Wednesday, July 16, 2014

JOHN & CAROLYN


It would have been  15 years ago today that John F Kennedy Jr, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and her sister, Lauren Bessette were tragically killed. I remember hearing the news on the radio and feeling devastated. I must have been only 13 when they died, but I had followed their story for as long as I could remember. They were the first celebrities I had ever actually been interested reading about; to my young mind, to me they were what "perfect grown-up life" looked like. Two breathtakingly attractive people (I can't think of many American celebrities as arrestingly beautiful as C.B), powerful, elegant, and completely in love. There isn't a present-day celebrity couple that compares to them, is there?


I could go on and on but I'm sure you've heard it all before... instead I will direct you to the memoir I have recently read, Fairy Tale Interrupted, by Rosemarie Terenzio. Rosemarie was JFK Jr's assistant at George magazine and a would later become a very close friend and confidante of both John and Carolyn. The book is a warm tribute to them and I can't recommend it highly enough. Here's one of my favourite passages:

In the three months leading up to the publication of the first issue, there was not a day off to be had. Everyone bitched and moaned about how late we were working - still, people didn't go home. We bonded over working at a magazine everyone was talking about. For the first time, the editors weren't just covering the news, they were making it. With all that newfound attention, actually getting the magazine out seemed secondary.
I was as guilty as the rest of the staff of getting swept up in the hype. I stayed late and came in on the weekends when it wasn't totally necessary. It wasn't like John's mail needed opening on a Sunday, but I didn't want to miss anything. Though I didn't know the difference between a managing and executive editor, I was as excited as anybody about putting a new magazine on the racks. I loved the frantic highs and lows of the deadlines, the cynical banter between writers, and the debates about politics.
I loved being involved... until I realised I wasn't a member of the club. At first I ignored hints from some of the staff, like the incredulous looks when I mentioned that I was a fan of the New York Times  writer Frank Rich or that I had gone to college. I didn't see myself the way they saw me: as an unsophisticated assistant from the outer boroughs. John's secretary. A dumb girl with a Bronx accent. No one worth knowing.
I clearly didn't fit into their "George Plimpton at Elaine's" vision of magazine publishing, where men with Upper East Side addresses drank like tough guys and spent like heiresses while talking over the "important" stories. When they went out, it had to be someplace where Hemingway took his last drink or Tom Wolfe first donned the white suit. And of course, at first I was not included. ("Well, if I were you, I certainly wouldn't go," a female editor who was part of their group said to me after  inquired about another editor's birthday-drinks outing. "He was very specific about who he invited.") That one particularly stung because the editor having the birthday was one I had a huge crush on - and he knew it.
Once, when most of the editorial staff was out of the office at a group lunch, John returned from a meeting to find me at my desk.
"Oh, you didn't have to wait for me to get back," he said. "You could have gone to lunch with everybody else."
"I wasn't invited," I said quickly.
"What? Why?"
"They never invite me"
I could tell John was annoyed. He didn't tolerate people being slighted. "Come on, we're going to lunch," he said.
He took me to the place where the rest of the staff was eating, and we sat three tables away, laughing and gossiping. I didn't need to look over at their table to know they got the message.


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