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.