NEW YORK — Gloria Vanderbilt, the intrepid heiress, artist and romantic who began her extraordinary life as the “poor little rich girl” of the Great Depression, survived family tragedy and multiple marriages and reigned during the 1970s and ’80s as a designer jeans pioneer, died Monday at the age of 95.
Vanderbilt was the great-great-granddaughter of financier Cornelius Vanderbilt and the mother of CNN newsman Anderson Cooper, who announced her death via a first-person obituary that aired on the network Monday morning.
Cooper said Vanderbilt died at home with friends and family at her side. She had been suffering from advanced stomach cancer, he noted.
“Gloria Vanderbilt was an extraordinary woman, who loved life, and lived it on her own terms,” Cooper said in a statement. “She was a painter, a writer, and designer but also a remarkable mother, wife, and friend. She was 95 years old, but ask anyone close to her, and they’d tell you, she was the youngest person they knew, the coolest, and most modern.”
Her life was chronicled in sensational headlines from her childhood through four marriages and three divorces. She married for the first time at 17, causing her aunt to disinherit her. Her husbands included Leopold Stokowski, the celebrated conductor, and Sidney Lumet, the award-winning movie and television director. In 1988, she witnessed the suicide of one of her four sons.
Tributes online came from celebrities and fans of her clothes alike. Alyssa Milano called her “an incredible woman,” Dana Delany said she treasures one of her paintings and one Twitter user mourned by remembering the canary Vanderbilt jeans she wore in junior high school.
Vanderbilt was a talented painter and collagist who also acted on the stage (“The Time of Your Life” on Broadway) and television (“Playhouse 90,” ”Studio One,” ”Kraft Theater,” ”U.S. Steel Hour”). She was a fabric designer who became an early enthusiast for designer denim. The dark-haired, tall and ultra-thin Vanderbilt partnered with Mohan Murjani, who introduced a $1 million advertising campaign in 1978 that turned the Gloria Vanderbilt brand with its signature white swan label into a sensation.
At its peak in 1980, it was generating over $200 million in sales. And decades later, famous-name designer jeans — dressed up or down — remain a woman’s wardrobe staple.
Vanderbilt wrote several books, including the 2004 chronicle of her love life: “It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir,” which drops such names as Errol Flynn, whom she dated as a teenager; Frank Sinatra, for whom she left Stokowski; Marlon Brando and Howard Hughes.
She claimed her only happy marriage was to author Wyatt Cooper, which ended with his death in 1978 at age 50. Son Anderson Cooper called her memoir “a terrific book; it’s like an older ‘Sex and the City.'”
“I’ve had many, many loves,” Vanderbilt told The Associated Press in a 2004 interview. “I always feel that something wonderful is going to happen. And it always does.”
Noting her father’s death when she was a toddler, she said: “If you don’t have a father, you don’t miss it, because you don’t know what it is. It was really only when I married Wyatt Cooper that I understood what it was like to have a father, because he was just an extraordinary father.”
In 2016, Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper appeared together in the HBO documentary “Nothing Left Unsaid.”
Gloria Laura Madeleine Sophie Vanderbilt was born in 1924, a century after her great-great-grandfather started the family fortune, first in steamships, later in railroads. He left around $100 million when he died in 1877 at age 82.
Her father, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, was 43, a gambler and boozer dying of liver disease when he married Gloria Morgan, 19, in 1923. Their daughter was 1 when Vanderbilt died in 1925, having gone through $25 million in 14 years.
Beneficiary of a $5 million trust fund, Vanderbilt became the “poor little rich girl” in 1934 at age 10 as the object of a custody fight between her globe-trotting mother and matriarchal aunt.
The aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, 59, who controlled $78 million and founded the Whitney Museum of American Art, won custody of her niece.
A shocked judge had closed the trial when a maid accused the child’s mother of a lesbian affair with a member of the British royal family. The fight was chronicled in the
The “poor little rich girl” nickname “bothered me enormously,” Vanderbilt told The Associated Press in 2016. “I didn’t see any of the press — the newspapers were kept from me. I didn’t know what it meant. I didn’t feel poor and I didn’t feel rich. It really did influence me enormously to make something of my life when I realized what it meant.”
After spending the next seven years on her aunt’s Long Island estate, Vanderbilt went to Hollywood. She dated celebrities and declared she would marry Hughes. Instead, the 17-year-old wed Hughes’ press agent, Pasquale di Cicco, prompting her aunt to cut Gloria out of her will.
Vanderbilt came into her own $5 million trust fund in 1945 at age 21. She also divorced Di Cicco, whom she said had beaten her often, and the next day married the 63-year-old Stokowski. The marriage to the conductor lasted 10 years and produced two sons, Stanislaus and Christopher.
After her marriage broke up, Vanderbilt found herself embroiled in another custody case, this time as the mother. During the closed hearings, Stokowski accused Vanderbilt of spending too much time at parties and too little with the boys. She accused him of tyrannizing his sons and said he really was 85, and not 72 as he claimed.
Justice Edgar Nathan Jr. gave Vanderbilt full-time custody. But he commented that the court had wasted a month on “the resolution of problems which mature, intelligent parents should be able to work out for themselves.”
Vanderbilt married Lumet in 1956 and lived with him and her children in a 10-room duplex penthouse on Gracie Square. She divorced Lumet and married Cooper in 1963.
Their elder son, Carter, a Princeton graduate and editor at American Heritage, killed himself in 1988 at age 23, leaping from his mother’s 14th floor apartment as she tried to stop him. Police said he had been treated for depression and friends said he was despondent over a break-up with a girlfriend. Vanderbilt says in “Nothing Left Unsaid” that she contemplated following him, but the thought of how it would devastate Anderson stopped her.
After her success in designer jeans, Vanderbilt branched out into other areas, including shoes, scarves, table and bed linens, and china, through her company, Gloria Concepts. In 1988 Vanderbilt joined the designer fragrance market with her signature “Glorious.”
By the late 1980s, Vanderbilt sold the name and licenses for the brand name “Gloria Vanderbilt” to Gitano, who transferred it to a group of private investors in 1993. More recently, her stretch jeans have been licensed through Jones Apparel Group Inc., which acquired Gloria Vanderbilt Apparel Corp. in 2002 for $138 million.
Vanderbilt became the target of a swindle in the late 1970s and early ’80s when she made her psychiatrist and a lawyer associates in her business affairs. A court held that the two had looted millions from Vanderbilt’s bank accounts.
Vanderbilt also made headlines in 1980 when she filed, but later dropped, a discrimination complaint against the posh River House apartments, which had rejected her bid to buy a $1.1 million duplex. She claimed the board was worried that black singer Bobby Short, who appeared with her on TV commercials, might marry her.
In 2009, the 85-year-old Vanderbilt penned a new novel, “Obsession: An Erotic Tale,” a graphic tale about an architect’s widow who discovers a cache of her husband’s letters that reveal his secret sex life.
In an interview with The New York Times, she said she wasn’t embarrassed about the explicitness of her new book, saying: “I don’t think age has anything to do with what you write about. The only thing that would embarrass me is bad writing, and the only thing that really concerned me was my children. You know how children can be about their parents. But mine are very intelligent and supportive.”
Ula Ilnytzky, The Associated Press
Canadian actor Simu Liu to star in Marvel’s ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’
SAN DIEGO — Canadian actor Simu Liu has been tapped to play the titular character in Marvel’s upcoming film “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
Liu is best known for starring as Jung in CBC’s “Kim’s Convenience.”
Marvel President Kevin Feige delivered the news to thousands of fans at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday.
The film, which will see Liu’s kung fu master face off against The Mandarin, is set to come out on Feb. 12, 2021 and will also star Awkwafina and Tony Leung.
It will be the second major film of Marvel Studios’ Phase Four.
Destin Daniel Cretton will direct.
The Canadian Press
Prosecutors drop groping case against Kevin Spacey
BOSTON — Prosecutors dropped a case Wednesday accusing Kevin Spacey of groping a young man at a resort island bar in 2016 after the accuser refused to testify about a missing cellphone the defence says contains information supporting the actor’s claims of innocence.
Spacey was charged with indecent assault and battery last year in the only criminal case that has been brought against the actor since his career collapsed amid a slew of sexual misconduct allegations. The two-time Oscar winner was among the earliest and biggest names to be ensnared in the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment that swept across the entertainment and other industries.
Spacey denies groping the man, whose mother first went public with the allegations in 2017.
A phone message seeking comment was left with Spacey’s lawyer.
The actor’s accuser was ordered to take the stand earlier this month after he said he lost the cellphone he used the night of the alleged groping. The defence said it needed the phone to recover deleted text messages it says would help Spacey’s case.
The man denied deleting messages or manipulating screenshots of conversations he provided to investigators. But when he was pressed by the defence about whether he knew that altering evidence is a crime, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination , and the judge said his testimony would be stricken from the record.
The judge then questioned how prosecutors would be able to bring Spacey to trial if the accuser continued to refuse to testify, and prosecutors told the judge they needed time to decide how to proceed.
On Wednesday, Cape and Island District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said in court documents that they were dropping the charge “due to an unavailability of the complaining witness.”
Prosecutors said in an emailed statement that they met with the man and his lawyer Sunday and told him that if he wouldn’t testify in further proceedings, they couldn’t move forward with the case. The man “elected not to waive his right under the Fifth Amendment,” prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said they could further pursue the case and grant the accuser immunity but then they would need more than his uncorroborated testimony.
Furthermore, “a grant of immunity compromises the witness to a degree which, in a case where the credibility of the witness is paramount, makes the further prosecution untenable,” they said.
Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer for the accuser, said in email that the man and his family “have shown an enormous amount of courage under difficult circumstances.” Garabedian said he had no further comment.
The hearing at which the accuser testified came days after the man abruptly dropped a lawsuit he had just recently filed against the actor that sought damages for “severe and permanent mental distress and emotional injuries.” The suit was dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning it cannot be refiled.
The man did not receive a settlement to drop the civil case, his mother said. His lawyer said he dropped it because he was emotionally overwhelmed and wanted only “one roller coaster ride at a time” and so chose to focus on the criminal case.
The man’s mother, former Boston TV anchor Heather Unruh, alleged in 2017 that Spacey got her son drunk and sexually assaulted him at the Club Car, a bar on Nantucket where the teen worked as a busboy.
The man told police he went over to talk to Spacey after his shift because he wanted to get a picture with the former “House of Cards” star. He said Spacey bought him several drinks and tried to persuade him to come home with him before unzipping the man’s pants and groping him for about three minutes.
Unruh’s son told police he tried to move Spacey’s hands, but the groping continued, and he didn’t know what to do because he didn’t want to get in trouble for drinking because he was underage. The man said he fled when Spacey went to the bathroom.
Shortly after Spacey was charged, he posted a video on YouTube in the voice of his “House of Cards” character who was killed off after the sexual misconduct allegations emerged, saying “I’m certainly not going to pay the price for the thing I didn’t do.”
Spacey has faced several other accusations.
His first accuser, actor Anthony Rapp, said Spacey climbed on top of him on a bed when Rapp was 14 and Spacey 26. Spacey said he did not remember such an encounter but apologized if the allegations were true.
The Associated Press does not typically name people who say they are the victims of sexual assault unless they identify themselves publicly. Rapp has; Unruh’s son has not.
Follow Alanna Durkin Richer at http://www.twitter.com/aedurkinricher
Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press
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