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The long move into 'Grey Gardens'

April 14, 2009 |  3:34 pm

Drew Barrymore, facing a window onto Central Park, held up a mirror. She took a long time reapplying her lipstick.

"Most of my best friends are gay and they all act like her, talk like her, dress like her at certain moments -- they all quote her all the time," she said, in her somewhat spooky way.

Gay men -- well, not all of them, but many -- do revere and constantly talk about Edith "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale, the crazy-fabulous younger half of the East Hampton mother and daughter recluse-team made famous by the 1975 Maysles brothers (and company) documentary "Grey Gardens." The family had been flush in the Depression -- but, as revealed in the documentary, once left to their own devices, Jacqueline Kennedy's aunt and cousin rapidly became crazy cat ladies and a town scandal. The last signs of their class were the house itself and their starchy, grating half-mid-Atlantic, half- Long Island accents.

So after Barrymore fought her way into that role for HBO's "Grey Gardens," which (1) premieres Saturday and (2) relates both the era covered by the documentary and the women's younger lives, the gay anxiety struck her hard. After all, in the Venn diagram circles of gay Little Edie fan and gay friend of Drew Barrymore, the overlapping area approached 100%.

"I can't tell you the level of fear and sickness I would feel when they would imitate her," she said. "They know her and love her so well -- what if I do something that doesn't feel right with them?" She swore profusely, her tongue piercing shining in the afternoon light.

(Photo by Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times) Read more The long move into 'Grey Gardens'