Notes on Edie Sedgwick (1943-1971)
by Gary Comenas (2008/revised 2014)
Edie Sedgwick (1966)
(photo: Billy Name)
Andy Warhol was often blamed for Edie Sedgwick's descent into drug addiction and mental illness. However, before meeting Warhol, Edie had been in mental hospitals twice and came from a family with a history of mental illness. She was only part of the Factory for about a year, from approximately March 1965 to February 1966.
Another fallacy was that Warhol ditched Edie after using her up whereas the truth was that it was Edie's decision to leave the Factory, lured by promises of stardom by Bob Dylan and his manager, leaving Andy feeling slightly betrayed.
Edie Sedgwick's father was Francis Minturn Sedgwick (1904-1967), a Santa Barbara rancher who had three nervous breakdowns prior to his marriage in 1929 to Edie's mother Alice Delano De Forest. Before the marriage, Alice's father visited Francis Sedgwick's doctors at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge Massachusetts, where he was recovering from a phase of manic-depressive psychosis. Alice's father was advised by Francis's doctor at the psychiatric clinic that Francis and Alice should not have any children. (EDIE49)
They eventually had a total of 8 children: Alice (Saucie) in 1931, Robert Minturn (Bobby) in 1933, Pamela in 1935, Francis Minturn (Minty) in 1938, Jonathan in 1939, Katharine (Kate) in 1941, Edith Minturn (Edie) in 1943, and Susanna (Suky) in 1945.
Edie Sedgwick's family ancestry originated from Stockbridge, Massachusetts where Edie's great-great-great grandfather had moved after the Revolution. Judge Theodore Sedgwick (1746-1813) had been Speaker of the House of Representatives in the time of Alexander Hamilton and George Washington and had also been the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. His wife, Pamela Dwight (1753-1807) had gone insane "halfway through her life." (EDIE3) Stockbridge had closer ties to New York than Boston, with many of her family ancestors pursuing careers in New York after being educated at Harvard.
After their marriage, Edie's parents, Francis and Alice, lived in Cambridge while Francis took classes at the Harvard Business School. Because of his "asthma attacks and other nervous symptoms" his doctors "advised him to develop his artistic side." (EDIE50) They moved to Long Island, spending their summers in a house in Santa Barbara that they had bought on their honeymoon. They eventually moved to a 50 acre fruit ranch in Goleta in 1943. Edie was born at the Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara on April 20, 1943. During the war, they moved to a larger ranch, Corral de Quati, in the Santa Ynez Valley with money inherited from Edie's maternal grandfather, Henry Wheeler De Forest. Although he had lost much of his fortune in the Wall Street crash, half of the remaining money (several million dollars) went to Edie's mother. (EDIE62)
Although land rich (3,000 acres), "there was a feeling at this stage of being pinched for money, of cutting corners", according to Edie's sister Saucie. "We children were dressed in hand-me-downs from our Eastern cousins, and we got very little for Christmas or birthdays." (EDIE62) Oil was discovered on the ranch in the early fifties and approximately seventeen wells were constructed to take advantage of it. With the additional money, the family was able to move to a new 6,000 acre ranch about six miles from Corral de Quati in July 1952. Edie's sister, Suky, described the new ranch, Rancho La Laguna de San Francisco, as "gloriously beautiful" (EDIE78)
The Sedgwicks lived in their own world, and even had their own school constructed on their property. The children were not allowed to go to public school. (EDIE70) Edie and her sister, Suky, were taken to a woman doctor in the Santa Ynez Valley for daily vitamin B shots. (EDIE79)
Edie's brother Minty (Francis Minturn) was an alcoholic at the age of fifteen (EDIE83). Later, in the the early sixties, he ended up at Silver Hill psychiatric hospital, attending AA meetings when he was out. (EDIE102), In October 1963 he was committed to Bellevue after being found in Central Park standing on a statue making a speech to a non-existent audience. From Bellevue he went to Manhattan State Hospital. He then returned to Silver Hill and was found dead in his room in early 1964. (EDIE135-6) He had hung himself the day before his twenty-sixth birthday. The night before committing suicide, he rang Edie and, according to one of her friends at the time, Minty told Edie that "she was the only Sedgwick he could ever hope for." (EDIE139/140)
Her other brother, Bobby, also had psychiatric problems. He had a nervous breakdown in the early 1950s during his sophomore year at Harvard. He was taken from his dorm, Eliot House, in a straitjacket. When he returned in to Harvard in the Autumn of 1953 he continued to see a psychiatrist in Boston. On August 20, 1963 he was committed again - this time to Bellevue, just a few months before Minty was admitted. After staying in Bellevue for ten days, he was committed to Manhattan State Hospital. On New Year's Eve 1964 he was riding his Harley Davidson without a helmut and crashed into the side of a bus, dying on January 12, 1965. (EDIE147/152)
Edie was first institutionalized in the autumn of 1962 after suffering from anorexia and, like her brother, attended the Silver Hill mental hospital. Her anorexia continued until she weighed only ninety pounds at which time she was transferred to Bloomingdale, the Westchester Division of New York Hospital. (EDIE115) Whereas Silver Hill was fairly liberal, Bloomingdale was very strict. Near the end of her stay there, she became pregnant while on a hospital pass and had to have an abortion. (EDIE115/7).
After her release from the hospital, she moved to Cambridge in the autumn of 1963 and continued to see a psychiatrist. There she met Chuck Wein, who according to a friend at the time, Ed Hennessy, "had graduated a year or two before, but he had come back to bum around." (EDIE126) She prospered socially, hanging out with people like Hennessy - "a kind of deliberately outrageous dandy at a time Harvard was not producing many dandies" (EDIE126).
She left Cambridge after turning 21 and moved to New York in 1964. According to Sandy Kirkland, who hung out with Edie in her Manhattan apartment, Chuck Wein "would be plotting out the next move of their strategy - whom he was going to introduce to Edie that night, what they could do for her... Chuck had a real promoter's vision about her... He knew that she had this quality, but that she was totally disorganized and wouldn't be able to pull it off herself... so he took over her life." (EDIE176)
In January 1965, Edie met Andy Warhol at Lester Persky's apartment. She began going to the Factory regularly in March with Chuck Wein. During one of these visits, Andy put her into Vinyl, at the last minute." (L&D219-20) She had previously made a very short appearance in Warhol's film, Horse, when she and Ondine entered the Factory toward the end of the film.
Ronald Tavel (Vinyl scriptwriter):
"I don't think Andy was taken in by Chuck for one minute. What he liked was his blond hair and blue eyes." (L&D220)
"Edie was with this guy called Chuck Wein, and he had a bad vibe, a very bad vibe. Too many drugs." (UW52)
Andy Warhol, Chuck Wein and Sandy Kirkland on the Factory couch
(photo: Stephen Shore)
ANDY & EDIE & CHUCK
When Andy went to the opening of his exhibit at the Sonnabend Gallery in Paris on April 30, 1965, he took both Edie and Chuck with him (as well as Gerard Malanga). Upon returning to New York, Andy told his scriptwriter, Ron Tavel, that he wanted to make Edie the queen of the factory and asked him to write a script for her: "Something in a kitchen. White and clean and plastic." The result was Kitchen, with Edie, Rene Ricard and Roger Trudeau. It was shot at soundman Buddy Wirtschafter's studio apartment. (L&D223/5)
After Kitchen, Chuck Wein replaced Tavel, being credited as writer and assistant director for the filming of Beauty No. 2 which she starred in with "Gino [Piserchio], a hunk in jockey shorts". Beauty No. 2 premiered at the Cinematheque on July 17th and her onscreen appearance was compared to Marilyn Monroe's. As a result of her popularity, she was getting a lot of advice from people to leave Andy and become a proper star. One of the people advising Edie was Bobby Neuwirth who has been described as "Bob Dylan's right-hand man." (L&D226/8)
BOB DYLAN & BOB NEUWIRTH
Bob Dylan and Bobby Neuwirth first met Edie in December of 1964 - approximately a month before she met Warhol.
Bobby Dylan and I occasionally ventured out into the poppy nightlife world. I think somebody who had met Edie said, 'You have to meet this terrific girl.' Dylan called her, and she chartered a limousine and came to see us. We spent an hour or two, all laughing and giggling, having a terrific time. I think we met in the bar upstairs at the Kettle of Fish on MacDougal Street, which was one of the great places of the Sixties. It was just before the Christmas holidays; it was snowing, and I remember we went to look at the display on Houston Street in front of the Catholic church... Edie was fantastic. She was always fantastic." (EDIE166)
Neuwirth had first met Dylan at the beginning of May 1961 at the Indian Neck Folk Festival in Connecticut. In February 1964 Neuwirth joined Dylan on the road as a go-fer and became his "right-hand man." At the time that Neuwirth and Dylan met Edie, Dylan was staying in Room 211 at The Chelsea Hotel with his future wife, Sara Lownds, and her 3 year old child from a previous marriage. While Sara stayed in the hotel taking care of her child, Neuwirth and Dylan enjoyed New York's nightlife. The Kettle of Fish was one of their regular haunts. Dylan was also having an affair with Joan Baez which had begun in May 1963 after both performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival. The relationship with Baez continued until May 1965 when Baez broke up with Dylan after discovering him and Lownds together in Dylan's hotel room during a concert tour of Great Britain. Dylan had previously neglected to tell Baez about Lownds.
In November 1965, Dylan married Sara in a secret ceremony - something that Edie apparently found out from Warhol during an argument at the Gingerman Restaurant in February 1966.
"She [Edie] said, 'They're [Dylan's people] going to make a film and I'm supposed to star in it with Bobby [Dylan].' Suddenly it was Bobby this and Bobby that, and they realized that she had a crush on him. They thought he'd been leading her on, because just that day Andy had heard in his lawyer's office that Dylan had been secretly married for a few months - he married Sarah Lownds in November 1965... Andy couldn't resist asking, 'Did you know Edie that Bob Dylan has gotten married?' She was trembling. They realized that she really thought of herself as entering a relationship with Dylan, that maybe he hadn't been truthful." (UT36/37)
Edie went to make a phone call and when she came back she announced that she was leaving the Factory. Gerard Malanga, who was also there, thought she had rung Dylan. Malanga recalled that "she left and everybody was kind of quiet. It was stormy and dramatic. Edie disappeared and that was the end of it. She never came back." (UT37)
There is no evidence that Edie ever had a sexual relationship with Bob Dylan. However, she did have one with Bob Neuwirth.
Edie Sedgwick [from the Ciao! Manhattan tapes]:
"It was really sad - Bobby [Neuwirth]'s and my affair. The only true, passionate, and lasting love scene, and I practically ended up in the psychopathic ward. I had really learned about sex from him, making love, loving, giving. It just completely blew my mind - it drove me insane. I was like a sex slave to this man. I could make love for forty-eight hours, forty-eight hours, forty-eight hours, without getting tired. But the minute he left me alone, I felt so empty and lost that I would start popping pills... (EDIE315)
Bob Dylan's album Blonde on Blonde was released on May 16, 1966. One of the women featured on the inner sleeve was Edie Sedgwick. Some of the songs were rumored to be about Edie.
Andy Warhol (via Pat Hackett in Popism):
"I liked Dylan, the way he created a brilliant new style... I even gave him one of my silver Elvis paintings in the days when he was first around. Later on, though, I got paranoid when I heard rumors that he had used the Elvis as a dart board up in the country. When I'd ask, 'Why did he do that?' I'd invariably get hearsay answers like 'I hear he feels you destroyed Edie,' or 'Listen to Like a Rolling Stone - I think you're the 'diplomat on the chrome horse,' man.' I didn't know exactly what they meant by that - I never listened much to the words of songs - but I got the tenor of what people were saying - that Dylan didn't like me, that he blamed me for Edie's drugs." (POP108)
Nico thought that Dylan might have been referring to Edie in the song, Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, which was included on the album. Some claimed that the phrase "your debutante" referred to Edie on the track, Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again. It was also rumored that Just Like a Woman was about Edie. The non-Warhol film that Edie made after she left the Factory, Ciao Manhattan, had Just Like a Woman as part of its soundtrack. Some Dylan biographers, however, think that the song was probably about Dylan's relationship with Joan Baez.
The supposed film with Dylan never materialized although D.A. Pennebaker, who filmed the documentary Don't Look Back in 1965, recalled that he also shot "a lot" of footage of Edie who was often at his studio. Don't Look Back covered Dylan's concert dates in England from April 30 - May 10, 1965. The following year Pennebaker was also hired by Dylan as the cinematographer for a film for television broadcast that Dylan wanted to produce himself called Eat the Document. Bobby Neuwirth helped Pennebaker edit the 1966 footage.
EDIE'S MODELING CAREER
After leaving Andy's crowd, Edie, still in a relationship with Bob Neuwirth, tried modeling, appearing in Vogue on March 15, 1966. During her Factory days, she had appeared in Vogue in August 1965 as a "youthquaker" and also in a fashion layout for Life magazine in the September 1965 issue.
An out-take from Edie's Life magazine photo session
(photo: Fred Eberstadt)
She never became part of "the family at Vogue" because, according to senior editor Gloria Schiff: "she was identified in the gossip columns with the drug scene, and back then there was a certain apprehension about being involved in that scene... people were really terrified by it... drugs had done so much damage to young, creative, brilliant people that we were just anti that scene as a policy". (EDIE302).
Edie also auditioned for Norman Mailer's play The Deer Park, but Mailer thought she "wasn't very good... She used so much of herself with every line that we knew she'd be immolated after three performances" (EDIE314).
A FAMILY CHRISTMAS
At the end of 1966, Eddie, who had been living in the Chelsea Hotel for a few months, went home for the Christmas holidays. Her brother Jonathan remembered her as: "really weird when she arrived at the ranch... She was an alien. She'd pick up what you were about to say before you'd say it. It made everyone uncomfortable. She wanted to sing, and so she would sing... but it was a drag because it wasn't in tune. A painted doll, wobbly, languishing around on chairs, trying to look like a vamp." (EDIE310)
According to tapes she later made for the film Ciao! Manhattan, she attempted to get her mother's physician to refill a prescription for Eskatrol, a form of speed, and her mother found out about it and talked to the doctor. Later that night her parents gave her some nembutal so that she could sleep. At one point they woke her up and told her she had a temperature of 105 and needed to be taken to the hospital. Although she thought she was just going to a normal hospital, they actually took her in a police car to the County Hospital to have her committed to the psychiatric ward. (EDIE311)
When Edie got out of the hospital, she moved back to the Chelsea Hotel and continued to take drugs. By early 1967, Bob Neuwirth had left her, unable to deal with her drug taking and erratic behaviour. In January '67 Neuwirth presented her in "film comedies" at Jonas Mekas' Film-Makers' Cinematheque which apparently included footage of Salvador Dali and Bob Dylan - both of whom had also been filmed by Warhol. The ad proclaimed Edie to be a "real Chaplin." According to Popism, when Warhol was thinking of doing an Edie retrospective at the Cinematheque, she had complained that everyone in New York was laughing at her because of the Warhol films. (POP123) And here was Neuwirth presenting her as a comedian at the same Cinematheque. (It's not known whether she and Neuwirth had split up by that time.)
Village Voice ad, 5 January 1967, p. 22
The shooting for Edie's final film, Ciao! Manhattan, started on Easter Sunday, 1967.
According to Robert Margouleff, the film's producer, "Everybody on the set needed a poke [of speed] - first once a day, then twice. We actually set up a charge account at Dr. Roberts office.... Shooting got so unpredictable. There was one scene in which Paul America was supposed to drop off Jane Holzer at the heliport at the Pan Am building. We filmed him driving up up and letting her out and then driving off. He was supposed to drive around the block and be available for more footage to the scene. But he just kept on going. We didn't hear from Paul again for about eight months until finally David tracked him down in Allegan, Michigan where he was in jail. We had to get permission from the Governor to film him in jail and try to integrate that into the footage." (EDIE 321/3)
On October 24, 1967. Edie's father died. Toward the end of his life, one of his brother's heard him say: "You know, my children all believe that their difficulties stem from me. And I agree. I think they do." (EDIE356)
Edie was in Gracie Square Hospital at the time of her father's death. When she came out, she moved in with L.M. Kit Carson who had written a film he wanted Edie to be in. They had an affair and moved into the Warwick hotel posing as man and wife. Unable to cope with her drug addiction and erratic behaviour, Carson moved out. Several days later Edie was committed to Bellevue Hospital. After contacting her private physician she was let out of Bellevue, but was later committed to the Manhattan State Hospital after a drug overdose. (EDIE363)
Her brother, Jonathan, describes her state when Edie's mother finally took her out of the the hospital and back to the ranch in Santa Barbara in the late fall of 1968: "She couldn't walk. She'd just fall over... like she had no motor control left at all. The doctor did a dye test of some sort and it showed the blood wasn't reaching certain parts of the brain... She couldn't talk. I'd say, "Edie, goddamn it, get your head together... She'd say, 'I... I... I... know... know... know... I... I... can but it's ha... ha... hard...' " (EDIE370)
Eventually she was well enough to live in town and got an apartment in Isla Vista near U.C. Santa Barbara. She was hospitalized again in August of 1969 in the psychiatric ward of Cottage Hospital after being busted for drugs by the local police. While in hospital she met another patient, Michael Post, who she would later marry. (EDIE371/76)
When Edie got out of the hospital, she hung around with a group of bikers called the Vikings. One of the bikers, Preacher Ewing, remembered her as "a little larger than life in her capacity to hit the depths... I used to call her Princess, because that's what she thought she was...She'd say her parents were so fantastically upper-class... she was condescending. It was really ludicrous, because she'd ball half the dudes in town for a snort of junk." (EDIE387)
Edie was in the hospital again in the summer of 1970 but was let out under the supervision of two nurses to finish Ciao! Manhattan. (EDIE388)
For the shock treatment segment in the film, a real clinic was used and Edie knew exactly how the gag should be placed and how the airway went in. The segments of her in her "apartment" were actually filmed at the bottom of an empty swimming pool in Los Angeles. (EDIE390)
Soon afterwards, suffering from the DT's, Edie was admitted to the same clinic they used to film the shock treatment in Ciao Manhattan, where she had real shock treatments.
"She was in the clinic from January 17 to June 4... She had shock treatments - I don't know how many - maybe twenty or more. Dr Mercer told me that she'd had some shock treatments in the East. He authorized the new ones because he thought Edie could be close to suicidal." (EDIE398)
According to Warhol biographer, David Bourdon, "Between January and June of 1971, she received twenty or more shock treatments." (DB316)
Edie married Michael Post on July 24, 1971. She stopped drinking and taking pills until October when pain medication was given to her to treat a physical illness. She remained under the care of Dr. Mercer who prescribed her barbiturates but she would often demand more pills or say she had lost them in order to get more, often combining them with alcohol.
On the night of November 15, 1971, Edie went to fashion show at Santa Barbara Museum, a segment of which was filmed for the television show An American Family, Lance Loud had already met Edie before on a beach in Isla Vista and she spoke to him in the lobby "drawn" by the cameras.
After the fashion show Edie attended a party and was verbally attacked by one of the guests who called her a heroin addict. The guest was so loud that she was asked to leave. Edie rang Michael who arrived at the party and could see that Edie had been drinking.
Eventually, they left the party, went back to their apartment where Michael gave Edie the medication that had been prescribed for her and they both fell asleep. When Michael woke up the following morning at 7:30, Edie was dead. The coroner registered her death as Accident/Suicide due to a Barbiturate overdose.
Saucie (Edie's sister):
"Edie was buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Ballard, up over the San Marcos Pass. It used to be a dingy village so small that if you went through it at fifty miles per hour you'd miss it. It's in the Valley, but it's nothing. A few live-oak trees. No one would ever go there except to see the veterinarian." (EDIE425)