This is especially true of one as memorable as Edwige.
Why are these four friends connected to this name on Facebook, and writing loving eulogy posts for her? What is it that makes that moniker strike at my heart so? Like it was a long-forgotten lover’s name that ended badly and so you banished every thought. Suddenly my mind raced, oh what is this strange feeling that just came over me. Then slowly and sharply it dawns on me… that was the name for your child, the one you’d never have, but you’d picked it out in 1987, reading Details magazine in its first years of its publication, those halcyon early days.
When it was a new romantic, post-punk dream of what the future will be like after we exile all the yuppies and the go-go Wall Street types and create a post-apocalyptic anarchists utopia where we are all living the dream, like a indie film morality play where we an army of like-minded souls manage to infiltrate and crush the evil patriarchal capitalist machine through our will-to-power movement. My child Edwige would grow up in that world.
Then as I scrolled down the timeline more, a conglomeration of the 80s Edwige punk priestess phenom, all cropped short blonde hair & leather jacket, iconoclastically feminine and masculine. Not androgyne per se, but that is probably the best word we have for such an experience. Neither fitting or confirming the other, not actually subverting them fully either. No, the experience was uni-sexual, omni-sexual, and mordantly non-conformist. By contrast to today, they almost feel normal.
Then as the pictures of the blonde punk faded, there was that pang again. This time the brunette slightly more mature, those eyes, that face, something suddenly feels off. The sound of her voice, the way she would walk, all the memories came flooding back.
In South Beach (SoBe) she it was so carefree and approachable, as such tropical locations permit, to make her acquaintance. The ease which near equatorial climate has to soften people, making them pliable and approachable is one of its charms. Or even at Bar d’O with pal Joey Arias in NYC years later, I’d run into her again — still as effervescent & yet sanguine years later. There was also Beige once where she was so beset with admirers that it wasn’t possible to even get a greeting or word in edgewise. A nod would do for the evening.
Now in a nanosecond flash-forward to that being the last time you saw her.
Such teleportation through time can leave one feeling lightheaded, then I start reading the next touching tribute, this time from a friend I’ve recently made who clearly knew her more intimately than I ever did or could. My heart aches for her, and at the same time she confirms for me what was so apparent about this marvelous human even in the few brief encounters I had.
As a denizen for many years of the club & nightlife scene you meet so many people, exponentially more than your average human, the propensity for the all to blur together is commonplace. It is all small-talk, cocktails, cigarette smoke, and wild gyrating. Set to flashing lights, loud booming bass music and extremes of experience.
To stand out in that milieu is near impossible. You either have to be so repulsively egomaniacal that your presence requires a HAZMAT decontamination shower afterwards and your popularity is due to your proximity to power. Or the converse, you are like a yogi out of place in the bacchanalia of it all vibrating on some higher plane. That was the impression Edwige left with me. It can only be compared to when you are having the crappiest of night, someone stepped on your expensive shoes, spilled a drink on your outfit & then something happens. You are magnetically drawn to the hint of a song that is weaving its way over the sound system. It gently glides in until it erupts volcanically and you find yourself in the middle of a sea of human flesh without a single care in the world, or a memory of how you got there.
That spark, that moment where you seem to lose your self-control and must be a part of this experience is emotionally visceral. That is what it felt like to meet her. She was neither flashy or loud, but cool elegance wrapped in nonchalant grace, but there was an undeniable siren’s song to her presence. In the nightlife scene, there were “people” and nobodies. I was a nobody, proudly a wanderer along a lost path looking for both saints and sinners. Yet many of the people who crossed my path and illuminated the journey went onto become rather well known. In nightlife circles at least, and some achieving momentary if minor celebrity status.
That was never my path, nor a part of what I longed for but could watch with cool detachment as it happened. So the circle of acquaintances for me was shallow & deep simultaneously. The margin of the margin, on a far flung corner. But the proximity of knowing a few influential people here & there created paths to close contact with amazing people like Edwige.
Prior to meeting her, the word “legendary” was used for obvious reasons, but honestly in the late 80s-early 90s pre-Paris is Burning, that word was on everyone’s tongue already. The dump they took that morning was “LEGENDARY.” So of course I knew she had a provenance, but was completely unfazed by it, being hyper-jaded in my late 20s by default.
Working for some gay bar-rag magazine on South Beach in the 90s covering all the latest parties, etc… meant that one had to stay up on every detail, all the minutia, know who was hot & who was not. Who we were holding a grudge against for whatever latest faux pas or stolen-boytoy, and who we were to treat as if they were royalty and shower with hyperbolic sound-bite praise. She was nightlife royalty. Reverent tones & genuflecting was required.
The finer details are all scrubbed now, or have bled into one another with age. Like a photo album that was damaged in a storm. Was she friends with my spastic French neighbors who got high with the roommate or did that DJ from the club that is now a giant bagel shop, no wait it is a Senor Frog! Perish the thought. Oh those were the days, that Miami is gone now. As are those booming bass speakers that could make every hair on my body stand straight up.
Then to run into her in NYC a few years later, and coyly and somewhat under my breath ask if she remembered me — and have it be an enthusiastic YES! Completely made me swoon. In New York she was just as convivial, surrounded by 50 or 5. Exuding warmth and genuine compassion. Then real life stepped in & it was time to put away my childhood ways, and start doing this “adulting” thing that I’d heard about all those years of luxuriating in the post-pubescent world of the underground club scene. Otherwise New Yawk was going to bury my ass.
Sad too that in the age of social media I’d not realized that through my friends I was only one degree away. Somehow when you turn your back on that world, or suddenly age out of twinkdom you can bury a great deal of the memories that come with it. Then once in a great while you remember there are those special people that have blessed my journey. Each one holding a light to the path I’d eventually take, to maturing, to the type of person I wanted to become.
Edwige was that, an aspirational archetype, someone to emulate in the grand scheme of things. That whether the ‘It’ Girl, muse of photographers worldwide, or just a normal human being walking down the streets of an urban metropolis to be in that moment. Approachable, warm, and tender. To let that power and passion from inside guide you, make you more compassionate, less bitter. All things I’ve struggled with over the years.
My story is nothing in her life, one shy person out of probably millions she encountered. But how I wish, before it became impossible, to sit down and non-gushingly tell her how she was probably the most fascinating person I’d ever met in my decades of clubbing. That she’d made such a profound impression on me, and even though that would probably mean nothing to her, that such fierceness and passion leaves a lasting mark. Tell those in your life, even those you encounter but briefly with enthusiasm, we owe it to them. Rest in Peace, and if we meet in that eternal heaven, let’s hope you’ll have a drink ticket & remember me again. As I’ll never forget you.
Photo: Fritz Kok