I sent Lois Wright a few questions that some…
|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.