Cooper himself narrated on CNN an obituary for his mother, an heiress to the famed Vanderbilt family who was the center of a dramatic child custody battle between her paternal aunt and mother during the Great Depression. Then dubbed the “trial of the century,” the case saw Vanderbilt’s mother lose custody and be put on a fixed allowance before being financially cut off completely when Vanderbilt came of age.
Vanderbilt went on to became an actress, painter, model and acclaimed fashion designer of hip-hugging jeans in the 1970s. She also wrote novels and books on art, in addition to memoirs, including one co-authored with Cooper in 2016, The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son On Life, Love, and Loss.
The 52-year-old CNN anchor was the youngest of Vanderbilt’s four sons. Married four times — with director Sidney Lumet being her third husband — Vanderbilt had sons Stan and Christopher Stokowski from her marriage to second husband Leopold Stokowski as well as Carter and Anderson Cooper from her fourth marriage to actor Wyatt Emory Cooper. Carter died by suicide in 1988 at age 23.
"I never knew we had the same giggle."@andersoncooper reminisces about the moments he shared with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt.— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) June 17, 2019
The iconic American artist, designer, and heiress has died at the age of 95.https://t.co/vOMShEabdd pic.twitter.com/MoC7FatCI6
“Her private self, her real self — that was more fascinating and more lovely than anything she showed the public,” Cooper said during his CNN tribute. “I always thought of her as a visitor from another world, a traveler stranded here who’d come from a distant star that’d burned out long ago. I always felt it was my job to protect her.”
He continued, “She was the strongest person I’ve 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.”
Cooper went on to share that Vanderbilt was told earlier in June that she had advanced stomach cancer, which had spread. He said that she paused before telling the doctor, “Well, it’s like that old song. ‘Show me the way to get out of this world, because that’s where everything is.’”
He shared a video clip of Vanderbilt in the hospital, sharing an identical “giggle” with her son. He added that she was “surrounded by beauty, and by family, and by friends” when she died.
Cooper’s voice seemed to catch as he relayed how his mother would tell him “I love you, you know that,” noting that he always did “know” and feel her love.
“What an extraordinary life. What an extraordinary mom. And what an incredible woman,” he finished.
The TV personality also released a statement about Vanderbilt’s death.
“Gloria Vanderbilt was an extraordinary woman, who loved life, and lived it on her own terms,” Cooper said in a statement. “She was a painter, a writer and designer but also a remarkable mother, wife and friend ... She was 95 years old, but ask anyone close to her, and they’d tell you: She was the youngest person they knew – the coolest and most modern.”
Fans and friends have responded with their condolences and outpourings of love and sympathy.
Thinking of my splendid @CNN colleague @andersoncooper on the loss of his beloved mother, Gloria Vanderbilt. She led a long and remarkable life, filled with triumph and tragedy, as chronicled in the moving book she and Anderson published in ‘16, The Rainbow Comes and Goes.— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) June 17, 2019
Simply a tribute, beautiful tribute. I am crying like a baby.....Anderson is a son she was proud of; Anderson had so much love for his mother. God Bless his family. I’ve got to get more tissue.....I can’t leave the house in this condition. Condolences from my heart.— Dave Chang (@dkchang64) June 17, 2019
What a touching tribute to Gloria Vanderbilt from her son Anderson Cooper. My sympathies to you Anderson and to your family! Fashion icon and artist Gloria Vanderbilt dies at 95 https://t.co/Rwi5nQhG6z— AprilDRyan (@AprilDRyan) June 17, 2019
Cooper’s best friend, Andy Cohen, also paid tribute to Vanderbilt, whom he called an “amazing woman who lived a life filled with incredible peaks and impossible obstacles.”
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