Pull out those Vanderbilt jeans I know you’ve kept all these years and hang ’em at half-mast, because a denim icon is now in heaven, slathering the angels with jeans that fit like the skin on a grape. Socialite, heiress, artist, jeans mogul, author, actress, and mother of The Silver Fox, Gloria Vanderbilt, died of stomach cancer at her home this morning while surrounded by her loved ones. She was 95.
CNN announced Gloria’s death with an orbit narrated by her youngest son Anderson Cooper. Usually, the Mondays keep me from feeling that strange thing called emotion, but I felt things while listening to Anderson get choked up at the end of this:
Gloria Vanderbilt died this morning, according to her son, CNN's Anderson Cooper.
— CNN (@CNN) June 17, 2019
As CNN’s obit covers, Gloria Vanderbilt became a regular on the 1930s version of Twitter (aka paper boys screaming her name on the corner while trying to sell newspapers) because of a messy and very public custody battle over her between her mother and her dad’s sister. Gloria was born into the Vanderbilt empire. Her father was railroad mogul Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt and her mother was Swiss socialite Gloria Morgan. Her father died not long after she was born and left her and her half-sister from his first marriage a trust fund worth $5 million each. Gloria’s mom took her to Paris, where she spent most of her childhood and was mainly raised by her nanny Dodo. Gloria’s mom’s twin sister Thelma also lived with them, and she was Prince Edward VIII’s side piece at the time.
When Gloria was 10, her dad’s sister Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney made legal moves to get custody of her. Gertrude accused Gloria’s mom of being a shit mother and spending money like crazy. It was known as the “trial of the century” and the newspapers called Gloria “poor little rich girl.” Gertrude ended up winning custody and Gloria was raised in her aunt’s mansion on Long Island.
The custody fight was turned into a miniseries in 1982 called Little Gloria… Happy At Last. Angela Lansbury played Gertrude, Christopher Plummer played Reginald, Maureen Stapleton played Dodo, Jennifer Dundas played Gloria, and Bette Davis played Reginald’s mom. The miniseries is on YouTube.
When Gloria got control of her trust fund, she cut her mother off completely, but supported Gloria Sr. later in life. Gloria studied acting, and was in a few televised plays, and also made paintings, which were turned into Hallmark cards in the 1960s. On top of acting and art, she also modeled, and in the 1970s went from model to designer when she did a line of scarves. And in 1976, she got together with fashion company Murjani to create the thing that I knew her from. Vanderbilt’s stretch jeans took the asses of women by storm in the 70s and 80s. Her logo, the Vanderbilt swan, decorated the nalgas of women everywhere. After the success of her denim line, Gloria Vanderbilt put out a line of perfume, clothes, and bedding.
Before pressing play on this commercial, brace yourself, because you may get knocked over by the glamour of it all!
Gloria wrote several books over the years. She co-wrote a book, which came out in 2016, with Anderson Cooper about their relationship.
Gloria was married four times, including to director Sidney Lumet, and Anderson’s actor/writer father Wyatt Cooper. She married Wyatt in 1963 and they stayed married until his death in 1978. She had four sons. Her third son, Carter Cooper, died by suicide at 23.
Rest in peace, Gloria. May heaven be as opulent and stunning as your luxurious flea market of an apartment.
Pic: Murjani Group