Gloria Vanderbilt's life was dominated by romance and scandals, but when it came to a certain point she needed rescuing, Frank Sinatra was there to save her.
Gloria Laura Vanderbilt was born on February 20, 1924, to father Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt and mother, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt Snr. The Vanderbilt family was one of the richest families in the world at the time.
Her great-great-great-grandfather Cornelius Vanderbilt was one of nine children of Dutch immigrants who moved to America a decade before he was born. He was born on May 27, 1794, and worked on his father's ferry when he left school at 11 years old.
Designer and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt at her fashion show at the Plaza Hotel in 1979 in New York City, New York [left]. Singer and actor, Frank Sinatra in a studio portrait, circa 1945 | Photo: Getty Images
He decided to go into the ferry business like his father and moved into railroads after dominating the business. He made the family's fortune from his railroad and shipping empires. When he died in 1877, he was estimated to have left $100 million to his son William Henry Vanderbilt.
His son took over and grew this family's wealth, building the family's first mansion on Fifth Avenue. This trend continued with son Cornelius Vanderbilt II and his brother William Kissam who, as a philanthropist, donated $1 million to build tenement houses in New York.
Gloria Vanderbilt attends the The National Arts Club's Literary Committee Honoring Joyce Carol Oates held at The National Arts Club on April 7, 2009 in New York City | Photo: Getty Images
He also gave thousands of dollars into building Vanderbilt Clinic and University as well as Columbia University. The family also collected arts and buildings. After William's death, he reportedly did not grow the family's wealth.
When Gloria's father was born on January 14, 1880, the family's wealth was not what it used to be. He was known as a gambler and drunk, squandering his inheritance. He was first married to Cathleen Neilson in 1903, and they had a daughter named Cathleen.
They got divorced in April 1920, and he married Gloria Morgan three years afterward, and she gave birth to Gloria Vanderbilt the next year. He died when young Gloria was just 18 months old but left a $2.5 million trust fund.
Her mother, Gloria Morgan, reportedly spent the fortune on herself, taking different trips to Europe, partying with wealthy people, including the Prince of Wales, while neglecting Vanderbilt since her daughter was too young to take control of the money.
When Vanderbilt was still a little girl in 1934, her paternal aunt Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney sued for her custody. She accused her mother, Morgan, of neglect and immoral activities which might influence the girl.
There were rumors of Morgan being a lesbian, and at that time in America, being a homosexual was not accepted. The lawsuit was nicknamed "The Trial of The Century" and was reported by media outlets worldwide.
Her aunt won the lawsuit and was given custody of Vanderbilt, but the event left the young girl more isolated and traumatized.
VANDERBILT AND SINATRA'S RELATIONSHIP
Vanderbilt was just 17 years old when she met filmmaker and business tycoon Howard Hughes in Beverly Hills in 1941. She was there with her mother when she coincidentally opened the door for Hughes.
Hughes was there to request her mother's permission for Vanderbilt to appear in a screen test, and when her mother refused, Hughes and Vanderbilt started dating instead.
She had already dated actor Errol Flynn, but something about Hughes was irresistible. He was 36 years old at the time and was wildly romantic and gentle. He would pick her up in an Oldsmobile and fly her to different parts of the world.
When she noticed the relationship was not heading towards marriage, she left Hughes. She married Pat DeCicco, who she met at a party at the Pierre Hotel.
DeCicco was known as a Hollywood agent and gambler, but Vanderbilt claimed his domineering personality enthralled her. Later she admitted it was the greatest mistake of her life.
Different Hollywood personalities attended their wedding, but Vanderbilt reportedly spent most of their honeymoon alone when DeCicco stayed up playing cards with friends.
Their marriage lasted four years, and Vanderbilt claimed DeCicco was physically and emotionally abusive to her. He would bang her head against the wall. When she was 21 years old, Vanderbilt inherited $4.5 million from her father's estate.
Just a few months after leaving DeCicco, Vanderbilt got married to orchestra conductor Leopold Stokowski. She only met the British man three weeks before the wedding. He built her a mansion on the mountain, and they had two sons: Leopold and Christopher.
The couple had been married for ten years when she met Frank Sinatra. Stokowski was reportedly possessive and deceitful about his background. She thought Stokowski was a god and would not let her go, but that all changed when Sinatra came along.
Sinatra had recently left his wife, Ava Gardner, and performed at the Copacabana club in New York when she met him. Vanderbilt declared Sinatra made her believe she was the most important person in the world as a lover.
Sinatra gave her a massive boost to suddenly want a change in her life; she referred to him as her "Knight in shining armor." He came at a time when Vanderbilt needed someone like that in her life.
She felt trapped in her marriage to Stokowski, and Sinatra gave her the strength to leave. However, their relationship did not last, and things ended within three weeks.
LIFE AFTER SINATRA
Vanderbilt got married, the third time, to film director Sydney Lumet, but that also did not last. They courted for three weeks before the marriage, but he was reportedly deeply insecure and possessive.
After seven years with Lumet, she married Wyatt Cooper, a screenplay writer. They had two sons together: Carter and Anderson Cooper, the popular television personality. They remained married until Cooper died of open-heart surgery in 1978.
Tragedy struck soon after when their son Carter took his own life before her by jumping off the balcony. He was 23 years old at the time and had accused his therapist of messing with his love life.
Vanderbilt declared she felt like jumping after him but could not because of Anderson. She explained that losing a child is one of the worst feelings, and one never forgets.
After her son's death, Vanderbilt has enjoyed success as a writer, releasing her memoir "It Seemed Important At The Time," which she described as a romance memoir. She has released a total of three novels and six memoirs since 1979.
The memoir discussed some personal things about her childhood, her relationships, and coping with the death of her son. Her other son, Anderson, reportedly had difficulties reading the book because of how detailed it was.
Anderson Cooper was reportedly shocked when Vanderbilt disclosed she once had a relationship with a lesbian in an interview with HBO about their upcoming documentary "Nothing Left Unsaid."
She explained it was in boarding school, and she was 13 years old at the time. She also talked about her past relationships with her mother and the men in her life.
They also talked about the tragedy they faced together when Anderson's brother Carter died by suicide. They co-authored a book called "The Rainbow Comes and Goes." Gloria Vanderbilt tragically died in 2019 at the age of 95 after suffering from stomach cancer.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.
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