This is from the wistfully haunting Grey Gardens documentary: peak chic for a rare convergence of cat-ladyhood, wealthy hoarders, pop-cult astrology reclusive socialites, squalid glamor and peppery but enduring mother-daughter bonds.
Big Edie and little Edie were mother and daughter, beauties from privilege who’d skidded off their designated ‘trophy wife’ track. They drew far more attention than they otherwise would have because they were related to Jacqueline Bouvier Onassis Kennedy.
The mother(Libra) and daughter (Scorpio) – were furious when the local council began to turn up to their 28 room Hamptons mansion citing code violations.
As steeped in nostalgia and cat’s piss as it was, they saw their situation differently: “Mother thinks its artistic this way, like a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Don’t you love the overgrown Louisiana Bayou look?”
The zodiac guide little Edie was reading is It’s All In The Stars by Zolar aka Bruce King. A Cancerian with a 12th house Sun-Mercury, he also had the enterprise signature alignment- Mars conjunct Jupiter.
Swerving from his original goal of becoming a priest, King became fabulously wealthy through ‘scroll horoscopes’ sold at newsagencies and coin-operated fortune-telling machines.
But his coolest achievement was to somehow get Zolars Encylopedia Of Ancient & Forbidden Knowledge on mass release through supermarkets around the world, spearheading the Seventies ‘occulture’ aesthetic.
“Astronomy, ” he wrote, “is the external lifeless glove: astrology the living hand within.”
If the ladies had gone deeper into astrology, they might have realized that the astrological links between the mother and daughter were a taut symphony of Leo and Scorpio planets. Their wit and affection aside, it was the sort of bond where each spurred the other to greater intransigence.
These days we’d call it toxic but interestingly, this super-lengthy but fascinating article claims the entire paradigm was mould-related, that pathogenic fungus can colonize your mind and coerce you to not care about or even notice the conditions the mould likes. Frustratingly, their birthtimes are not known so there is no way of ascertaining the Beale’s home personae aka 4th house vibe.
Anyway, Edie never got her Libra husband: instead she had the Libra mother and gained a surreal kind of fame just at the point when she would have considered her original performance ambitions well and truly fuqed.
Discussing the astrological leanings of the Beales in Grey Gardens and the Norma Desmond character in Sunset Boulevard, film critic Joe McElhaney writes that it “at once puts their behaviour at an ironic remove (because they are caught up in ‘frivolous’ metaphysics) while also aligning the women with ancient and pre-Judeo-Christian thought, as though the forces that drive them cannot be explained within accepted discourses, religious or otherwise.”
Interestingly, at one point in the doco, little Edie says “I went back to the Catholic church, I shouldn’t even be talking about astrology!” She kept talking about it though, mailing friends Zolar’s tiny horoscope scrolls and mentioning “Jupiter influences” in letters.
And at around the point she declares “my days of pleasing men are over” – she segues into talking more about her astrology, her Sun sign Scorpio: It will be necessary to handle the Scorpion pride with care, she reads. “Hmm. You see that’s what is so often forgotten, pride – nobody takes that into account.”
Images: Grey Gardens