LIFE magazine’s slideshow of rare “GG” photos should not be missed!The real women of Grey Gardens. These amazing photos speak for themselves.
Life After Little Edie: Grey Gardens Gets A Makeover
As seasoned renovators and admirers of residential architecture and gardens, we are completely fascinated with the story of Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn’s purchase and restoration of Grey Gardens. There have been several magazine articles devoted to their story over the years, and each account has offered a special glimpse into the behind-the-scenes saga.

The archival photographs that Sally Quinn recently shared with The New York Times spellbind us. The exclusive slideshows feature never-before-seen interior photos of the home as Little Edie left it, along with shots of the overgrown exterior and garden. Additional commentary can be found in New York Magazine and W Magazine.


You will note in one photo that Little Edie hung a birdcage wired with a light above her bed. We all know that Edie’s astute eye for fashion and design was often ahead of its time. Today, a similar fixture can be purchased online at The Well Appointed House.

There is also a photo of a curio cabinet stuffed with many of Little Edie’s collectibles, which included Donald Duck figurines, cat-themed items, and seashells. Ms. Quinn restored the cabinet and kept many of Edie’s treasures, and it is still on display in the home. We took a photo of it when we attended a cocktail party at Grey Gardens back in 2007.

In the photo with the piano, you can see the drop-leaf dining room table in the background. Ms. Quinn also restored this piece, and today it greets visitors in the foyer as you enter Grey Gardens.

Additional articles on the restoration of Grey Gardens can be found in:

  • “Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee on Grey Gardens” from The Southampton Press by Oliver Peterson on September 3, 2007
  • “Grey Gardens: Quinn and Bradlee’s Hamptons Haunt” from The New York Post by Jennifer Gould Keil on August 17, 2006
  • “What it took to restore the magic and beauty of Grey Gardens” from Town & Country, Sally Quinn, June 2003
  • “Grey Gardens Back In The Pink” from Newsday, James A. Revson on September 11, 1986
  • “Restoring the Beauty of Grey Gardens” from Architectural Digest, Sally Quinn, December 1984

Name that tune…”Grey Gardens” edition!

Many of you have inquired about the song that Big Edie sings in the Maysles documentary, and that is also featured in the HBO movie as a duet between Big Edie (Jessica Lange) and Gould (Malcolm Gets).

The song is called “We Belong Together,” and is the closing tune from the relatively obscure 1932 Broadway musical, Music In The Air. The lyrics to this number were written by Oscar Hammerstein II, with music composed by Jerome Kern.

Coincidentally, the musical teaches the age-old lesson, ‘there’s no place like home’- a message that Big Edie certainly tried to reinforce in Little Edie to keep her from leaving Grey Gardens.

The Brunswick Record Corporation issued “We Belong Together” as a single in 1933 with vocals by Lew Sherwood and music by Eddy Duchin & his Central Park Casino Orchestra.

Have a listen:

The other famous ‘GG’ number is “Tea for Two.”  This song is from the 1925 musical No, No, Nanette with music by Vincent Youmans and lyrics by Irving Caesar.  One famous interpretation of the song is Tommy Dorsey’s cha-cha-cha version, which became a top ten hit in 1958.  The song has become a reliable standby for dance routines that call for “soft shoe” bits – a light form of tap dance performed in soft-soled shoes.

The Beale music repertoire also includes classic American songs by Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Harold Adamson, Victor Young, Dana Suesse, Edward Heyman, and Richard Rodgers.

First look at the official “Grey Gardens” poster featuring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore!

Thank you to Cristin Curry/HBO Films for sharing this with Grey Gardens Online.

(Click on poster to enlarge.)


Lois Wright art exhibit at the National Arts Club, New York City

Lois Wright, artist and Grey Gardens insider, will be celebrated with the first ever New York City art exhibition of her paintings at the National Arts Club at Gramercy Park, April 29 through May 13, 2009.  Celia Maysles of Corra Films and Rebecca Cooper of The Gallery Sag Harbor curate the exhibit.

A special opening night “Grey Gardens” themed party will be held Wednesday, April 29 from 6-8pm.  In honor of Lois, guests are encouraged to dress as their favorite “GG” character.


Lois’ paintings capture the essence of Grey Gardens, its eccentricities, and the wonderful spirit (both literally and figuratively) of the characters that inhabited the Beale mansion.  She was a dear friend to the Beales, and even lived at Grey Gardens for 13 months beginning in 1975.  Her popular published journal, My Life at Grey Gardens, is an intimate account of this time period.  She also hosts “The Lois Wright Show,” a television program that airs on the Long Island television network, LTV.

Rebecca Cooper curated the first ever gallery show of Lois Wright’s paintings in 2008 at The Gallery Sag Harbor.  The show was a huge success, selling every painting that was offered.

Celia Maysles is a celebrated director and producer for independent documentaries.  She has worked with Corra Films since 2004.  Maysles met Lois Wright while filming Wild Blue Yonder, her provocative, award-winning, first-person account documentary that chronicles her quest to get to know her father, famed documentarian David Maysles, who died when she was only seven.  Lois has been like an aunt to Celia ever since.

The National Arts Club is a private club whose membership is dedicated to furthering art and artists in America.  The Club is located at 15 Gramercy Park South between Park and Irving Place in New York City.

For more information about the “Grey Gardens: Paintings by Lois Wright” exhibit, please visit or call 212-772-3483.

I had the opportunity to recently interview Robert Beyer, who is originally from Sag Harbor and used to deliver groceries to the Beales at Grey Gardens. I appreciate him sharing his memories and observations, and I hope you will enjoy this fun interview!

GG: How long did you work at Newtown Grocery?
During the spring, summer, and fall of 1965.

GG: What were your main responsibilities there? 

Package orders of gourmet and other foods and deliver them.  The truck was a noisy Chevy Suburban.  There was another guy who drove another truck, so we had two running deliveries each day. 

The store was owned and run by Harry Moylan who lived in Sag Harbor near the home of my parents.   There were a couple of other employees who along with Harry have since passed away.   We worked alongside Dressen’s Market; we helped each other with deliveries and orders.  There were even openings in the walls between the shops!

GG: Were you living in the Hamptons at the time?
Yes, with my family in nearby Sag Harbor (after being away in tech school, and was already signed up on a delayed enlistment into the Navy for January 1966).

GG: How old were you?

I was 19 to 20 years old during that time (I was 20 in September 1965). 

GG: How often did the Beales receive grocery deliveries?
We actually didn’t get that many orders from them…definitely not each and every week.

The Beales did not order much food; some of it was caviar, pates, crackers, etc.  Most of their ordering was for LOTS of CAT FOOD!  Once a month Harry would give me Mrs. Beale’s trust fund check to give them.  I believe that was about all they had to live on. 

GG: How were the groceries ordered (by phone)? 
Yes, by phone.  Although, I saw Little Edie come into the store once.  She was wearing her black turban and I think a sweater.

GG: How were they paid for? 

I can’t say for sure, but most likely mailing a check

GG: Did you ever speak with Little or Big Edie?

Oh, yes!  But it took awhile.  Little Edie eventually peered out the window when I had been their “delivery boy” for a while.   I saw her and gave her my typical big smile and waved. 

Not long after that she came onto the porch and we got talking.  She and her Mom would then talk to me a lot by phone…oh how I wish I had taped some of that.  I thought, “Wow! What characters, but such nice characters.  They would eventually call me at home.  Little Edie would make the call, and then say, “Mother wants to speak to you.”  We talked about this and that, and the sad state of things…they would go on, and I just seemed to be someone they enjoyed talking with.   

Little Edie told my Mom what a nice lad I was.  I started to realize that they were very lonely as most people in town avoided them.  Though, by the same token, they were sort of hermits and didn’t mingle with the neighbors anyway.  They were lonely for the most part due to their own self-induced isolation.

After I went in the Navy I would get letters from them.  They told me that they were sad to see me go.  Sometimes they would report some “news” on Caroline and John John, but I knew they didn’t have much direct communication with the rest of the family. 

GG: What do you remember about the house?

Oh, it was much worse than it looked in the Maysles documentary.  The entire front yard was overgrown, and weeds wrapped and engulfed a very sad looking late 30’s to early 40’s Cadillac Sedan that was once black but at that time was so faded it was blue!  The car was just rotting away; it was probably taken away when the town started with the threats of eviction.  The place was pretty scary. 

On my first trip out there, the guys in the store said, “Just run fast through the weeds and high grass, dump the box of groceries on the seat on the porch and RUN!”  Whenever Little Edie would meet me at the door, I could only see into the front hallway…it was awful and it really stunk in there.  I never went in past that entryway.

Some years later after getting out of the service and going back to school and working, I was helping a friend with an electronics store in the Hamptons.   We got Edie’s radio to work on (the same turquoise-colored one that you see in the Maysles documentary).  How we got it?  I don’t know.  Maybe they had someone bring it in for them?  Man, did that radio smell foul!   It was a tube model, and their cats more than likely peed on it several times.  We somehow repaired it and sent it back.  Later I saw the documentary in the theater and noticed the radio in the film (by the time the Maysles documentary was released I had already moved to California).  

GG: Did other people at Newtown Grocery talk/gossip about the Beales?

To some extent; the Beales were known as the “Cat Ladies” and people said they were loony.  For example, people would say things like, “Do you know they are related to Jackie Kennedy?  Can you imagine?  Did you know the house is full of inbreeding cats?  That place should be condemned!  The old lady flipped out when her husband took off on her.”


GG: Out of curiosity, do you know whatever happened to Newtown Grocery?

It stayed in business I think into the early 1980’s.  Harry died too young; he was a great guy, a typical Irish Catholic family man.  You would see him in church every Sunday ushering the parishioners to their seats.

Rudy DeSanti who owned the meat market on the other side of Newtown Grocery passed away early too…then his son took over the family business.  When the big chain supermarkets came in like Gristedes, and the little mall in Bridgehampton, the original independent stores in town found it hard to survive.

Remember the great blackout in New York in November 1965?  I will never forget going to switch off the neon sign in Newtown Grocery’s window around 5 p.m. and the whole town immediately went dark!

Muffie Meyer submitted these great photos from her wedding.  Little Edie attended and even sang a song!  Thank you so much for sharing your special day with us, Muffie!

David Lewis shared with me his interesting experience with Little Edie.  He was Edie’s accompanist at Reno Sweeney and today is one of New York’s foremost musical directors and arrangers.  He recently released “Patti LuPone at Les Mouches,” a digitally restored recording of the iconic 1980 club act that was co-created and co-written by Lewis.  The CD is available for purchase online at

Pianists and musical accompanists always try to form a musical as well as emotional collaboration with the singer with whom they are performing.  Nothing, however, could have prepared me for my first encounter with Edie Beale, with whom I was to create a cabaret act for her New York debut at the Greenwich Village club, Reno Sweeney, in 1977.

I did in fact have a few clues about Edie Beale.  For many years I had bicycled past Grey Gardens, the decrepit and decaying mansion in East Hampton surrounded by the most expensive real estate in the country.  I had seen the Maysles brothers’ documentary about “Little” Edie and her mother living in virtual squalor with their dreams and fantasies.  I knew that her famous relative, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, had financially saved the Beales and their home from eviction just before the death of “Big” Edie.  And as I had also accompanied and arranged for diverse personalities such as Diane Keaton, Joan Hackett, Holly Woodlawn and Butterfly McQueen at the club, I thought I would be able to handle and understand this intriguing woman.

Our first meeting was shocking and a bit disturbing.  She met me in a darkened village living room dressed completely in black with no makeup and an expressionless visage.  I could hardly get her to speak and she avoided eye-to-eye contact completely.  Desperate to continue, I tried to start a conversation about her cats, of which I knew she had many.  She finally looked at me and began a strange and muddled conversation graphically detailing feline sexual proclivities. The room suddenly seemed smaller and I was beginning to sense that either this woman was quite damaged or that she was testing me in some way.  I didn’t see how this could ever be presented on a stage.

It was then that I spotted on the piano a ragged stack of sheet music which looked as if it had spent one too many East Hampton winters by the ocean.  When I opened the music, I recognized songs written by the best of the era – George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Vincent Youmans, and Jerome Kern.  Edie told me that she knew all the lyrics to the songs and that her two favorites were Porter and Noel Coward.  A dialogue had finally begun between us through music, and we began to rehearse. If some of the pitches in higher registers were approximated at best, I decided to overlook them.  She seemed painfully vulnerable and I could only imagine the courage it had taken her to get this far.

Opening night at Reno Sweeney’s was packed with a few fashionistas, a few people from the theatre, and many of the very curious.  I sensed a strange, nervous vibe from the audience.  I knew they were trying to suppress their laughter in anticipation of an eccentric freak show.  I was unnerved and rushed back to the dressing room to find a very calm Edie putting the final touches to her makeup.  I resolved to do everything I could to prevent Edie from becoming a laughingstock and the evening from turning into a debacle.

As I stepped to the stage and played the overture, I could feel the tension building.  “Ladies and Gentleman, the cabaret debut of Edie Beale” was announced and Edie slowly stepped into the spotlight.  The audience gasped.  Through her original outfit, blazing red with a died-rust bouquet of silk leaves complimenting her turbaned face, and an inner beauty, she appeared to be either a soft romantic specter from the past, or a portend from the future.  Something very original was happening.  In a very soft, patrician voice she began the verse of “Tea For Two.”

I’m discontented with homes that are rented so I have invented my own.

With that first line, Edie Beale had captivated the audience, and had transported them into her own “invented” fantasy.  They were nothing short of spellbound.  During the question and answer section in the middle of the show, she convulsed the audience with her frankness and her slightly self-deprecating humor.  “What is your favorite department store?” “Mays!” “What do you think of television?” “It’s very good for national emergencies.” “What’s your opinion of pre-marital sex?” “I think it’s very economical.”

She answered all questions about the Kennedy’s and her romantic relationships, especially with Joe Kennedy, Jr.  She speculated that if she had married him, she would probably have become First Lady, not Jackie.  One night she spotted Jackie’s sister and also her cousin, Lee Radziwill, in the audience and asked Lee to stand up and acknowledge the crowd.  Lee nervously stood to the applause of the audience.  I looked at Edie and noticed a slight glimmer of satisfaction on her face.

At the end of the evening she sang what I felt was the high point of the show, Noel Cowards’ beautiful and tender song, “Zigeuner.”  The audience cheered her at the finale of the show and no one was laughing.  At the end of the week’s engagement, we toasted to her success.

I never saw her again.  She didn’t seem to have any friends or a social life. A possible future as a singer or performer wasn’t even brought up.  I was quite upset when I heard she had died in 2002 in Florida.  I only wished she could have seen and participated in her resurgence as a fashion and theatrical icon thanks to the musical “Grey Gardens” and the new Maysles documentary.  Even after 30 years, I still remember a beautiful otherworldly woman softly singing Noel Coward’s lyrics to a hushed audience:

All I ask of life is just to listen to the songs that you sing,
My spirit like a bird on the wing
Your melodies adoring — soaring,
Call to me with some barbaric tune,
Now you hold me in your power,
Play to me for just an hour,

Based in Florida, Lee Schrager is the Director of Special Events & Media Relations at Southern Wine & Spirits of America, the largest distributor of alcoholic beverages in the United States, the creator and guiding force behind the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and, most recently, launched the Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival.  In 2008 he received the FOODARTS Silver Spoon award in recognition of his unique combination of business acumen, showmanship, enrichment of the wine and culinary milieu and his numerous philanthropic efforts.

I was thrilled when he took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to answer questions about his friendship with Little Edie.  He owned Torpedo, one of the hippest clubs on the South Beach scene, and Edie performed there one evening.


GG: How did you meet Little Edie and how long was your friendship?

LS:  I met Edie 29 years ago when I was living in East Hampton.  Michael Braverman, a good friend of mine, was friendly with her and introduced me.  I knew her for about 15 years.

GG: I understand that you hosted an AIDS benefit with a “Grey Gardens” theme at your South Beach nightclub Torpedo in 1987.  Edie was 69 years old at the time.  Little Edie attended and played the piano and sang.  What can you tell me about this special evening?

LS: She sang “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” and “Hard Hearted Hannah.”  I recall her liking to sing, not playing the piano.  When she performed at Torpedo, she was very nervous and wanted to cancel.  We wanted to send a car to pick her up, but she wanted me to do it myself.

GG: Edie is often characterized as “reclusive” and “eccentric;” however, she was in fact very outgoing and was definitely in her element when she had a captive audience. What was your impression of Little Edie? What is you most fond memory of her?

LS: Most fond memory: when she moved to Florida she would come to my apartment because she loved the water.  She would sit on my terrace for hours talking.  I also love the letters she used to write to me—her penmanship was beautiful!

GG: Little Edie’s fashion genius has influenced countless designers. You introduced Edie to Gianni Versace.  How did Versace feel about Edie?  And did he ever indicate that Edie inspired any of his work?

LS: He never commented that she inspired any of his work, but he adored her.  He thought she was one of a kind.

GG: How do you think Little Edie would feel about the incredible surge in interest in Grey Gardens over the past few years?

LS: She would be in heaven—she loved attention.  She would just be in heaven!

The East Hampton Star shared photos of Jackie Onassis on her way to Big Edie’s funeral exclusively with Grey Gardens Online.
I sent Lois Wright a few questions that some of my readers were curious about.  I was surprised when she decided to answer a few of the questions on her television program, “The Lois Wright Show,” which airs weekly in the Hamptons.  I transcribed the answers from the DVD of the program that she sent me.

In classic Lois style, she was very frank and did not mince words.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!  Thank you, Lois, for sharing your memories and candid observations with Grey Gardens Online.

And I should mention that the views expressed by Lois do not necessarily reflect those of Grey Gardens Online or its owner.


GG: You met with Michael Sucsy and Drew Barrymore regarding the new HBO film.  What was your impression of Drew?  What kinds of questions did she have for you?  How do you feel about a feature film version based on the life of the Beales?

LW: Drew is a charming, delightful person.  She came to my place, and then we went over to my friend Doris Francisco’s house in Montauk.  Drew brought flowers to my apartment.  I was speaking with Michael Sucsy and Drew went into the kitchen area to find a vase.  She arranged the flowers in water and everything.  I wouldn’t have done that. I think it was very nice for her to do that.

She is very dedicated to her Barrymore background.  She really intends to become a dramatic actress.  You know I saw one of her films.  I didn’t care very much for the silly films she has been doing.  She should do more dramatic films.  This is what you think of when you think about Ethel, let alone Lionel and John.  I hope she does live up to the name.  She has her own production company, Flower Films. 

She asked me lots of questions, like what it was like to live in the house with Little Edie and Big Edie.  But, she particularly wanted to know more about Edie’s accent.  It’s a cultured accent crossed with some New York City accent.  Then there’s that whispering she would do.  Edie had a fascinating way of expressing herself.  It has Southern and a “private school” touch in there, too.  It’s charming and so natural. 

She asked me how to say “mye-o-naise”.  You know Edie said “mye-o-naise” instead of “mayonnaise.”  It’s hard to duplicate.  I used to hear her say all the time to her mother, “I’ll go downstairs and get the “mye-o-naise.”  Drew absorbed everything I had to say.

Michael Sucsy came out to East Hampton with his assistant and took me out to lunch.  His assistant was very good looking.  I think he was from Mississippi.  Better looking than Michael Sucsy (laughs).  Michael made a copy of the manuscript of my book and took it back to Los Angeles.  He had my manuscript for three years.  He never met Big Edie or Little Edie, and I doubt he ever visited Grey Gardens.  I think he absorbed a lot about the Beales from my book. 

I thought when he ran off with the manuscript I would get some sort of compensation for it because he studied it for three years and wouldn’t send it back.  He even asked me for pages of it that were missing at the time.  He sent me a contract that I wouldn’t sign because it was ridiculous.  So that’s how I feel about the movie.  I argued with him about it.  When we got back to my place from lunch, Drew went into the ladies room and I said to Michael, “Well you didn’t throw me off a Montauk cliff after all.”  I think I was a nuisance to him with that manuscript.

When we left Doris Francisco’s we stopped off at the post office.  I had a package to mail.  Drew jumped out of the back seat of the car and went into mail it for me.  Her appreciation and manners are wonderful. 

GG: You have disputed a lot of the claims that Jerry Torre has made regarding his relationship with the Beales.  Have you had the opportunity to talk with him regarding this?  I heard that you saw him at a recent party at Grey Gardens.  What was that like?

LW: I saw him at the Historical Society party at Grey Gardens that Frances Hayward hosted.  No one knows him in East Hampton.  He just tells one lie after another.  He is able to do it because he is in the film “Grey Gardens” so much.  He was only there a couple weeks and he never lived there.  Now he says he was their chauffer and handyman.

He never was a chauffer and handyman for them.  He must have got that from “Driving Miss Daisy.”  Anything that clicks with him he will say he did it.  He tells one lie after another.

He says he was with Big Edie when she died in Grey Gardens and he was the only one there.  That’s what started the lying.  Doris Francisco and I checked Big Edie into the Southampton Hospital where she died and certainly he was never around.  He was a good prop for the Maysles.  They did not know how to fit me in.  I am this “individualist” and sometimes I just don’t fit in with the rest of the group.  They could see how this young boy fit in that arrived on his bicycle.  He certainly didn’t have a car.  The Beales had no car.  The Cadillac they had was practically sitting by the front door and it didn’t work.  Thankfully it was taken away.

He has delusions.  So, I invited him on my show a few years ago.  I told him he wasn’t telling the truth.  Then he called me on the phone and asked me why I was saying these things.  I told him these things he was saying were easy to check.  He had no reason to do it.  He was in the film and had enough publicity and fame, I guess you could call it.  He had no reason to make up these stories.  I don’t know why Al Maysles doesn’t stop him.  But Al just lets the chips fall where they may.  He just doesn’t want to get involved as far as I know.  I’ve got a lot more to say about him, but I think I will end the subject right now.

GG: I get a lot of emails from people that are interested in knowing why or how Little Edie lost her hair.  I assume that she had a condition called Alopecia, which caused her hair to fall out.  Do you happen to know the cause?  And when did it start?  Did Little Edie ever talk about it?

LW: I don’t believe it was a disease.  And if you want to know more about Little Edie’s hair, I suggest you read John Davis’s book where he claims she set her hair on fire.  Its something we never talked about.  Edie always had a scarf on.  She started off with beautiful blond hair.  Some people have said that John Davis wasn’t correct.  I don’t like the word “disease.”  So, I would rather the cause be more dramatic that that.  I certainly would never have asked Edie what happened to her hair.  And I didn’t.  It was just ignored, as it should be.

Big Edie is buried at the Bouvier family plot at the Most Holy Trinity Catholic Cemetery in East Hampton.  Part of Little Edie’s cremated remains are interred at Long Island’s Locust Valley Cemetery.   Her grave is next to the grave of her brother Bouvier “Buddy”  Beale.  She reportedly did not wish to be buried near her mother.

Photos of the gravesites of Big Edie and Little Edie Beale: