NATIONAL NEWS

Gloria Vanderbilt, Heiress, Jeans Queen, Dies At 95

Jun 17, 2019, 8:55 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:05 pm
Gloria Vanderbilt speaks during SiriusXM's 'Town Hall' With Gloria Vanderbilt at SiriusXM Studios on July 14, 2016 in New York City. Vanderbilt died June 17, 2019. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
(Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

NEW YORK (AP) — Gloria Vanderbilt, the intrepid heiress, artist and romantic who began her extraordinary life as the “poor little rich girl” of the Great Depression, survived family tragedy and multiple marriages and reigned during the 1970s and ’80s as a designer jeans pioneer, died Monday at the age of 95.

Vanderbilt, the great-great-granddaughter of financier Cornelius Vanderbilt, was also the mother of CNN newsman Anderson Cooper, who announced her death via a first-person obituary that aired on the network Monday morning.

Cooper confirmed Vanderbilt died at home with friends and family at her side. She had been suffering from advanced stomach cancer, he noted.

“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.”

Her life was chronicled in sensational headlines from her childhood through four marriages and three divorces. She married for the first time at 17, causing her aunt to disinherit her. Her husbands included Leopold Stokowski, the celebrated conductor, and Sidney Lumet, the award-winning movie and television director. In 1988, she witnessed the suicide of one of her four sons.

Vanderbilt was a talented painter and collagist who also acted on the stage (“The Time of Your Life” on Broadway) and television (“Playhouse 90,” ”Studio One,” ”Kraft Theater,” ”U.S. Steel Hour”). She was a fabric designer who became an early enthusiast for designer denim. The dark-haired, tall and ultra-thin Vanderbilt partnered with Mohan Murjani, who introduced a $1 million advertising campaign in 1978 that turned the Gloria Vanderbilt brand with its signature white swan label into a sensation.

At its peak in 1980, it was generating over $200 million in sales. And decades later, famous-name designer jeans — dressed up or down — remain a woman’s wardrobe staple.

Vanderbilt wrote several books, including the 2004 chronicle of her love life: “It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir,” which drops such names as Errol Flynn, whom she dated as a teenager; Frank Sinatra, for whom she left Stokowski; Marlon Brando and Howard Hughes.

She claimed her only happy marriage was to author Wyatt Cooper, which ended with his death in 1978 at age 50. Son Anderson Cooper called her memoir “a terrific book; it’s like an older ‘Sex and the City.'”

“I’ve had many, many loves,” Vanderbilt told The Associated Press in a 2004 interview. “I always feel that something wonderful is going to happen. And it always does.”

Noting her father’s death when she was a toddler, she said: “If you don’t have a father, you don’t miss it, because you don’t know what it is. It was really only when I married Wyatt Cooper that I understood what it was like to have a father, because he was just an extraordinary father.”

In 2016, Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper appeared together in the HBO documentary “Nothing Left Unsaid.”

Gloria Laura Madeleine Sophie Vanderbilt was born in 1924, a century after her great-great-grandfather started the family fortune, first in steamships, later in railroads. He left around $100 million when he died in 1877 at age 82.

Her father, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, was 43, a gambler and boozer dying of liver disease when he married Gloria Morgan, 19, in 1923. Their daughter was 1 when Vanderbilt died in 1925, having gone through $25 million in 14 years.

Beneficiary of a $5 million trust fund, Vanderbilt became the “poor little rich girl” in 1934 at age 10 as the object of a custody fight between her globe-trotting mother and matriarchal aunt.

The aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, 59, who controlled $78 million and founded the Whitney Museum of American Art, won custody of her niece.

A shocked judge had closed the trial when a maid accused the child’s mother of a lesbian affair with a member of the British royal family. The fight was chronicled in the best-selling 1980 book “Little Gloria … Happy at Last,” made into a TV miniseries in 1982 with Angela Lansbury playing Whitney.

After spending the next seven years on her aunt’s Long Island estate, Vanderbilt went to Hollywood. She dated celebrities and declared she would marry Hughes. Instead, the 17-year-old wed Hughes’ press agent, Pasquale di Cicco, prompting her aunt to cut Gloria out of her will.

Vanderbilt came into her own $5 million trust fund in 1945 at age 21. She also divorced Di Cicco, whom she said had beaten her often, and the next day married the 63-year-old Stokowski. The marriage to the conductor lasted 10 years and produced two sons, Stanislaus and Christopher.

After her marriage broke up, Vanderbilt found herself embroiled in another custody case, this time as the mother. During the closed hearings, Stokowski accused Vanderbilt of spending too much time at parties and too little with the boys. She accused him of tyrannizing his sons and said he really was 85, and not 72 as he claimed.

Justice Edgar Nathan Jr. gave Vanderbilt full-time custody. But he commented that the court had wasted a month on “the resolution of problems which mature, intelligent parents should be able to work out for themselves.”

Vanderbilt married Lumet in 1956 and lived with him and her children in a 10-room duplex penthouse on Gracie Square. She divorced Lumet and married Cooper in 1963.

Their elder son, Carter, a Princeton graduate and editor at American Heritage, killed himself in 1988 at age 23, leaping from his mother’s 14th floor apartment as she tried to stop him. Police said he had been treated for depression and friends said he was despondent over a break-up with a girlfriend.

After her success in designer jeans, Vanderbilt branched out into other areas, including shoes, scarves, table and bed linens, and china, through her company, Gloria Concepts. In 1988 Vanderbilt joined the designer fragrance market with her signature “Glorious.”

By the late 1980s, Vanderbilt sold the name and licenses for the brand name “Gloria Vanderbilt” to Gitano, who transferred it to a group of private investors in 1993. More recently, her stretch jeans have been licensed through Jones Apparel Group Inc., which acquired Gloria Vanderbilt Apparel Corp. in 2002 for $138 million.

Vanderbilt became the target of a swindle in the late 1970s and early ’80s when she made her psychiatrist and a lawyer associates in her business affairs. A court held that the two had looted millions from Vanderbilt’s bank accounts.

Vanderbilt also made headlines in 1980 when she filed, but later dropped, a discrimination complaint against the posh River House apartments, which had rejected her bid to buy a $1.1 million duplex. She claimed the board was worried that black singer Bobby Short, who appeared with her on TV commercials, might marry her.

In 2009, the 85-year-old Vanderbilt penned a new novel, “Obsession: An Erotic Tale,” a graphic tale about an architect’s widow who discovers a cache of her husband’s letters that reveal his secret sex life.

In an interview with The New York Times, she said she wasn’t embarrassed about the explicitness of her new book, saying: “I don’t think age has anything to do with what you write about. The only thing that would embarrass me is bad writing, and the only thing that really concerned me was my children. You know how children can be about their parents. But mine are very intelligent and supportive.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

A passenger looks through a window at Dubai International Airport on January 01, 2022 in Dubai, UAE...
Chuck Johnston, CNN

More than 700 flights canceled Sunday

At least 730 flights were canceled across the United States on Sunday evening, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware
17 hours ago
Officers respond to the scene after a vehicle fleeing police struck five people in Brooklyn, killin...
Andy Rose and Kiely Westhoff, CNN

Vehicle fleeing police kills a grandmother and injures 4 people, including an 8-year-old

A grandmother was killed and an 8-year-old boy was among four others injured when they were struck by a vehicle fleeing New York police Saturday night.
17 hours ago
FILE (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

Tie in Alabama GOP race means winner to be selected by lot

Alabama's Republican Party has declared a tie in the primary race for a state Senate seat and says the winner will be chosen by lot.
17 hours ago
FILE - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks with reporters following a closed-door...
LISA MASCARO AP Congressional Correspondent

As Senate-confirmed justices end Roe, how will voters react?

The end of Roe v. Wade started in the Senate. The Senate Republican partnership with President Donald Trump to confirm conservative justices paved the way for the Supreme Court's landmark ruling on abortion rights.
17 hours ago
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 16: (L-R) Governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem speaks as U.S. President D...
HOPE YEN, Associated Press

SD gov: Bar abortion pills, but don’t punish women for them

South Dakota’s Republican governor pledged on Sunday to bar mail-order abortion pills but said women should not face prosecution for seeking them.
17 hours ago
FILE (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for UNITAS)...
Associated Press

Off-duty officer charged with assault at abortion protest

A Rhode Island police officer accused of punching a woman at an abortion protest while off-duty has now been charged.
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Gloria Vanderbilt, Heiress, Jeans Queen, Dies At 95