The Ninotchka Hat Blog

When Andy met Edie
January 6, 2011, 7:56 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Million Dollar Smile

“In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes” — Andy Warhol

That’s probably the most famous thing he ever said and probably the most true. How exactly did this funny looking mama’s boy from Pittsburgh become such an iconoclast, feted by the art world and adored by a motley throng of emotionally disturbed, drug-addled sycophants. No biography of him has even given me a really good answer. Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in 1928, the son of poor Ruthenian (somewhere near Slovakia, got cut out of Congress of Paris in 1919 for some reason) immigrants. He attended art school but his grades were poor and the other students had to beg for him to be readmitted for second year. He then become a commercial illustrator. He came up with the peculiar and novel idea of combining art and commercial illustration.

His studio, as it were, was called The Factory which doubled as a treehouse and nightclub as necessity dictated. The atmosphere was like high school and nobody there had the emotional resources to know any better. There were wealthy kids from dysfunctional homes, poor kids from dysfunctional homes and assorted transvestites, pimps, hustlers — and of course, artists. A Diane Arbus wonderland for freaks and outcasts. The walls were covered with silver. The aesthetic was stark and arresting, rather like a Warhol painting or like Warhol himself who wore a series of silver blond wigs and had a pasty complexion and suffered from a nervous disorder of the eyes called St. Vitus’ Dance.

Edie Sedgwick’s style was equal parts Dumpster Diver, Schoolgirl, and Society Matron. She would wear tights, a too short striped jersey t-shirt, a full length mink, 5 lbs of makeup, 5 lbs of costume jewelry, and call it an outfit. And she always looked great. And indeed nobody really could copy her style. But actually, Sedgwick was hiding. She was a genuine beauty, not just a rich jolie laide with a bottle of hairspray. She had wide, childlike brown eyes, a full mouth, and a dainty, retrousse nose. In her strung out, “Ciao Manhattan” days she said “I’d make a mask out of my face because I didn’t realize I was quite beautiful”. Indeed, her brother Jonathan said that after coming to in the hospital after she had set her bed in the Chelsea Hotel ablaze in a drug-addled stupor, her first request was for a long list of makeup and beauty products. Of course, everyone else knew that she was beautiful. There was a time when she was everyone’s “It Girl”. Diana Vreeland had her gracing the covers of Vogue. Her exploits were chronicled in all the the society and entertainment pages. However, when her addictions overwhelmed her she became persona non grata among the fashionable set leading to several drug rehabilitation centres, biker gangs, and the unfortunate aforementioned “Ciao Manhattan”, only remotely watchable if one fast forwards most of it. She died in 1971 at the age of 28 of a drug overdose.

Edie Edie Edie

Miss Sedgwick lived a life that didn’t really hold that most potential for any sort of long term happiness. She was the daughter of Eastern bluebloods who had set of shop in California. Her father was had a history of mental illness and was advised against having children — he had eight. Her father was reportedly emotionally and sexually abusive. Two of her brothers committed suicide. Edie became bulimic as a teenager and was institutionalized (she would remain severely underweight for much of the rest of her life due to undereating, and alternating amphetamine and heroin abuse). She ended up at Radcliffe College studying sculpture, but was more interested in partying. Running off to New York City and setting herself up in her grandmother’s swanky apartment, Edie began living the high life off the proceeds of a series of generous trust funds. It was here that she met up with Andy Warhol

She was a frequent star of Warhol films. Warhol made a film about Edie parading around her grandmother’s apartment, doing mostly boring things like listening to music, talking on the phone, putting on her makeup, and wearing beautiful clothes, including a full length leopard skin coat (before such things were illegal) called “Poor Little Rich Girl”. Warhol’s films are even more unwatchable than “Ciao Manhattan”. The opening of “Poor Little Rich Girl” is a shot Edie sound asleep — for several minutes. Deadly, deadly stuff. Warhol never made money off the movies. His wealth came from his soups cans and Marilyns. His prestige came from The Factory, the relentless courting of the press, the glib sound bites, and from Warhol himself with his his silver wigs, his eclectic style, and his soft, measured, drawling voice with its self-consciously gay timbre. Listen to Edie. She sounds like a junkie version of him.

What I love about Edie was that she was so blase about her style. She was the anti-Babe. Her outfits were wildly eclectic and thrown together. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Edie knew and worked with a young Betsey Johnson. The style was one of contrasts and extremes. There would be the minidress and the cropped hair set off by the voluminous coat and knock your teeth out shoulder duster earrings. Of course, inside was Edie, probably not more than 90 lbs, track marks on her arms and poison in her veins. Edie was like Babe is that she was primarily a vessel. Though not a woman of great intelligence or depth, she surrounded herself with creative people. Her beauty notwithstanding, history would not have remembered her had it not been for Andy Warhol’s relationship with her.

However, it was her death that ensured that history would never forget her.



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