The Marble Faun of Wintermoore…
In 1975 two brothers became pioneers of the documentary filmmaking industry. David and Albert Maysles stumbled through an overgrown bramble bush and discovered a decaying mansion called Grey Gardens… They spent the next year and a half filming the two inhabitants of this once grand house – namely a mother daughter duo called ‘Big’ and ‘Little’ Edie respectively. The film, named after the crumbling mansion, became one of the most successful documentaries ever made – and has since garnered a huge cult following.
One of the main “characters” in “Grey Gardens” was the local ‘handyman’ Jerry Torre, who’s role in the film is a rather important one. It seems ‘Little’ Edie is at first very wary of this outsider making his way into the family’s reclusive lives – giving the pair a washing machine to secure his place in the house, inviting his friends over and generally going in and out of Grey Gardens. ‘Little’ Edie nicknames Jerry ‘The Marble Faun’ (after Nathaniel Hawthorne’s gothic novel of the same name) due to his likeness to the central character. ‘Big’ Edie, on the contrary to her little counterpart, adores Jerry and dotes on him throughout the movie – much to ‘Little’ Edie’s chagrin.
Above: (from left to right) ‘Little’ Edie, Jerry and ‘Big Edie’
By the end of the documentary, after Edie’s many disgusted (and delusional) rants about how Jerry is only after ‘one’ thing, it seems that the whole suspicion of Jerry is just a rouge, an over-exaggerated act – and instead she, like her mother, adores ‘The Marble Faun’.
When it came to finally sitting down and writing my first novel I decided very early on that I should write from something that interests me, write a story where I could in actual fact have a beginning, a middle and an end (an achievement I had until then failed to, well, achieve). Being one of those ‘cult followers’ of “Grey Gardens” I decided to be heavily influenced by the film and the lives of those involved whilst writing “The Walls of Wintermoore”. It could be said that there are many parallels between the two stories, my first review for the book said that the story I told was an “age old” story, but that somehow I had managed to put a “different twist” on it (thank God).
When “The Walls of Wintermoore” went to print, the publishers asked if I wanted a quote from the review on the front or back cover. I loved the idea, and had loved the review the book had been given but there was only one person I wanted to read the book, and one person who I wanted a quote from for the front cover. Jerry Torre. So I sent him the manuscript, and literally two days later I received a glowing review from him praising my work on the book, explaining how much of my descriptions and my details in the book reminded him of his time at Grey Gardens.
It was a very surreal and amazing experience. I immediately sent the review to the publishers and they chose a snippet of it to put on the front cover. So Jerry Torre will forever be a part of my first published book, and I owe him a great deal for his support. He is one of the kindest, generous and caring people I have ever met. His outlook on life, and his love for his friends is truly a heartwarming and relieving thing to know that people like him exist in the world.
Above: Jerry in his NYC Cab!
My interaction with Jerry began almost as soon as I had first sat down and watched “Grey Gardens” for the first time. One of the DVD extras is called “Jerry’s Cab” and features Albert Maysles tracking down the Marble Faun in New York City as a cab driver. After watching this special feature and realising that Jerry was one of maybe a handful of people who were still alive that were connected to the great legacy and intriguing myth surrounding Grey Gardens, I had to get in touch with him. I looked on his website, and wrote to him, like any gushing fan, telling him my deep love for Grey Gardens and anything involved it in, and told him that my love for the film had led to me basing my final year dissertation at University on the documentary form. Since then we have remained in touch and it is with a great amount of thanks that my book is doing so well.
The Marble Faun of Grey Gardens now haunts the Walls of Wintermoore…