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Monday, April 20, 2009

Mother Wanted me to Come out in a Kimono So We had Quite a Fight

One of Mom's favorite things on the screen of all times is the
Maysles brothers' documentary film "Grey Gardens." There is really no telling how many times she's watched it. And no matter the times, there is always something new she notices. Mom is like a missionary when it comes to the documentary, sharing the gospel of Big and Little Edie to anyone who'll take the time to watch it with her.

Her descent into Grey Gardens began with her former boss Lisa Love, who was recommended the film by her friend, writer Stanley Booth. Lisa couldn't shake some of the scenes the day after watching it - corn on a hot plate, the cat pooing behind the portrait, the incredible, incredulous fashions of Little Edie - and Mom was hooked before she had a chance to add it to her Netflix que. She ended up watching it four times before mailing it back. Luckily, her good friend Spiro (aka Neely O'Hara) gave Mom her own copy on her 30th birthday. It also included the "Beales of Grey Gardens" archival footage that was never seen until recently. And again, Mom can't get enough of it.

The documentary was produced in the late seventies, but the Beales' story is a timeless treasure. The philosophies and insights of the eccentric mother and daughter are far more than fodder. For Mom and those who "get it," it's an un-duplicated, un-adulterated peek into humanity at its sheerest. Mom loves the Edies as if they were her own ancestral aunts (outside her own Great-Aunt Edith, of course). She even has a petite Bantam hen named Little Edie, a true survivor, she keeps at her father's house (and Edie's eggs are among the best!).

A couple of years ago, Mom was lucky enough to catch the Broadway musical based on the documentary. She described it as bringing such a stoic quality to these often crazy-classified women's lives. Mom says it wasn't hard to notice the die-hard Grey Gardens fans in the audience; they were all bringing tissues to the corners of their eyes.

She admits she was a little nervous when she heard HBO was doing a movie on it. She's known about it for several years, when news first leaked that Drew Barrymore had been cast as Little Edie and was the executive producer. But when she first saw the trailer a couple of months ago, those Broadway tears returned, this time with goosebumps.

So, it was only natural that Mom threw a small screening party to welcome its debut. The dress was Edie-inspired or 70s garden party attire. The beverage was High Life. The food was tuna salad served out of the can (cat food and liver pate were not options), Edie's eggs and corn simmering from a hot plate in the living room. Lil' Miss Bibb brought a catty dessert, complete with portrait-worthy poop. Mom served it with butter pecan ice cream, licked from knives. The decor was scattered newspapers, tangles of vines, a copy of Zolar's "It's in the Stars" and a candle lit dilapidated dollhouse, salvaged from Mom's past. The girls, all good sports, arrived in revolutionary costumes. And the movie? Drew and Jessica Lange captured the good, the bad and the ugly of the Edies with the beauty and dignity of true S-T-A-U-N-C-H women.

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