REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW YORK: The REAL “Reality” Connection to Carole Radziwill… Edie and Little Edie Beale… GREY GARDENS… VIDEO… UPDATE…

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.  

                                                         Jackie and Lee Bouvier…  Grey Gardens on Broadway…

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.  

                                     Little Edie Beale… a striking resemblance to Jackie Kennedy…

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.

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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…

23 comments on “REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW YORK: The REAL “Reality” Connection to Carole Radziwill… Edie and Little Edie Beale… GREY GARDENS… VIDEO… UPDATE…

  1. I just watched Grey Gardens again last night. All things considered, none of the Kennedys has any business looking down their nose at or judging anyone else.


  2. Bingo, Jupiters Mother! I have been to Grey Gardens for a charity event…the renovation is SPECTACULAR……


  3. Ms.SH, you’ve posted a lovely tribute to the Beales women. I’m sure many of your younger readers may not have ever heard of them. The New Yorker article was something I’d not read before and really enjoyed. It is sad that Jackie never had the devotion to her aunt that Caroline seems to have towards Lee. Poetic justice has a way of being far more cruel than anyone can imagine.


    • I cannot imagine Jacqueline left her aunt like that, especially she was aware that her father stole the money from the aunt, curse them ALL.


  4. I’ve seen the HBO and original presentations. Both totally enthralling. I’m envious of SH folr being able to see the Broadway production. Thanks for sharing the memorabilia , SH.


  5. Can you imagine not knowing your aunt, your father’s only sister, and your cousin are living like that. How many years had it been since she had been in touch with them? I don’t care how famous you are or how busy you are, I find that extrordinary that Jackie did nothing until it all became public about their deplorable living conditions. Says alot.


    • Oh, Jackie and Lee knew how they lived. It was a closely guarded secret during JFK’s administration. When the Beale’s faced eviction due to the condition of Grey Garden, Jackie was “officially” credited with paying the $30,000 or there about for the cleanup and furnace, but many books I’ve read stated it was really Aristotle Onassis.


      • Except for the point sd is making here (if it is indeed accurate), which is valid, I’d hate to think that I’d have to make myself responsible for financially supporting any/all members of my extended family who happen (through eccentricity or a sense of entitlement) to fail to provide for themselves. Helping family that I’m close to is one thing; bank rolling lifestyles of family members I’m distant from seems like quite another. Although I can see where it would be publicly embarrassing to a high profile family (especially from the upper crust) I’m not sure that’s reasonable expectation.

        I’ve often heard it said that the very rich are eccentric but these ladies seem to have perhaps suffered from some psychological/psychiatric condition. Good to see the estate returned to its glory days condition.


        • I think my point was the money left to Edith was taken from her by her brother and used to bank roll his and his familys lifestyle while Edith and her daughter barely existed. While Jackie gave them 30 grand to fix it up that was less than half of the money that was taken from them originally.


  6. I know this will sound strange but here it is…..I am glad the house is restored because it would be a crime to let it be torn down and forgotten and I am sure it cost a small fortune to restore it but…I think the way Little Edie had it deocorated, minus the trash. was facinating. I have always had a soft spot for elegant decay. I loved the birdcage lamp and the bedroom that Little Edie decorated and of course her amazing style. I know I’m off what can I say.


  7. Elegant decay reminds me so much of N.O. and many of the old homes that I have visited. It is not only charming but clings to the past.


    • That is so strange that you would say that cyn, because that is the exact thing that came to mind the first time I drove into the city of New Orleans and it has stayed with me ever since, we must be on the same wave length!


  8. Thanks SH, I just bought the original documentary from After reading all the comments, I cannot wait to view it. What a messed up family that would let these 2 relatives wallow in squallor when they had so many resources to help them. WTF?


    • Mary Kelly, I’m going to follow your lead and do the same thing, we will have to meet up in a week or so and compare notes! I think it is either very ironic or hypocritical that Caroline Kennedy is now condeming Carole Radziwill for doing the very same thing her mother’s own family did!


  9. “Dare say my mother was ever taken care of by any man but my father, and I’LL PUSH YOU UNDER THE G-D BED!”


  10. What I find sad is that both Son’s knew the condition that their Mother and Sister lived in. Lee knew before Jacqueline did because she bought the original footage before the documentary Lee originally wanted to make a film of Jackie’s childhood friends but instead they focused on the Beale’s. I wouldn’t expect any more loyalty from family members than she had herself. Although her sister paid for the clean up and running water no one did anything to contribute to their day to day life, not even her two sons and little Edie’s brothers. .


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