- Edie and Walter.
Allow me to introduce my friend Walter Newkirk. Fascinating character, our Walter. He is an author and producer somewhere way down deep in New Jersey, and he is most famous, at least for our purposes, for his associations with staunch eccentric Little Edie Beale and that whole fascinatingly wretched and peculiar Grey Gardens thing.
Now, the story of Grey Gardens and Little Edie Beale is creeping up on 40 years old (the original documentary was released in 1975)—but it has been kept fresh in the national brain due to a handful of factors. These include a feature HBO Film starring bad witch Jessica Lange and the former Firestarter Drew Barrymore, a musical version of the story that blew (ahem) through town last March, and, most importantly for Seattle in general and gay Seattle in particular, because Jerrick Hoffer as Jinkx Monsoon reintroduced Little Edie to the world via her spot-on imitation of Miss Beale on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5.
Mr. Newkirk became close friends with Edie after the death of her batty old cat-hoarding mum (“Big” Edie). He wrote two books about her: Letters of Little Edie Beale: Grey Gardens and Beyond and MemoraBEALEia, not to mention a CD he produced called Little Edie Live: A Visit to Grey Gardens.
As you might suspect, and most crucially here, Walter is an avid hoarder of Grey Gardens memorabilia—postcards, pictures, recordings, personal effects and more. And sadly, due to some unforeseen and crushing medical expenses (THANKS OBAMA!), he is liquidating select jewels from his Little Edie treasure trove, a thrilling prospect for Grey Gardens fans new and ancient. I spoke with him this week to get more information.
Hi, Walter! First, please tell us about the circumstance of your meeting Lady Beale. How did it come about?
- Another one of Edie and Walter.
Afterwards, Edie invited me to Grey Gardens to interview her for my college newspaper, The Rutgers Daily Targum. We kept in touch and a friendship developed —especially when Edie sold Grey Gardens and moved to NYC in 1980. I would take her to parties and luncheons.
In March 1981, Montclair State University had a showing of Grey Gardens. I introduced Edie at the end of the film. It was standing room only. The audience went crazy…hoots and hollers and cat whistles...it went on for almost 5 minutes. I then hosted a reception for Edie at my apartment in Upper Montclair. That evening was a fond memory, indeed.
You have a few books and a CD on Edie. Please tell me about them.
When I interviewed Edie at Grey Gardens in 1976, I taped it—from our arrival on the front porch until we landed in Mrs. Beale's bedroom. In 2006, Grey Gardens the Musical debuted Off-Broadway and later on Broadway. Michael Korie, the lyricist, invited me to the opening night. I invited other fans to my apartment to hear the taped interview from 1976 … people told me "I want to listen to that again!" and "I would buy that!" So I produced it with a few friends and it has become the top seller, followed by the 1st book MemoraBEALEia. The CD has sold approximately 8,000 copies and is only available at www.amazon.com.
The first book MemoraBEALEia was published in 2008. The book contains photos, art, facts, copies of letters, and other ephemera. I have sold about 10,000 copies of the book.
A former professor of mine who is now a VP at Rutgers told me he liked MemoraBEALEia very much but he wanted more from Edie herself. So I transcribed the letters themselves and published them with his help. Letters of Little Edie Beale was published in 2009.
And you are in possession of a quantity of Edie related material?
All handmade cards and handwritten letters from Edie for the most part from 1977-1987 and then 2000-her death...I have newspaper articles and a lot of things from the musical's debut off and on Broadway. Grey Gardens themed pill boxes …Christmas ornaments …teeshirts…I also have the GG film and Broadway posters along with HBO film....I have been sent art of Little Edie from artists nationwide.
And you are selling them now?
I am selling Edie’s handwritten letters and handmade cards from 1977-1987 and 2000- her death. I have my books and CD and her letters and cards for sale. (Michael Korie, the lyricist from Grey Gardens the Musical purchased a few letters...)
The books are available for the best prices at $25 each on authorhouse.com Amazon charges about $10 more for each book - $35 a book. If you would like to purchase either book, please order from www.authorhouse.com. The books are worth $25 each, if I say so myself. People can order autographed books from me for $30 each, cash only...