Sunday, August 2, 2009
The Fascination with Grey Gardens
I don't expect everyone to understand it, but for me, it was the moment I laid eyes on the photo above that I became completely mesmerized by the story of the Bouvier Beales.
After her husband abandoned and consequently divorced her, Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale shut herself away from society and reality, into her East Hampton mansion named Grey Gardens. The eldest child, "Little Edie", followed her mother unwillingly, motivated by despair, broken dreams, depression, and a strange nervous condition which caused her hair to fall out. More intriguing is the disfunction of the controlling relationship Big Edie had with her fragile daughter. Even as a middle-aged woman, Little Edie couldn't seem to escape her mother's control or judgement and they lived together for many years as the home descended into absolute squalor. In the early 1970's cousin Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis donated several thousands and organized major renovation and restoration to Grey Gardens so that her Aunt and Cousin could continue to inhabit the home.
The 1975 documentary was the brilliant creation of brothers Albert and David Maysles, who captured many moments of madness and the poetic disability of these eccentric women. In some respects, Grey Gardens the film was the first of "reality tv" and when it was brought to the big screen in 1976, it was to critical acclaim.
They had many, many cats living in the house with them. Even a few raccoons. When City Health Officials entered the home in the early 1970's the attendants could hardly breathe from the stench inside.
Young Little Edie as an East-Coast Socialite in happier times
Doesn't this image remind you of the cover of a New York Dolls album?
Today, Grey Gardens has been completely restored, and the legacy of two tragic lives continues to draw people's fascination.