Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Edie, Ciao Baby

Edie Sedgwick - style icon, enigma, little girl lost. The little blonde socialite with the urchin haircut, fragile limbs and lost bird looks has fascinated people for decades. The title of this blog is taken from the song by The Cult, including the lyrics" Always said you were a Youthquaker, Edie, a stormy little world shaker. Warhol's darling queen, Edie, an angel with a broken wing"
Edie was born in 1943 to a distinguished New England family from Massachusetts. Her great-great-great grandfather, William Ellery, was a signatory of the United States Declaration of Independence. Edie’s suffered a tormented childhood. Her father Francis, nicknamed Fuzzy, was emotionally remote by all accounts. As a young man, he had suffered a breakdown and been institutionalized. He was told not to ever have children, as he was mentally unfit. 
Fuzzy was a rancher and sculptor, and had many affairs. Edie walked in on him and a woman once, and he told her that she had imagined the scenario due to her mental health. The Sedgwick’s had 8 children. 2 died before Edie was born, the other 6 raised by nannies. They grew up on their family ranches in New England and later California, where they were home schooled. Edie's elder sister Alice was estranged from the family and two brothers Francis Jnr (Minty) and Robert (Bobby) suffered from mental health issues and died prematurely within 18 months of eachother. one hanged himself, the other rode his motorcycle into a bus. As a teenager, Edie developed anorexia and bulimia. At 19, Fuzzy admitted Edie into a mental hospital. As her weight plummeted, she was moved to a stricter facility and due to their regime, she improved and put on weight. She was able to leave the hospital. 
In 1963, Edie moved to Cambridge to attend Art School with her cousin Lily. She drew, painted and did sculptor, as her father did. There are some beautiful artworks by Edie that represent this time, many of her beloved horses.
Edie embraced the social scene of the Harvard students.  Due to her fun-loving, uninhibited and creative nature she was wildly popular and made many friends here, particularly boys, both gay and straight.  Apparently at one friend’s Sunday family lunch, Edie stripped to her underwear and lay on the lawn to sunbathe. "Every boy at Harvard," said a former class mate, "was trying to save Edie from herself."
During this time, she fell pregnant, and had an abortion.  The same year, her brother Minty killed himself. It was believed he was gay and had just come out to their father, who was enraged by this revelation.
Quickly growing bored of Boston, Edie moved to New York in 1963, into her grandmother’s 14 room Park Avenue apartment.  In 1964, at 21 she came into her inheritance, which was quickly spent on a flat of her own, and clothes.  She always traveled by limo (sometimes ambulance!). She was purported to have only taken the subway once – clad in an evening dress over a bikini, naturally!
She chopped her hair to a short Jean Seberg style and bleached it blonde. In 1965, she met Andy Warhol at actor and producer Lester Persky’s apartment.  The two clicked, Andy being obsessed with beauty and Edie wanting to be loved by a father figure. Edie began hanging out at The Factory and making movies with Andy and his crew.
Edie became Andy’s ‘Superstar’ muse and partner in crime.  Edie had the aristocratic blood that Andy envied, his passport into the hoi-polloi gatherings of New York society. They began to be photographed everywhere together, and Edie began to make headlines and gain notoriety, particularly for her fashion sense.
Once on the outskirts of society, on Edie's arm Andy was embraced and heralded as the next big thing. Everyone wanted Andy Warhol portrait of themselves to hang in their Upper West Side parlor.  Andy & Edie even had matching haircuts, with Edie painting silver over her short crop to emulate Andy's silvery coif. "Edie and Andy were into this kind of Bobbsey-twin alter-ego thing." (Bibbe Hansen). Edie hung out at the Factory and starred in films for Andy. 
But as the 'Bob Dylan' character in the film Factory Girl warns Edie's character, "Baby, your friend's a bloodsucker," he says. "You're his prop, OK - you're disposable to him." Andy be all accounts used Edie to draw attention to himself, then as she began to fall apart and need help from him, he abandoned her and left her to implode.
The Velvet Underground wrote a song about her – Femme Fatale, the following lyrics purred by Nico:
“Here she comes, you better watch your step
She's going to break your heart in two, it's true
It's not hard to realize
Just look into her false colored eyes
She builds you up to just put you down, what a clown
'Cause everybody knows (She's a femme fatale)
The things she does to please (She's a femme fatale)
She's just a little tease (She's a femme fatale)
See the way she walks
Hear the way she talks”

Edie appeared in Vogue in August 1965 as a "Youth Quaker" and also in a fashion layout for Life magazine in the September 1965 issue. Youth Quaker was a term coined by Vogue Editor Diana Vreeland for youthful, spirited, fun-loving young women. She also featured in Vogue on March 15, 1966. Edie worked for Betsey Johnson as a fit model.

 Edie in Life and Vogue
 Edie at The Factory
She moved into the Hotel Chelsea, home of musicians, artists and bohemians. This is where the all important meeting with Bob Dylan transpired. “Jonathan Sedgwick, Edie's brother, says: "She called me up and said she'd met this folk singer in the Chelsea, and she thinks she's falling in love. I could tell the difference in her, just from her voice. She sounded so joyful instead of sad. It was later on she told me she'd fallen in love with Bob Dylan." Bob was with singer Joan Baez at the time. He never admitted to an affair with Edie, however his song ‘Just Like a Woman’ is widely thought be attributed to Edie.
 Sienna Miller & Hayden Christensen as Edie and Bob Dylan
"Her fog, her amphetamine, and her pearls..." 
With three nouns, in "Just Like a Woman" (said to have been inspired by her), Bob Dylan deftly summed up his friend Edie Sedgwick, the wayward princess of Andy Warhol's multimedia Factory.” Jonathan says that Edie told him she was admitted for an overdose and whilst there, they carried out an abortion on her and Bob’s unborn child.  "Her biggest joy was with Bob Dylan, and her saddest time was with Bob Dylan, losing the child. Edie was changed by that experience, very much so." Whether this was true is debatable.  Never the less, Edie’s obsession with Dylan was not. Bob left Joan and married Sara Lownds in 1995. Andy broke the news to Edie, who was devastated. By now, Edie was taking huge amounts of drugs – pot, speed, coke, heroin.
Many photographs of this era show her lolling about, eyes rolling back into her head, tiny body, pasty gaunt skin, in a hazy world of her own. She often fell asleep with a lit cigarette or candles. In October 1966, her apartment on East 63rd St caught on fire by candles. She burned on her arms, legs and back, and had been rescued  in a Betsey Johnson dress.
 Edie bandaged up after setting fire to her room at the Hotel Chelsea
By 1966, Edie was in the grips of drug abuse, spiraling out of control. Where Edie had once paid the tab for Andy, when she asked for payment for the numerous films he had cast her in, she was refused. She spent $US80,000 in 6 months. 
Broke, she tried modeling again for Vogue, but was shunned due to her drug abuse.  She tried the theatre, but was turned down by Norman Mailer as she "wasn't very good". In 1967, Edie filmed 'Ciao Manhattan' for Andy in a haze of drugs. 
  On the set for 'Ciao Manhattan'
Describing the orgy scene in Ciao! Manhattan, Edie says "The whole place turned into a gigantic orgy, every kind of sex freak, from homosexuals to nymphomaniacs, especially the needle and mainlining scene, losing syringes down the pool drains and blocking up the water infiltration system with broken syringes. Oh, it was really some night...Drinking, guzzling tequila, vodka, and scotch, and bourbon, and shooting up every other half-second, and just going into an incredible sexual tailspin. Gobble gobble gobble gobble. Just couldn't get enough of it. It was one of the wildest scenes I've ever been in or ever hope to be in, and I should be ashamed of myself. I'm not, but I should be."
Edie checked out of the Chelsea to go home for Christmas, and was promptly committed again. She also turned tricks for drugs with a bikie gang whilst staying at the ranch. Nick-named 'Princess, a friend said. "But she was always very ladylike about the whole thing." She took herself back to her Grandmother’s apartment in New York to steal antiques to sell. She also briefly shacked up with Factory Superstar Paul America, another drug addict, back at Hotel Chelsea. After that fell apart, Edie wound up committed again, where she found out her father had died on October 24, 1967. A friend said: "Finally. Thank God. Now, maybe Edie can breathe."Edie returned to New York to film scenes for 'Ciao Manhattan'. She was stick thin and frail, explaining her new breast implants  as “weight gain”. By now, she was suffering from the DTs and receiving shock therapy. 
Edie & Michael, 1997
Edie was again institutionalized again in 1970. In 1971, Edie married student Michael Post. Post became her nurse, and thankfully, he was able to stop her for taking drugs for a short while.  However, the drugs began again. After a night out at a fashion show in 1971, she was ejected from the event for screaming at a guest who accused her of being a junkie. the next morning, Michael found Edie dead in their bed beside him, aged 28.
References:The Independent
and Wikipedia
Most of the images on this post (particularity the ones with the 'yellow glow') are photographed from my fabulous book Edie:Girl on Fire by Melissa Painter, which weaves the story of Edie through quotes from friends, confidants and admirers and intimate portraits & snapshots, both published and previously unreleased.
I love this Edie inspired shoot by Karl Lagerfeld with Vanessa Paradis, Madame Figaro May 2010.

I love the film Factory Girl, which has Sienna Miller playing Edie to Guy Pierce's Andy Warhol & Hayden Christensen Bob Dylan. Personally I think she did an amazing job. Sienna capture Edie's infectious spirit whilst looking uncannily like Edie physically with her cute dimples, wide eyes and tiny Ballerina-type figure. Sienna says "I think that the most important thing was to psychologically try to understand why she was the way she was. From an exterior point of view, you see this girl who came from a very privileged background and had an education, and then went to New York and took too many drugs and died. People often say to me, ‘Why? Who cares?’ But once you start delving into it, and you psychologically understand why she was freaking out so much…
She had a really tortured background and a difficult upbringing....Reality, for her, most of her life, was quite a scary place. She was very layered and I wanted to understand the vulnerability behind her. She looked so confident and aloof and beautiful, but underneath all of that, she was really fragile. I think that the vulnerability was something that I wanted to portray.”
On Edie's fashion sense, Sienna adds an amusing anecdote: "Edie used to do this jazz ballet. Every day she'd put on her tights and her leotard and she'd dance around her apartment. She was too lazy to change so she'd put a big coat on over that and go out, so everybody started to copy this look. It was a totally inadvertent look that really caught on...She just has this magnetism and this luminescence and I think, like most people, I was very drawn to her."

Edie, Ciao Baby


  1. great blog!

  2. I have no idea how googling "Lucian Freud" came to this but lovely blog and I love Edie Sedgwick!

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    2. Weird! Thanks! I have done a post on Lucian Freud & Kate Moss, so must somehow have linked up! :-)

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  5. GREAT article, but you made mistakes on some dates...Like 1995,the date of Bob Dylan married (1965) or the pic with her and Michael ( 1971) it say 1997.
    APART from that, I love to read about her.


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