Friday, June 23, 2017

Edie

Of course the mythology abounds, though whether Bob Dylan had an amorous relationship with Edie Sedgwick remains speculation at best. Despite his purported doting on Sedgwick, Dylan greatly disapproved of her relationship with Andy Warhol, in particular, he warned her how dangerous Warhol was; that Andy didn't care what happened to her. Time and time again, Edie refused to listen, and the soap opera continued (try to follow): Dylan's new marriage became a point of contention between Edie and Warhol since Warhol, during an argument between them, was the one who informed her that Dylan had wed. Edie felt betrayed that Dylan didn't tell her himself, and that Warhol used Dylan for the sake of argument. The row pretty much put the final nail in the coffin of Warhol and Sedgwick's relationship, though Edie got over the fact that a) Dylan was married and b) that he couldn't keep on attempting to save her. She actually ended up dating one of Dylan's best friends, Bobby Neuwirth, with whom she was really in love. "I think we met in the bar upstairs at the Kettle of Fish on MacDougal Street," said Neuwirth, "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." Unfortunately, Neuwirth couldn't handle Edie's increasingly erratic behavior due to her drug dependency, and Edie ended up living in a drained swimming pool in Los Angeles (not true of course, but it may as well have been; the Edie Sedgwick character in Ciao Manhattan was not that far removed). 




Dylan wrote at least two songs about Edie, "Just Like a Woman" and "Like a Rolling Stone" (in which the "diplomat" who "carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat" as well as "Napoleon in rags" is believed to be Warhol).  The latter's title is not a reference to The Rolling Stones, btw, but taken from the Hank Williams song "Lost Highway," which contains the line, "I’m a rolling stone, I’m alone and lost."


It is widely believed among Dylanologists that the "she" who takes, aches, and makes love just like a woman (but breaks just like a little girl) was Edie. It's also believed that Lou Reed wrote the Velvet Underground’s "Femme Fatale" about her. Neither claim is much of a stretch. Both songs paint portraits of a woman of two parts: manipulative yet fragile, glorious yet doomed; a girl who breaks hearts (her own included) as unconsciously as breathing.


In the pantheon of American mythology, Sedgwick was one of the Tragic Muses, those women who did not so much make things happen as stand still and allow things to happen to them. Zelda Fitzgerald was one, Marilyn Monroe another. Fabulous disasters. Plague Angels. Every photograph of Edie, with her boyish mop and kohl-rimmed, vulnerable eyes, is at once an invitation to fall in love with her and to watch helplessly as she fades away. She died in 1971 after a lifetime of drug use (begun by her parents, who reportedly had her heavily medicated as a child), chronic depression, hospitalization, and electroshock therapy burned her out by the age of 28. In the tradition of all American Tragic Muses, she became an icon, a pop-culture heroine whose posthumous power endures today.