We've been aware of an upcoming biography of Edie Beale by Kent Bartram for quite a while now, but a new Facebook page for the book promises that it "is almost ready to be submitted to publishers." This page has also been sharing new information about the Beales and ultra-rare photos. Check it out!
From Staunch Character on Facebook, by Kent Bartram
Staunch Character: Edith Bouvier Beale, Jr. of Grey Gardens
In the fall of 1971, officials from the Suffolk County Department of Health came to inspect "Grey Gardens", the home of Edith Bouvier Beale (and her adult daughter "Little Edie"). Once a jewel of a summer estate in the vacation hamlet of East Hampton, Long Island, Grey Gardens had fallen into utter disrepair.
“Little Edie”, the socialite first cousin of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, had been raised as Park Avenue debutante, but over time, withdrew from New York society, taking shelter at her mother's Grey Gardens. Behind the thick wall of ivy that clung to the Beales’ shakeshingled mansion, the inspectors uncovered exposed electrical wires, no running water, dozens of inbred cats, a family of raccoons who had taken up residence in the attic, and gaping holes in the rain-soaked ceilings and floors. As their wealth and contact with the outside world dwindled, so did their grasp on reality. News of “the raid,” as the Beales came to call it, hit the international tabloids and their story became fabled gossip. On the brink of eviction and utterly destitute, Jackie came to their rescue, providing minimal repairs to the house and a token stipend for her relatives.
Little Edie had been a star of the "glitter set" from her 1935-36 debutante season until her retreat to her mother's country estate in 1952. The social and fashion idol of her little cousin Jacqueline, their fortune's had completely reversed by 1971.
Little Edie's story was forever memorialized in the Maysles Brothers’ cinema-verité documentary classic—"Grey Gardens", which revealed a mother-daughter relationship echoing a Tennessee Williams drama filled with dashed dreams and faded glory. At first glance their lives seem a tragic sight, but beyond the human wreckage, the Edies are revealed to be highly entertaining personalities, sage prophets, and quotable conversationalists.
Edie's story became further cemented into the American psyche with a 2006 Tony-award-winning Broadway show starring Christine Ebersole. A highly-accurate and Emmy-award-winning 2009 HBO film starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange revealed more of the backstory.
Defying all predictions, Edie lived alone, successfully, for another 25 years after her mother's death. And with her, at every step of the journey was her archives—carefully preserved fragments of her family history and the true story of her life. Family intrigue and betrayal, shifting allegiances (and fortunes), mental illness, dashed hopes and dreams, and a close connection to the spirit world all played important roles in shaping this fashion and cultural icon.
Staunch Character is a book about secrets and, now, on the eve of what would have been Edie's 95th birthday, Edie's full story can be told.