Ask Me How I’m Feeling: Grey Gardens

The Little Version

I discovered the phenomenon that is Grey Gardens today, over thirty years too late, and this is how I feel:


If you don’t know about Grey Gardens, I have provided a nifty explanation of my findings down below in “The Big Version” of my discovery.

In short, this is what I learned from Grey Gardens (on the first of what I’m sure is going to be 39734 viewings):
– marry rich
– clean your house
– clean your cats
– if you want to dance, dance
– if you want to eat only ice cream, be ready to share
– if you want to wear a tube top as an old lady … don’t let me see
– love your family
– maybe don’t move into your family’s house and refuse to leave, even when the sanitation department declares the property unfit for animals
– head scarves are in
– weird Kennedy Boston accents are just as weird as I suspected — kind of like a British person had jaw surgery — weird!
– someday, you will be old in a bed covered in tissues and kittens and photographs (or iPhones open to Facebook), so live how you want with people you won’t mind looking at through your giant magnifying glasses

The Big Version

Today was a long day. A productive day. But by the end of it, all I wanted to do was curl up and watch a movie that would take my mind off things, something I hadn’t seen before. I browsed through titles on my fancy three month trial of HBO GO, and saw Grey Gardens. “Isn’t that musical?” I thought to myself (quietly, as in not out loud, because have I mentioned that I never do that?). I pressed play.

Five hours later, I stand before you (okay, confession, I am sitting) A CHANGED WOMAN. It turns out that first, Grey Gardens was a true story, then it was a documentary with a cult following, and now it is a musical AND an HBO movie starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange, which I not only watched but soaked up like a Spongebob.

Allow me to fill you in on the deets: People knew Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale was notable because she had a very long name. Also, and probably more importantly, she was the wife of a New York socialite and aunt of the future First Lady, Jackie O.  Edith loved to sing and was called “Big Edie” after she named her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale (just like on Gilmore Girls).  Big Edie and her husband bought the mansion called Grey Gardens to serve as a vacation house in South Hampton. After Mr. Beale filed for a “fake Mexican divorce” (which were very fashionable when the Church refused to give annulments back in ye olde days), Big Edie moved into Grey Gardens for good. Little Edie joined her after unsuccessfully pursuing an acting career in New York City.

The two lived undisturbed for years and years, unable to take care of the mansion on their small monthly salary from Mr. Beale. They started collecting cats and other furry things like raccoons and mold. In 1971, the stench of their unkempt property was rousing complaints from neighbors, and authorities demanded that the pair either clean up the house or be forced to move away.  Edith and Edith did what any sensible people would do and told the press that they were confused and offended by the “raids” made on their perfectly decent home. With Jackie O’s name in the headlines, the eccentric, though kind of gross, dames got so much attention that the First Lady came to their aid with money and a team of brave workers to fix the house up to poison control standards.

In 1976, two brothers, Albert and David Maysles, made a revolutionary documentary about Edith and Edith. They approached the project in the same way cameramen on a reality show approach their material — little to no involvement.

After I devoured the HBO movie, I did all of the dishes in my sink, vacuumed my bedroom, and sprayed Febreeze everywhere. Then I found the documentary on YouTube! I thought Drew and Jessica were intriguing, but they had nothing on these women. Little Edith, donning head coverings made out of anything from scarves to t-shirts because of a health condition that causes hair loss, dances like a five year old, sings like a drunkard, and complains about her mother while they are in the same room. At one point, Big Edie flashes us! By George, it’s like the fur coat wearing grandmother of today’s reality television!

I could go on forever. Instead, I will provide links down yonder to a behind the scenes of the HBO movie and also the full documentary (which I highly recommend!!!).

Love you, chickens!


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