to radio DJs pitching products. Thus stoning is meant as a verbal assault. One can compare that line with the Rolling Stone’s Mick Jagger’s lyrics to his song Satisfaction:
When I’m drivin’ in my car
And that man comes on the radio
He’s tellin’ me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination
I can’t get no, Oh, no, no, no
Hey, hey, hey, that’ what I say
I can’t get no
So Dylan’s use of ‘stoning’ is giving or getting unpleasant information.
Song #2, Pledging My Time merely means he is obsessed with his mother’s ‘information’ that he was unwanted which is reflected in song #3, Visions Of Johanna when he sings: These visions of Johanna have conquered my mind. Johanna being his mother. Then there is discussion about Andy and Edie. (see my essay at https://idynamo.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/exhuming-bob-xxviii-visions-of-johanna-decoded/ for a full discussion.)
Song#4 Sooner Or Later mocks Edie who he ‘really did try to get close to’ as he dismisses here as he would have like to have dismissed his mother. Song #5 is self-explanatory.
Song #6, Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again awhile the lyrics are unclear must refer back to I Want You on one hand and forward to Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat and Just Like A Woman on the other. He’s stuck inside of Mobile, i.e. he wants his mother with the Memphis Blues, i.e. he want his vengeance on Edie is a possible interpretation. At any rate it is placed between I Want You and the two Edie songs so it must be related to all three.
Then come two really unnecessarily vicious songs that everyone agrees are about Edie- Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat and Just Like A Woman. There are no obvious reasons for Dylan to express such vehement, disfiguring hatred of the poor girl unless he’s visiting his repressed hatred of his mother on her.
Song #10 Temporary Like Achilles involves Edie and Andy and himself. I doubt if Dylan had any understanding of the Iliad, if he had even read it, so apart from Achilles short life and the seven month interruption of his relationship with Edie by Warhol an interpretation is somewhat of a hazard.
Songs 11, 12, 13, Absolutely Sweet Marie, Fourth Time Around, and Obviously 5 Believers seem to wander off topic. I have read one interpretation in which the blogger thought Obviously 5 Believers was a response to the Beatles Norwegian Wood. Or possibly they lead into song #14 Sad Eyed Lady Of The Low Lands that Dylan says he wrote about Sara Loundes. The lyrics of this ‘poem’ are incomprehensible but if I had been Sara I wouldn’t have taken the title as a compliment, especially not after being locked out of a discussion about Dylan, Edie and his mother. After all, this is a married man lashing out at Edie.
After completing the LP Dylan left for his 1966 tour of England in which there was such a violent reaction to his electric backup band. I don’t remember their being a violent reaction made on the West Coast. For myself I welcome it. I never did like that faux folk crap he did anyway. Apparently Dylan didn’t either. A new expanded edition, lots of new material. of Robert Shelton’s biography, No Direction Home, just released by Omnibus Press is available, speaking in 1965 Shelton quotes Dylan thusly: ‘There never was any change. No instrument will ever change love, death in any soul. My music is my music. Folk music was such a shuck. I never recorded a folk song.’ He did however call himself a folk singer.
So, whoever shouted Judas at the Manchester concert knew what he was talking about. I never listened to those nauseous early Dylan records anyway. Blonde On Blonde was released in June of 1966 while Dylan was thrown by his ‘chrome horse’ on 7/29/66 thus putting an end to the first phase of his career.
I don’t know what Edie thought wen she heard the record that summer but one supposes she would have recognized herself as the topic of the conversation. Warhol certainly did and he was not amused. Knew something about motorcycles too.
Both Edie and Dylan were so heavily into amphetamines that they probably were not responsible for their actions. Drugs tend to put one into an internal state in which the outside world assumes a subordinate position, almost irrelevant, to one’s interior reality. A person functions in his own mind as a sort of magician who can comman the world to his own world. A certain type of insanity I suppose. Right and wrong are merely expressions of one’s own subconscious will. As Dylan confused Edie with his mother who he subconsciously wished to punish he transferred those feelings, that resentment, that hatret onto Edie as his surrogate mother thus gaining his revenge. How much satisfaction he got isn’t known and he’s not telling.
Edie herself was so far gone into amphetamines as to be oblivious to what was happening in her life. As far as she could dissociate her life from reality she could obviously make black white and vice versa.
Having dealt with Dylan’s relationship with Edie, let us return to January of ’66 to take up again the story from there.
Chap. 14 has been posted as of 6/23/11
March 23, 2011
Exhuming Bob XXIX: Dylan And His Blonde Problems
An Examination Of Temporary Like Achilles
Temporary Like Achilles is another ’64-’66 piece. It has the feel of being improvisational, out of focus. I believe it is a companion piece to Visions Of Johanna while it might be connected to Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.
Dylan always said that he had no physical relations with the song’s subject Edie Sedgwick. I’m certainly in no position to say but if this song is accurate then Edie for some reason played the virgin for him. Either that or because she represented his mother to him it would have been an incestuous situation. Edie did say she was pregnant by Dylan but then she says that she was in the psycho ward and that the doctor’s held her down and aborted the baby. Of course she must have been delusional at that time having over dosed on amphetamines. God, how she punished her mind. I’m of the opinion that she probably was not pregnant by Dylan although there may be hospital records.
If one takes the last verse first:
Achilles is in your alleyway
He don’t want me here, he does brag
He’s pointing to the sky
And he’s hungry, like a man in drag.
How come you get someone like him to be your guard
You know I want your lovin’
Honey why are you so hard.
Warhol, the man in drag is obviously Achilles, perhaps meant humorously. Achilles of course lived a short but glorious life. Warhol is temporary because Dylan is moving in on Edie.
In answer to the refrain ‘you know I want your lovin, honey why are you so hard’, it is probably that Edie wanted to marry Dylan but in the way of women wanted to pose as a virgin so as to come to him pure.
When she was at Harvard in Boston she was known as a premier fag hag. The men she knew were all gay so one presumes her chastity was safe there. Of course, Andy Warhol, known here as Achilles here was gay. Insofar as she associated with Andy, and he apparently really was smitten by her, as close to being in love as he could get with anyone, as he put it, her chastity was safe with him too. Perhaps that is why Dylan has Achilles in Edie’s allegory, near but not close sexually.
As there was rivalry between Dylan and Warhol for Edie it follows that ‘he don’t want me here he does brag.’ The line
would point to the situation as it stood in August or September of ’65. He’s hungry like a man in drag may refer to his homosexuality which prevents him from satisfying his lust I don’t know why he’s pointing at the sky but Dylan says disgustedly ‘how come you get someone (a fag) like him to be your guard. Dylan was known to be macho at the time.
The first verse points to a period perhaps November-December of ’65. Dylan, of course, married Sara in November of ’65 so that at this point Dylan would be playing with Edie as perhaps he thought she was playing with him before.
Standing on your window, honey
Yes. I’ve been here before
Feeling so harmless
I’m looking at your second door
How come you don’t send me no regards?
You know I want you lovin’
Honey why are you so hard?
Here is a reference to Dylan and Edie’s first meeting in December of ’64. And then in March Chuck Wein introduced Edie to the Factory although she had met Warhol a couple weeks after Dylan in January of ’65. Dylan may have been too busy at the beginning of ’65 to actively pursue Edie, he also did have to pay attention to Sara who he was courting at the same time, plus engagements and whatever.
At any rate Edie teamed up with Warhol from March to about December of ’65. At that point Dylan who was wooing Edie and Grossman his manager were promising to make Edie a star at something. If as a star, she couldn’t sing, but then that didn’t stop Dylan from having a career.
Now, Andy had been trying to make Edie his movie star. According to Ronnie Tavel who scripted many of Andy’s movies Andy saw Edie as his ticket to breaking into Hollywood. That was one of Andy’s chief ambitions that was never realized. Tavel says that he and Andy used to coach Edie in her lines. When time to film came she always dosed herself with amphetamines before hand and, of course, uncoached herself. Thus in Andy’s account of his appearance at the psychiatrists’ banquet in January of ’66 he remarks that it was futile for Dylan and Grossman to work with her because she was unable to concentrate long to get anything done. Edie wouldn’t work hence no career. Andy might have been able to get her something if she had. He sounds rueful and hurt.
So in late ’65 this was Dylan’s second attempt to connect with Edie.
The second verse:
Kneeling ‘neith your ceiling
Yes, I guess I’ll be here for a while
I’m trying to read your portrait, but
I’m helpless, like a rich man’s child.
How come you send someone out to have me barred:
You know I want your lovin’
Honey, why are you so hard?
Kneeling ‘neath your ceiling fits in with standing in your window and looking at your second door. Kneeling ‘neath your ceiling is probably somewhat like Paul Simon’s ‘One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor or Tony Orlando’s Stomp three time on the floor. In other words Dylan is in the room beneath Edie unable to get to her unless she calls him.
Thus the addendum to verse two:
Like a poor fool in his prime
Yes’ I know you can hear me walk
But is our heart made out of stone, or is it lime
Or is it just solid rock?
In other words Edie knows he’s down there pacing anxiously back and forth but a hard hearted woman she refuses to call him to her, stomping three times on the floor.
The fourth verse:
Well, I rush into your hallway
Lean against your velvet door
I watch upon your scorpion
Who crawls across your circus floor
Just what do you think you have to guard?
You know I want your lovin’
Honey why are you so hard?
The ardent and frustrated would be lover can’t breach Edie’s window, door. ceiling, hallway, velvet door. The scorpion/circus reference escapes me except that Edie may have appeared to be leading some circus life as does Ophelia in Desolation Row.
Apparently this was a throw away song for Dylan as other than recording it he has never played it in concert. It was one of my favorites on the album however. Perhaps after Dylan’s motorcycle accident the song became irrelevant to him. Too topical, not universal enough as was its counterpart Visions of Johanna.
As far as Blonde On Blonde goes I’m tentatively of the opinion that Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 refers to Edie and his mother. The only reference to Sara in the album would be Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands.
Your secrets are safe with me, Bob, of course you don’t have anything to hide.
December 27, 2010
Exhuming Bob XXVIII
Visions of Johanna Decoded
This is an attempt to place Visions Of Johanna in a context of Dylan, Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick. In this interpretation Louise is Edie, Johanna is Dylan’s mother, Louise’s lover is Andy Warhol and the narrator is Dylan,
Visions of Johanna
Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re trying to be so quiet?
We sit here stranded though we’re doing our best to deny it.
I.e. we’re alone in the night of the universe doing our best to pretend we aren’t. A night without dawn and we find the situation intolerable.
And Louise holds a handful of rain, temptin’ you to defy it.
Rain is a symbol for the misery of life that one finds inescapable. ‘Raindrops keep falling on my head.’ etc. Louise/Edie who is a bearer of pain mixed with love offers a handful of rain to Dylan essentially saying take it or leave it. If Bob takes it he has to find a way around the pain of loving Louise/Edie.
Lights flicker from the opposite loft
In this room the heat pipes just cough
The country station plays soft
But there’s nothing really, nothing to turn off.
It looks brighter in the opposite loft, greener grass on the other side of the fence, but it is freezing in Dylan’s room where no heat comes from the pipes that just cough. ‘Seems like a freezeout.’ C&W is a lot of songs about love gone wrong so let it play softly in the background.
Just Louise and her lover so entwined
And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind.
Dylan has a real problem with his mother who he says in his movie Masked and Anonymous rejected him because he upset her life by being born. Thus his love for his mother was turned to dust and his life made miserable. He has confused Edie with his mother who he thinks she resembles. Edie after seeming to be found as a mother surrogate in the first quarter of 1965 then seemingly abandoned him for ‘her lover’ Warhol with whom she is ‘entwined.’ In his confusion and resentment of Edie he sees ‘these visions of Johanna that conquer his mind.’ He looks at Edie and sees his mother. His resentment at his mother’s rejection then turns to hatred of Edie. As a son he can’t revenge himself on his mother but he can on Edie who has become his mother surrogate.
After his father’s death in 1968 Dylan is able to step into his father’s shoes as his mother’s support. Pleading poverty, which was probably real, shortly after her husband’s death Dylan wrote her a five figure check to tide her over. There’s more, but…I’ll save that for the review of Masked And Anonymous.
In the empty lot where the ladies play blind man’s bluff with the key chain
And the all night girls they whisper of escapades out on the “D” train
We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight
Ask himself if it’s him or them that’s really insane
Verbiage setting up the next six lines that get to the heart of the matter:
Louise, she’s all right, she’s just near
She’s delicate and seems like the mirror
But she just makes it all too concise and too clear
That Johanna’s not here.
Here the physically delicate Edie is present but she seems like a reflection of Johanna/Dylan’s mother. Dylan has so identified Edie/Louise with this mother/Johanna that Edie makes it ‘too concise and that too clear’ that Mother/Johanna is not here.
The ghost of ‘lectricity howls in the bones of her face (Edie’s)
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place.
Ghosts of electricity is ambiguous but may refer to the traces left by the electro-shock treatments which undoubtedly scarred Edie’s mind indelibly while Dylan has now completely blended Edie/Louise and Mother/Johanna into one.
Now, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously
He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously,
This obviously refers to Warhol of whom it’s a pretty good description. Living dangerously probably refers to the hoodlums hanging around the Factory.
Muttering small talk at the wall while I’m in the hall
How can I explain?
Oh, it’s so hard to get on
And these visions of Johanna, they kept me up past dawn
Dylan mutters small talk at the wall where he is placed outside the relationship with Edie in the hall ‘while visions of Mother/Johanna trouble him into the small hours of the night.
Verses four and five seem to be verbiage that sounds meaningful and may be to Dylan but escape me. The song is copyrighted 1966 which would be after Dylan had taken his vengeance on Edie so the lines of the last verse:
But like Louise always says
“Ya can’t look at much, can ya man?”
As she herself prepares for him
And Madonna, she still has not showed
We see the empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
The fiddler, he now steps to the road
He writes ev’rything’s been returned which was owed.
Edie/Louise is preparing for ‘him’ who might be Warhol or Neuwirth but it isn’t made clear.
Dylan referred to Sara as a Madonna so she is probably the Madonna referred to. ‘Empty cage’ is personal to Dylan, no idea, anyway he was already married to Sara. So having crushed Edie as his mother had crushed him and passed her to Neuwirth he thinks he has settled his score with Mother/Johanna. ‘Ev’rything’s been returned which was owed.’ Edie has repaid his mother’s debt but he apparently feels some guilt ‘as his conscience explodes.’
After the ball was over, after the dance was through’ these visions of Johanna are now all that remain.’ So, if the song means anything, written in 1966 it must refer to Edie who Dylan has confused with his mother in his mind. While songs like Like A Rolling Stone and She’s Your Lover Now read clearly once you have the Edie key, Johanna is a little more ambigious but while I con’t guarantee this reading as yet, I think it is on whole accurate.
November 30, 2010
A week or so after Philadelphia I got a real lesson in show business and Pop style. Just when you think you’re getting famous, somebody comes along and makes you look like a warm up act for amateur night. Pope Paul VI, talk about advance PR- I mean, for centuries.Definitely the most Pop public appearance tour of the sixties was that visit of the Pope to New York City. He did it all in one day- October, 15, 1965. It was the most well-planned media covered personal appearance in religious (and probably show business) history. “Never Before in This Country! One Day Only! The Pope in New York City!”The funny thing for us, of course, was that Ondine was known in our crowd as “the Pope,” and one of his most famous routines was “giving the papal bull.”The (real) Pope and his entourage of aides, press and photographers left Rome early that morning on an Alitalia DC-8. Eight hours and twenty minutes later, they got off the plane at Kennedy with the Pope’s shiny robes blowing in the wind. They drove in a motorcade through Queens- the streets were lined with people- through Harlem crowds, and then down to the jammed- for blocks St. Patrick’s Cathedral area in the Fifties- where the Pope seemed to want to go out in “the audience” but you could see his aides talking him out of it. After all the stuff in the cathedral he ran down the street to the Waldorf-Astoria where President Johnson was waiting. They exchanged gifts and talked for a little under an hour about world troubles. Then it was over to address the UN General Assembly (essentially he said, “Peace, disarmament and no birth control”) out to Yankee Stadium to say Mass in front of ninety thousand people, over to the closing World’s Fair to see Michelangelo’s Pieta in its Pop context before it went back to the Vatican, and back out to Kennedy and onto a TWA plane, saying, when the reporters asked him what he liked best about New York, “Tutti Buoni” (Everything is good”) which was the Pop philosophy exactly. He was back in Rome that same night. To do that much in that short a time with that kind of style- I can’t imagine anything more Pop than that.
I’d dreamt about Billy Name, that he was living under the stairs of my house and doing sommersaults and everything was very colorful. It was so weird, because his friends sort of invaded my house and were acting crazy in colorful costumes and jumping up and down having so much fun and they took over, they took over my life. It was so weird. It was like clowns.Everybody was a clown in a funny way, and they were just living there without letting me know, they’d come out in the morning when I wasn’t there and they’d have a lot of fun and then they’d go back and live in the closet.
I was invited to speak at the annual banquet of the New York Society For Clinical Psychiatry by the doctor who was chairman of the event. I told him I’d be glad to ‘speak’ if I could do it though movies, that I’d show Harlot and Henry Geldzahler and he said fine. Then when I met the Velvets I decided that I wanted to speak with them instead, and he said fine to that too.So one evening in the middle of January everybody in the Factory went over to the Delmonico Hotel where the banquet was taking place. We got there just as it just was starting. There were about three hundred pychiatrists and their mates and dates- and all they’d been told was that they were going to see movies after dinner. The second the main course was served, the Velvets started to blast and Nico started to wail. Gerard and Edie jumped up on the stage and started dancing, and the doors flew open and Jonas Mekas and Barbara Rudin with her crew of people with cameras and bright lights came storming into the room and rushing over to the psychiatrists asking them questions like:‘What does her vagina feel like?’‘Is his penis big enough?’‘Do you eat her out? Why are you getting embarrassed? You’re a psychiatrist; you’re not supposed to get embarrassed!Edie had come with Bobby Neuwirth. While the crews filmed and Nico sang her Dylan song, (I’ll Keep It With Mine) Gerard noticed (and he told me this later) that Edie was trying to sing, too, but even in that incredible din, it was obvious she didn’t have a voice. He always looked back to that night as the last she ever went out with us in public, except for a party here and there. He thought she’d felt upstaged that night, that she’d realized that Nico was the new girl in town.Edie and Nico were so different, there was no good reason to compare them, really. Nico was so cool, and Edie was so bubbly. But the sad thing was, Edie was taking a lot of heavy drugs, and she was getting vaguer and vaguer. Her society lady attitude toward pills had changed to an addict attitude. Some of her good friends tried to help her, but she couldn’t listen to them. She said she wanted a “career” and that she’d get one since Grossman was managing her. But how can you have a career when you don’t have the discipline to work at anything?Gerard had noticed how lost Edie looked at that psychiatrists’ banquet, but I can’t say I noticed; I was too busy watching the psychiatrists. They were really upset and some of them started to leave, the ladies in their long dresses and the men in their black ties. As if the music- the feedback actually- that the Velvets were playing wasn’t enough to drive them out, the movie lights were blinding them and the questions were making them turn red and stutter because the kids wouldn’t let up, they just kept asking for more. And Gerard did his notorious whip dance. I loved it all.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNwp4nNTeJg Clip of performance.
November 20, 2010
Edie Sedgwick: Maid Of Constant Sorrow
The Pillow That We Dreamed On
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.
Hatred In His Heart
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.
Down The Trail Of Broken Hearts
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.
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