Most of us found it challenging to come out to our parents. And celebrated newsman Anderson Cooper, it turns out, is no different.
“I knew she would be fine with it,” Cooper said of his mother, famed heiress Gloria Vanderbilt. But the 48-year-old CNN anchor admitted he was a initially unsure about telling her he was gay.
At the current Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, Cooper, Vanderbilt and documentary filmmaker Liz Garbus were promoting the upcoming documentary Nothing Left Unsaid, about Vanderbilt’s colorful life.
Appearing via satellite (before moderating a Town Hall for President Obama), Cooper said interviewing his 91-year old mom was illuminating, especially when it came to the scandal surrounding his mother’s custody battle.
Vanderbilt’s father, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, died when she was just 18 months old, and his sister Gertrude tried to assume custody of Little Gloria from Cooper’s grandmother, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt.
Declaring her an unfit mother, Gertrude’s attorneys accused Mrs. Vanderbilt of being a lesbian, “which was worse than a murder,” explained Cooper.
“That was something I’d always sort of known about, [though] I never really knew the details of it.”
The ugliness of that incident came to mind when Cooper considered telling his mom he was gay.
“I always kind of felt, maybe, that would color the way my Mom thought about me,” he recalled. “But I grew up with so many gay friends of my Mom’s in our house growing up, I knew she would be fine with it.”
Cooper said he started coming out to friends in high school, and then his famous mom in college.
Nothing Left Unsaid also delves into Gloria Vanderbilt’s legendary romantic life, including daliances with Howard Hughes (“the Hot Howard Hughes… not the Desert Inn Howard Hughes,” Cooper clarified), Frank Sinatra, and even Errol Flynn (“I did date him…once,” Vanderbilt confirmed).
Cooper urged his mother to talk about her “date” (his air quotes) with Marlon Brando, which she sadly did not.
He teased more tidbits will be uncovered in Unsaid, which will premiere on HBO in April.
At the same time their joint memoir, The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son Talk About Life, Love, and Loss hits bookshelves.