Gloria Vanderbilt grew up with a lifestyle that is unimaginable to most of us. She was an heiress to a 5 million dollars trust fund at 18 months old after her father succumbed to alcoholism. Known for her Gloria Vanderbilt designer jeans, she was an artist, a fashion designer, a wife and a mother. She was also recognized after being the centre of very public custody battle which was known as the “trial of the century” dubbing her as a “poor little rich girl” which was a moniker she worked hard to shed.
The audio version of The Rainbow Comes and Goes is narrated by the authors, Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt. It is written somewhat like a conversation with the mother and son taking turns sharing anecdotes and personal history. Although the listener benefits from hearing the author’s voices, the audio version is without the pictures that are sporadically placed through the text version. The mother/son duo began writing the emails back and forth that would form the book after Gloria’s 91st birthday and both learned more about each other through their communication.
Gloria was born into an extremely rich family. Her father had inherited his fortune, was not know for his work ethic and drank himself to death. Gloria initially lived with her mother who was focused parties instead of parenting. Gloria was raised by her nanny (grandmother) and Dodo (a paid governess) who both meddled in her living arrangements leading to the bitter custody battle. She ended up living with her Auntie Ger but unfortunately, the two never became very close.
Gloria was looking for love, married 4 times, had 4 sons. She was reported to have had lovers such as Marlon Brando, Howard Hughs, Frank Sinatra and Roald Dahl. Her first husband was involved with the mob and their marriage ended when he became abusive. She married a much older composer the second time and they had two sons. Her fourth marriage was to Anderson Cooper’s father who taught her what it was to be a parent. The couple remained happily married until his untimely death during heart surgery when Anderson was just 10 years old. The loss was devastating for Gloria and her youngest 2 boys.
Anderson shared his own life in the book and it was clear how much he loved his Daddy and was impacted by his death. He and his mother are clearly close despite his frequent travel in his role as a CNN journalist. He described his coming out as a gay man, their closeness and how they dealt with both his father’s death and the suicide of his brother. Anderson and Gloria share a strong work ethic and an independent streak which causes them to earn their own way. Anderson used his father’s name instead of using the Vanderbilt legacy while Gloria had to rebuild her fortune and pay back taxes after trusted advisers fraudulently took advantage of her.
The book ends by Gloria writing a letter to both herself as a young woman and to Anderson to keep to reread after she is gone. She also shares her wishes for the end of her life and her funeral suggestions in a pragmatic fashion. During my commute, I listened as Gloria shared an honest account of her struggles, losses, loves, mistakes and successes. She is a strong woman who continues to live life to the fullest, even in her nineties, making life a positive experience despite the challenges along the way.
Although I have never been a fan of the sensationalist coverage of CNN, I find myself impressed by Anderson Cooper’s drive to make his own success. He has been very open in sharing his intimate conversations with his mother along with their family history. I will view his broadcasts with a different perspective and respect in the future.
The Rainbow Comes and Goes is a very interesting memoir and I can only hope that I will be a s bright and motivated when I am in my nineties. Gloria Vanderbilt has experienced her share of challenges and despair yet has remained positive and strong. She will forever be known for the very public trial and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans but I hope readers will remember her for resilience and healthy aging.