David J. has just told me he is head-over-heels enamored — with a ghost. But this might not be terribly shocking coming from the guy who wrote “Bela Lugosi's Dead.” Like Warhol before him, the bassist/producer/sometime DJ/founding member of Bauhaus and Love and Rockets has become beguiled by '60s beauty Edie Sedgwick, iconic more for her looks, fame whoring and drug-fueled downfall than for anything else. Her image and dark demise have always made her a fascinating figure, but couldn't an artist as sophisticated as J. find a less superficial (and more original) muse for his first foray into theater, Silver for Gold (The Odyssey of Edie Sedgwick)?
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Is it any surprise this man is wearing black?
Absolutely not, says the musician. “To some, she might appear to be this fairly vacuous socialite fashion plate,” he admits. But after listening to hours and hours of audiotapes of Andy's original “superstar,” he had a revelation. “She was really quite brilliant, and her charm was much more complex than people think.”
J., who just wrapped up the impressive new Bauhaus record (out March 4) and will soon be preparing for a Coachella stint with L&R, says he was always an Edie fan, but this project didn't really start to take shape until he happened upon a script about her by David Weisman (maker of Ciao Manhattan, Sedgwick's most tragic turn on film) one night at artist Shepard Fairey's house. Reading it, he says, he was compelled to jot down some lyrics. After meeting with Weisman (who told him the script was dead in the water) and, later, other Edie friends and contemporaries like John Cale, Bibbe Hansen (Beck's mom) and Sedgwick's lover Bob Neuwirth, he was encouraged to expand his composition into a full-fledged musical-theater production.
Throughout the creative journey, J. says, he felt Edie's presence was with him. “I've had a lot of psychic experiences over the years, and this fit into that area. I felt like she was calling me to write. Sometimes I wouldn't want to, but she was a tough mistress. And as soon as I would get into it, I felt a brightness around me.”
Four years since J. wrote that first song, “Silver for Gold,” his labor of (supernatural) love makes its debut at the Met Theatre in Hollywood. But don't expect a straightforward Factory Girl-esque bio piece, or even a rock opera like Hedwig (which played at the theater previously).
While the Sienna Miller flick — which J. found “abysmal” — treated Edie like a victim or, even worse, a cliche, J.'s portrait elevates her to mythic proportions. He sees her as the Greek goddess Persephone, who was dually the ultimate earth mother and queen of the underworld. Andy is, you guessed it, good ol' Hades.
This unconventional presentation has only two actors, and some of the most provocative passages will be done in song (all performed by a live band led by J. on the side of the stage). San Francisco-based dancer/performance artist Monique Jenkinson will tackle the title character, while Steven Price will play “Norich the wounded healer,” who helps narrate.
During my interview with the eloquent, surprisingly forthcoming David J. at the Met, I couldn't help but veer off a bit and ask about the new, self-released Bauhaus disc, Go Away White, a collection that is sure to have goth, garage and glam-rock fans alike bowing down.
He calls the experience “hell and rose petals,” an analogy you can take both literally (on the band's last tour, the stage was always covered with roses) and metaphorically (he adds that “the thorns were always intact”).
“There was one incident where we had a big fight in the studio. We weren't going to carry on, and we were just going to dump the album,” he reveals. “We were waiting for Peter [Murphy] to turn up. Our beef was with him. So he comes in, and he does this shocking and brilliant thing. Pure Zen. He comes in, and he just spits rose petals in our faces. It just cut through everything. We couldn't argue with that. So we just went in and continued recording.”
But the friendship didn't stay flowery for long, and after honoring their last tour dates, J. says, they were ready for space, lots of it, “like continents.” He states categorically that the release is their last. The End. Curtain.
He won't say the same for Rockets, though. He'll join brother Kevin Haskins and Daniel Ash to play “just the old stuff” at Coachella, but Bauhaus' reunion there in '05 led to new material, so who knows what the future may bring? Right now, it seems the subsistence of his dramatic adoration is the main focus. He's looking at the L.A. dates as showcases for new investors, and he'd like to see it go to other cities, and maybe even to celluloid.
Clearly, the Edie love affair isn't about to end anytime soon, and J. considers her story worthy of far more than 15 minutes. “She was subtly manipulative … but I think she was a good person,” he says. “Very sensitive, caring and compassionate. Strong enough to go against the grain and speak her mind but, sadly, not strong enough to save herself.”
Silver for Gold (The Odyssey Of Edie Sedgwick) runs March 6-16, with performances Thurs.-Sun. only, at the Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hlywd. $20. (323) 957-1152.