Fashion icon and artist Gloria Vanderbilt dies at 95

Gloria Vanderbilt, iconic fashion designer, dies at age 95. Vanderbilt's son, CNN's Anderson Cooper, pays tribute to his mother's life.

Posted: Jun 17, 2019 11:28 AM
Updated: Jun 17, 2019 5:30 PM


Gloria Vanderbilt died Monday morning, according to her son, CNN's Anderson Cooper. The fashion designer, artist and socialite was 95.

She died in her Manhattan home with friends and family at her side.

'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.'

Vanderbilt was diagnosed with an advanced form of stomach cancer earlier this month, Cooper said.

In the spotlight from the start

Born in New York in 1924, Gloria Laura Morgan Vanderbilt grew up in France. Her father, financier Reginald Vanderbilt, the heir to a railroad fortune, died when she was a baby.

Gloria was the focus of media attention at an early age, dubbed 'the poor little rich girl' amid an intense custody battle between her mother and her father's wealthy sister, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Though her aunt prevailed in court proceedings, young Gloria didn't know her well. She considered her nanny, Dodo, her mother figure.

'As a teenager she tried to avoid the spotlight, but reporters and cameramen followed her everywhere,' Cooper said. 'She was determined to make something of her life, determined to make a name for herself, and find the love she so desperately needed.'

Modeling was an early interest, and at 15 she was photographed for Harper's Bazaar, the first of many appearances as a fashion model. She'd go on to appear in Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines and to pose for renowned photographers, such as Richard Avedon.

When she was 17, she married Hollywood agent Pat DiCicco in 1941, against her Aunt Gertrude's wishes. She'd later concede she knew it was a mistake at the time.

At 21, she took control of a $4.3 million trust fund her father had left her. She divorced DiCicco two months later and promptly remarried -- this time, to conductor Leopold Stokowski, who was 63 at the time.

'I knew him for a week and married three weeks later,' she told Cooper during an interview.

Asked if her friends thought it was weird that she had fallen for a man four decades her senior, she said, 'Didn't matter to me.'

An artist at heart

With Stokowski, she began pursuing her passions, beginning with her artwork, which she first put on exhibit in 1948. She had two sons with Stokowski: Leopold Stokowski was born in 1950, Christopher Stokowski in 1952.

In 1954, she made her stage debut in a production of the romantic drama, 'The Swan,' at the Pocono Playhouse in Mountainhome, Pennsylvania. She published a book of poetry the following year, the same year she divorced Stokowski.

She found love again in Hollywood with director and producer Sidney Lumet, who would earn multiple Academy Award nominations for films, including '12 Angry Men,' 'Dog Day Afternoon' and 'Network.'

The two married in 1956. Following their divorce in August 1963, Vanderbilt married for a final time on Christmas Eve of that year. With writer Wyatt Cooper, she had two more sons: Carter Cooper in 1965 and Anderson Cooper in 1967.

Vanderbilt found another avenue for her creativity in the years that followed. Tapping her artwork as a muse, she produced fashion and textile designs that would earn her the 1969 Neiman Marcus Fashion Award, before opening the door to a line of ready-to-wear garments in the mid-1970s.

Under her GV Ltd. brand, she'd go on to sell millions of pairs of jeans bearing her signature and trademark swan logo -- a nod to her first production as a thespian.

'If you were around in early 1980s it was pretty hard to miss the jeans she helped create, but that was her public face -- the one she learned to hide behind as a child,' Anderson Cooper said. 'Her private self, her real self -- that was more fascinating and more lovely than anything she showed the public.'

Losing a son, finding solace in words

Tragedy struck the family in 1978 when Wyatt Cooper died on the operating table during open-heart surgery. The family took another blow a decade later when Carter Cooper, 23, jumped from the 14th-floor terrace of his parents' penthouse in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan. Carter had suffered with depression.

The following years were rough ones for Vanderbilt. On top of coping with the loss of a son, her lawyer and psychiatrist bilked her out of millions. She successfully sued them, but still had to sell her mansion in the Hamptons and five-story Manhattan penthouse to pay off her debts.

In 1995, she began working on a book, 'A Mother's Story,' which published in 1996. The book documented her grief after Carter's death. Despite her struggles, she always welcomed stories about her boy, she told People in a 2016 interview.

People 'will start to talk about him and then say, 'Oh, I'm sorry,' and I say, 'No, I love to talk about him. More, more, more' -- because that brings him alive and it brings him closer and it means that he hasn't been forgotten,' she told the magazine, Anderson Cooper by her side.

In his mother's obituary, Cooper lovingly described his mom as 'the strongest person I've ever met, but she wasn't tough. She never developed a thick skin to protect herself from hurt. She wanted to feel it all. She wanted to feel life's pleasures, its pains as well.

'She trusted too freely, too completely and suffered tremendous losses, but she always pressed on, always worked hard, always believed the best was yet to come.'

Chronicling her life

Jones Apparel Group bought Gloria Vanderbilt Apparel Corp. in 2002 for $138 million, and Vanderbilt delved wholesale back into her love for art and writing.

She put 25 oil paintings on exhibit in Manchester, Vermont, in 2007, and in 2012, staged 'The World of Gloria Vanderbilt: Collages, Dream Boxes and Recent Paintings' at the New York Design Center.

An author of several books, including one on collage and another on interior design, Vanderbilt also a penned a history of her love life, 'It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir,' in 2004.

If her fondness of creative types wasn't apparent by her four marriages, she made it clear in her book, sharing stories of her time with singer Frank Sinatra, novelist Roald Dahl, actors Marlon Brando and Errol Flynn and industrialist Howard Hughes.

Continuing the theme of love, she published an erotic novel, 'Obsession,' in 2009. She was 85 when it found its way to bookstores.

Asked late in life by Anderson Cooper if she still believed her next great love was around the corner, she replied, 'Absolutely.'

'Love is what she believed in more than anything,' Cooper said.

Her relationship with her now-world famous CNN anchor son was memorialized in a 2016 HBO documentary, 'Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper,' which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Later that year, the pair published a joint memoir, 'The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss.'

Of his mother's extraordinary life, Anderson Cooper said, 'I always thought of her as a visitor from another world, a traveler stranded here who'd come from a distant star that burned out long ago. I always felt it was my job to try to protect her.'

Huntsville
Few Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 75°
Florence
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 73°
Fayetteville
Clear
76° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 76°
Decatur
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 74°
Scottsboro
Scattered Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 73°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 89927

Reported Deaths: 1580
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson11859225
Mobile9086191
Montgomery6249143
Madison501425
Tuscaloosa397463
Baldwin321023
Shelby305032
Marshall296630
Unassigned273453
Lee250540
Morgan222315
Etowah193026
DeKalb170113
Elmore160237
Calhoun15609
Walker147063
Houston131912
Dallas128823
Russell12331
St. Clair121712
Franklin119620
Limestone119613
Cullman114111
Colbert109312
Lauderdale107112
Autauga102420
Escambia97915
Talladega91813
Jackson8283
Chambers82138
Tallapoosa81478
Dale78520
Butler75235
Blount7363
Chilton7106
Coffee7095
Covington70920
Pike6607
Barbour5635
Lowndes55224
Marion54224
Marengo52014
Clarke4869
Hale45926
Bullock43811
Perry4294
Winston42911
Wilcox4059
Monroe3914
Randolph38810
Bibb3743
Conecuh37310
Pickens3679
Sumter36118
Lawrence3100
Washington31011
Macon30913
Crenshaw2863
Choctaw27412
Henry2453
Cherokee2427
Greene24211
Geneva2320
Clay2175
Lamar1982
Fayette1745
Cleburne1211
Coosa922
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 110636

Reported Deaths: 1092
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby21492288
Davidson19400202
Rutherford607253
Hamilton566147
Knox403236
Williamson326922
Sumner317870
Unassigned29544
Out of TN278314
Wilson207221
Montgomery173411
Bradley171310
Sevier17135
Trousdale15726
Putnam154413
Robertson145017
Hamblen122913
Blount11207
Tipton11069
Maury10815
Washington10662
Madison91213
Bedford87110
Macon83213
Sullivan8069
Hardeman80111
Lake7490
Bledsoe6721
Loudon6533
Fayette6208
Anderson6075
Dickson5951
Gibson5672
Dyer5557
Cheatham5485
Rhea5021
Jefferson4962
McMinn48920
Lawrence4786
Obion4354
Henderson4310
Carter4275
Lauderdale4236
Coffee4172
Warren4034
Hardin4017
Cocke4001
Cumberland3796
Haywood3745
Greene3715
Monroe3669
Roane3642
Smith3633
Hawkins3624
Giles3519
McNairy3165
DeKalb3051
Franklin2864
Weakley2763
Marshall2652
Lincoln2541
Hickman2310
Carroll2283
Crockett2263
Claiborne2210
Henry2160
Wayne2161
Campbell2131
Marion2054
White1943
Chester1932
Johnson1720
Grainger1690
Polk1651
Decatur1612
Unicoi1380
Overton1341
Union1200
Cannon1180
Jackson1061
Humphreys1053
Scott1040
Grundy1012
Meigs980
Benton971
Sequatchie940
Morgan821
Hancock761
Fentress740
Perry740
Stewart700
Clay610
Lewis561
Houston550
Moore450
Van Buren330
Pickett221

 

 

Community Events