April 28, 2012 7:45 am
After reading about Caroline Kennedy’s aversion to her cousin-by-marriage, Carole Radziwill‘s, participation in the New York franchise of Bravo’s “Real Housewives,” it reminded SH of Lee Radziwill’s cousin, Big Edie Beale.
Big Edie and her daughter, Little Edie Beale, were the focus of a much worse scandal which penetrated the Kennedy shield of ‘perfection’ back in 1975 when the Maysle Brothers met and began filming the Beales’ in their East Hampton home, Grey Gardens.
Being a devotee of the Maysle Brothers documentary “Grey Gardens,” SH was anticipating attending the Broadway version of the film, which I did twice, including closing night, July, 2007… SH is a STAUNCH fan of Grey Gardens!
I still have my “Jerry likes my corn” T-shirt and other memorabilia, including the program from the play…
The play was fantastic… and stayed true to the original Maysles’ film.
After the Broadway production, there was also a 2009 HBO film, which starred Drew Barrymore as Little Edie Beale.
Both the Broadway play and the HBO movie were quite good… both Christine Ebersole and Drew Barrymore captured Little Edie’s unique speech and her specific nuances… HOWEVER, there truly was no need for either the play or the movie. Both the play and the movie simply replicated the original Maysle Brothers 1976 documentary.
The Maysle Brothers documentary is STILL the best.
If you are not familiar with this branch of the Kennedy tree, the Beales’ REALITY is much better than anything you will ever see on any phony baloney “reality” show!
The Beales fell into their situation because of Big Edie’s brother and Jackie/Lee’s father, Jack “BlackJack” Bouvier. When their grandfather died in 1948, he left $65,000 in trust to Edith Beale.
Edie’s brother, Jack Bouvier, was a Wall Street broker and grabbed the trust fund from his sister… and invested Edie’s $65,000 for HIS daughters, Jackie and Lee Bouvier. That money was supposed to take care of Jack’s sister, Edith Bouvier for the rest of her life…
HOWEVER… Edie, whose grandfather intended for her to live independently wealthy, ended up living on $300 a month.
Edie and Little Edie lived in isolation and squalor and survived by selling off jewelry and their art collection. In 1971, the Suffolk County Health Department visited Grey Gardens and found that the home violated EVERY known building regulation.
Only when the Suffolk County Health Department became involved and the Beales were found to be related to Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis did their lives and living conditions become national news. Jackie paid $32,000 to clean the house, install a new furnace and plumbing system, and cart away 1,000 bags of garbage.
NOTE: Grey Gardens was purchased by Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee… they have restored the home to its original beauty…
Grey Gardens available on Amazon… it is fascinating… HERE.
A great piece in NY Magazine about the Beales… HERE.
Grey Gardens synopsis by Marjorie Sweeney:
Grey Gardens is the unbelievable but true story of
Mrs. Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edie, the
aunt and first cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Mother and daughter live in a world of their own
behind the towering privets that surround their
decaying 28-room East Hampton mansion known as
“Grey Gardens,” a place so far gone that the local
authorities once threatened to evict them for violating
building and sanitation codes. The incident made national
headlines — American royalty, living in squalor! For the Beales were nothing short of the upper crust. Mrs. Beale, a.k.a. “Big Edie,” was a born aristocrat, sister of “Black Jack” Bouvier, Jackie O’s father.
“Little Edie” was an aspiring
actress of striking beauty who put her New York life on
hold to care for her mother – and never left her side again.
Together they descended into a strange life of dependence
and eccentricity that no one had ever shared until the
Maysles arrived with their camera and tape recorder.
The Beales were ready for their close-ups. Little Edie —
a still-attractive woman at 56 — parades about
coquettishly in her trademark improvised turbans
(her wildly original ensembles inspired a 9-page fashion
spread in a 1998 issue of Harper’s Bazaar and a 1999
issue of Italian Vogue), reminisces about her brilliant past,
still hoping that her Big Chance and Big Romance are
just around the corner. Big Edie, trained soprano in her
bohemian days, trills romantic songs of yesteryear in a
slightly wobbly, but still rich voice. The women bicker,
prattle, and flirt like characters out of Tennessee Williams
or Eugene O’Neill. The film is a bittersweet love story,
a record of the powerful and complex relationship
between mother and daughter.
UPDATE: “njgirl” mentioned that Sarah Hyland, from”Modern Family” played the young Jackie Bouvier in her Broadway debut… photo below. Nice catch, “njgirl”!!!
Here is Sarah’s description from the Grey Gardens program…