It's the unlikeliest of tell-all memoirs, co-written by the normally private Gloria Vanderbilt and her son, the even more discreet Anderson Cooper. The high-profile pair openly discuss the most painful events of their lives in "The Rainbow Comes and Goes" — everything from his older brother's suicide to his grandfather's self-destructive alcoholism. Over the ensuing decades, she reports affairs with Frank Sinatra and Howard Hughes — along with a one-night stand with Marlon Brando.
There was plenty that Vanderbilt, now 92 and famous from birth, hadn't told her son. She was an month-old when her father, Reginald, died of cirrhosis of the liver. The great-grandson of the fortune-building Commander Cornelius boozed away the big bucks. After that, the closest Gloria Vanderbilt came to her surviving parent was caressing her mother's beautiful clothes while a maid ironed them. The two led an itinerant life, dictated by the widow's whirlwind social life across Europe.
Just when it looked as if she were about to marry a penniless German prince came a dramatic development. A portrait of the Coopers in their Southampton, N. The custody battle made international headlines as "The Trial of Century. She vowed never to let the headline become a prophecy. Little Gloria secretly feared that returning to her mother would mean giving up her beloved surrogate mom Dodo, whose name was Emma Sullivan Keslich.
Advertisement Her heart broke when the judge ruled she would live with Whitney but that Dodo, who had plotted against her mother, would have to go. Vanderbilt's mother had her revenge in time. In the book, Gloria says she now sees that her mother was trying to lure her from "Aunt Ger" by letting her do whatever she wanted on her rare California visits. The plot was a success that ended in disaster. The fresh-faced heiress barely saw her mother.
But with her approval, Gloria was out every night with Hollywood's most notorious womanizers, the likes of Errol Flynn and Ray Milland. The teenager took up with Pat DiCicco, 33, a low-life gangster and gambler, at the same time she was having an affair with his boss, Howard Hughes.
Hughes, 36, was "wildly romantic and gentle, yet he had the power to rule the world," she writes. She doesn't spare her year-old son the details. The intimidating DiCicco strong-armed her into marriage, with her mother's rabid consent, in It was a miserable union, with the abusive DiCicco flying into rages where he would bang her head against the wall.
She quickly fell into the arms of the lionized year-old conductor, Leopold Stokowski, who ditched Greta Garbo to marry Vanderbilt. The couple had two sons, Stanley and Christopher. Sinatra was the "knight in shining armor who came and rescued me from Stokowski.
The still-willowy Vanderbilt dated the famous, including a brief rendezvous with Brando before her marriage to director Sidney Lumet. Gloria Vanderbilt her aunt Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney sit on top of a Louis Vuitton trunk after returning from a cruise. Their romance ended in heartbreak when he died during open-heart surgery in , leaving her to raise their two sons, Carter and Anderson.
Anderson was 10, the exact age of his mother when she was forced to leave her childhood behind in the separation from Dodo. As an adult, she reunited with Dodo, who lived with her for years.
Yet Vanderbilt let Keslich die alone in the care of Catholic Charities, coldly throwing a deathbed letter sent by the old woman into the fire. Vanderbilt doesn't have an answer, though she says the betrayal "haunts me to this day. The happy, outgoing boy became a guarded and anxious little man struggling to take on adult responsibilities because he didn't trust that his mother would.
He was also warned early by his parents that there would be no inheritance. Never thinking of himself as a Vanderbilt and beset by anxiety, a year-old Cooper started modeling for Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. Vanderbilt and her second husband American film director Sidney Lumet stand together at the foot of a marble staircase in the early s.
In all ways, their mother-son relationship was unusual. Twice she took Carter and Anderson to Studio Even though he was just a teen, she freely confided in Cooper about her affair with a married man. In , Gloria Vanderbilt jeans became a global phenomenon and the heiress was finally truly rich. But her therapist and lawyer defrauded Vanderbilt, leaving her to face financial ruin in the late s. In , Carter killed himself as his mother watched helplessly in her Upper East Side apartment.
The emotionally disheveled year-old ran upstairs, and Vanderbilt found him sitting on a ledge 14 stories above the street. Vanderbilt begged her son to come inside, but instead Carter "spun off the ledge," hanging onto the balcony.
Advertisement Frak Sinatra and Gloria Vanderbilt during their brief affair. When he returned to Yale, Cooper left a letter saying "From now on we are partners" and "Don't drink. The person you became when drunk scared and angered me," he writes. Following Carter's death, Cooper feared that his mother would start drinking again. If she did, he writes, "I would have shut myself off from you for my own protection. At 17, he took a solo survival trip alone through Africa that ended after several months with his hospitalization in Kenya with malaria.
Indicative of their relationship, Vanderbilt sent him off on the perilous journey with a note insisting "you must not worry about me. In fact, as their email conversation wears on, he recognizes their shared "exhausting" impulsivity and restlessness. Both, he acknowledges, seeded his career as a war correspondent. He was 21 when he told his mother he was gay, worried it would awaken complicated feelings for her.
Vanderbilt's mother caused yet another scandal when her lesbian relationship with a British socialite made headlines in the s. It was during an interview with People that Vanderbilt admitted she'd had a brief lesbian relationship at 13 with another student at Miss Porter's School, the elite girls boarding school in Connecticut. Mother and son put their new-found closeness on display in a series of conversations filmed for an HBO documentary, "Nothing Left Unsaid," airing on April 9.