Sunday, August 31, 2014


VOCATION FOR MARRIAGE.  These words were written by John H. Davis, a cousin of Jackie  Bouvier Kennedy Onassis and the author of a book about the family that included his explanation or speculations about Little Edie.

I read the whole book.  I took what Davis had to say - so eloquent his phrasing -
into consideration when I wrote about Little Edie.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014



Listening to the entire song lyrics I can see why it's such an appropriate song for Grey Gardens and the relationship that the two Edie's, mother and daughter, had and why they liked to sing it.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014



I read this old book thoroughly.  I was impressed the smoothness of the writing, the choice of words, and the upper class eloquence of it! 

John H. Davis was Jackie Kennedy Onassis' and Big Edie Beale's cousin.  With them he attended family get-togethers and vacations at the East Hampton estate called Lasata, owned by the last Bouvier to have any real money, their grandfather.  That money was based on early America and the earnings of generations before.  When he died the family fortune had been spent down so that the house had to be sold.  Inheritances could not sustain the grandchildren any more though I could argue that the money they did get would have been considered substantial if they were common people.

Davis isn't an apologist for the family but he does put things rather pleasantly, for instance stating that Big Edie chose her "seclusion."  He busts through the family mythology that their grandfather spun and that they all grew up believing; The Bouviers were not as members of the French nobility yet their rise was fast and enduring.  It's too bad this falsehood about nobility empowered so much of their sense of family for the truth is also respectable and impressive.  How many French village cabinetmakers who came to live in Philadelphia ended up wealthy in the early Americas?  Among the White House treasures is a piece of furniture made by Michal Bouvier, the founder of the American family! 

It's said that Jackie never spoke to her cousin again after this book was published. What upset her so?  He spends a lot of time about the ancestors including the nun who became Beatified by the Vatican and had little to say about her and Jack's relationship, only in the family pride of her achievement to be First Lady and the debacle of the two sides of the family attending the Inauguration.  (Apparently the Kennedys and the Bouviers found little in common and Jackie didn't even come down to say hello as they sat waiting.)

But on to the subject of this month's Mistress, Little Edie Beale.

Davis explains that Big Edie's mother, Maude Sargeant, was so approving and supportive of her children that she did not give her or her brother, "Black Jack" (Jackie's father) a sense that they could ever be wrong.  When she died they were both rather lost.  He presents Big Edie as overly theatrical and operatic in her attention seeking for the tastes of her conservative father or, eventually, Phelan Beale, the man she married, and in need of daily conversations on the phone with Maude. 

Simply Davis says that after the Bouvier inheritances were diminished Big Edie didn't have enough from her divorce and the Bouviers to keep their house. The family members each went their own way without summers and special holidays at the house in East Hampton to remind them they were relatives.  In other words, the sense of family that they once had when grandfather was alive and they met up in East Hampton were over, they were all fending for themselves, some better than others.  No excuse is offered for why Little Edie's brothers or other relatives were not involved sooner or had to be embarrassed by The National Enquirer to activate on Big and Little Edie's welfare. 

The Bouviers
From Waterloo to the Kennedys and Beyond
by John, H, Davis C 1993
National Press Books publisher

C 2014 Missy Rapport/ Mistress Manifesto

All rights reserved including International and Internet Rights

Friday, August 15, 2014


The entire film may be on YouTube. I got it on CD. There is a second documentary by the same film makers. There is a film staring Jessica Lange as Big Edie and Drew Barrymore as Little Edie, there's a television show, there's a Broadway Musical...



On the internet a number of reports about the pay the ladies received conflict.  Some day they were told they would get $5000 each but it was never paid.  Some say they got $5000 each but not film percentages.  While the film is now a "cult classic" I'm not sure that when it came out in 1975/6 it had much audience.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


"I've sworn off bachelors.  They're boring, inconsiderate, pig-headed, stubborn, spoiled mama's boys who think they have a premium on women, which unfortunately they have - there being so many of us girls around.  But one has got to make the most in a difficult situation and that's why women in desperation have turned to married men.  Married men are generous and discreet.  They don't make a fuss, they don't stick around, and they let you have a career if you want one."

Edith Bouvier Beale in the 1940's

Monday, August 11, 2014


140 East 63rd Street, New York, New York

THE ROARING TWENTIES were raging female liberation as this building, designed by Palmer H. Ogden, was built.  The style was considered to be part Italian Renaissance, part Gothic, even part Islamic. 

When Little Edie went to New York to live as a young graduate of Miss Porter's School, she was conforming to Society's desire that young women in the city be protected from sweet-talking strange men physically and preserve their reputations as chaste.  Young women who applied to live at the hotel had to have three letters of reference!  You couldn't just walk in.  Parents could request that their daughters be given chaperons.  Men were allowed only in the lobby.  If a woman wanted to have an affair with a man, she had to sneak around and meet him elsewhere.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


"My first priority is education and the development of my career, for only the  privileged and lucky are supported from birth to death by someone else.  Most women spend a lot of time single or as single mothers!  How great it is to have it all!  How few do!"

Monday, August 4, 2014


When she was a little older her mother pulled her out of school
in New York City and kept her home for a couple years.
It is not known if this was a financial decision,
as her father was having difficulties, or about her
parent's divorce or if she really was ill.
Could it be that Big Edie
wanted Little Edie to
take care of her
even then?

Saturday, August 2, 2014


As the surf rolls in on summer beaches everywhere this August, I began to fantasize what it would be like to live right near the sand with the sound of the ocean waves a constant and in an aristocratic oasis on the east coast, an exclusive suburb of New York City, a city that is usually thermal in August, a city that needs to be vacated as in "going on vacation" before the summer season is over! 

What would it be like to own property there for near 50 years and to grow up with assurances that your endless summer would never end?  To smell the salt air and to run down a path from your yard to the sea and dive in to swim every summer day?

Then, I thought of one of the most famous, if not infamous, residents of East Hampton there ever was, Little Edie, otherwise known as Edith Bouvier Beale and the cousin of the other Bouvier's, Jacqueline and Caroline Lee, who grew up with Great Expectations and Hope and then spent about a third of her life in a cat and critter infested pile of a house first named Grey Gardens by its original owner, a landscape designer.

Can anyone out there not know who "Little Edie" is?

From "Victorian Bullshit and Co."Blog/Tumbler
(November 7, 1917 – approx.* January 9, 2002)
After watching the original and follow up documentaries by the Maysles brothers, seeing the terrific fictive film staring Drew Barrymore as Little Edie and Jessica Lange as Big Edie, her mother, and wading through dozens of Internet sites and commentary posts, I had to go back to my first impressions of the documentaries.  Hadn't I been just as delighted and devastated as so many other viewers when I first discovered the Beales, even years after those documentaries first came out?  Did I agree with so many ventures of opinions rarely housed in journalistic fact checking as well as so many departures into questions of mental health?

My take is that both Big Edie and Little Edie were the evidence and result of sexism that sabotaged all women, but perhaps elite women most of all.

These women who were bred to breed and depend on men for the roofs over their head as well as the children in their bellies, perhaps had less chance of an independent career than most women since they were supposed to be Kept in a Grand Manner as wives who lived around their husbands.  Grow up poor and there was no question you would work, maybe quit school to be a nanny or washerwoman as well as do all the women's work of being a wife and mother.  Grow up to graduate high school and maybe you would work as a secretary - until you got married.  Go to high school and an actual college - work at a little this or that - maybe teaching - maybe volunteer work - and expect to meet your husband in college.  Very few women could both afford to be college educated and actually use their education to have a career in a "man's job" and remain independent. 

Didn't everyone get married?

Page 250 of the book "The Bouviers" by John H. Davis:

"By 1941 Edith's children were attractive young people who had already distinguished themselves in various ways.  Young Edith, "little Edie," the oldest at twenty four, had graduated from Miss Porter's and was one of the reigning beauties of East Hampton.  A tall, blue eyed blonde with a superb figure, she was known at the resort as "Body Beautiful Beale" and was the envy of her girl cousins for her vast following of boy friends."

For all the talk of their "nonconformity" as a kind of rebellion against the established order that then resulted in eccentricity, I thought the Big Edie Mom and Little Edie Daughter Duo actually both conformed quite a bit.  Certainly they were not going to go out and work for a living at a steady dreary job when they were expecting the chauffeur, the maid, and the nurse to show back up and help them!  To do so might be practical but it would also deny that they were To The Manor Born!

Little Edie Beale becomes Mistress of the Month because of her years long affair with a married man, Julius Albert Krug, who at the time was United States Secretary of the Interior under President Truman! (Why not a show business Mogul you might ask?  How about because the women in her family liked lawyers, stock brokers, and political men?) According to Edie Beale's diaries and letters that she left to the executor of her estate, a nephew Bouvier, she had the affair in the late 1940s, perhaps as her last affair in New York before she was summoned home.  The films suggest that she was called home because of the affair, to save her reputation, or perhaps her sanity.

Photo from US Department of the Interior
(He was born in 1907, ten years earlier than Little Edie.)

This affair ended when the married Krug broke with her. Then, from stress, her hair started falling out, though she might have had alopecia and she may have finished the process of going bald by setting fire to her own head after she returned home for good.  I think she was head over heels with Krug, that he was the love of her life, and that she had a bit of a (fashionable) nervous breakdown as a result!

From then on Little Edie kept her bald head covered in long scarves.

I believe that Krug probably kept Little Edie for a while, perhaps by buying her clothes, fur coats, jewelry, and presents, and possibly paying her rent at the Barbizon when her mother and father could no longer do so, while she continued to seek her Big Break in Show Business in New York City or hung in there to be near Krug.  She was not capable of supporting herself.  She may have been truly in love with him but he intended to keep his wife and keep his wife in the dark.

Little Edie was dramatic like her mother and had aspirations to be an actress, perhaps a comedic one.

Phelen Beale, Little Edie's father, may have been infuriated that his ex-wife, who he married when he was 38 and she was the 18 year old boss's daughter, had allowed Little Edie to  show herself off as a model. 

Phelen Beale may have been infuriated that his ex wife had not succeeded at getting Edie married off to a wealthy man because he felt that was her prime responsibility. 

Little Edie may have been called home because she was beyond her prime and was making a fool of herself and harming the family reputation.   

But My Lord! He certainly didn't seem to care what Society might think of his behavior!

Phelan Beale had taken care of himself, abandoning his wife and children, pleading poverty, and going off to Mexico for a cheap divorce.  He sent his wife a telegram telling her they were divorced.  The Catholic Church didn't agree.  Then he married another, much younger, woman. He seems to have encouraged his ex-wife to sell Grey Gardens and live off that, but he and his sons must have never checked in to see it for themselves.   


I believe Big Edie felt that her daughter needed someone to take care of her, maybe because she was in her mid thirties and old for modeling, she had not married, she was partial to being a Mistress, she had not won the affection of her father or her brothers, she was perhaps deluded that she had talent enough to get a Big Break in show business, and at least a spinster daughter taking care of her mom and inheriting the house was respectable

I think the deterioration of the house and the women came down to that the money had run out by 1952 and that they were isolated.  If someone in the family had checked on them even once every few months there is no way the cat food tins and feces would have built up.  In particular Bud Beale, a son and brother, had become a rich man in his early thirties.  Certainly someone could have paid for the trash to be picked up!
In the Maysles brothers' documentary her mother, "Big Edie (Edith Ewing Bouvier) mentions that Little Edie's married man wasn't going to "do it" for Little Edie.   She insinuates that instead, she herself did do it, meaning provide for her.  Obviously this wasn't so true considering the conditions they lived in year after year, freezing by the sea in the winter, hungry, eating pate while the cats ate cat food (or did the cats eat the pate while Big and Little Edie ate the cat food?)

Little Edie (and some of her relations) claimed she had in youth received proposals of marriage from Joe Kennedy Junior, the son of Senior, who might have run for President of the United States some day rather than his younger brother John Fitzgerald (JKF) if he hadn't been blown up in a plane on a secret mission in WWII, J.Paul Getty of Getty Oil and Museum fame,  and maybe Howard Hughes.  Whatever the case, Little Edie was one to get rid of pictures and such of old boyfriends.  She followed popular astrology and claimed to have a thing for Sagittarius while needing a Libra.

Men like Kennedy, Getty, and Hughes, were men of her crowd, and I believe that Little Edie had a social life with and acceptance by that crowd beginning with her youthful years at the expensive Spence School.  Little Edie graduated Miss Porters (where cousin Jackie eventually went also) in 1935.  From there, rejecting marriage proposals (maybe because she wanted a better marriage than her parents had), she moved into her days as a model for department stores in New York and at local charity benefits walking the carpet,  and then into her long stay at the Barbizon Hotel for Women.

When Little Edie was called home in 1952, a much younger Marilyn Monroe was just beginning her rise to stardom.  Little Edie said her mother pressured her for months and she gave up going on the audition that would have been her Big Break.  Whatever was going on,  I think Big Edie made Little Edie feel guilty.  Everyone else had abandoned Big Edie and now how could she? 

Little Edie could have easily commuted to New York for the audition for the Big Break from Grey Gardens!

In 1971 the Suffolk County Health Department had shown up and wanted to evict them. The house wasn't always as it became in the 1970's when the National Enquirer put the family to shame and cousin Jacqueline, now Jackie Onassis, stepped in to save them from eviction. Her sister Lee was supposed to supervise and decorate but it seems that mostly what happened was that rooms were painted one color - all yellow or all blue - everything the same.  By then it had been Big Eddie's home since 1923 and in those 50 years the plumbing, wiring, heating, cooking, running water, and garbage pick up had ceased and it had been years since they had a running vehicle or drove. 

Little Edie would remain there for two years after her mother died, to save estate taxes, and then sold it and walked away, with furniture and other precious antiques still in the attic with the raccoon holes in it.  Finally she returned to New York City and her dream of being a Night Club singer at the age of 60, and lived another 22 years as an independent and normal woman moving from place to place to experience life a different way.

For years, Little Edie continued to be the "Body Beautiful,"  her bald pate wrapped artistically in long scarves clipped with an expensive piece of jewelry, and swam every summery day... In Florida she would swim every day into her 80s!


*Edie was found dead at her last home, an apartment in Florida, by approx. 5 days.

C 2014 All Rights Reserved including Internet and International.  Missy Rapport/ Mistress Manifesto


Over the Holidays I read, via e-book on Overdrive, a book called JACKIE AFTER O by Tina Cassidy, subtitled "One Remarkable Year When Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Defied Expectations and Rediscovered Her Dreams" which was well worth my time to read.  There is a small portion of the book that's about Big and Little Edie.  The way it was written to describe them and their relationship was creative and humorous, though I don't know if that was the author's intentions.  I will post a bit more from this book on the month I dedicated to Jacqueline Bouvier, not because she was a mistress, but because I think she would have made a good one, if she had not had to play her life out on the world stage.

Concerning Little Edie, I learned in Chapter 9, The Empty Nester, that it was Jackie's sister Lee, having spent some time writing her own memoir, who went to spend time with the two Edies, and seeing that the two women were "like the house itself, were falling apart, in spectacular fashion," had decided their way of living would make a great film. Unable to finance it, along with her neighbor Peter Beard, the photographer, they passed the idea on to the Maysles Brothers, who did make the documentary, "Grey Gardens."  The film debuted in 1975.

Quoted, "Mother sees me as a baby, I see myself as a little girl, the Maysles see me as a woman," Little Edie.

I learned that JACKIE and Lee HAD NOT ignored the Beales.  In 1972 they and some other relatives had spent $4000 on the clean up and another $30,000 on repairing the mansion just as local health officials threatened to condemn it.

"If Jackie saw the movie debut, she didn't let on."