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THE HEAT IS ON, Hamptons scandals part 1: Grey Gardens

by Jasmine Lombardi Photographed by 'Little' Edith Bouvier Beale (1917 - 2002), a cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, at home with her mother, 'Big Edie' (1896 - 1977), in Grey Gardens, a run-down mansion in East Hampton, New York, circa 1975. (Photo by Tom Wargacki/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Monday, July 11, 2011
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From the pages of AVENUE’s July issue…

Christopher Mason, host of the new Investigation Discovery series “Behind Mansion Walls”— about murder in fabulous homes—and author of The Art of the Steal: Inside the Sotheby’s-Christie’s Auction House Scandal, revisits a selection of the biggest scandals to ever hit the Hamptons.


In 1972, the National Enquirer and New York Magazine exposed the plight of the eccentric Beales, who were being threatened with eviction from their home, Grey Gardens, by the Village of East Hampton. The Suffolk County Health Department had inspected the house and found the blue-blooded Beales living in squalor amid piles of garbage. Built in 1897, the dilapidated house was infested by fleas and had become overrun by cats and raccoons; it reeked of feline excrement. With the Beales facing the razing of their beloved home, “little” Edie’s first cousins Jacqueline Onassis and Lee Radziwill provided the necessary funds to repair the ramshackle structure to comply with Village codes. The filmmakers Albert and David Maysles were fascinated by the Beales’ story, and obtained their permission to create the documentary Grey Gardens, which was released in 1979. The movie became a cult classic. It has since been adapted as a musical by the same name starring Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson, who each won Tony Awards in 2007 for their performances. The Beales’ story also inspired the excellent HBO film, also titled Grey Gardens, featuring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore, which won six Primetime Emmys and two Golden Globes. The house underwent extensive renovations and is now owned by Ben Bradlee, the former editor of the Washington Post, and his wife Sally Quinn.


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