Young Edith Beale never got very far from Old Edith Beale for very long during her entire life. Grey Gardens became the breeding ground of a relationship from which neither mother nor daughter could emerge either as vanquished or victorious. Their home took on a sort of Sunset Boulevard-Long Island significance. The more they deteriorated & turned inward, the more the 28-room mansion took on aspects of their eccentric lives. The static nature of things, the hold that “Big” Edith had over “Little Edith” is one of the strangest mother-daughter rivalry, love-hate, respect-revulsion relationships ever to have been so extensively recorded in modern times. It has some echoes of Joan & Christina Crawford, a rivalry, but without the viciousness. The Beales were to the manor born. For them, work was a concept about as foreign as inconspicuous consumption was to Joan Crawford. The Beales, socially speaking, had nothing to prove, whereas Joan Crawford had to prove her self-worth with every move she made every moment of every day. The Beales simply let things take their course, without creating schedules or attempting to craft identities based upon ambition. In this respect, the two households were polar opposites. The Beales were charming in a crazed way, while the Crawfords kept busy with axes, either frantically using them in the garden, or grinding them for recorded history. The House of Crawford was wax, cold & brittle. The House of Beale, just needed some repairs, but their was love was within the dilapidation, sometimes crazy, but always genuine.
The Imperial Dervish, Princess Melita Bonaparte dances not the Dance of the Seven Veils, but the grotesque March of Dysfunction, choreographed by Edith Beale, Jr.
Had they not been related to the once-ubiquitous Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, it’s likely that they would have become anonymous wards of the New York. In 1975, their static status was forever changed. Newspapers (this was before digital Social Media) headlined stories that outlined the grim & grotesque squalour into which their dysfunction had plunged them. Nearby residents took the matter of the filth & stench emanating from the mansion to the local Public Health Department & the Maysles Brothers, following their instinct, knew they had discovered a unique story, if they could obtain the permission & co-operation of the women Beale. With their simple documentary, going in-depth behind the news headlines, the Maysles unintentionally became the architects of a new set of anti-hero in American urban-celebrity folklore: The Edith Beales of their masterpiece: Grey Gardens.
Drifting, clinging, out of desperation from one icon to another: Her Imperial Highness, Princess Melita Bonaparte, Mother of Peaches Christ, as Young Edith Beale 12 October 2013–
Considering the squalour in which they lived, the documentary was amazing in terms of costumes. They had more costume changes than Diana Ross does in her one hour & fifteen minutes of over-priced concerts. At least Grey Gardens does give you some bang for your fashion dollar– in ways that only Young Edith Beale could have imagined. It’s just possible these might have inspired Martha Stewart somewhere along in her career of making practical fashion from the least likely sources. Truly, Young Edith was not really in a time warp, she simply was ahead of the times, by choosing the path least taken. And that has made all the difference, don’t you think?
“You can always take off the skirt & use it as a cape.”HBO 2009 Featuring Drew Barrymore & Jessica Lange as the Edith Beales
And as they were, Edith & Edith, the legacy produced by the Maysles Brothers, Grey Gardens, The Tatoi Palace of Long Island.
Grey Gardens, Like Many Other Camp-destined Productions, Took On A Life Of Its Own–You Tube of The Musical Version–STAUNCH!
Princess Melita Bonaparte auditions for “Little” Edith Beale, hoping to become a ‘working princess’ who can become an actress/writer/model/psychoanalyst/escort. We only report what she tells us. Photograph by Steve Han.
Nearsighted With Insight: Edith Beale as Interpreted by Her Imperial Highness, The Princess Melita Bonaparte. Photograph from Peaches Christ’s Facebook & Divine Intervention
Edith Beale was too beautiful for glasses, but wanted to see things close up. She had a knack for inventive workarounds for such annoyances as being nearsighted. Last minute purchase of magnifying glass by grace of Cliff’s Variety Store 479 Castro Street, San Francisco.