Despite being born into one of the most prominent socialite families in history, most of Christopher Stokowski's life has been shrouded in mystery -- being a recluse for the better part of 38 years will do that to you!
In this article, we look at Christopher's life; a life of intrigue, of unspeakable tragedy, and ultimately, of acceptance and forgiveness.
Christopher Stokowski was born on January 31, 1952, the younger of two brothers, to the wealthy socialite Gloria Vanderbilt and conductor Leopold Stokowski -- his older brother being Leopold Stanislaus Stokowski.
Being that it was his father's third marriage and his mother's second (she would go on to be married twice more), Chris' immediate family tree was convoluted, to say the least.
From his mother's side, he had two other half-siblings, and from his father's side, an additional three.
His mother, Gloria, was one of the last remnants of America's Gilded Age. The sole heir to her father's railroad empire, Gloria was a Vanderbilt through and through. She not only took to her father's empire in stride but proliferated it through a career in fashion designing and luxury brand.
As a 20-year-old, Gloria married the Polish-born English conductor, Leopold Stokowski -- who was 43 years her senior -- in April 1945, mere weeks after her divorce with her first husband, Pat DiCicco (1941 to 1945). They ended up getting divorced in 1955.
Leopold was already a father to three daughters from his previous marriages: Sonya Maria Noel Stokowski, with his first wife, pianist Olga Samaroff; and Gloria Luba Stokowski and Andrea Sadja Stokowski, with his second wife, Johnson & Johnson heiress, Evangeline Love Brewster Johnson.
After her divorce from Leopold, Gloria would get married twice more, first to filmmaker Sidney Lumet (August 28, 1956, to August 1963), and later to author Wyatt Emory Cooper. With Cooper, Gloria would become a mother to two sons, Carter Vanderbilt Cooper and Anderson Hays Cooper.
Chris was the outlier in his family: a quiet and reserved boy since childhood who wanted to get into music without the hassle of his famous last name.
In that vein, he couldn't be more antithetical to his mother -- who was a fixture of the limelight, from cradle to the grave.
She was born in the spotlight, molded by it, and died in it. Known for her ravenous sexual appetite and prowess, her string of lovers included the likes of Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Howard Hughes, and Roald Dahl.
Chris wanted a modest life -- and he was on the way to building one, having ditched his last name and pursuing a musical career at Bard College. The "out" seemingly came in the form of a woman. Chris fell in love with socialite April Sandmeyer in 1974.
They were engaged to be married in 1977, but a series of misfortunes derailed their plans -- namely the death of Chris' father, Leopold, in September that year, at age 95. His stepfather, Wyatt Emory Cooper, followed him in the grave mere months later.
During this time, Gloria became smitten with therapist Dr. Christ Zois. She funded his life and took his counsel on all matters of her family, including her son, Chris' love life with April.
When April got wind of the meddling, she was rightly chagrined: this gross betrayal of trust wouldn't stand; she called off the engagement.
No one was more distraught than Chris, who moved out of his mother's estate into an apartment in on East 44th Street in an attempt to win April back.
When it was clear that April was gone for good, Chris left his family behind and went into recluse; he would not be heard of for the better part of 38 years!
Perhaps no one felt the hole left behind when Christopher left more than Anderson Cooper. Anderson Cooper was the apple of Gloria's eyes, even more so when his older brother, Carter died of an apparent suicide on July 22, 1988, at age 23.
Anderson Cooper went on to become a popular journalist and TV personality. He is the anchor of the CNN news show, Anderson Cooper 360°.
Cooper idolized his older half-brother, Chris, and for good reason: Chris doted on Anderson, who was 15 years his junior, buying him gifts and being a good role-model. He was a father-figure to Cooper, who was 10 when his father died.
Christopher seemed content with his life as a recluse, but an HBO documentary changed everything!
On April 9, 2016, HBO aired the documentary titled "Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper", chronicling Gloria's life and especially her relationship with her "golden child" Anderson Cooper.
The documentary was well-received, save for one crucial aspect: it completely glossed over Chris, who gets, nigh but a mention in passing.
But despite that, the documentary did achieve a greater good in that it brought Chris out of his shell and contact Anderson. They reconnected over the documentary, and remain in contact frequently.
It also brought some modicum of closure for April, who broke her silence on the whole painful affair in an interview with The Daily Mail in 2016, after the release of the documentary.
Among other things that were discussed was her relationship with Chris. She said of their breaking up,
"Christopher was the love of my life. But I was so devastated when I discovered what Zois had done that I felt I had no choice but to break things off with Christopher. I can’t tell you what Zois said, it is just too personal. But I was heartbroken"
Still harboring regret and pain for how things ended, April went on to say:
"A lot of the sadness had to do with thinking about how Dr. Zois impacted our relationship and my future and Christopher’s future, our lives.
One thing I want to do before I die is apologize to Christopher for ignoring his phone calls and letters.
I've carried this guilt around for 38 years."
Gloria Vanderbilt died on June 17, 2019, at 95, succumbing to stomach cancer.
She had drawn up a will that stipulated that the majority of her wealth would be inherited by Anderson Cooper and her oldest son, Leopold would inherit her stake in a Manhattan co-op.
Conspicuous by its absence is the name of Christopher, who is likely to inherit nothing of Gloria. They had a falling out in 1977 and despite Christopher seemingly being on good terms with Anderson, he remained estranged from his mother until her death.
Gloria made her wealth through her own inheritance of her father's railroad empire, as well as her entrepreneurship. She was a fashion designer who had her own line of luxury items and designer jeans.