There’s a lot that will be written and said, in various eulogies about the life of Edwige Belmore (better-known simply as “Edwige”). People speak of how she was referred to as “Edwige, Queen of Paris Punk” in The Andy Warhol Diaries, and her role as a fashion muse and nightlife fixture. But none of them, thus far, has touched on the soul of Edwige; and that’s too bad, because to know her was to be touched by that gentle but tragic soul.
I arrived, rather late, to the Edwige party – sometime in the late ‘90s; after she was already a legend in the worlds of fashion and nightlife. She was nearly 40, and I was 24. I had just moved back to New York (again), and was introduced to her, over Labor Day Weekend, at the 40th birthday party of Alan Mace (Sister Dimension), at the spectacular TriBeCa home Alan shared with his wife, Beverly Kerzner-Mace. With all of the goings-on (and there were hijinks and shows a-plenty, that night – an event that Armen Ra still refers to as my “coming-out party”), I spent a lot of time chatting with the striking French woman in the maroon leather jacket, on the terrace, off the kitchen. I had no idea who she was, other than she made me laugh, and could spin a fabulous yarn. Those are usually what attract me to someone; but when added to the voice (think: Marianne Faithful with a French accent) and the height and that amazing face where every plane and angle told a story; well, I was a goner.
We began hanging-out at Beige, that zenith of tongue-in-cheek chic for the Downtown Demimonde that occurred every Tuesday night, at Bowery Bar (the brainchild of DJ Billy Beyond, the production of the weekly party was turned-over to Erich Conrad and Edwige when Billy realized he had no desire to be a promoter, and then moved to LA, to do Beige Hollywood). We’d have dinner, we’d tell each other stories (hers were always far more fascinating), and she would always introduce me to everyone who came by her booth (sometimes to say Hi, oftentimes for a drink ticket, occasionally in French, mostly in English – well, you get the idea…). She referred to me as “mon chou” (a French term of affection that literally translates to ‘my cabbage’), whilst I referred to her as “ma belle soeur” (‘my beautiful sister’).
By the time the Holidays rolled-around, we were together, three or four nights each week. Oftentimes, this meant that I’d come to whichever club she was promoting, that night. “Please, come. It’s so boring. Just come, and sit at the bar, and keep me company.” And nine times out of ten, I would. Whether Thursdays at Life (for the Life’s a Bitch girls’ party she hosted, in the club’s Sullivan Street Lounge, with Voula Duvall and DJ Jackie Christie), or Saturdays at Tunnel (where she hosted Kenny Scharf’s Cosmic Cavern), if I didn’t have plans, I could invariably be found, sitting at the bar, chatting with Edwige, long into the night.
It simultaneously fascinated, repulsed, and saddened me, that this incredible woman who had lived such an amazing life, and was so creative and good with her hands (in that way that some lesbians innately are) was able only to eek-out a modest living, by sitting amongst a gaggle of twinks (invariably geeked outta their skulls) like some statuesque nightlife lifeguard at some technicolor indoor pool. Imagine being the hyper-alert and articulate fellow, in a navy blazer; at a party where everyone is rolling on Ecstasy, in their underwear; and you’ll get an idea of how I felt, observing these goings on. At the time I was managing DJs, so it behooved me to be in that setting, but it was killing her – literally and figuratively. Later, after she’d fulfilled her hosting obligations, we’d go to some after-hours club, then another, and often would end-up at Brownie’s (which is a whole other story, for another time).
Eventually, Edwige extricated herself from the world of nightlife, realizing that she couldn’t control her demons, without so doing; and in due course, moved to Miami. There, though our communication dwindled, she reported that she was happy, working with her hands, rebuilding the Vagabond Hotel.
Last year, her bike was stolen. I wrote to her, and told her I was happy to buy her a new one. She refused, as she would be unable to repay me. But I insisted. She had taken such good care of me, when she was in a position to do so, and now I was able to do the same for her. After all the time she spent at ashrams, if there’s one argument that always seemed to work on her, it was that of karma.
Edwige was, and will always remain the older sister I never had. We went on some crazy, exciting, and bizarre adventures (some, no doubt, of questionable legality); but even during the shadiest of these, I never felt scared or troubled. She always made me feel safe and protected.
[Continued in Part 2, where I recall some of my favorite Edwigian escapades, tales, and trivia…]
Edwige - Aleha HaShalom
Get into it!
[Editor's Note: Also, Part 1 contains photos through the ‘70s; while Part 2 will feature photos from 1980 onward. Wherever possible the photographer and approximate date are given.]