1924 - Yes, date unknown
Has more than 100 ancestors and 4 descendants in this family tree.
||Gloria Laura Vanderbilt |
|Relationship||with Francis Fox|
||20 Feb 1924
||Yes, date unknown
||31 Mar 2002 |
- one of those poor little rich girls, whose story was written and filmed
Grown up, she founded the famous Gloria Vanderbilt brand of perfumes, which is probably what people nowadays think first when they hear the name of Vanderbilt.
With good manners and even better taste, Gloria took what the public longed for most from her and stamped it across the backsides of America, giving everyone a little bit of Vanderbilt. A modern woman perhaps best suited for a subtler, quieter era - she has endured the spotlight???s glare without blinking once.
Immediately upon birth, the baby was handed over to her nanny Dodo and Grandmother Morgan so her parents could depart for their annual European sojourn. Dodo and Grandmother Morgan were two women who had a great impact on the child???s upbringing. Another strong personality in her life was Aunt Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, older sister of Reginald, wife of Harry Whitney and founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art. She was a formidable creature who stoked the flames of little Gloria???s future.
When Little Gloria was only fifteen months old her father drank himself to death. Although he was strongly warned by a battery of doctors, it was impossible to tell a Vanderbilt ???no,??? even if one tries to say it to himself. He also ran through a fifteen million dollar inheritance in his short life, leaving only a trust for his youngest daughter (he had an older daughter Kathleen from an earlier marriage). After Reginald???s death, his widow hoped to escape the confines of Newport and Fifth Avenue, so with the blessing of her mother-in-law, Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt, sailed for Paris, hoping to live there permanently. During their years in Paris, the two Glorias lived a bohemian existence. Home was not life at the Ritz, but more a large artists garret. Probably along the lines of a hip living loft today, but not quite what you???d expect from a Vanderbilt during the 1920???s. The child was often left alone in the chilly flat with a nanny as her mother and her aunt, Lady Thelma Furness, tore up the City of Light. The twin sisters??? escapades were fodder for the social columns. Lady Thelma Furness was the wife of a British peer and the very public mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales.
With Paris as their primary residence, mother and daughter made many crossings to and from the United States over the years. Tiring of motherhood, Senior Gloria finally returned the little girl to the United States in 1932 to stay with her Aunt Gertrude while she returned to life in Europe, living off her daughter???s trust fund. Already nervous, Little Gloria had to endure the press descending on the ???poor little rich girl,??? once she disembarked. It was a dubious title shared with fellow heiresses Doris Duke and Barbara Hutton that did nothing to boost ones??? self-esteem. On top of that, Gloria arrived in New York a few days after the kidnapping of American aviator Charles Lindbergh???s toddler son. Headlines around the world kept both children in the news as little Gloria received a very real kidnapping threat of her own.
Arriving with a brittle sense of self, little Gloria began to thrive under the strict regimen at her ???Aunt Ger???s??? house. She ate meals on a regular schedule, attended school and made friends with her Whitney cousins, all close to her age. These cousins also lived in large homes on Aunt Gertrude???s estate, Wheatley Hills, on Long Islands??? real money North Shore. For little Gloria, she was finally experiencing a normal childhood.
As 1934 rolled around, the young child settled into a healthier routine. Aunt Gertrude, a leader in the art world and a person to be reckoned with, decided it would be best for the child to be raised permanently on Long Island. This also meant little Gloria???s mother would have her monthly income of $4,000 reduced to $750 (it was eventually raised to $1,750). Suddenly, she was on the next boat to settle matters. Accompanying her was Gloria???s sister. Lady Furness, sad that her beloved David, Prince of Wales would be lonely, asked her best friend, Wallis Simpson to take good care of the Prince while she was away. Everyone knows how that story ends.
When the notorious duo arrived in the United States, the Trial of the Century got underway. The press derided Mrs. Vanderbilt as flighty and a gold digger. Her sister-in-law, Mrs. Whitney was called distant and calculating. However, once little Gloria???s beloved nanny Dodo took the stand and expressed her hatred of the girl???s mother, the tide would turn. There was now public sympathy for the mother. But things weren???t looking good for her. Adding insult to injury, the plaintiff???s mother, Laura Morgan, basking in the shallow adoration of Gertrude Whitney spoke out against her daughters??? extravagant way of life. The one protector Gloria might have had in Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt had already died and so she was left to stand on her own. The judge was mightily impressed by Gertrude???s battery of high-priced attorneys and it was his belief that the ten-year old girl would be better off living with the very, very rich Gertrude than her own mother. Even though senior Gloria still had a sizable income for the times, it was no match for Whitney money and custody was awarded to Gertrude.
Gertrude???s first act upon custody was to fire the over-protective, but beloved nanny, Dodo. This sparked an hysteria with the girl who really didn???t quite know what she wanted, so confused by all the adults telling her what to say instead of what was going on. The kidnapping attempts, angry relations and disquieting environments gave little Gloria complexes combined with a stutter and nightmares. Eventually, she was sent off to school, keeping in touch with her mother in a relationship every much as distant as the one she shared with her legal guardian. With all the advantages a girl like her could have, little Gloria would still remain unhappy and confused. Having playmates her age at home and school helped her define what constituted a loving home. She knew one needed more than servants to hand out praise and hugs. Aunt Gertrude was not around much, she was pursuing her double life as the socially omnipotent Mrs. Whitney and a pre-eminent sculptress. Gloria???s relationship with her mother soured and would be years before they could mend the past. It would be Gloria???s task for the future in creating the loving home life she was being denied.
During World War II at age 17, on a trip to Hollywood she met and married actor???s agent Pat DiCicco. With a brand-new burst of independence, Gloria began to decide what was best for her. Even if the Vanderbilt???s considered this a rash decision, it was still hers to make. She entered adulthood with a fresh sense of self, hoping to leave the past behind her. This became further possible when four months after the wedding, Gertrude Whitney died. Little Gloria did her duty and attended the funeral. At the reading of the will, Mrs. Whitney left her niece a favorite bracelet and a permanent place in the public eye.
In 1945, Gloria turned 21 and came of age to inherit a four million dollar trust. The problem was, even with all those supposedly brilliant financial people in the Whitney and Vanderbilt avis, no one bothered to educate the young woman on her massive inheritance. All her life people kept telling her that one day she???d inherit a fortune but when the time came she didn???t even know the difference between a stock and a bond.
A photographer???s dream, young Gloria soon became a beautiful adult, with dark hair, dusky eyes and ravishing smile she carried her Chilean and Vanderbilt heritage with equal steed. Over the years her photos appeared in the social columns. This time her look was sure and confident, appearing on the arm of buddy Truman Capote, or at the Stork Club with confreres Oona O???Neill Chaplin and Carol Marcus Saroyan Matthau, looking smashing always.
With that sureness came more independence. Gloria divorced DiCicco in 1945 and one day later married conductor Leopold Stokowski, a 63 year-old maestro who was forty-two years her senior. The couple lived in New York where Gloria returned her beloved Dodo to the household and gave her an annual income. She also cut off her mother???s money as well but continued her grandmother Morgan???s yearly stipend. Gloria may not have been too well versed at the beginning of her inheritance but she learned fast. People responded where money was concerned and this was how she was able to manage control of her life.
Gloria???s financial situation was certainly sounder than her second marriage. Five years with Stokowski and even with two children, things were not going well. She suffered a repeat of dizzy spells and stammering and sought psychiatric care. In 1955, after ten years of marriage Gloria and Leopold Stokowski divorced in a bitter and acrimonious trial that rivaled the custody ordeal of 1934.
In 1956, Gloria married again, this time to film director Sidney Lumet. Still trying to make a name for herself away from the albatross of her past, she acted. Gloria made her television debut in Noel Coward???s ???Tonight at 8:30.??? She garnered a great deal of press for her efforts and her skills matched the kudos. Leaving the NBC studio one night with star Ginger Rogers they were mobbed by fans who grabbed at Gloria???s clothing. Through it all, Rogers noted Gloria was ???led off???still smiling.???
During the marriages and divorces Gloria and her mother made attempts at a reconciliation of sorts. Senior Gloria and her twin sister lived together in New York, then Los Angeles. Mother and daughter would speak by phone or sometimes have lunch and they attempted a somewhat renewed, if not strained relationship. However, in 1965, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt passed away. Gloria wasn???t there as she was back home in New York, having just given birth to a son, Carter Vanderbilt Cooper. However, the riff between the two women had finally healed as best it could.
The year before, the Lumets divorced and Gloria, at age 40, married editor-writer Wyatt Emory Cooper. A gentleman from Mississippi, Cooper fully supported his wife???s earnest ambitions. He encouraged his wife to pursue her art. Having studied at the Art Student???s League in New York Gloria had several successful one-woman shows of her oil paintings. Happy in her role as wife, mother and artist, Gloria lived peacefully within the loving home she finally achieved. The road ahead was full of promise.
A devoted client of Mainbocher - ???It was like going into this amazing world??? she said of the fashion god???s designs, Gloria was dressed by the very best. In 1969 she was elected to the Fashion Hall of Fame. Her painting and designing also sprung forth a sense of individuality. She entered into commerce, which might have appalled her Vanderbilt ancestors who often considered themselves a rank above the working class. Adopting the swan as her professional symbol, Gloria Vanderbilt???s sense of fantasy could be seen on an entire line of products resulting in $3 million dollars in sales by 1976. From eyeglasses to linens to perfume, her name appeared on a myriad of goods from such companies as Hallmark. She remarked, ???Sometimes I wonder, at fifty-two has success come too late? I needed it more in my 20???s and 30???s.??? However, there was more to follow.
Around 1979, the Murjani Corporation, which owned one of her apparel licenses, approached Gloria to design a line of jeans. Murjani also had one of the largest denim quotas in the United States and their relationship soon became a business marriage made in heaven. Carefully overseeing the proper fit and design, Gloria Vanderbilt Jeans exploded onto the designer-jean craze that was going full tilt by the late 1970???s.
Ms. Vanderbilt, already rich, earned another fortune from this endeavor. A court petition from that time shows she was paid $225,000 a year for the licensing agreement plus a percentage of net profits. An advertising campaign blitz and personal appearances ensured the gilded name of ???Vanderbilt??? appeared on the backsides of women across the country. Exclaiming, ???My bottoms are tops,??? as sales ran through the roof, the Vanderbilt name once again making business headlines. Helping to capitalize on the fame of her brand, she even appeared in a designer-studded episode of ???The Love Boat??? with her great friend, pianist Bobby Short.
While it may have been a period of excitement for Gloria, 1978 brought more tragedy into her life. Her beloved husband Wyatt Cooper died of a heart attack. One does not live under the aegis of Gertrude Whitney or Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt and not develop a thick skin. Committed to her obligation with Murjani, Vanderbilt carried on still smiling, raising her sons. Her good works as both a designer and a mother were recognized when she became the recipient of the Gold Medal of Merit from the National Society of Arts and Letters and the Talbot Perkins Children???s Services Mother of the Year Award.
In 1988 her 23 year-old-son Carter Cooper was visiting Gloria at her home in New York when completely out of the blue, the young man awoke from a fitful nap and ran to her terrace. He held fast to the railing and then, suddenly let go, falling to the ground fourteen stories, his mother watching helplessly nearby. It was the final shatter of her ???unbreakable glass bubble??? which she called her world up until that point. Later on, it was discovered his alleged suicide was not really a suicide at all, but an extremely violent, and not uncommon, reaction, to an asthma medication. Her lifelong friend Carol Marcus Matthau later remarked: "I don???t know how you get over that one." But she did, through therapy, friends and as an author many times over she returned to writing to tell her tale in ???A Mother???s Story,??? to critical acclaim. One reviewer states, ???The book was an emotional account??? of a mother who lives with the knowledge that her face was the first and the last her son ever saw.??? Perhaps a way to heal, the book helped her move on, head held high.
In the midst of personal turmoil she found herself in the courts again, this time as a victim of fraud. Her psychiatrist and her lawyer, both of whom she trusted implicitly had bilked Ms. Vanderbilt out of $1.7 million in various phony tax shelters. Despite a decade in court going after her former lawyer who had since died, the money was never recovered. However, Ms. Vanderbilt did exhaust all efforts to retrieve the funds and trustees of the New York Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection awarded her $300,000, the maximum it allows.
The money she received from the court weren???t enough as the 1990???s wore on, though. She was found to have owed millions of dollars in back taxes and was forced to sell both her Southampton mansion as well as her home on New York???s Upper East Side. Currently, she is living with her son, Anderson Cooper, a network news correspondent, in his New York apartment.
At 78, she can reflect on a life most likely seen as a triumph over adversity. A woman who???s had her share of hardships, Gloria continues with her art projects. The latest are a series of Lucite boxes, ???little worlds??? filled with dolls of whimsical design and color. While these boxes are in the tradition of Joseph Cornell and even Truman Capote, she proves a true artist always has the talent to continue in any medium. She is consistently offering proof that the name ???Vanderbilt??? means good value, whether in art, jeans, or a photo op, she is sure to never disappoint. For Gloria Vanderbilt, triumph ahead means weathering any circumstance, still smiling.