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Tangled Up in Edie: The truth about Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol's "Factory Girl" [May. 19th, 2007|11:24 am]
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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Tangled Up in Edie: The truth about Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol's "Factory Girl"

As a fan of both Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol, I never realized there was such a strong connection between them until I saw the movie "Factory Girl." The movie was released in early 2007, and there had been some buzz about Dylan threatening to sue the producers, The Weinstein Company, for his portrayal in the movie.

The Factory Girl is Edie Sedgwick who became Andy Warhol's muse (a.k.a. "Superstar") in the mid-60s starring in several of his films. Being a newcomer to the lives and careers of Warhol and Dylan, I would have never guessed that their artistic worlds were somehow intertwined. I was fascinated to learn that Edie had a relationship with Dylan, although there are conflicting stories as to the nature of that relationship.

Dylan was worried that his portrayal in the movie suggested that he was the cause of Edie Sedgwick's demise which resulted in drug and alcohol abuse that led to an untimely death at the age of 28. However, the movie, which critics have called superficial in its storytelling, implies that Edie's destruction was caused by many factors, mainly her confusion as to who she was and how to cope with setbacks in her life.

The filmmakers also give the Dylan-type character in the movie the name of "Billy Quinn," I assume to avoid a lawsuit, even though everyone knows he is supposed to be Bob Dylan. In the film, Edie has a passionate, yet brief affair with Billy Quinn. The relationship doesn't last but Billy helps Edie gain confidence and stand up to Andy Warhol, who she believes is not treating her with the respect or financial compensation that she deserves.

The movie just covers the tip of the iceberg, and motivated me to learn more details about Edie and Dylan's relationship. Obviously, the movie distorted and rearranged some facts to suit its purpose, but it turns out that the huge fact that was left out was that Bob Dylan's friend and road manager, Bobby Neuwirth, was really the one that had a long, passionate affair with Edie.

Edie actually met Dylan and Neuwirth in December 1964-- a few month before she met Andy Warhol. At the time Dylan was living with future wife Sara Lowndes at the Chelsea Hotel, yet still involved with Joan Baez, as evident in the movie "Don't Look Back," filmed in England from April 30 - May 10, 1965. Edie maintained a friendship with the two Bobs as she got involved with Andy Warhol and his films between March 1965 and Feb. 1966.

Between Dylan, Neuwirth and Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, they had all convinced Edie that she should stop working for Andy Warhol and do a major film co-starring with Bob Dylan. Many believe that Edie had a crush on Dylan, and may have had a brief affair with him. She seemed to hope that their relationship would grow while working on a movie together, which is why she was so devastated when she apparently found out from Warhol during an argument at the Gingerman Restaurant in February 1966 (a scene portrayed in "Factory Girl") that Dylan had secretly gotten married to Sara in November 1965.

Bob Dylan, who Warhol admired, actually visited the Factory in January 1966 and did two Screen Tests (#82 and #83). You can see excerpts at http://www.stunned.org/weblog/2007/02/bob_dylans_screen_test.html
Andy Warhol filmed hundreds of artists and personalities for his "Screen Tests" between early 1964 and November 1966. These events are documented in the book, "Andy Warhol's Screen Tests" by Callie Angell of the Andy Warhol Film Project (Whitney Museum of American Art). As a token of gratitude for doing the Screen Test, Warhol gave Dylan a gift of his silver Elvis painting. You can see a photo of Dylan at the Factory here: http://www.warholstars.org/x/lp1/bd1nf65.jpg

Dylan and Neuwirth strongly encouraged Edie to leave the Factory in late 1965. She finally did in early 1966. Edie's departure left Andy Warhol feeling betrayed not only by Edie, but by Bob Dylan as well. Warhol's scorn turned up in a few films which included a satire of a harmonica-playing Dylan lookalike in "More Milk Yvette" (1965), a spoof called the "Bob Dylan Story" (1966), and the repeated playing of a Dylan song at the wrong speed in "Imitation of Christ" (1967).

Unfortunately for Edie, the prospect of a movie with Dylan never came to be. In one of Edie's most famous Warhol films, "Poor Little Rich Girl" released in June 1965, it now seems ironic that you hear "It Ain't Me Babe" by Dylan playing in the background.

Edie's interest in Dylan was no doubt fueled by the attention she received from him. Bob Dylan's album Blonde on Blonde was released on May 16, 1966. One of the women featured on the inner sleeve was Edie Sedgwick. Some of the songs were rumored to be about Edie, including "Just Like a Woman" and "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat".

While Edie held the attention in 1965 of two of the most influential artists of the '60s-- Dylan and Warhol-- within a year they had both moved on without her. Warhol replaced footage of Edie in the movie "Chelsea Girls" with singer, Nico, who had known Dylan in Europe and had been brought over from London by Albert Grossman. Nico went on to sing in Warhol's group, The Velvet Underground. Meanwhile Dylan began a family life with Sara and retreated to Woodstock, New York.

After Edie left the Factory, she became more dependent on drugs and her relationship with Bobby Neuwirth ended in 1967 because of her drug use. When Edie died in 1971 from an apparent drug overdose, Andy Warhol barely acknowledged that he had known her. He obviously never got over her supposed "betrayal."

While Andy Warhol's films were avante-garde in nature and unappealing to a mainstream audience, the one thing that was evident was Edie's charm and beauty. On film, she seemed like a happy, carefree young woman who loved life-- the prototype modern girl. However, this could not be further from the truth.

Unfortunately, as evident in the film "Ciao Manhattan" released in 1972, where she plays a fictional character based on her life story, Edie cannot deny the sadness and desperation she kept hidden under the facade of Warhol's "Superstar" any longer.

Although her life was cut tragically short, Edie's spirit and charm live on in the work of two artists who, in spite of their diverging style and attitudes, had more in common than most people realize.

[Editor's Note: You can read more about Sedgwick in the books, "Edie: American Girl" by Jean Stein and George Plimpton and "Edie: Factory Girl" by Nat Finklestein and David Dalton.

You may have trouble finding a copy of Edie's movies to watch since only a few of Warhol's films are available on DVD. This is because Andy Warhol withdrew his films from public circulation in the 1970s. In 1984, he gave his films to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, just three years before he died in 1987. You can see photos from the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA at http://www.rockandrolltours.com/rocktravel.htm#warholmuseum]

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