In Anderson Cooper’s new HBO documentary Nothing Left Unsaid, the journalist opens up coming from American royalty and his childhood.
Cooper’s mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, is the great-great-great granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Cooper’s father, Wyatt Cooper, was Vanderbilt’s fourth marriage that lasted until his death in 1978.
Cooper told People that his parents told him from an early age he wouldn’t receive any inheritance.
“I think my mom and dad both wanted to get across to me that…I obviously grew up with great privilege and was very lucky and was able to afford college and not have student loans and they would pay for college, but beyond that, it would be up to me to make a living,” he said. “I’m glad I never had that expectation hanging over me or that safety net to fall back on. I always thought, ‘I’m on my own and that’s the way it should be.’”
Cooper started working at 11 as a child model for Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein and was a waiter in high school.
“It was important to me and I think important to my parents that I be on my own and figure things out on my own and kind of forge my own path, and I’m really grateful for that,” he said.
Vanderbilt and Cooper’s new memoir The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Loss and Love, discusses Vanderbilt’s alleged flings with Frank Sinatra, Howard Hughes and Marlon Brando. Cooper said that growing up with an eccentric and famous mother wasn’t easy.
“I used to be embarrassed when I was a kid,” he said. “Certainly as I’ve grown I’ve realized how remarkable she is and what seems embarrassing as a kid is cool now.”
Vanderbilt also discusses the suicide of Anderson’s older brother, Carter, when he was 23 and Anderson was 21.
“I love to talk about Cater, because for me, it brings him alive again,” she said. She also has two other sons from a previous marriage.
Cooper also opens up about his father, who died when Cooper was 10.
“I became more introverted, more interested in planning and preparing for the next catastrophe, basically, which I always think is right around the corner,” he said, adding that it’s not “a coincidence” that his job has taken him to disaster zones. “My mom believes the next opportunity is always around the corner.”
Vanderbilt’s mother, who was widowed 18 months after Vanderbilt was born, was questioned in court because of her sexuality.
“I knew all the broad strokes of it, the tragedies, the triumphs, the court case that the Daily News covered,” Cooper told the New York Daily News, referring to the custody case over his mom in the 1930s.
“My mother was bisexual, and she was accused of being a lesbian,” Vanderbilt said. “That terrified me, because at the time it was considered a crime, a sin, and I thought I might have inherited it – though I had no idea what it was.”
However, to Vanderbilt’s dismay, she was straight.
“I have often wished I was a lesbian,” she said. “Because I understand women, and trust them. Men are still a mystery to me.”
The documentary will premiere April 9.
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