Thursday, June 10, 2010

Gloria Vanderbilt

The glamorous heiress Gloria Vanderbilt personifies the youth of the Dieselpunk era in many ways. Born in 1924, she became the recipient of half a $5,000,000 trust fund at the age of 15 when her father, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, died of cirrhosis of the liver.

Amid accusations of going on spending sprees with the child's funds, however, her mother's parental rights were terminated in a noisy investigation and subsequent trial in 1933. Gloria's paternal Aunt Gertrude took custody of the child and became executrix to the trust fund. (When Vanderbilt came of age and took control of her trust fund, she cut her mother off entirely, although later in life she did provide for her needs in old age. Her mother died in 1965.)

Vanderbilt went to art school, then spent a lot of time in Hollywood, leading a laissez-faire bohemian existence on her trust fund. She went through a line of husbands, including conductor Leopold Stokowski, director Sidney Lumet (Twelve Angry Men, The Fugitive Kind, Serpico, Murder on the Orient Express, The Wiz, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead) and author Wyatt Emory Cooper.

It was with Cooper that Vanderbilt had two children: Carter Cooper (1965–1988) and Anderson Cooper. Carter committed suicide on July 22, 1988, leaping from the family's 14th floor apartment after reportedly suffering a psychotic episode brought on by a prescription pharmaceutical.

Anderson Cooper, of course, went on to fame as a CNN reporter with a reputation for "fluffy" reporting and playing fast and loose with the facts. Keith Olbermann once said of him on his "Worst Person in the World" segment: "Is Anderson Cooper the only person that doesn't know that Anderson Cooper is not actually a TV journalist but just an experiment in mass marketing?"

But before the job at CNN fell into his lap, he attended Yale and was a member of a Skull & Bones-related secret society called The Manuscript Society. After two years working for the CIA, Cooper abruptly decided to pursue a journalism career, despite having no formal journalism education. Stranger still, he took a year off from journalism in the 1990s and moved to Vietnam, where he studied at the University of Hanoi and learned to speak Vietnamese fluently.

(And yet, as a guest on the C-SPAN program Students & Leaders, Cooper said he has since forgotten how to speak the language. Something about that just doesn't jibe to me as I put it in my pipe and try to smoke it.)

During the 1970s and 1980s, Gloria became a fashion icon as her line of blue jeans made her a household name. Lines of perfume and home furnishings soon followed.

In 2009, at the age of 85, Gloria Vanderbilt released a novel entitled Obsession: An Erotic Tale, that shocked everyone. According to Wikipedia:

The book has garnered media attention for its racy content, including, "scenes involving dildos, whips, silken cords and golden nipple clamps... spanking... Mint, cayenne pepper and a fresh garden carrot.. deployed in ways never envisioned by "The Joy of Cooking." And there is also a unicorn, though, blessedly, it remains a bystander."

Cornelius Vanderbilt, the patriarch of the family, was born in 1794 and became the world's richest man by way of the rail and steamboat industries. It was said he had a keen interest in spiritualists and consulted them regularly.

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