Anderson Cooper anchored an expanded two hour edition of AC360 on Monday night.
On Monday morning, Anderson posted the reveal of his book cover to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
From the March issue of Vogue magazine ~
Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper Find Common Ground in Nothing Left Unsaid
A new HBO documentary looks at the glamorous ups and devastating downs of Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper.
Anderson Cooper has been worrying about his mom’s stuff for most of his life. “She never throws anything away,” he explains. A few feet away, Gloria Vanderbilt smiles adoringly at her son. “It’s true,” she agrees. “I still have the love letter from my first boyfriend when I was thirteen.”
For decades, those boxes of pictures, letters, gewgaws, and mementos languished in storage lockers around New York, accruing fees, threatening to become lost to the vagaries of time, and basically driving Cooper crazy. “I kept thinking it would end up like that room in the last scene of Citizen Kane,” he says. Eventually he had everything shipped to his two basements, one in New York City and the other in his country house in Connecticut.
Anderson Cooper is a busy man. Weeknights, he anchors his own newscast on CNN. Other times, he’s on the road, around the world, gathering material for stories. But on the rare weekend off, he can be found in one of those basements, sorting through his mother’s stuff, a determined archaeologist on an emotional dig. It’s a job that requires patience and a sense of humor. “You open a box,” he says, “and there’s a chandelier; then you open another box, and there’s a box of cornflakes from 1953.” Over time, the objects began to pull on Cooper’s imagination, drawing him deeper into the uniquely fascinating world of his mother’s past, an era that began as the great robber-baron fortunes were petering out, the Jazz Age was dimming, and the golden age of Hollywood was taking flight.
You don’t get to Cooper’s position in life without having a pretty good sense of what will play on the screen. The Vanderbilt fortune, the tragic early death of Gloria’s alcoholic father, the glamorous and peripatetic life of her gorgeous bisexual mother, the custody case in which her aunt (Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney of Whitney Museum fame) won custody of a ten-year-old Gloria, followed by a string of romances with some of the century’s most illustrious men—Howard Hughes, author Roald Dahl, Marlon Brando (to name a few)—the trailblazing career as tastemaker for the masses, and the heartbreaking death of a beloved son: It was all great material. As Cooper says, “My mother has been famous for longer than anyone else alive.”
Never underestimate the power of a well-connected friend. One day Cooper mentioned the idea of a documentary to Sheila Nevins, who then mentioned it to documentary filmmaker Liz Garbus, who was riding a wave of critical success for her Academy Award–nominated film on the life of Nina Simone. “At first I thought, Gloria Vanderbilt?” Garbus says. “Hasn’t that story been told?” But when she started looking deeper, she saw that, in fact, there were many chapters in Vanderbilt’s saga. For one generation of viewers, she might be the “poor little rich girl” of the 1935 headlines; for another, she was the first woman to make a fortune branding designer jeans; for yet another, she’s the mother of that openly gay, totally hot anchor on CNN. Moreover, Vanderbilt is nothing if not visual. Since she was a child, she has been relentlessly photographed by others and documented her own life in a rich and steady stream of paintings, many of which are highly autobiographical. And all those boxes that kept Cooper up at night with worries? “A treasure chest for a documentarian,” Garbus says.
Still, there was a question about whether Vanderbilt would really reveal anything. To test the waters, Garbus went to visit her one day in her Beekman Place apartment. “She was very polite and welcoming,” Garbus says. “Then she asked Anderson to change a lightbulb in the dining room, and that’s when I knew the project would work. You could see it was a very natural relationship between an aging parent and child.”
As the filming for Nothing Left Unsaid began, Cooper suggested he be the one to interview his mother, instead of the filmmaker. Garbus hesitated but (wisely) relented. On-screen, Cooper is wry but loving as he probes the sometimes wacky decisions that determined his mother’s life, like the time she decided to marry the 63-year-old Leopold Stokowski, the classical conductor of Fantasia fame, after knowing him for a week. (The couple went on to have two children together, one of whom cut off all contact with Vanderbilt for 40 years, another of the many hurts in her life.)
It was “instant,” she says breathily on-screen. “We were married three weeks later.”
“Really?” Anderson asks, brow furrowed. “I didn’t know that. How old were you?”
“Wow. Did any of your friends think it was weird?”
“Well . . . to have this genius . . . which he was, think I was extraordinary and wonderful, it just gave me a big lift,” she answers.
As if that explains everything! In a way, it kind of does. Vanderbilt’s own mother was eighteen when she gave birth to Gloria. Soon after, she took off for a months-long voyage with husband Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, leaving their infant child to be raised by a beloved Irish nanny—Dodo, a reassuringly solid silhouette who appears again and again in Vanderbilt’s paintings. Within two years, Reginald had died, but the young Mrs. Vanderbilt’s parenting skills never improved much. Her main interests seem to have been parties, clothes, and her own beauty. “She was a narcissist,” Cooper says. “She was only eighteen,” Vanderbilt tries to defend her, though disappointment with her mother is clearly the wound that never healed.
The young Gloria was essentially left to raise herself, shaped by the chimerical notions of love and romance she found in the movies. The woman who emerged from that chrysalis is like no other person in the world. She was intensely driven in every art she attempted—acting in several TV series, painting every day, writing romance novels and a few memoirs. But she was also perpetually girlish, a seeker of beauty and novelty who was rarely satisfied for long. Having been born into a bubble of fame, that is where she continued to live, expertly maneuvering its levers when it suited her purpose. When she wanted to leave Stokowski, the conductor whose reclusive ways had come to seem stultifying, she waited until a more charismatic (and more famous) lover came along. What husband could possibly compete with Frank Sinatra? Her fourth husband, the actor turned writer Wyatt Cooper (Anderson’s father), once wrote that she was “as exotic as a unicorn . . . as subtle as an Egyptian temple cat . . . as tentative as a doe in the forest.” He was in love, but you get the idea. Both then and now, there’s a reason people continue to be fascinated by Gloria Vanderbilt.
Growing up, Cooper sometimes found himself wishing for a mother who was a little less fascinating. She didn’t cook; she didn’t know the quotidian details of his teenage life. There was a period when she drank too much. (Not for long; she didn’t like what it did to her face.) She traveled a lot for her work, and photographers were constantly showing up for magazine shoots; imagine Judy Garland mixed with Audrey Hepburn. She was always saying how she wished she’d had girls—“That used to drive me crazy,” he says. It became easy for Cooper to define himself as her other. She was a Vanderbilt, he was a Cooper. When he was about six years old, his father pointed out the statue of his ancestor Cornelius Vanderbilt in front of Grand Central station. After that, the young boy thought all grandparents turned to stone when they died. Much better, to his young mind, were the jovial Coopers on his father’s side, a warm, close-knit Mississippi family of farmers who were instinctively at ease with one another.
On the surface, Vanderbilt and son still seem like opposites—she’s ultra feminine, he’s very masculine. She loves pattern and excess—every inch of her apartment glitters with something—his aesthetic is monastic. On the day I interviewed them, she was cuddled up in a furry robe festooned with cabbage roses; he was gym-toned sleek in a black T-shirt, black jeans, and closely cropped silver hair. “I wanted to be Amish when I was a kid,” he says. “You just wear black and white—what could be better? One less thing to worry about.” As much as Vanderbilt loves beautiful things, she is indifferent to the pragmatic aspects of life, the need to plan and save and strategize. She made a lot more money on her licensing deals than she ever inherited from her family, but she also lost much of it when her psychiatrist and lawyer colluded in a massive fraud that left her nearly broke. Given all the drama in her life, Cooper, the war correspondent, can sometimes seem a little boring in comparison. “Yes!” he agrees enthusiastically. “I am boring. I’m fine with boring.”
After his father unexpectedly died during open-heart surgery at the age of 50, Cooper got a job as a child model. “It’s such a cheesy thing to do,” he says. “But I wanted to take care of myself. When you lose a parent at ten years old, the world seems like a much scarier place. It makes complete sense to me that I took survival courses when I was a teenager and started going to war zones as a reporter. I didn’t ever want to be taken advantage of, and I wanted to be able to take care of those around me.” Including his mother. When Vanderbilt spent five years in an affair with a married man, it was her son who repeatedly told her the truth: He’s never going to leave his wife for you. And he never did.
“I should have married some really rich tycoon,” Vanderbilt says, sighing, when asked why she never remarried.
“I would have been all for that,” Cooper says.
“You never expressed that!”
“I expressed that all the time!” he counters. “You were never interested in those men because they watched sports.”
“Never satisfied,” she sighs.
“Never satisfied,” he agrees.
While mother and son prepared for the documentary, Cooper thought it would be a good idea for the two of them to communicate more regularly, so he had a friend teach her to use email, thus beginning what turned out to be an epic back and forth between the generations (and became the basis for the book The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son Talk About Life, Love, and Loss, which will be published by Harper in early April). “Those emails changed our relationship, bringing us closer than either of us thought possible,” Cooper says. “It’s the kind of conversation that I think many parents and grown children would like to have, but we tend to put it off, holding on to old issues and old ways of interacting. I didn’t want there to be anything left unsaid between us.”
As the words began to flow (and flow and flow), Cooper began to realize how little he actually knew about his mother’s past. Why didn’t she talk to her mother for seventeen years? Why did she abandon Dodo, the nanny who had been like a surrogate mother, to die alone, a ward of Catholic Charities? Despite all the sadness and regrets, he saw that something in her was able to survive, and even to flourish, just as he had. It turns out they are both driven, restless, and determined. Instead of wishing his mother had been more conventional, he saw how her iconoclasm had shaped him in ways that have served him well. She thought nothing of taking him with her to parties and nightclubs like Studio 54. Her famous friends—Charlie Chaplin, Isak Dinesen, Truman Capote—were as unremarkable as the wallpaper for him, all good training for journalism, a job that requires confidence in whatever room you enter.
Garbus’s film brilliantly mixes Vanderbilt’s own surprisingly good art (an exhibition at 1stdibs Gallery at 200 Lex is scheduled to coincide with its release) with vintage newsreels and homemade videos shot by Cooper himself, but the moment of truth comes at the end, when the two of them go to visit the graves of Wyatt and Carter Cooper, Anderson’s older brother, who committed suicide at 23. In that naked moment of vulnerability, as mother and son hold hands at the snowy grave, you also see another truth about the wildly successful Gloria Vanderbilt and her celebrated son Anderson Cooper—they never would have made it without each other.
Sittings Editor: Tonne Goodman
Hair: Braydon Nelson; Makeup: Miriam Jiminez Boland
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