June 17, 2019

RIP: Gloria Vanderbilt Dies at 95.

Vanderbilt was the only daughter of railroad magnate Reginald Vanderbilt and his second wife. As such, she and a half-sister, Cathleen Vanderbilt, each stood to inherit a share in a trust after the executive died when Gloria was just eighteen months old. Her paternal aunt would eventually win custody over the girl and her share in the trust.  The trial around who would take control of young Vanderbilt’s life and finances was a tabloid sensation at the time.

But the woman’s life of adventure had only just begun. She studied acting and art and also became a top international fashion model, having been in the public eye starting at a very young age.

In the 1970s, she was among the first to grab hold of the craze for designer jeans, launching a line with her signature stitched on to one of the back pockets. Vanderbilt would go on to launch lines of dresses, perfumes, dresses, accessories – even liqueurs. She also turned to the literary world, writing novels and memoirs. In 2016, she and Cooper, the son of her fourth husband, published an account of their relationship, “The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son On Life, Love, and Loss.” A two-hour documentary produced by Liz Garbus, debuted on HBO that same year.

Vanderbilt first married in 1941 to Pat DiCicco, an agent to actors with a rough reputation. The marriage would last just four years. Within weeks of its end, she married conductor Leopold Stokowski. They had two sons, Leopold Stokowski and Christopher Stokowski, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1955. Vanderbilt was married to director Sidney Lumet between 1956 and 1963. She married author Wyatt Cooper on Christmas Eve, 1963. The marriage ended when Cooper died during surgery in 1978. The couple had two children: Anderson Cooper, and Carter Cooper, who died in 1988.

Her jeans commercials were ubiquitous on network TV in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including this one, which mixes blue jeans, Bobby Short, and Cole Porter, in a classic example of Tom Wolfe’s “funky chic” paradigm. As Wolfe wrote, “Everybody had sworn off fashion, but somehow nobody moved to Cincinnati to work among the poor. Instead, everyone stayed put and imported the poor to the fashion pages:”

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