New York City, New York, USA
Place of Death
Bal Harbour, Florida, USA
Claim to Fame
Grey Gardens (1975)
Profile Bio Text
Edith Bouvier Beale (November 7, 1917 – ca. January 9, 2002) was an American socialite, fashion model and cabaret performer. She was a first cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill. She is best known as "Little Edie," one of the subjects of the documentary film Grey Gardens by Albert and David Maysles detailing life at the East Hampton home.
Beale was born in New York City, the only daughter of Phelan Beale, a lawyer, and Edith Ewing Bouvier (known as "Big Edie"). She was born at 987 Madison Avenue (now the site of the Carlyle Hotel). She had two brothers, Phelan Beale, Jr., and Bouvier Beale and had a privileged upbringing and gilded youth. Beale attended The Spence School and graduated from Miss Porter`s School in 1935. She was also a member of the Maidstone Country Club of East Hampton. She had her debut at the Pierre Hotel on New Year`s Day 1936. The New York Times reported on her debut, where she wore a gown of white net appliqued in silver and a wreath of gardenias in her hair.
While Beale was young, her mother pursued a singing career, hiring an accompanist and playing small venues and private parties. In the summer of 1931, Phelan Beale abandoned the family, leaving 35-year-old Big Edie dependent on her family for the care of herself and children. Some time later, he obtained a divorce (though Little Edie described it as a "fake Mexican divorce" since it was not recognized by the Catholic Church).
In her youth, Little Edie was a clothes model at Macy`s in New York and Palm Beach, Florida. She later claimed to have dated J. Paul Getty and to have once been engaged to Joe Kennedy, Jr. (although in reality she only met him once). During the 1961 inauguration of John F. Kennedy, she told Joe Kennedy, Sr. that if young Joe had lived she would have been First Lady instead of Jackie.
In her youth she ran away to Palm Beach. Phelan retrieved her. She said people thought she had eloped with Bruce Cabot.
From 1947 until 1952, she lived in the Barbizon Hotel for Women, hoping to find fame and possibly a husband in Manhattan. While she states in the documentary Grey Gardens that she was searching for an ordered life and a Libra husband, she later confessed in footage included in The Beales of Grey Gardens (2006) and in unseen raw footage that she seemed only to be interested in men whose zodiac sign was Libra, which believers in horoscopes would consider a bad match for her. She also mused that she had "landed" in New York "at the wrong time" and had not enjoyed the experience. She had moved to the Barbizon Hotel for Women after feeling unsafe at her previous apartment, which was furnished in her mother`s valuable antiques. Little Edie told her mother (in the documentary) that by moving back home she missed her big showbiz break via Max Gordon.
She felt that she was on the verge of a big break into films in 1952, when she was 35. She said she had offers from MGM and Paramount, and that her dance career was set to take off. She also said that wealthy men like Howard Hughes and J. Paul Getty had asked her to marry them.
According to Edie Beale`s diaries and letters that she left to her estate executor (her nephew Bouvier), she had an affair in the late 1940s with Julius Albert Krug, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, who was married. The relationship is depicted in the 2009 HBO bio film Grey Gardens. "Big Edith" Beale alludes to "that married man" during an argument with her daughter in the documentary in which she says, "That married man was not going to give you any chance at all."
She suffered from alopecia which caused her hair to fall out and prompted her to wear her signature turbans. At one time she climbed a tree at the house and set her hair on fire.
On July 29, 1952, Beale returned to live with her mother in the East Hampton estate Grey Gardens (at 3 West End Road). The home had been purchased for Big Edie in 1923, when it still had one of the finest gardens on the East Coast.
In a 1980 letter to her nephew, Bouvier Beale, Jr., Beale claimed that: "When Grandfather died (in 1948), he left $65,000 in trust. Jack B. ("Black Jack" Bouvier, Big Edie’s brother and a Wall Street broker) had only one objective—to grab the Beale trust fund to invest for his daughters (Jackie and Lee) and he did. He was supposed to take care of Mother." Instead, Big Edie ended up with $300 per month. Mother and daughter reportedly remained independent by selling off their Tiffany pieces item by item.
After the 1963 death of the Beales` caretaker and handyman Tom "Tex" Logan, and a burglary in 1968, the women lived in near isolation and increasing, and eventually abject poverty.
On October 22, 1971, inspectors from the Suffolk County Health Department raided the house and discovered that it violated every known building regulation. The story became a national scandal. Health
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Full Name at Birth
Edith Bouvier Beale
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Edith "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale (November 7, 1917 – January 14, 2002) was an American socialite, fashion model and cabaret performer. She was a first cousin of Jacqueline Onassis and Lee Bouvier Radziwill. She is most known for her participation, along with her mother, with whom she lived, in the 1975 documentary film Grey Gardens by Albert and David Maysles.
'Little Edie' Bouvier
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