The first time Andy Warhol laid eyes on Edie Sedgwick, he sucked in his breath and said: “Oh, she’s so bee-you-ti-ful.” An unhinged young soul, Edie arrived at New York with dreams of becoming a star, and meeting Andy Warhol was her ticket in. Warhol, an ingenious artist, saw the potential in Edie and took her under his wing. Together, they became New York’s eccentric duo.
But behind the dimpled smile was a damaged woman, scarred for life by her abusive father, struggling to rid herself of an escalating drug abuse. This femme fatale shined bright, but only just for a brief moment. Here’s the rise and fall of Edie Sedgwick.
A Brilliant yet Doomed Family
The first Sedgwicks came to the U.S. from England way back in the 1600s. They became a prominent family in America, known for their wealth and high stature. Many of them attended elite schools and found success as politicians, writers, and lawyers.
However, despite their prominence, the Sedgwicks struggled with mental illness. Passed from generation to generation, depression seemed to be the family’s disease. Tragically, Edie would be inflicted by the harrowing mental state, making her extra susceptible to drugs.
Who Is Edie Sedgwick?
In the spring of 1943, Edie Sedgwick was born. The seventh of eight children, Edie didn’t get to enjoy the luxury and wealth her ancestors accumulated. Instead, she grew up with neurotic parents who were terribly controlling.
Edie’s parents home-schooled their kids and isolated them on their cattle ranch in Santa Barbara. Both her mom and dad had strained relationships with Edie and her siblings. Her dad, in particular, treated her terribly. He suffered from bipolar disorder and was often dangerous to be around.
She Caught Her Father Cheating
Her father, Francis Sedgwick, was known by his nickname “Fuzzy.” While the name may sound friendly, it surely wasn’t all cuddles with him. The patriarch of the family went through bouts of excitement and depression. He was a gifted sculptor with creative ideas, but at the same time, he was an abusive dad who didn’t know how to properly father his kids.
Edie and her siblings both loathed and adored their father, who would inadvertently damage them through his affairs. One time, Edie walked in on him with another woman in bed. Instead of apologizing, he responded by slapping her across the face.
He Called Her Insane
Francis called his daughter insane, claiming that she had imagined the whole thing. He even asked their doctor to prescribe her tranquilizers. This would signal the rest of the starlet’s lifelong struggle with drugs of all sorts.
But the drugs weren’t the worst part of her childhood. According to Edie, she was molested by her father several times. The abuse began as early as the age of seven. With that in mind, there’s no wonder she ended up the way she did…
Her Lifelong Battle With Anorexia
Edie developed eating disorders at an early age. She was diagnosed with anorexia – a disorder characterized by starving oneself in order to maintain a low body weight. Consequently, she was committed to a psychiatric hospital in Connecticut in 1962.
Despite her struggles with body image, Edie grew to be an undeniably beautiful young lady. By the time she attended college, she had all the boys at her feet. One of her former classmates once recalled: “Every boy at Harvard was trying to save Edie from herself.”
She Had an Abortion
Following a brief relationship with a fellow Harvard student, Edie found herself pregnant at a terribly young age. Feeling like a child herself, she ended up getting an abortion. There was no way she was going to keep the baby.
In 1963, Edie moved to Cambridge to study art, but her struggle with anorexia caused her to drop out. During that time, as if life wasn’t hard enough, two of her brothers committed suicide within 18 months of one another.
She Could Never Get Away From the Family Curse
Her brother, Francis Jr., also known as “Minty,” had a very close relationship with his sister. He decided to hang himself in 1964 after falling in love with a man. At the same time, her other brother, Bobby, was mentally unstable and ended up driving his motorbike into the side of a bus.
Despite the children’s best efforts to break free of their father’s unstable nature, it seemed like there was no way they could ever get away from the family curse. The worst was yet to come for Edie, who still had some bright years ahead of her…
The Day She Met Andy Warhol
By 1964, 21-year-old Edie Sedgwick made the move to New York. Leaving her turbulent past behind, Edie swore to start anew. Initially, she spent most of her time mingling at parties. But she quickly realized that it left her feeling empty. She decided it was time to pursue her interest in acting.
In 1965, she went to a house party of a famous playwright named Tennessee Williams. There, she encountered the quirky, eccentric man who would help fulfill her dreams: Andy Warhol. It was Warhol who first approached the young newcomer.
Film producer Lester Persky recalled hearing Andy react to Edie Sedgwick for the first time. He said: “Andy sucked in his breath and said ‘Oh, she’s so bee-you-ti-ful.’ Making every single letter sound like a whole syllable.”
And, just like that, the odd duo was born. Andy Warhol convinced Eddie to stop by his notorious “Factory” located at East 47th Street in Midtown Manhattan. When she dropped by a few days later, Andy was in the middle of shooting an all-male movie.
She Became His Muse
Andy decided to give Edie a short role in his all-male film. It was five minutes of her smoking and dancing, without saying a word. But it was captivating, nonetheless. From that day on, she became his muse. Edie died her hair silver to match the filmmaker’s quirky look.
Without thinking twice, Andy put her in at least 10 of his movies. In a matter of a few months, everyone in the pop art scene came to know her name. As a result, in 1965, she was named Vanity Fair’s Girl of the Year.
He Was Her Father Figure
Edie became famous not only for her acting skills but also for her unique look. Pixie cut, dark eye makeup, leotards, miniskirts, and black stockings – it was hard to look away. In Warhol, Sedgwick found a father figure: a grown man who cared for her deeply.
Much like Edie’s real father, Warhol was an artist. And even though the two had wildly different personalities, they did have a few things in common. For a few months, Edie was infatuated with Warhol. But the love wouldn’t last forever.
She Thought His Movies Made Her Look Like a Fool
Even though the duo was inseparable for a while, it took a little less than a year for things to go downhill. Edie began to doubt Andy and began feeling like the films he was casting her in were making her look more like a fool than a respectable actress.
She gradually distanced herself from the artist who, clearly, didn’t appreciate it. He believed she owed him for turning her into a famous star. But Edie wanted to branch out, and there was another popular figure who caught her eye – Bob Dylan.
Love at First Sight
Edie Sedgwick met Bob Dylan by chance one day at Warhol’s Factory. No one knows exactly what the nature of their relationship was, but it’s known that Edie’s infatuation with the singer-songwriter was immediate.
Even though no official romance between the pair was ever confirmed, their flirtatious behavior didn’t go unnoticed. Many fans have theorized that the musician’s hits “Just Like a Woman, ” “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” and “Like a Rolling Stone” were dedicated to Edie.
She Began Dating Dylan’s Friend
In the fall of 1965, Dylan tied the knot with Sara Lowndes in a secret, little ceremony. Shortly after, maybe due to the heartbreak, Edie began dating Bob’s friend, Bobby Neuwirth. Still, rumors about her relationship with Bob would go on for years.
Edie’s older brother Jonathan would later reveal that she became pregnant with Bob Dylan’s child but was forced to get an abortion after being admitted to a mental asylum due to drug abuse. During that time, Edie was no longer appearing in Andy’s movies. She found herself estranged from the world, wondering where to turn next…
Their Final Movie Had an Eerie Ending
The final movie Andy and Edie did together, Lupe, reflected the pair’s relationship. Rumor has it that Andy Warhol reportedly gave his writer a chilling instruction: “I want something where Edie commits suicide at the end.”
Clearly, Andy wasn’t happy with Edie’s behavior. But, by 1966, Edie didn’t “need” Andy anymore. She was landing gigs on her own, including a photograph for the cover of Vogue. Sadly, she didn’t become a part of the Vogue family, due to, you guessed it, drugs.
As Edie’s star status rose, so did her demons; they slowly but surely crept up and made it impossible for her to be taken seriously. In 1966, Vogue’s editor in chief, Diana Vreeland, named the model a “Youthquake,” hinting that she was too much to handle.
Sadly, despite Edie’s huge potential, her excessive use of drugs stopped her from becoming a member of the Vogue family. “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,” senior editor Gloria Schiff added.
She Acted Strange and Alien-Like
Around that time, Edie was living in the Chelsea Hotel. After a few months of crashing there, she went home for Christmas. It was December of 1966. Edie’s brother recalled her odd behavior at the ranch. He called it strange and alien-like.
He explained: “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.”
More Mental Asylums…
Unable to pull herself together, Edie’s drug habit spiraled and spiraled and spiraled. Bobby Neuwirth broke up with her at the start of 1967. In the spring of that year, Edie began working on a semi-biographical film called Ciao! Manhattan.
The film’s production was paused for a while due to her poor health until, finally, it was completed in 1971. All the while, Edie was bouncing in and out of mental institutions. During one of her stats, she formed a relationship with a fellow patient named Michael Post. The two married in the summer of that same year.
Things Were Looking Up
For a while after the marriage, things started to look up. Edie stopped drinking excessively and put aside the other drugs she usually took. However, in October of 1971, a few months after tying the knot, she was prescribed pain medication.
This led to a renewed usage and abuse of both alcohol and barbiturates. Her friends and family were heartbroken to see poor Edie reignite old habits. This time, however, they would prove not only temporarily dangerous but downright deadly.
How Did Edie Sedgwick Die?
Edie Sedgwick passed away in the fall of 1971, on November the 16th, just a few months after she married, just a few months after she turned sober and clean. She died of a barbiturate overdose, the same drug that killed young Marilyn Monroe.
Edie was just 28 years old when she passed away. Five years later, her father died. Before his passing, he stated: “You know, my children all believe that their difficulties stem from me. And I agree. I think they do.” In this moment of clarity, Francis admitted his role in the tragic fate of his children.
Poor Little Rich Girl
Let’s take a look at the many creations Edie and Andy crafted together. When they first met, it wasn’t just Edie who saw in Andy a person who could lift her higher; it was also Andy who saw Edie as “his ticket to Hollywood.”
The first film she starred in as his lead was Poor Little Rich Girl. “Edie was incredible on camera—just the way she moved,” said screenwriter Ronald Tavel. Andy knew what he had on his hands and was eager to take her with him wherever he went.
Andy Adored Her
Discussing his thoughts on filmmaking, Andy once stated: “I only wanted to find great people and let them be themselves and talk about what they usually talked about, and I’d film them for a certain length of time.” This is exactly what his movies with Edie looked like.
Warhol loved to observe Sedgwick, her gestures, the way she applied makeup, the way she smoked, the way she tapped her feet to the beat of the record. He took pleasure in watching her go about her life. Andy couldn’t get enough. He absolutely adored her.
Cruelty Mixed With Love
Even though Andy fell in love with his muse, this wasn’t to say he didn’t want to see her hurt a little. In one of the most famous movies, they did together, Beauty No. 2, Andy had Edie lie on a bed in her underwear with a handsome young actor named Gino Piserchio.
In the background, off-camera, is a man named Chuck Wein, one of Andy’s close friends. He starts asking Edie a string of questions, many deeply personal and hostile about her family, and in particular about her dad. He said things like “If you were only older Gino, then you could be her daddy.”
A Form of Eroticized Cruelty
Several scenes in Warhol’s films are quite bland and boring. But the scene showing Edie and Gino is electric. Edie’s anger as they make out after hearing Chuck’s comments is extremely visible. Her pain is real, which is exactly what Andy was aiming for.
But Andy’s motive to treat Edie that way wasn’t out of pure and malicious cruelty. It was a form of eroticized cruelty, cruelty mixed with tenderness. He wanted to strip the actress emotionally, penetrate the private most intimate places of her soul.
His Undone Marilyn
While Andy was infatuated with the glamorous world of Hollywood, he wasn’t necessarily on the track to get there. He preferred the artsy, underground scene of New York City. As for his muse, Edie, he saw her as the raw and undone version of Marilyn Monroe.
Moreover, Andy’s view of Edie was that she wasn’t an actress in the traditional sense of the word. For example, in his film Poor Little Rich Girl, Edie didn’t really put on an act. Her performance was as natural as can be. “To play the poor little rich girl . . . Edie didn’t need a script,” he was quoted saying. “If she’d needed a script, she wouldn’t have been right for the part.”
Bob Dylan Didn’t Like Andy Warhol
According to several sources, Bob Dylan and his manager Grossman disliked Andy and his studio “The Factory.” Apparently, they were telling the starlet that Warhol and his crew were “a bunch of fags who hated women,” and that they would “destroy her.”
Edie was already starting to feel like a fool in Warhol’s movies, so Dylan’s comments came at just the right time and sparked even more doubts in her young mind. In 1965, after Dylan went electric, he became a huge star, and Edie Sedgwick was sold. Warhol was old news.
Andy Was the Odd One in the Love Triangle
One night, scriptwriter Robert Heide met Andy and Edie at a Greenwich Village bar. When he got here, he saw Edie wiping away her tears. “I asked her what was wrong,” he recalled. She answered: “I try to get close to him [Andy], but I can’t.”
That evening, Robert, Edie, and Andy sat at the bar in silence. Suddenly, Bob Dylan came in and started chatting with Edie. After a while, he said, “Let’s split.” And the two left. Andy was furious. He murmured to Robert “Do you think Edie will let us film her when she commits suicide?’”
Andy Wasn’t Originally From New York
So, where did Andy Warhol come from? And how did he end up intertwined in Edie’s world? It’s creepy to wonder how their lives would have turned out differently if they hadn’t met. Interestingly, while Andy Warhol lived in New York for most of his life (and completely transformed the Big Apple) he wasn’t originally a city boy.
Andy Warhol was actually born in a small neighborhood in Pittsburgh. He was raised by two Slovakian parents as a Byzantine Catholic (he’s also buried in a Byzantine Catholic cemetery in Pennsylvania).
His Parents Were Artists
At eight years old, Andy Warhol contracted chorea. The illness left him bedridden for months and in dire need of his mother’s care. She gave Andy his first art lessons as he lay sick in bed.
Andy’s father Ondrej passed away when Andy was just a young boy. After his passing, Andy was given a hefty sum of money that allowed him to enroll in Carnegie Institute for Technology. In 1949, Warhol graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
He Was a Classically Trained Artist
It’s difficult to believe that Andy was a classically trained artist who attended the Carnegie Institute for Technology. Understandably, this out-of-the-box thinker was met with a bit of opposition by professors who didn’t appreciate his unique style.
As a student, he had to work extra hard over the summers to keep up with the classic academic standards. When he broke out in NYC, he felt like he had found his home. He then traveled the globe and worked in places like India, Japan, and Egypt.
He Moved His Factory Three Times
Andy Warhol’s studio, “The Factory” became one of New York City’s most famous studios. Between 1962 to 1984, he moved his place three times. But no matter where he settled, his Factory was a place for art, intellect, and even sexual intrigue.
Warhol had diverse guests come over, from artists to porn stars to drag queens to drug addicts. He saw the beauty and potential in every human being, and the story behind the set of eyes glancing at him at any given moment.
He Rejected the System
Andy Warhol became the king of the Pop Art movement. One of his works, a piece titled Marilyn Diptych, is representative of this movement. First off, he used a photo that already existed. Second, he didn’t draw the picture or snap the image himself.
The photo actually came from a press release. Warhol’s unique art also portrayed rejection of the conventional system of art. The photo wasn’t his, and he didn’t take any unnecessary steps to try and make it perfect.
He Was an Integral Part of Drag Culture
Back in the 1960s, drag queens weren’t as common or spoken of in public. But being the out of the box thinker he was, Warhol began thinking about them in new ways. He had many drag queens come over to his factory, and their presence affected the art he made.
Warhol didn’t see them as freaks, but, rather, he incorporated their colorful personas into his art works. Warhol himself posed in a drag costume several times in his photographs. This ingenious artist brought them from the outskirts into the forefront of the new art world.
A 58-Year-Old Virgin
Andy Warhol’s art was highly sexualized, so it’s a bit odd that he lived until the age of 58 without having sex. When looking at his films, it’s weird to think that he himself had never experienced the act. For example, in one of his movies, 1964’s Blow Job, the camera zooms in on DeVeren Bookwalter.
The movie shows just the actor’s face, with no sound. Bookwalter perfects the scene, his facial expression matches the movie’s title. Nonetheless, Andy claimed that he was a virgin when he directed that movie.
He Was the Victim of Attempted Murder
Radical feminist Valeria Jean Solanas wrote a notorious piece called SCUM Manifesto. Her work urged women to tear down the government and destroy men. She approached Andy Warhol in the ’60s with a script for Up Your Ass, which he later lost.
To make up for it, Warhol cast her in his movie, I, a Man. Later, in the late ’60s, she became more paranoid about her work. On June 3, 1968, she entered Warhol’s Factory and shot the artist. She turned herself in and was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. It took several weeks for Warhol to recover.
The Andy Warhol Diaries
After his near-death experience in 1968, Andy became withdrawn and grew more concerned about his life. The artist was also dealing with financial problems. He developed obsessive behaviors and began dictating little moments from his life.
In 1987, some of his obsessive work was published in the Warhol Diaries. The transcriptions of the book span from November 1976 to February 1987, just a few days before his untimely death. Editors managed to create a book of nearly 800 pages out of the 20,000 pages of material they had on hand.
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
When Andy Warhol passed away on February 22, 1987, the world of art was hit hard. He donated most of his estate to the arts and left only a few items for his close relatives. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts was built to foster the growth of the arts.
Nowadays, the foundation hands out grants to young artists seeking to have their pieces exhibited. In that way, Andy Warhol’s legacy lives on, and he continues to play a major role in the arts, long after his untimely demise.