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Fight Over Warhol Superstar’s Image

SANTA BARBARA (CN) - A movie producer sued the widower of Andy Warhol "superstar" Edie Sedgwick, claiming the late model's husband has no right to sell Sedgwick's image.

David Weisman, best known for producing the Oscar-nominated film "Kiss of the Spider Woman," sued Michael Post on Oct. 24 in Santa Barbara County Court.

Weisman, 72, of Los Angeles County, claims Sedgwick granted him "all use of her name, likeness, image, and identity for commercial purposes" in 1970, as he was directing his first film, "Ciao! Manhattan," a semibiographical movie about Sedgwick.

That same year, Sedgwick met Post in the psychiatric ward of Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, and the two married the next year. Sedgwick died of an overdose in 1971, before the movie's premier.

Sedgwick, who gained fame starring in movies made by Warhol, became a pop icon herself, inspiring songs by Bob Dylan ("Just Like a Woman") and the Velvet Underground ("Femme Fatale.")

Post, claiming he's a "successor-in-interest," under California's publicity rights law, began selling Sedgwick's image in 2006. A Japanese company paid Post for licensing and used photos of Sedgwick on its designer apparel, Weisman says in the complaint.

A federal judge ruled in September that Weisman owns the rights to Sedgwick images from the movie. But he left it to the state courts to determine if Weisman owns Sedgwick rights beyond that.

So Weisman sued in Santa Barbara, seeking injunctive relief and punitive damages, claiming he has "continued to be the sole proprietor of all right, title, and interest in the Publicity Rights of Edith Sedgwick" since she signed a contract in 1970.

"Post has no rights in the name, likeness, image, or identity of Sedgwick, as successor-in-interest to Edith Sedgwick," according to the lawsuit, filed by Santa Barbara attorney James Ballantine.

Born to a prominent but troubled Massachusetts family, Sedgwick became a socialite in the 1960s after moving to New York, where she met Warhol at a dinner party. Eventually, she became the best known of Warhol's "superstars," personalities he promoted in his art. Other superstars included musician and model Nico, actress Candy Darling and Bibbe Hansen, a performance artist and mother of musician Beck.

Sedgwick appeared in 12 Warhol films. During that creative partnership, the "It Girl" developed her trademark look, which included short hair dyed blonde, black tights and mini-dresses, which continues to inspire designers today. While living at the famed Chelsea Hotel in New York, she became close to Bob Dylan.

She embarked on a relationship with Dylan friend and musician Bob Neuwirth around that time. But when that relationship crumbled, drug use and hospitalizations mounted.

Shooting for "Ciao! Manhattan," co-written and co-directed by John Palmer, began in 1967, though Sedgwick's drug use stalled the film. She was sent to Cottage Hospital in 1969, after an arrest for drug possession.

While she met Post there, she later expressed uncertainty about their marriage, according to the book "Edie: An American Biography," co-written by George Plimpton.

After attending a Santa Barbara fashion show on Nov. 15, 1971, she died from a barbiturate overdose the coroner would later rule an accident/suicide.

"Ciao! Manhattan" premiered eight months later.

A review by the London Times called it a strong, eccentric film, lauding Palmer and Weisman.

"With Miss Sedgwick herself on leave from a sanatorium to play the lead, her life is seen as sort of a hippie version of 'A Star is Born,'" the reviewer wrote.

After the release of "Factory Girl," which chronicled Sedgwick's life, in 2006, Weisman licensed images of Sedgwick to Urban Outfitters. Post began licensing his late wife's images that same year.

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