I Love {Grey Gardens}

This is something I’ve been thinking about blogging pretty much since the inception of Dixie Delights.  I first became aware of Grey Gardens when HBO aired their special back in 2009.  We were living with bestie S and “Mr. Todd” for about two months, and came across it one night.  We were absolutely captivated and watched the original 1976 documentary, the best documentary I’ve ever seen, online the very next day.If you aren’t familiar with the story, Grey Gardens was built at the turn of the century in the Georgica Pond neighborhood of East Hampton.  The mansion was purchased in 1923 by socialite “Big Edie” and her wealthy husband Phelan Beale. The house was called Grey Gardens because of the color of the dunes, cement garden walls and sea mist.


When Beale up and left his wife and daughter, “Little Edie”, the women moved to Grey Gardens where they lived for 50 years.  During this time, Grey Gardens fell into utter disrepair and the once socialites lived reclusive lives in extreme poverty and complete squalor.

To fully grasp the utterly astonishing decline, the documentary and HBO special also tells the story of the women. Big Edie was born an arisotcrat, the aunt of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and somewhat of a piano prodigy.  Little Edie was a beautiful model and aspiring actress.


The change in the two women left me aghast.  Big Edie…


… and Little Edie.



As for Grey Gardens itself, the home was infested by fleas, inhabited by countless wild cats and raccoons, lacked running water and was consumed with garbage and decay.  After a series of “raids” by the Suffolk County Health Department and with the Beales facing eviction and razing of their house, Jackie Onassis came in with money to bring the house back to code.  Within a couple of years, the Edies were back to their old ways of living in filth.



The story of their lives and home is horrifying, captivating, heart warming and puzzling.  I’m not sure any documentary has ever left me with this vast array of emotions at the end.  Little Edie put her New York life and dreams on hold to care for her mother and never left her side again.  OR did Little Edie come home to be cared for by her mother and use her as an excuse to never have to go back to that life??  Together the two descend into an astonishing life of eccentricity and dependence, with both clinging to their past lives yet seeing no wrong with the way they currently live.
I finally shared the story of Grey Gardens today because the original 1976 documentary is airing TOMORROW Sunday March 8 on Turner Classic Movies at 10AM EST.   You will laugh, cry, and be utterly shocked at this true story of the love between a mother and daughter.  Not only that, if you are a house lover like me, your heart will break at the demise of Grey Gardens.
PS. It is worth seeing BOTH the documentary and the HBO special.
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14 thoughts on “I Love {Grey Gardens}

  1. GG is the best documentary ever! My friend and I call each other chicken and try to be STAUNCH characters. I want a cape and a broach and I wait for the Maysles to drop by. I am obsessed! I always knew I liked you and this confirms it!! "I hope you don't die soon but I can't take another winter!" ??

  2. I, too, have been a little fascinated by this since I first heard about it. I believe I saw a movie about it (Jessica Lange?) which was really good but I would love to see the documentary. Thanks for the update.

  3. I just blogged about Grey Gardens a month ago! Great minds my friend. The documentary was made by Albert Maysles who died yesterday. He was 88. Did you know that he was actually making a documentary about Jackie's sister at the time, and that was how he met Big E and Little E? I too have been intrigued for years!

  4. It saddens me to see lives and homes neglected. Thanks for the heads up that this will be on tomorrow, dvr is set. Have a great weekend!

  5. Have you seen the pictures of Grey Gardens after being restored? I can't remember which blog I was reading, but someone did a post on it. It was amazing what they were able to do! It might make you feel a bit better about the fate of the house! It's too bad some of Jackie O's money wasn't spent on therapy for her aunt and cousin! Interesting post, I will have to see this documentary now.

  6. I hope this isn't a duplicate ~ having difficulty with Google. I've seen this documentary but it's been ages. Thanks for sharing about the airing ~ can't wait to see it again! It's so hard to understand the how and why of people living like that, especially after Jackie had it redone for them. So sad!


  7. Wow! I just called my husband and had him record this. I can't wait to watch it. It is crazy to see "Little Edie" in that one picture posing and dressed all nice. She looks like she doesn't belong there.

  8. I just finished watching this and am still shaking my head. What a pair of proud ladies who were true originals. My heart hurts for them… Thanks for sharing this. It is a story that will stick with me awhile.

  9. Thank you for the heads up on this and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

    You looked fabulous last night and I can't wait to hear all about your special day. :-)
    You deserve the best!

    Jane~ San Diego

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