I was 16 when President Kennedy was assassinated. His wife, Jacqueline, was only 35, but to a teenager, she was a grownup. Like most every other teenage American girl, I was enthralled with the First Lady. Oh, to be married to such a handsome man, who also was President of the United States.
Jackie moved, talked and dressed with a grace and style that was foreign, but fascinating, to me. I could never get enough of her, and I religiously followed her life, from the White House years to widowhood; from her marriage to Onassis to her editorial career at Doubleday; from her relationship in her FOF years with Maurice Tempelsman to her untimely death in 1994 of cancer, months before turning 65.
Jackie lived a few blocks from me, and I once caught a glimpse of her as she crossed Fifth Avenue, near her apartment. She was wearing a scarf on her head and her legendary oversized sun glasses. She couldn’t really hide from anyone.
Last night, I watched a two-hour documentary about Jackie, based on oral history tapes she made after JFK’s assassination. FOF daughter, Caroline, who only recently listened to the tapes, decided to release them exactly as they were recorded by her iconic mother.
I learned that incoming First Lady, 32-year old Jackie, didn’t at all like outgoing First Lady, Mamie Eisenhower; disdained the arrogance of Frenchmen; thought Khrushchev was a “gangster” who “could do whatever he wanted with Jack;” wanted the whole family to die together if the Cuban Missile crisis blew up; really loved Lady Bird and liked LBJ, but wanted to make sure he didn’t take credit for President Kennedy’s accomplishments; didn’t understand why aggressive women, like Claire Booth Luce, had a “queer thing for power;” thought she was the one “Jack loved,” even though she knew he played around mercilessly.
When Jackie told Jack that she couldn’t stand Texas Governor, John Connolly, he responded: “If you say you hate someone, you’ll act like you hate them the next day,” and advised her not to think that way.
“No one we know has a better sense of self,” Ted Kennedy said of Jackie at her funeral service, held at a church a block from my apartment. I took off from work that day to watch mourners enter the church. Although the blocks surrounding the church were cordoned off to the general public, I caught a glimpse of JFK Jr. as he entered.
Thank God Jackie wasn’t around when her son died. She had enough grief when she was 35 to last a lifetime. She was a class act every step of the way.
She’ must be with both her JFKs now! It’s fun to think about it.