Gloria Vanderbilt was considered the last daughter of the America's Gilded Age. The heir to the Vanderbilt railroad fortune, she spent most of her life in the public eye, sometimes to her chagrin. Nevertheless, Vanderbilt's life, in so many ways, revolved around her family; from the inheritance and custody battles that dogged her childhood, to her tabloid-crowning marriages, to the tragedies and triumphs that followed her into motherhood.
With her passing at age 95 in 2019, Vanderbilt left behind a legacy of family, with all of its ups and downs. Here's everything you need to know about the men who filled her life as both a wife and a mother.
The youngest of Vanderbilt's sons, and also the best known, Anderson Cooper was born in 1967 to Vanderbilt and Wyatt Emory Cooper. As a young man he attended Dalton School in New York City and later studied political science at Yale University. He briefly interned at the CIA, later joking that "It was less James Bond than I hoped it would be."
Anderson was still in college when his older brother Carter committed suicide, which, combined with the tragedy of his father's death during heart surgery ten years earlier, helped inspire Anderson to pursue journalism. "I became interested in questions of survival: why some people survive and others don't," he once said.
Though he began his career as a fact-checker for Channel One News, Anderson's drive quickly earned him the coveted spot of chief international correspondent for the channel following his self-produced coverage of the political turmoil in Burma. From 1994 to 2000 he served as a reporter for ABC on several of its news programs including World News Tonight before taking a break from journalism to serve as host for the reality show The Mole.
Following the September 11th attacks in 2001, Anderson returned to the world of reporting for CNN and in 2003, he earned his own show on the network, Anderson Cooper 360. While Anderson continues to anchor his show for CNN, he also serves as a contributor on CBS's 60 Minutes and briefly hosted a short-lived talk show, called Anderson Live. For his efforts he has won five Emmy Awards as well as a Peabody Award for his coverage of Hurricane Katrina.
In 2012, Anderson came out publicly (though he had been out in private since he was a teen) becoming the first openly gay prime time news anchor in American history.
Throughout her life, Anderson maintained a close relationship with his mother, creating the 2016 documentary about Vanderbilt and their relationship as well as publishing a collection of correspondence The Rainbow Comes and Goes; A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss in 2017.
Following her death on June 17, 2019, Anderson delivered a moving eulogy for his mother on CNN, saying, "The last few weeks, every time I kissed her goodbye, I'd say, "I love you, mom." 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?"
In April of 2020, Cooper became a father with the birth of his son Wyatt Morgan Cooper. At the time of the birth announcement on Instagram, he explains that the name Wyatt is after his own father, Wyatt Emory Cooper, while his son's middle name is "a family name on my mom's side." He added, "I do wish my mom and dad and my brother, Carter, were alive to meet Wyatt, but I like to believe they can see him. I imagine them all together, arms around each other, smiling and laughing, happy to know that their love is alive in me and in Wyatt, and that our family continues.
Leopold Stanislaus Stokowski
Better known as Stan, Stokowski is Vanderbilt's oldest child, born in 1950, during her marriage to conductor Leopold Stokowski. Stan largely eschews the spotlight that tends to follow his famous family, though he is said to have remained close with his mother and occasionally appeared with her at public events.
Over the course of his life, he has owned several landscaping businesses in the New York and New England areas and has a wife, Emily Goldstein, and two daughters, Abra and Aurora.
Christopher Stokowski is the younger of Vanderbilt's two sons with Leopold Stokowski. Less is known about his life due to his longterm estrangement from Vanderbilt and her other children, and his general retreat from public life.
While details have never been released to the public, it appears that Christopher cut himself off from the rest of his family in 1978 and is said to have become a recluse, reportedly as the result of an incident regarding Vanderbilt's therapist Christ Zois which affected Christopher's relationship with his fiancée April Sandmeyer.
In 1993, Vanderbilt won a $1.5 million judgement against the estate of her lawyer, Thomas Andrews, and Zois, who she said took advantage of her and swindled her out of money after attaining her power of attorney; it is unclear whether the incident with Christopher was involved in the case.
After almost 40 years of estrangement, Anderson Cooper and Vanderbilt released a documentary about Vanderbilt's life in 2016 titled Nothing Left Unsaid which critics pointed out largely glossed over Christopher.
"I think she respects [Chris’s] privacy and [not mentioning him] is out of love for him," Sandmeyer told Page Six at the time of the film's release. "She knows he doesn’t want to be in the public eye. He doesn’t want the public’s attention.”
Following the film's debut, Anderson confirmed that he and Christopher had reconnected and reconciled, while Anderson's uncle Harry Cooper added that Christopher and Vanderbilt had met several times in the wake of the film's release.
Carter Vanderbilt Cooper
Born in 1965, Carter was the eldest of Vanderbilt's two sons with Wyatt Emory Cooper. His brother Anderson would later describe him as a gentle boy, interested in military history and politics though not one "suited for the rough-and-tumble of the game." Anderson explained, "He felt things too deeply."
In 1987, he graduated from Princeton and began working on book reviews as well as editing for the history magazine American Heritage.
On July 22, 1988, at the age of 23, Carter died by suicide after jumping from the terrace of Vanderbilt's 14th story apartment. Vanderbilt was present at the time and pleaded with her son to come away from the edge of the terrace before he jumped, a fact which naturally haunted her in the ensuing decades of her life.
"I thought the worst thing that had ever happened to me was when I was 9," Vanderbilt said in the 2016 HBO documentary Nothing Left Unsaid, referring to the famously bitter battle over her custody between her aunt, Gertrude, and Gloria's young mother. "But that wasn't the worst. The worst is to lose a child."
In 1997, Vanderbilt released the book A Mother's Story detailing the day and the experience of losing her son. "Some people … who knew Carter will start to talk about him and then say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ And I say, ‘No, I love to talk about him. More, more, more.’" Vanderbilt told People in 2016. "Because that brings him alive and it brings him closer and it means that he hasn’t been forgotten."
Thirty years ago today, before my eyes, I lost Carter Cooper. My son. My life. My hope. In the years since, his brother, my beloved Anderson, has been by my side, giving me love and strength. Carter is close and alive within me, as he was from the beginning, and as he always will be.
A post shared by Gloria Vanderbilt (@gloriavanderbilt) on Jul 22, 2018 at 10:47am PDT
On the 30th anniversary of Carter's death in 2018, Vanderbilt shared a post on her Instagram memorializing her son.
"Thirty years ago today, before my eyes, I lost Carter Cooper," she wrote. "My son. My life. My hope. In the years since, his brother, my beloved Anderson, has been by my side, giving me love and strength. Carter is close and alive within me, as he was from the beginning, and as he always will be."
At age 17, Vanderbilt dropped out of high school in order to marry the talent agent "Pat" DiCicco against the wishes of her aunt who had served as Vanderbilt's guardian growing up. "She knew it was a mistake from the get-go," her son Anderson Cooper said in his eulogy for Vanderbilt.
DiCicco, a cousin of famous James Bond producer Albert Broccoli, worked as an agent and film producer and was rumored to be connected with the mafia. He had previously been married to the film star Thelma Todd, also known as "The Ice Cream Blonde," who starred alongside Buster Keaton and the Marx Brothers in more than 100 films and shorts. Todd died under unusual circumstances the year after her divorce from DiCicco, shortly after an altercation with him. Though some speculated that DiCicco had murdered Todd, he was never charged with the crime and the death was ruled accidental.
DiCicco was reportedly a hot-tempered man, and Vanderbilt later said that he was both physically and emotionally abusive to her during their marriage. "He would take my head and bang it against the wall," she told the Telegraph in 2004. "I had black eyes."
They divorced four years after their wedding, when Vanderbilt was 21.
Vanderbilt met her second husband while she was still married to her first. A world-famous conductor, the English-born Stokowski was more than 40 years Vanderbilt's senior when they met, but that didn't stop them from swiftly falling in love. In 1945 Vanderbilt divorced DiCicco and married Stokowski, bearing him two children over the course of their ten-year marriage.
Though Stokowski, who among his other accolades conducted the symphonies for the Disney film Fantasia, encouraged Vanderbilt's artistic pursuits, he also kept her socially isolated and Vanderbilt became unhappy after a time. Following a short fling with Frank Sinatra when she was 30, Vanderbilt ultimately decided to divorce Stokowski in 1955.
Despite the romance with Sinatra—Vanderbilt would remain friends with the singer to the end of his life—it was not the crooner who became her third husband. That title instead went to acclaimed American film director Sidney Lumet in 1955.
Lumet, who directed such famous films as Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon, was a change of pace from Stokowski—a man her own age, with an interest that Vanderbilt shared in film and performance. When the two divorced seven years later, they remained on good terms.
Wyatt Emory Cooper
Vanderbilt met the man whom she considered the love of her life, author and screenwriter Wyatt Cooper, in 1964. Together they raised Vanderbilt's two sons with Stokowski and had two of their own.
"We had the family life that I'd always wanted," she told the Telegraph. "He made me understand what it would have been like to have had a father—he was a most amazing father. I'd never experienced anything like it." She added, "I'd be married to him today, if he had not died."
Unfortunately the wedded bliss was cut short when Copper, after a series of heart attacks, died suddenly during heart surgery in 1978 at the age of 50.
Vanderbilt never remarried—a particular statement of devotion from a woman who had spent the better part of 40 years in one marriage or another. For several decades following Cooper's death Vanderbilt continued to prefer to be known, in private, as Mrs. Cooper.
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