Sunday, August 28, 2011

Grey Gardens

Well it's been a while since i first watched, the moovie version of the Broadway musical Grey Gardens but  since then i can get it out of my head!
After i saw the film, i "google" it  (as i often do when i watch a biography film) to learn more.The search directly led me to the original 1975 "gothic" documentary which the moovie was based on in which i saw the real thing.
The Documentary caused strong reactions many loved it, but others found it too painfully revealing, crossing the boundaries of privacy.
 I was so intrigued then, from the real story of these two women which lived isolated for years,in a decrepit 28-room mansion at a very wealthy neighborhood of East Hampton, as i am everytime i happend to see it again!
The truth is that the film although it has to do with a sad story (and i avoid to watch sad stories for the second time) it didn't fully deppresed me as most of this tragic true stories do,but it sure gave me a lot to think about, mostly about family bonds,waisted lives and dreams...

The story has to do with the eccentric aunt and first cousin of Jackie Onassis (both named Edith Bouvier Beale aka "Big and Little Edie") raised as Park Avenue débutantes but who withdrew from New York society, taking shelter at their Long Island summer home, "Grey Gardens." As their wealth and contact with the outside world dwindled, so did their grasp on reality. 

Big Edie and Little Edie almost never went out, rarely had company and got their groceries delivered. Big Edie's lawyer husband had left her for another woman, and she spent most of her time in bed, mixing cocktails in a jam jar and berating her daughter, while the house and its magnificent hedged gardens fell into disrepair.
 They were reintroduced to the world when international tabloids learned of a health department raid on their home. The whole mansion was flea-infested, inhabited by innumerable cats and raccoons, lacked running water, and was full of garbage and decay. 
Pic from 1915.The house was called Grey Gardens because of the color of the dunes, the cement garden walls, and the sea mist.
Grey Gardens 1972.The gardens now were grossly overgrown, and the house was a shadow of its former self, completely run-down, with no running water, broken floorboards, and even a small tree growing into the walls of one of the rooms.

Jacqueline Onassis and her sister Lee Radziwill provided the necessary funds to stabilize and repair the dilapidated house so that it would meet Village codes.
 "Little Eddie" was not only extremely beautiful and had hollywood star quality but also she had an eye for fashion that kept in surreal kind of way even in her decay years.
 Little Edie truly had a successfull life in the fashion and entertainment industry in front of her. This was also something she felt very passionate about and she had it all going in the right direction.But it seems life had made an enourmous u-turn on her... 
After her parents divorce, her mother Big Edie just could not imagine life without her daughter and she discouraged her in every possible way. She convised Edie to return to Grey Gardens ,leave her New York appartment and  loose her "big break", by claiming she could no longer afford to send her money. Edie had no legitimate way of supporting herself and along with a broken heart from a relationship with a married man she was forced to return to the mansion.
  I felt extremely curious to find all i could  about Little Eddie whom I felt was truly a victim of this whole situation and I could write many more that i have read for her through my research but most of them are quite sad and depressing,so i'll stick to post some photos from her "gay" and glamorous years in the mid 1930's when she pursued a carrer in modeling and acting as well as the following years which slowly drive her to became a shadow of  herself  i which still you can discern (more clearly if you happend to see the documentary,of course) her strong passion for fashion,dancing and singing.It's quite obvious that she never stop dreaming!!!

Young "Litlle Eddie"
Little Edie and her friend Eleanor Maloney in 1933, East Hampton.

Little Edie, East Hampton with Spot, 1940.

Modeling at the Lady's Village Improvement Society Fashion Show, East Hampton, 1940.

Estate of Edie Bouvier Beale. East Hampton, 1951.

At Grey Gardens in 1975

“The simple life is not understood in America. They’re all so rich and spoiled." - Big Edith Beale

"Oh, Mother thinks its artistic this way, like a Frank Lloyd Wright house.  Don't you love the overgrown Louisiana Bayou look." - Little Edie

Some of the names of the cats at Grey Gardens were: Bigelow, Pinky One, Pinky Two, Tedsy Kennedy, Hipperino, Zeppo, Little Jimmy, and Champion.

Little Eddie  suffered from a medical  condition which caused her hair to fall out and prompted her to wear her signature turbans. At one time she climbed a tree at the house and set her hair on fire.

The famous brooch containing heirloom Bouvier diamonds, and Big Edie's wedding earrings and necklace were auctioned on eBay several years ago.

Drew Barrymore & Jessica Lange from fhe 2007 film

Drew Barrymore as Little Edie

....and last but not least my favourite Little Edie's foto taken on the porch of Grey Gardens.I love this one cause it clearly shows that this gal wasn't fit to life she lived!

Swell Dame


  1. Joanna's Vintage HeavenNovember 4, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    Gosh, you look so much like Drew as little Eddy!!!

  2. If i say that haven't heard this before,i would lie!!!

  3. Here in Brasil, at the 3: OO am and watched the TV documentary that really touches and impresses us most is the mother daughter relationship. Unaware of the real fact and monitor the day-to-day the two women isolads the reality around them leads us to think about how life is so crazy. I downloaded the documentary and the film to review and discuss with others the lessons we can draw from what these poor souls lived.

  4. why are you talking about this story as for something that needed to be fix? As if sth. was perfect, but went terribly wrong? I respect your survey and thank you for the pictures, but allow me to disagree with your typically american desire for a happy ending. The story is sad and so is real life sometimes. I admire these women in a way. Especially the last but one picture is my favourite. You say "it clearly shows that this gal wasn't fit to life she lived but for me it beholds all that mystical ambience and the sparkle of two extraordinary women who dwell their own world. The controversial feeling that time has stopped for the two and left them trapped in the past, while life as if runs through their fingers .
    A diamond is a diamond no mater whether it's in the dust or on someone's crown. And Life sometimes slips away