Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Grey Gardens And "Little Edie" Beale
If the walls of Grey Gardens could talk, they would resound in laughter, and the cries of the dramatic and curious souls that once roamed it's halls. This grand estate, nestled in the upper crust town of East Hampton, New York, was home to Edith Ewing Bouvier and Phelan Beales. They purchased the home, in 1923, and with it's beautiful gardens and close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, it was an idyllic retreat.
Unfortunately, in 1931, Phelan walked out on his wife, and three children. Thus, leaving "Big Edie" all alone with only her family to rely on for help and support. She once had big dreams of a career in the entertainment industry, but those proved to be elusive.
Her only daughter, "Little Edie", was born in November of 1917. A first cousin to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, "Little Edie" was quite the busy young socialite. Having attended the some of the best schools in Manhattan, and making her debut at the Pierre Hotel in 1936, she led a very privileged life. She modeled clothes for Macy's, and had a constant appetite for being famous someday, even linking herself, personally, to several prominent gentlemen. Although, many of these liaisons never seemed to have their roots in reality.
In July of 1959, "Little Edie" would return to Grey Gardens to live with her mother, a temporary move, that lasted twenty years.
After the caretaker for Grey Gardens passed away, in 1963, the maintenance of such a large estate and the surrounding property fell into disrepair. Both "Big" and "Little Edie" preferred to live amongst the growing vines and ever encroaching clutter and garbage. A sad commentary, on the lives that once were so grand.
In 1971, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis came to their rescue, and offered a large sum of money, and services to help restore the rundown estate, after the town threatened to evict the women, due to unsanitary, and dangerous living conditions. It was a quick fix, that lasted for a short while, and soon the property spiraled downward, into further decay.
In 1975, the brothers, Albert and David Maysles, shot "Big" and "Little Edie" to fame with a documentary about Grey Gardens. It was a unique perspective into the lives of two very unusual, and eccentric women. Here is an interview, with Albert Maysles, on the 30th anniversary (4 years ago), of the film, hosted by Jenny Mayer of Plum TV.
The fascinating story of Grey Gardens, was made into a Broadway musical, and further explored in the 2009, HBO film of the same name, starring Drew Barrymore, and Jessica Lange.
Grey Gardens is a fantastic estate, that, over these many years, has seen it's share of heartache, and neglect. The present owners have since restored the grounds and the home to it's present glory, retaining the charm and character of this fine property.
Below, are some photos from a real estate listing this past winter, for a summer rental at Grey Gardens... will we see you there? Ciao! -Al
Photos courtesy hamptons.curbed.com