I first saw the classic Maysles brothers film “Grey Gardens” in 2001. Ever since then I have been unable to get the film or its protagonists, Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Little Edie, out of my head. First, I wrote a play about Edith and Edie. One month later, Little Edie died at the age of 84. I was heartbroken. Then, struggling with how to pay tribute to her and her mother’s memory, I turned the play I had written into a performance art piece, “Last Spring at Grey Gardens.”
I had hoped that my attempt to conjure Little Edie through performance would quell my obsession with her, but that was not the case. I felt a need to chase her ghost, contacting and then interviewing everyone I could find with any remote connection to the Edies.
In a strangely organic way, my obsession with “Grey Gardens” turned from playwriting to performance art and then into a documentary. After talking to Albert Maysles, Todd Oldham, and Johanna Went among others, I discovered that what interested me most was the effect that the Beales had on so many creative people, not simply on myself.
When “Grey Gardens” first premiered in 1976, it was viciously attacked as an invasion into the lives of the Beales. Today, it defines the term “cult classic” and has an enormous following worldwide. There is a universal appeal to “Grey Gardens” as it effortlessly moves through issues of aging, interfamilial relationships, fashion, non-conformity, American class issues, and the creative spirit.
The whole point of making this movie was to help me work through my deep obsession with the Edies, allowing me to move on to other things. In reality, I have only been drawn deeper into their orbit. As a result of this project I have been asked by Albert Maysles to view the over 100 reels of amazing unseen original footage shot in the making of “Grey Gardens.” Needless to say, I am now more obsessed than ever.
“Ghosts of Grey Gardens” is a tribute to Edith and Edie, the Maysles, and the audience that loves them. My movie combines interviews on the legacy alive today with footage from the Maysles’ wonderful film. And as little Edie said so poignantly 30 years ago, “It’s very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present, you know what I mean? It’s awfully difficult.”