Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick: A Brief, White-Hot, and Totally Doomed Romance
They were one of the great romances of the 1960s. Pop art’s golden couple, even if silver was their signature color. Romeo and Juliet with kink. Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick. The two were opposites. Were, in fact, radically, diametrically, almost violently opposed. So how could the attraction between them have been other than irresistible? She was the beauty to his beast, the princess to his pauper, the exhibitionist to his voyeur. They were also, of course, opposite sexes, which should have made their pairing all the more inevitable, only it did, well, the opposite since he preferred the same. As impediments to heterosexual unions go, homosexual impulse is a biggie. Edie got around it, though, no problem because she intuited that Andy’s gayness was incidental. Fundamental was Andy’s narcissism. No, fundamental was Andy’s frustrated narcissism. He was the boy who didn’t like what he saw when he gazed into the pool, and thus was doomed, in a permanent state of unfulfilled desire. Edie’s method of seduction was to take her shoulder-length dark hair, chop it off, bleach it a metallic shade of blond so that it matched his wig, and dress herself in the striped boatnecked shirts that had become his uniform. In other words, to turn herself into the reflection of his dreams. At long last—oh, rapture! oh, ecstasy!—his self-love was requited.
Until it wasn’t. Andy and Edie’s mutual platinum obsession lasted not quite one calendar year. In 1965 she was his leading lady in 10 movies, give or take. (Andy couldn’t bring himself to be organized enough for a filmography un-rife with holes and question marks.) Their final official movie, Lupe, released more than half a century ago, in 1966, began when Andy offered writer Robert Heide a sole directive: “I want something where Edie commits suicide at the end.” This line, delivered in his usual uninflected, unemphatic tone, is chilling, something that the villain in a Hitchcock thriller, one of those immaculately amoral gentleman-monsters, might have said. Or it would be if there hadn’t been heat beneath the frost, a passion that smoldered before it burned, turned fatal.
Love obviously went wrong. It went right first, though. Andy and Edie met on March 26, 1965, at a birthday party for Tennessee Williams. The encounter was arranged rather than by chance, a setup by the host, movie producer Lester Persky. Persky knew Andy was on the prowl. “Baby Jane” Holzer had been 1964’s Girl of the Year, but the year had changed, which meant so should the girl. Persky knew, too, just Andy’s type. When Andy saw Edie, leg in a cast (months before, she’d run a red and totaled her father’s Porsche, “How did two people step out of this car alive?” gasped the caption running under the newspaper photo of the wreck), hair in a beehive, he was like a cartoon character who’d had a safe dropped on him, little stars and tweeting birds dancing around his head. Persky told writer Jean Stein, co-author with George Plimpton of Edie: American Girl, “[Andy] sucked in his breath and . . . said, ‘Oh, she’s so bee-you-ti-ful,’ making every single letter sound like a whole syllable.”
Edie was just as knocked out.
Edie, up to That Point
She was 21 years old, the seventh of eight children in a clan that went, in Andy’s awestruck words, “all the way back to the Pilgrims.” The branches on the family tree were so heavily laden with fruit it’s a wonder they didn’t snap: Robert Sedgwick, the first major general of the Massachusetts Bay Colony; William Ellery, signatory to the Declaration of Independence; Ephraim Williams, benefactor and namesake of Williams College. Except sometimes they did. The Sedgwicks may have been illustrious, but they were also troubled, hypomania an inherited trait along with a beaky nose. And no one was more troubled than Edie’s father, the spectacularly handsome (the beaky nose at least skipped a generation) Francis.
Francis had gone from Groton to Harvard, a member of the ultra-exclusive Porcellian Club. Next up, a career in banking, only a nervous breakdown came first. He convalesced at the home of school chum Charles de Forest, son of the chairman of the board of Southern Pacific Railroad, courting and eventually marrying Charles’s younger sister, Alice.
Though Edie’s parents were both easterners, they’d moved west by the time she came along in 1943. She was raised on a 3,000-acre cattle ranch in Santa Barbara, and in isolation since, in Francis’s view, even the local gentry was riffraff. While Francis poked the occasional cow, his inclinations were primarily artistic. He did some painting, more sculpting, fashioning out of bronze large statues of horsemen and generals. Not caring for “daddy,” he insisted that his kids call him “Fuzzy,” though he wasn’t, was a brute and a son of a bitch, his sexual arrogance and sense of privilege seemingly without limit. Edie would tell people that she was seven when he made his first (deflected) pass.
As a teenager, Edie walked in on Francis having sex with a woman not her mother. He slapped her, told her she didn’t see what she saw—”You don’t know anything. You’re insane”—and had a doctor administer tranquilizers. She was sent to Silver Hill, a psychiatric hospital in Connecticut. There were bouts of anorexia and bulimia. At 20 she’d lose her virginity, get pregnant. An abortion followed. Soon after, she headed to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to study with her cousin, the artist Lily Saarinen, and spent an entire winter sculpting a single horse. Said Saarinen to Stein, “Young girls do love horses. It’s wonderful to have a great, powerful creature that you can control . . . perhaps the way she would like to have controlled her father.” Already Edie seemed to have a sense of her own tragic destiny. Photographer and society figure Frederick Eberstadt: “Carter Burden [the Vanderbilt heir] was at Harvard when Edie was there. He said that every guy he knew was trying to save her from herself.” And in the year prior to Lester Persky’s party, two of her brothers committed suicide, one unambiguously, one ambiguously. Minty, 25, in love with a man, hanged himself. Then, 10 months later, Bobby, 31, with a history of mental instability, drove his motorcycle into the side of a bus while racing the lights up Eighth Avenue. (Spookily, he crashed his Harley on the very night Edie crashed Francis’s Porsche.) He wasn’t wearing a helmet.
Andy, up to That Point
He was 36 years old, born Andrew Warhola, the youngest of four in an immigrant family in working-class Pittsburgh, though really in a Slovakian village situated in working-class Pittsburgh—meaning he grew up both in America and outside America looking in. His father, who died when he was 13, labored in the coal mines; his mother cleaned houses. A sickly kid, a sissy kid, too, he spent his time drawing pictures and reading movie magazines. His prized possession was a signed glossy, his named misspelled—“to Andrew Worhola”—from Shirley Temple. After graduating from Carnegie Tech, in 1949, he moved to New York to begin his career. By 1960 he was among the city’s most successful and highly paid commercial artists. What he wanted to be, though, was a fine one.
At the time, the art scene was dominated by the Abstract Expressionists, a hard-drinking, hard-driving, hard-living bunch, and highly serious, for whom the act of creation was more agony than ecstasy. Enter delicate, diffident Andy, with his art that seemed not just artless but un-art, non-art, anti-art: crayon drawings of Dick Tracy and Popeye, illustrated advertisements for nose jobs and corn removers. The Ab-Exers wanted no part of it or him. Even his crush, Jasper Johns, and Johns’s lover, Robert Rauschenberg, post-Ab-Exers with a Pop sensibility, kept their distance. Wounded, Andy asked mutual friend Emile de Antonio why Johns and Rauschenberg didn’t like him. Andy recounts de Antonio’s blunt reply in Popism, the memoir he co-wrote with Pat Hackett: “You’re too swish, and that upsets them. . . . [And] you’re a commercial artist.”
If this were a Hollywood movie, as opposed to real life, Andy, the sensitive misfit, would triumph over the bullies and meanies, the nonbelievers who scoffed and sneered, treated him like dirt and a joke. But Andy’s real life, in so many ways, was a Hollywood movie. (Is there a more archetypically rags-to-riches, nowhere-to-everywhere story in 20th-century America than his? Apart from Marilyn’s and Elvis’s, I mean?) So that’s exactly what happened.
First, though, Andy needed a gallery. Which is where Irving Blum, co-owner of L.A.’s Ferus, comes in. Recalls Blum: “Andy lived in a little house on Lexington Avenue with his mother then. I went to see him, and there were three soup-can paintings on the floor. I looked at the paintings. And above them was a photograph of Marilyn Monroe that looked like it was torn out of some movie-star magazine and pinned to the wall. I asked him if he had a gallery. He said, ‘No.’ And I said, ‘What about showing the soup-can paintings in Los Angeles?’ He was very excited about the offer, but he paused. I knew very well he wanted a New York gallery, and so I took his arm, and, thinking about the Marilyn, I said, ‘Andy, movie stars. Movie stars come into the gallery.’ And as soon as I said that he said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
The two were opposites. She was the beauty to his beast, the princess to his pauper, the exhibitionist to his voyeur.
The Campbell’s Soup Can show would make a splash, if not money, John Coplans, a co-founder of Artforum, calling the cans “the greatest breakthrough in art since the ready-mades of Marcel Duchamp.” The day after it closed, August 5, 1962, Marilyn Monroe overdosed on barbiturates at her house in Brentwood, just a few miles down the road from Ferus. Andy immediately set to work, making 20-plus silkscreen paintings of Marilyn based on that photo that Blum saw on his wall, a still from the 1953 thriller Niagara. Marilyn Diptych was revolutionary. With it, Andy went beyond objectifying Marilyn, which was what everyone had been doing to her all along, to reveal that she’d become an actual object, her face no different from a can of Campbell’s soup, that it, that she, was a product, a brand.
Portraits were Andy’s natural métier. (The Marilyns wouldn’t be lonely. They’d have Troys and Warrens and Natalies for company.) And when he began experimenting with moviemaking, in 1963, he wasn’t getting away from portraits. On the contrary, he was getting in deeper by adding another dimension—time. Blum again: “I remember Andy said, ‘I’ve just finished a movie. Do you want to see it?’ The movie came on. It was two people I knew, Marisol and Robert Indiana. Their lips were touching. And I sat, sat, sat, sat, but there was no movement. I said to myself, ‘It’s a still that he’s calling a movie for some reason.’ And then Marisol blinked. And it was, Ahh!”
Norma Jean Sedgwick
But back to Persky’s party.
Before Andy looked at Edie and saw Andy, Andy looked at Edie and saw Marilyn. (To complicate things further: Andy also looked at Andy and saw Marilyn. You could argue, in fact, that his entire persona was a tribute to—or a rip-off of—hers. There was the hair, obviously, a blonde so blonde it was a caricature of blonde, and the baby-doll voice. There was, too, the smart-dumbness. When nude photos of Marilyn surfaced, and she was asked by a reporter whether she really had nothing on during the shoot, she said, “I had the radio on.” That response, funny but unsettling—was she serious or kidding, pulling her own leg or ours?—might have been the model and ideal Andy spent the rest of his life aspiring to.) The physical resemblance between Marilyn and Edie was striking, can’t-miss: the eyes that went wide, wider, widest; the smiles that gushed; the skin that glowed palely, pearly. And just in case you did miss it, Edie drew a mole on her cheek. Then there was the emotional resemblance, the mixture of naïveté and cunning, neediness and self-possession, innocence and eroticism. Radiance and damage, as well. “I could see that she had more problems than anybody I’d ever met,” said Andy, describing his initial impression of Edie in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. “So beautiful but so sick. I was really intrigued.” It was the sickness as much as the beauty, of course, that excited his interest, the sickness giving the beauty a tension and an urgency that it might otherwise have lacked. Marilyn and Edie shared, too, an ability to elicit a response from practically anything with a Y chromosome. Marilyn, according to film critic Pauline Kael, “turned on even homosexual men.” And Danny Fields, a close friend of Edie’s, testifies, “Being gay was never an impediment to being in love with Edie Sedgwick. She made everybody feel hairy-chested. It was clear that she was the female and you were the male, and if you’re gay, you’re not always so sure which one you are.”
There were differences, too, naturally, ways in which Marilyn and Edie couldn’t have been further apart: Edie was a debutante, not a guttersnipe; a party girl, not a career; a nouvelle vague gamine, cropped-haired and flat-chested, not a Twentieth Century Fox, silky-locked with cleavage running in both directions. Yet, somehow, these differences contributed to rather than detracted from her overall Marilyn-ness. She wasn’t a clone of Marilyn so much as a variation on the theme of Marilyn. Marilyn, the next generation.
Andy suggested to Edie and Chuck Wein, her date that night, to stop by the Factory sometime.
In the popular imagination, an artist’s studio is some cramped, dingy little room, in which its hollow-eyed inhabitant, a cross between a monk and a madman, toils in solitude, caring for nothing, not money or status or recognition, but his Art. Andy’s studio, though, the Factory, was the reverse of all that. Was open-spaced and open-doored, communal and collective, committed to commercial endeavor as well as creative, cash a goal, fame too. Fame was maybe even the primary goal. Eberstadt: “I knew Andy before he had a wig; that’s how early I knew Andy. We met at Tiger Morse’s in 1958. I was supposed to be taking pictures of a model. Now, shoots are like the service, hurry up and wait. So I’m sitting in the kitchen, drinking a beer out of a bottle, waiting and waiting. And in the kitchen with me is this weird little creep. He says to me, ‘Do you ever think of being famous?’ I said, ‘Certainly not.’ Then he says, ‘Well, I do. I want to be as famous as the Queen of England.’ I think, Holy shit, what is this? This guy’s a madman. Doesn’t he know he’s a creep? Fast-forward to Andy’s memorial service, which stopped traffic on Fifth Avenue for two hours. I thought to myself, Well, Freddy, in Tiger’s kitchen, which one was the creep?”
The Factory was artist’s studio as Hollywood studio. Andy would’ve loved to have been a movie star. Looks-wise, though, he didn’t have a prayer. So he became the movie-star maker: a studio head. And he picked up the studio-head habit of re-christening the talent. He turned Billy Linich into Billy Name, Paul Johnson into Paul America, Susan Bottomly into International Velvet, etc. Well, why not? Hadn’t he turned Andrew Warhola into Andy Warhol? Besides, to name a thing already named was very Dada, and thus very Pop, i.e., Dada American-style. In 1917, Duchamp transformed a urinal into a work of art simply by signing it “R. Mutt,” titling it Fountain. That’s what Andy was doing with people: created by God, re-created by Warhol.
It’s a sign of how fast and hard Andy fell for Edie that a few weeks after Persky’s party he invited her to accompany him and his assistant, Gerard Malanga, to France for the opening of his Flowers exhibition. They arrived on April 30, Edie in T-shirt, tights, and a white mink coat, and carrying a small suitcase containing, to Andy’s delight, a single item: a second white mink coat. The trip was beaucoup fun. It was also important, crucial to Andy’s development as an artist. From Popism: “I decided [Paris] was the place to make the announcement I’d been thinking about making for months: I was going to retire from painting. . . . [I]t was people who were fascinating and I wanted to spend all my time being around them, listening to them, and making movies of them.”
It was in April, too, that Edie, in a black dress and a leopard-print belt, leg out of its plaster shell, hair a silver helmet (the fast and hard went both ways), stopped by the Factory to watch the filming of Andy’s latest, the all-male Vinyl. At the last minute, Andy decided to add her. She didn’t do much, just sat on the edge of a trunk and smoked, dancing with only her arms to Martha and the Vandellas’ “Nowhere to Run,” and yet she was smashing. Her clothes so chic, her poise so peerless, her loveliness so undeniable that she walked off with the entire picture, and without ever standing up. Said screenwriter Ronald Tavel, “[It was] like Monroe in Asphalt Jungle. She had a five-minute role and everyone came running: ‘Who’s the blonde?’”
Andy, understanding what he had on his hands, immediately cast her as the lead in a series of movies, starting with Poor Little Rich Girl. Tavel: “[Andy] saw her as his ticket to Hollywood.” Edie, though, wasn’t merely a hustle to Andy. “Edie was incredible on camera—just the way she moved. . . . The great stars are the ones who are doing something you can watch every second, even if it’s just a movement inside their eye.” Andy was a cold man, or a would-be cold man (“Frigid people really make it”), a man whose fondest dream was automaton-dom (“I’d like to be a machine, wouldn’t you?”), yet, in this passage, you can hear how infatuated he was, how far gone. The deadpan mask had slipped, exposing the human face—warm, eager, heartbreakingly boyish—underneath.
The closest Andy ever came to articulating his philosophy of what a movie should be was when he made this remark: “I only wanted to find great people and let them be themselves and talk about what they usually talked about and I’d film them for a certain length of time.” And it describes perfectly what his movies with Edie were. Andy loved to watch, and he loved watching Edie best of all, the eye of his camera unable to look away as she put on makeup, listened to records, smoked cigarettes. You can feel the pleasure he takes in her most casual gestures and expressions. He couldn’t get enough. He adored her.
Which isn’t to say he didn’t also want, quite badly, to hurt her. In Beauty No. 2, their best movie, Edie and a handsome boy (Gino Piserchio) lie on a bed in their underwear, kissing and nuzzling. They’re not alone. Off-camera, in the shadows, is a man, Chuck Wein, yet clearly a stand-in for Andy. He comes at Edie with a series of questions and comments, many of them deeply personal, deeply hostile, about her family, her father in particular—“If you were only older, Gino, then you could be her daddy”—until at last she breaks away from the boy to defend herself. So many scenes in Warhol’s movies are slack and boring and stupid in precisely the way that life is, which is, of course, their aim. This one, though, is volatile, electric. Edie’s anger and upset are unfeigned. And the spectacle of Andy’s very real cruelty and her very real pain in response to it is excruciating, riveting. And then there’s this: his cruelty is not merely cruelty. It’s cruelty mixed with tenderness—eroticized cruelty. His inquisition is an attempt to strip her bare emotionally, get inside her, penetrate her secret, private place. In other words, it’s a violation, savage and ugly, but it’s also an attempt at intimacy, and thus an expression of love. Just as her submission to the violation is an expression of her return of that love.
Now for what Edie saw in Andy: the father she never had, and the father she did have. Andy was an artist like Francis, though, unlike Francis, with his butch brawny statues of butch brawny subjects, as corny and old-fashioned as it gets, Andy, with his mass-produced-looking paintings of ticky-tacky objects, his teenybopper-magazine-ish tributes to movie idols, works so modern that 50 years later we still haven’t caught up with them, was a phenomenally successful one. And while Andy, pale and passive, and Francis, preening and priapic, were studies in contrasts in terms of style, they were, in terms of substance, eerily similar. At the Factory, Andy created a Hollywood studio, another way of saying a royal court. Francis did much the same at the ranch, his wife and children his subjects, at his mercy and under his thumb. And then there was Edie’s relationship with the two men: sexual with no sex. She played masochist to their sadists, was in thrall to them both.
I want to go back to Tavel’s suggestion that Hollywood was the destination and goal for Andy. True, I suspect, if only to a point. My bet is that Irving Blum was closer to the mark when he said, “Hollywood was incredibly glamorous and Andy was seduced by glamour, but he was also absolutely on his own track. I think he would’ve loved to undo the Hollywood thing.” Edie was certainly his undone Marilyn. By which I mean Andy understood something fundamental yet not obvious: that stars, real ones, are presences, and therefore have no need of acting. Marilyn was a gifted comedienne, great as Sugar Kane and Lorelei Lee. She was unparalleled, though, as Marilyn Monroe. And to be Marilyn Monroe was to be a star, incandescent and otherworldly, but also to be Norma Jean Baker, a human being, ordinary and dull, trapped inside a star. This is the predicament of all stars, of course, only Marilyn was the first to reveal it. The first to dramatize it, as well, to show the way that beauty and plainness, banality and originality, persona and personality, are bound together, feed off and intensify each other. And this coupled with her willingness to make her troubled private life public—speaking to Time magazine about the rape she’d suffered as a foster child, for example—made her not just magnetic but irresistible, not just irresistible but inevitable. And while she was the most famous woman in the world in life, that fame grew in death, her name and image becoming virtually synonymous with the word “fame,” absolutely synonymous with the word “star.”
As I said, Andy grasped all this, which is why he didn’t even bother with a script for many of his Edie movies. Of Poor Little Rich Girl he said, “To play the poor little rich girl . . . Edie didn’t need a script—if she’d needed a script, she wouldn’t have been right for the part.” He saw how sentimental and outdated, how utterly inane and pointless notions of story and structure and character development, not to mention craft and artistry, had become in movies. In fact, movies themselves were nothing but an excuse and a distraction. Stars, stars were the thing. And Edie was one. All she had to do was perform herself.
Note: Andy would never make it to Hollywood, and so never got a chance to undo it. Except that’s exactly what he did. In 1969, Dennis Hopper, an Andy acolyte, directed and starred in Easy Rider. Easy Rider wouldn’t undo Hollywood, but, as one of the first movies of the American New Wave, it would undo the Hollywood studio system, at least for a few years, until Jaws and Star Wars put it back together again. It was with reality TV that Andy undid Hollywood for good, reality TV being the future he predicted with his ‘‘everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes’’ line. After all, what was the superstar if not the prototype for the reality? He had us Stepping Out with a Sedgwick more than four decades before we were Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
The End of an Affair
The romance hit its peak early, during that madcap trip to Paris in April of ‘65. With Edie by his side, Andy had found the courage to put it all on the line, switch from a medium he’d mastered to one he had yet to prove himself in. It was a moment of joy and hope and openness and optimism. And it would last for a while, the rest of the spring. It wouldn’t, however, last forever. That summer, Edie was unfaithful, and in two senses: first, in the sense that she lost faith in what she and Andy were doing (“These movies are making a complete fool out of me!”); second, in the sense that she’d had her head turned by another guy.
It’s easy to see Bob Dylan as the un-Andy: Jewish to Andy’s Catholic, straight to Andy’s gay; audio to Andy’s visual. And the Dylan camp, though heavy into amphetamines, was also heavy into downers—pot and heroin—while the Factory was Speedy Gonzalez central, amphetamines all the way. Says Fields, “Dylan and Grossman [Dylan’s manager] didn’t like Andy, didn’t like the Factory. They were telling Edie that we were a bunch of fags who hated women, that we’d destroy her. Supposedly Grossman was going to manage her, and Dylan was going to make a movie with her. It never happened, but there was talk.’’ Of course, from a present-day vantage point, Dylan and Andy seem pretty evenly matched in terms of influence and renown. Not so in 1965, the year Dylan went electric. Says Jonathan Taplin, a former road manager for Grossman, “Music was huge at the time. As far as the counterculture was concerned, it was it. And there was no bigger star in music than Bob Dylan.” Edie’s head was turned.
Lupe was shot in December 1965. Robert Heide’s script, about the film star Lupe Vélez, who killed herself with Seconal in 1944, wasn’t used. Said Billy Name, the only person besides Edie to appear in the movie, “For Andy, when the camera was rolling, whatever was written disappeared.” And the movie, two reels, had nothing to do with Vélez, was the usual day-in-the-life-of-Edie, though at the end of both reels Edie’s head was in a toilet. (According to Kenneth Anger’s 1959 cult classic book, Hollywood Babylon, the pills Vélez took mixed badly, very, with her spicy last supper.) Edie looks beautiful but unwell. There are bruises on her legs. Her hair is fried. Her movements are twitchy, spacey, draggy, druggy. Right before our eyes her freshness is turning rancid.
That night, Andy asked Heide to meet him at Kettle of Fish, a Greenwich Village bar. Recalls Heide: “When I got there, I saw Edie. She had tears in her eyes. I asked her what was wrong. ‘I try to get close to him, but I can’t,’ she whispered, and I knew she was talking about Andy. That’s when he arrived. Usually he wore dirty dungarees and a striped shirt, but he was dressed in a blue suede suit from the Leather Man on Christopher Street. He didn’t say a word. We were all just sitting there when a limo pulled up to the front door. Bob Dylan walked in. Edie perked up, began talking in her little-girl Marilyn Monroe voice. Nobody else spoke. It was very tense. And then Dylan grabbed Edie’s arm and snarled, ‘Let’s split,’ and they did. Andy didn’t say anything, but I could tell he was upset. And then he said, ‘Show me the building Freddy jumped out of.’ [Freddy Herko, a dancer and Factory member who, high on speed and LSD, had danced right out the window of a five-story walk-up the year before.] As we stared up at the window, Andy murmured, ‘Do you think Edie will let us film her when she commits suicide?’”
Andy’s question to Heide would have been heartless if it wasn’t actually heartbroken. He was the odd man out in a love triangle, a bad situation for a normal person, hell for one so terrified of feeling. It’s unclear if Edie and Dylan’s relationship developed into a romance. Dylan had secretly married Sara Lowndes in November of ‘65. And soon Edie and Bobby Neuwirth, Dylan’s close friend, would become involved. But “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” recorded in January 1966, is rumored to be about Edie, as is “Just Like a Woman,” recorded in March 1966. And in any case, whether Edie and Dylan ever truly got started, it doesn’t matter. Edie and Andy were definitely finished is the point. She stopped appearing in his movies, and at the Factory. Well, she was the Girl of the Year of 1965 and 1965 was nearly over. Andy had already picked out his rebound: the actress-singer Nico—talk about foils, Nico as gloomy and austere and Germanic as Edie was bouncy and bubbly and American—whom he’d pair with the band he’d just signed, the Velvet Underground.
After the split, Edie didn’t fare well. Drugs became a bigger and bigger problem, and there were more trips to more loony bins. (An anecdote revealing of both Edie’s fate and the times of which she was so much the embodiment: In 1966, the actress Sally Kirkland was asked by Chuck Wein to replace Edie as the lead in Ciao! Manhattan, Edie’s only non-Andy movie, because Edie had suffered a nervous breakdown. Says Kirkland, “When I got the call, I said, ‘Chuck, I can’t. I’ve just had a nervous breakdown.’ I’d tried to kill myself with Nembutal. They declared me legally dead. I was under psychiatric supervision and my doctors didn’t want me to act for a while.”) Edie would end where she began: Santa Barbara, California. On November 16, 1971, she’d overdose on barbiturates, same as Marilyn. Same as Lupe, too, for that matter. She was 28.
Andy’s day of reckoning arrived even sooner. At 4:20 P.M. on June 3, 1968, a fringe Factory member and writer of an unproduced play called Up Your Ass, Valerie Solanas, pointed a gun at him and fired three bullets. Two missed, one did not. It ripped through his lung, esophagus, gall bladder, liver, spleen, and intestines. Miraculously, he survived, lived almost another 20 years, but something died that afternoon even if it wasn’t him. Never again would his work be so daring, so ambitious, so wondrous.
Andy and Edie’s deaths—Andy’s first death, I mean, the death that didn’t kill him—could be viewed as a Romeo-and-Juliet-style double suicide. True, the suicides occurred over a span of years, and on opposite sides of the country. And of course you can’t call Andy’s suicide a suicide since he didn’t shoot himself. Yet, in a way, he did. After all, he surrounded himself with outcast/loose-cannon/mad-genius freaks. And he fed off their crazy, literally crazy, energy until one of them decided she’d had enough. If he wasn’t his own murderer, he was his own murderer’s accomplice.
Violent delights have violent ends indeed.
via Vanity Fair http://bit.ly/2xvuIXg
December 6, 2017 at 11:05AM