I’ve gotten to the age where I literally have to tell the whippersnapper grocery store check-out boy who John F. Kennedy Jr. was. The story is this: I saw People Magazine’s cover a few days ago, and I thought “do we really need another magazine hagiography of the life of some tragic Kennedy?” But then when I was in the grocery store on Thursday, I totally picked up People and was like, “Okay, I want to read the story.” The checkout boy didn’t recognize the people on the cover. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? We are OLD.
Anyway, I guess People Mag was having a slow week, because there’s nothing really new in the cover story, at least not for someone like me who actually remembers the 1990s. It’s also tragic and partly amusing to realize… oh, right, there are so many women in this world who are still trying to be Carolyn Bessette Kennedy. Gwyneth Paltrow has spent decades trying to be Bessette. Amal Clooney is currently trying to be Bessette. I suspect a good percentage of the well-heeled WASP women of New York and Connecticut are trying to be Bessette right now. They dress like her, get her shade of blonde and try to give off an air of studied detachment. So, what’s new in this cover story? Some highlights:
Carolyn didn’t agree to marry JFK Jr. right away: “She held the proposal off for about three weeks, which I think just made him all the more intent on marrying her,” a close friend of John’s tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story.
Carolyn was not cookie-cutter: “If someone was going to steal our prince, the press and the public wanted her to be some kind of unblemished princess,” says John’s friend, John Perry Barlow. But Carolyn was not one to be easily defined. “She was quirky and imaginative. She was her own self. The woman everyone has read about it not at all as she was in real life.”
Carole Radziwill on whether their marriage was struggling in the final days: “To say their marriage was on the rocks is just inaccurate,” says Carole, who told the story of John and Anthony’s close bond in her heartbreaking memoir What Remains. “Anthony’s impending death was a strain on their marriage, no doubt. But it was a difficult time for all of us. If it weren’t, we would be inhuman.”
Carolyn decided to come with John for his cousin’s wedding: “Carolyn decided to be with his family that weekend in the Cape—to be together,” says a John confidante. “And she would be with him in a safe and private place. That’s what family means. And that meant something. Had he not crashed the plane, it would have been a meaningless few weeks of tension but it took on a life of its own because it was the last chapter of their life. One week they could have been at war, and the the next week they could be right back in love—we’ll never know.”
John wanted Princess Diana to appear on the cover of his magazine, George: RoseMarie Terenzio, John’s executive assistant and a close friend, says that the meeting took place in Diana’s suite at the Carlyle Hotel and lasted about 90 minutes. “He wanted to do a respectful piece,” Terenzio recalls. But it was not to be. Says Terenzio: “She wrote John a note that said, ‘Thank you so much, but not right now.’” Afterward, he told his George colleagues about their meeting. “He was very careful what he said. The one funny thing he said was, ‘She’s got a great pair of legs.’” Looking back, Terenzio says, “I do remember him saying, ‘She’s really tall!’ He also said she was very shy. He was surprised how demure she was. I think they had both met Mother Theresa so they spoke about that. And he said how lovely she was.”
I find this interesting: “If someone was going to steal our prince, the press and the public wanted her to be some kind of unblemished princess.” Was that really the case? I remember the big thing was that Jackie Kennedy disapproved of many of John’s previous actress girlfriends, like Daryl Hannah and Sarah Jessica Parker. Jackie didn’t want John to go with an actress, or someone she thought of flighty. Carolyn was a breath of fresh hair because she seemed more aristocratic and well-heeled, educated and professional. She was also incredibly stylish right off the bat, which made all of New York society adore her. But I agree with this: “She was quirky and imaginative. She was her own self.” I think that’s what was great – she had been living and working in New York for years, she was a grown-up and didn’t want her life to become tabloid fodder. Ugh. The whole thing is so sad.
Cover courtesy of People, additional photos courtesy of WENN & Getty.