The HBO film “Grey Gardens” won six Emmy awards thanks, in part to one of the contributing researchers noted for the film, “Grey Gardens” historian and author Walter Newkirk – friends with Little Edie for more than three decades. She trusted few and allowed fewer into her life as she did Walter.
In anticipation of Walter’s revealing lecture next Sunday (Oct. 18) at The Showroom – his only appearance in our area - along with a exclusive screening of the HBO film, I spoke with him about his thirty year friendship with the stars of the cult-classic documentary, named one of Entertainment Weekly’s “Top 50 Cult Films of All-Time.”
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TheBPlot: Everyone has a story about how they became interested in Grey Gardens. What is your story?
Walter: The first time I heard about “Grey Gardens”, I was a senior at Rutgers University and noticed a full page ad for the documentary in The New York Times. The photo in the ad was alluring and mysterious – who was this woman in the ratty fur coat standing in front of that haunted house?
After seeing the film with Pat Loud (“An American Family”) at the Paris Theatre in New York, I knew I had to interview Edie for the Rutgers newspaper. Surprisingly, I dialed Information, got the phone number, called and Edie answered.
TBP: After the meeting you and she became friends until her death – three decades later. What did you talk about?
Walter: I remember her asking me over the telephone in the 70′s…”who is this Fair- rah?” Apparently Edie had seen some publicity about Farrah Fawcett and or Charlie’s Angels so I had to educate her a bit about the late Ms. Fawcett. Edie loved politics. She also loved to watch the news and sports on television. Cher was a favorite entertainer.
TBP: Did she talk about Jackie O?
Walter: She once wrote me, “I love when you write ’Edie, have you heard from Jackie?’ Walter you have always had such a terrific sense of humor…” Apparently she heard from Jackie but not often. She spoke more about Jackie’s sister, Lee Radzidwill. More on that at The Showroom.
TBP: Today, would she be emailing you or writing on your “wall” on Faceplace…err…Facebook?
Walter: Absolutely not. Years ago, she wrote me, “Beware of the machine world.”
TBP: The magnificent family wedding jewelry is used to make a point in the HBO film. Every fan wants to know what happened to that necklace.
Walter: I believe Bouvier Beale Jr. – with whom you spoke earlier this year – has that jewelry.
TBP: What were Edie’s true feelings about the 1976 documentary, which the HBO film being screened at The Showroom is in-part based on, and the guys who produced it – the Maysles brothers?
Walter: Her feelings changed over the years for both the film and the Maysles. Sometimes she loved it all, sometimes she was defensive about the film. She said she did it because she and her mother needed the money for food.
Later, there were issues regarding royalties from the film and DVD. She got on a soapbox about royalties in several letters.
More dish with Walter next Thursday (Oct. 15).
Ask Walter your questions at The Showroom’s screening and lecture, Sunday (Oct. 18), 4 p.m., benefitting the Monmouth County Arts Coalition.
More info about Walter’s books - including his yet-to-be released “Letters of Little Edie Beale of Grey Gardens” - and CD at GreyGardensBook.com and AuthorHouse.com. Read TheBPlot’s exclusive “book first look” by clicking here.
Read TheBPlot’s exclusive three part interview with Bouvier Beale, nephew of Little Edie – search “Bouvier”.
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