Oh, Edie Sedgwick. Edie Sedgwick has been dead for 40 years, and in spite of that, I feel as protective of her as if she were a kid sister. There are a lot of beautiful doe-eyed women out there who end up lost to drugs (Marilyn Monroe, Billie Holiday, Gia) but Edie somehow seems like the saddest of them all. Maybe because, despite her Vogue photoshoots, and her millions, Edie always did seem like a spunky kid who might have grown up down the street from you, and not, like Marilyn or Gia or Dorothy, a super-talented glamour goddess.
It’s funny, in her New York magazine article, Cat Marnell – who is often grouped with Edie insofar as they were blonde drug addicts who seem destined to die young despite their beauty and talent – talks about Edie. Cat mentioned that Edie was “practically retarded”. I tried to think of any incident I knew about Edie that indicated that she was intelligent, and the best thing I could think of was that, during college (she went to Radcliffe, the Harvard women’s college), it was a thing to be seen reading a “big book” so Edie constantly carried around a copy of A Tale of Two Cities.
She lost the book constantly.
I guess that wasn’t much proof, huh? Well, she had a hard time growing up. Though she came from a prominent family, Edie was kept mostly apart. Her family built their own school on the property, so Edie never had much chance to mingle with other children. Her brother, Minty, with whom Edie was very close committed suicide days before his 25th birthday. Before his death, Minty said that Edie was “the only Sedgwick he could ever hope for.” His words proved all too correct. Edie’s other brother, Bobby, suffered a nervous breakdown and was committed to the Manhattan State Hospital. After being released he drove his motorcycle into an oncoming bus.
So, the family members Edie was closest to were dead before she hit 20. In that way, Edie’s childhood is all very Virgin Suicides, except more gruesome and horrible, less fun Sofia Coppola stuff.
Edie herself was institutionalized during her teen years herself for anorexia – at her worst she weighed only 90 pounds. During a leave from the hospital she got pregnant, and had to get an abortion, before returning to Cambridge MA for school.
She made friends at Radcliffe, though it was mostly with an older crowd. Jack Reilly, the bartender at the Casablanca bar in Cambridge remembered Edie constantly begging to be let into the bar, saying that all her friends were in there. He remarked “She wanted to be let in there with her crowd, but she was under 21… she pleaded as if it was everything in life to her. It was very disturbing that anybody would put that much importance on a bar.”
This does not sound like the behavior of the world’s coolest girl. That sounds like the behavior of a puppy dog who really, really wants the other puppy dogs to like them. I’m sorry I started imagining Edie as a tiny defenseless animal, it’s just her eyes were so big. Look!: