And now for a kinder, modulated Snark
Sooooo, at this point, the folly of the late 20th (early 21st) Century American love affair with ginormous houses has been about talked to death. You would think.
The latest chapter is a documentary called the Queen of Versailles. The eponymous hero plays into a lot of stereotypes about American superficiality and excess—a blonde former beauty queen, mother to seven, and wife of a super-rich man old enough to be her father. (Actually, he arguably is almost old enough to be her grandfather.)
Long story short, they set out a few years ago to build a house that would meet their needs and wound up with a 90,000 square foot design. (That’s a lot of need.) If completed and put into use as a single family home, it would be the largest single family home currently in use for that purpose in the United States. (Biltmore, still owned by descendants of the Vanderbilt family is about twice as big, but has not been used as a single family residence in several decades.) Unfortunately, the financial crisis took its toll, even on this very wealthy family’s assets and construction was halted and the half-built house put on the market.
By chance, something got me thinking about Grey Gardens recently, I can’t remember what. The mid-seventies cult classic about the reduced fortunes of Jackie Kennedy’s aunt and first cousin, who lived for years in a crumbling, filthy wreck that had once been considered one of the most spectacularly beautiful houses on the Eastern Seaboard. First released in the mid-1970’s and then saved from the cultural dumpster that is the destiny of most documentary primarily by gay men fascinated by Big Edie and Little Edie (I have never understood!), Grey Gardens reemerged in the mainstream in the early Naughts and was made into both a musical and a docudrama film.
So, my fellow Americans, do you think Life might be trying to tell us something? Ya Think?? Do Ya? Do Ya Huh??
By the way, Hollywood is remaking The Great Gatsby. The last high profile film version was in the mid-1970s, about the same time Grey Gardens was filmed. I have to admit to not particularly caring for the mid-1970s film version of Gatsby, it’s a bit too in love with the 70s and Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway, and forgets about the roaring 20s, Art Deco and the story. I’ll be interested to see the latest result, I’m a big Baz Lurhman fan, so I’m hopeful.
Hopeful for what? That an Australian will finally get through to my messed up culture that an absurd house is nothing more than an absurd house, that marble hallways and fleets of servants and antiques and pools and more rooms that you can count does not a good life make? No one else has, but why not toss it at the wall and see if it sticks? Might as well. To an extent, I guess it depends on how much you get juiced from having the biggest trophy and getting to say “Neener neener neener” to your neighbor, but I’m guessing that lasts about until the door shuts. Who knows.
To small spaces and needs met. And a prayer for everyone with nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat in the “richest country in the World.”