Thursday, March 22, 2018
TV and Media

HBO doc explores Glorida Vanderbilt's life through son Anderson Cooper


For much of his career, CNN's Anderson Cooper rarely talked publicly about being Gloria Vanderbilt's son.

He wasn't ashamed. Cooper just didn't want the baggage, the assumption that his life was set because he was a descendant of Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the world's richest business magnates of the 1800s. Since he has the last name of his father, actor Wyatt Cooper, it was easy to keep this quiet.

All of that changes with Nothing Left Unsaid, a documentary out this weekend from HBO. The film explores Vanderbilt's remarkable life and offers families a blueprint for conversations with aging parents.

Cooper wasn't as close with his mother as he wanted to be, and when she had a health scare a year ago, he realized he didn't want to be left with questions when she couldn't answer them.

His mother, now 91, has likely been in the public eye longer than anyone else alive. At age 9, she was on newspaper front pages as the "poor little rich girl," the subject of a custody battle between her mother and other relatives (her father died when she was 15 months old).

The nickname "bothered me enormously," Vanderbilt said in an interview. "I didn't see any of the press — the newspapers were kept from me. I didn't know what it meant. I didn't feel poor and I didn't feel rich. It really did influence me enormously to make something of my life when I realized what it meant."

Money wasn't an issue; Vanderbilt inherited $4.5 million in 1941. Yet she lived a young life unmoored, with no father and a mother uninterested in child-rearing. She was fascinated with Hollywood, dated Errol Flynn when she was 17 and had a short-lived marriage as a teenager. She married conductor Leopold Stokowski when she was 20 and he was 63. The marriage produced two children and ended when Frank Sinatra began pursuing her.

Vanderbilt later married director Sidney Lumet and then Wyatt Cooper. The Cooper marriage seemed the most grounded, but he died when Anderson was 10.

Even in her tenth decade, Vanderbilt said she believes she has a great romance ahead of her.

"She's the most vulnerable, optimistic person I know," Cooper said. "She's the most trusting person. I'm not as trusting as her at all. She's incredibly optimistic, and I believe the next catastrophe is right around the corner and I want to prepare for it."

Cooper looks more like his father and always believed he was most like him. Through the film and its accompanying book, he learned all he had in common with his mother.

"The whole Vanderbilt side never had any reality to me at all," he said. "My mom didn't feel connected. She felt like a changeling, an impostor. We grew up without any real connection. My father took me to see the statue of Commodore Vanderbilt in Grand Central, and I thought all grandparents turned into statues when they died."

Cooper is a gentle guide through the film, going through boxes of memorabilia and drawing stories out of his mother. Much time is spent on the art she has created throughout her life. Her brand of designer jeans — for many people, the thing they most associated with her — gets barely a minute in the nearly two-hour film.

There's a sadness in her eyes. Vanderbilt was long estranged from her mother, and one of her sons with Stokowski cut himself off from the family for more than 40 years (since the film was made, there has been some contact). And she suffered a parent's ultimate nightmare with the loss of a son, Anderson's brother Carter.

In 1988, shortly after his graduation from Princeton, Carter jumped out the window of his mother's high-rise apartment. She watched and pleaded with him to stop. Vanderbilt says in Nothing Left Unsaid that she contemplated following him, but the thought of how it would devastate Anderson stopped her.

Carter's death, capped by Cooper and Vanderbilt visiting his grave together, is the film's emotional centerpiece.

Vanderbilt and Cooper had no hesitation reliving the painful time.

"It brings him alive when you talk about him," she said. "I'm close to a lot of his friends who were in Princeton with him and I always enjoy seeing them and talking to them."

Mother and son hope that some people who see the film will be encouraged to speak to elderly relatives about their lives.

"Anderson really knew little about my childhood because I'd never spoken about it," Vanderbilt said. "So we really got to know each other and became really close in a way that we never had before."


Joss Whedon steps down from ‘Batgirl,’ Roxane Gay offers to step up

In February, ever-busy Joss Whedon passed on writing and directing the upcoming Batgirl movie by Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment. Today, prolific novelist and essayist Roxane Gay offered to take over. And DC might be interested.Gay tweeted, "Hey [D...
Updated: 7 hours ago

St. Petersburg author Tamara Lush a finalist for Romance Writers of America award

Romance has many rewards.For St. Petersburg author Tamara Lush, one of them is being a finalist in the Romance Writers of America's 2018 book awards, called the RITAs.The RWA announced March 22 that her novel Constant Craving is one of five finalists...
Updated: 8 hours ago
The most shocking thing about that ‘X-Files’ finale is who DIDN’T die

The most shocking thing about that ‘X-Files’ finale is who DIDN’T die

Lots of speculation has swirled around The X-Files this season about whether questions raised last season would be answered (after this season's premiere undid last season's finale) and about the show's future. The Season 11 finale seemed to fly in t...
Published: 03/21/18
Updated: 03/22/18
Did … that really just happen? An ‘X-Files’ finale recap

Did … that really just happen? An ‘X-Files’ finale recap

This episode of The X-Files was, as most are, dreadfully short of answers to the big questions. If you need to catch up on what happened before, click here.RELATED: The most shocking thing about the finale is who DIDN'T dieAs all of the "My Struggle"...
Published: 03/21/18
Video: 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show' helps a Tampa Bay woman meet her sister for the first time

Video: 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show' helps a Tampa Bay woman meet her sister for the first time

A new web series spun off from The Ellen DeGeneres show helped a Riverview woman and her siblings reunite with a sister across the country they’d never met. Life’s First-Evers with Jeannie is hosted by Jeannie Klisiewicz, the Ellen show ...
Published: 03/21/18
For ‘The Americans,’ plot lines keep colliding with real Russia drama

For ‘The Americans,’ plot lines keep colliding with real Russia drama

WASHINGTON — You know it’s weird times when at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the president was making headlines for congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on a victory in a sham election, and elsewhere in Washington, multiple investigation...
Published: 03/21/18
The 5 best Spanish period dramas on Netflix

The 5 best Spanish period dramas on Netflix

If you haven't binged a Spanish period drama wondering if your hero and heroine are going to get caught by the law, a jealous spouse or somebody's scheming madre, buckle up. You're in for quite a ride.We all acknowledge the greatness of a good Britis...
Published: 03/20/18
Updated: 03/21/18

Wednesday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBaseball, spring trainingRed Sox at Rays1 p.m.Fox SunAstros at Nationals1 p.m.ESPN2Cubs at Rangers4 p.m.MLBCollege basketballWomen’s Division II tournament: Union (Tenn.) vs. Central Missouri7 p.m.CBSSNWomen’s Division II tournament: Indiana (Pa...
Published: 03/20/18

Bunny books multiply on bestseller list

We live in such contentious times that even a bunny book can stir up a storm, and a political parody of a children's book can outsell the real thing. On March 19, Charlotte Pence, the 24-year-old daughter of Vice President Mike Pence, published a ch...
Published: 03/20/18

Tuesday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBaseball, spring trainingBlue Jays at Phillies1 p.m.MLBRangers at White Sox4 p.m.MLBRays at Orioles6 p.m.620-AMCollege baseballArkansas State at Missouri7 p.m.SECCollege basketball, NITPenn State at Marquette7 p.m.ESPNMississippi State at Louisv...
Published: 03/19/18