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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Grey Gardens, Now With More Color

Little Edie may have died in 2002, but our (and John Galliano's) obsession with her never could. This fall, Powerhouse Books will come out with "Edith Bouvier Beale of Grey Gardens: A Life in Pictures"—basically a collection of photos, letters, drawings and such recovered from the albums and scrap books she kept for decades. Endearing, hilarious and a little heartbreaking, it just might tide us over until HBO airs its Grey Gardens remake, starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lang. Friend of the family Peter Beard wrote the foreword, excerpted here...

"Remembering back to the Beales' saga in the summer of '72, there was never an even-slightly-dull moment for all those afternoons and evenings. The middle of Gold Coast Lane—a primordial overgrowth of nature itself, a jungley bush of leaves and vines—boasted the abandoned-looking house they called Grey Gardens. Throw in a troop of raccoons and around fifty-two cats (when they weren’t having a die-off), and there you have the last stronghold of the Beales. Lots of eccentricity and individuality inside and out. Genuinely genius-like personalities ran a rebellious, boycotting household that had just evolved along slowly. From what I’ve heard, it had been since the 1938 hurricane that they were ever more resentful of the goings-on outside. Rebels with a cause, Edie and Edie Beale: over the years, alone together, one-on-one, no one else, since the 1938 storm, all locked up in that house, considering it a better deal than what was going on outside.

I came from Kenya, a Mecca of the looming over-population horrors, into the summer-rush of the famous Hamptons. From the wasteland of “Starvo” to gluttonous consumer-ville; from the middle of 30,000 starving pachyderms, and the carcasses of rhinos and elephants (you could smell them from the airplane), to a summer sweltering mare’s nest of Bloomingdales and Macy’s relocated from Palm Beach. Right in the middle of it all, on the Gold Coast itself, were the two debonair die-hards. I have to rush to say again that every single visit with Edie and Edie was every bit as interesting as anything I enjoyed in my wildlife years of East Africa: rhino-gorings, elephant-tramplings, leopards and baboons fighting, wild dogs hunting, spitting cobras, centipedes and scorpions, whatever.

A quarter of a century of greeting cards on the mantelpiece—birthdays and holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter cards addressed to each other, jammed all around the dilapidated fireplace, under the cracked and broken ceiling. Many with a cat’s face (or once an opossum), peering down Chas Adams-style. Life without running water. Two hundred bags of cat shit in the cellar (personally carried out by William vanden Heuvel and myself). A musty world like Dagoretti corner in the slums, just beyond Nairobi swamp, and beyond belief. Every square inch in magnificent disrepair, and these two elegant and above-it-all creatures lounging around in all of it. Young Edie probably posing or performing, Aunt Edie muttering Oscar Wilde-like sarcasms—probably about how the town of East Hampton had somehow decided to go down the urban-migration-drain (“loss of rural integrity”, etc...), with a mushrooming catastrophe of H.L. Mencken-esque tin-god “bureaucraps”—all kinds of Kafka S&M dogma, and loads of it."

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