Anderson Cooper pays tribute to his extraordinary mother.
Gloria Vanderbilt Photographed by Horst for Vogue, 1966
I don’t really know who the woman in this photograph is. She is my mom, of course, Gloria Vanderbilt—I recognize the face, the look in her eyes, the shape of her nose—but she has lived so many different lives, inhabited so many different worlds, that in this picture, as in many photos, I find it hard to really see her. Among other things, she’s been an actress, an artist, a designer, a writer, a wife, a mother, a lover, a victim, and a survivor. Every few years she seems to shed her old self, and is born anew.
The photo was taken by Horst in April 1966. My mom is wearing a Mainbocher dress and is in a grand old town house on Sixty-seventh off Park Avenue, where she lived with my father, Wyatt Cooper, whom she married in 1964, and my brother Carter, who was born in 1965. I am not yet born. In fact, I won’t be conceived for another seven months.
We lived in the house for another five years or so after I arrived, and though I recall some of the rooms, I’m not sure which one this picture was taken in. The one I remember most was a bedroom my mother covered entirely in patchwork quilts: the walls, the ceiling, the furniture, she’d even glued quilts to the floor and had them coated with polyurethane. It was like being inside a collage. I’ve never seen anything like it since.
My mom is 42 years old in this photograph, a year younger than I am now. She looks so much more grown up than I feel. I suppose all children, no matter what age, feel that about their parents.