In a warm and captivating new memoir a gay teenage boy from Brooklyn runs away from his abusive father, gets a job as a gardener on a posh Long Island estate, and ends up caring for an eccentric mother and daughter, born to riches but living in a squalid nearby mansion, who then become his true and chosen family. If the story sounds vaguely familiar, or like the plot of a movie, it is: three movies in fact: two documentaries, one HBO drama, and even a Broadway musical. The mansion was called Grey Gardens, also the name of the film by Albert and David Maysles, voted by critics as the ninth best documentary of all time.
Big Edie and Little Edie, the mother and daughter blue bloods are long deceased, but today we’re talking to that runaway gardener, Jerry Torre, whose own story is equally fascinating, not only because he’s a trove of information that never made it into the movie, but because the filmmakers were trying to reconnect with him for decades, until he was found, quite by chance, driving a New York City taxi cab.
The memoir is called The Marble Faun of Grey Gardens. Joining Jerry Torre and me is the book’s co-author, film critic and historian Tony Maietta, who can talk about why, after more than forty years, this film remains a beloved classic.