Lee Radziwell, socialite and younger sister of Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis, and the woman partly responsible for bringing the world Grey Gardens, passed away in New York on Friday from age-related causes. She was 85.
Lee was born Caroline Lee Bouvier (Jackie and JFK named their only daughter after her) and she claimed she was a chubby child, and in her book Happy Times, she let it be known that in their family Jackie was dubbed “the smart one” and Lee was tagged “the pretty one“, a tag she maintained throughout her life.
She became known in the fashion world for slathering herself in designer glamour. She used to sneak Givenchy to her sister Jackie in the White House at a time when Jackie was only supposed to be wearing American designers. Lee later became a PR Executive for Giorgio Armani.
Lee was good friends with Truman Capote, who helped launch her brief acting career, Rudolph Nureyev, Mick and Bianca Jagger and Andy Warhol, who did a portrait of her. But what many, especially here at Dlisted, think is Lee’s greatest contribution to pop culture is how she made flawless masterpiece Grey Gardens happen. From WWD:
Radziwill got into contact with the documentarian Maysles brothers, asking them to do a film about her and Jackie’s early life in East Hampton. Radziwill wanted her cousin Edith Beale senior to narrate the film. Their introduction to the Beales led to the Maysles becoming fascinated by Big and Little Edie, and their unusual lifestyle as eccentric recluses at their Hamptons house. The Maysles dropped their film on Radziwill and went on to make a celebrated documentary about the Beales named “Grey Gardens” after their ramshackle, falling-down country house with holes in its roof, filled with the scent of 60 cats, cat poop and raccoons, surrounded by overgrown grounds. Their Bouvier relatives all disliked it.
Later Lee and Jackie helped the Edies fix up their house, but Lee never got the documentary about herself that she wanted. And damn the world for that!
Lee is survived by her daughter, Anna Radziwill. Her son, Anthony, died of cancer a month after his cousin and best friend JFK Jr. died in 1999.
Rest in peace, Lee. May you be greeted by the Edies bearing the greatest couture in their outstretched arms and Jackie waiting for you on your camel at Heaven’s Gate. And Lee’s first words to the Edies may or may not be, “I still don’t forgive you for stealing my documentary!”
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