The Mystery of Little Edie’s Hair
One of the questions most often asked about Grey Gardens is “Why does Edie keep her head covered?” Is it part of her unique fashion sense? Is she bald? Is it her way of covering grey hair?
One story speculated that, as a sign of devotion to her mother, Edie climbed a tree in the yard of Grey Gardens and set her hair ablaze. With no hair, she wouldn’t be found attractive to men and wouldn’t have the confidence to venture back to New York City, securing her permanently to Grey Gardens.
But when Michael Suscy, the writer and director of HBO’s Grey Gardens (2009), interviewed a childhood friend of Edie’s, he seemed to have discovered the truth. In her teen years, Edie suffered from a bout of Alopecia (A disease that causes a person’s hair to fall out. It can occur without warning and last for a matter of weeks or decades. Most often it is brought about by stress.) Thankfully, her hair began to grow again by her late teens and Edie must have thought that her Alopecia would be gone for good.
Unfortunately, by her mid 30s, she began to lose her hair again. Instead of opting for wigs, which can be expensive and unrealistic looking, Edie used whatever she had at her disposal - towels, scarves, sweaters, or hats - to cover her head.
In this photo, you can clearly see that even into her 60s, Edie wasn’t totally bald. Opting for head coverings (grey hair ages a person, balding even more so) gave Edie a youthful and whimsical appearance. Still, when a particularly gutsy reporter would question her head coverings, she responded that she gave herself a crew cut with a pair of nail clippers because she was too busy caring for her mother to worry about her hair. Even David Maysles asked, in an unused scene they filmed. Edie’s response: “I just couldn’t bother with it.” A close observer of the documentary can see that some hair remains at the nape of her neck, around her ears, and near her forehead - but little place else.
Her unique head coverings were one of the many qualities that catapulted her into superstar status within the fashion community, serving as a muse for such designers as Isaac Mizrahi, Marc Jacobs, and Calvin Klein. It also served as a frame for her beautiful face.
I am reblogging this previous post because I just added some new information.
“I don’t think I look too well in the movie. I’m too fat and… I’m funny. I worked as a professional model and I would have preferred to have very good looking costumes and makeup and danced and sung and everything. But that would have been contrived - planned. The Maysles don’t go in for that. They’re absolutely bona-fide. They’re real. They came in here to tape what they saw. And they didn’t want me all dressed up or looking divine or anything. So In a way, I think - ‘Oh God, how wonderful I could have looked. How glamorous I could have looked.’ You know - if if. But that wasn’t the way it was done. I signed a contract. We agreed.”
A gift from her father, Edie sold her “darling” red Ford convertible in the spring of 1952, after the beloved car finally stopped running. This made it more difficult for Edie to travel, and ensured her stay at Grey Gardens, come July, would be on a more permanent basis.
Little Edie | 1942
Little Edie made a point of saying how much she disliked the poster for her cabaret act, because she thought it made her look “constipated”.
Thirty-Three Years Ago Today
From the 10th to the 14th of January 1979, Little Edie performed her cabaret act at the Greenwich Village nightclub, Reno Sweeney. For $7.50 per ticket, you could watch Edie dance, answer questions from the audience, and sing songs like Tea For Two, Zigeuner, As Time Goes By, Toujours l’Amore, as well as two original songs Edie penned herself.
Dressed in a costume of her own creation made from pieces of Big Edie’s wardrobe, the crimson (though she “liked blue much better”, as she told the audience) ensemble was completed by red, plastic rhododendron leaves which helped partially conceal an eye-patch she had to wear for half of her performances due to cataract surgery from a week before.
Apprehensive to make her show business debut, the club’s owner Jim Maxcy warned, “If you don’t behave, I’m going to make you wear your clothes right side up!”
Andy Warhol was present for every night’s performance, but Edie’s cousin Jackie Onassis didn’t attend, much to her relief.
“I told Jackie not to come because she would disturb the whole nightclub,” Edie said.