Anderson Cooper & Gloria Vanderbilt: Inside Their Family Photo Album
PHOTOS OF OUR LIVES
With a new book and the HBO documentary Nothing Left Unsaid (airing April 9), the charismatic CNN anchor and his mother, the iconic heiress, sift through their old family photos. To see more exclusive images of the famous family, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now, or buy it here – and subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
Now 92, the artist, designer, and socialite extraordinaire has been in the public eye her entire life. This shot, snapped circa 1958, captures Gloria Vanderbilt during her tenure as a television actress. "I've had privileges, but I've always wanted to make my mark," she says. "I believe we should all try to do that — and I always believe that everything's going to be great."
THE "POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL"
Vanderbilt has never been able to shake the nickname, bestowed on her by the press during a sensational 1934 custody battle. Yet even though her childhood was darkened by turmoil, Vanderbilt says her first memory is bright. "My mother used to make these boxes and do decoupage on them. This was one thing she included me in. I remember being in a room in Paris with her, filled with sunlight."
BOLT FROM THE BLUE
Vanderbilt and Frank Sinatra were lovers for three weeks near the end of her marriage to second husband Leopold Stokowski (the conductor whom she wed when he was 63 and she was 21). The brief relationship with the blue-eyed crooner gave her the courage to leave Stokowski, and afterward Sinatra helped her land a Hollywood contract. "Sinatra and I remained friends all our life," Vanderbilt says. "He would really move mountains for you."
"I loved him," Vanderbilt says of the famed raconteur Truman Capote, "but I never trusted him." Cooper recalls the writer after he had burned all his bridges: "He had gross toenails and he was very competitive with everyone. He liked the attention to be on himself and no one else, especially kids."
Vanderbilt has decorated — and redecorated — every room she's lived in, including this gingham-draped bedroom at her home in Southampton, N.Y. With her are sons Anderson (in foreground, age 5) and Carter (age 7). "She's constantly changing," Cooper says. "I'll visit and the walls will have a different fabric on them."
Cooper's brother Carter snapped a Polaroid during an early-evening stroll on the beach near the family's home in Southampton. "I love this picture," Vanderbilt says to Cooper, "and not just because it's you and me. There's something about the ocean. A poet wrote a line, 'The sea, which makes a man suspect he's homeless and has no roof but dreams.' We seem close. United."
"I spent my childhood in various weird costumes," says Cooper (right, with his mom and older brother Carter). The shot below was taken in New York City for a magazine profile of Vanderbilt. "On Saturdays, my brother would take a tennis lesson," Cooper says, "and I used to ride horses at a crappy old stable in Central Park." Hence the equestrian outfit — which Vanderbilt fully endorsed. "Everybody should love to dress up," she says. "Fantasy, fantasy!"
"This is a picture taken when I was 17," Cooper says. "I had graduated high school early and this was the day I was leaving to ride in a truck across sub-Saharan Africa for six months. My father [writer Wyatt Cooper] had passed away [in 1978] and my brother was in college, and I realize now that I was leaving my mom on her own. But she never even suggested I reconsider. I actually have this Polaroid on the bulletin board at work."
A MOTHER'S LOVE
"This was our Christmas-card photo in 1983 or '84," Cooper says. In the summer of 1988, Carter (left) committed suicide, jumping from the 14th-floor terrace of Vanderbilt's New York apartment while she helplessly watched. "His death is something I deal with every day," Cooper says. "People talk about that word closure, which is such a silly television word, but I know my mom likes to talk about Carter." Vanderbilt adds: "Oh, of course I love to talk about him. It brings him alive. It brings him in the room as we're speaking. And you know he would be 50 now."
"There's a sense of loss that's permeated both our lives," Anderson Cooper explains. "I understand it more now, having written this book with my mom." The Rainbow Comes and Goes (out now) is a series of emails between mother and son on topics ranging from sex to money to vertigo-inducing emotional pain. "I hope it encourages people to communicate with the ones they love," Vanderbilt says. "It may take time, but it changes the way you see the world."
MORE ON EW.COM Watch the Vanderbilt and Cooper interview — which includes her son's surprise when Gloria tells People editor Jess Cagle about a brief same-sex affair in her youth — at ew.com/andersonandgloria.