The 1975 documentary Grey Gardens captures the decrepit lives of the aunt and first cousin (little and big Edie) of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The two live in a ramshackle East Hampton mansion, literally rotting amongst their own filth, and that of dozens of cats. The documentary was made after their living situation was made public by health safety inspections, called upon by their unhappy neighbors. To watch the documentary is to watch American aristocracy soil themselves in privileged isolation. Amongst the rot of home and human debris, is the tragic and true decay of human minds-- with a touch of class.
This touch manifests itself mostly in the attire and performance of little Edie. She is apt to wearing turbans pinned with exquisite diamond pendants, which makes her antics all the more interesting, yet somehow heartbreaking. While Edie treats the documentary crew as an audience, her mother, big Edie, ripe and wrinkled, is often caught sunbathing topless outside. Big Edie's unabashed display of herself suggests a true abandon of human decency. The two inhabit only one room of the 14 in the house, where they eat, sleep, and god knows what else.
Since the documentary, a number of adaptions have been made, and to my amazement, another one will premiere on HBO later this month, starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. I can only imagine why this calamity might be perpetuated... for the sake of fashion? comedy? warning?
- Carly Pifer
- Born and raised under the Los Angeles sun and smog. At sixteen spent some time in LA County Juvenile Detention Center, although never really learned her lesson. Moved to Boston for the classic college experience. Spray painted graffiti in the Paris Metro during six month stay in the Marais. Survived an ultra fabulous and frightening internship at Vogue Magazine while living at a nunnery in Hell's Kitchen. Lived a year in Seoul, a city which can only be compared to a Disneyland theme park. Written four hundred sixty-four words of an undisclosed masterpiece novel. Currently pondering her next adventure and also the meaning of her memoirs from an artist's loft in dirty Brooklyn.