Grey Gardens–My Favorite Hot Messes

 Let’s talk about Grey Gardens.

I don’t know why this topic is on my mind. Perhaps it’s because my wife just auditioned for Little Edie and has been talking in a East Hamptons/Kennedyesque drawl while wearing a black kerchief on her head for the last week (“Honestly, Jerry, I do believe chicken and mashed potatoes is the revolutionary dinner for today.”) I’m “Jerry” apparently.

For the uninitiated, Grey Gardens was originally a documentary about a decrepit old lady who was Jackie Bouvier Kennedy’s aunt or cousin or something. She sits in her cluttered bed all day eating ice cream and singing 1920s songs while her forty some-odd cats are busy crapping behind the giant portrait of herself sitting next to her bed. But she’s not the star of the show! Her 56 year-old daughter lives in the dying old mansion with her. She’s a self-proclaimed “dancer” who spends her days in homemade skirts with matching head wraps, creating her own choreography, sunbathing and complaining about the life she could have had if she wasn’t saddled with her mother. Oh, and they’re both lunatics.

For my homosexual friends, I apologize for boring you with the rehash. And sorry I didn’t know whether is was “aunt” or “cousin”, though I’m sure you corrected it immediately in your mind.

This appalling story was made into a Broadway show and a movie with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. Both versions were incredibly successful, especially the Broadway show, because I think I can say without much fear of being labeled a prejudicial jerk that it was attended by most of the gay population on the Eastern seaboard. A friend of mind once confided in me that most gay men are irresistibly drawn to women who are a complete hot mess. Bad relationships or marriages, too much make up or long, overly-done fingernails, nonstop drama such as car accidents, money problems or dying relatives, a background in musical theater, perhaps a weight issue, a bawdy sense of humor mixed with a crippling fear of sex, a little crazy—all right maybe a LOT crazy. It’s like queer catnip. I’m sure most of the interest derives from an authentic wish to care for someone and be a good friend—but some of it has GOT to be the enjoyment of having a ringside ticket for the dysfunction circus. Every day’s another carnival ride, so buckle up!

Come to think of it, I know plenty of straight men who are just like this, only they have football games or basketball games to watch and the hot messes are young black athletes. Forget I said anything.

Anyway…once a woman, a gay man or a straight man who isn’t watching a football game sees the story of Big Edie and Little Edie Beale, it is infinitely interesting for the rest of your life. Is it all Big Edie’s fault that she ruined her daughter, or is Little Edie a crazy dreamer who would have crashed and burned anyway, and how can you blame the old woman after her father disowned her and her husband went off with another woman and left her peeniless in that big house, and how could Jackie O let them live like that, but of course she DID fix the place up, but still, there are RACOONS in the attic, and what is that kid Jerry doing there anyway, he couldn’t possibly be trying to get into Little Edie’s pants like she says, and what’s up with the babushka? oh right she has alopecia, but Judy Holliday, really? or is she just making that up, would you look at that photograph she was beautiful!  you have to blame the mother she screams for her every time the poor girl leaves the room, and don’t you think she’s keeping her there because she’s scared to be alone, but what would Little Edie DO on her own in New York, end up being treated badly by some married man and starving to death, and oh my God how do they live in that filth, I wouldn’t eat anything she gave me on a cracker if you paid me in cash, these two women are INSANE but they’re like a car wreck you can’t look away from, yet I feel so sorry for them, they’re really both victims when you get down to it and if you don’t think so I’ll push you under the Goddamn bed!

Um…I think I’ll go watch some football.

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    • Joe
    • January 26th, 2011

    Great assessment of this crazy show. Maybe that’s why this gay man couldn’t wait to get some production company to produce it!

  1. This show will happen if we have to sell one of the children!

  1. February 4th, 2011

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