"The war, it got worse and worse. Finally, we settled down here. I was down here for, I think, it was two winters, during the war. They had a lot of officers at Montauk, but I couldn’t go to any of the dances because Mother had eye trouble and she wouldn’t let me out. The war just passed me by. Of course, I was the pin-up girl. I sent all my pictures to Okinawa, Saipan - bathing suit pictures. I got letters back telling me how I cheered everybody up." -Edith Beale
"Pant-suits are still in in America, but Paris says skirts. I always keep up with what they’re wearing in Paris." -Edie Beale
"Then Little Edie came in. Her head was wrapped in a scarf because she had shaved her hair off years ago when her mother wouldn’t let her go to Hollywood. She really knew how to wrap. She looked very glamorous in that brown silk scarf.” -Andy Warhol
Edie Beale photographed by Warhol, 1976.
Big Edie, Little Edie, and Spot take to Georgica Beach, 1951.
"Style— all those who have it share one thing: originality." -Diana Vreeland
Mrs. Clifford H. McCall is planning a fashion show of brides— of every country and period. Aiding her are Mmes. A. Wallace Chauncey, John Laurence Hutton, Eltinge F. Warner, and McAlpin Bell.
Among the young women who will appear as brides is Miss Edith Beale, who will model the Eastern Bridal Costume.
Color lithographs of Grey Gardens by Frances Benjamin Johnson, 1914.
Jerry was a teenager when he met the Beales— exploring the property believing the house to be empty, and becoming enchanted with the Beales when Little Edie saw him and invited him inside. He helped the Beales with whatever odd-jobs they came up with, and I’m sure he took it upon himself to do some things for them, but he didn’t have the means to do the larger repairs that Grey Gardens required.
Grey Gardens was the way Big Edie wanted it. Little Edie was not comfortable there, but it was Big Edie’s house and she respected her mother too much to do anything about it. After the clean-up funded by Jackie, Edie kept the house as organized as she could manage, with the exception of Big Edie’s bedroom which was kept as she wanted.
By all accounts, no one but Edie’s brothers knew what a state of disrepair the house had gotten into, or how little money the Beales possessed. After WWII, the Bouvier clan dissipated, especially the Beale branch— free-spirited matriarch Big Edie wanted little to do with her stuffy relatives. Big Edie’s sons wanted their mother to sell the home, and washed their hands of the situation when she refused.
It wasn’t until the Beales received media attention that Jackie knew of their plight, so it wasn’t until then that she offered to help. She spent thousands of dollars making Grey Gardens livable, going even further and paying their monthly bills and giving them an allowance. This gesture was more than the independent Edies wanted— they wouldn’t allow any more. A nurse would be out of the question, an insult to two women who saw nothing wrong with their way of life.
If you pay attention to the documentary, it is only Big Edie’s room that returns to a state of filth, because that’s the way she wanted it. Little Edie managed to keep the rest of the home relatively tidy— as much as a 60 year-old woman raised in the manner she was, could manage.
If the media hadn’t pointed out the negative, there wouldn’t have been a story in the first place. The only reason the Beales got press on a national scale was because they were relatives of Jackie Kennedy— the filth of their home wouldn’t have made it past local news.
I do think the press were cruel in their judgement of the documentary, Edie’s cabaret act, and of the Beale women as human beings. The only time they received sympathy of any kind was when the writer wasn’t looking to cash in on the sensationalism of it all. Unfortunately, sympathy doesn’t sell. I think many of the reporters took the oddness of the story and ran with it, not taking the time to get to know the Edies or treat them with the respect they deserved.