Before she overdosed at age 28, Edith Minturn Sedgwick changed the way Americans conceived celebrity. She wasn't famous for anything, really, other than being rich, friendly with Andy Warhol, sleeping with Lou Reed and Mick Jagger, and maybe inspiring Dylan's Blonde on Blonde. But without the anti-fame mold she created, there'd arguably be no famous Paris Hilton. No famous Nicole Ritchie. No Kim Kardashian, Lauren Conrad or any of the host of Inside Edition starlets that have helped shape America's cultural awareness.
And that just wouldn't be acceptable for the world's biggest Sedgwick fan, Justin Moyer, a celebrity enthusiast who performs his pulsing electro under the name of the vintage socialite and original heiress, Edie Sedgwick. Often donning full drag, Moyer uses the poor little rich girl persona to address how we understand celebrity and as a vehicle for the empty celebration of decadence and fame. According to the press release for 2005's garbled electro-riot Her Love is Real But She is Not, which boasts "substantial songs about substance-less celebrities," Moyer's work often tends toward the latter.
"I always found it strange that every musician I met would spend so much time engrossed by visual media and then write a song about class struggle or Rwandan genocide," says Moyer, who introduces himself as Edie on the phone. "I'm more interested in making my art about Molly Ringwald or Martin Sheen than exploring these so-called weighty topics which, for better and worse, are alien to me."
Instead, we get tracks like "Robert Downey Jr.," wherein Moyer screams "Relapse! Recovery! Relapse! Recovery!" over a boney hi-hat skitter for two minutes. There's the cyborg-eulogy on "Arnold Schwarzenegger I," and Moyer's track about Vietnam comes, of course, through the lens of Apocalypse Now's icon, "Martin Sheen."
Musically and lyrically, it's fun stuff, if short on "substance." But there's certainly an element of subversion here: Most people who share Moyer's celeb-obsessions could give a damn about a cross-dressing dude shouting over beats on an independent label. And if Moyer just cared about the celebrities he's singing about, he'd probably be ghostwriting for Perez Hilton, not opening for Fugazi's Joe Lally. Still, Edie is pretty sure (s)he's meeting us on our own terms.
"Our culture is interested in what it's interested in. There's no controlling it. I saw a CNN story tonight. Anderson Cooper said, 'This is a story we try to avoid, but have you seen Britney Spears lately?' And then, with a straight face, this motherfucker interviews Dr. Drew from Lovelines. If you're going to talk about Britney Spears, celebrate it," he explains. "You don't see Entertainment Tonight offering this absurd disclaimer. They're like: 'Look, we know you motherfuckers wanna know when Britney Spears eats a piece of toast or takes a piss, so here's an absurd, meaningless story about Britney Spears eating toast or pissing.' Why sit around wishing that more people wanted to read Ulysses?"
So is there a song about Britney or another modern starlet that's blossomed since 2005? Or does that hit too close to home?
"I like Amy Winehouse ... but I won't write a song about her. What would the chorus of a theoretical 'Amy Winehouse' song be?" Moyer ponders. "'Yo Amy, that was dope when you said how you wouldn't go to rehab but ironic when you actually went to rehab'? I can't see that."
A pause, then: "Actually, now that I hear that potential lyric, that's actually pretty good."
Edie Sedgwick opens for Joe Lally of Fugazi at Cat's Cradle Monday, Feb. 18, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8-$10. Fin Fang Foom is also on the bill.