When looking at pictures of Edie, I see three distinctly different looks. I'm not talking about her clothes or fashion, but the look on her face, especially the look in her eyes. Oddly I can compare them to a stray cat! The first pictures the public saw in quite awhile was when the East Hampton Board of Health raided their home. Pictures from the tabloids showed her holding cats with a backdrop of garbage at the mansion. The look on her face was extremely mistrusting, cautious, and maybe even frightened (just like a stray cat). In the Maysles documentary, she looked as if she had been "freed". Although still looking a bit uptight at times, she seemed happy to just be herself. Albert Maysles told me that it took great courage for both of these woman to just be themselves in front of the camera. When I met Edie, there was yet a third "look" if you will. Her mother had died, the house had been cleaned up, but she was still just kind of flounerding. She was however much more relaxed. More "normal" to the average person. I think her sence of humor also had a chance to blossom a bit more. She always made me laugh.
Living in North Jersey, and working in Manhattan, I remembered reading about Jackie O's bizarre relatives living in an old house on Long Island with a million cats, and being "raided" by the health department The cats part stuck in my brain, because I've always been and still am an avid cat lover and animal advocate. (see menu under Feline Fiesta for more on that topic !)
They were showing the Maysles Brother's documentary Grey Gardens at Reno Sweeney, a little club in the village. Miss Beale was to perform and answer questions, after the film. I had never seen the film and thought it would be a hoot, especially since "Little Edie" was going to be there in person. A friend very into the Kennedy family was really behind the whole idea.
I found myself fairly mesmerized by the film, but really didn't get an opportunity to process what I had just seen before Edie herself came out dressed in bright red from head to toe. After the show I approached her to talk about her cats. Well just the mention that I was a "cat person" granted me her undivided attention. I don't remember the details of the conversation, but she really needed to be polite to everyone else waiting to talk to her, so she wrote something down, put it in my hand and whispered in my ear, "call me". It was her phone number. I walked away from that evening really thinking she was far more cool than she was nuts.
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I didn't wait more than a few days before I called. For someone labeled "reclusive", she quickly became very comfortable with me. If she had a bad day, I'd hear the details. If the ocean was particularly beautiful that day, I'd hear that too. I found her totally fascinating. She was terribly smart, and very witty. Our telephone conversations were frequent and usually pretty long. An hour of blabbing was not uncommon. When she found out that I was not only a cat lover, but a musician as well, our bond grew even stronger. Music, cats, and politics became our favorite topics. Either of us at any given time would just start singing something to each other on the phone. After our phone calls turned into "Grey Gardens visits", this little practice continued, only now it was face to face. It was REALLY a blast. Somehow when people see her just burst into song in the Maysles film, they thinks she's nuts, but this was really very normal for her. Something she just did all the time. On one hand, Edie had this sophisticated maturity that obviously came from her life experience, and on the other hand, a naive, innocent, child like quality that came from her LACK of life experience. She was, as I still am, a dreamer.
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