In 2006, “Grey Gardens,” the musical, opened on Broadway: “It’s a big house, the house we live in,” Christine Ebersole warbled, miming Little Edie’s flag dance, a particular favorite of YouTube drag queens. Three years later, “Grey Gardens,” the HBO movie, debuted on television; in it, Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore provide an overture and back story to the documentary, with the Maysles brothers appearing as characters.
The musical’s merits and flaws were being discussed with vigor and scholarship early on the morning of November 17, when devout fans had begun to line up in the predawn hours. They were there for mementos, to be sure, but more urgently to walk in the Beales’ footsteps.
“You should watch the HBO film before the documentary,” said Rob Younkers, 39, a fashion designer, stomping his feet in the cold and rubbing gloved hands together. “To ease you in, so you know what you’re in for.” Mr. Younkers, who said he’d seen the documentary 400 times, had flown in from Los Angeles with his partner, Joe Zee, 48, a fashion editor and producer formerly of Elle magazine.
“I’m the supportive spouse,” Mr. Zee said. “He’s the superfan.”
Mr. Younkers, whose blue baseball cap was pinned at the brim with a Little Edie brooch, recalled how on one of their first dates, Mr. Zee drove him by Grey Gardens, and when Mr. Zee photographed Kristen Wiig there, in a story for Elle in 2014, he brought Mr. Younkers as a surprise. “We enacted the flag dance,” Mr. Younkers said. “It was chilling.”
Behind him, Scotty Vanhoozier, 43, an I.T. specialist from Charlotte, N.C., showed off photographs of his license plate, stored on his phone, which reads, “STAUNCH,” a piquant Little Edie-ism; the Big and Little Edie dolls he’d had commissioned; and the many contemporary Beale portraits he’d bought over the years. The sale and this visit was a bucket-list item for him, said his partner, Ben Collins, 56. “I’m married to an obsessive collector,” he said
“We have the last letter Edie wrote,” Mr. Vanhoozier said, bought on eBay for $350. “She’s writing a friend about the sale of the house.”
Mr. Younkers said, “Don’t you just love her handwriting?”
“It’s beautiful,” Mr. Vanhoozier said.
Mr. Zee grinned at Mr. Vanhoozier. “You definitely win superfan,” he said.
When Ms. Quinn bought the house in 1979, she promised Little Edie that she wouldn’t tear it down. Big Edie had died in 1977, and would-be buyers all wanted to raze the place. “All it needs is a coat of paint,” Little Edie told her airily. The price tag was $220,000.