Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Grey Gardens In My Neighborhood

I was so glad for the tip off about the HBO film Grey Gardens from Cottage Way of Life. I would have missed something great! Two minutes before showtime, Jenna and I grabbed a blanket and sat on the couch together to watch it. I knew she would love the 1930's fashion and with every wardrobe change she would let out an " oooh , I like that dress!" We even drooled over the blue entry door and the beautiful dresser in their bedroom. I've been a long time fan of Jessica Lange, but I had some doubts that Drew cold pull it off. We were not disappointed! Both actresses did a amazing job in playing their roles and the makeup artists did a fabulous job! I was curious as to who might be living in the house now and discovered that after Big Edie had died, her daughter sold the house to Benjamin C. Bradlee, then the executive editor of The Washington Post, and his wife, the writer Sally Quinn. Ms. Quinn was quoted as saying "the attic revealed a ceiling-high pile of treasure. Antique wicker chairs, a pair of upholstered chaises, a baronial table, china, lamps and a glass case that had once held Little Edie's menagerie of miniature animals were all sent to be restored." That gave me the chills when I read that! Can you imagine uncovering a stash like that?
Grey Gardens is now leased to Frances Hayward, the philanthropist and animal-welfare advocate for 11 months out of the year."

After the movie was over, we discussed the similarities between our neighbor's house above) and the house in the film. Once a grand old home in it's day, it now sits surrounded by weeds and dead trees. The owner's 70's rusted Cadillac has sat in the same spot for 20 years and is usually surrounded by brush. Occasionally, a cleanup is done around the car, but still, it never moves. The front porch is in such poor condition, it is no longer used as an entrance to the home. You can see the steps are missing and there is a rope barring anyone from entering through the front entryway. My family actually lived in this house during the late 50's, but moved shortly after my first birthday. I've been inside a few times over the years, but it's condition has always depressed me. I drive by it everyday, but I rarely look over. It has gotten so bad, that people will stop to ask me if it is abandoned. Some stop to photograph it, and kids will often throw rocks through their windows. I've often dreamed of buying it and restoring it if were ever up for sale, but unless I were to win the lottery I doubt that dream will ever come true. Surprisingly, the current tenants are quite wealthy, and yet they have no plans to restore it. The owner, who turns 88 tomorrow, has lived in the home with her daughter since the 1970's. I remember them telling my parents that they used donated paint left over from a Navy shipyard. We then dubbed the paint color as Battleship Gray. It would be nice to see it restored one day, but I'm not holding my breath. :(

You can see the HBO trailer by clicking this link. Be sure to check your HBO schedule!

Sophie gave Grey Gardens 2 paws up. She's a huge Little Edie fan. `o)


Cali Girl said...

i looove grey gardens too and have been waiting for the hbo movie and i was sooo not disappointed either. it was wonderful!

Cottage Way of Life said...

I loved all the costumes in Grey Gardens too! And Sophie looks quite smart in her Little Edie scarf (I really, really, want a pug, Sophie is so cute!).

We had a touch of Grey Gardens in our life too. My Aunt was exactly like Big Edie, except she wanted to be an artist rather than an singer and she never had any children (which was a real good thing, believe me, they would have been tortured souls). There was even an old Cadillac parked outside that was filled with trash and empty cat food cans.

My Aunt Harriet was estranged from our family & then one day we got a call. A neighbor had turned her in to the health department. We had no idea what was going on but went to rescue her. We found that her house looked just like Grey Gardens, decrepit, piled with cat food cans, newspapers, trash, rats, rat droppings, and lots of other horrid things. The smell was ... well, you remember the scene where Jackie Kennedy comes to Grey Gardens when the Edies have been turned in to the health department? And Jackie recoils at the stench as she steps inside Grey Gardens? Yeah, it was exactly like that. We couldn't believe that anyone could get to that state and be okay living like that. But just like the Edies, aunt Harriet was oblivious to the decay.

Our Grey Gardens has a little happier ending though. We rescued my Aunt, cleaned her up (she didn't like to bathe, just like the two Edies) and she went to live with my Mother where she happily resided for almost 12 years until her death at the age of 93. Her house, a historic house, in a part of town where all the houses are antique, got cleaned up and restored, and it stayed in the family. My daughter and her family now live there. The house is beautiful now with a charming cottage garden filled with lots of flowers and an equally charming inside, beautifully decorated. You would never know it was once so filled with trash (literally six feet high) that there was just a narrow trash-lined path through the house.

My Aunt Harriet and the Beales would have, no doubt, gotten along famously.

Allidink said...

Oh my gosh Sophie is sooo cute! I've never heard of Grey Gardens I am going to check it out now though!

All the best,

Amy said...

never heard of it?? sounds like a good one though & I'll have to check it out:) not lots of details bud...just we're moving;) It will be crazy over here for a few weeks...but worth it in the end;)..that's a great old house..there is one like it next to me...on the national historic register..yet the owners are just letting it fall to the ground:( xo

The Whispering Poppies said...

Nancy! The wildest thing just happened this morning... I had a comment on my blog from a blogger I hadn't heard of before... the more I read her blog, the more familiar it all sounded. She lives right here in town and I've known her since college!!! lol But what you may find interesting, is her recent posts about San Diego and Coronado. I had totally forgotten she and her family are originally from California and have roots in that part of the state. Her fav shop is Vignettes! lol SMALL WORLD! Here's her post about Vignettes and the area:


Grey Gardens looks lovely, by the way! I REALLY need to see things from a Pacific Coast point of view (I've only been to CALIF once)!


I was told right after filming of the HBO film wrapped up in the fall of 2007, that I would be blown away at the last scene, where Edie sings Tea For Two at Reno Sweeny, and I was ! I had supplied the film company with the only recording in existence of Edie singing the tune, only this wasn't from her actual performance at the club, but rather her singing it just for me at one of my many visits to Grey Gardens. Drew sang it exactly, phrase for phrase as I have it on tape. Edie and I actually met that night at Reno Sweeny, and my relationship with Grey Gardens has now spanned over 3 decades. For our complete review, check out our blog at MyGreyGardens.com (HBO film review by Robb Brawn & Lee Arboreen), and be sure to check our Youtube video uploaded 4/18/09 the same day as the HBO film release. Click
GREY GARDENS PROMO to view the video

TUTU Monkey said...

Oooooo I was so sad to miss this movie...I hope to get it on Netflix before too long.

I LOVE older homes.....we own a 1909 home in Washington State and I have always been curious of the past owners..... I hope to REALLY fix it up some day.

Hope you are well...see you soon:)

Elizabeth said...

Oh, how I would love to get my hands on your neighbor's home!! I LOVE it!!! And I love Sophie too - I have two pugs - Monty and Lulu. Monty is fawn and Lulu is black and they live with their daddy in Texas - I miss them more than ever. Monty looks exactly like Sophie! As soon as I saw her, I said, "awww!" to my computer and felt a pang in my heart.

Thank for sharing,

Shab-n-Chic said...

Hi Elizabeth, I hope I live long enough to see the old grey home restored. It's such a shame, really. I remember seeing a puggie on your blog! You need to get another. Pugs are the BEST! I'm sorry you miss your babies.


A Vintage Mood said...

It's always sad to see people/things not reaching their potential isn't it? So many historic houses in our town are being revived, but so many still need to be loved and restored.

Sophie in the scarf is absolutely HI-larious!

Cathy Santarsiero, "The Christmas Corgi" said...

Oh your doggie in the scarf is a delight! Found your blog by way of Liz's (Mabels House) I thought Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange really nailed it with their performances of Big and Little Edie. They are such amazing talents!