May 31, 2006
Little Gloria . . . Plastic at Last
A truly startling photo appears in the current issue of Vanity Fair. The cover boy is cute silver fox, Anderson Cooper. All the boyz in New York swear the staunch and straight-laced wunderkind of evening cable news is totally gay by day.
Clients of mine who are much "in the know" seem to concur. He wrote, in journalism-meets-memoir style, a sizable article about himself. He flashes between his experiences in New Orleans' post-Katrina devastation and his own boyhood. It's quite interesting.
His parents are Gloria Vanderbilt and Wyatt Cooper, who was a man of 'interest' to lots of gay men because he topped the Best Dressed List for the better part of a decade. He was the quintessential socialite husband of the glitter-drenched 60s and 70s. Anderson had an older brother, Carter Vanderbilt Cooper, who committed suicide by jumping from the terrace of his mother's penthouse. The sorrow and loss that overtook him in poor old NOLA stirred memories of the deaths of the most important men in his life, whatever his sexuality might be. Namely, his father and his brother.
The showstopper comes at the end of the spread, with a full-page photo of Anderson and his mother. He's on the floor at the base of a sofa upon which Gloria is posed a la odalisque with her left hand casually encircling her son and coming to rest on his shoulder. Her skin is flawless and her eyes are bright and sparkling.
Though her son is famous for his gray hair, her hair is a shiny, warm chestnut color and it's cut in a stylishly modern version of the bob-with-bangs she's sported for the majority of her life. Her lips are lusciously full in a wine colored lipstick. A simple gold chain sparkles at the base of her taught, smooth neckline. And those hands! Smooth, spotless, and as pudgy as a debutante. As you take in all the attributes of this lovely nymph, pinch yourself and remember that you're looking at an 82-year-old woman.
Little Gloria was born in 1924 and soon became the original "poor little rich girl." She was given this moniker by the media because her father, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, died when she was still an infant, leaving her (and her portion of the Vanderbilt millions) in the care of her mother, Gloria Laura Mercedes Morgan, who was the quintessential party girl of her time. F. Scott Fitzgerald could have used her as his muse.
The Vanderbilt clan never approved of Reggie's marriage to this goodtime flapper, and upon his death they would have preferred she simply go away. Enter Reggie's sister, Gloria Vanderbilt Whitney (as in The Whitney museum) a formidable opponent if ever there was one. Many believe she regularly visited The Isle of Lesbos, by the way. She demanded custody of young Gloria and used her enormous wealth to drag the ne'er-do-well young mother through the courts. By the age of 10, Gloria was back in the United States (what is now Westbury Gardens & Museum was Gertrude's country 'cottage') and was officially raised as a Vanderbilt heiress. Needless to say, she was totally screwed-up.
She married four times: 1) Hollywood agent and producer Pat Diccio in 1941. 2) World-renowned composer Leopold Stokowski in 1945. 3) Brilliant film director Stanley Lumet in 1956. 4) Wyatt Cooper in 1964. This last marriage was her favorite, and the couple was the toast of New York Nightlife in the decadent days of Studio 54. Wyatt died in 1978 and her son Carter killed himself in 1988.
In short, she's lived a life that would have wrinkled many a brow. Does she ever leave her baronial apartment, or would she melt in the sun like Icarus? Do they pose her in an array of artful positions, and then put her back to bed with a bottle of Botox? Is she allowed solid food? Does she remember who Anderson is? At least there's one senior citizen in this country not wrestling with which health plan to choose . . .