Gloria Vanderbilt, the iconic New York socialite and ‘poor little rich girl’ from one of America’s gilded age families, has died at the age of 95 after a battle with stomach cancer.
Her death was announced on Monday by her son, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper on Monday, who revealed that she died at home, surrounded by friends and family.
‘She was ready. She was ready to go,’ Cooper said through tears in an emotional obituary package which aired on CNN.
‘What an extraordinary life. What an extraordinary mom and what an incredible woman,’ Cooper said.
Born Gloria Laura Vanderbilt in 1924, the 95-year-old lived a life of scandal, glamour and tragedy.
She was married four times and had four children, including a son who killed himself in 1988.
Aside from her dynastic family, she was known as an actress, writer, artist and fashion designer who pioneered designer jeans in the 1970s with her eponymous collection of denim.
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Gloria Vanderbilt, the New York socialite and Anderson Cooper’s mother, has died age 95. They are shown together in 2016
Cooper shared a video of his mother laughing in a hospital bed as part of his touching obituary on Monday
Vanderbilt had been suffering ill-health for several years.
Gloria Vanderbilt in 2012
As she neared the end of her life, Cooper said he told her that he loved her every time they left one another.
‘She said, “I love you too. You know that.”
‘And she was right. I’ve known it from the moment I was born and I’ll know it for the rest of my life,’ he said.
In a statement afterwards, he said: ‘Gloria Vanderbilt was an extraordinary woman, who loved life, and lived it on her own terms.
‘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.’
Vanderbilt had four children from two husbands. She was married four times between 1941 and 1978 until the death of her fourth husband, Anderson’s father Wyatt Cooper.
He died after undergoing open-heart surgery.
In 1988, one of her sons, Carter, committed suicide by jumping from the terrace of her apartment in front of her.
The daughter of Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt and Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, she lived a glamorous, charmed life and was a darling of New York high society.
But her childhood involved a bitter and contentious custody battle between her mother and her late father’s sister when she was 10.
Reginald died when Gloria was just one, leaving her in the care of her mother, Gloria Morgan. He was an alcoholic who died of cirrhosis of the liver and left behind him a mountain of debt which pillaged his wealth.
What was left, however, was a $5million trust fund for Gloria and her older half-sister to share.
Gloria was the daughter of Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt and Reginald C. Vanderbilt. Her father died when she was just 18 months old, not long after this photograph was taken in 1925
As a child, Gloria became known as ‘the poor little rich girl’ thanks to a highly publicized custody trial between her mother and her father’s sister, Gertrude Whitney (above with her) who sought custody of her because she said her mother was unfit to care for her
A young Gloria Vanderbilt is shown aged 11 at a horse show in Long Island, a year after being dubbed the ‘poor little rich girl’ thanks to a custody battle between her mother and her paternal aunt for her
Vanderbilt with her first husband, Pat DiCicco, in 1945, at their wedding reception. They married when she was 17 and he was in his twenties
Vanderbilt with Frank Sinatra, who she was rumored to have had a fling with between her first and second marriages. They are shown circa 1945
Gloria Morgan, who was 20 at the time and therefore considered a minor, was not given access to it.
Instead, the city issued her $4,000 monthly installments to care for her daughter but she used it on partying.
By 1934, when Gloria was 10, her aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, sued her mother for custody of her, claiming she was an unfit mother.
The trial exposed the dysfunction of one of America’s wealthiest and most high profile families at the time.
Whitney accused Gloria Morgan of being a lesbian.
In turn, she claimed Whitney’s art, which was full of nudism, would influence her daughter.
The tabloids feasted on the court battle, dubbing it the ‘trial of the century’ and giving the young Gloria the nickname ‘poor little rich girl.’
A 30-year-old Vanderbilt is shown in 1954. At the time, she had been married twice
Gloria is pictured in 1954, lounging by a swimming pool. She acted in several plays and films
Gloria is pictured with her third husband, the Hollywood producer Sidney Lumet, who she married in 1956
Whitney was awarded custody of her and raised her but it was only the beginning Gloria’s life in the public eye.
As she grew up, she socialized in Manhattan and charmed film and play directors until she made connections in Hollywood where she would find three of her four husbands.
In 1941, when she was at the age of 17, Gloria married Hollywood agent Pat DiCicco.
The pair were together for four years before they divorced.
She was later link to a host of famous men including Frank Sinatra and Marlin Brando and was frequently photographed with Sinatra and his son.
In 1945, when she was 21, she married her second husband, the director Leopold Stokowski. He was 63.
They had two children together; Stanley and Christopher.
Her third marriage was to producer Sidney Lumet in 1956. They were together until 1963.
Her fourth marriage, to Anderson’s father Wyatt, began four months after her divorce from Lumet.
Between raising children, Vanderbilt acted on Broadway and in films, wrote poetry and novels and produced wildly popular art.
In the 1970s, she made a name for herself in the fashion industry with her line of jeans – Gloria Vanderbilt Jeans – which were emblazoned with a swan and her name.
Her life was not without tragedy.
In 1988, Anderson’s brother Carter leaped to his death from his mother’s apartment terrace.
Carter had graduated Princeton and was working as an editor for the history magazine American Heritage at the time of his death.
In the 1970s, Vanderbilt made her name in the fashion industry with her collection of eponymous jeans
Vanderbilt is shown with her fourth husband, Wyatt Cooper and their sons, Anderson and Carter in 1972. Wyatt died six years later after undergoing heart surgery and Carter committed suicide in 1988
Gloria with sons, Carter and Anderson in 1988, the year of Wyatt Cooper’s death (left). In 1988, Gloria’s son Carter (right with her) leaped to his death from the terrace of her apartment. He had been struggling with mental health and was seeing a therapist at the time but his mother believes medication may have triggered his suicide. He was 23 when he died
He had begun seeing a therapist in the months before and on the day in question showed up at his mother’s apartment and spent most of the day sleeping until early that evening.
Gloria is shown in 2016
At around 7pm he woke up and went in to see his mother, repeatedly asking her; ‘What’s going on?’
He then went out on the terrace and sat on the ledge with his feet dangling over the edge as his mother helplessly stood by watching her son.
Vanderbilt said at one point he asked her what the number of his therapist was and when she could not remember told her ‘F*** you” before reciting it himself and then going over the edge.
‘He reached out to me at the end,’ Vanderbilt had said in the past.
‘Then he went over, hanging there on the wall, like on a bar in a gymnasium. I said, “Carter, come back,” and for a minute I thought he’d swing back up. But he let go.’
Soon after she began to think that his death was due to some medication he was taking in the form of an asthma inhaler.
‘I was there when he did it, and Carter wasn’t himself,’ she said. ‘It was as if the medication had snapped him into another dimension.’
Vanderbilt would later reveal in an interview on her son’s now-cancelled talk show Anderson Live that she immediately considered killing herself after Carter went over the balcony.
‘There was a moment when I thought I was going to jump over after him,’ she told Cooper.
‘I thought of you and it stopped me.’
Vanderbilt also said that in the wake of Carter’s death, she and her son stopped celebrating Christmas.