The socialite, fashion designer and mother of journalist Anderson Cooper died at age 95 on Monday
On Monday, the CNN journalist confirmed that his mother, who had cancer, died at the age of 95.
“Earlier this month, we had to take her to the hospital. That’s where we learned she had very advanced cancer in her stomach and that it had spread,” he shared in a CNN obituary. “When the doctor told her she had cancer, she was silent for a while, and then she said, ‘Well, it’s like that old song: Show me the way to get out of this world, because that’s where everything is.’ “
“Love is what she believed in more than anything,” Cooper added. He continued, “Gloria Vanderbilt died as she lived: on her own terms.”
Here’s everything else Cooper has said about his mother.
On writing a joint memoir
In a 2016 interview with PEOPLE, Cooper opened up about what led him and his mother to pen their joint memoir, The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son Talk About Life, Love, and Loss.
“When my mom turned 91, I wanted to use the time that we have left in our lives to get to know each other as adults,” Cooper explained. “I realized I didn’t want there to be anything left unsaid with my mom, I didn’t want there to be questions that I still had about who she was and what her life was like. And I didn’t want her to have questions about me as an adult.”
Her colorful dating life
Vanderbilt dated some of the most famous faces in her day, which led to some interesting conversations.
“To know that her dating life has been far more interesting than my own is sort of, I’m not sure how I feel about that,” Cooper told PEOPLE. “It’s interesting and weird at the same time.”
“I remember as a kid watching a movie with my mom and turning to her and being like, ‘Did you ever know Errol Flynn?’ And she’d be like, [hesitantly] ‘Oh, yes.’ I always knew there was a lot more there,” Anderson, said at a 2016 Television Critics Association. “Now I learned, my mom and Errol Flynn, when my mom was 17, I mean … it’s a lot to make.”
“My mom has no filter,” he said. “I remember watching On the Waterfront with her, and I was like, ‘Did you know Marlon Brando?’ And she’d be like, ‘Oh, yes.’
Playfully, Cooper shared that the heiress said she “did date him … once” – as he repeated the word “date” while making air quotes.
The CNN anchor told PEOPLE in 2016 that his grandmother Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt had been “accused” of being a lesbian during the 1930s, and the impact that had on his mother’s understanding of same-sex relationships
made him delay coming out.
“I came out to my friends in high school, but it wasn’t until I was 21, I think, that I came out to my mom,” he said. “And it was interesting because we had never discussed it after I’d come out. She accepted it and met boyfriends I had and life continued, but we never talked about the actual moment that I had come out to her because we both had different perceptions and understandings of what I had said.”
Cooper said he “immediately regretted” including the phrase “I think I am” in his admission, because despite being happy to be gay, the star felt his mother perceived him to be “unsure.”
Although Vanderbilt shared that she had initially thought being gay was “something terrible” after the accusations about her mother, she went on to realize “there’s no difference. Love is love.”
Coping with loss
The 1988 death of Cooper’s brother Carter, who died by suicide that summer at the age of 23, left a permanent hole in their hearts, but also strengthened their relationship.
“I think it obviously brought us together in ways and I think you can’t help but come closer going through something like that, and, you know, it left us with each other. And, I think it’s still hard to believe it’s been so long because I think it’s still so present in our lives, that sense of loss,” Cooper told PEOPLE.
“I remember the first Christmas we were together after it happened – cause he died July 22 – and we went to the movies,” Vanderbilt shared while looking over at Anderson. “And then we went to the automat, and from then on we’ve never done anything about Christmas.”
His amazing childhood
While other moms stayed home baking cookies, Cooper’s mother designed jeans while sneaking her sons into Studio 54 and hosting dinner parties with some of the biggest names in Hollywood — and Cooper credits his parents with helping him realize the “possibilities of one’s imagination” at a young age.
“If famous people were coming over to the house, like Charlie Chaplin or Truman Capote, we would be sitting at the table next to them,” Anderson told PEOPLE. “There wasn’t a kids’ table. We weren’t sort of shunted off somewhere. We would be expected to kind of learn about who was coming and watch their movies and be able to converse with them.”
“In many ways, she was amazing as a mom because she was completely different from any other mom that I knew,” he shared, adding that while “there were times I wanted a more conventional mom….that idealization of other people’s moms would last a very short time. I would start to feel smothered and would be eager to go back to my house because my mom was much more creative and interesting and unconventional.”
Cooper went on to share that it was only years later that he realized how different his upbringing had been.
“It didn’t seem that unusual. It just seemed like, ‘Oh, that’s what happens.’ And it’s only until later on that you realize, ‘Oh, wait a minute, not everybody has this. This is an amazing privilege and it was an incredible experience,’ ” he shared.
Her positive outlook on life
While promoting the pair’s HBO documentary in 2016, Cooper praised his mother’s sunny disposition, sharing that she was “far more joyous” than him.
“She’s like Henry VIII and I’m like his adviser, Cromwell,” he said at a Television Critics Association panel. “I think she does have this incredibly optimistic way of looking at things. She really believes the next great love is right around the corner, and there’s Mom’s guy on a boat in the Mediterranean just waiting to whisk her away. That very well may be … nothing would surprise me with my mom. But she’s the most youthful person I know, even at almost 92.”