Jackie Kennedy’s Cousin Little Edie Beale Lived Remoted for 25 Years in Crumbling Home with 75 Cats and Fleas
Edith Bouvier Beale, popularly known as Little Edie, made the rounds in the 1960s and 1970s while living in the dilapidated Gray Gardens villa for 25 years. The house was teeming with neglect, fleas, and dirt.
Little Edie lived in the miserable mansion with her mother Edith Ewing Beale, known as “Big Edie”, before she died. Read on to learn more about the surprising story of Little Edie and her mother.
Little Edie, a model and celebrity, was the cousin of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Born prosperous in New York on November 7, 1917, she enjoyed a lifestyle that vacillated between Manhattan and the Hamptons.
In the early 1920s, little Edie’s father moved his family to the popular Gray Gardens, which had 28 rooms and water views. The family lived happily, but luck went down the drain a decade later.
Little Edie’s father had left her mother for a younger woman, and her parents eventually divorced. To keep her family alive as a single mother, Big Edie turned to her father for financial help.
She also went to clubs and released some albums to raise funds to pay house bills. It got worse and worse for the struggling mother, and she was cut off from her father’s will after getting into his bad books for showing up late for her son’s wedding.
Without the financial means to keep her and the mansion going, Big Edie’s life began to fall apart. In 1952, Little Edie said goodbye to her modeling career and returned to Gray Gardens to take care of her mother.
For more than 20 years, mother and daughter lived in the house without much interaction with the outside world. The Gray Gardens, which were a beauty, became a shadow of themselves.
It had become a home for stray cats, raccoons, rats, fleas and other pests. In 1971 a police raid discovered the dirt and the district health department threatened the mother and child with eviction.
According to a YouTube documentary, Kennedy gave the couple money to keep the house sanitary, but all efforts to keep the house clean failed and the mansion soon returned to its former state.
In 1975 filmmakers Albert and David Maysles met Big Edie and Little Edie and became interested in their faded glamor. So they started filming “Gray Gardens,” which was successful and eventually became a classic documentary.
Unfortunately, Big Edie passed away in 1977, leaving Little Edie penniless. The latter had to sell the house two years later, but turned down buyers who mentioned the demolition of the villa and the construction of a new building.