Gloria Vanderbilt

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Gloria Vanderbilt
Gloria Vanderbilt in 1958 (age 34). Photo by Carl Van Vechten.
Born Gloria Laura Vanderbilt
(1924-02-20) February 20, 1924 (age 91)
New York City, United States
Other names Gloria Vanderbilt-DiCicco-Stokowski-Lumet-Cooper, named by Truman Capote in Answered Prayers
Occupation Artist, actress, fashion designer, socialite
Known for Member of the Vanderbilt family
Children Leopold Stanislaus "Stan" Stokowski
Christopher Stokowski
Carter Vanderbilt Cooper
Anderson Cooper
Parent(s) Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt
Gloria Morgan

Gloria Laura Vanderbilt (born February 20, 1924) is an American artist, author, actress, heiress and socialite, noted as an early developer of designer blue jeans. She is a member of the Vanderbilt family of New York and the mother of CNN television anchor Anderson Cooper.

Early life[edit]

Vanderbilt was born in New York City, the only child of railroad heir Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt (1880–1925)[1][2] and his second wife, Gloria Morgan (1904–1965).[3][4] When Gloria was born, her father was heard to delightedly exclaim "It is fantastic how Vanderbilt she looks! See the corners of her eyes, how they turn up?"[5] She was christened in the Episcopal church by Bishop Herbert Shipman as Gloria Laura Vanderbilt. After her father's death, she was confirmed and raised in the Catholic Church, to which her mother belonged.[6] From her father's first marriage to Cathleen Neilson, she had a half-sister, Cathleen Vanderbilt (1904–1944).[7]

She became heiress to a half share in a $5 million trust fund upon her father's death from cirrhosis when she was 18 months old.[8] The rights to control this trust fund while Vanderbilt was a minor belonged to her mother, who traveled to and from Paris for years, taking her daughter with her. They were accompanied by a beloved nanny - Emma Sullivan Kieslich,[9] whom young Gloria had named "Dodo" - who would play a tumultuous part in the child's life,[10] and her mother's identical twin sister, Thelma, who was the mistress of The Prince of Wales during this time.[11] As a result of frequent spending, her mother's use of finances was scrutinized by the child Vanderbilt's paternal aunt Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. A sculptor and philanthropist, Whitney wanted custody of her niece, which resulted in a famous custody trial.[12][13] The trial was so scandalous that at times, the judge would make everyone leave the room so as to listen to what young Vanderbilt had to say without anyone influencing her. Some people heard weeping and wailing inside the court room. Testimony was heard depicting the mother as an unfit parent; Vanderbilt's mother lost the battle and Vanderbilt became the ward of her aunt Gertrude.[11]

Gloria Vanderbilt at age eight with her mother.

Litigation continued, however. Vanderbilt's mother was forced to live on a drastically reduced portion of her daughter's trust, which was worth more than $4 million at the end of 1937[14] ($65.2 million in 2014 dollars[15]). Visitation was also closely watched to ensure that Vanderbilt's mother did not exert any undue influence upon her daughter with her supposedly "raucous" lifestyle. Vanderbilt was raised amidst luxury at her aunt Gertrude's mansion in Old Westbury, Long Island, surrounded by cousins her age who lived in houses circling the vast estate, and in New York City.

The story of the trial was told in a 1982 miniseries for NBC Little Gloria... Happy at Last, which was nominated for six Emmys and a Golden Globe.

Vanderbilt attended the Greenvale School in Long Island; Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut; and then the Wheeler School[16][17] in Providence, Rhode Island, as well as the Art Students League in New York City, developing the artistic talent for which she would become increasingly known in her career. When Vanderbilt came of age and took control of her trust fund, she cut her mother off entirely,[18] though she supported her in later years.[19] Her mother lived for many years with her sister, Thelma, Lady Furness, in Beverly Hills and died there in 1965.

Professional career[edit]

Vanderbilt studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse with teacher Sanford Meisner and studied art at the Art Students League of New York. She became known for her artwork, giving one-woman shows of oil paintings, watercolors, and pastels. This artwork was adapted and licensed, starting about 1968, by Hallmark Cards (a manufacturer of paper products) and by Bloomcraft (a textile manufacturer), and Vanderbilt began designing specifically for linens, pottery, and glassware.

During the 1970s, she ventured into the fashion business, first with Glentex, licensing her name for a line of scarves. In 1976, Indian designer Mohan Murjani's Murjani Corporation, proposed launching a line of designer jeans carrying Vanderbilt's name embossed in script on the back pocket, as well as her swan logo. Her jeans were more tightly fitted than the other jeans of that time. The logo eventually also appeared on dresses and perfumes. Along with her jeans, Vanderbilt also launched a line of blouses, sheets, shoes, leather goods, liqueurs, and accessories. Jones Apparel Group acquired the rights to Gloria Vanderbilt jeans in 2002. Vanderbilt was one of the first designers to make public appearances, which was a difficult thing for her because of her shyness.

In 1978, Gloria Vanderbilt sold the rights to her name to the Murjani Group. She then launched her own company, "GV Ltd.," on 7th Avenue in New York.

In the period from 1982 to 2002 L'Oreal launched eight fragrances under the brand name Gloria Vanderbilt.[20]

In the 1980s, Vanderbilt accused her former partners in GV Ltd. and her lawyer of fraud. After a lengthy trial (during which time the lawyer died) Vanderbilt won and was awarded nearly $1.7 million, but the money was never recovered, though she was also awarded $300,000 by the New York Bar Association from its Victims of Fraud fund. Vanderbilt owed millions in back taxes—the lawyer had never paid the IRS—and she was forced to sell her Southampton and New York City homes.

In 2001, Vanderbilt opened her first art exhibition, "Dream Boxes," at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester. A critical success, she launched another exhibition of 35 paintings at the Arts Center in 2007. Two years later, she returned to the Arts Center as a panelist at its Annual Fall Show Exhibition, signing copies of her latest novel, "Obsession: An Erotic Tale."

Vanderbilt is the author of four memoirs and three novels, and is a regular contributor to The New York Times, Vanity Fair and Elle.[21] Most recently, Vanderbilt has been the subject of a new book chronicling her life, entitled The World of Gloria Vanderbilt,[22] written by Wendy Goodman, New York's design editor. The book was published in November 2010 by Abrams and features many previously unreleased photographs. Vanderbilt also has a website featuring her artwork.

Personal life[edit]

Vanderbilt was raised Roman Catholic and as a child was particularly fascinated with St. Theresa. Although religious in her youth, she no longer practices Catholicism and identifies more with a Zen Buddhism ideology.[23]

At 17 years old, Vanderbilt went to Hollywood where she married agent Pat DiCicco in 1941;[24] they divorced in 1945.[25] DiCicco proved to be temperamental and an abusive husband who called her 'Fatsy Roo' and beat her. 'He would take my head and bang it against the wall,' Vanderbilt said. 'I had black eyes.'[26]

Her second marriage, to conductor Leopold Stokowski in April 1945, produced two sons, Leopold Stanislaus "Stan" Stokowski, born August 22, 1950 and Christopher Stokowski, born January 31, 1952; they divorced in October 1955.

On August 28, 1956, she married director Sidney Lumet; they divorced in August 1963.

She married her fourth husband, author Wyatt Emory Cooper on December 24, 1963. They had two sons: Carter Vanderbilt Cooper (January 27, 1965 – July 22, 1988) and CNN news anchor Anderson Hays Cooper (born June 3, 1967). Wyatt Cooper died in 1978 during open heart surgery in New York City. Carter Cooper committed suicide at the age of 23 by jumping from the family's 14th-floor apartment.[27][28]

She has three grandchildren by her eldest son, Stan: Aurora (born in March 1983) and Abra (born in February 1985), both to author Ivy Strick, and Myles (born in 1998) to artist Emily Goldstein.[29]

She maintained a romantic relationship with photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks for many years until his death in 2006.[30] Other notable lovers have included Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Howard Hughes, and Roald Dahl. Truman Capote was said to have modeled the character of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's on her, but others say it was based on her friend Carol Grace.

Vanderbilt is very close friends with fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg and comedian Kathy Griffin. While appearing as a guest on her son Anderson Cooper's television talk show, Anderson on September 19, 2011, Vanderbilt referred to Griffin as her "fantasy daughter".[31]

When Vanderbilt celebrated her 90th birthday on February 20, 2014, her collections of many drawings, paintings and collectibles were placed on display in the 1stdibs Gallery at New York Design Center in New York City.[32]


Art and home decor:





  1. ^ Vanderbilt, Gloria (1996). A Mother's Story (1st ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-679-45052-8. 
  2. ^ "Vanderbilt Dead After Hemorrhage Last Night". The Evening Independent. September 4, 1925. Retrieved August 6, 2013 – via Google News. 
  3. ^ Vanderbilt, Gloria (1996). A Mother's Story (1st ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-679-45052-8. 
  4. ^ "Reginald C. Vanderbilt and Gloria Morgan to Wed Tomorrow". Providence News. March 5, 1923. Retrieved August 6, 2013 – via Google News. 
  5. ^ Vanderbilt II, Arthur T., "Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt". Morrow: 1989, 340.
  6. ^ Vanderbilt, Gloria Morgan; Wayne, Palma (1936). Without Prejudice. New York: E. P. Dutton. p. 118. Reggie was anxious to have his child baptized a Protestant. [His elder daughter] Cathleen had been christened in the Catholic faith; he wanted this baby christened in his own, and I consented. This ceremony was performed by Bishop Herbert Shipman in our large, formal, seldom-used drawing room. ... She was named Gloria after myself and Laura after my mother. ... James Deering was the baby's godfather and Gertrude Whitney was made her godmother .... 
  7. ^ "Reginald Vanderbilt Dies Suddenly Today". The Meriden Daily Journal. September 4, 1925. Retrieved August 6, 2013 – via Google News. 
  8. ^ Vanderbilt, Gloria. A Mother's Story (1st ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-679-45052-8. 
  9. ^ Vanderbilt II, Arthur T., 346.
  10. ^ "Mrs. Vanderbilt's Paris Life Exposed". Lewiston Daily Sun. October 2, 1934. Retrieved August 13, 2010 – via Google News. 
  11. ^ a b Goldsmith, Barbara, ed. (1982). Little Gloria...Happy at Last. New York: Dell. ISBN 978-0-440-15120-3. Retrieved August 13, 2010 – via Google Books. 
  12. ^ Vanderbilt, Gloria. "The Scarlet Sting of Scandal". It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 9. ISBN 0-7432-6480-0. 
  13. ^ "Gloria Vanderbilt Is Ward of Court". Lewiston Daily Sun. November 21, 1934. Retrieved August 13, 2010 – via Google News. 
  14. ^ "Life on the American Newsfront: 1938 Comes to Thousands in Times Square and ... to Gloria Vanderbilt at the Ritz". Life 4 (3): 16–17. January 17, 1938. Retrieved November 24, 2011 – via Google Books. 
  15. ^ "CPI Inflation Calculator". US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  16. ^ Maroni, Gloria (May 26, 1985). "Social Side Vanderbilt at home at Wheeler, her happy place". Providence Journal – via ProQuest. 
  17. ^ "Vanderbilt Chooses Work Instead of Being Idle Rich". Times Daily. October 1, 1979 – via Google News. 
  18. ^ Vanderbilt, Gloria. "Wedded Bliss...". It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-6480-0. 
  19. ^ Vanderbilt, Gloria. It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-6480-0. [page needed]
  20. ^ "Gloria Vanderbilt Fragrances". Fragrantica. 
  21. ^ "Gloria Vanderbilt (Author of 'It Seemed Important at the Time')". January 3, 2013. Retrieved March 7, 2013. 
  22. ^ Goodman, Wendy (2010). The World of Gloria Vanderbilt. Cooper, Anderson (forward). New York: Abrams. ISBN 978-0810995925. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ Vanderbilt, Gloria (2004). "The Great Thing". It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 31. ISBN 0-7432-6480-0. 
  25. ^ Vanderbilt, Gloria. "Happy Birthday". It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 36. ISBN 0-7432-6480-0. 
  26. ^ Higginbotham, Adam (November 23, 2004). "Last of the Big Spenders". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Mrs. Vanderbilt's Son Plunges to his Death". New York Times. 1988-07-23. Retrieved 2014-08-01. 
  28. ^ James, Susan Donaldson (2011-09-21). "Anderson Cooper on Brother's Suicide: Grief Never Ends". ABC News. Retrieved 2014-08-01. 
  29. ^ Hubbard, Kim (May 6, 1996). "Living with Loss". People. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  30. ^ VanMeter, Jonathan (July 16, 2000). "Gloria Vanderbilt + Gordon Parks". How Race Is Lived in America. The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 18, 2011. Retrieved April 2, 2010. 
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ Harris, Paul (April 11, 2009). "Socialite, 85, Shocks New York with Sex Novel". The Observer (London). Retrieved August 6, 2013. 

Other sources[edit]

  • Saroyan, Aram (1985). Trio: Oona Chaplin, Carol Matthau, Gloria Vanderbilt: Portrait of an Intimate Friendship. New York: Linden Press/Simon & Schuster. 
  • Van Rensselaer, Philip (1978). That Vanderbilt Woman. Chicago: Playboy Press. 

External links[edit]