edie factory girl by nat finkelstein
Bob Dylan's song Like a Rolling Stone stays in my mind today. Once upon a time you dressed so fine, you threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you. People call, say Beware doll you're bound to fall, you thought they were all kidding you. You used to laugh about everybody that was hanging out. Now you don't talk so loud, now you don't feel so proud about having to be scrounging for your next meal. The arrogance of youth and wealth brought down by junk. The song is an appeal to Dylan's then girlfriend-interest, Edie Sedgwick, a rich California babe who arrived in NY with a splash, a spread of photographs in Vogue as the hottest new item in NY society. From there her descent was a straight line downward. She hung with Andy Warhol's Factory bunch of hangers-on junkies. They kept her high. She was also Bob Dylan's sometimes girlfriend who would go with him for awhile, then she'd drift back to the Factory and the drug euphoria there. He struggled with her trying to get her away from that crowd and the junk, but she was on the downbound train and reversing her direction was not a consideration. She'd been her daddy's sex partner since she was a child. She didn't have a chance in this world. Even her daddy's wealth couldn't save her.
Edie Sedgwick's story is told in a page-turning biography, EDIE: AMERICAN GIRL, by Jean Stein. Edie's story is almost a parable. But there are so many junkies over the years who have taken the downbound train straight down, and one generation doesn't learn from the generation before. Nothing is learned from generation to generation, because the people who start using don't know anything about its history of destroying everyone who takes to it. They've heard legends and know the dangers, but believe they're immune. It rendered the Clash's drummer incapable after a certain number of years and the band died on account of the drummer going under. Many a band went under as a result of discovering junk, the ultimate temptress. The punk scene in both London and New York went under soon after junk was introduced into the scene. Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols had a John & Yoko type love affair with fellow dingbat junkie Nancy Spungeon of the film SID & NANCY. They went through the bottom together and he ended up stabbing her to death with a Bowie knife on a NY hotel bed. He went to prison a short time, got out on bail and OD'd right away. With no direction home. Like a complete unknown. Like a rolling stone.
According to Edie's biography, Dylan had serious antipathy for the Warhol crowd for the fools that the lot of them were and for their hold on Edie. Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse, when you got nothing, you got nothing to lose. The biographer tells of a visit to the Factory by Dylan, evidently cajoled into it by Edie's influence, to sit before a Warhol movie camera for a given amount of time. Dylan was boiling inside. He saw a stack of Marilyn silkscreens leaning vertically against a wall. Dylan pulled a pistol out of his pocket and shot a hole through all of them, a half dozen or so, before he left. Warhol raised the price on them and called them Marilyn with bullet hole by Bob Dylan, probably dated on the back. For about a year Warhol's glamorous Super Stars, junkies with several drag queens among them, played pretend fashion publicly, poseurs of the absurd anti-strutting about, being seen. They were fun. The films were stupid and fun. Chelsea Girls. Lonesome Cowboys. So terrible they were NEW. They were Art. The Super Stars created a sensation in the art world of New York, showing up at openings and the right bars, being seen. They, themselves, were Art, junkies playing pretend they were on the way up when they were on the way down. Like the Bob Marley song, you think you're in heaven when you're really in hell. Then Warhol was shot; his castle of pixels fell to the floor with him. When he came out of the hospital, all that illusion of the Factory junkie scene went away as fast as a breath on the wind.
It was the time of Pop Art in New York, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Tom Wesselman, Robert Indiana, Marisol, Warhol and others, at the same time that Minimalism, too, was branching off from Abstract Expressionism of the Fifties. The public responded to Pop shows at NY museums like to Star Wars movies. The spirit was festive among the people milling about in the museums. It was new, it was art, and it was something people who wanted to feel they understood art could get their minds around without having to be an Art History major to get it. Viewers feel like they get it when they see a Claes Oldenburg large soft sculpture of a pie slice or a hamburger. Oldenburg is a wildly imaginative artist. You had the Warhol entourage weaving in and out of these art scenes at gallery openings, affecting spectacularly bizarre, getting their kicks from a stoned confidence they're shocking the people seeing them, when the only thing anyone who saw them thought was: you see everything in New York. Edie Sedgwick, little miss Like a Rolling Stone, wove in and out of the New York society scene with famous Andy Warhol at her side, Andy adoring his vacant new Super Star who'd been featured in Vogue and came from big California money, was glamorous and played pretend well. Aint it hard when you discover that he really wasn't where it's at, after he's taken from you everything he could steal. Just like a rolling stone.