April 28, 2014
Great Groupies Of The Sixties Series
One of the more vexing problems of biographical writing is that of Time and the River. According to Einstein Time is the Fourth Dimension and the River according to all the most august novelists is the course of one’s life. Marcel Proust managed to get both constructs into his novel In Remembrance of Time Past but I want to consider them separately here.
Not to be cantankerous but as to Einstein’s designation of Time as another dimension I cry: au contraire. Einstein was not the firstto consider the nature of Time, nor, I hope, the last. In fact not the last as here I am. I have nothing new to add for in this day and age the table is already set. Before Einstein, quite some time before, the social construct of Time had been a topic of dinner talk. There is some evidence, for instance, that Einstein was influenced by the English novelist H.G. Wells. Wells himself was just discussing a topic that had been under consideration for a decade or two.
Back before Time began when life was just a continuum punctuated by obvious things like seasons man, in his primeval primitiveness, wasn’t overly concerned with the passage of Time, probably didn’t even think about it. Certainly not as it is now understood. But needing to know such things as the timing of bird and animal migrations our ancestors looked around for a convenient starting point to calculate those appearances. It was there, as it had been before this beginning of Time.
Nothing was more obvious than that there was a tremendous war waged annually (a foreign concept at the time) between Light and Darkness. These two items may be the beginning of man’s social construct of Time. For half the period the Prince of Darkness seemed to keep driving the Prince of Light back toward extinction as the days grew shorter; then miraculously when the days were shortest, nights longest and cold increasing, the Prince of Light drove the Prince of Darkness back. The Unconquerable Sun had won another round.
In Greek mythology this battle was portrayed as Castor, the savior, shooting an arrow toward the summer solstice while his twin who is portrayed as a boxer fought a tough battle backtracking across the ring until Castor came to his rescue with his bow and arrow.
Gradually it dawned on our ancestors that this two part battle was a year, hitherto unrecognized. Time of a rough sort came into existence. Having pinpointed the shortest day in the year and after having discovered counting to a hundred or more our ancestors could count from the Sun’s victory (December 21, by our reckoning) to the returning avian migrants and other beasts to prepare themselves for some fresh food.
Our Old Ones created some marvelous prognosticators like Stonehenge further developing the concept of Time. To make things easier they made rough divisions of the day defined by the place of the Unconquerable Sun in the sky. Running through inventions like sun dials and water clocks we eventually arrived at the stop watch and marvel of marvels- the Atomic clock.
By the end of mid-nineteenth century then the burning question was how to define Time. It had become complicated apparently. Was there an objective entity that is corporeal or was Time just an intellectual construct to manage our daily and annual affairs which we had reduced to hours, minutes and seconds, today glorying in the nanosecond.
Until the birth of Jesus there was no convenient way in which to track the progression of years. Than a forward count began in the year one, which is actually tens of thousands of years after the prototype came into existence, until now we have arrived at 2014. In terms of negative numbers we can date back three or four thousand years historically and guess the rest.
That is all subjective time so the question is does objective Time, a Time that actually affects things exist? Wiser heads than Einstein’s existing before he gave his opinion answered no. Objective time did not exist. Camille Flammarion, a man as brilliant as Einstein in every way writing after 1860 demonstrated conclusively enough that Time had no objective existence.
Well, it might be said, people live for upwards of seventy years, isn’t that Time? No, that is the River. Everything has a beginning, a middle and end, a trinity. In living organisms the progression from beginning to end is the result of chemical reactions unaffected by an external agency such as Time.
Thus as with wine one has fresh new wine, mature wine at its peak and old wine going sour ending as vinegar. The difference between the first stage and the last is a series of chemical reactions. One confuses the issue when one refers to mature wine as aged- time had nothing to do with it, the method was chemical reactions occurring in sequence under conditions varying from poor to optimum.
So it is with the person. Development begins with conception comes to birth then follows a series of chemical changes and depending on chance and conditions the organism lives for perhaps a hundred year or maybe more. By years as a counting device one means revolutions of the Earth around the Sun. No Time involved. In former times years might have been expressed by the more primitive term summers. One lived seventy summers. Apparently those people had no concept of the year. Year being the more scientific embracing all the seasons rather than just summer.
Everything has a beginning, middle and end. This applies to political movements, styles and what have you. Although abstract things don’t have chemical reactions nevertheless their lifetimes follow a predictable course. If you are knowledgeable you can determine where in its life cycle a style or movement is.
I if have explained myself correctly I will now apply these concepts of Time and the River to the life of Cherry Vanilla or Kathie Dorritie as she known by her mother.
Kathie at this time is approaching the so-called age of reason, or thirty summers. She has led a wasted youth. Old acquaintances are giving up on her as her unsavory reputation precludes their associating with her. More and more she is sliding deeper into the netherworld of the lost souls of the Bohemian Village.
As ten or twelve years of younger fresher women have entered the river of life Kathie’s sexual desirability is waning. Chemical changes are altering her appearance. Never one to despair but now flailing about desperately seeking some driftwood on the river to keep her afloat she is recommended to Andy Warhol for a role in the London production of his play Pork. The play is beyond obscene, suitable for only the most degenerate while the female lead is degrading to the extreme. Who but the most desperate would have accepted it?
As this is the seventies Andy had died and been born again. Shot in 1968 by Valerie Solanas Andy had actually died on the operating table for a minute or two but was resuscitated. While famous as an artist Andy too had a terrible reputation. His atelier, the Silver Factory, his first, was shut down late in ‘67 when his lease was pulled probably because of his atrocious antics at the psychiatrists’ convention in January of ‘66.
He had just moved into the second factory when Valerie plugged him. While the Silver Factory had not been financially lucrative by 1968 Andy had been fortunate to have attracted some competent business oriented associates. Paul Morrissey had reorganized the film production to make it more commercial and profitable. Fred Hughes had set Andy on a portrait painting career that salvaged him financially.
Skillful associates such as Vincent Fremont who managed the financial end while Bob Colacello along with Hughes kept Andy on course although as flighty as ever, perhaps moreso being mentally affected by his near death experience. Andy kept an entourage of, shall we say, eccentrics while having shed the Silver Factory crew. So, in the seventies, if not actually more respectable, he was less objectionable.
Less is a relative term naturally as anyone who would produce Pork was not concerned with actual respectability. But times had changed, the River was murkier than ever. A few years earlier Andy would have been arrested for obscenity but now, in the seventies after A Clockwork Orange had been cinematized anything went. Deep Throat would be mainstream fare within a year or two.
Kathy appeared before Andy for an audition and, probably because there were no other applicants, was accepted. The play had already opened and closed far off Broadway so next stop London for its English premier.
This was a major turning point in Kathie’s life. Biologically she was transiting from youth to early middle age. The time is one of immense chemical reactions in the body as the track to death really begins. Although one might not feel it the period of growth or construction for the body has ended. Food becomes a fuel to maintain electricity rather than creating thus fewer calories are needed to sustain life. If you don’t cut back on caloric intake fat begins to accrue. You have to work harder to stay in the same place.
For the first time, at that age you can no longer pretend you are one with youth. Younger people appear different to yourself. A desperation seizes you if you haven’t begun to attain whatever success means to you. The future begins to look very bleak. Thus Andy’s offer of a nowhere role in his totally objectionable play seemed like a lifeline. However despite Andy’s wonderful reputation in Bohemia he was seen as a clown to the rest of society. Amusing but not to be taken seriously. Up to 1968 no one had profited from being associated with Andy with the possible exception of Gerard Malanga, Andy’s assistant and artistic double from the Silver Factory. Andy brutally cut Gerard loose sending him to Italy without adequate funds to get lost and abandoning him refused to send a ticket home.
As Gerard was as familiar with Andy’s methods as Andy himself he took the risk of screening a photo of Che Guevara and passing the screen off as a Warhol. It was in a way because of Gerard’s experience. At the very least it was a genuine Warhol-Gerard. Naturally no one could tell the difference. Gerard was successful in selling a few but rather than taking the money and getting the hell out he hung around long enough to be discovered. Repudiated by Andy he spent some time in an Italian jail for fraud limping back home after release.
Andy was not one for doing anything for anybody and the role of Amanda Pork was not a role to do anything positive for Kathie’s image, she now being known as Vanilla.
Just as the organism develops and declines so every cultural movement has its beginning, middle and end. As a cultural expression of the Depression and war baby generations Rock and Roll began in 1954 when Elvis began his ascent and Johnny Cash had returned from his Army tour of duty in Germany. From that beginning the records had developed and then crested sometime between 1966 and 1969.
The generation was coming of age, ready to move on to the next stage of life.
Actually the generation had reached its peak during the during the late sixties. The early baby boomers of the silver age, the seventies were entering into prominence but not with the universal acceptance of the two earlier generations. The seventies for the war babies was a period of greatest hits records, a rehash of the sixties, although a couple groups like Led Zeppelin held on but only through their 60s records as golden hits, classics, sold that well.
Fleetwood Mac who had existed in several configurations through the sixties and early seventies acquired Lindsay-Nicks as their front line and in a spectacular blaze of glory put a period to the rock and roll expression of the war baby generation. In fact the post-war world ended in 1978 when the war babies came of age.
Vanilla arrived in London just as the Punk explosion of those born in the mid to late fifties was about to disrupt the transmission belt to stardom of the war babies. The war baby crowd still ruled London and Vanilla was a war baby. Based on Warhol’s reputation that was probably bigger in London than New York the cast of Pork was the toast of London that summer. Their rehearsals over, the play, such as it was, was revealed.
Unless you were a pervert, a dedicated one, there really wasn’t anything in the play for you and little if you were. After the Warhol crowd had come and gone the audience dwindled to nothing. The actors were out of luck no longer toasts of the Hard Rock Café.
To top it off Vanilla had been as disillusioned with Warhol as Gerard Malanga had been. Having sacrificed whatever reputation she had by appearing in Andy’s abomination, at the opening night party Andy hadn’t even deigned to congratulate her, ignoring her completely, not even acknowledging her presence.
I would imagine Vanilla was completely devastated, even more than she indicates. Her big chance, her salvation was come and gone. That was it. She was now adrift in Europe with no direction home. The cast was given the option of a plane ticket to New York or the cash. With nothing to return to New York for Vanilla took the cash abandoning London for Paris until her scant funds ran out then returning to London.
But, wait a minute, all had not been lost. During her summer of glory as the toast of hip London, among others of the Rock royalty, she had met the baby boomer David Bowie and his spectacular wife, the ex-pat American, Angela. Angela had been impressed by Vanilla and Bowie always a marginal performer, was about to get as close to the center as he ever would. That would entail invading the US, New York, LA, all that glitter. Vanilla became useful because if she knew anything, she knew New York.
Thus we move along to Chapter V- Hot Times In The Old Town.
July 17, 2011
Andy Warhol’s New York City
Four Walks Uptown To Downtown
Review by R.E. Prindle
Kiedrowsky, Thomas, Andy Warhol’s New York City, Four Walks Uptown To Downtown, Little Bookroom, 2011
A new little informative paperback guide book by Thomas Kiedrowsky has been issued by The Little Bookroom. Kiedrowski, an ardent Andyphile conducts tours to Warhol sites in NYC. He has spent a decade or so researching the artist.
Perhaps because he conducts tours he has failed to include maps for the four tours in order to protect his turf. They would have been helpful. He organized his volume into four areas: Upper East Side to 70th St., Upper East Side 57th to 68th sts., Midtown and Downtown. This admirable little volume successfully embeds Warhol in his milieu clarifying a number of issues.
Mr. Kiedrowski also turns up some facts I haven’t read before thus supplementing Steven Watson’s Factory Made which provides needed info about Andy’s entourage.
Mr. Kiedrowski provides the abolutely entrancing story of Andy as a prospective restauranteur quoted here:
Site 18, 1977, 833 Madison Ave. (74th St.)
The first link in a proposed international chain of Andy Warhol fast food restaurants would have opened at this location in 1977. The concept of the Andy-Mat, a clever take on the Automat, had Warhol and British entrepreneur Godfrey Leeds in talks since 1974. Both men had enjoyed dining at Schrafft’s years earlier and had yearned for that type of comfort food they had as kids. Leeds said that the Andy-Mat would be a “neighborhood restaurant with a varied menu, simple good food, reasonable prices, a place where you don’t have to be embarrassed to take someone- one was never embarrassed to take someone to Schrafft’s.”
During the Silver Factory days, Warhol and his entourage could often be found at Schrafft’s located at 556 Fifth Avenue and 47th Street, and Warhol was asked to do a commercial for Schrafft’s in 1968. The 60 second spot shows an image of a red dot, then slowly zooms out to reveal a maraschino cherry and then a melting chocolate ice cream sundae. At the end a credit line rolls diagonally, “The chocolate sundae was photographed for Schrafft’s by Andy Warhol.
[As described an artistic success but a complete waste of advertising money, reviewer.]
Warhol asked close friend and society hostess Maxine (sic) de la Falaise McKendry (she appeared in Warhol’s Dracula) to prepare a menu for the 115 seat Andy-Mat, which she did with guidance from Tony Berns of the Restaurant 21. She often cooked for Warhol’s Factory regulars and at one time was a food columnist for Vogue. The seventy-five items were to be priced between $1 and $5.75 and included shepherd’s pie, fishcakes, Irish lamb stew, fried onion tart, mashed potatoes, key lime pie, champagne fruit drinks, milk over ice, and a choice among four omelets. (Warhol’s diet regimen at the time.) Said Andy: “I really like to eat alone. I want to start a chain of restaurants for other people who are like me called Andy-Mats- ‘The Restaurant for the Lonely Person.’ You get your food and then you take your tray into a booth and watch television.”
Apparently 40K had already been spent on development with another million in the pipeline when the plan was aborted. It’s not difficult for me to see why but then…who knows, it might have worked.
Mr. Kiedrowski fills his little guide book with such interesting tidbits many of which I had never read before.
I heartily recommend the book for a very entertaining read at a price under 12.00. Some nice pictures I haven’t seen before too.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaf6zF-FJBk Watch Andy eat a hamburger.
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.
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
The Last Days Of John Lennon
Review by R.E. Prindle
How The Fifties Became The Sixties
The sixties seem to have erupted by some process of autogenesis. They seem to be a decade unrelated to the fifties but nothing could be further from the truth. The sixties were very carefully structured in the fifties, that supposedly somnolent decade. The fifties themselves evolved from the fantasy notion of The United States Of America- the American Dream. In truth there had never been a united America and an American Dream only in the mind of certain immigrants who believed they had reached the Promised Land of their dreams. The country has always been one of conflict with conflicting peoples. There was no mythological age as in distant times so no mythopoeic era preceded the scientific one. America was born in science.
The warfare against the aboriginal peoples to clear the land for the European invaders created the first layer of conflict. The second layer of conflict was the importation of Africans as slave labor. This created a second irreconcilable conflict that erupted in 1954 when the Black revolution began in earnest and began to accelerate in the sixties. This was what Eric Foner described as America’s unfinished revolution in his writings.
Each succeeding group of immigrants created its own friction but assimilation did go on with most peoples. In the fifties the sort of ethnic identities in song and humor that makes the talkies of the thirties now seem quaint was coun
teracted. While visibly subdued ethnicism simmered below the surface until the sixties when it burst out again in a new form and triumphed.
I am unable to tell the education received in schools of the twenties and thirties but by the time I was in high school from 1953-56 the whole concept of revolutiuon was romanticized and this continued through my college years in the sixties. It was iterated over and over again that revolution was an absolute virtue. To be revolutionary was to be a person in full. Kids in the walls ran around saying are you revolutionary, I’m revolutionary. Thus they embraced any idea that was the opposite of the status quo. This notion of revolution was combined with the notion of the absolute virtue of being an American. This would result in Kennedy’s idiotic Peace Corps begun in the sixties. Raw American youths were supposed to be able to tell the less favored peoples how to run their lives. The war in Europe was treated as a crusade against Germans, a war of absolute black and white, no shades of grey. I truly believed that no American in either the European or Pacific war ever committed an act of wanton brutality no matter what the provocation. I would have dismissed out of hand that as a matter of policy millions of Germans were exposed to Winter weather in the years following the war unprotected while being denied any kind of nourishment and, yet, it was so. In subsequent years this would have been described as ‘American’ brutality while in fact it was instigated by revolutionary American Jews seeking vengeance. Americanism was not involved.
At the same time the new medium of television exposed us to unprecedented doses of propaganda disguised as the truth, doses far in excess of anything the hated Nazis devised. Chief among those TV shows was a cartoon called Crusader Rabbit. Now, Crusader Rabbit in reality is a vigilante dispensing vigilante justice. He acted on his own ‘righting’ what he perceived as wrongs. Of course those of us who read comic books in the late forties had already been exposed to vigilantism in the form of comic book heroes like the Blackhawks. Or, for that matter Batman and Robin and Superman among many others, Plastic Man. I sort of thought of myself as Plastic Man.
So this whole age cadre was stoked up on revolution and vigilantism with no venues to express it. The sixties then was a god send as the existing revolutions- the Undermen, the Jews, the Blacks, the Homosexuals, the Feminists, the Communists had merely to whisper the word REVOLUTION to get a positive response for their ideologies. The generation was primed for revolution of any sort- a revolution in bubble gum for instance.
Thus at Berkeley in ’64’s so-called Free Speech Movement you had the spectacle of the most advantaged members of the generation participating in what was a part of the Jewish Revolution in the guise of voluntary Undermen.
Thus as the sixties dawned the way was cleared of any resistance to revolutionary schemes as hordes of self-righteous vigilantes confident that their perception and judgment was received from god himself began to act on their assumptions taken from their misguided elders.
The center of this maelstrom in the sixties was New York City. The Bohemian life style stewing in Lower Manhattan since the Armory Show of 1913 was about to conquer the mind of the country. Perhaps the leader of the sixties Bohos was Andy Warhol. Certainly with a kind of genius he made himself the center of the storm.
This most influential Bohemian attitude toward life was both stratified and diverse. The first out of the box were the uptown Beats. These men seized the attention of the country in the mid-fifties when Allen Ginsberg, a leader of the Jewish, Homosexual and Underman revolutions, gained prominence with his so-called poem, Howl. He then dragged Jack Kerouac through with his On The Road and William S. Burroughs with his Naked Lunch. All three works have been incredibly influential in creating a new Underclass of Undermen, in thought if not in fact.
The Beats hung out in upper Manhattan around Kerouac’s alma mater, Columbia, although Ginsberg gravitated downtown in an effort to pair up with the Beat musical epigone, Bob Dylan. As Ginsberg represented four revolutions it could be said of him- Il est partout, a very important if disgusting figure. Burroughs also gravitated to lower Manhattan before departing for the corn fields of Kansas.
The well-to-do or rich Bohos, to which John and Yoko would belong, sometimes known as Cafe Society, were the upper crust of Bohemia. And then there was the middle Bohemia and it Lower Depths.
Running through all was the old avant garde which excluded the Beats who were not avant garde.
Warhol, John Cage, La Monte Young and a host of artists and writers including Yoko Ono were part of the old garde. Yoko dragged Lennon in but he was not constitutionally avant garde and probably not even a real Boho. Fred Seaman seems to have had no affinity for Bohemia or revolution.
As the sixties dawned Lennon coming from then obscure Liverpool was of the lower middle class but of the English art school background. He spent a couple years in the German underworld before skyrocketing to super world fame with the Beatles so that while he and the Beatles were instrumental in forming the sixties and subsuming the avant garde they were not actually of it. Thus when Lennon came to earth around 1970 he was virtually a Rip Van Winkle who had slept through the decade. The new reolutionary world he and Yoko entered in New York could have been barely understood by them. It wasn’t even really understood by those in the thick of it. Dylan’s ‘Something’s happening here but you don’t know what it is do you Mr. Jones’ could have applied to himself and everyone else.
Yoko Ono was a committed Feminist and key member of that revolution. In a world of eccentric and unusual characters she was a standout. Her career as an avant gardist began as a ‘performance artist’. Essentially a stunt man. Back in the twenties and thirties would be celebrities used their bodies to gain fame performing stunts. One going by the name of The Mighty Atom attached ropes to his hair holding back an airplane. This is essentially what Yoko was doing as a ‘performance artist.’ Her ‘Cut Piece’ urged viewers to come up on stage and cut away a piece of her clothing. She and Tony Cox crawling into a black bag? Whew!
But she was thereby connected to the avant garde. She knew John Cage, Andy Warhol, Sam Green and the lot as early as 1960. The friendships remained enduring as she maintained them throughout the seventies and eighties.
As a performing artist Yoko was a sort of chameleon forming her art to suit the circumstances. Having once captured John Lennon she first became a peacenik as peace was the prevailing notion- love and peace- returning to New York amid the wreckage of the peace, love and happiness bit she got up from her bed of peace and strapped a fully loaded bandolier of bullets around her hips and became a sullen revolutionary a la Bernardine Dorhn. It all art and art is holy, isn’t it?
The Ono-Lennon’s very serious looking revolutionary activities quite naturally brought the Heat down on them. It should be clear that these were not lightweight posturings but she and John were financing the disruption of the Republican National Convention forcing a move of the site from San Diego to Miami. There is small wonder the elected Nixon administration sought to deport them. Neither John nor Yoko were American citizens but essentially part of an international conspiracy, she being a Japanese and he an English national. Thus in addition to being a leader in the Feminist and Sexual revolutions she lent herself to the Judaeo-Communist revolution. Nearly all her revolutionary associates were of the Jewish revolution. Plus John essentially represented the Undermen. Thus Fred Seaman was employed by not only a celebrity household but a notorious one. Nor was Fred an American but a German national. No Americans involved.
Warhol And Bob Dylan
Down below the subway’s screamin’
As I lay here halfway dreamin’
And face the long evenin’
Layin’ close beside my radio
Imaginin’ the kisses of the girl who sings the song
Lookin’ at the ceiling
Wonderin’ where the dream went wrong.
Last Morning- Shel Silverstein
As sung by Ray Sawyer and Dr. Hook.
New York City was indeed a tough cold city. It was enough to make you crazy as you ‘fought the crowds, avoided the traffic and watched the world turn grey.’ Coming from Pittsburgh Andy Warhol had no trouble with the skies turning grey, he was used to much worse. For Dylan coming from Hibbing, Minnesota way, way out on the edge of civilization the change must have been traumatic. Both men, however, were uniquely equipped to succeed in such a tough environment although it turned both crazy, cruel and mean. Both became paragons of the revolutions.
Warhol, the older of the two, forged the revolution of the Undermen and the Homosexuals while acquiring great wealth. Dylan, too, made his appeal to the undermen (the confused, abused, strung out ones and worse) basing his career on the misfits and malcontents. At the same time he was a key player in fundamental Jewish revolution. Both men affected innocent harmless personas so as to deflect attention from what they were really up to. As both had complementary strategies it is quite possible that each saw through the other. Warhol certainly saw through Dylan but I’m not sure if the reverse was true. Both were heavily into drugs which altered their perceptions.
Warhol preceded Dylan on the scene by a decade arriving in NYC in 1950. His homosexual agenda was clear to him from the start even if its implementation wasn’t. He was immediately successful upon his arrival easily gaining entry into the commerical art field. Dylan too would have no trouble gaining both entry and prominence within a year, phenomenal success in two and preeminence in three.
Warhol commanded a large perhaps even great income within a matter of four or five years. He spent madly but invested wisely.
He was always interested in mass production techniques where the original was merely a prototype like a car model. His original drawings were mass replicated by the newspaper ads. Amazingly, new in New York, he sent a letter to CBS asking if he could design record covers and received assignments by return mail. While his record covers are not among his best known works he did design at least fifty while perhaps more remain to be discovered. While his designs were for very low selling jazz and classical records they are obviously the work of a homosexual or, as they are described- fey.
Thus they advance the Homosexual revolution. True, they are tiny drops but by the time he designed the Sticky Fingers cover for the Rolling Stones his design, it can be confidently asserted, was seen by every single member of two generations while selling in the millions. The title and cover are an ode to masturbation, one of the favorite thems of both the Homosexual and Sexual revolutions. The illustration was of a male crotch clothed in blue jeans with a workable zipper. It was a retailing nightmare but effective in sexually conditioning the minds of his audience. The zipper was irresistible to record fans who broke the plastic on every single cover making them nearly unsaleable. Success actually unimaginable to Warhol in 1950.
In addition Warhol designed ‘fey’ book covers, frequently for homosexually oriented titles thus adding a few additional drops, pushing toward 9cc. Andy had his sticky fingers in everywhere- stationery, wrapping paper…all with his fey designs.
While he gained great success as a commercial artist he had his eye on the fine arts; about 1960 he made his move into ‘serious’ art- painting. He called his style Pop Art. Pop Art had its antecedents in the fifties of which Warhol would have been aware. Here are a couple examples by Ray Johnson from the mid-fifties. Johnson is described as proto-Pop.
Having made his splash in Pop Art, becoming a major celebrity, Warhol was ready to move into his next phase in the subversion of art and society. In 1964 he established his famous atelier known as the Factory. There he continued his paintings while beginning an influential if unremunerative secondary career as a film auteur.
There seem to be revolutionary motives in the founding of the Factory. Warhol gathered about him a collection of the Undermen. These were all Homosexuals, druggies, hustlers and prostitutes.
There is an interesting passage in the Weathermen founder’s autobiography Fugitive Days where the author, Bill Ayers, says:
…the most interesting alliance to me was struck in the first months underground, and it was with a kind of eccentric shadowy group that would become fast and reliable friends for decades to come.
The group was without a name, contained hundreds of members in half a dozen cities, and was organized by a charismatic leader and psychologist who called himself Kaz. They were all former heroin addicts, former beatniks, former hustlers, and prostitutes, five, ten, twenty years older than us, now living in luxury and working downtown but thinking of themselves primarily as deep, deep underground, a kind of fifth column waiting patiently for the revolution.
What Ayers appears to be describing is the Haut Boheme Cafe Society of New York. Now, Warhol with the Factory created a place where all Bohemia, high and low, could gather under the reasonable pretext of partying which is what happened. Many attendees would be innocents of course providing even better cover for the revos. To get some idea of what the scene was like review the lyrics to Shel Silverstein’s Freakin’ At The Freakers Ball appended. Silverstein seems to be describing the Factory exactly.
The police had the Factory under surveillance as well as one supposes, the FBI. The deep underground wasn’t deep enough to conceal these characters. The Factory would be forced out by ’68 giving it a four year run. Bereft of a gathering place Bohemia would have to wait until 1977 for another when Rubell and Schrager put together Studio 54. 54 was better than the Factory because attendance could be monitored allowing only the Haut Boheme and other chosen in; the undesirables could be left out. 54 was run in contempt of all existing laws and moral codes. Suspicious from the beginning it took the Feds only eighteen months to shut it down. Like The Factory however Studio 54 had its revolutionary effect especially along sexual lines- unisex toilets for instance.
The multi-talented Warhol, a perfect Prince of Bohemia added authorship to his achievements with his novel ‘a’ while moving into publishing in the seventies when he established the successful magazine Interview.
He added several notable record covers, while forming in ’66 the immensely influential Exploding Plastic Inevitable centered around ‘his’ rock band The Velvet Underground.
So, in promoting several different revolutions- the Undermen, the drug culture, the so-called sexual revolution and undoubtedly many others Warhol was one of the most successful and important revolutionary figures of the decade.
Along the way he formed a close relationship with the Feminist revolutionary, the Japanese citizen, Yoko Ono. As a bona fide member of the avant garde she tried to enter Warhol’s entourage before she left for England in ’66. However at the time she was outspokenly antipathetic to homosexuality which probably necessitated her retreating to London to think things over before returning in 1971.
She returned in grand style leading the founder of the Beatles, John Lennon, as though by a rope around the neck. She and Lennon immediately threw themselves into the revolutionary movement associating themselves with various members of the Jewish revolution. they apparently gave large sums of money while lending their personas and prestige to raise much larger sums. It was the fear of their popularity being used to rouse young Americans in this first election in which eighteen year olds could participate that put him under surveillance, quite justifiably so, by the FBI and the Nixon White House. Thus for the next several years they were harassed by deportation threats as undesirable aliens.
Having achieved her goal of reentry into New York avant garde society even becoming an intimate of Andy Warhol Yoko lost interest in Lennon. The two split up for eighteen months or so from 1973 to 1975 then reuniting. Yoko had employed her Tarot reader John Green in 1974 while Fred Seaman was added to the entourage as Lennon’s personal assistant in 1979.
While the memoirs of Green and Seaman have been disparaged by the faithful I see little reason to do so on an objective basis although Yoko Ono may find them offensive for personal reasons.
Part III follows
Freakin’ At The Freaker’s Ball
As Performed By Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
Well, there’s gonna be a freaker’s ball
Tonight at the Freaker’s Hall
And you know you’re invited one and all.
Come on Babys grease your lips
And don’t forget to bring your whips
We’re goin’ to the Freaker’s Ball.
Blow your whistle and bang your gong
Roll up something to take along
It feels so good it must be wrong
We’re freakin’ at the freaker’s ball.
Well, all the fags and dykes they’re boogie’n together
The leather freaks dressed in all kinds of leather
The greatest of the sadists and the masochists too
Screamin’ please hit me and I’ll hit you
The FBI dancin’ with the junkies
All the straights swingin’ with the funkies
Across the floor and up the wall
We’re freakin’ at the freaker’s ball y’all
We’re freakin’ at the freaker’s ball.
Everybody’s kissing each other
Brother with sister, son with mother
Smear my body up with butter
And take me to the freaker’s ball.
Pass that roach please and pour the wine
I’ll kiss yours if you kiss mine
I’m gonna boogie ’til I’m cold blind
Freakin’ at the freaker’s ball.
White ones, black ones, yellow ones, red ones
Necrophiliacs lookin’ for dead ones
The greatest of the sadists and the masochists too
Screamin’ please hit me and I’ll hit you.
Everybody ballin’ in batches
Pyromaniacs strikin’ matches
Freakin’ at the freaker’s ball, y’all
We’re freakin’ at the freaker’s ball.
Exhuming Bob XXVI
Bob And Edie
(Sooner Or Later All Of Us Must Know)
On the New York Bohemian scene 1965 and 1966 were the pivotal years. Near the beginning of 1965 Edie Sedgwick came down from Boston to become the catalyst in the struggle for dominance of the Bohemian scene between Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan.
Both men began their rise almost simultaneously in 1960-61. Both camps were drug fueled primarily by amphetamines.
While Edie, who as I perceive it was a psychotic nothing chick, entered Warhol’s world about March of ’65 it seems probable that Dylan was eyeing her from earlier in the year through the offices of his advance man, Bobby Neuwirth. While the early period is poorly documented as the battle for the soul of Edie Sedgwick reached fever heat in the summer of ’65 when Dylan recorded his diatribes Like A Rolling Stone and Positively Fourth Street concerning Edie and Andy the origins must reach further back into the first half of the year. It is interesting that in Dylan’s song Desolation Row he cast Edie in the role of Hamlet’s Ophelia.
Thus the key to understanding Dylan’s albums Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde is primarily Edie Sedgwick. I haven’t analyzed the data thoroughly but the meaning of One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later) became transparent while studying Warhol. One of my favorite Dylan’s songs its meaning has always troubled me.
In November of ’65 Dylan married Sara Lownds while still carrying on an affair with Edie, among others. Warhol told Edie that Dylan was married shortly thereafter. Edie was as a pawn in their game torn between leaving with Dylan and staying with Warhol. In their effort to steal Edie away Dylan and his manager Albert Grossman were promising her stardom and money in both recording and movies.
Finally in a December 6th meeting with Edie, Warhol and Dylan Edie was forced to choose between the one or the other. Dylan commemorated this scene in his song One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later). The ‘poem’ of this ‘great poet’ is in three stanzas and reads like a letter to Edie when you have the key. The first four lines are a mocking apology for using Edie as a pawn:
I didn’t mean to treat you so bad
You shouldn’t take it so personal
I didn’t mean to make you so sad
You just happened to be there, that’s all.
So Dylan admits he was using Edie who just happened to be Warhol’s chick, nothing personal, Dylan was after Warhol. But he didn’t mean to hurt her ‘so bad’ or make her ‘so sad’. Hey, it just happened. The second and fourth lines are so insulting, callous and sadistic as to pass the bounds of good judgment to write. They shouldn’t have been written and if written they shouldn’t have been shouted to the world to hear. It must have been obvious to Dylan that both Edie and Warhol would know he was talking about them. The Ballad Of Plain D was just mean but this is almost too hateful to bear. Ah well, the love and peace crowd.
The fifth line:
When I saw you say “goodbye” to your friend and smile…
The scene is The Kettle Of Fish and the friend is Andy Warhol.
I thought it was understood
That you’d be comin’ back in a little while
I didn’t know that you were sayin’ “goodbye” for good.
This is an outright lie else why put goodbye in parentheses. Dylan’s attempt to disavow his and Grossman’s promises making it seem like a trivial boy-girl thing is too coarse. This whole verse is definitely meant to hurt while both Edie and Warhol will understand the full import.
And then the chorus which will be used three times for maximum pain:
But sooner or later, one of us must know
You just did what you were supposed to do
Sooner or later one of us must know
That I really did try to get close to you.
The key line here is that ‘I really did try to get close to you.’ At The Kettle Of Fish Edie murmured to Dylan that no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t get close to him. ‘Who?’ asked Dylan. ‘Andy.’ Edie replied. Dylan apparently took that as a rebuff although he was already married to Sara and would soon spawn a host of children on her.
I quote the second verse in its entirety:
I couldn’t see what you could show me
Your scarf had kept your mouth well hid
I couldn’t see how you could know me
But you said you knew me and I believed you did.
When you whispered in my ear
And asked me if I was leavin’ with you or her
I didn’t realize just what I did hear
I didn’t realize how young you were.
Apparently Edie didn’t realize that she was just a rainy day woman. While it’s a matter of interpretation I assume that Edie confronted Dylan with the fact of his marriage to Sara and naively asked if he were going to dump Sara for herself. Dylan was incredulous, astonished by her request, he thought she was more sophisticated than that, after all, a rainy day woman….
Rainy Day Woman is a very mocking put down of women as the lead off song and theme setter of the album titled Blonde On Blonde. Perhaps the title might be interpreted as Woman On or After Woman with Rainy Day Women establishing the theme. The song limits the range of women to two- numbers 12 and 35. Why 12, why 35? Who are they? One has to be Edie. If one does a little number manipulation a la Freud, in sequence the numbers add up to 11 which in turn adds up to 2. Two women. Seven come eleven? Three and eight, twelve and thirty-five added separately- three for male, eight for female. Twelve subtracted from thirty-five is twenty-three, Edie’s age. Just guessing.
As Sara is the only other identifiable woman in the lyrics the two women must be Edie and Sara. Let me venture the guess that all women are rainy day women for Dylan. Thus once Sara had borne his offspring fullfilling a religious obligation Dylan took seriously he drove her away oblivious to the pain and suffering he was causing or perhaps he was continuing to punish mother surrogates.
Dylan was drugged and crazed while he was writing this so this is a reflection of deep subconscious drives.
The final lyric begins:
I couldn’t see when it started snowin’
Your voice was all I heard
Snowin’ either refers to a snow job by Edie so he was blinded by light hearing only her words or drugs of some sort, either amphetamines or cocaine.
I couldn’t see where you were goin’
But you said you knew an’ I took your word.
Once again Dylan shifts the full responsibility from himself and Grossman to Edie. He implies that she was leading him on rather than vice versa. This when it was clear to everyone that he and Grossman were promising her the moon in the attempt to pry her loose from Warhol.
And then you told me later, as I apologized
That you were just kiddin’ me, you weren’t really from the farm
An’ I told you as you clawed out my eyes
That I never really meant t’ do you any harm
Well, Dylan’s intents were pure, he says, but the results were deplorable; Edie was done harm by Dylan’s actions and the harm was deep and lasting, well beyond any hypocritical apologies. If the lines are to be believed Edie’s reaction was quite violent. As she was a total amphetamine addict her reaction would be quite plausible.
And then Dylan mockingly closes with his ‘whadaya goin’ to do about it line’- I really did try to get close to you.
As this period clears up for me I suspect that the whole of Blonde On Blonde is concerned with this Edie, Andy/Dylan duel. Blonde On Blonde itself then may refer to the silver hair of both Edie and Andy.
It should be clear that Dylan’s motorcycle fall was no accident. In Exhuming Bob 23b: Bob, Andy and Edie I hypothesize that Dylan’s bike was rigged by the Factory crowd. Dylan survived with minimal damage. For his own sins Warhol was shot a couple years later but he survived that one too. Edie died a physical wreck in 1971.
What goes around comes around as they used to say.
January 27, 2010
Exhuming Bob 23b
Of a & b.
Bob, Andy, Edie
And Like A Rolling Stone
The System Of Doctor Tarr And Professor Fether
All the fags and dykes they boogien’ together
Leather freaks dressed in all kinds of leather
The greatest of the sadists and the masochists too
Screamin’ please hit me and I’ll hit you.
The FBI dancin’ with the junkies
All the straights are swingin with the funkies
Cross the floor and up the wall
Freakin’ at the Freakers ball,
Freakin’ at the Freakers ball.
Oh no! Must be the season of the witch.
It may be true that the answer was blowin’ in the wind but, if so, as Donovan said: You might as well try to catch the wind and nobody did. Nobody even had a clue as the inmates poured out their cells and seized the asylum. Even then it wasn’t so easy to tell the nuts from the Docs.
His parents brought a seventeen year old to the asylum to be cured of homosexual tendencies. The psychiatrists had an astonishing method for a cure. Strapping the kid to the torture rack they fixed a couple of electrodes to his body and sent some serious voltage coursing the through his existence rearranging a few brain cells on the way. As his body arched when the juice hit him one is reminded of the prisoner on death row when the steel cap was lowered on his shaved skull. As maximum voltage coursed through his body he too convulsed but when the skull cap was removed the temperature of his blood in his brain was 212 degrees. They’d boiled him to death.
The kids temperature didn’t rise that high but they still managed to scramble his brain. His memory was so blotted he got lost trying to walk around his own block. The cure was worse than the disease. The cure was in fact, no cure as he remained a homosexual. And they call that medicine.
As soon as the kids eyes uncrossed he picked up a guitar and began to wail. Then he formed a band and began to formulate what he would call Metal Machine Music. He hooked up with Doctor Filth who ran an asylum called The Factory that he filled with mental cases. Unlike the psychiatrists Dr. Filth intended to create mental cases.
The kid picked up a whip, donned his leathers and began to boogie. Those leather freaks. Uncomfortable in their own skins they wear the flayed skins of cows, a feminine skin not their own. A guitar and a spike all anyone needed. Jamming his spike in his arm the kid flew from the asylum Factory out to the Cuckoo’s Nest in Keseyland.
Now known as the Velvet Underground, the kid, going by the personal of Lou Reed landed in a disused bowling alley where he and his three bandmates gave a concert. there were perhaps a hundred fifty people in the audience of which a hundred had been let in free by one of the promoters. Imagine a promoter opening the back door for free.
The audience in the bleachers stepped up to the ceiling where the top row required them to stoop to seat themselves edged into their seats. Keep your eye on the right top corner, that’s where the action will be. This was the first concert the promoters had done. The band stood on the floor two thirds of the way down the alleys. The spotlight was on their right directed across the group rather than down on them. I thought it was an interesting effect. The Cuckoo’s Nest had never seen anyhthing like this. A girl drummer had what appeared to be a single snare drum with a mallet underslung so it hammered the bottom of the snare while she banged away at the top with the sticks. Not exactly a beat more like a steady unvarying rumble, an effect almost as interesting as the lights. The two guitars and the bass of the leather clad crew began to hammer out the sound which was just like what became Metal Machine Music although more articulated. Not exactly as continuous am MMM but close.
Then the singer began to chant something about heroin. This wasn’t The Factory this was the Cuckoo’s Nest. A disquieting murmur underscored the machine music. Then some local agitators had a guy stand up to shout out incitements to a riot. The light guy got uneasy. The Velvets twitched, a note of panic came into Reed’s voice. Without so much as a change of tone he incorporated ‘Turn off the light’ into the lyric as the crowd began to think of rushing the Velvets and they gave every indication of bolting.
Turn off the lights, hell. I knew who the agitators must be so I swung the light from the Velvets across the crowd to the right corner where I picked up the agitators. I left the spot on them steadily. Their anonymity stripped from them the crowd recognized them and quieted down. The Velvets hadn’t missed a beat but they did get a little wobbly.
I quickly picked out the ‘mastermind’ , who was who I thought he was and his stooge who had been loaded up with something. With the spot on him he thought he was the star continuing to orate as Reed intoned on while the band chugged along like an assembly line gone berserk.
The ‘mastermind’ now ordered me to turn the light off him. The noise was too loud for him to hear me laughing. At last he got his stooge to sit down and the light swung back to the Velvet Underground and they continued their chaunt to the glories of heroin as though nothing had happened. Nothing had, just a variation on the show down on Desolation Row. They left the Cuckoo’s Nest finding their way back to the Factory and Dr. Filth.
Back home in The Factory the fags and dikes were cracking their whips, blowing their whistles and banging their gongs while the necrophiliacs were looking for dead ones.
As we left them in part a, Dr. Filth had been castigated by the Man Of The Hour over the air for all to hear if not recognize in his musical rants, Like A Rolling Stone and Positively 4th Street.
I’m not prepared to say it’s so but others have suggested that a few lines in Desolation Row refer to the Factory and Andy Warhol. As Desolation Row was recorded on August 4th a few days after Stone and Street it is quite possible ill feeling lingered and found expression in Dylan’s lines.
The lyrics are purposely written in obscure language meant to imitate poetry and mystify. Without a key one can speculate all day ending up where you began. Dylan does give us a clue as to his imagery in Chronicles where he says Pound and Elliot were fighting it out in the Captains’s tower. The Captain’s Tower refers to Dylan’s brain and the discussion of the two poets.
There is a very large discussion of this stuff on the internet if anyone wants to go through it. Anyway the lines thought to refer to Warhol are these.
Dr. Filth, he keeps his world
Locked inside his leather cup
But all his sexless patients
They’re trying to blow it up.
Now, his nurse, some local loser,
She’s in charge of the cyanide hole
She also keeps the cards that read
“Have mercy on his soul.”
They all play on the pennywhistle
You can hear them blow
If you hang your head out far enough
From Desolation Row.
I think most commonly people take Dr. Filth to refer to Freud. Multiple meanings are possible while the cast of characters in Row appear to be well known historical figures or characters from literature. At the same time, as Warhol points out, the songs of this period are personal protests so the figures can stand in for people Dylan knows. He changed their faces and gave them brand new names.
On the other hand Dr. Filth could refer to Warhol whose reputation was suffering by mid-’65. The society people had begun to avoid the Factory leaving Andy only the derelicts.
As I said I can’t find anything totally convincing to pin Dr. Filth on Warhol but the next verse isn’t applicable to Freud and the verse after depending on how you interpet pennywhistle and blow might apply to the Factoryites.
And then there are these lines:
Now, at midnight all the agents
And the supernatural crew
Come out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do.
Then they take them to the Factory…
Like I say, it’s up to you. What is clear is that there was serious competition between Dylan and Warhol and that Sedgwick was a bone of contention.
As the late fall and summer progressed then, Dylan worked hard to draw Edie from Warhol. This made Andy very, very jealous and he turned from Edie spurning her from him ‘with his foot.’ There is a possibility that in some weird homosexual way Warhol loved Edie. According to the movie Factory Girl Warhol took her home to meet his mom. It might mean that that was an actual declaration of love and that he considered her his girl.
By this time Edie was broke having gone thorugh her inheritance whnile even having her stipend from her parents suspended because of her association with Warhol and the Factory crowd. ‘In her prime when she dressed so fine’ she refused to use taxis having a white limo waiting at the curb for her use. Now that she could no longer afford one Dylan rented a black one for her use. Thus when she rode around town in Dylan’s limo she would be known as Dylan’s kept woman. This would also have been a direct insult to Warhol who was penniless in comparison being unable even to pay Sedgwick for her roles in his films or even, her rent. Thus as the Dylan figure in Factory Girl tells her: You’re just one of Warhol’s props.
Now, Dylan in his first English tour had Donn Pennebaker do a film verite that would be released in 1967 as Dont Look Back. Dylan and his entourage who all had parts in the film just like the Factory crew did in Warhol’s would have been talking up the film thus actually becoming direct competitiors of Warhol. As an enticement to Edie Albert Grossman threatened to become her manager while promises were made to her that she would be Dylan’s co-star in a planned movie and even be paid for her services. Remember she was stone broke at this time being desperately in need af an adequate income. Rather than being Dylan’s girl friend she was passed to his gofer, stooge, right hand man, Bobby Neuwirth who became her possessor while she was living at the Chelsea.
That November of ’65 Dylan married Sara Lowndes. According to Bob Spitz in his biography Dylan met Lowndes in 1963 installing her in Grossman’s apartment where he ‘lived’ with her which I suppose means visited her from time to time as among his other duties he was living with Suze Rotolo and heavy with Joan Baez.
Dylan attempted to keep his marriage secret, it was publicly revealed in April of ’66 but Warhol got word of it in December spitefully revealing the news to Edie. The news was devastating to Edie who was nurturing her fantasies of being Dylan’s woman and future co-star. Apparently at that time she was told that any movie role was in some very distant future. At any rate with her relationship with Andy broken Dylan no longer had any use for her. She was just a pawn in his game.
Perhaps in competition or emulation of Dylan’s recording career Warhol decided he wanted to manage a band thus recruiting the
Velvet Underground. To assist the Velvets he picked up on Nico who had just arrived from Europe. As fate would have it Dylan had already had a fling with her during his 1962 visit to England when he worte I’ll Keep It With Mine for her. Warhol now insisted she front the Velvet Underground, thus the Velvets first LP with Nico and the famous Banana cover.
Apparently forgetting Edie Dylan renewed his acquaintance with Nico showing up with songs to give her. Lou Reed of the Velvets is a great admirer of Dylan but I don’t believe any of his songs made it to the record. In any event Nico was gone by the time of the second Velvets LP. Possibly as part of the Dylan-Warhol feud.
Dylan wasn’t finished with Edie yet nor was Warhol finished with Dylan.
In the Spring of ’66 Dylan recorded his ultimate record Blonde On Blonde. the songs of personal protest as Warhol pointed out revolved around this period. There are two songs that are pointedly about Edie Sedgwick- Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat and Just Like A Woman while other references seem to be scattered about. The two songs were unnecessarily cruel.
In the Spring of ’66 Warhol began a film titled The Bob Dylan Story. This was a derogatory depiction of the Folk Singer that Warhol thought better of releasing. Giving Dylan’s reaction to Factory Girl, Warhol’s pockets weren’t deep enough to take Dylan on who by ’67 when the film first could have been released Dylan was worth millions while warhol was still essentially penniless.
Anent the Bob Dylan Story I quote from the web site http://www.warholstars.org/ :
Sterling Morrison speaking:
“Dylan was always around, giving Nico songs. there was one film Andy [Warhol] 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 only 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 here. When he was walking down the street you had to step out of his way. On the eve of 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’s why the film was never shown.”
Although sterling Morrison suggested that the Bob Dylan film was never shown because of Dylan’s motorcycle accident, the accident occured at the end of July 1966 and Susan Pile was filmed for the movie in October 1966.
Susan Pile speaking:
“Andy filmed The Bob Dylan Story, starring Paul Caruso…Ingrid Superstar and I were folkrock groupies who rushed in (to the studio), attacked his body and taped him to the motorcycle… Paul Morrisey 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) vetoes….My one line (which I wasn’t supposed to say; I was to remain mutely sinister) was: “You’re just like P.F. Sloane 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)…
The psychology is clear but noteworthy is the taping of Dylan to his ‘Chrome horse.’ When Dylan had his bike accident the rear wheel locked throwing him over the handle bars. Thus taping him to the bike would prevent that. Now, the animosity between the two was real and deep. It may have seemed to Dylan that he had trumped Warhol. While Warhol may have passively taken the humiliation it is also quite likely he would have retaliated. The wheel locking would seem to indicate someone tampering with the bike. Either Warhol had the bike tampered with and was gloating over Dylan here in his movie or else it is a cruel joke. Whether Warhol was responsible for the bike accident or not he was certainly gleeful about it as evidenced here. If the bike was tampered with then someone wanted to see him paralyzed.
Thus matters stood at the end of ’66. In 1971 Edie Sedgwick in circumstance of total degradation, shamefully abandoned by her parents and both Dylan and Warhol who both disclaimed any responsiblity died.
In closing I quote Andy Warhol from his Philosophy Of Andy Warhol From A To B:
“(Edie) drifted away from us after she started seeing a singer-musician who can only be described as the Definitive Pop Star- possibly of all time- who was then first gaining recognition on both sides of the Atlantic as the thinking man’s Elvis Presley. I missed having her around, but I told myself that it was probably a good thing that he was taking care of her now, because maybe he knew how to do it better than we had.
Snide, very snide.
There’s gonna be a Freaker’s Ball, tonight at the Freaker’s Hall
Ya know you’re invited one and all.