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Staunch I Grey Gardens

The journey began watching a commercial with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange.  The movie, Grey Gardens.  I wasn’t interested until I saw Drew Barrymore really act the part of Little Edie.  She came alive and I had no idea who this character was supposed to be.
The Beales of the Hamptons, Big Edie and Little Edie Bouvier Beale is the story of two ladies who were once in high society.  Big Edie Bouvier Beale is actually the aunt of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, making Little Edie her first cousin.  But, what makes these two characters so remarkable is their retreat inside their home in the Hamptons.
Years go by and they live in absolute isolation.  Little Edie who once was a fashion model and an elite American socialite, is now in her 50s when the first “Raid” takes place.  The Suffolk County Health Department caught attention of the dilapidated condition of the home and decided to inspect.  Not being up to code, the Edies face eviction.
This story makes headlines around the fall of 1971and was featured in both the National Enquirer and the New York magazine.  Of course, Jackie Onassis comes to their aid and brings the home up to code so the two ladies won’t get evicted.  But, the story doesn’t stop there.  They continue to live in poverty and seclusion.
Grey Gardens, surrounded by beautiful houses in every direction, is standing in the middle of this prestigious community, an ocean front property with paint chips peeling, screen doors tearing, raccoons rummaging, cats peeing, and fleas biting.  The Edies keep themselves great company, living in their pasts.  They reminisce daily.  The don’t move forward.  They don’t think about moving forward.  They are stuck in their past, reliving moments they once had.
The Maysles brothers enter in 1975 when they decide to do a documentary of these two ladies.  Big Edie likes to sing and has a way with words that are quite interesting.  But, Little Edie dances around and talks to the camera often in a conspiratal tone.  The words that come from her are priceless and have been coined by many who just wanted to frame Little Edie in history for her way of remarking about the world and society, the way things are and the way things should be.
My father gave my mother a fake Mexican divorce.  (Because the Catholic Church didn’t recognize it…)
They’ll get you for wearing red shoes downtown on Thursday.  (A comment on the Un-America of America…)
This is the costume of the day.  (Commenting on her sense of style, which had slipped somewhat at this point…)
I’m a staunch lady.  How could they have known how to deal with me?  I’m staunch, s-t-a-u-n-c-h.
And so many others, it is hard to count.  The Maysles brothers recorded them talking, singing, dancing and just about anything else of interest.  They caught the fire on camera, when no one knew what to do.  They finally found water and put it out, by the time the fire trucks came.
That’s where the raccoon found a nice little way of getting around, now through the hole in the floor.  But, Little Edie just drops bread there so the raccoon has something to eat.
In the large house, I believe I read or heard that there were 17 rooms, they both slept in one room and stayed in that room mainly throughout the day.  There is footage of them on the porch enjoying the sun.  There are scenes of them in the kitchen or in the foyer.  But, not much.
Little Edie puts on several shows for the camera in the front yard.  She dances on the front porch and tries on different outfits.  I think she might have developed a small crush on the camera guy.  She does seem to flirt, but that could be her nature and memories of years gone by coming out in her.
Two years later, Big Edie passes away.  Little Edie stays in the house for another two years before finally selling it.  It’s a completely restored, beautiful estate now.
But, Little Edie tried her hand at Cabaret one more time before finally settling down in Bal Harbor, Florida in 1997.  She kept in touch with family and close friends.  She had some adoring fans.  The documentary on the Grey Gardens had made her a cult classic and there is some really interesting footage of her.
She finally passed away at the age of 84, in 2002.  The story of Grey Gardens became a Broadway Musical and now Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange have reenacted the Maysles documentary.  It’s always interesting to me what strikes us as noteworthy, worthy enough to be noted.
If the two ladies hadn’t been family of Jackie Onassis, would we care?  Would we make such a big deal out of it?
The only answer I have is that they once were among the elite, and they decided to decline into isolation.  They relived those years in their minds as Little Edie is often depicted as studying herself in a small mirror.  In live footage of her, I only see a magnifying glass.  But, both are symbolic of the bigger picture.  Either she was constantly looking at herself or magnifying the world around her, Little Edie had found a part of us that she didn’t like all too well.  She commented on it.  She sneered at it.
Perspectives.  Impressions.  Conformity.  Expectations.  These are not the best parts of ourselves, of our world.  The un-American of America strips away our differences and finds a way to tie down our freedoms.
Grey Gardens is an old dilapidated house in the Hamptons.  But to many of us, it is the home where we need to return.  It is the isolation we all need to embrace, so that we can find ourselves again.  It is that symbol of true love between a mother and a daughter that brothers, sisters, fathers, sons and friends need to find.
Because if you can still love someone after you’ve seen them at their very worst, then you deserve them at their very best!  I think Marilyn Monroe can be credited as having said something similar.

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