Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Calling Gloria

This pre-Raphaelite pretty got married on this day just 56 years ago, and photographer Gordon Parks was there to capture it.  Remarkably enough she's still with us.  She was even rather well-known in her own right, not just before she became Someone's Mother (and then, indeed, you're camp) but even before this wedding.

She, of course, is the original Poor Little Rich Girl, one who now, should she so choose to do, could rejoice in the full name of Gloria Laura Vanderbilt DiCicco Stokowski Lumet Cooper (Not all that many surnames, I know by Gabor standards, but enough, still, to have kept her busy for a couple of decades).  It was her second and this groom's as well.  He's Lumet, as in Sidney, as in movies; his number one was Hollywood hotcha (and Grace Kelly bridesmaid) Rita Gam (also surprisingly still with us).  He followed up, after Gloria, with Lena Horne's daughter, before ending up with a Gimbel (apparently not of the Department Store Gimbels, which I think is too bad).  First, though, he and Gloria gave it a go for seven years or so.  She moved on, replacing Tinseltown nobility with literary cachet, after a fashion; her last husband (and the father of You Know Who) was a literary dilettante whose friendship with Dorothy Parker is probably the most interesting thing about his nonVanderbiltische days.

Gloria's is a curious career, both lengthy and episodic, running from the Coolidge administration right up to today, in which she's appeared before the public in a series of separate and quite disparate guises:  orphaned waif and tabloid darling in the '20s and '30s; after the Second War, classical music muse and maestro's child-bride; conventional, comparatively, high-society fixture in the late '50s and '60s; then, with a fame eclipsing her earlier notoriety, fashionista and jeans impresario (impresaria?) of the '70s.  More recently, when not being referred to as a maternal presence only, she's been recognized as an author, artist, and a kind of little-seen but influential, somehow, presence that hovers gracefully over the Upper East Side.  As a whole, despite the dramas and the headlines and moments of definite darkness, her life has a kind of careless glamour that seems very much of another time. 

I'd like to think that on this day, at least, she really was Happy at Last, but the wariness of her glance, the stiffness of her pose, even the needless complexity of her many cuff buttons, all combine to make me think that in the end it was just one more thing to get through.  The downside of being rich enough to have anything, I suppose, is that nothing's all that exciting, after a while. 

What does she think now, do you suppose, of those headlines, which made her famous, or the headline-making-business that has made her best-known child even more so?


  1. You are being very obtuse today, dear. I had to Google her names before I could be certain this taffeta-clad sourpuss was indeed Gloria Vanderbilt, and to try and work out who "You Know Who" is/was, or what headline-making business he/she is/was in. Anderson Cooper (for as I found out, it is he) is not known at all in the UK. All I know about him is that he has just come out. No wonder I was confused! Jx

    1. So sorry, caro - I didn't proofread (called away by Mr. M. - dinner was ready and he gets very peremptory) and only when I came back just now did I realize I'd omitted the "Vanderbilt" in her impressive full name.

      Anderson Cooper not a worldwide name? Perish the thought. Certainly don't tell the good people at CNN, who are trying to build a global brand around him.

      Actually, not living the U.S. myself, I mostly know him for looking embarrassed next to Kathy Griffin on New Year's Eves (seen on YouTube days later) or from clips of his insanely cute giggle...

    2. Oh he's cute, alright - several bloggers I follow have the hots for him... But CNN a world brand? Only if you stay in a Travelodge, I'm afraid. Jx

    3. America is the center of the universe, you know.

    4. So is "Sagittarius A"... Jx

  2. Some of her books are really good, too.