Gloria Vanderbilt, the original heiress, fashion icon, and mother to Anderson Cooper, has passed away at the age of 95. Cooper announced her death in a taped obit that aired on CNN Monday morning. She died at home with friends and family by her side after a battle with stomach cancer.
“Gloria Vanderbilt was an extraordinary woman, who loved life, and lived it on her own terms,” Cooper said. “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 filled with sensational headlines through four marriages and three divorces. Gloria had a notorious love life and shared her red carpet romances in the 2004 book: It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir, which included names like Errol Flynn, whom she dated as a teenager, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Howard Hughes. Cooper called her memoir “a terrific book; it’s like an older Sex and the City“‘
“I’ve had many, many loves,” Vanderbilt said back in 2004. “I always feel that something wonderful is going to happen. And it always does.”
Gloria Vanderbilt died this morning, according to her son, CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
— CNN (@CNN) June 17, 2019
Gloria inherited a huge fortune from her great-great-grandfather, who left around $100 million to her family when he died in 1877 at age 82. Her father, Reginald, died in 1925, having burnt through $25 million in 14 years.
She received a $5 million trust fund (which would be approximately $95 million in 2019) in 1934 at the age of 10 and was dubbed the “poor little rich girl” by the media after a custody fight between her globe-trotting mother and matriarchal aunt, who eventually won custody of her.
After spending the next seven years on her aunt’s estate, Vanderbilt moved to Hollywood and began dating celebrities. The 17-year-old quickly wed Howard Hughes’ press agent, Pasquale di Cicco, prompting her aunt to cut Gloria out of her will.
She had two marriages break up before the age of 30 and Vanderbilt found herself caught up in another custody case, this time as the mother. During the hearings, Vanderbilt’s ex-husband accused her of spending too much time at parties and too little with the boys.
Divorce battles weren’t the only hardship she faced in her life. Gloria’s son, Carter killed himself in 1988 at age 23, leaping from her 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.
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 said that the two had looted millions from Vanderbilt’s bank accounts.
Vanderbilt worked a painter and collagist who also worked sporadically on the stage and TV but found major success as a fabric designer who became a trailblazer in designer denim. The Gloria Vanderbilt brand peaked in 1980 when it was generating over $200 million in sales and pioneering jeans as a wardrobe staple that remains true to this day.
While delivering his obituary on-air, Anderson Cooper shared his thoughts about his mom succinctly: “What an extraordinary life. What an extraordinary mom. What an incredible woman.”
With files from The Associated Press