- Category : Actress
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Laws 1
Edith Minturn "Edie" Sedgwick (April 20, 1943 – November 16, 1971) was an American actress, socialite, fashion model and heiress. She is best known for being one of Andy Warhol's superstars. Sedgwick became known as "The Girl of the Year" in 1965 after starring in several of Warhol's short films in the 1960s. She was dubbed an "It Girl", while Vogue magazine also named her a "Youthquaker".
Family background and early life
Edie Sedgwick was born in Santa Barbara, California, to Alice Delano de Forest (1908–1988) and Francis Minturn Sedgwick, (1904–1967, known as either "Duke" or "Fuzzy"), a philanthropist, rancher and sculptor. She was named after her father's aunt, Edith Minturn, famously painted with her husband, Isaac Newton Phelps-Stokes, by John Singer Sargent.
Sedgwick's family was long established in Massachusetts history. Her seventh-great grandfather, English-born Robert Sedgwick, was the first Major General of the Massachusetts Bay Colony settling in Charlestown, Massachusetts in 1635. Edie's family later originated from Stockbridge, Massachusetts where her great-great-great grandfather Judge Theodore Sedgwick had settled after the American Revolution. Theodore married Pamela Dwight of the New England Dwight family who was the daughter of Abigail (Williams) Dwight, which means that Ephraim Williams, the founder of Williams College, was her fifth-great grandfather. Theodore Sedgwick was the first to plead and win a case for the freedom of a black woman, Elizabeth Freeman, under the Massachusetts Bill of Rights that declared all men to be born free and equal. Sedgwick's mother was the daughter of Henry Wheeler de Forest (President and Chairman of the Board of the Southern Pacific Railroad and a direct descendant of Jessé de Forest whose Dutch West India Company helped to settle New Amsterdam). Jessé de Forest was also Edie's seventh-great grandfather. Her paternal grandfather was the historian and acclaimed author Henry Dwight Sedgwick III; her great grandmother, Susanna Shaw, was the sister of Robert Gould Shaw, the American Civil War Colonel; and her great-great grandfather, Robert Bowne Minturn, was a part owner of the Flying Cloud clipper ship and is credited with creating and promoting Central Park in New York City. And her great-great-great grandfather, William Ellery, was a signatory of the United States Declaration of Independence.
She was the first cousin, once removed, of actress Kyra Sedgwick. Kyra is the daughter of Henry Dwight Sedgwick V (Edie's first cousin), the son of Robert Minturn Sedgwick, who was the older brother of Francis Minturn Sedgwick.
Despite her family's wealth and high social status, Edie's early life was troubled. All the Sedgwick children had deeply conflicted relationships with their father Fuzzy—they adored him, but by most accounts he was narcissistic, emotionally remote, controlling and frequently abusive. Her eldest sister Alice ("Saucie") eventually broke with the family and her two older brothers died prematurely. Francis (known as "Minty"), who had a particularly unhappy relationship with Fuzzy, suffered several breakdowns, eventually committing suicide in 1964 while in a psychiatric hospital. Her oldest brother Robert ("Bobby"), who also suffered from mental health problems, died in a motorcycle accident in 1965. Edie had a very difficult relationship with her father, who openly carried on affairs with other women. On one occasion she walked in on him while he was having sex with one of his paramours. She flew into a rage, but Fuzzy claimed that Edie imagined the whole event. As a result of her emotional problems, Edie developed anorexia by her early teens and settled into a lifelong pattern of binging and purging.
The Sedgwick children were raised on their family's California ranches. Initially schooled at home and cared for by nannies, their lives were rigidly controlled by their parents; they were largely isolated from the outside world and it was instilled into them that they were superior to most of their peers. At age 13, (the year her grandfather Babbo died) Edie began boarding at the Branson School near San Francisco, but, according to Saucie, she was soon taken out of the school because of her anorexia. In 1958, she was enrolled at St. Timothy's School in Maryland. She was eventually taken out of the school due to her anorexia.
In the fall of 1962, at Fuzzy's insistence, Sedgwick was committed to the Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut. According to fellow patient Virginia Davis, the regime was very lax there, and Edie and her friends often left the hospital after lunch and went into town on shopping sprees, charging up thousands of dollars worth of goods on credit at local stores. Edie easily manipulated the situation at Silver Hill, but her weight kept dropping to just ninety pounds. Consequently, her family had her transferred to a "closed" facility at Bloomingdale, the Westchester County, New York division of the New York Hospital. There, thanks to the strict treatment program, Edie's condition improved markedly. Around the time she left the hospital she had a brief relationship with a Harvard student, became pregnant and procured an abortion with her mother's help.
In the fall of 1963, Sedgwick moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts and began studying sculpture with her cousin and famous artist, Lily Saarinen, who had been married to the iconic Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen. Lily said of her cousin Edie, "She was very insecure about men, though all the men loved her." During this period she partied with members of an elite bohemian fringe of the Harvard social scene, which included many gay men.
Sedgwick was deeply affected by the loss of her brothers, who died within 18 months of each other. Francis (nicknamed "Minty") also had a troubled life; he became an alcoholic in his early teens, triggering a downward spiral of drug and alcohol abuse, and in late 1963 he suffered a serious breakdown and was admitted to Bellevue Hospital before being transferred to Silver Hill. According to her friend Ed Hennessy, Sedgwick told him that Minty had finally admitted to his father that he was homosexual, and that this had enraged Fuzzy, who said that he would never speak to him again. Shortly after this, in May 1964, on the day before his twenty-sixth birthday, Minty hanged himself with a tie from the door of his bathroom at Silver Hill.
By the time of Minty's death, Sedgwick had moved to New York City. She lived at first with her senile grandmother, who had an apartment on 75th Street, but in late fall 1964 she took an apartment in the East Sixties between Fifth and Madison, which her mother decorated lavishly. Edie embarked on a constant round of partying and spent her trust fund at an astonishing rate; according to friend Tom Goodwin she went through eighty thousand dollars in just six months and bought huge amounts of clothing, jewelry and cosmetics. After her 'chauffeur' crashed the gray Mercedes she had been given by her father, she began using limousine services constantly, moving from company to company each time she had exhausted her credit. She also began experimenting with drugs and was reportedly introduced to LSD by friends from Cambridge who knew Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (two prominent Harvard professors who opined an alleged spiritualistic value of LSD).
Sedgwick's eldest brother Bobby was also experiencing serious mental health problems, and in late 1963, a few months before Minty's breakdown, Bobby too suffered a breakdown and his sister Saucie had to have him admitted to Bellevue. He became increasingly self-destructive, crashing a sports car and habitually riding his powerful Harley Davidson motorcycle without a helmet. Bobby was asked not to attend the Sedgwick Christmas gathering in California (according to Saucie, his father told Bobby he was a "bad influence" on the other children) and on December 31, 1964 Bobby suffered critical head injuries when his bike slammed into the side of a bus on Eighth Avenue in New York City; he never regained consciousness and died in hospital twelve days later, aged 31. Edie told her friend Gillian Walker that she knew that Bobby was going to die and that he had killed himself. In Walker's view, Sedgwick dealt with these tragedies by suppressing her feelings and throwing herself back into the New York party world.
Shortly after Bobby's death, Sedgwick was herself injured in a car accident in California, in which she suffered a broken knee. She was afraid that her father might use this as a reason to have her sent back into psychiatric care, so with her mother's help she surreptitiously left California and returned to New York.
The Factory days
In March 1965, Sedgwick met artist and avant-garde filmmaker Andy Warhol at Lester Persky's apartment. She began going to The Factory regularly in March 1965 with her friend, Chuck Wein. During one of those visits, Warhol was filming Vinyl, his interpretation of the novel A Clockwork Orange. Despite Vinyl's all-male cast, Warhol put Sedgwick in the movie. She also made a small cameo appearance in another Warhol film, Horse, when she entered towards the end of the film. Although Sedgwick's appearances in both films were brief, they generated so much interest that Warhol decided to create a vehicle in which she could star.
The first of those films, Poor Little Rich Girl, was originally conceived as part of a series featuring Sedgwick, called The Poor Little Rich Girl Saga. The series was to include Poor Little Rich Girl, Restaurant, Face and Afternoon. Filming of Poor Little Rich Girl started in March 1965 in Sedgwick's apartment. The first reel shows Sedgwick waking up, ordering coffee and orange juice, and putting on her makeup in silence with only an Everly Brothers record playing. Due to a problem with the camera lens, the footage on the first reel is completely out of focus. The second reel consists of Sedgwick smoking cigarettes, talking on the telephone, trying on clothes, and describing how she had spent her entire inheritance in six months.
On April 30, 1965, Warhol took Sedgwick, Chuck Wein and Gerard Malanga to the opening of his exhibition at the Sonnabend Gallery in Paris. On returning to New York City, Warhol asked his scriptwriter, Ronald Tavel, to write a script for Sedgwick, “something in a kitchen – something white, and clean, and plastic", Warhol is to have said, according to Ric Burns' Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film. The result was Kitchen, starring Sedgwick, Rene Ricard, Roger Trudeau, Donald Lyons and Elecktrah. After Kitchen, Chuck Wein replaced Ron Tavel as writer and assistant director for the filming of Beauty No. 2, in which Sedgwick appeared with Gino Piserchio. Beauty No. 2 premiered at the Film-Makers' Cinematheque at the Astor Place Playhouse on July 17.
Warhol's films were not commercially successful and rarely seen outside The Factory circle, but as Sedgwick's notoriety grew, mainstream media outlets began reporting on her appearances in Warhol's underground films and her unusual fashion sense. During this period, she developed her "trademark" look – black leotards, mini dresses, and large chandelier earrings. Sedgwick also cut her hair short and colored her naturally brown hair with silver spray, creating a similar look to the wigs Warhol wore. Warhol christened her his "Superstar" and both were photographed together at various social outings.
Throughout 1965, Sedgwick and Warhol continued making films together – Outer and Inner Space, Prison, Lupe and Chelsea Girls. However, by late 1965, Sedgwick and Warhol's relationship had deteriorated and Sedgwick requested that Warhol no longer show any of her films. She asked that the footage she filmed for Chelsea Girls be removed and it was replaced with footage of Nico, with colored lights projected on her face and The Velvet Underground music playing in the background. The edited footage of Sedgwick in Chelsea Girls would eventually become the film Afternoon.
Lupe is often thought to be Sedgwick's last Warhol film, but Sedgwick filmed The Andy Warhol Story with Rene Ricard in 1966, almost a year after she filmed Lupe. The Andy Warhol Story was an unreleased film that was only screened once at The Factory. The film featured Sedgwick, along with Rene Ricard, satirically pretending to be Andy Warhol. It is thought to be either lost or destroyed.
Bob Dylan and Bob Neuwirth
Following her estrangement from Warhol's inner circle, Sedgwick began living at the Chelsea Hotel, where she became close to Bob Dylan. Dylan's friends eventually convinced Sedgwick to sign up with Albert Grossman, Dylan's manager. Sedgwick and Dylan's relationship ended when Sedgwick learned Dylan had married Sara Lownds in a secret ceremony – something she apparently learned from Warhol during an argument at the Gingerman Restaurant in February 1966.
According to Paul Morrissey, Sedgwick had 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 Sara 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."
In December 2006, several weeks before the one-week release of the controversial Factory Girl, the Weinstein Company and the film's producers interviewed Sedgwick's older brother, Jonathan, who asserted that she "had an abortion of the child she was (supposedly) carrying by Dylan". Jonathan Sedgwick, a retired airplane designer, was flown in from Idaho to New York City by the distributor to meet Sienna Miller, who was playing his late sister, as well as to give an eight-hour video interview with details about the purported liaison between Edie and Dylan, which the distributor promptly released to the news media. Jonathan claims an abortion took place soon after "Edie was badly hurt in a motorcycle crash and sent to an emergency unit. As a result of the accident, doctors consigned her to a mental hospital where she was treated for drug addiction." No hospital records or Sedgwick family records exist to support this story. Nonetheless, Edie's brother also claimed "Staff found she was pregnant but, fearing the baby had been damaged by her drug use and anorexia, forced her to have the abortion." However, according to Edie Sedgwick's personal medical records and oral life-history tape recorded less than a year before her death for her final film, Ciao! Manhattan, there is credible evidence that the only abortion she underwent in her lifetime was at age 20 in 1963.
Throughout most of 1966, Sedgwick was involved in an intensely private yet tumultuous relationship with Dylan's closest friend, Bob Neuwirth. During this period, she became increasingly dependent on barbiturates. Although she abused many drugs, there is no evidence that Sedgwick ever became a heroin addict. In early 1967, unable to cope with Sedgwick's drug abuse and erratic behavior, Neuwirth broke off their relationship.
Sedgwick 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."
In April 1967, Sedgwick began shooting Ciao! Manhattan, an underground movie. After initial footage was shot in New York, co-directors John Palmer and David Weisman continued working on the film over the course of the next five years. Sedgwick's rapidly deteriorating health saw her return to her family in California, spending time in several different psychiatric institutions. In August 1969, she was hospitalized in the psychiatric ward of Cottage Hospital after being arrested for drug offenses by the local police. While in the hospital, Sedgwick met another patient, Michael Brett Post, whom she would later marry. Sedgwick was in the hospital again in the summer of 1970, but was let out under the supervision of a psychiatrist, two nurses, and the live-in care of filmmaker John Palmer and his wife Janet. Staunchly determined to finish Ciao! Manhattan and have her story told, Sedgwick recorded audio-tapes reflecting upon her life story, which enabled Weisman and Palmer to incorporate her accounts into the film's dramatic arc.
Last years and death
Sedgwick married Michael Post on July 24, 1971, and under his influence she reportedly stopped abusing alcohol and other drugs for a short time. Her sobriety lasted until October, when pain medication was given to her to treat a physical illness. She remained under the care of her physician Dr. Wells, who prescribed her barbiturates, but she would demand more pills or claim that she had lost them in order to get more, and often combined the medications with alcohol. Post was later put in charge of administering her medication; by his account, she took at least two 300 mg Quaalude tablets and two capsules of three-grain Tuinal every night, in addition to alcohol and whatever other drugs she may have been secretly consuming.
On the night of November 15, 1971, Sedgwick went to a fashion show at the Santa Barbara Museum, a segment of which was filmed for the television show An American Family. After the fashion show, she attended a party where (according to the accounts of her husband and brother-in-law) a drunken guest insulted her by calling her a heroin addict and repeatedly asserting that her marriage would fail. Sedgwick phoned Post, who arrived at the party and, seeing her distress at the accusations, took her back to their apartment around one in the morning. On the way home, Sedgwick expressed thoughts of uncertainty about their marriage. Before they both fell asleep, Post gave Sedgwick the medication that had been prescribed for her. According to Post, Sedgwick started to fall asleep very quickly, and her breathing was, "bad – it sounded like there was a big hole in her lungs", but he attributed that to her heavy smoking habit and went to sleep.
When Post awoke the following morning at 7.30 am, Sedgwick was dead. The coroner ruled Sedgwick's death as "undetermined/accident/suicide". Her death certificate was signed at 9:20 am and states the immediate cause was "probable acute barbiturate intoxication" due to ethanol intoxication. Sedgwick's alcohol level was registered at 0.17% and her barbiturate level was 0.48 mg%. She was 28.
Sedgwick was not buried in the Sedgwick Pie but in the small Oak Hill Cemetery in Ballard, California. Her epitaph reads "Edith Sedgwick Post – Wife Of Michael Brett Post 1943–1971". Her mother Alice was buried next to her in 1988.
In popular culture
Bob Dylan's "Just Like a Woman" and "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" from his 1966 album Blonde on Blonde are purportedly about Sedgwick. His 1965 No. 2 single "Like a Rolling Stone" was also reportedly inspired by her.
The Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale" from their 1967 album The Velvet Underground & Nico is about Edie Sedgwick.
In the 1980s, Warren Beatty bought the rights to Edie's life story and was planning to make a movie with Molly Ringwald starring as Sedgwick. It was also reported that a film titled The War at Home was to be loosely based on her life during The Factory years, with Linda Fiorentino slated to portray her. It was to be based on John Byrum's fictionalized account of a working-class man who becomes enamored of her. Neither was ever produced.
The Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians song "Little Miss S" on the 1988 album Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars is about Edie Sedgwick's years in New York City.
In 1989 rock band The Cult released a single Edie (Ciao Baby) to promote their breakthrough album Sonic Temple. It peaked on the US charts at #17.
In the movie adaption of the band, The Doors, actress Jennifer Rubin makes a cameo appearance as Edie.
In the 2002 film Igby Goes Down, Amanda Peet's character, Rachel is described as an "Edie Sedgwick wanna-be" and dresses in Edie-inspired attire throughout the film.
Director Mike Nichols and actress Natalie Portman considered doing a film about Edie and Andy Warhol but instead decided to film an adaption of Patrick Marber's play Closer, released in 2004.
Sienna Miller played Sedgwick in George Hickenlooper's film Factory Girl, a fictionalized film about Sedgwick's life and times, released in December 2006. The film portrays Warhol, played by Guy Pearce, as a cynic who leads Edie to psychiatric problems and later death. Hayden Christensen plays "Billy Quinn", an apparent conglomeration of various characters but a look-alike of Bob Dylan. (As of late 2006, Dylan was apparently threatening to pursue a defamation lawsuit, claiming the film implicates him as having driven Sedgwick to her ultimate demise and eventual death.) Michael Post, Sedgwick's widower, appears as a taxi driver in one of the last scenes of the film.