Sunday, January 27, 2008

Speed. Madness. Flying Saucers.

In all my months of having this blog, I have yet to dedicate a post to Edie Sedgwick. Well, today I break that streak.



I stumbled on a blog called "Diary of a Man Out of Time" an odd little page which seems to be dedicated to films, I think. In any event, there is a section devoted to Edie. Reading through it, I found the following spot-on description of Edie's role in Warhol's artistic sensibility, and the whole self-obsessed scene that has trickled down to become our everyday reality:

She was the first true swap-out of Personhood with Presence, of Self with Phenomenon. She had the look. The unflinching stare. The passive face. And at the core of the detachment projected, the relentless chic, the sphinxiness, the affectlessness, there was a hint of incapacity to love or connect or believe, and beneath that something more dangerous to the self: a very profound doubt about the value of life itself. And that is pure Warhol.

The description is perfect - Edie Sedgwick is the embodiment of Warhol's entire pop art ideal. She is The Image, The Face, The Photo Op, the proper noun with no individual behind it. Even in her own words, the clash between image and individual is evident. Edie was aware on some level of her part in the Warhol game. She knew that her role was to detach, to shine, to seem, to appear. The star quality was first and foremost...to hell with what lay beneath. Edie also knew that her position in the Warhol clique was tenuous, I just don't think she realized her fall would come about so quickly.



The problem here is that for all the apparent descent into beauty and pleasure, for all the narcissistic obsession with self and image, there is a person behind the personality, a person who, in the end, keeps us coming back for more. The Boston socialite turned fashion icon with amazing legs and dimples...who was she really? Perhaps because she got too strung out and was cast aside by Warhol, perhaps because she died young and somewhat forgotten, perhaps because of the nature of the game she played, Edie remains a perennial mystery.

Edie the Youthquaker is easily understood. She was an icon who had it all, the trendsetter who lived by her own rules. She was a pawn in Warhol's game, but a willing one. The shimmering Edie in massive earrings and silver hair and unbelieveably long legs shod in black tights is known to us. But Edie the woman remains in the shadows.

Watch this clip in which a 27-year old Edie, spaced out and slurring, looks back on her year (yes, it was only one year) with Warhol. Listen carefully, because the annoying dual voice effect makes it hard to hear what she's saying:



She talks about love, about her inability to recognize her own beauty, about her brothers' suicides..she talks about mental hospitals, about the scam perpretrated in the name of fashion, about loss. This is the Edie we will never know. And that is what haunts us.

14 comments:

ryfilm said...

You might be interested in checking out the Paul America group on Facebook.

caryl said...

You're a wonderful writer! That was interesting.

Chicken & Waffles said...

As usual, Miss Jules, this snapshot was fascinating and beautifully written. I read a very interesting book on Ms. Edie many years ago...I seem to want to say that it was authored by George Plimpton. Does that sound right?

Zen Chef said...

You never dedicated a post to me either! Am i next? haha
That was a wonderful post, you a great writer!

Julie said...

Thanks, guys. I love Edie, and ryfilm, I am going to look at that group on Facebook. Thanks.

I read the Plimpton book, CW. It's called "Edie" and is one of my favorite books ever. It gave me insight into how complicated each person's life is, and how impossible it is to get one 'truth' about any given situation. There are so many points of view, and you get such an interesting perspective on who she was, but in the end, she's still just a mystery.

And Zen, ahem! The reason I made the 'not having written on Edie' comment is that my blog is named after the movie she made at the end of her life. See how it works?

Next post: The Life and Times of Zen Chef...

ryfilm said...

The book you're talking about is "Edie: An American Girl", or "Edie: An American Biography", depending on the year of publication. It's by Jean Stein and edited by George Plimpton, and first came out in '82.

Another came out recently called "Edie: Girl on Fire" by Melissa Painter and David Weisman(Ciao! co-director/producer). It has some great stuff for Edie fans.

And, I hope to have one of my own out before too long.

Julie said...

ryfilm, my copy is "Edie: An American Biography." I must have gotten it right after it came out, because I remember where I lived in Athens when I bought it. I got it in the cutout bin for $1.00. Best purchase I ever made.

I want to know more about your book. Who's publishing it? What's the angle? Do you need a proofreader? ;-)

Ingrid said...

Well done as usual, Julie...
I got that book in 1982, too. I remember when a certain girl we knew went through an extreme Edie phase - she may have gone as Edie for Halloween, or maybe just for lunch, who knows.

I have a friend up here who is Edie's cousin. He says she was like "a walking orgasm." He's written a book about the whole crazy family and his own craziness... his name is John Sedgwick, so look it up. (He also writes some good psychological crime fiction!)

Julie said...

I'm on it, baby!!!

My buddy Ryan is writing a book on Paul America. I'm writing one on Athens. Will you helps me?

Who is our girl? One KK? Or perhaps a Stipe?

For lunch...lol!!

Ingrid said...

Our girl: think more pretentious. First initial D, last initial D. Imagine Mark Cline braying her name.

Julie said...

HA! I had totally forgotten about her Edie obsession. I have a picture I took of her in Paris wearing black tights and a man's dress shirt, posing by a 2CV. She was pretty, though...

Ingrid said...

What is a 2CV? Une voiture?

Julie said...

You are indeed silly. It's a deux-chevaux...one of those fabulous old French cars. Think "Breathless" ...or "A Bout de souffle" rather...I'm sure there was one in it.

Anonymous said...

To some extent, her obsession with appearance was business. She wanted to be noticed by the public for the sake of her career.

People like her tend to be self-absorbed because they're always taking care of their own feelings and they're afraid. That's not to say that they can't love other people.

She was hospitalized as a teenager for anorexia. After going back to California she said that she used extreme makeup as a "mask" because she felt insecure about her face.