April 4 2018
Edie Sedgwick wasn’t just a muse. She was, as Robert Rauschenberg proclaimed, “an object that had been very strongly, effectively created.”
Her creator, Andy Warhol, was a master manipulator. His lab, the Factory, did not make art so much as manufacture it. So the mad genius of silk-screened soup cans took on his most ambitious project yet, replicating his likeness for superstardom.
Edie’s brunette hair was bleached a silver blonde and chopped into a tousled pixie cut. Her wardrobe became a near match to Andys, differing only in her proclivity for sporting massive chandelier earrings that would dance along her hollow shoulders.
Her Factory fashioned look only enhanced what Warhol clearly was not: pretty, outgoing, and ready for a close-up.
“Andy Warhol would like to have been Edie Sedgwick,” Truman Capote once remarked. “He would like to have been anybody except Andy Warhol.”
And so Edie, in her glam Andy drag, became his de facto subject throughout much of 1965 starring in a number of experimental films including Vinyl, Poor Little Rich Girl, Kitchen and Beauty No. 2.
The charade, however, came crashing down quicker than it had begun. As the year wore on, and Edie descended deeper into financial woes and a drug dependency, her silver screen sparkle had begun to dim.
“Everybody in New York is laughing at me,” Edie told Andy, “these movies are making a complete fool of me.”
When Edie complained, she was promptly punished and eventually replaced.
In Lupe (1966) Andy lined up a truly cruel role for what would become Edie’s penultimate Factory performance. The film is typical Warhol, meandering and plotless, but the subject, troubled actress Lupe Vélez, is unusually eerie.
Using salacious rumors of Vélez’s tragic suicide published in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon as its source, the film concludes with Edie in the titular role facedown in a toilet, dead of a barbiturate overdose. 5 years later, Sedgwick would sadly meet a similar fate.
“We thought it was wonderful,” Andy said of the project in POPism: The Warhol Sixties. Over time, however, it would be seen as exploitative.
As for her replacement? Andy did what he did best, duplicate. He plucked Ingrid von Scheffiin from obscurity, anointed her Ingrid Superstar, and molded her into a parody of Edie. Then came model-singer-actress Nico who was “cold” to Edie’s “cool.”
When she eventually drifted further away from the Factory, in body and soul, Edie’s status as an ingenue was over. Her meteoric rise was fleeting. Her death at 28, sadly foreseeable. Her cultural impact, however, has proven otherwise.