Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Life at Grey Gardens: Someone Hand Me a Wet Nap.

I know, I know, I haven’t written in two weeks. Here you go.

Reading. I read a lot. I enjoy reading anyway but now I have nothing but time to read all day unless I sleep all day. So I read or sleep.  That’s my day. So I thought, BOOK REVIEWS! I usually only buy a book if someone of whom I value their opinion tells me it’s good.  I love book reviews because they let me know what I want to read next.  If you read certain books that I do, go to and read their book reviews. That is where I get the majority of my recommendations. 

So yeah, I am doing book reviews now. ENJOY!

I read a little bit of everything but I love a true story. A biography or events that have happened, etc. Especially if the people in this true story are crazy. Cults, psychopaths, etc. Bring it on.  Crazy people amuse me.  I find them both horrifying and amazing.  And true stories are more interesting anyway. You can’t make this stuff up. The most twisted writer in the world could not come up with this stuff. 

My Life at Grey Gardens

A while back I Netflixed the original documentary detailing the lives of Big Edie and Little Edie, the aunt and cousin of Jackie O. Grey Gardens is what they call their house in East Hampton. HBO just did another movie on Grey Gardens with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange that won a bunch of Emmys, I think. With good reason, it’s pretty good as well and you get some background and there are snippets from the documentary. That can be Netflixed as well but to get the full severity of the crazy that lurks in this mother and daughter, you need to watch the original documentary.  I watched the entirety of it with my mouth open.  

They went from old money and high society and such things that I know nothing about to living in squalor. They became recluses over the years, something I can sympathize with here lately, and they were afraid to leave the house in fear of being kidnapped, run over, assasinated, etc. Loony.  

They bred cats, not intentionally but they had a few cats and over the years those few cats multiplied.  Big Edie couldn’t move around well enough to walk anywhere so she mostly laid in bed surrounded by dozens of kittens. It makes my eyes water now just thinking about it. In the book, the author says she walked into Big Edie’s room one time and found 22 cats on her bed with her. 

It was a wooden house and since wood decays over the years and they certainly weren’t going to have any of the holes repaired, a number of racoons invaded the house. Instead of doing something about a racoon infestation they gave them names and kept them as pets. They even fed them as regularly as their cats. 

I am in no way making this up.  Those crazy ladies fascinate me to no end.  Not only because they live in filth but because they are for real insane. I can not put their insanity into words, it is something you must see for yourself. 

So this book was written by a family friend, Lois Wright, who lived at Grey Gardens, yes LIVED, for 13 months, from May of ‘76 to June of ‘77. I wondered what sort of person could live there for a few hours, much less over a year.  But Wright is a little nutty herself.  She’s an artist and a palm reader.  Yeah.  The book is a log of what they do in this house, how Big Edie and Little Edie react with each other and their crazy outlook on the world outside that house. 

That may sound boring to some of you but let me assure you, it’s not. I read the book in two days, finding it hard to put down.  Here are few WTF? moments that might pique your interests:

- No one has a key to this house, if you leave it, you have to yell through the holes in the windows for someone to let you in.  

- I have no idea how they bathe. The tub in Big Edie’s room is for the cats and what other tubs or showers they do have don’t work even though they have running water. 

- They refuse to cook in the kitchen since they have a gas oven and stove and they fear the house would blow up, so they cook on a hot plate in Big Edie’s room.  Wright complained the few times she had to prepare their meals on the hot plate, it was very hard to cook because the cats wouldn’t leave it and you had to do all of the preparing and cooking surrounded by cats. And this was AFTER what they refer to as “The Raid.”

East Hampton wanted them evicted. The house on the outside was in shambles, and the outside is nothing compared to the inside. So the health inspector came and wanted the house evacuated if they didn’t clean up in a certain amount of time. Big Edie and Little Edie refused to leave and they refused to clean. In steps Jackie O. She paid to have the place gutted and cleaned to get it up to code.  Five years after that is when Wright came to visit.  In the movie they show the health inspector holding back vomit once he steps the door. I can not imagine the stench, nor do I want to.  When the book was written, they were at least trying to be a little cleaner using trash cans which they never did before. How did they used to take the trash out? They didn’t. 

They may be loco but I find them endearing. They are obviously a close mother and daughter since they never leaves each other’s side (Little Edie can only leave Big Edie’s room when she is asleep or when given permission), but you can tell they annoy the crap out of each other. The way they speak to one another is hilarious. They are very defensive of the choices they have made to bring them to this but you can tell they regret a lot of them. When Big Edie’s husband died he left everything to his other wife (he never divorced Edie but remarried anyway) and Edie only got an allowance from a trust. When the trust ran out they had no more money.  They were given the choice to sell Grey Gardens right after he died, and move elsewhere so they could live comfortably forever but Big Edie refused. That was her house and she would only leave it “feet first.”
The book also takes you back to Grey Gardens after Lois left up until Big Edie dies. She fell out of bed one night and broke her leg. She wouldn’t let any doctor examine her leg and it got so bad she could not move from the bed at all so she developed bed sores since she was never left bed. She couldn’t even use a bedpan and wouldn’t move to wear Depends, so she just went in the bed.  Not sure if she ever changed her clothes. She stayed like this from July to January. Why? Because she would not leave her house and if a doctor ever entered the room they would make her go to a hospital and she wouldn’t leave the house. 

So read the book but watch the movie first. If you don’t like documentaries, then watch the HBO  version.  It’s insane. The only small complaint I had is that Wright gives you every detail she can which sometimes is good and sometimes it’s not needed. She goes into detail about her car that is broken down and I was like “Yeah. Don’t care about your car, get back to those crazy bitches.” but the unneeded detail is few and far between. Most the details in this book will make you cringe.  I cringed and gagged aloud a few times but I also laughed. They are really a couple of genuine, delusional, hilarious nutcases.

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