Anderson Cooper announced the death of his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, Monday, eulogizing her on CNN, telling the world about “an extraordinary woman who loved life and lived it on her own terms.”
“Gloria Vanderbilt died as she lived — on her own terms,” the CNN anchor said about the 95-year-old actress, artist, fashion designer and socialite. “I know she hoped for a little more time, a few days or weeks at least. There were paintings she wanted to make, more books she wanted to read, more dreams to dream. But she was ready — she was ready to go.”
It was in Vanderbilt’s last days that Cooper, her youngest son, said he first realized the two had the same laugh.
He captured his mother on video, lying in a hospital bed, connected to tubes and wires, laughing gleefully. The camera shook a little as he began to chuckle alongside her.
“It makes me giggle every time I watch it,” he said.
Cooper said his mother died “surrounded by beauty and by family and by friends” not long after learning she had stomach cancer.
Cooper said “Gloria Vanderbilt, my mom, lived her entire life in the public eye.”
Vanderbilt was a child heiress who gained worldwide media attention amid a sensational custody battle during the Great Depression.
As a teenager, she tried to avoid the spotlight and later made a name for herself as an artist and actress, a model and a fashion designer, and a mother, Cooper said Monday in footage pulled from the 2016 HBO documentary, “Nothing Left Unsaid.”
“I always thought of her as a visitor from another world, a traveler stranded here who’d come from a distant star that burned out long ago. I always felt it was my job to try to protect her,” he said about his mother. “She was the strongest person I’d ever met but she wasn’t tough. She never developed a thick skin to protect herself from hurt. She wanted to feel it all. She wanted to feel life’s pleasures, its pains as well. She trusted too freely, too completely, and suffered tremendous losses, but she always pressed on, always worked hard, always believed the best was yet to come.”
"The railroad and shipping heiress was 10 when she became the subject of a sensational custody battle in 1934 — one that gave Depression-era America an irresistible window into the lives of the fabulously wealthy. The era’s press dubbed Ms. Vanderbilt the “poor little rich girl,” leaving her with an aura of mystery that she never escaped.
She made appearances in gossip columns for her plethora of romantic liaisons — with Frank Sinatra, Howard Hughes and Gordon Parks, among others — and her nuptials to the conductor Leopold Stokowski and director Sidney Lumet, two of her higher-profile marriages. Her social companions included designers Bill Blass and Diane von Fürstenberg and the writer Truman Capote.
Four husbands, four sons and more than 40 years after the court case that made her famous, she courted the spotlight by merchandising her celebrity. She turned “Gloria Vanderbilt” into a label prominently displayed on the backside of a line of form-fitting blue jeans for women and helped launch a disco-era fashion craze."
Cooper said on CNN that in his mother’s final weeks, he made sure she knew he loved her — and she did the same.
“Every time I kissed her goodbye, I’d say, ‘I love you, Mom,' ” he said. “She would look at me and say, ‘I love you, too. You know that.’ And she was right — I did know that; I knew it from the moment I was born, and I’ll know it for the rest of my life. And, in the end, what greater gift can a mother give to her son?”
“Gloria Vanderbilt was 95 years old when she died,” he said, his voice quivering. “What an extraordinary life. What an extraordinary mom. And what an incredible woman.”