Warholstars Condensed... sort of
In January of 1965, Edie Sedgwick met Andy Warhol at Lester Persky's penthouse on East Fifty-ninth Street in Manhattan.
"I'm a big party-giver. In those days I would invite six, and Andy would account for twenty uninvited.. Andy would arrive with his crowd. He was busy having superstars, of course. He had Baby Jane Holzer, but she was sort of running out of speed. I told him: 'You've got to have a new superstar. You've got to meet this girl Edie Sedgwick. She will be your new superstar.'
I arranged to have Edie at the party. She had a friend in tow, Chuck Wein and they wanted to be involved in film and in theater... And it was at my house, at this marble table, that I brought the two - Andy and Edie - together. (EDIE180)
Lester and Andy shared several interests - they were both gay, they both liked parties, and they both came from an advertising background. Persky had been president of his own PR company at the age of 24 (in 1949), before branching out into producing television commercials and eventually film. Warhol had edited commercials borrowed from Persky into Jane Holzer's first film Soap Opera in the previous year. (Lester Persky would also later appear as Sylvia Miles' ex- movie producer husband in Warhol's film, Heat.)
It is unknown how Andy and Lester first met, but when later asked in the seventies and eighties how he had first met Persky, Warhol would respond that he had met him "in the gutter". (AWD240/674)
Although Andy and Edie had first met in January, it wasn't until March that Sedgwick started coming to the Factory regularly. She was brought there by Chuck Wein - a friend of hers from Cambridge who saw himself as Edie's personal impresario.
Alexandra (Sandy) Kirkland:
"I used to hang around her [Edie's] apartment with her. Agonizing... even to me then. Chaos! Piles of clothes on every piece of furniture. Easels. Canvases - she was painting at the time... Bleak little pictures. Art was her ostensible thing, her reason for being in New York, according to what she had told her parents.
Sometimes I went over there with Chuck Wein, her Cambridge friend. He would be plotting out the next move of their great 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, and she'd act kind of coy about it. He knew that she had this quality, but that she was totally disorganized and wouldn't be able to pull it off by herself... so he took over her life." (EDIE176)
Ronald Tavel had a different perspective of Wein:
"I don't think Andy was taken in by Chuck for one minute. What he liked was his blond hair and blue eyes. If he was to be seen with Edie on his right hand, then on his left hand he wanted Chuck, the little look of aristocracy, of class, which to me was silly. I thought, Andy! You're an artist, why do you care about that shit?" (LD220)
Sedgwick's family ancestry derived from an American political aristocracy. Her great-great-great grandfather had been Speaker of the House of Representatives in the time of Alexander Hamilton and George Washington. His wife, Pamela Dwight, had gone insane "halfway through her life." (EDIE3)
Mental illness was something that plagued Edie's own family. Her father had been advised not to have children by his doctor at the Austen Riggs Center in Massachusetts when he was there recovering from a bout of manic-depressive psychosis. (EDIE49) However, He eventually had eight children: Alice (Saucie) in 1931, Robert Minturn (Bobby) in 1933, Pamela in 1935, Francis Minturn (Minty) in 1938, Jonathan in 1939, Katherine (Kate) in 1941, Edith Minturn (Edie) in 1943, and Susanna (Suky) in 1945.
Edie's brother, Minty was an alcoholic by the age of fifteen and ended up, like Edie, at the Silver Hill psychiatric hospital where he hanged himself in early 1964. (EDIE136). Her older brother, Bobby, had a nervous breakdown in the early fifties while a sophomore at Harvard. He was in and out of mental hospitals until his death on New Years Eve 1964 when he crashed into the side of a bus while riding his Harley Davidson. (EDIE147/152)
Edie, herself, was first institutionalised in the autumn of 1962 - at Silver Hill - suffering from Anorexia. Later she was transferred to Bloomingdale, the Westchester Division of New York Hospital. Near the end of her stay there, she became pregnant while on a hospital pass and had to have an abortion. (EDIE115-7)
Although the Sedgwicks' ancestry derived from American aristocracy, their money actually came from Edie's mother's side of the family. An inheritance from Edie's maternal grandfather (Henry Wheeler De Forest) allowed her parents to buy a 3,000 acre ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley. Although land-rich after purchasing the property, the Sedgwicks were cash poor.
"... There was a feeling at this stage of being pinched for money, of cutting corners. We children were dressed in hand-me-downs from our Eastern cousins, and we got very little for Christmas or birthdays." (EDIE62)
In the early fifties oil was discovered on the ranch. With the additional money generated by the approximately seventeen oil wells that were constructed to take advantage of the find, the Sedgwicks moved to a new 6,000 acre ranch - the Rancho La Laguna de San Francisco - located about six miles from their original ranch.
Edie had a relatively isolated childhood on the ranch. A school was constructed on the property and the children were not allowed to go to public school. As children, Edie and her sister Suky were regularly taken to a woman doctor in the Santa Ynez valley for daily vitamin B shots. (EDIE 70/79). Edie would continue to have Vitamin B shots - laced with speed - after arriving in New York, as did many of Warhol's superstars.
Although Vinyl is sometimes listed as Edie's first film, she actually made a short appearance in Horse which was filmed just prior to Vinyl - in March 1965. She can be seen in the background, entering the Factory with Ondine.
Both Horse and Vinyl also featured Tosh Carillo. Carillo worked in a florist shop and was very much involved with the S & M scene in real life. He had his own "game room" at home for his sexual activities. He was also famous for his "educated toes" - he could pick up pencils and write with his toes, as well as unzip his trousers with them.
Ronald Tavel wrote the screenplays for both Horse and Vinyl. For a previous Warhol film - The Life of Juanita Castro (starring Marie Menken) - Tavel had told the actors' what to say during the actual filming. For Horse, they decided to use cue cards instead.
He [Warhol] told me, 'Write this movie for a horse. We're going to hire a horse for the whole day. So, write a Western...
Since he had used already in Juanita Castro my saying the lines to them [the actors], we didn't want to repeat that technique. The next thing was to use idiot sheets. So, that's why these lines are very simple and rhythmic - because they had to be short enough to be written very large on [cue] cards, and Gerard and I would hold them up.
One of us held up the name of the actor. See, they didn't know at all what the script was. That was another thing. They just came in at the appointed time, and one of us would hold up a card. It would say, 'Kid', 'Sheriff', 'Mex', or 'Tex'. One would hold up that, and the other would hold up the line. And you can see how these lines would work. They did say them one after another. You see the rhythm of them. (PS497)
The middle reel of Horse was added after the film was finished.
"...that middle reel... was shot after the actual film and subsequently stuck in the middle of it. This ploy outraged Danny Fields at the time: he said, Yeah, stick in something real dull, which will make the rest of the film look livlier. HORSE is not audience-friendly and it will never be popular. But it is my most horrifying statement." (RT140707)
The action on the set got slightly out of control, when, fuelled by the scent of the poppers that the actors were snorting, the horse kicked Tosh Carillo - resulting in a free for all with the actors battling each other. Tavel and Gerard Malanga held up cue cards telling them to stop but were ignored by the actors - even when the cue cards were replaced by screams.
"... they didn't believe me! Screaming led from one mad thing to the other. 'Let's get serious!! And I'm not fooling!! It's not part of the film!! Stop!! Everybody stop!! Do you know that it took almost five minutes before they actually shook their heads and came out of it. And I said, 'Quick! Switch. Do a pastoral scene.' (PS)
to MARCH 1965: ANDY WARHOL FILMS HORSE
Poppers also featured heavily in Warhol's next film, Vinyl.
"The whole last scene [in Vinyl] was filmed with people on poppers - amyl nitrates - Boom! It seemed like the entire room was stoned. I mean just out of it. When the film was over, we went off in the hallways and up on the roof... In the middle of all that, Edie was staring, just staring. She couldn't believe it. She was talking to Warhol, who was eating his hamburger, there was no way she wasn't aware of it. Well, after we saw a few reruns of Vinyl, some of us got an inkling of what was going on there with her in the Factory... a power that we hadn't even suspected. (EDIE232)
Edie had been a last minute addition to Vinyl. In the film, she sits silently on the side of the set smoking cigarettes while Gerard Malanga is taped to a chair and tortured by Tosh Carillo.
... somehow, they [Edie and Chuck Wein] showed up on the set of Vinyl... and they showed up to see it being shot... This really pissed me off because I had rehearsed it for a week. He [Warhol] gave me the idea behind it because Warhol gave me the Burgess book, A Clockwork Orange, and said that he had purchased the film rights from Anthony Burgess, and he wanted me to do it... So, I took the book and read it... but I only used the first half of it because I got bored and just stopped in the middle of the novel.
So, then we rehearsed it for a week... But when she [Sedgwick] showed up with her hair dyed silver, no less... he [Warhol] asked her to sit right on the set. She said, 'What should I do?' He said, 'Well, there's no part for you. So just sit there.'
And she ended up stealing the film and becoming a star overnight... It was not her that I had anything against but Chuck Wein, who was quite obviously watching the whole business - saw himself as Warhol's screenwriter and was in, edging me out, which is a story you hear repeated by Malanga." (PS501)
After Vinyl, Warhol shot some footage of Edie Sedgwick for Bitch, with Marie Menken in the title role.
"He [Willard Maas] and his wife, Marie Menken, were old-type bohemian people, and they lived in a penthouse in Brooklyn Heights... And they were filmmakers , too, and probably poets, and they had raised a lot of children who since left. I never saw any children. They had a wonderful penthouse with a garden and all that, and we filmed Bitch there because she [Marie Menken] was to be the bitch, and it really didn't work out.
We finally had to call it off, and I had to step in and start talking to her at one point, which I had not planned to do, and that's why there is confusion. Some of the books say that I wrote that [script], and I didn't... And they [Menken and Maas] were both wonderful people, and they did a film themselves on Warhol... And she was a great actress. We put her in my movie Juanita Castro. She was the star, and she was incredible." (PS491)
Underground journalist John Wilcock recalled that the film [Bitch] "ended when Edie threw a drink at the light and blew it out." (LD234)
Following Bitch, Warhol quickly made a series of films with Sedgwick ,(often with the "directorial assistance" of Edie's friend, Chuck Wein) - beginning with Poor Little Rich Girl.
Poor Little Rich Girl was filmed in Edie's apartment. The first reel of the film is completely out of focus while the second reel features an in-focus Edie smoking pot, trying on clothes and talking casually with an off-screen Chuck Wein. The film was actually shot twice. During the first shoot there was a technical problem with the camera lens that resulted in an out of focus film. They had to re-shoot it and Warhol then chose a reel from each shoot to present as the finished film. (FAW22)
Poor Little Rich Girl was originally conceived as a series of films featuring Sedgwick called The Poor Little Rich Girl Saga which also included Restaurant, Face, and Afternoon. (FAW20)
Restaurant was shot in June 1965 and is not to be confused with Warhol's 1967 Nude Restaurant which starred Viva and Taylor Mead. The earlier, 1965, Restaurant (which is sometimes referred to as L'Avventura - the name of the restaurant at which it was filmed) featured Edie Sedgwick, Ondine, Donald Lyons, Ed Hennessey, Dorothy Dean, Ed Hood, Ann Reynolds, Sandy Kirkland, Gordon Baldwin and David Sulzberger.
Also in the cast was one of Warhol's youngest stars - a thirteen year old Bibbe Hansen. Bibbe was the daughter of Fluxus artist Al Hansen and as an adult would later give birth to the current recording artist, Beck.
In the Spring of 1965, Lester Persky gave a party at the Factory for "The Fifty Most Beautiful People" and although the guests included Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift, it was Edie Sedgwick that got much of the attention.
"Gerard always said that it was at "The Fifty Most Beautiful People" party that the stars went out and the superstars came in, that there were more people staring at Edie than at Judy. But to me, Edie and Judy had something in common - a way of getting everyone totally involved in their problems. When you were around them, you forgot you had problems of your own, you got so involved in theirs. They had dramas going right around the clock, and everybody loved to help them through it all. Their problems made them even more attractive" (POP105-6)
Warhol asked Ron Tavel if he would write a script for Edie which would make her a superstar and the result was Kitchen filmed at the end of May 1965.
"Warhol said to me, 'I want several things this time. First, I want a vehicle for Edie Sedgwick. We're going to make her our Superstar. She will be the Queen of the Factory, and I want it in a kitchen because I want, now, white. Completely white... I want this one more involved than any of the previous ones.'
So, I said, 'So, you want a plot?... and then he [Warhol] said, 'No, I don't want a plot, but I want a situation or situations.' I said, 'Okay.' And, then, I brought him the script... I think he read it right there and said, 'This is the best thing you've done...' And then, he wanted to direct it... I mean, he sat and rehearsed it...
In the meantime, Chuck Wein... decided that he would do some sabotage work on it because it was obvious that Sedgwick and I made a good team. So, he was taking her [Edie] out every night and getting her stoned, so she couldn't memorize her lines and telling her that 'memorizing lines was old fashioned' and 'what you should do is just walk in front of the camera and improvise and say whatever you want.'
So, that sort of happened, but we had her sneeze when she didn't know her line so that there were scripts all over that set: in the cabinet, under the table, inside the refrigerator, every place that I could think of... But it was chaotic! She'd skip things or go back or not find her place, and she was sneezing all over the place... Also some actor was put into it at the very last moment. Someone didn't show up. So that made it very confusing..." (PS502)
The photographer who makes a brief appearance in Kitchen has been mistaken for Warhol by some film historians. It was actually David McCabe, a photographer originally from England, whom Warhol had contacted in 1964 after seeing some of his work in Mademoiselle magazine. Warhol asked McCabe (whose studio was located near the Factory) if he would be interested in taking photographs for a new project which would document a year in the life of Warhol. The project never materialized at the time but the photographs formed the basis for a new book - A Year in the Life of Andy Warhol, published in October 2003.
In July of 1965, Edie confirmed her reign as "Queen of the Factory" when she made Beauty No. 2. She appears in bed with Gino Piserchio - both dressed only in their underwear - while Chuck Wein's voice can be heard off-screen asking her various questions. Piserchio would later go on to write and perform the original moog synthesizer music for the non-Warhol film Ciao Manhattan starring Sedgwick. Gino died in 1991 of AIDS.
Around this time Edie also appeared in Warhol's Prison which again featured Bibbe Hansen, as well as Marie Menken. The film is rarely shown, but Film-Makers' Co-op founder, Jonas Mekas, has described it as follows: "Edie and Bibbe are sitting on a box in a bare room, Bibbe telling her jail experiences. Marie brings coffee. Women guards come in and rob them of their belongings. The camera is static.' (BN54)
Outer and Inner Space
Another Warhol project that Edie was involved with during the summer of 1965 was Outer and Inner Space filmed in August 1965. The term "inner space" could be a reference to Alexander Trocchi's druggy phrase "cosmonaut of inner space" first used in the early sixties. (KE252n68) Trocchi, born in Glasgow, lived in New York during the early sixties and his autobiographical 'novel' Cain's Book, detailing the life of a character named Joe Necchi who, like Trocchi was a heroin addict and, like Trocchi, worked on a stone scow on the Hudson river, was first published in 1960 to considerable acclaim and controversy. The same issue of Life magazine from which Warhol borrowed an image for his Race Riot paintings also featured an article titled "Long Voyage in Inner Space" - a report on Wilden R. Breen, Jr. who was "in the midst of five month's confinement in a windowless, soundproof isolation chamber." Breen was participating in a NASA experiement to discover the psychological effects of prolonged isolation. The article began by describing a repetitive activity. In order to earn a cigarette Breen had to "push a small red button mounted on the wall of his cell 300 times... Furthermore, he could get cigarets only 10 at a time, so it meant he would have to press that stubborn button 3,000 times to get even one smoke."
(Tom Flaherty, "Long Voyage in Inner Space," Life magazine, May 17, 1963, p. 119)
The same year that Warhol shot Outer and Inner Space, a science fiction "b" film named Crack in the World, starring Dana Andrews, was also released. The film featured a geological research station named "Project Inner Space" although there is no evidence that Warhol was aware of the film. Presumably the title of Warhol's film refers to Edie's interior mind vs. her exterior image shown on a television monitor while she is speaking. Callie Angell, author of the Warhol film catalogue raisonné, gives the following description of the film in her essay "Doubling the Screen: Andy Warhol’s Outer and Inner Space" (Millennium Film Journal, No. 38, Spring 2002):
"Outer and Inner Space is a 16mm film of Edie Sedgwick sitting in front of a television monitor on which is playing a prerecorded videotape of herself. On the videotape, Edie is positioned on the left side of the frame, facing right; she is talking to an unseen person off-screen to our right. In the film, the “real” or “live” Edie Sedgwick is seated on the right side of the film frame, with her video image behind her, and she is talking to an unseen person off-screen to our left. The effect of this setup is that it sometimes creates the rather strange illusion that we are watching Edie in conversation with her own video image. The film is two reels long, each reel is 1,200 feet or 33 minutes long, and the videotapes playing within the film are each 30 minutes long. The two film reels are projected side by side, with reel One on the left and reel Two on the right, and with sound on both reels. So what you see are four heads, alternating video/film, video/film, and sometimes all four heads are talking at once."
The video camera that Warhol used to shoot the television footage of Edie was an early version of a portable home video camera loaned to him by the Norelco Company for promotional purposes.
Edie, Andy and the Norelco
Andy Warhol (via Pat Hackett in POPism: The Warhol Sixties):
"We had a videotape machine around the Factory for a few months that summer and fall. It was the first home recording equipment I'd ever seen - and I definitely haven't seen anything like it since either. It wasn't portable, it just sort of sat there. It was on a long stalk and it had a head like a bug and you sat at a control panel and the camera re-jointed itself like a snake and sort of angled around like a light for a drawing board. It was great-looking.
Norelco gave me this machine to play with. Then they gave a party for it. Then they took it away. The idea was for me to show it to my 'rich friends' (it sold for around five thousand dollars) and sort of get them to buy one... I remember videotaping Billy [Name] giving Edie a haircut out on the fire escape. It was the new toy for a week or so.
The party for the machine was held underground, on the abandoned New York Central Railroad tracks on Park Avenue under the Waldorf - Astoria. You went in through a hole in the street. There was a band and Edie came in shorts, but there were people all dressed up in gowns who were screaming and dodging the rats and roaches and everything - it was the real thing, all right. (POP119)
Outer and Inner Space was the first Warhol film to utilize a split screen.
Callie Angell [Author of Andy Warhol Screen Tests: The Films of Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, Volume One]:
Outer and Inner Space is Warhol’s first double-screen film, and in this sense it is an important transitional work, since the double-screen format was very important in his later cinema–for example in The Chelsea Girls (1966), which is probably his best known film. It seems to me that Warhol’s use of video in the making of this film led him directly to the idea of double-screen film projection, that the double-screen format was a logical outgrowth of his access to video.
Outer and Inner Space is a very carefully constructed film... The end of each reel arrives twice, first on video, and then on film–and you get effects such as the electronic breakdown of the video image at the end of the videotape followed by the flare-out of the film image at the end of the film reel...
There is sound on all four channels in the film–in other words, there is the sound of Edie speaking on both videotapes and there is also the sound of what Edie is saying on film in both reels, so sometimes you get all four heads speaking at the same time. But audio levels of the video monitor were also being adjusted while the tape was playing and also the sound levels of the audio recording on the film while it was being shot, so you get this weaving in and out of the audibility of the soundtracks, which I guess was probably meant to parallel the zooming in and out of the film images. This effect was not particularly successful; in fact, I should point out that this soundtrack, in double screen anyway, is almost totally incomprehensible."
The "King" (Andy) and "Queen" (Edie) of the Factory were often seen at parties and social engagements together. The New York Times featured Edie in a fashion shoot with the heading "Edie Pops Up as Newest Superstar" on July 26, 1965. In the August 27, 1965 issue of Time magazine, it said that Andy and Edie went to "more parties than a caterer," describing Edie as an "electric elf whose flashing chocolate-coloured eyes and skittish psyche make her a perfect star for [Warhol's] slow-moving movies."(DB210) Edie was eye-candy that made Warhol's films palatable to people who would not normally be attracted to underground cinema. She also appeared as a "Youthquaker" in the August 1965 issue of Vogue magazine.
However, as Edie got more attention she became more demanding, tearing up the script of one of her next films - Space.
"Edie started to annoy me when she asked what the scripts were about. I'd say to her, 'It's not your business. Besides, I have to sit down and think about it myself. I am not altogether sure, and we're working on intuition... It's coming off the top of my head and I'm letting it flow very quickly and I don't want to think about what it means. I hope it means nothing... The end really came when Edie tore up the script of a movie called Space, saying she wasn't going to memorize anything. She started to read a few of her lines: 'What is all this about? How stupid!' and tore it up, right in front of everybody. That's when I walked out. That may have been the last time I saw her." (EDIE282)
Space was a separate film to Outer and Inner Space, although shot around the same period. In addition to Edie, Space also featured Eric Anderson.
Tavel's comments about writing made sense for a playwright associated with the Theatre of the Ridiculous, but Edie, suffering from an ever enlarging case of hubris, thought that she was being made to look foolish in Warhol's films. According to David Bourdon in Warhol, his biography of the artist, "By September , Edie was displaying ambivalence about her reputation as a Warhol superstar, claiming she wasn't being taken seriously and wondering whether she should break away from him and embark on a career as an aboveground actress. Some of her friends were advising her that her relationship with Andy might harm her chances for a career." (DB211)
Sedgwick expressed her dissatisfaction to Warhol over dinner at the Russian Tea Room. Warhol wanted to discuss a possible retrospective of her work at the Film-Makers' Cinematheque even though she had only been appearing in Warhol's films since March. She accused Warhol of trying to make a fool of her, saying that "Everybody in New York is laughing at me... I'm too embarrassed to even leave my apartment. These movies are making a complete fool of me!" (POP123)
The strained relationship between Warhol and Sedgwick may have been evidenced by the fact that when he went to Fire Island in in September 1965 to film My Hustler, Edie was not among his entourage. However, she did have an affair with the star of My Hustler - a young hustler that Lester Persky had "discovered" at a New York disco. It was...
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