Happy 100th Birthday to the Great Dancer Little Edie Bouvier Beale!
November 7, 1917
Grey Gardens came out over forty years go (the same as myself!) and I just happened to stumble upon it about a year ago. For the one or two others out there that don't know about Grey Gardens, it's a documentary filmed in a "home video" kinda way showcasing an eccentric artistic mother and daughter who live in their decaying East Hampton New York 26 room mansion along with over 20 cats and wild raccoons. Before the stock market crash of 1929 the Beale women were lavished with furs, servants, and a beautiful landscaped home. After the crash and Mother Edie's divorce they had nothing but the house which fell into such disrepair the city was called in to condemn and evict them (commonly known as "the Raid"). In stepped (and the major reason there is such interest in this story) cousin Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to save the family name and fund getting the home back to a state of human occupancy. That is the back story. The documentary takes place a few years after the raid and is basically the Beale women spatting, singing, and entertaining us just being themselves. Little Edie has a nack for pulling together "costumes" using skirts as capes and long sleeve shirts as turbans...just top it off with a decorative brooch! She also sees herself as a great dancer and singer who has been held back by having to take care of Mother Darling, which is the root of most of the arguments. Within their bickering there are little bits of their past brought up but never fully fleshed out. That's one of my favorite parts is trying to piece together their story. In 2009 Grey Gardens was turned into a HBO feature movie for the purpose of weaving all of these little bits together.
In 2006 the unreleased and edited footage from the first documentary was released as a follow up, The Beales of Grey Gardens. There is also even Grey Gardens The Musical.
Every Halloween I have to come up with a solo costume for me to wear to an adult event that Mr. Husband Sir helps host every year. He is a part of a local horror host television show where he plays the role of an inept Mexican wrestler who is manservant to a devil...not the devil, just one of the many Beelzebubs it takes to make the world go 'round. So MHS has a "costume" he has to wear at the live performance hosting. I get to be and wear what ever I want! I was sooo excited this year to choose to be Little Edie Beale from Grey Gardens!
"This is the best thing to wear today, you understand... This is the best costume for today."
"The Libra husband is reasonable. He is a born judge and no other zodiacal type can order his life with so much wisdom. God! That's all I need: Order! That's all I need. An ordered life. You know, a manager. But he's got to be a Libran."
"Course I'm mad about animals, but raccoons and cats become a little bit boring. I mean, for too long a time."
"But you see in dealing with me, the relatives didn't know they were dealing with a staunch character and I tell you if there is anything worse than dealing with a staunch woman...S-T-A-U-N-C-H. There's nothing worse, I'm telling you. They don't weaken, no matter what."
"We better check on Mother and the cats. She's a lot of fun, I hope she doesn't die. "
🐱 🐱 🐱 🐱 🐱 🐱 🐱 🐱 🐱 🐱 🐱 🐱 🐱 🐱
Here is a photo of Little Edie in her infamous flowery swimsuit, long sleeve shirt, and scarf.
Little Edie among the cats, garbage, and the dilapidated run-down inside of the mansion. Apparently Big Edie didn't believe in cat litter so you can imagine the smell of this photo.
To pull my "costume" together, it started when I happened to find some 70s flowery fabric at a thrift store that reminded me of Little Edie's swim suit. I then used Patterns by Gertie, Butterick B6354 , the shorts and the top, which I sewed together to make a one piece suit. I then put on a pair of black stockings, white shoes, and wrapped a long sleeve t shirt on my head and finished it off with a kicky pin. I made the props from printing images from the nets of the front cover of Little Edie's astrology book, cats, raccoons, and cat food can labels. I then covered everything in newspaper as she always did to make a clean surface. I took the photos at an old overgrown abandoned house in the older part of the city.
I admire the Beale women. They worked with what they had and did it their way. They liked being different and were very proud ("too sophisticated for Jerry"). Of course, I'm not down with letting a cat piss on the floor near my portrait.