Al: ”You know, I understood something I didn’t quite know before— you two are really quite a pair.”
Edie: ”Oh, Al, darling! The understatement of the age!”
"In the winter of 1980-81, I was responsible for a ‘major art event honoring thirty-nine women of dubious distinction.’ Maria Manhattan’s The Box Lunch was a parody of Judy Chicago’s ‘The Dinner Party’, and was it ever a ball! For those unfamiliar with Judy Chicago’s exhibition, it was a serious consideration of women from the history of western civilization. My show, also a feminist tribute, was more hysterical than historical. Included were women Judy left out, the ones that influenced my formative years.— the greats, the near greats, and the ingrates. My message was: we’re all in this together.
The honorees around my table included Auntie Mame, Lucy Ricardo, Julia Child, Josephine Baker, Cinderella, Gypsy Rose Lee, Greta Garbo, and of course Edie Beale, among many others.
I thought it only right to invite the living honorees to my opening, and so invitations went out. Sometime into the run, I believe it was in early January, we received a call on a Sunday morning from Walter Newkirk, saying he was bringing his friend Edie Beale to the show early that afternoon. I couldn’t believe it! Little Edie! I would actually get to meet this fascinating woman and show her around the exhibit. What a dream! What would she be like? I of course only had the Maysles Brothers movie as reference. I had seen the movie four times when it came out and was just transfixed by the complexity of these women.
Edie arrived on Walter’s arm a few hours later. I presented her with an orchid corsage which I had picked up on my way down to the SoHo gallery. I wanted her to feel special and appreciated. The questions I am always asked about this encounter is ‘What was she wearing?’ She was elegantly dressed in all black, wearing a tailored coat, gloves, stockings, small heels, and her hair was covered with a snood, or maybe it was a large beret worn back. She really looked fabulous, and very pulled together. I remember being so happy for her.
At that point, she was living on the Upper East Side. She had finally moved into the city and had gotten the life she wanted after Big Edie passed away and she sold Grey Gardens.
We spent some time chatting and I don’t remember how we got on the topic, but she told me that one of her favorite places to spend time in the city was in the beautiful Islamic rooms of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She loved the design, the calligraphy, and the peacefulness of the place.
She had a very ‘zen’ quality about her. And she was bright and sharp. I took her around the table, discussing some of the women in the exhibition. When we got to the Maria Callas box, she said as only she could: ‘Oh, Jackie would love this!’ I cracked up. We continued on and I was very apprehensive about her seeing her own tribute which was toward the end. I had made a cardboard replica of a very broken down Grey Gardens. Big Edie was in the house, and Little Edie was out in the front yard, surrounded by cat food. She looked at the assemblage and said something to the effect of ‘Well, you got that right.’ I was amazed at what a realist she was.
After Edie left, we were on cloud nine. It was such a lovely experience. Edie then send a note thanking me for including her in the exhibition. She collaged part of it with some magazine cutouts of the word ‘zen’ that were actually part of the Zenith TV logo.
Recently, I was the musical ‘Grey Gardens.’ I had been putting off seeing it because I didn’t want my memory of Edie to be ruined or diluted. To my surprise, I was knocked out by Christine Ebersole’s brilliant performance. I only wished that the audience knew that Edie transcended her situation and had a life after Grey Gardens. But then again, I guess they do know that. After all, she’s on Broadway.”
Debs Challenge Princeton’s Gridders
Extra! Princeton refuses Park Bowl bid! “Oh, definitely”… as they say in the cafe set… and were the debs mad when they heard that Princeton’s dean of undergraduates, the old meanie, had turned thumbs down on a game which would have stolen the Rose Bowl’s thunder!
According to Virginia Hyde of 935 Park Avenue, twenty of the season’s most popular debutantes challenged members of Princeton’s Ivy, Cottage, Colonial, and Tiger clubs to a touch football game in Central Park next Sunday. The kickoff had been set for 3 o’clock on the old Sheep Meadow.
But, alas and slack, Princeton’s dean would have none of it and so, according to a telegram from Miss Hyde, the game had to be postponed indefinitely, as well as the cocktail party to have been given this afternoon at 10 East Fifty-Second Street.
Under Miss Hyde’s captaincy, the debs had a nimble trucking backfield, comprising such swivel-hipped fancy steppers as Edith Beale, Aileen Herrick, and Anne Cutler.
“Jack White, Jack Daniel, Tom Mountain, and Dick Wells were to start in Princeton’s backfield,” said a feminine voice at deb football headquarters. “We felt those boys deserved a chance to play a post-season game after the Rose Bowl people turned them down.”
“Yes, we picked Princeton on its showing against Cornell, Harvard, Dartmouth, and Yale, but that Navy game score kind of had us worried. You don’t think the Tigers were only fooling at New Haven just to make us overconfident, do you? They’re such sweet kids I’m sure they wouldn’t go in for deception. Our Harvard friends tell us the Princeton boys are very polite. They didn’t peek when Vernon Struck hid the ball.”
"Well, they haven’t seen anything yet! We had some spinner plays to knock them ga-ga! And, boy, can these debs tackle! Why, we had been practicing on the stag lines at all the best night clubs. They say Yale is jealous about our challenge to Princeton, but we aren’t sillies. When that Clint Frank graduates, we’ll take on the Elis."
November 28, 1937
Edie Beale: “I will never be anything but an American. I think it’s a fabulous country and I’m crazy about Bill Clinton.”
Q: How did you feel about his sexual indiscretions in the White House?
Edie Beale: “I was kind of shocked by it. At first I thought it wasn’t true and that it was some campaign thing dreamed up by the Republicans, but I’ve come to believe that he did have a love affair with that girl. But my God, it’s his own business! What does it matter? Mrs. Clinton doesn’t want to divorce him and he didn’t give that girl a baby. I mean my God, he’s so brilliant, when will we ever get another person like him? I’ve always been a Democrat, and I used to take politics very seriously but I don’t like politics anymore because life is very different now. American life has changed a great deal.”
"Well, there’s one thing that remains the same. Nature. Man changes and is variable, but nature remains the same. The sun and the moon and all the things go on in spite of man— he crumbles."
Big Edie’s complexion was not as dark as her brother’s, but it was darker than most people’s, dark enough to give her the air of a gypsy when combined, as it usually was, with hair askew and long drop earrings. If Edith was a great favorite with the young because she was just as irrepressible as they were, she paid for her popularity by being distrusted by the Bouvier adults and considered a subversive influence to be barely tolerated at family festivals.
This is wonderful! I’m posting this so my followers can listen, too (I recommend they do)! Thank you so much for sharing!
Little Edie: Mother was annoyed that I became a model.
Big Edie: I didn’t think it was enough for you, putting on fur coats and taking them off again. If she’d done something when she took the fur coat off, it might’ve been better, but she didn’t. She put it right on again.
Edie Beale photographed by Lois Wright, 1975.
I apologize for the lack of posts lately— there has been an illness and subsequent death in my family and I’ve been very preoccupied. As things return to normal I hope to resume my regular posting schedule. Thanks for understanding!