My friend Neil recently told me that he had written a roman à clef about our late-teenage years. I was excited (because Neil is awesome) and not at all worried (because Neil and I love each other and it’s pretty heavily fictionalised). However, just to be hilarious (because Neil and I are cool like that), I tweeted ‘Think I’d better have a gin and half a Valium before I read this semi-fictionalised account of my smalltown Edie Sedgwick years’.
Then I sat down and read it, and it was magnificent but also really did remind me of how much I loved Edie Sedgwick and kind of wanted to be her at that age.
They say that Edie was the first person to be ‘famous for being famous’ – that her trendy looks and aristocratic background made her a precursor to people like Paris Hilton. No wonder Warhol loved her. But she was so much cooler than that.
She was not only beautiful but stylish and cool and charming. Her look was utterly original at the time, hard to believe now that it’s been so often imitated bleached-platinum Eton crop, huge eyeliner and chandelier earrings, a leotard worn with her grandmother’s fur coat, a stripy T-shirt over nothing but black tights and knickers, a flash of spaceman silver. It may not be what she became famous for in the end, but she was a talented artist – specialising in magnificent and powerful sculptures and paintings of horses.
In films like Kitchen and Poor Little Rich Girl, you can’t take your eyes off her. And how many groupies and wannabes get actual, seminal Dylan songs written about them?
The book Girl on Fire – a big and sleek-looking coffee table tome comprising photographs and an oral history – is the best place to start with an Edie obsession. I can look at it for literally days.
She was 28 when she died. She was still beautiful but burned out – glassy and sad with her newly-long brown hair and increasing fragility.
I’m glad I don’t want to be her any more. I’m too old, anyway. I still love her, though. Occasionally at a party – stripes and eyeliner aside, the occasional drawn-on mole – I’ll channel her a bit, with her loopy Egyptian sand dances and her brilliant and remarkable ‘naked as a lima bean!’ lack of inhibition. Thanks, Edie.
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