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tv   Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe Vanderbilt  CSPAN  October 31, 2021 10:59pm-12:05am EDT

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more including wow. >> the world has changed. today faster level internet connection is something no one can live without so wow is there for our customers with speed, reliability, value and choice. now more than ever it all starts with great internet. >> wow alone with these television companies supports c-span2 as a public service. >> up next on booktv, cnn anderson cooper and katherine howe provide history of the vanderbilts, what's one of the wealthiest families in the country and mr. cooper's militants on his mother's side. brookings aesthetician senior fellow thomas wright discusses a global impact of the covid-19 pandemic on security, economics and foreign policy. and later on a weekly author interview series "after words," entrepreneur vivek ramaswamy argues that corporate america is signing on to woke culture to increase profits. consult your program guide for more schedule information or visit
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here's anderson cooper and katherine howe. >> tonight cnn anchor and "new york times" best-selling author anderson cooper chronicles the rise and fall of a legendary american dynasty, his mother's family, the vanderbilts. he is doing by katherine howe, i knew the times best-selling author of historical fiction and academic who brings her keen research skill and narrative flair to the story of an extraordinary family. and now without further ado i would like to welcome our guests to the virtual stage. >> hello. >> hello, hello, hello. thank you so much everyone. such a pleasure to be here. anderson, olympic it's nice to see. >> it's good if you, too. i feel like we only ever really see each other like remotely. >> it's true. strobe hopefully that will
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change. welcome one and all. they should be a fun conversation, doing plenty of time at the end if you have questions or comments that you like to share with us. i think the way we're going to do is i will be picking the question from the q&a and won't be able to look at the chat. that's a little bit too much to do all at once. if you have questions please put in the q&a. let's begin because anderson just spoken before about how when you're growing up you have let's call been mixed feelings about eating at vanderbilt. as a result you tended not to talk about it that much. you desperate about it to some extent. >> well, i still do not consider myself a vanderbilt. i like the introduction here that it's my mom's family. >> i know. i guess my opening question chassis but probably a lot of our attendees would share with me is why now? what have you decided to kind of crack the door open on this incredible story?
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>> a lot of it was, it's probably two events but my mom's death and then the birth of my son, and soon after my mom died i had been going to my mom's things through like 20 years, she had a lot of stuff stored in a storage unit that as a kid i used to lightweight worried about at night because it is such come i ching citizen kane. i've seen the storage unit there with the furnace that ended up burning rosebud. my mom storage and wishes burning money for the upkeep of the saints and my mom had toyed to what was in the storage unit. widest are going through boxes in apartment. i'm still knew that. started fighting these letters and hearing the voices of my mom's and or my mom's mom or peter rodino and it never met. but it just, they were fascinating people and fascinating voices, and i
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realize when i had my son i didn't really know what i would tell him about that side of his past and his ancestors. i really thought well, i should know myself about that side of the family and i should add something that he can read and look at and make up his own mind about them. >> i know when we first started talking about this project, you and i were both very interested in trying to find a new way to talk about the vanderbilts because like any prominent part of american history, we are going over some territory that of the books made have always looked at, and so can you talk about what readers could expect, our take on band of? >> that's what so brilliant about you as a writer, and the first time we met we were very much totally in line with what our interests were. i think neither of us wanted to write a kind of a dry linear history of then you know chapter
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16, 1895, you know? i wanted it to be more, there have been remarkable books written about commodore vanderbilt won the pulitzer prize. folks a lot on business and arc of his business and building vampires and his court cases and things like that, but it's very hard to get a sense of who these people really were. i remember early on, having not written a book of history, with your experience i'm ever talking to you about it would be great if we could find some journals of people. you pointed out that journals back then were not we think of as journals now. it wasn't the commodore of like gosh, i think i'm feeling anxious about this, but i know it's a process and tomorrow is another day. it will just be more like sunday, sunshiny, bracing morning, or something speed there's not a lot of why doesn't
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my father let me? is that why i'm so driven? [laughing] >> but i think, what interested both of us with the idea of the same thing that i found in those letters, getting into it has as much as possible through the historic record and through memoirs some of the characters had written about what was going on in their inner lives. a lot of the vanderbilts, they were world-famous. they were insanely wealthy, but what was actually going on in the lives that of the people did know about? that's what makes this kind so interesting to me, and i hope compelling to the reader. >> that's the perfect segue to asking you to talk about speeders sorry, let me just say i think one of the things, i didn't know how to work on a book with somebody else. i had written to macbooks by myself just as you've written many books by yourself, bestsellers. i was worried about the process
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and what i am now realizing i am so glad, is that you just had such an interesting way to frame things that it would have never thought of. we did a chapter on my mom's childhood and the court case, which is been written extensively about which came up with a way to do it that was completely unique and so it just almost took my breath away because it was kind of really audacious. then you had a very strong idea about things about how to write about myself as a child. >> that's delicately put. >> yes. for the longest time i was like no, i don't think i like your ideas at all. and then you will get your ideas and i couldn't help but admit this is really good, like this is great. >> i have to give a lot of credit because it must be beyond surreal to have someone you know
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is a colleague but not super well, write about your own life. i can only imagine how surreal that must have felt. i give you a lot of credit for kind of letting me tinker with it a little bit, and i hope it wasn't too terrifying to have that. >> i was giving you enough rope to hang yourself with. >> can we talk about the commodore although bit? one of the things we both i think were interested in was his character and his personality. you have remarked to me that over the course of her working on the book together your feelings about him change. do you think you talk about how you felt about them at the beginning and then maybe how you've you come to feel about him? >> i went into this thinking he's probably a psychopath, that am really interested in psychopaths. i think they're far more psychopath than we realize taken
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in public life today. i think there's love people from the cover of magazines who are probably psychopaths. i know them on the cover of people magazine this week some not sure what that says about myself. but i do think, i knew the commodore you know only cared about money. i knew he had been terrible to his family members, that he seemed disconnected from those around him in many regards. i started, i backed off the psychopath thing because as you pointed out, like you really can't, there is no way really know what's in somebody's head from that time. he talked about having a a maa for money and i think that pathology, you know, as we write, it is infected. we were interested in how goes down through generations and how to fix previous generations. once i saw sort of how the
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others dealt with the money, i came to a lease appreciate his work ethic and feel like i certainly would want him to be my dad and i certainly wouldn't want to been one of his kids. but be interesting to have lunch with a maybe or maybe just a drink or something. i did, i came to admire just his, you know, think my mom and i have something soon, and part part of it is like two of the things, some things we have in common is that sometimes is not great for people around us. i think the commodore had that and i understand that about him. i don't understand the mania about the money itself because that's not really what's interesting to me in my own life. but i understand that relentlessness. >> yeah. >> what interested you about doing this initially? >> that's a good question. as a historian and a novelist i
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spent a lot of time thinking my way into other people's expenses and specifically experiences in the past. like you i was drawn to the opportunity to try to think our way into the lived experience that some of these people. i feel like a lot of them, everything but the vanderbilts we think about their architecture. we think about their parties. we think about their money. i had certainly seen images of the commodore and i've certainly seen the sculpture outside grand central terminal lack had to win in new york has. i feel like in some regard the personhood is kind of lost. i had always had a soft spot for my favorite authors always been edith wharton which is why do so many eat this wharton quotes in the book. she was such a keen documentarian of gilded age life and so i was curious to understand more some of those
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characters that she was so keen on reproducing. can you talk about some of the other people you encounter as we working on this book, the gift continue to think about maybe now that the writing process is over? >> my grandfather died when my mom was 15 months old. i never knew him. i have some of come a few of his possessions which are sold off at auction because he lost all his -- he died broke and in such a debt his possessions come his house and had to be sold off. even some of my mom's childhood may be clothes were auctioned off. a relative of hers by, maybe her grandmother bought -- horse trophies in particular, horses were very important to my grandfather apparently. so i have some of those that my mom gave me. but to learn, i knew he had died young. i didn't know he died at 45.
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i'm not sure i knew he died of i guess well of alcoholism. i didn't know about the nature of his actual death. his deathbed scene was extraordinary. >> intense. i was surprised by that one, too. >> yet. and in no sum, we did a version of it and some folks, the publish, you really want to go to that level of detail we both like totally. just the sadness of him. i mean, he seen a a pathetic character, and for somebody who had unlimited possibilities, i mean, with the well was handed to him. he from a very young age just seen to squander it and not have any direction, not any sense of something he wanted to do or to be. it's sad. i sat in my mom stuff i found a couple of schoolbooks of his unlike 1894 and 1895 when 1895 when he was in middle school.
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there's doodles and then just like every kid doodles in the book, and then there's books from st. paul which is where he went to high school and then i have your book of his from yale. i touched them, i have them on the bed said because it's the only sort of actual connection i have from him that makes me feel who was once a human living peeling dueling in the book. but other than that he's a blank slate to meet not a a very go, not a good one. he set anything to really be proud of, which is sad. >> which is interesting because i don't so much of your mom, from what i read and from what i understand a letter self-concept came from his absence. there's that quote they seem to be so much to her. it shows up a number of her memoirs that i read about fatherless girls. >> fatherless girls makes all thing possible nothing is safe.
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>> its interest in the, always interesting to me that reggie played such a role in her self-concept through his nonexistence. >> i don't think, i mean i fully believe my mom would love this book in large part because this was all new to her. i don't think you knew this about a grandfather. she knew stuff was auctioned off their i don't think she knew about who he had that stupid i don't think she knows that he killed two people with automobile just careening through the streets. i don't think she knows had hit a seven-year-old child and the press blamed the child. the details of how he wooed my grandmother to marry him, and by using his daughter from a previous marriage, you know. there's a scene in the book where my grandfather is with his
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teenage daughter kathleen from a previous marriage who he's abandoned haphazardly known or spent much time with and she is his friend named lori morgan. suddenly dad is taking an interest in kathleen and she's thrilled that are distant fathers father is now suddenly inviting her out with a friend to get ice cream. they are all sitting there, gloria and kathleen are eating ice cream, they are 17 years old, and reggie is sitting there at 43 whatever drinking absinthe. and, in fact, going to marry the 17-year-old florida, and his own daughter thinks he's with her because he just wanted her to have a friend along when, in fact, the whole thing was a scheme. it's just really depressing. >> yeah. there's a sadness to a lot of veggies story, unfortunately. >> if such an interesting, you
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know, we all as you said as we said there's this horatio alger myth pulling yourself up by her bootstraps and the counter is representation of that insert american mythology and that all these vanderbilts have all we are told in a society we should one which is saying an incredible wealth. but you see how it played out in all these people's lives. it wasn't just one person who was wayward and didn't accomplish much because the money. it was like some sort of family hysteria or infection. >> yeah. yeah, i would agree with that. can we talk about some of the women in the story? one of the things i know where both particularly interested in was, we wanted to stay away from the sort of great man narratives of history, and particularly, maybe ironically given the commodore himself put so much of
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his stock in expectations on his sons and almost not at all on his daughters which played out in the contest over the will after he died. what i found that so much of the vanderbilt story was in some ways driven by women. can you tell us about some of the women that are in the book that people will find memorable? >> there is throughout the course of history, obviously my mom is one of the, becomes the strongest women in the vanderbilt family and in the book would call her the last mandible and the truly how i thought of her. she was the last, whose birth and death would make the front page of new times in papers around the world and the last to spend time in the breakers when it was a private house in the last to be from the lost world and born into it. but there are so many. first of all, the mother of cornelius vanderbilt is one who gave him a loan of $100 and she
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sequestered away in a grandfather clock because her husband was so loose with money. she's the one who gave him a loan to get his first little boat to ferry supplies that he can quickly built up into an empire. from her to the commodore's wife who's forced to go into a a lunatic asylum by the commodore just as he sends a son of his to a lunatic asylum alva vanderbilt who, you really dug into her and why did you talk a little bit about alva? >> alva, what can you say about alva except everything, which is kind of fasting. one thing that impressed me about the vanderbilts that was a surprise and this pertains to alva is i was a little surprised because like most people i think of vanderbilt as this very old new york name. i thought the vanderbilt story would be a new york story, which in many respects it is.
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but what i wasn't expecting was in like virtually every generation the vanderbilts are remade when they marry someone from the south. that's true for the commodore whose second wife is a confederate expatriate. that's in some regards true for your mom because your dad was an ex-pat southerner. and alva is another one of the big ones in that pattern that she was from mobile, alabama, and she married the commodore's grandson, see if i i get my generations right, willie k. vanderbilt. >> my great uncle. >> your great uncle. she was your great aunt? >> i don't, i'm not going to explain in a linkage to her. she was the wife of my great uncle. >> fair enough. we will take it at that. alva was a sense of the one who
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let up until alva came along the vanderbilts were considered the nouveau riche of nukes to the society little bit ironic given that they arrived in this part of the world in the 17th century but their money -- >> despite all his riches she was not building poses after penalties. he was living in respect to housing to washington square park but he didn't have interest in society and being accepted. >> he was kind of anti-society and anti-acceptance. he was kind of barely literate. he was famously boorish. he would spit on the floor. he was the quintessential kind of embarrassing guy that chapter and fight because he so rich but nobody actually really wants to talk to. or pop you want to be in business within the maybe you don't have an old for your tea party. he didn't seem to care all that much which is one of the things i came to admire about him. it was a subsequent vanderbilt who decided what needed to do was try to break into society. the commodore's son billy made the first sort of assays on the social hierarchy of new york in the gilded age. the door was really lasted down
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and shattered by alva. alva erskine nine smith vanderbilt, who first through the greatest party in the history of new york city and then went on to do a number of other kind of remarkable astonishing shocking things. and you tell about the party a little bit? >> so she throws this party, at that point near society is controlled by caroline astor and she has this walker who helps her create what your society is supposed to me and outlook to france and caroline gets a french chef and french decoration of thing from france europe she defines what nuke society is and the rule is yet to be two generations removed, all, all that unpleasantness and no to be part of society where you have enough money that you're not really working anymore. that was the grandsons of the commodore.
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so alva mary's willie k. vanderbilt who was just a party boy and she had had a horrific past of torturing, you know, verbally torturing, abusing enslaved children who her family had enslaved people. she was a supporter of the confederacy. they went broke. alva decides to break 90 nuke society by throwing this huge party. the vanderbilts have come willie k. vanderbilt i think he inherited about $60 million and is more than happy to start spending it. to get mrs. astor, she needs to get mrs. asters accepted for the vanderbilts tivoli get a foothold in nuke society. she does a by throwing this party that carolyn asters are so desperate to go to because it's the party of the century and suddenly as the party approaches caroline astor realizes she's not received an invitation to this vanderbilt party and alva makes a publicly known that of
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course caroline astor must understand she never present herself to me. essentially she's never acknowledge me as a human being and, therefore, how could i invite her to my house if she's never even called on me? so mrs. astor under pressure knowing the winds of change are coming to the social world and she wants to stay ahead of the wins and she's got to please her daughter who wants to dance and a quadrille in this party, she with great agony gets in a carriage, goes down and gives the footman a card to give to the vanderbilt footman and that is mrs. astor calling on alva vanderbilt accepting the vanderbilts as part of society, and then they get to be invited to the party. new york is never the same. >> and it was a fancy dress party which i think meant something different in the 1880s then it means today. because if you're going to a costume party, like i've already picked out my halloween costume.
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my son is going to go as a bunny rabbit and and i would go aa larger bunny rabbit and exactly the same bunny rabbit onesie. my husband is going to be a character so that is what we're going to be following. that is our definition of the costume today at least in my family. what were some of the costumes people wore for this ball? >> alice was the light. alice -- >> alice was electric light, just. >> my great-grandmother was an electric light and like electricity had just started so she had a costume that was wired up with the battery and sort of her holding up like a lightbulb, but her whole dress is electricity. it's in the city of new york. >> this is like the finest, most exquisite, it's like the met gala today but also costume party. >> right. >> the most incredible exquisite
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perfect couture fantastic and also has -- >> spend huge amounts of money. embroidered with gold and diamond buttons are our favorite character of all is this woman -- what is -- >> faith fearing strong. >> which i think is the greatest name, fearing strong. she came, her caution was a cat costume and we have the picture in the book but the bodice was made out of real cat faces. the skirt was cattails, all white of course, and on her head was an actual taxied to read full cat with sort of its paws on that and on her neck shared a black choker within diamonds the word puss written. >> totally, totally epic. i have a question that maybe i haven't asked you in other contexts some of the curious haglund answered because you
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have alluded to thinking your mom would have really enjoyed this book which odyssey makes me completely delighted and happy because it's like the highest praise imaginable. my question is, knowing how you felt about your vanderbilt connection, your vanderbilt heritage, that's a phrase i've use with you before that you cringe at visibly, sorry to bring it back out, how did your mother feel about being a vanderbilt? >> it's interesting. i know for fact how she felt because i did a radio interview with the cbc and radio interviewer found a soundbite where i asked my mom that question about her feeling about the vanderbilts from, it was 2016 and i'd forgotten forgotten what she had said. but i now remember it and is really stunning to me. she said exactly what i've been saying, which was i felt no connection to them whatsoever. she said i felt like a stranger
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in a little bit of the contact i had with them. i didn't think of them as my family. to me they were not my family. my family she said was her nanny and her grandmother on her maternal side. it wasn't her mother. it was her father because he was dead. it wasn't any of the vanderbilts. so she grew up really with no connection to the vanderbilts other than having that name. i was lucky because i didn't have that name, and i was very happy that i didn't have that name growing up. but i think my mom really early on decided she do anything to do with what should think of the vanderbilts. she at 17, at 16 she hotfoot set off to hollywood to visit her mother and her mother let you do anything and stay, and my mom starts dating errol flynn and a bunch of married movie stars, howard hughes, hot howard hughes at the time wanted to measure and she ends up just out of poor
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decision making, mirroring like a thug who worked for howard hughes. at the age of 17, you know, stays married until 21 and then gets divorced, and three weeks later meets the 63 of man leopold stokowski, this great director, conductor and marries him within two or three weeks. >> wow. that's interesting though even given how much time she spent with gertrude whitney. >> that's what's a sad about so much of this is my mom never connected really with gertrude and of the whitney with she would've had so much in common, whitney was a legitimate sculptor, very talented who love art, had a great american art collection she founded the whitney museum because the met t wouldn't take it when she offered to them and a very bohemian -- the would've been so
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much and she was very close to reggie her brother and she could've told my mom a lot about him but they never had real conversations, my mom was terrified of her and terrified -- to my mom stop speaking to her own mother for 15 years or so crucial years of her life and really only reconnected with her mother toward the end of her mothers life. even then they never had a conversation about the trial. the never had a conversation -- is just like a cool breeze like nothing had happened. >> that's wild. i can't believe they never talk about the trial. >> truly incredible. one of the huge regrets of my mom's life. i mean come to just sat down and talk about it. it's incredible. it was like the elephant in the room. >> it's so sad to me that that would have been so instrumental in my 11-year-old mom's life to have had been living with this great artist who could have said
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come into my studio, let's work, let's paint together. you just paint in the corner and whatever. none of that ever happened. >> you don't think having been to some small degree raised by gertrude and influence of your mom being a patriot later in life? >> i really don't. my mom had started painting at age ten, and she went to school called wheeler which utterly good art department and that was a guest at high school, because she left high school at 16 to go off to l.a. never went back to school. ..
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>> i mean, there's like two visuals i have of reggie in my mind. one, i have a lovely portrait that was sold off and bought back of it reggie when he was probably in his 20s and he's quite dashing and he's just like he's going to go out riding and i like that portrait very munch. he's a handsome man and cool that it's very like 19-- you know, tens or early 1900s. and i have-- i have a picture of his college dorm room at yale and of him as a kid in a carriage and he was handsome at stuff and a lot of the pictures of him by the time he marries my grandmother you know, he's a bloated and disfigured and just looks like a bore, i mean, he looks like someone who droned on at dinner
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about his horses which is apparently exactly what he did, so again, i-- there was no connection. nothing i felt in common with this person, you know. i went to the same college he did, but i'm sure as you know, i don't think he was much of a student. he obviously got in because the vanderbilts had history at the school and he got kicked out i think towards the end. there was a scandal i got kicked out for a while and finally allowed to graduate, but yeah, i was really stunned by that-- stunned by, it's a small detail, but the list of people who he owed money to when he died i just found inexcusable, i mean, one was the newspaper stand on the corner who he owed more than $200.2 and it was at a time when newspaper cost a penny.
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that's unconscionable to like stiff the newspaper person, the laundry woman was stiffed and you know it was just-- awful? host: you sound pretty disappointed in him. guest: i am, i mean, i feel you know i think look a lot of people listening are probably like-- i've gotten e-mails from people, boo-hoo you are writing a sob story about your privileged upbringing, must have been hard and i totally get that perspective. it's an easy perspective to have and maybe i would've done the same thing if i was on the other side, but there's not like-- i don't feel you know sad for reggie or sympathetic towards him. i just feel like he wasted, i mean, he was an alcoholic and probably was from the time early on so he wasted you know he could have been an extraordinary thing. he could've, you know,-- the fact that-- the fact
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there is not anything really that they have that's lasting of any real value you know yes, they built these palaces that our museums and stuff, most are torn down because they were to expensive to keep up, but it's not as if, i mean, yes the million dollars to vanderbilt university, but that was basically because his wife was a southerner and she convinced him to and he gave some money to a church, but it's not like they were big philanthropists and there's no real lasting thing they contributed to mean obviously railroads and things like that, but just in terms of generosity and spirit, you don't see a lot of it. host: it's interesting you are getting that feedback because i know when you started working on the book one of the things we were both thinking about was what this small story, i mean,
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it's a big sweeping story but it is one dynasty that tells a story from one perspective can say in a larger extent about american inequality and maybe even about american values that like on the one hand this kind of wealth, the achievement of this wealth, the achievement of this notarizing-- notoriety and attention is what in some regard we are all-- >> did that freeze for everyone? let me see. >> i think it just froze >> i will continue. >> probably. >> we could go to the q&a. here's one from kate, christina i guess it doesn't matter, kate says if the commodore was to visit you and your son one day what
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would you like to tell them, topics of conversation you would like to cover. >> first of all i would want him to visit when my son is older. my son doesn't get scared of strangers, but i think the commodore-- hey. >> and my back? so sorry. >> that's all right. i tried to fill in with a couple of questions. question was if the commodore would to visit you in your son what would you tell him. i would like to hear from him, i would love to know what was, i mean, he talked about mania for money, but was the motivation, i mean, what was his childhood pain that made him propel himself forward? was a resentment of his kind of loser dad who wasn't particularly ambitious, was that you know fear of instability
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you know, i don't know what it was and i think that would be something i would be interested to know about. you know this is from tina, i mean, my dad was a great dad. he was very present. you know he didn't come from money. he didn't come from power or some dynasty but he came from a family that had strong roots in the earth and strong roots to each other and he knew what a family was and knew what kind of a daddy wanted to be and so i certainly hope that it's rubbed off on me even for the short amount of time i had with him i think it has and i don't know, i hope-- already has this
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sly sense of humor which is amazing and i see myself as a kid in him and i see some of my dad and him as well. >> let's keep going with the q&a because i feel like people are pretty interested in having questions on their own, so do you want to take and choose or would you like me too pick some? >> we can go back and forth. throw out anything. >> let's see. beverly wants to know what is one thing people would be surprised to learn about your mom. guest: i don't think i would have time but i told the story and stephen colbert last night a story i never told before and it kind of-- to me it's funny and charming and my mom got a kick out of my response to it so i would suggest people go on stephen colbert. it's a long story, but i think funny and kind of shocking and weird, but it says a lot about my
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mom and how interesting and different to she was >> aiden connell wants to know how difficult was it to balance readiness work with-- book with work responsibilities as well as parenting and there was a question earlier about how long the book took and how many books were read in preparation. if you could fold those into one. guest: i think we can both talk about that. from my perspective, we agreed to do this together and then i think it was a bit before covid-- in my mind it all comes together. i'm a little confused. in my memory we agreed to do this and then you are having a child, so there was-- you are able to do a bunch of legwork and research which i did not have the ability or the time to do because it was still in the midst of the election
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fear yeah, i was in the midst of the election stuff and yeah, so my schedule was really the same. we discussed sort of the you know kind of how we wanted it to be. i think that i can remember i wrote that first and then of. >> it started with a chapter about your cousin because we were both really moved by that mental image of the last-- for those of you that don't know vanderbilt property, a vanderbilt state in newport rhode island which is the biggest tourist attraction in all of rhode island and up until a couple of years ago the bad about family retained the use of an apartment in the breakers and they finally change the guidelines so effectively the last vanderbilt was kicked out of the breakers,
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somewhat unceremoniously a couple of years ago and i know we were both really moved and intrigued by the mental image of what it feels like to walk out of that house in the 21st century after your family had billed in the 19th century, so we started the story there. >> gladys is wonderful she was a nurse and, i mean, she had really devoted, i mean, her mom devoted her life to helping maintain the breakers, raising money, gladys had you know spent every summer of her life in that apartment with her family and had also was on an advisory board for the newport historical society and she complained about things that were not kept up or condensation on the windows and she complained about a new visitor center she thought should be billed across the street and not on the actual property and i think she really kind of you know to the newport historical society based on opportunity-- they
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felt she had been complaining and they thought you know what, she is here at our pleasure and we are no longer please do so they said we have done a survey and the heating system doesn't work and it's too dangerous to have anyone living up there anymore so you have to leave. i think we were both struck that imagery of gladys leaving from the servants entrance which is the only entrance she had ever used to come and go from this house that her great-grandmother or great-grandparents built , so that was how it started. we sort of went back and forth because after you came back and started then i had why it so we sort of-- >> and then covid happen. i was getting back to researching and riding in a big way in february of 2020 and then covid happened in march and so i actually ended up going to the new york
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historical society brandishing my breast pump like it was a rifle being like basically saying give me everything you have got with vanderbilt in it and then i imaged everything and fled the city. >> what is that about? [laughter] >> between two babies who are now toddlers appearing at the book and then covid, of course, there was a lot. >> what may be nervous is i wasn't sure how-- and we would trade back you know something catherine had written and then thoughts or tweaks and then we would go back and forth on stuff, but catherine had a very firm idea early on of how she wanted the end it to be particularly stuff about my mom and now my mom's
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trial and she had this idea, which i think worked amazingly and it fits in with this whole thing i have about sort of how i believe we are all just living lives that have already existed and we are in patterns from family members pastore others past and people we don't even know and how sort of certain patterns repeat throughout time and-- but, it was startling to me that her ideas were startling to me. i never thought about them and the events she was focusing on were not events that i really thought represented anything. it was enote-- but,-- i was like, i mean, i think i him haw a lot and never really other than let me think about that. i think i finally at some point-- >> you are nice about it. >> you know i like to generally assume that i you know, one of the
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reasons to have a great writer is to actually look to them and see what they can do and so you wrote those and sent them to me and i was blown away. i had been completely wrong and it made me look at things differently. i love that. i thought it was fantastic. >> thank you i hope that our listeners today like those chapters also because i really enjoyed writing them and i really i was touched you let me take that risk when we were starting to work on it so that was wonderful. i found a question that i think could be fun and it's in keeping with a lot of what talking about. someone maybe has good dirt on you from mail, jackie catherine. anyway jackie wants to know how do you think your life as a journalist would be
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different if your last name hadn't been vanderbilt. would you have been seen as an unbiased observer in that case? i'm curious to. >> i don't think i would have the career i have if it wasn't. i-- i would not have-- i would not have been able to do what i have done. number one i don't think i would have had that initiative or i think-- if i had been a vanderbilt and there was money and stuff like that i think i-- i think even-- i think just having a name makes you think different, makes you think you are different in some way or special or linked to some glorious past and i just never felt that, i mean, i literally viewed this as something i wanted to never have people talk about and i would go out of my way to not have people know at least initially in meeting me. i wouldn't mind revealing it, you know three months later, six months later or something, but i think
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there is such baggage that comes with that name in so many assumptions about what the name means that people would instantly if your last name is vanderbilt instantly assume you're very wealthy and that you don't need to work and for in a country which does have this desire you know to put people who are wealthy on a pedestal there's a lot of also a animosity like you must have had it easy and i did have it easy in a whole bunch of ways, but i don't think-- yeah, i don't think you know the job of a reporter is to go to a place and not have people have opinions about you in advance usually, you want to be a mirror to the other person to tell their story. you don't want to be someone walks in the room and people are already like oh, it's that person and early on for me that was a great luxury do not have any of that and yeah, so i
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don't think-- yeah, i don't think i would've had a career. what's interesting is there are a couple later vanderbilt's who i don't even really know-- the sun-- i was just reading the son of neal van about grace wilson-- i don't know if you follow this, but the name was like mealy and neil was disinherited because he married wilson. >> i was always sorry we did not have room for neely and grace. if i had the freedom to add another chapter to the book, i would add a chapter about them. >> they were quite a pair, but the sun didn't have money i guess because he had been disinherited, married five or six times, worked as a journalist and tried to start newspapers and put-- start up with the money he did have and he was disinherited because he went to be a journalist, he was never taken seriously because of his last name and he served as a private in world war i and he was
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tormented by his commanding officers because they were like love, hills-- here is a vanderbilt guy and he's my private and i can do whatever i want with him so you know it seems like, i mean, seemed like a weird messed up person, but he at least made an effort to do stuff on his own and forge his own way but because of the name it seems like he was unable to, so i have always been you know-- yeah, my brother had vanderbilt and i was like i would never give a kid that name. >> here's a question from our yell who is 15. anderson, you have been dubbed the first gave vanderbilt in your success has helped me as a descendent of the family to come out. are you proud of being known as such or do you wish they were differentiated? >> well, as you may find out in the book, again, i don't see myself as a band about, but i am
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certainly not the first in the family-- what? >> spoiler. >> i don't want to go into too many details, but one of the-- yeah, you know, there were a lot of vanderbilt's living different lives and living the public life and then a private life and you know even my mom's mom who is not a man about, she was accused of being a lesbian. it came out during the custody trial that she had been seen with a woman in her bed kissing and by a maid and it was a scandal that destroyed her and was one of the big reasons probably that her child and my mom was taken away from her. by someone else who also had a secret, i mean, there are sort of secrets within the secrets so yeah. it's interesting to see that the head in gay history throughout the land about family as well.
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>> i felt that was actually something that came up kind of several times over the course of it there is a chapter-- i don't want to reveal to too much, but there's a chapter about one of the commodores a son who had a private life you know the terminology is different during different times, but i think it would be interesting for you to read, rel. >> and about how history is written, there's a great book, the history of gay new york. >> my gosh, everyone has to read this book. it's such a important incredible book. did you read it? >> of course. i interviewed him like two years ago and it was fantastic. he teaches at columbia now or nyu. it's the hidden history of the city and you realize who writes history and who has power matters and what we actually know of the past because there were tons of gay people and
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again, that word was not in use at the time, but when you start to-- you know to see, i mean, there is a whole you know in the neighborhood i live in there is every other building has a gay history to it and the café i sometimes have you know breakfast you know was once a lesbian café run by a woman who was then deported, tricked by the fbi, deported and ended up with-- in auschwitz killed by the nazis. i love that hidden history and that is what is so exciting about being involved in a book like this to sort of stumble across. >> emily wants to know what the titles are of the ancient book on the shelves behind me. fuel for a different time, but they are really old. elizabeth blakely wants to know and i think this is interesting, how did you know when the book was finished? how do you know how far
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to go? >> that's an interesting question it's been a good question; right? >> part of it is it's not a linear history, but there's a progression over time and so there is sort of the art of that and that there is a sort of natural arch to that and i think when the idea of you know i talked about my mom is the last vanderbilt that seemed to kind of makes sense to put that at the end, but then you know you had this wonderful idea on sort of touring through you know what remains or the ghost of-- that are out there and yeah, how do you think about it? >> it's i think it's a really good question because you know we do-- it's not-- the book is not meant to be an encyclopedic account of
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everything that happened in the band about dynasty like we don't really talk about george who built the breakers, which is still-- is in north carolina. >> thank you very much for catching that. >> there wasn't an obvious way to work george into the story that we were telling, but in retrospect i'm sad we don't have more of merely an grace because i think they would have been interesting. seen some of these repeated patterns and seeing the way these characters interact with one another. it felt kind of organic, felt like the right scale. >> there is no formula
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of you know, that you do 10 pages on this and then-- it is all just how something feels as you are writing and you kind of know when it's done. you know, it's like editing a story for news for 60 minutes. i'm working on a story now and i sort of have two endings to it and it could end earlier, it could end it later and i just have to see how it plays out in the edit room and how it feels. you know, it's not a science in any way. >> angel remain no wants to know how we met. did you know each other before the book or were you introduced to each other to pursue the project. >> we were introduced to each other by jonathan burnham-- i don't know his title. i should know his title. >> i think-- >> probably a publisher. i don't know. he's great. >> he is great.
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he's really wonderful. the reason we were introduced is because anderson had this phenomenal idea for a book, but it's also a different kind of book from the kind of book he's written before, which was more sort of straightforward memoirs. amazing correspondence that he shared with his mom. the rainbow comes and goes if you have not read it yet, so they were asking around for people who could kind of help with a history piece, i think and if any of you have read my novels you know what a history not i am so it was a good-- oh, would like to know if we could talk about the trial we were referred to a few times. we might be operating on a certain level of knowledge about band about history here. >> the trial my mom's trial or the trial of the commodore? >> probably your mom's trial because-- that was actually news two me when we started researching it. it was widely covered in
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the 1930s when it happened, but i had somehow not stumbled upon until we started to work on this project. >> my mom was that her father died at 15 months and she was taken to europe by her mother who was 18 or 19 at the time and suddenly the video of a van about has the last named van about has this child who has a $5 million trust fund waiting for them when they turn 21 and because the mom is there she can live off of the money from the trust fund it to take of the baby gloria, my mom, so she is good for 10 or eight years in europe going from hotel to hotel having affairs with people and meanwhile my mom doesn't really know her, sees her disappearing at parties and my mom is very close to her nanny, dodo and her mom's mom who is traveling with them, her grandmother, morgan. the grandmother morgan and dodo the nurse had
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to plot essentially to get my mom taken away from her mother, the grandmother from her own daughter and to live with the vanderbilts and be raised in america nba vanderbilt. they hatched this plot like a big-- convinced my mom to go along with it so my mom could always lead with dodo and be safe and they take her back to new york. they get her whitney involved and been about whitney decides to sue for custody and to have my mom's mom declared unfit. a huge court case ensues is called the trial of the century at the time and it pitted my mom's mom who didn't have money of her own and who is pro- trade in the press as the women-- poor lady who wanted to keep a hold of her baby from the clutches of the rich vanderbilts or the lesbian partygoer who
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doesn't deserve to have this child and gertrude vanderbilt whitney who did not really even know my mom but failed obligation that my mom was not being cared for and and about gertrude vanderbilt whitney had all the money and it was you know followed in newspapers every single day for months or hundreds of people that would demonstrate outside each day and ultimately my mom ruled that she should go live with whitney and the second thing they ruled is that her nanny had too much authority and my one and the one person my mom cared about was taken away from her and it change the trajectory of my mom's life. >> we are pretty much out of time so we last the question which is a good one to and one from alana and what is the topic of your next book. >> . >> we've been discussing discussing this. initially-- well,-- [inaudible] [laughter] that's dangerous.
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are not going to hang myself with that rope. >> i mean, we are interested in this whole -- sort of dynasty as a family were interested in, the kind of rise and fall idea, i mean, initially i have seen this not as a one-off book about the roundabouts, but i hoped it would become sort of an ongoing series of the books and whether that you know the rise and fall of the family or something else i'm not exactly sure, but what we are talking about now is possibly doing the answers. >> and exploded version of the asters, slightly different from what this book is, but like rethinking everything you think you might know about what astor means. >> and you know i was interested in sort of a contemporary dynasty. the asters, there's a big contemporary component which i like as well so that's what we are starting with and
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noodling around with and yeah, see where it goes severe i just thought by the way they are tearing down part of astor row. saw it on instagram. >> it's been fantastic conversation, i mean, we make a really great team. wonderful, wonderful. on behalf of all of us, all of the bookstores and everyone watching, i think you can see everyone like chatting there. thank you. thank you. we love you. fabulous. i also want to say what a gorgeous cover. beautiful bug. thank you for holding it up. a great designer. did a lot of my mom's books. did my first book and has become a good friend. i wanted to work with him. initially, we thought about commodore on the
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cover, but so many books of the commodore and we wanted to stress this isn't a business book and why just focus on like the man people think is like the great man. i like having vanderbilt woman on the cover and then to be able to have mike commodore relegated to the spine which i love and the pictures on the inner cover which is fantastic and obviously pictures inside as well. >> just gorgeous. thank you. so glad you have it to show to everyone for your books are on the way, should be on the way. some of you might have them, but i know they will be on their way at least by monday, so you have that to look forward to. >> i should say we did talk about-- there's great pictures in the middle, but i want to show you. that's the woman. [laughter] >> that's crazy. >> that's wonderful.
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>> that's alice with the lightbulb. >> what a beautiful book jonathan is calling me. he's like-- >> oh, yeah? [laughter] anyway, thank you again. >> thank you, everyone, for doing this. appreciated. >> thank you and hopefully we will see you in person sometime soon. >> hope you like the book. thank you.
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then conservative podcast during journalist ben shapiro talks about his new book, the authoritarian moment in which he argues the progressive left is pushing an authoritarian agenda in america and also get the latest in publishing industry news, book reviews and trends on insider interviews on both tvs new programs are and on afterwards the latest book woke inc. inside corporate america social justice says corporate america is signing onto woke culture only to increase profits and he's interviewed by greg, harvard university economics professor and former chair of the president's council of


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