HIGH SO­CI­ETY DROPOUT

Model, so­cialite and brides­maid to best friend Grace Kelly… So how did CAROLYN SCOTT REY­BOLD end up home­less and des­ti­tute? Her daugh­ter Nyna Giles tells her story

Irish Daily Mail - YOU - - CON­TENTS -

The true story of a dra­matic fall from grace

INorder to pic­ture Grace Kelly as my mother Carolyn first saw her in 1947, you have to put aside the images of the blonde movie star or the per­fect princess on her Monaco wed­ding day. In­stead, you have to see her as a round-faced teenager with light brown wavy hair. She’s wear­ing a black coat with a match­ing hat and is step­ping out of the re­volv­ing doors of the Bar­bizon Ho­tel for Women on New York’s 63rd Street. The next time Carolyn saw her, she was leav­ing her ninth-floor room at the lodg­ing house, right next door to hers. Grace in­tro­duced her­self. She was study­ing act­ing at the Amer­i­can Acad­emy of Dra­matic Arts.

Carolyn fol­lowed fash­ion as closely as ➤

Grace fol­lowed the­atre. My mother was soft spo­ken, bor­der­ing on shy. Grace was more con­fi­dent and out­go­ing, with a tal­ent for im­per­son­ations that made her friend laugh. They were drawn to­gether by a shared sense of pur­pose: to pur­sue ca­reers and es­cape the nar­row ex­pec­ta­tions of their fam­i­lies.

Carolyn’s first mod­el­ling job was for Junior Bazaar. Be­fore long she was mod­el­ling in ad­ver­tise­ments for junior fash­ion lines, wear­ing sun­dresses, play­suits and night­gowns. Af­ter only three months in New York, Carolyn had also ap­peared in Glam­our, Seven­teen, Made­moi­selle and Charm. Her fees be­gan to go up and she knew she could stay on at the Bar­bizon for the in­def­i­nite fu­ture.

It was Carolyn who sug­gested that Grace try mod­el­ling to earn some money of her own. She saw the sym­me­try of Grace’s fea­tures, the beauty be­hind the glasses and the head­scarves that she wore dur­ing her classes at the Acad­emy. Grace’s first mod­el­ling job was a tele­vi­sion com­mer­cial for a pes­ti­cide, which re­quired her to run around the room spray­ing imaginary in­sects. More jobs fol­lowed.

With their hard-earned money the girls could af­ford to in­dulge their in­ter­ests. They went to plays and mu­si­cals on Broad­way, the bal­let and the Rus­sian Tea Room. Grace had a gramo­phone player in her room and they lay on their sides on Grace’s bed, lis­ten­ing to their favourite records.

Grace had a match­maker’s in­stinct and be­came con­vinced that Carolyn might be a good match for her el­der brother Kell. What if they fell in love and Carolyn and Grace ended up as sis­ters-in-law? That sum­mer they en­gi­neered a meet­ing at Grace’s fam­ily home. The Kelly man­sion, with its man­i­cured grounds and staff, high­lighted the in­ad­e­qua­cies of Carolyn’s own home and frac­tured fam­ily – she’d grown up with a step­fa­ther and half sib­lings. At meals and dur­ing ex­cur­sions, Grace made sure her brother and Carolyn spent time to­gether. Carolyn tried to con­vince her­self that a re­la­tion­ship could work but they had lit­tle in com­mon. Grace un­der­stood but was not de­terred. She was go­ing to keep her eyes open for some­one else.

Grace was tak­ing on more mod­el­ling jobs and started light­en­ing her hair to the palest blonde. Gone were the sen­si­ble shoes, cardi­gans and tweed skirts. In­stead, she wore cock­tail dresses and fur stoles to par­ties. She be­gan leav­ing be­hind her horn-rimmed glasses, which meant she couldn’t see more than a foot ahead of her, but on the up­side it gave her a dis­tant dreamy look that men seemed to find ir­re­sistible.

When Grace started dat­ing film ac­tor Alexan­der D’Arcy, her so­cial life was trans­formed and she wanted Carolyn to join her. Grace had met Mal­colm Rey­bold, an older but charm­ing di­vorcé, at a party on Long Is­land, and she sug­gested they go out on a double date. Over din­ner Mal­colm told my mother sto­ries about his fam­ily in Ge­or­gia and his job work­ing for an ad­ver­tis­ing agency. He laughed eas­ily and of­ten and made her laugh, too.

They mar­ried in 1949 and when their first child was due in 1951 they moved into an apart­ment on the 18th floor of Man­hat­tan House in New York, which Grace helped them find, as she was liv­ing on the ninth floor. Grace’s apart­ment be­came the hub of their so­cial lives, like the Bar­bizon had been but with no ma­trons pa­trolling the hall­ways. Grace cooked for her friends and Carolyn of­ten joined th­ese gath­er­ings. Af­ter din­ner there were jokes and con­fi­dences, cha­rades and their favourite ac­tiv­ity: for­tune telling.

Af­ter Jill, my el­dest sister, was born, Carolyn found her­self ab­sorbed by moth­er­hood, while Grace – Jill’s god­mother – was con­stantly trav­el­ling as her ca­reer took off. In Oc­to­ber 1953, my mother gave birth to my sister Robin and, when Robin was just four months old, re­turned to mod­el­ling. They needed the money as Mal­colm was suf­fer­ing with com­pli­ca­tions from ul­cers and doc­tors had re­moved three-quar­ters of his stom­ach. The med­i­cal bills were pil­ing up and some­one had to pay the rent.

Af­ter weeks of try­ing out for jobs and fail­ing to win any, Carolyn fi­nally se­cured a book­ing for the May is­sue of Seven­teen. But af­ter that the months crawled by, with Carolyn go­ing for job af­ter job with­out suc­cess. She was a 26-year-old mother of two com­pet­ing against fresh-faced teenagers. While Grace had built a sec­ond ca­reer as an ac­tress, Carolyn had no plan B.

There was no doubt that Grace’s grow­ing fame cre­ated a ten­sion be­tween them. It wasn’t that Carolyn was jeal­ous – she was thrilled at her friend’s suc­cess. It was just that there was a lack of bal­ance be­tween them now that nei­ther knew how to nav­i­gate. They tried. In Novem­ber 1954, Grace in­vited Carolyn and Mal­colm to join her at a gala premiere of The Last Time I Saw Paris, star­ring Elizabeth Tay­lor, at the Capi­tol The­atre in New York. This would be a good op­por­tu­nity for them to catch up, but also for Carolyn and Mal­colm to spend time with Grace’s new love in­ter­est, the fash­ion de­signer Oleg Cassini.

Grace wore a pale pink satin gown by Cassini, while Carolyn wore a strap­less cock­tail dress. Be­fore leav­ing Man­hat­tan House they pulled on short white evening gloves and grabbed fur stoles to wear

CAROLYN WAS ELATED FOR GRACE, BUT SHE KNEW THAT HER WED­DING WAS AN END­ING AS MUCH AS A BE­GIN­NING”

GRACE WAS FA­MOUS NOW AND CAROLYN WOULD NEVER BE. IT CRE­ATED TEN­SION BE­TWEEN THEM

around their shoul­ders. To­gether they made the short ride down Broad­way. Grace was im­mac­u­late in her long gown, her golden hair swept into a chignon. In the past it was Carolyn who had al­ways known just what to wear, but with her ca­reer wan­ing, she had lost her con­fi­dence. She was wear­ing a shorter dress than Grace’s and the only evening shoes she could find to match her dress were strappy san­dals, which she knew weren’t the right choice for the colder weather.

As they ap­proached the the­atre, a group of pho­tog­ra­phers spot­ted Grace and gath­ered around them. It was only nat­u­ral for Carolyn, as a model, to smile when she saw a lens point in her di­rec­tion, so she stopped to pose. The fol­low­ing night when Grace came up to Carolyn and Mal­colm’s apart­ment for din­ner, as she of­ten did when she was home in New York, she brought with her the pho­to­graphs of the event that had ap­peared in the news­pa­pers, in­clud­ing a pic­ture of Carolyn and Grace as they turned to­wards the pho­tog­ra­phers, with Mal­colm and Cassini to one side. As Carolyn leaned over to look at them, she was cer­tain she heard Grace mut­ter, ‘They take all the bows with­out mak­ing the pic­tures…’

Carolyn was so rat­tled by this com­ment that she couldn’t bring her­self to ask Grace what she had meant, but felt that she was send­ing her a mes­sage: that Carolyn should stop en­croach­ing on Grace’s hard-earned spot­light; that Grace had done all the work and Carolyn was tak­ing the bows. No other words were ex­changed, but Carolyn couldn’t help feel­ing that she had failed her friend. She re­solved to walk at least ten paces be­hind Grace when­ever they went out to­gether in fu­ture.

Af­ter Grace won the best ac­tress Os­car for The Coun­try Girl in 1955, she moved into a grander apart­ment. She was a wealthy movie star now. For the first time since they had met in 1947, Grace and Carolyn were no longer neigh­bours. Carolyn had al­ways fol­lowed in Grace’s foot­steps to pre­mieres and par­ties, but now she recog­nised that her friend had crossed an in­vis­i­ble bar­rier be­yond which Carolyn couldn’t go. Grace was fa­mous and Carolyn would never be. She was a mute, a man­nequin, a coat hanger. She knew her place.

From the mo­ment Grace’s en­gage­ment to Prince Rainier was an­nounced in 1956, the press wouldn’t leave her alone. Grace was front-page news. She couldn’t walk out­side with­out be­ing mobbed ➤

by pho­tog­ra­phers. Cary Grant had given her a black poo­dle, Oliver, as an en­gage­ment gift, but as she couldn’t take him out she loaned him to Carolyn’s daugh­ters, Jill and Robin, who walked him ev­ery morn­ing with their nanny.

Grace wanted Carolyn to be one of her brides­maids and, from the mo­ment it was an­nounced un­til early April, when it was time to leave for Monaco, Carolyn was so busy helping her with mul­ti­ple dress fit­tings, wed­ding gifts, press in­ter­views and photo shoots that she barely had time for mod­el­ling.

Rather than the usual frilly dresses worn by brides­maids, Grace had se­lected a sleek, mod­ern and dis­tinc­tive de­sign made from silk or­gandie in pale yel­low. It had a high, pointed col­lar and five cov­ered but­tons down the front, a pleated sash at the waist and full sleeves that bal­looned at mid-fore­arm.

For Carolyn, the day brought an over­whelm­ing mix of emo­tions. She was elated for her friend, but she also knew that Grace’s wed­ding was an end­ing as much as a be­gin­ning. Carolyn had got used to Grace’s in­ter­mit­tent ab­sences, but un­til now she had al­ways come back. They adored Man­hat­tan; it was part of their bond. But how could it com­pete with the beauty and charm of Monaco? Or with a palace and a prince? Carolyn knew as she waved good­bye to Grace that her friend was start­ing a jour­ney un­like any in the past and one from which she couldn’t eas­ily re­turn.

***** I never met Grace as a child, although I’m told she vis­ited when I was a baby. What I do re­mem­ber are the let­ters to my mother, which ar­rived ev­ery month or so in thick creamy en­velopes, stamped with the red and gold royal seal of the Prin­ci­pal­ity of Monaco. Some­where along the way the let­ters were lost – along with so many of my mother’s pos­ses­sions. Grace’s let­ters kept Carolyn up­dated on her chil­dren’s progress, her of­fi­cial du­ties and life at the palace.

But it was hard for Carolyn to write back. What could she say – that she was un­happy and iso­lated, liv­ing on Long Is­land? That her ca­reer as a model was over? That her body had been dev­as­tated by yet an­other cae­sarean with my birth and a hys­terec­tomy, which meant she was go­ing through the menopause at 30? That she had to wait for Mal­colm to come home late ev­ery night, know­ing that she had been re­placed? The more dif­fi­cult her life be­came, the less Carolyn felt wor­thy of her friend­ship with Grace, the unim­peach­able princess.

Shortly af­ter my par­ents sep­a­rated in 1978, my fa­ther knocked on my mother’s door with news from which my mother would never re­cover: my sister Robin had been killed in a car crash. My mother quickly de­scended into para­noid schizophre­nia. Four years later, Grace her­self died in a car crash.

***** It was March 1989 and I had just dropped my daugh­ter at nurs­ery. I was at the su­per­mar­ket check­out and glanced at the mag­a­zines in the rack. That’s when I saw the head­line: ‘Princess Grace brides­maid liv­ing in NY shel­ter for home­less.’

In the quiet of the car I opened the mag­a­zine, search­ing for my mother. There she was, grey cir­cles un­der her dark eyes. She was sit­ting on the steps out­side the shel­ter where she lived.

For the most part, the ar­ti­cle was ac­cu­rate. My mother did sleep each night in a home­less shel­ter. Her bed was num­ber 85, a small metal cot cov­ered with a reg­u­la­tion blue blan­ket in an open dorm. Each morn­ing at 7am the guards shook her awake and she left for Bergdorf Good­man de­part­ment store to wash in the basins of the ladies’ lounge, spend­ing her days in lo­cal parks, li­braries and churches.

What the ar­ti­cle didn’t say was that while my mother may have been lonely, she was not alone. She had fam­ily who cared about her, who tried to per­suade her to seek help, to find hous­ing. Each month, I ac­cepted her re­verse-charged calls, and my hus­band and I paid a lo­cal diner so that she could eat there. I vis­ited her in Man­hat­tan as of­ten as I could.

I knew I could al­ways find her in a lit­tle square set be­tween build­ings on West 58th Street, where she liked to sit and pray. From a dis­tance no one would have guessed my mother was home­less. Not a hair on her head was ever out of place. Ap­pear­ance was very im­por­tant to her. She liked to wear white for pu­rity: white slacks, shirt, scarf and ten­nis shoes.

We’d have lunch to­gether and then I would drive home to the sub­urbs. My mother re­mained liv­ing in the shel­ter for a decade, un­til 1999 when she de­vel­oped a heart prob­lem. She spent her last years at a nurs­ing home where she died in 2007 at the age of 79.

This is an edited ex­tract from The Brides­maid’s Daugh­ter by Nyna Giles with Eve Clax­ton, pub­lished by Septem­ber Pub­lish­ing and avail­able now, price €11.99.

Carolyn (cir­cled) at the wed­ding of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier of Monaco – she re­alised on that day that her friend­ship with Grace would never be the same again. Above left: Carolyn trail­ing Grace’s ris­ing star at a premiere in Man­hat­tan

Grace and her bri­dal party, in­clud­ing Carolyn (far left) and grab­bing a bite with Prince Rainier; Carolyn looks on in the back­ground

Above: Carolyn driv­ing a friend’s boat. Be­low: Nyna wear­ing her mother’s brides­maid dress

Carolyn mod­el­ling, above, and, far right, with hus­band Mal­colm

Carolyn with her three daugh­ters in 1960

Nyna with her mother at her care home

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.