When Andy Warhol & Edie Sedgwick, the First Couple of Pop Art, Made an Odd Appearance on the Merv Griffin Show (1965)

Andy Warhol adored tele­vi­sion and, in a way, con­sid­ered it his most for­ma­tive influ­ence. While his paint­ings, silkscreens, and films, and the Vel­vet Under­ground, might be all the lega­cy he might need, Warhol, more than any­thing, longed to be a TV per­son­al­i­ty. He made his first con­cert­ed effort in 1979, launch­ing a New York pub­lic access inter­view show. In one of the show’s 42 episodes, Warhol sits in almost total silence while his friend Richard Berlin inter­views Frank Zap­pa.

But Warhol hat­ed Zap­pa, and hat­ed him even more after the inter­view. When he talked to and about sub­jects he liked, he could be par­tic­u­lar­ly chat­ty, in his dead­pan way: see, for exam­ple, his inter­view with Alfred Hitch­cock, whom he great­ly admired, or ear­ly eight­ies Sat­ur­day Night Live spots for NBC and lat­er eight­ies MTV vari­ety show. In Warhol’s much ear­li­er 1965 appear­ance on the Merv Grif­fin show, above, long before he made TV pre­sen­ter a pro­fes­sion, he appears with the stun­ning­ly charis­mat­ic Edie Sedg­wick, his beloved muse and orig­i­nal super­star, and he choos­es to say almost noth­ing at all.

Sedg­wick does the talk­ing, inform­ing the host that Andy, unused to mak­ing “real­ly pub­lic appear­ances,” would only whis­per his answers in her ear, and she would whis­per them to Grif­fin. It’s an act, of course, but the per­for­mance of a per­sona that hid an even more shy, retir­ing char­ac­ter. In a text­book irony, the artist who ush­ered in the age of self-pro­mot­ing influ­encers and invent­ed the super­star could be about as engag­ing as a house­plant. Sedg­wick, on the con­trary, is char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly enthralling.

Known as “girl of the year” in 1965, the Cal­i­for­nia socialite had defect­ed from her priv­i­leged sur­round­ings to live in Warhol’s world. The two “fell in love pla­ton­i­cal­ly but intense­ly,” Karen Lynch writes at Blast mag­a­zine, “and their mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial rela­tion­ship became the talk of the town.” Grif­fin intro­duces them as “the two lead­ing expo­nents of the new scene. No par­ty in New York is con­sid­ered a suc­cess unless they are there.” This was no hyper­bole, though the audi­ence doesn’t know who they are… yet.

Sedg­wick explains how they met at the Fac­to­ry, where she arrived the pre­vi­ous year with her trust fund to intro­duce her­self and join the scene. She more or less takes over the inter­view, sell­ing Warhol’s super­star myth with elo­quence and wit, and she seems so much more like today’s art stars than Warhol (who even­tu­al­ly gives a few one-word answers), and has arguably had as much or more influ­ence on Gen Y and Z cre­ators. Sedg­wick was “more than aspi­ra­tional stereo­types allow,” writes Lynch, and more than the fact of her untime­ly death at 28.

One online artis­tic state­ment of this fact, Edie’s Farm, a site for “coun­ter­fac­tu­al cur­rent events,” sup­pos­es that Sedg­wick had sur­vived her drug addic­tion and anorex­ia and con­tin­ued mak­ing art (and giv­ing make­up tuto­ri­als) into the 21st cen­tu­ry, imag­in­ing her as her young self, not the woman in her 70s she would be. “Maybe no one’s ever had a year quite as amaz­ing as my 1965,” the fic­tion­al Sedg­wick says. “I loved Andy and his Fac­to­ry. But it was­n’t a sus­tain­able life for me”—a trag­ic irony impos­si­ble to ignore in watch­ing her oth­er­wise impos­si­bly charm­ing per­for­mance above.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Andy Warhol Hosts Frank Zap­pa on His Cable TV Show, and Lat­er Recalls, “I Hat­ed Him More Than Ever” After the Show

Andy Warhol’s 15 Min­utes: Dis­cov­er the Post­mod­ern MTV Vari­ety Show That Made Warhol a Star in the Tele­vi­sion Age (1985–87)

Andy Warhol’s 15 Min­utes: Dis­cov­er the Post­mod­ern MTV Vari­ety Show That Made Warhol a Star in the Tele­vi­sion Age (1985–87)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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