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The Tragic Life & Death of Gloria Vanderbilt

‘Little Gloria’ Vanderbilt – as she endearingly known to the world was born in the year 1924 at the height of the rolling twenties. While she was still just a little, Gloria found herself at the center of one of the most sensational custody battles in the United States’ history.

As a child, she stuttered and could barely put her tangled feelings into words. But she grew up and became a well-adjusted woman who found herself through acting, writing, drawing, painting, and designing. Her hard work and perseverance led to the creation of a world-famous line of products. All of which bore her highly recognizable family name.

Gloria Vanderbilt the great-great-great-granddaughter of a shipping magnate named Cornelius Vanderbilt and famously thrown into the spotlight when she just a child after her mother and aunt fought a very public custody battle over her. Vanderbilt wrote and published her first book of poetry in 1955. And went on to publish several memoirs as well as a few fictional works.

She married four times, but only the last one built to the last. The others were pretty awful and traumatic. Vanderbilt earned a positive reputation for being a very successful designer of things like jeans, shoes, linens, perfume, and even a tasty frozen dessert.

But tragedy struck when her 23-year-old son committed suicide right before her very eyes. Keep watching to learn Gloria’s heartbreaking – and at times inspirational – life story. Join Facts Verse to learn more about The Tragic Life & Death of Gloria Vanderbilt.

Gloria Vanderbilt’s Confusing Beginnings 

Gloria Laura Vanderbilt was born on February 20, 1924, in New York City. She, as you already know, came from a long line of ridiculously wealthy and prestigious people. She was, like we said, a direct descendant of a powerful and affluent shipping baron named Cornelius Vanderbilt. On her mom’s side of the family, her relatives were mostly diplomats and judges.

Gloria’s father, Reginald Vanderbilt, was a railroad heir, horse breeder, chauvinist and alcoholic gambler. He died when she was just 17 months old. Vanderbilt’s mother, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, who known for her delicate beauty, took her daughter to go live in Europe after her husband passed.

Gloria’s mother loved the cities and pristine beaches of Europe and moved around quite often to take it all in. They took up residence for years in places like Paris, Monte Carlo, Biarritz, and London. She loved to socialize with many wealthy men. One of her notable affairs was with a married businessman, German prince, and member of the Mountbatten family, to whom she became engaged.

Gloria spent a great deal of time with her maternal grandmother, Laura Kilpatrick Morgan, as well as a nurse named Emma Keislich, whom she affectionately called ‘Dodo’.

Morgan made it her mission to make sure that her granddaughter would not grow up in Germany and devised a plan to have her go live in America with her aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. At 10, Gloria was unfortunate enough to find herself in the middle of an ugly custody battle between her mother and said aunt.

The battle captivated the imaginations of the American public, who fervently read about the proceedings in the daily newspapers. Custody ultimately awarded to Vanderbilt’s aunt, but she still permitted to see her mother on the weekends as well as for the entire month of July each year. Gloria spent the next seven years living on the eastern seaboard with her aunt.

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And don’t you even think about going anywhere just yet. Stay tuned to learn about the darkest chapter in Gloria Vanderbilt’s storied life. The sudden and horrific death of her dear son Carter and the resulting impact that it had on her psyche almost killed her as well. Keep watching to see how she managed to cope with that loss and rebuild her life. Join Facts Verse to learn more about The Tragic Life & Death of Gloria Vanderbilt.

Gloria Married Many Times

Vanderbilt’s aunt, despite being the winner of the custody case, was distant and set in her old-fashioned ways. She insisted that her niece constantly chaperoned at all times. In June of 1941, when Gloria was 17, she took an extended trip out to California to visit her mother in Beverly Hills. While she’s there, she described feeling as if she’s a bird finally released from its cage. Life with her aunt had been suffocating and repressive. Finally, she could live her life as she pleased.

While she was there, she dated famous stars of film and cinema as well as wealthy and famous eccentrics including one Howard Hughes.

Dreading the prospect of returning to her life back out east with her stuffy aunt, and not wanting to remain with her mother either, Vanderbilt made the decision to marry Pasquale De Cicco, a 32-year-old Hollywood booking agent.

For the next several years, she was emotionally, psychologically, and physically abused by her husband. Three years after tying the knot, the couple separated and filed for divorce.

Not long after the divorce finalized, Vanderbilt married a conductor named Leopold Stokowski, a man with a reputation for being a playboy with a wandering eye. He had also once involved with actress Greta Garbo. Leopold had married twice before he walked down the aisle with Vanderbilt.

He and Gloria lived a quiet life in a tiny apartment for the first couple of years of their marriage. They had two sons, Stanislaus and Christopher. After five years of married, Vanderbilt began to see a psychoanalyst who instructed her to express herself more.

That’s when she got the idea to rent a studio where she wrote poetry and painted. She took up acting for a time as well.

Eventually, she and her husband likewise got divorced after 10 years of marriage. They then fought a custody battle of their own over their two sons. Vanderbilt won.

She next married Sidney Lumet who was a successful television director. They stayed together for the next seven years but when Gloria ended things with him, he attempted to kill himself.

Vanderbilt’s fourth marriage was to Wyatt Cooper, a writer from Mississippi. Cooper and Vanderbilt had two sons together, Carter and Anderson. The latter of which went on to become a famed reporter for CNN. That union lasted for 14 years and ended with Cooper’s death in 1978. Join Facts Verse to learn more about The Tragic Life & Death of Gloria Vanderbilt.

Gloria Experienced Much Success In Her Life 

Vanderbilt’s career as a commercial designer began in 1971 when she met Don Hall of the Hallmark company at one of her art galleries. He’s impressed by a drawing that she had done and decided to use her work to promote a line of paper products. Later, her paintings likewise used for a collection of scarves.

Gloria then started designing a line of blouses and jeans with profitable results. In 1980 alone she earned a cool $10 million from her work.

Her name used to sell all sorts of things like perfume, bedsheets, liquor, and even leather goods. Vanderbilt rarely ever made public appearances though as she was exceedingly shy.

In the 80s, Vanderbilt started publishing her various memoirs. She wrote her first book Once Upon a Time as a form of therapy to resolve her inner turmoil from childhood. Her next book, Black Knight, White Knight detailed her marriages to De Cicco and Stokowski. Both volumes sold fairly well and were applauded by critics. Join Facts Verse to learn more about The Tragic Life & Death of Gloria Vanderbilt.

A Mother’s Worse Nightmare 

In July of 1988 Vanderbilt experience something that no mother should ever have to deal with. Her 23-year-old son Carter Cooper threw himself off the terrace of her 14th-floor penthouse to his death as she was forced to watch in disibelief. There was nothing that she could have done that would have saved him.

She was convinced that her son was neither depressed nor suicidal when he died. Rather, she believed that he was immensely disoriented after taking asthma medication. At first, she was incapable of coming to terms with his death.

But then she joined a suicide support group which she credited as having saved her life. Being from the kind of rich family that she was born into, it wasn’t socially acceptable to cry or grieve in front of others. Her family didn’t communicate, they merely bottled everything up inside and let it fester. Join Facts Verse to learn more about The Tragic Life & Death of Gloria Vanderbilt.

It took Gloria three years to finally feel like she would actually survive her immense grief.

In 1996, she published another memoir entitled A Mother’s Story which dealt primarily with her son’s death. She remained very close to her youngest son Anderson and was ecstatic to have two granddaughters Abra and Aurora Stokowski.

In April 2016, Vanderbilt co-authored a book with her son Anderson Cooper, The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son On Life, Love, and Loss. The volume was described by its publisher as ‘a touching and intimate correspondence between Anderson and his mother, offering timeless wisdom and a revealing glimpse into their lives.’

Vanderbilt died of stomach cancer at her home in Manhattan on June 17, 2019, at the age of 95. She was buried next to her son Carter and her late husband Wyatt in the cooper plot in the Vanderbilt Mausoleum in Moravian Cemetery on Staten Island, New York. After her passing, Vanderbilt left her beloved son, Anderson Cooper, almost her entire estate which was estimated to be worth at least $1.5 million.

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