An interesting little story about Lois Wright and her time at Grey Gardens. I didn't know many of the facts in here!
From New York Times, by Marcelle S. Fischler, on 25 May 2008
Memories of a Former Resident of Grey Gardens
Lois Wright arrived at Grey Gardens on May 7, 1975, with a green canvas cot, cooking pots, a couple of hats and a heavy stick, in case she "had to hit a raccoon." Her mother had just died, and Ms. Wright was going to stay with her close friends Edith Bouvier Beale, known as Big Edie, and her daughter, Little Edie, at their home here on Lily Pond Lane.
"Little Edie loved my mother, and Big Edie and my mother were very congenial," Ms. Wright, 79, recalled.
She stayed with the Beales, the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, for 13 months, leaving when she could not stand the fleas anymore.
The Beales, who had once led a privileged life in Manhattan, resided in squalor, amid raccoons and dozens of cats in a shingled house near Georgica Beach. Ms. Wright, an artist, palm reader, tarot card reader and member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, was a kindred free spirit, setting up her easel in the kitchen, using that "studio" to paint and write, chronicling the lives of her hosts.
The Beales cooked on a hot plate in Big Edie's room and didn't use the kitchen, Ms. Wright said.
In her cluttered two-room cottage apartment nearby, Ms. Wright now paints about her time at Grey Gardens from memory. The walls are covered with paintings of Little Edie and Big Edie and their spirits, self-portraits, the cats and the characters who populated a place where, Ms. Wright said, "the world cannot intrude."
Her work will be on display as part of a tribute to Grey Gardens at the Gallery Sag Harbor from June 7 to June 30, with a Champagne brunch on June 14. A memoir based on the copious journals Ms. Wright kept, My Life at Grey Gardens: 13 Months and Beyond, was published last year.
Rebecca Cooper, the gallery's owner, said that Grey Gardens had "a whole cult following." She said Ms. Wright's paintings "fall into the school of fantasy realism or visionary art; they are about the spirit, and they capture the soul." The paintings will be priced from $750 to $2,000, Ms. Cooper said.
Ms. Wright thought that the famous recluses had found "a perfect way for people to live." Ms. Wright, an East Hampton resident since age 12, had visited Grey Gardens often as a child; her maternal uncle, Dr. John F. Erdmann, a surgeon, had a big summer place down the block.
Wandering on the property on a recent afternoon, Ms. Wright said that Grey Gardens, now owned by Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, looked as if it were "straight out of a magazine" and had lost the "ramshackle charm" of the Beale days.
Stories about the Beales’ ragtag lifestyle were splashed across the tabloids after a Suffolk County Health Department raid in 1971, and it was immortalized in a 1976 documentary by David and Albert Maysles that will be shown on June 14 at the Bay Street Theater in conjunction with the art show. The Beales also inspired a 2006 Broadway show and a forthcoming HBO film starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange.
Ms. Wright appears in the documentary as a guest at Big Edie’s birthday party. She presented Ms. Beale with an index-card box.
Ms. Wright said she slept in a room overlooking the broad front porch that was preferred by "a captain" who was "definitely the Grey Gardens ghost" and had previously used the room.
She recalled that Little Edie asked her to do an oil portrait of Julius Krug, who was the secretary of the interior under President Truman and was known as Cap. Ms. Wright said that Little Edie never got over Cap, who was married.
"Edie and Big Edie loved my paintings, and they were very encouraging about my paintings," she said.
To earn money, Ms. Wright read palms at the estate and at a cocktail lounge nearby. "Bette Davis said I read her palm better than anyone from Hollywood to East Hampton," she said. For the last 20 years, Ms. Wright, whose formal schooling ended in the sixth grade, has been the host of her own cable television show on LTV, the local access channel, interviewing area guests.
Ms. Wright said reports of the filth at the 28-room mansion were exaggerated, though she lived there long after Mrs. Onassis had paid for a cleaning that required 40 gallons of disinfectant. "The floors were mopped all the time," she said.
The raccoons "were the practical ones," constantly trying to open the icebox door, she said, and the cats "were mystical."
Still, Ms. Wright said, she wore a hat to protect her head from raccoons and noted that "Edie said that the fleas came from the hedges up front."