Zizzle-Zot’s People of Note: Edie Sedgwick

A quick note from  the editor:

Hello from us here @ “Leave it to the Prose!”  I hope you’ve enjoyed our first two weeks of articles, essays, and musings.  I write to you in order to give you a heads up on our latest writer.  Zizzle-Zot (Erik’s hyperreal name) will be periodically writing a series of articles coined “People of Note.”  The following is our first installment and I for one am thrilled to have his prestigious writing here on “Leave it to the Prose.”  Without further ado, here is the first: Zizzle-Zot’s People of Note: Edie Sedgwick

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Every artist worth his weight has a muse. For both Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan, during a time of culture-altering creative output, Edie Sedgwick was that muse.

Born in 1943 to a family of old East Coast money, Sedgwick was in many ways the predecessor to our very own Paris Hilton: aspiring actress and model, but mostly famous simply for being famous. By living a life of privilege, splendor and excess, Ms. Sedgwick became an iconic figure in both artistic circles and the eyes of aspiring debutantes.

Heavily involved in the New York social scene of the ’60s, Sedgwick met Bob Dylan and his close friend Bobby Neuwirth in 1964 while the two were staying at the Chelsea Hotel with Dylan’s girlfriend, Sara Lownds. Sedgwick reportedly made an immediate impression on Dylan as they spent late nights touring the “poppy nightlife world,” as Neuwirth called it, while Lownds stayed at home with her 3-year-old child.

Sedgwick would meet Warhol in 1965 and become a regular at his studio, referred to as The Factory and well known for wild parties with guest lists ranging from Mick Jagger to Truman Capote. Upon first meeting, Sedgwick caught Warhol’s eye and he decided to feature the young beauty in a series of avant-garde films including Poor Little Rich Girl, Kitchen, and Beauty No. 2.

The films were rarely viewed outside The Factory, but Sedgwick’s fame spread nonetheless. It seemed she never left Warhol’s side (he referred to her as his “superstar”). She went so far as to cut her hair short and die it silver to match the wigs Warhol would often wear.

By 1966 Sedgwick’s relationship with Warhol had deteriorated. Many believe the cause was Sedgwick’s relationship with Dylan, which caused petty jealousies and insecurities inside The Factory.

The truth, however, was that Dylan had secretly married Ms. Lownds several months prior to Sedgwick’s falling out with Warhol (a fact that Sedgwick was unaware of). During an argument between Sedgwick and Warhol at a New York restaurant, started when she mentioned a film she was supposedly to star in with “Bobby Dylan,” Warhol revealed the clandestine marriage, which he had learned of from mutual friends. Sedgwick went to make a phone call and when she returned announced that she was leaving The Factory. She never went back.

The animosity grew from there, particularly between Dylan and Warhol. Dylan blamed Warhol for Sedgwick’s unchecked drug use and accused him of ruining her. Warhol felt that Dylan had been lying to Sedgwick, leading her on while knowing full well that he would never commit to her; lying to her about the relationship they shared (the exact nature of Dylan’s relationship with Sedgwick has never been verified, but it’s believed that several of the songs on Blonde on Blonde, released in 1966, are about Sedgwick. Also, Edie’s older brother Jonathon has come forward and asserted that she was once pregnant with Dylan’s child and had an abortion.)

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Sedgwick, meanwhile, became entangled in an intense and tumultuous relationship with Dylan’s old friend Bobby Neuwirth as she developed an increasing dependency on barbiturates. Neuwirth, unable to cope with the drug use, broke it off in ’67. Sedgwick never quite recovered.

By 1969 Edie was committed to the psychiatric ward of Cottage Hospital in California. There she met fellow patient Michael Post and they were married in 1971. She reportedly quit using alcohol and drugs, but in October was prescribed pain medication for a physical illness. She would often demand more medication, or claim she lost the pills in order to get a new prescription.

In November Edie attended a fashion show and then an after party. She died that night of a barbiturate overdose at the age of 28.

So what makes Edie Sedgwick special? Why is a spoiled, drug-abusing media darling a Zizzle-Zot Person of Note (any more so than Paris, Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears)?

Because, in my eyes, her story embodies the tragedy that the lives of the rich and famous all too often are. We live in a society that idolizes and idealizes those who die young. Kurt Cobain, River Phoenix, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the list goes on. We glorify the lifestyles of drugged out, delusional, desperate and lonely individuals. We like to think of these people as truly living; seize the day, Carpe Diem. Always exciting, always on the move, balancing on the razors edge that divides genius and insanity, pushing the boundaries as they explore the dangerous world beyond normality. These people represent life beyond suburban existence, beyond 9-5 days, grocery shopping and child-rearing. If only I could be that talented, that clever, that beautiful, that wealthy…if only I could have that life, I’d be happy.

But really, aren’t these people dying? Slowly killing themselves as we look on, fascinated by the wreckage.

They are lost and lonely children with no one to turn to in a sea of adoration. They live in a world of entitlement and expectation, training themselves to seek out the next high, fearing what could happen if they come down. They only see themselves through the eyes of those that love and idolize them. If they should ever lose the public’s gaze, they’d surely cease to exist.

Edie Sedgwick, reduced to a simple plot line, was an innocent and naïve girl needing to be loved, trapped in the chaos of a world she didn’t quite understand. She was used and abandoned by men of staggering genius. Men who could compose in her name timeless ballads and priceless pieces of art. Men who could turn her into a goddess, a legend and a muse. Men who could give her the world, but were internally consumed, who could only see themselves when she so desperately needed to be seen.

Men who, after lifting her to the heights of fame, left her to fall back to earth alone.

Thanks for reading

Submitted by Zizzle-Zot

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3 responses to “Zizzle-Zot’s People of Note: Edie Sedgwick

  1. I am curious if there can be a synthesis between the Edies of the world and the 9 to 5 data inputters? Perhaps they represent the unhealthy binary apropos of lifestyle and Aristotle got virtue right with his “Golden Mean” between the excess/deficiency vices. Perhaps both are wrong and a little craziness with a dash of mundane security is the key to happiness.

    Or perhaps, as it seems to me, all humanity suffers from what I like to call the “Grass is Always Greener” syndrome, where no matter where you are, you’ll always want something different.

  2. Gruber once again, through the magic of cut and paste, has put forth a thought provoking essay. The Cass Man asks some good questions indeed.

    Sedgewick, to me, sounds like a knocked around rag doll, only defined by the men that surrounded her. That’s some sad commentary on female accomplishment (then and now), but I digress.

    I’m not sure Eddie is the best case study for analyzing this fascinating divide between ordinary and extraordinary, as outlined by Grubes and Cass. To me, it seems like she was searching for acceptance, not to mention a Daddy figure, more than she was seeking the extreme pleasures of life. Not to misdirect the conversation, but I think the best example of someone who took a conscious step toward the edge of society was Hunter S. Thompson. Like Kerouac and Holden Kaufield, he was a poet and a scholar as much as he was a menace and an abuser. I can’t help but admit that many of my most precious memories have come from Hunter inspired, alcohol fueled nights, where danger was possible, lust was abound, and a feeling of ‘endless possibility’ permeated throughout the ranks.

    Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide in 2005. You don’t have to tell me how addiction turns you into a slave, when initially it feels like it sets your free. I guess what I’m saying is, I know what’s right and I know what’s wrong…but the idea of never again having an outlaw adventure, well that depresses me as much as anything. Can you push life to the edge and always return home? I don’t think so, but there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of volunteers, up to the task.

    I refuse to let my comment run longer than the post. My enthusiasm for this topic is running rampant however. I might have to follow up with another comment, or a post of my own.

  3. Erik Gruber aka Zizzle-Zot

    Hi Mr. A,

    You bring up a good point. I agree that Sedgwick wasn’t attempting a philosophical exploration of the fringe. She more or less ended up there accidently.

    Same story with the Paris Hilton’s of our own era. They get dragged to the edge of sanity because they don’t have the power to stop it. But as a culture, we don’t seem to care how they get there. We’re fascinated by these self-destructive figures for the same reason we get rubber-necked when we drive past a car accident. If I had to formulate an overarching thesis on Sedgwick’s life, I’d say she was a tragic figure often confused for a glamorous one.

    The Hunter S. Thompsons of the world are another story. They seem to be prodding the human body and psyche just to see how much abuse it can take. It usually ends up bad for them, but a lot of great art can come out of it. Whether or not the sacrifice was worth it can only be decided by the individual (though they often end up sucking those they love down with them.

    It’s an interesting conversation: how much sacrifice is worth it in the name of art? How far will you go?

    I’m thinking I’ll write a post on this, too.

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