Kensington, Brooklyn, New York
|Residence||Queens, New York|
|Other names||“The Marble Faun”|
|Known for||Grey Gardens|
Jerry “The Marble Faun” Torre (b. 1953?/1955) is an American sculptor. He is best known for his appearance in the 1975 independent documentary films Grey Gardens and The Beales of Grey Gardens by Albert and David Maysles. As a sculptor, his work has been shown in several galleries in New York City and written about in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, Architectural Digest, Forbes, among other publications. He is affectionately known among cult-film followers as “The Marble Faun”; a nickname that Edith Bouvier Beale gave him upon their first meeting. Torre worked as an assistant to Wayland Flowers, and through Aristotle Onassis obtained a job tending gardens for the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia. He was portrayed in the Tony Award winning Broadway musical Grey Gardens in 2006. His life has been documented in the 2011 film The Marble Faun of Grey Gardens.
In 1974 Torre graduated from Sachem High School. He ran away from home when he was sixteen; mainly to escape a father he described as “very tough, even abusive”. He found his way to East Hampton (village), New York where his uncle was building a house. Torre said his uncle helped him in many ways: “… to construct his house, he used old cobblestones that had been dug up from Brooklyn streets that were being repaved. Cleaning them and learning how to use them to erect walls – all of that was part of my first encounter with stone.”
According to an interview, while working as a gardener and maintenance man for the J. Paul Getty’s estate in 1972, (Torre was set up in a room above the garage), he saw a woman in sunglasses and a headscarf walk along the narrow path that led to the entrance of a next door property. The woman was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the former American First Lady and widow of President John F. Kennedy, and who was now married to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. The nearby property and house belonged to Mrs. Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale, aunt and first cousin to Mrs. Onassis.
Torre approached the house one day and introduced himself to Edith “Little Edie” Beale and asked if she needed any work done. “Little Edie” introduced him to her mother “Big Edie” who lectured him about the benefits of a balanced diet and then proceeded to offer him a boiled potato salad and a chicken. Shortly thereafter he became their personal handyman, doing odd jobs around the house. It was during this time that filmmakers Albert and David Maysles filmed the documentary Grey Gardens.
After leaving East Hampton, Torre went to Maine to build a cabin. He then went to work as an assistant to the ventriloquist Wayland Flowers. Later, through Aristotle Onassis, he acquired a job tending a two-and-a-half-acre palace garden in Saudi Arabia, Riyadh.
In 2005, a woman got into Torre’s taxi cab in New York City carrying a video camera and tripod. He asked her if she had ever seen the film Grey Gardens. When she replied that she had, Torre said: “Well, I’m the Marble Faun.” The woman told him, “Albert Maysles has been looking for you for years. You've got to call his studio.”
Not long after the encounter in the taxi, Torre learned not only that he had become a cult icon figure but that he was about to be portrayed onstage in a musical based on the film at Playwrights Horizons in New York City.
Shortly after making contact, Torre and Maysles (David had died in 1987) reconnected and conversed for hours, with the documentarian filming the entire time. Maysles recalled, "Seeing Jerry again brought me right back to the time when we were all in the same little bedroom together and he was eating corn cooked by Mrs. Beale."
In 2008, playwright David Lally premiered his play ‘’Little Edie & The Marble Faun’’ at The Metropolitan Playhouse's Annual Author Fest; and in 2011, filmmakers Steve Pellizza and Jason Hay released the documentary The Marble Faun of Grey Gardens, which follows Torre’s life after Grey Gardens to his job in Saudi Arabia, his days when he worked as a cab driver, to the present day as a professional sculptor. Today he lives with his partner of many years Ted O'ryan Sheppard (He is the Visual Director of Christofle Silver). They both work on many art projects together.
Torre released his memoir entitled The Marble Faun of Grey Gardens: A Memoir of the Beales, the Maysles Brothers, and Jacqueline Kennedy with film historian and author Tony Maietta in February 2018.
In the summer of 1974, while working for the J. Paul Getty estate in East Hampton, New York, Torre rode his bike a different way than usual one day and approached a house where the hedges in front were so overgrown that the only parts visible were the two peaks of the gabled roof. He decided to explore what he thought was abandoned property.
Looking into the foyer, he could see cobwebs strewn from the walls to the chandelier. It was like a “scene out of a book." A lady came right to the door, opened it and said: “Oh, the Marble Faun is here,” a reference to a Nathaniel Hawthorne story about a Greek sculpture. Torre had no idea what she meant, but was enthralled. The lady was Edith Bouvier Beale, cousin to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and daughter of Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale, the aunt of Onassis. The house was the Bouvier mansion Grey Gardens and Torre became the Beales’ handyman; doing odd jobs around the house.
That same summer, the Beales were filmed by brothers David and Albert Maysles as the subject of the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens. The film became a cult sensation, and 31 years later, a Tony Award winning Broadway musical. Torre was played by actor Matthew Cavenaugh. The other subjects included in the film were Jack Helmuth and Lois Wright.
Due to Torre’s particular known affection for Mrs. Beale, the songwriting team for ‘’Grey Gardens - The Musical’’ (Scott Frankel and Doug Wright) wrote a special song called “Jerry Likes My Corn” which tenderly describes the relationship they shared. Torre claimed that the Beales “showed [him] a life where [he] could be [himself], explore, take chances.”
Today, Torre travels the country, attending film festivals and productions of Grey Gardens - The Musical and making special guest appearances as “The Marble Faun”.
In 1964, Torre went to the New York World’s Fair. While holding his mother’s hand in the Vatican Pavilion, he saw the "Virgin Mary with Christ" (Michelangelo’s “Pietà”) and said he “had [his] calling that day. He recalled: “I was amazed something so tender could be carved from something so difficult.”
According to gallery owner Jackie Klempay, while spending time in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Torre had a horse named “Confetti” who became the subject of the art for his exhibited pieces. He began carving stone in his partner's apartment stairwell on 23rd Street in New York City in 1987.
In 2006, Torre was asked about his future plans. He responded: “I want to attend The Arts Students League, here in NY, to be taught the ins and outs of stone-carving.”
Torre is presently a Queens based artist, primarily working in stone and earthenware. His debut exhibition was in 2014 at the Jackie Klempay Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York. Jerry has since exhibited artwork at Center 548 in Chelsea, Manhattan, Canada Gallery, and the Andrew Edlin Gallery, among others.
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- Visual Aids. "Jerry the Marble Faun". www.visualaids.org. Visual Aids Hub. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
- William Grimes (January 29, 2015). "A Brush With Fame, Long Before His Life in Art". www.nytimes.com. NY Times. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
- Adam Green (March 6, 2006). "The Marble Faun". www.newyorker.com. The New Yorker. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
- Melissa Smith (June 12, 2012). "A Beautiful Youth, Dark Days, and Redemption for the Gardener of Grey Gardens". www.politico.com. Politico New York. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
- Robert Kahn (October 28, 2006). "Summer Job of a Lifetime". www.newsday.com. Newsday. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
- Chris David (April 5, 2011). "Three Questions with Jerry Torre of Grey Gardens and Three More with Carla McDonald". www.memphisflyer.com. Memphis Flyer. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
- Lawrence Toppman (January 26, 2010). "Caretaker of the "Grey" Legacy". www.charlotteobserver.com. Charlotte Observer. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
- Torre, Jerry (February 1, 2018). The Marble Faun of Grey Gardens: A Memoir of the Beales, the Maysles Brothers, and Jacqueline Kennedy. USA: Querelle Press. ISBN 0999517708.
- Playbill. "Matt Cavenaugh". www.playbill.com. Playbill. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
- Weinstein, Cindy (July 17, 2012). American Literature's Aesthetic Dimensions. USA: Columbia University Press. p. 134. ISBN 0231156170.
- Julie Zied (April 7, 2009). "HBOs Adaptation of Grey Gardens Blooms but Without the Marble Faun the Marble Faun". www.xfinity.com. My Xfinity. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
- Anne Thompson (April 7, 2009). "Infamous Grey Gardens Home Goes On Sale For 20 Million". www.nbcnews.com. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
- Pat Rogers (January 31, 2015). "Jerry the Marble Faun of Grey Gardens at Outsider Art Fair NY". www.hamptonsarthub.com. Hamptons Art Hub. Retrieved October 22, 2016.