Fascinating Facts & Quotable Quotes
Entertainment Weekly magazine ranks Grey Gardens as the #33 top cult film of all time.
The Grey Gardens: The Musical CD has sold approx. 30,000 copies as of Nov. 2007.
In October 1971, the Suffolk County Health Department raided Grey Gardens accompanied by an ASPCA investigator, a veterinarian, a public health nurse, a representative of the East Hampton Village attorney’s office, a building inspector, and a fire marshal!
Boxes of clothes, cassettes, albums, and a recorder were sent to the Beales after the raid from Jackie and Onassis.
“[Grey Gardens] is oozing with romance, ghosts, and other things.” – Little Edie
“I love the smell [of Grey Gardens]. I thrive on it. It makes me feel good.” – Big Edie
“My mother doesn’t believe in kitty litter. She prefers boxes and paper. And she’s the cat lover. So you can imagine how I suffer.” – Little Edie
Little Edie was said to have scanned Variety magazine each week to check on the success of the documentary…waiting for the 20 percent of the profits she was promised to start rolling in.
“I like anything that is even near show business. I don’t feel well unless I’m near it.” – Little Edie
“Here, I’m mother’s little daughter. In New York, I see myself as Edith.”- Little Edie
The original artwork for the Grey Gardens poster included an angel design in the “G” of “Grey Gardens.” It was inspired by Lois Wright, but was later changed in favor of the photo of Little Edie standing outside the home.
Big and Little Edie could balance a few peas on the tip of a kitchen knife, and often ate ice cream with knives.
The Beales applied for food stamps through Lois Wright so that no one would know.
“One is a lone woman who hasn’t got much money and she’s fighting to get the same thing she always wanted – recognition as a dancer, singer, and entertaining artist. Here, I’m mother’s little helper, cleaning up after the cats.” – Little Edie
“My costumes? That’s a protest against having worked as a model for the Establishment, believe it or not. A lot of models feel that way. Sometimes their lives are protests against having worked as models. Besides, I didn’t have time taking care of mother to get out and buy any clothes. So I used what was left of mine and mother’s in the attic.” – Little Edie
The red “Around the World” brochure that Little Edie pins to the wall in the documentary is from the 94-day world cruise of the M.S. Kungsholm Swedish American Cruise Line on January 15, 1971.
James Conklin, owner of Home Sweet Home moving and storage company, was hired by Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn to remove the household goods that Little Edie left in Grey Gardens. He is quoted as saying, “There were feces all over the place: on the rugs, on the furniture. There’s nothing in my vocabulary that can describe it. I don’t even want to think about it. It’s probably the worst thing we had to do, bar none.”
Edie placed a sign on the front door of Grey Gardens that read: DO NOT TRESPASS, POLICE ON THE PLACE.
During the renovation, Ben Bradlee found the front door stolen and being auctioned for charity in East Hampton.
“After mother died Jackie told me she’d hired all these people to renovate the house, but I didn’t want Jackie and Lee to grab the house, so I sold it quickly for mere pennies. The people who bought the house, Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, were perfectly wonderful, sweet and kind. There are some nice people in the world, you know, I just don’t happen to be related to any of them.” – Little Edie
“Jackie was twelve years younger than I, and although I was never jealous of her, I never liked her. You know what Jackie wanted? She wanted the house. Yes darling, that’s the truth, and she did everything she could to get it. Then Jackie sent her sister Lee, who I’ve always been absolutely terrified of- I think she’s a big criminal. Lee and her boyfriend came around and started to tear the house down with axes. Don’t go near any of these people for God’s sake, they’re all insane!” – Little Edie
“I think [America] is a fabulous country, and I’m crazy about Bill Clinton.” – Little Edie
“Oh, Mother thinks its artistic this way, like a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Don’t you love the overgrown Louisiana Bayou look.” – Little Edie
Some of the names of the cats at Grey Gardens were: Bigelow, Pinky One, Pinky Two, Tedsy Kennedy, Hipperino, Zeppo, Little Jimmy, and Champion.
“We’ve had 300 cats altogether. Now we have twelve. It’s true about old maids, they don’t need men if they have cats.” – Little Edie
“Two women can’t live together for twenty years without some jealousy. Not that my voice is better than Mother’s, but she can’t dance.”
– Little Edie
Approximately $15,000 worth of family heirlooms were stolen from Grey Gardens in 1968 while Edith and Edie were at a party in East Hampton. It would be one of the last times Big Edie left the house.
Little Edie claimed that ghosts inhabited Grey Gardens, including a sea captain and Tex Logan.
Little Edie was an accomplished poet and essayist.
A brooch containing heirloom Bouvier diamonds, and Big Edie’s wedding earrings and necklace were auctioned on eBay several years ago. There were no takers for the high-priced jewelry. The painting by Albert Herter of Big Edie’s red-headed sisters was also auctioned, but did not fetch the $300,000 opening bid.
The documentary that Lee and Jackie had originally hired the Maysles’ to produce was to be called Reminiscences of Old East Hampton.
“I didn’t want my child to be taken away. I’d be entirely alone.” – Big Edie
“Of course the house isn’t perfectly normal. The house has to be done over. You know how hard it is to get plumbers in the autumn.” – Little Edie
“The family never cared for me and they hated my mother. She was a dancer and a singer with a terrific voice she’d inherited from her mother, and the relatives hated her because she was magnificent.” – Little Edie
“We were very serious [about the documentary], and we actually thought we were going to make profits. Famous last words.” – Little Edie
Little Edie looked mysterious in a costume fashioned from a red shawl, with a crown made from plastic rhododendron leaves on her head. She wrote two original songs that she sang at Reno Sweeney. The seven songs she performed included “Tea for Two,” “Zigeuner,” “Play It Again Sam,” and “As Time Goes By.” David Lewis was her accompanist. She was guaranteed a minimum of $1,500 for the shows. After a few of Edie’s controversial performances, Jackie Onassis had her attorneys contact the nightclub management and threaten them with a lawsuit unless they terminated Edie’s contract immediately. Edie was already becoming bored with the arrangement, and decided to quit on her own volition.
What do you think of television? “It’s great for national emergencies.”
What is your favorite department store? “May’s, although I haven’t been there yet.”
What do you eat? “I dine once a day at 5 p.m., mainly on fruits and vegetables.”
Do you expect Jackie to come? “I told her not to come here. I thought she’d upset my act.”
What is your opinion of pre-marital sex? ” It’s economical.”
Did Jackie marry Onassis for his money? “Of course. Wouldn’t you?”
What are Jackie’s children really like? “John’s a doll, but his sister’s spoiled silly.”
“I’m really a dancer, you know. When I was young, I stopped many a dance in New York City. I really stopped the whole room! I just adored to dance. I think I stopped a dance at Princeton once, too.” – Little Edie
“I think I’ll be an old maid until I die. I’ll probably sit around with cats for the rest of my life. Whatever happens, I certainly won’t start to drink. But I do have what you call entrenched habits, and I’m not going to change them.” – Little Edie
“I’m probably absolutely insane to sell [Grey Gardens]. It’s fabulous property, on a private road, right behind the dunes. But I think I’ve had too much of Long Island. I don’t want to go around in a car all the time. I don’t think it’s healthy. But if they see you walking on a road out there, they think you’re eccentric.” – Little Edie
“I went to two cocktail parties [in East Hampton] to stop the gossip about my being a recluse. Most of them looked at me like I was from Mars. I shouldn’t have gone; I don’t drink. If you don’t do what everybody else does out there, if you don’t go to the Maidstone Club or join the Garden Club, you’re written off as crazy.” – Little Edie
“After the movie came out we got a letter from the Maysles that said, ‘We spent a million dollars on the movie and we don’t have any money now and there will never be any money because nobody liked the film and it wasn’t a hit.'” – Little Edie
Little Edie apparently liked to watch old Tarzan movies.
There is a Los Angeles rock band called “Grey Gardens” (http://www.myspace.com/greygardensmusic).
It is rumored that Renee Zellweger campaigned to play the part of Little Edie in the HBO film.
Musician Rufus Wainwright wrote a song entitled “Grey Gardens,” which appears on his 2001 album Poses. The song begins with a line from the film, spoken by Little Edie.
The October 2007 issue of Harper’s Bazaar paid homage to Grey Gardens in a photo spread featuring Mary-Kate Olsen and Lauren Hutton.
Celebrities such as Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Rosie O’Donnell, Todd Oldham, and Calvin Klein are fans of the documentary.
Roger Ebert gives Grey Gardens four stars.
On July 18, 2007, Scott Frankel conducted Grey Gardens: The Musical. A composer conducting his own show is a rarity, and something that hadn’t happened on Broadway in recent memory.
Grey Gardens: The Musical writer, Doug Wright, told New York magazine about the upcoming HBO film, “I resent this popular notion that the greatest thing an American play can achieve is to be made into a mediocre movie.”
A French composer almost used Grey Gardens as the basis for a contemporary opera.
Sally Quinn’s home renovation advice:
1. Restoring an old house is more expensive than tearing it down and rebuilding it from an architect’s drawings. The contractor will tell you to demolish it, that he can build the same house new for less money. He is not lying.
2. Don’t restore an old house unless you are committed to doing it right. Cutting corners and doing it on the cheap is not fair to the house, to the neighborhood, or to your soul.
3. Make sure you have a solid marriage. Many couples decide to save an old house when what they really want is a project to save the relationship. This is a mistake. You’ll not only have the expense of the restoration but also the expense of a divorce, and then you may have to sell the house anyway.
4. Don’t try to make an old house look new. If it has crooked ceilings and doorjambs, funny shaped windows, odd moldings, wormy floors, and secret panels, leave them that way. Obviously you will want more light and good kitchens and bathrooms. The worst thing you can do is create a modern addition that isn’t faithful to the original house. Remember why you bought it … because it’s an old house.
5. Keep in mind that this is a house, not a museum. Too many people get carried away and devote the décor of their historic houses so slavishly to the period that you feel the rooms should be roped off. When the house was built, people actually lived in it. So should you. And love every minute of it.
In a Newsweek article published when Little Edie decided to put Grey Gardens on the market for sale, she described the home as having 26 rooms on a two acre lot. She was asking $500,000 for it. She was quoted as saying, “I’ve been scrubbing the walls, doing floors, cleaning closets.” Edie also mentioned that Jackie paid the water, oil, and electric bills and deposited what Edie called a “food allowance” in her bank account every month. “She’s sweet,” said Edie. “I’ve got to sit down and write her a long letter.”
The Maysles’ shot Edie discoursing on politics but refused to include the material in the documentary, despite Ellen Hovde’s protests: “The real reason why we wanted it was that it showed Edie in a moment that was not narcissistic. She was showing that she did read, that she was aware of public events…we did feel strongly that the scene should be in it. In fact, we were constantly putting it in, and David was constantly taking it out.”
“My mother was so different – she didn’t want to marry – she wanted a career in singing and the stage, which was not encouraged by the Bouviers.” Little Edie
“A genteely subversive influence.” – Jackie Onassis on Big Edie
“Jackie was an odd mixture of tomboy and princess. She never outgrew the princess role. And Lee had a complex about Jackie because Jackie won all those prizes at horse shows. Jacqueline, even as a teenager, dominated over Lee. People paid more attention to Jackie than they did to Lee. Her father was in love Jackie.” – Little Edie
“My impoverishment and the well-publicized run-down condition of the house became a vast public relations problem for Jackie, who in 1968 had married Aristotle Onassis, one of the wealthiest men in the world. I wanted Jackie to buy the place and then restore it without tearing it completely down. She wanted nothing to do with it. Suddenly along came Sally Quinn, the wife of Ben Bradlee. ‘Buy it for me, Ben,’ she cooed. And he said, ‘You must be out of your eff-ing mind.’ But Sally turned on the southern charm and in the end he did buy it, and after a complete makeover the property was featured in Architectural Digest.” – Little Edie
“In all my life, including years reporting about slums from Washington to Casablanca, I have never seen a house in such dreadful condition: attics full of raccoons and their droppings, toilets stopped up, a kitchen stove that had fallen into the cellar, a living room with literally only half a floor, grounds so matted with devil’s walking sticks and other thorns they were impenetrable, a large walled garden which was so overgrown it could not even be seen. Over everything hung the knee-buckling smell of cats and cat excrement. Whole rooms had been abandoned when they filled-up with garbage, as the Beales moved to the next room…’Big Edie’ had passed away, and ‘Little Edie’ was forced to sell, but willing to sell to someone who would not tear the eyesore down.” – Ben Bradlee
“No [the Maysles never told me what they were looking for in the documentary]. Never. They had no idea. Just a sense of two charismatic people, and that there might be a story. When the material came in we just let it wash over us. In general it was very strange. You almost couldn’t tell if you had anything until you cut it, because it was so free flowing. Very repetitive. It didn’t have a structure. There were no events. There was nothing around which a conversation was going to wheel. It was all kind of the same in a gross way, and you had to dig into it, try to find motivations, condense the material to bring out psychological tones. I was always, I guess, looking for relationships. I think we were pushing in film terms towards a novel of sensibility rather than a novel of plot. I don’t think we were clear at all (at least not in the beginning) about the direction we were going in. I think we all knew there was nothing in terms of ‘action,’ but what was really going on was not clear. The main themes that Muffie and I decided to go with were the questions ‘Why were the mother and daughter together?’ ‘Was it possible that Little Edie was there to take care of her mother, and it was the demanding mother who took care that her daughter couldn’t leave?’ and ‘Was the relationship really a symbiotic one?’” – Ellen Hovde
In her book, The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own, Nina Garcia, fashion icon and Project Runway judge, lists the 1975 release of Grey Gardens as one of the “Great Moments in Brooch History” and calls Edie’s fake Mexican brooch “iconic.”
“Wait ‘till I introduce Jack Kennedy to Aunt Edie. You know, I doubt if he’d survive it. The Kennedy’s are terribly bourgeois.” – Jackie Onassis
“John insisted on seeing the attic and rummaging through the heaps of junk. His Secret Service agent took one look at the place and went up there after him. When they came down, John said the attic reminded him of a stage setting. He found a board and an old rusty roller skate, which Edith let him keep. Presumably he wanted to make a skateboard out of it.” – Doris Francisco recalling a visit by little John Kennedy, Jr. to Grey Gardens