WEIRDLAND: October 2020

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Kennedy Heirs: Tragedy and Triumph

It goes without saying that of all the secretly conceived and designed wedding dresses in matrimonial history, the simple silk slip dress designed by Narciso Rodriguez for Carolyn Bessette Kennedy for her wedding to John F. Kennedy Jr. has to be at the top of that list. The designer, who famously counted the late Bessette as a close friend, recently sat down with Henry Louis Gates Jr. of PBS's Finding Your Roots to delve a little deeper into his friendship with the fashion icon and how that has impacted the trajectory of his life. In a clip from the season 6 premiere, Rodriguez explains that the dress that he designed was done so with so much love, for the person "that he loved most," for the woman who would be Mrs. JFK Jr. As such, when the news of the secret wedding broke, Rodriguez went from being a private person, to a person in the public eye nearly overnight. In the exclusive PBS clip, the designer also reveals that not only did he and Carolyn both worked at Calvin Klein together (where Bessette was a publicist, and he was a fashion designer), but they also happened to live in the same apartment building, which was a catalyst for their bond. Another tidbit Rodriguez shares is that his apartment was bigger, so the blonde Carolyn used to keep her shoes and accessories in his apartment, instead of her own—the sign of a true friendship. Carolyn Bessette and JFK Jr. married in a secret ceremony on an isolated island off the coast of Georgia in September 1996, three years before they died in the crash. “She was so warm and funny,” Rose Marie Terenzio, who was JFK Jr.’s executive assistant, told PEOPLE magazine, remembering Carolyn Bessette. “Our birthdays were close together, so we would always do something alone together in between her birthday and mine,” Terenzio said. “She always made it so special picking a place we’d never been before or somewhere we loved. She always bought me something nice when we would shop. She would insist.” Bessette was “really a lovable person,” her close friend Carole Radziwill, the widow of Kennedy cousin Anthony Radziwill, also previously told PEOPLE. “She was clever, she was kind, and she had that balance of being able to be really serious and yet deeply funny.” “John and Carolyn were magic together,” JFK Jr.’s friend Gustavo Paredes told PEOPLE in 2014. “She had an earthiness and a gentle fierceness. Together, they were whole.” “John and Carolyn were wonderful people. They fell in love, and they had a stunning, dreamlike wedding,” another close friend of JFK Jr., Sasha Chermayeff, later added. Source: www.townandcountrymag.com

Since her marriage to John F. Kennedy Jr., Carolyn Bessette was described as the beautiful and brainy new Queen of Camelot. Interviews with friends and former colleagues reveal a more recognizable young woman: a child of affluent suburbia, who after graduating seemed had less interest in academics than in downtown clubs, and whose good looks, sophistication and ambition propelled her upward through the fashion industry in New York. Armchair Freudians have also noted the many similarities between Ms. Bessette-Kennedy, as she chose to be called, and Mr. Kennedy's famous mother, the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Like Mrs. Onassis, Ms. Bessette-Kennedy was Roman Catholic and the product of divorced parents, with a French name and heritage. Like Mrs. Onassis, Ms. Bessette-Kennedy had an almost mysterious allure in public and, former colleagues say, a short temper in private. And like the image-conscious Mrs. Onassis, who directed her designer, Oleg Cassini, to create the look of pillbox hats and tailored suits that became her trademark as First Lady, Ms. Bessette-Kennedy worked closely for months with her designer Narciso Rodriguez through two couture fittings in Paris of three hours each to create the dress estimated at $40,000 that she wore in the church on Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia for her wedding to JFK Jr.

''It's a very sensuous dress,'' said her friend and designer, Narciso Rodriguez of the Design House of Nino Cerutti, who made his pearl-colored silk crepe creation a gift to the bride. John Kennedy Jr. insisted on maintaining the high budget for the wedding. Kennedy Jr., the editor of the political publication George, grew up on Fifth Avenue but in his adult life had largely ignored his mother Jacqueline Kennedy's Upper East Side milieu. ''Frankly, I don't blame him,'' said Pat Buckley, a denizen of that exclusive circle. Ms. Bessette-Kennedy, a former public relations executive at Calvin Klein, made her mark at the design house in her early 20's and allegedly spent long hours in Manhattan nightclubs. One thing is certain: The spotlight in New York has moved for now from Mr. Kennedy to Ms. Bessette-Kennedy. Fashion editors have been eager to anoint Ms. Bessette-Kennedy as a new icon of fashion. ''We'd love to have her on the cover,'' said Liz Tilberis, the editor in chief of Harper's Bazaar and a Calvin Klein devotee. ''She's going to be an amazing symbol of American style.'' Carolyn Bessette, however, wasn't not very fond of press exposure.

Carolyn Bessette grew up in a large house on Lake Avenue in Greenwich, Connecticut, by all accounts a stable background for a young woman whose friends describe her as warm and exuberant. Her mother, Ann Freeman, worked as a teacher and an administrator in the Chappaqua public school system, and her stepfather, Dr. Richard Freeman, was the chief of orthopedic surgery at White Plains Hospital. Carolyn attended St. Mary's High School in Greenwich, although a friend from Calvin Klein recalls that Ms. Bessette-Kennedy once told her that she had started at Greenwich High School ''but that her parents pulled her out because she was having too much fun.'' Ms. Bessette-Kennedy graduated in 1983 and went on to Boston University's School of Education. In Boston, she also briefly pursued a modeling career and took several photo sessions for a professional portfolio. She dated a campus hockey star, John Cullen, and appeared on the cover of a calendar called ''The Girls of B.U.'' After four and a half years of college, she graduated in January 1988 with a degree in elementary education, and soon got a job as a saleswoman at the Calvin Klein boutique in Boston's Chestnut Hill Mall. In no time, her beauty and style were brought to the attention of a Calvin Klein executive from New York, Susan Sokol, who was looking for a charismatic sales-woman to support Klein's franchise in New York. Carolyn Bessette was recommended to Ms. Sokol by a traveling sales coordinator who had visited the Boston store. ''Carolyn fit the bill perfectly,'' said Ms. Sokol. ''She was absolutely charming, completely refreshing and imposing.'' Ms. Sokol's instincts were right. 

A former colleague at Calvin Klein said Ms. Bessette-Kennedy quickly established herself as savvy beyond her years, the perfect saleswoman for important clients who ordered privately from Mr. Klein's showroom. ''She would guide them through the collection, tell them what looked good on them, and advise them on how to put it all together,'' said Paul Wilmot, who was then Calvin Klein's vice-president for public relations. Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy was herself the best advertisement for Mr. Klein's brand, and her all-American beauty the perfect face for a design house, where image was crucial. Former associates say she was one of the designer's muses and close to Mr. Klein's wife Kelly Klein. ''She was 'The Look,' '' said a former Calvin Klein employee, who remembers how Zach Carr, a designer for Mr. Klein, would often say, ''I wonder how Carolyn would put this together.'' Former associates still talk about Ms. Bessette-Kennedy's sense of style. One remembers the day she turned up at the office wearing a tight black leather Calvin Klein jacket as a blouse, set off by the thick blond mane she often wore fashionably unkempt in the ''bedroom hair'' style much in vogue in the 90s. In her seven years at Calvin Klein, Ms. Bessette-Kennedy moved up from the sales department to director of fashion productions, a job that gave her responsibility for Mr. Klein's shows in Bryant Park. While many in the industry assumed her job was light, insiders say she kept long hours and was demanding, opinionated and stubborn. Ms. Bessette-Kennedy was said to be especially good at casting models for shows, and often scouted for new faces in the nightclubs where she had gone for years. 

''She was one of our favorites because she was such a cool girl,'' said David Rabin, the owner of Rex, a club that was popular in the early 1990's. ''She was a part of the Rex family.'' Mr. Rabin said that Ms. Bessette-Kennedy went to Rex about three times a week, and that John Kennedy Jr. occasionally turned up, too. It is unclear if the two noticed each other there, just as it is unclear where they officially met, although friends often state they both met at a Calvin Klein store in Manhattan. Whatever the case, they began dating officially two years after they first met in 1992. They were engaged in September 1995, and in February 1996 they had a public shoving match in Washington Square Park that was caught on video. Ms. Bessette-Kennedy quit her job at Calvin Klein in the spring 1996. Good friends speculate that she was tired of the work schedule after seven years, she was not happy with changes in the Calvin Klein management, and wanted time to plan her newly married life. In any case, she subsequently asked her friend Narciso Rodriguez over a drink at the restaurant Odeon to design her dress, which set Mr. Rodriguez off on a three-month marathon. Rodriguez made, he said, three final versions of the dress, in various luxurious fabrics. Carolyn Bessette and John Kennedy Jr. were married before 40 family members and friends on Saturday, September 21, in a 19th-century church decorated with native wildflowers and vines on Cumberland Island, a national park that is 18 miles long and 4 miles wide. A reception was held at the island's Greyfield Inn. The wedding was kept a secret, although an announcement was released afterward by the bridegroom's uncle, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and included a description of the couple's three-tier wedding cake with vanilla butter-cream frosting decorated with flowers. —"The Newest Kennedy, the Stylish Carolyn Bessette" (September 29, 1996) by Elisabeth Bumiller 

John eagerly endorsed his fiancé Carolyn’s wish to keep their wedding plans secret. From the start, Carolyn was in a quandary over who would make her wedding dress. Should she ask Calvin Klein, who until recently had employed her as a mid-level publicist?  Should she choose her old roommate, the talented black fashion designer Gordon Henderson? Or should she turn to Narciso Rodriguez, a former Calvin Klein staffer who now worked for the Paris couturier Nino Cerruti?  Carolyn knew that her choice would have major repercussions, for her wedding dress and its designer were certain to garner worldwide publicity. It was not until fifteen days before the wedding that Carolyn finally made a decision. She picked the relatively unknown Narciso Rodriguez to design both her rehearsal dinner dress and wedding dress, as well as Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg’s matron-of-honor dress. Gordon Henderson, who was Carolyn’s closest friend, was devastated over her choice. He had dreamed of designing Carolyn’s dress—and becoming a bigger fashion star. As a consolation, Carolyn asked Henderson to design John’s wedding suit and orchestrate the details of the wedding preparation. Only a few close friends and family members were invited. Everything seemed to go smoothly until Carolyn attempted to put on her wedding dress an hour before the ceremony and found that she could not manage to get the $40,000 pearl-colored silk crepe floor-length gown over her head. Without a zipper, try as hard as she might, she could not squeeze herself into it. Under mounting pressure, Carolyn grew hysterical and began yelling at Rodriguez. Henderson gently led her into a bathroom, put a scarf over her head, and managed to get her into the dress. Then, still in a state of anxiety, she sat while her makeup and hair were redone. Carolyn’s stiletto heels drilled holes in the sandy beach on the way to Cumberland Island’s tiny wood-frame Baptist Church. The stunning six-foot-tall, corn-silk blond bride was two hours late for her own wedding. The church was illuminated by candlelights, and it was so dim inside that the Reverend Charles J. O’Byrne of Manhattan’s Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, where Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s funeral Mass was held in 1994, had to read the service by flashlight. John’s cousin and closest friend, Anthony Radziwill, served as best man (as John had served as best man at Anthony’s wedding to Carole Ann Radziwill), and at the end of the ceremony John turned to Anthony to tell him that he had never been happier in his life.  

The marriage made front-page news everywhere, and a new Kennedy myth was born. The man who could have had many women of high calibre had chosen as his bride one who was not rich or famous or ennobled by family background or particularly distinguished by any professional accomplishment. What Carolyn Bessette had were certain charismatic qualities—remarkable beauty, a unique sense of style, and a sharp, hard intelligence. The media played the marriage as a Cinderella story, casting Carolyn as the commoner who had found true love with Prince Charming. When John and Carolyn returned from their honeymoon in the fall of 1996, they found a swarm of journalists camped outside their front door at 20 North Moore Street in the heart of Manhattan’s chic TriBeCa district. The rowdy media mob terrified Carolyn, and in a gallant effort to protect his wife, John pleaded with the reporters and cameramen to back off and give her a chance to adjust to her new mediatic role. His pleas fell on deaf ears. Over the course of the next few weeks, the siege of North Moore Street got only worse. Reporters even foraged through the newlyweds’ garbage, searching for clues to their sex life. Paparazzi pursued John and Carolyn, pounding on the sides of their automobile to make them turn toward the cameras, then blinding them with flashbulbs. When a photographer approached her on the street, Carolyn cast her eyes to the ground and hunched her shoulders. “She makes herself look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame,” complained Calvin Klein. And indeed, in many photos, she looked like a hunted creature. To avoid the paparazzi, Carolyn sought refuge in the West Village apartment of Gordon Henderson.  It was clear to friends that Carolyn was cracking under the pressure. She displayed the classic signs of clinical depression. A few months after the marriage, she began spending more and more time locked inside her apartment, convulsed by crying jags and, as gossip columnist Liz Smith observed, “bemoaning her fate as the wife of one of the most famous men in the world.” When they married, John dreamed of having a son. He had even picked out a name: Flynn. But Carolyn was not so willing to start a family. Like the ethereal Jackie, Carolyn affected an air of mystery and unavailability, which drove the media crazy and sustained the public frenzy that John was familiar with. And like Jackie, Carolyn was a very controlling person, which made John feel protected and cared for. 

From the moment John laid eyes on Carolyn, he became obsessed with her. “He lived and breathed Carolyn,” Richard Blow said, echoing the sentiments of many friends. “He could not keep his hands off her. He constantly stroked her hair, which she had dyed white blond. John kept repeating the words 'my wife' or 'my wife thinks'. He'd unconsciously rub the ring on his finger and smile when he said those words.” Carolyn accepted John’s worshipful attention as though it was her due—as though he was lucky to have her, rather than the other way around. Carolyn’s aloof attitude had set her apart from other women John had dated in the past—Christina Haag, Daryl Hannah, and many lesser-known names. Carolyn, on the other hand, appeared to be unimpressed by his fame, and in the end it was probably her posture of cool indifference, as much as her beauty and personality, that captivated him and held him spellbound. For John he always had to be the pursuer in a relationship if he was interested in a woman, he didn't like pushy ones like Melanie Griffith or Madonna who took the lead. "Carolyn was the one who presented the biggest challenge," says his friend Richard Wiese, "She didn't let him have his way, she would contradict him, and John loved that about her." A year before they got married, the couple had planned a special candlelight rendezvous at a New York French restaurant. When John showed up half an hour late, the ever punctual Carolyn was furious. When John sat at the table, she began to lecture him about his rudeness. When John made light of her criticism, she threw a glass of wine in his face and stormed out. Talking with Susan Delaney, one of Carolyn's pals, shortly after the incident, John expressed nothing but admiration for his future wife: "I love that about her. She ditched me like I was  just any other guy. She won't let me get away with any bullshit." Robert Littell, one of John's best friends, recounted: "John fell in love with Carolyn because she really was a very kind, sweet woman beneath her party girl façade and I think John developed a saviour complex with her. The qualities that John always liked in women—mystery, drama, irreverence and beauty—Carolyn had all in abundance. There's no doubt in my mind that Carolyn deeply loved John, too. John told me he knew deep in his heart Carolyn wouldn't ever betray him. They were a volatile couple, but after a row, they apologized to each other and enjoyed the making up."  

According to one of John's friends, Billy Way (who had introduced him model Julie Baker in the late 80s), Carolyn got pregnant but had a miscarriage in fall 1997, due to the constant media pressure. John then persuaded Carolyn to see a psychiatrist and he made sure that she took her daily dose of antidepressant medication. To amuse her, he flew her to exotic hideaways for romantic vacations. And in March 1999 he began to join her in marriage counseling. Sometimes, after a particularly rowdy fight, Carolyn went to sleep in a spare room that John used to store his exercise equipment. Billy Way (an aspiring writer) fictionalized part of John and Carolyn's romance in an unpublished story he kept updated in his LiveJournal, called "The Prince of N.Y. and the Angel of Connecticut", also inspired by the 1990 film "Pretty Woman". Some extracts were based on John and Carolyn's relationship and their occasional fights, sprinkled with a dose of melancholia for their fairy tale story, maybe lost in time but not forgotten. "There was this big party near Hyde Park which I was invited. After hours of boozing and  playing Cluedo games, John and Carolyn locked eyes for a moment. It felt like hours, but only seconds passed before he leaned down and the smell of her perfume surrounded him. I saw how John's cheeks reddened and it was an extremely romantic moment. Minutes later, I noticed both going silently to the kitchen and making up in the darkness. I saw that John stopped kissing her and placed his forehead on hers, his thumbs rubbing her cheek bones. I heard Carolyn mutter: 'I can't do this light, I can't do it fleeting, and if you don't stop now I am going to fall for you so hard I will never be able to move on if you leave me.' " 

John cheekily called his father Pooh-Pooh Head. “John Kennedy,” his father would say, “how dare you call the President of the United States a Pooh-Pooh Head? You rascal, you wait till I get hold of you.” But John insisted: “Pooh-Pooh Head.” After the assassination of his father, John’s impulsive behavior developed into a serious problem. He was restless, had a low threshold for boredom, and could not sit still for any length of time. He was disruptive in school and Jackie constantly had to chastise him. When John finally got to be too much for Jackie to handle, she took him to see Dr. Ted Becker, a well-known child psychiatrist in New York City. Then, through a referral by a friend—the wife of the chairman of a Fortune 500 company—Jackie found a psychopharmacologist in Moline, Illinois, and brought him to New York on the chairman’s company jet. The doctor diagnosed John as suffering from ADD, attention deficit disorder, and dyslexia, an impaired ability to read. He was prescribed Ritalin, a medication similar in its chemical makeup to the body’s natural dopamine, which stimulates neurotransmitters in the brain and helps it work better. John remained on Ritalin for the rest of his life, but the results were mixed when an antidepressant (Wellbutrin) was added. Shortly before Jackie’s death, she had a serious discussion with John about his future. She urged him to carry on his father’s legacy by entering politics. In some interviews with reporters, John was understandably cagey about his interest in a political career, which he referred to as “the family business.” His apparent reluctance had nothing to do with his political beliefs, since like the Adams political dynasty, the Kennedy dynasty was more about sentiment and emotion than ideology.   

John Kennedy Jr. was both the beneficiary and the victim of the Camelot mystique. With their blurred memory, Americans recalled the Kennedys as having presided over a golden age, a time before the country was stained by assassination plots, Vietnam, racial strife, sexual permissiveness, Watergate, and national disillusionment. People seemed to project onto John all the good things associated with the Kennedys' era. Though they had no idea what John stood for politically, large numbers of Americans believed he should run for President. With the possible exception of Robert Lincoln, the Great Emancipator’s son, there had never been a figure in American history quite like JFK Jr. John had been offered—and turned down—a post as an undersecretary in President Clinton’s cabinet. And he was the first choice (before Hillary Rodham Clinton) among most Democrats in New York State to run for the seat being vacated by the state’s senior senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. In the spring of 1994, when Jackie realized she was dying, she asked her longtime companion, the diamonds trader Maurice Tempelsman, to look after her children. But John had never felt particularly close to Tempelsman, who routinely occupied a separate bedroom in his mother’s apartment. After John’s mother died—and before his loft in TriBeCa was ready for occupancy—he let Tempelsman know that he would like to have his mother’s apartment to himself. He also suggested that Tempelsman find his own place to live, which he did by moving to the Sherry Netherlands Hotel. To the world, John F. Kennedy Jr. was the son of the slain president who grew up and became a charming, articulate and promising man who carried his name and legacy with an innate sense of grace. But to his friends, he was just “John,” the lovable, loyal, goofy pal who knocked at their windows when he lost his keys. 

“John was well placed to do so much good,” says Sasha Chermayeff. “I was sure he was going to do great things and he wasn’t wasting a lot of time. It wasn’t just his close friends – he gave the world a feeling that there was a lot of hope.” John’s closest pals reveal he was seriously considering entering into politics. His loyal assistant at George, RoseMarie Terenzio, recounts a surprising conversation she had with her boss after New York Senator Al D’Amato – a Republican – told John he should run for mayor of New York City. At the time, John laughed it off. But afterward, she asked him if he d ever consider it. “He said ‘Well, Rosie, how many mayors do you know that become President?’” recounts Terenzio. “I was so shocked I didn’t say anything. Then he smirked as if to say ‘That’s not the road you go down – we’ll see what happens.’” But well before considering any run for the White House, several friends say he was looking into running for governor of New York in 2003. According to Gary Ginsberg, a close friend who was with John the night before he died, “That last night he was very focused on two things: finding a buyer for George and his political future.” Ginsberg knew John from Brown University and went on to help him start George magazine: “By July 1999 I think he could take great comfort that he had started and led a successful business, had fulfilled his mission to cover politics in a colorful, non-ideological way that would make it appealing for people who had never been interested in politics before, and was now in a position to do something new. He had been thinking about running for the N.Y. Senate seat – he even had meetings about it that spring – but by July had concluded he would focus his attention on running for governor of N.Y. in 2003. He knew from running George magazine that he could be an inspiring, strong chief executive of a state, setting the tone for government as successfully running a complex operation. That idea became very appealing to him at some point that summer. Had the stars aligned over the next couple of years, I’m pretty convinced that’s what he would have pursued.” Now that so much time has passed, his friends find it bittersweet to share their memories of the friend they loved and lost. “There’s like a whole level of sadness that gets brought up when I remember him,” says his college roommate Chris Oberbeck, who remained a close friend. “On every level, we were so blessed to have known him. He was really a great guy, and a role model to all of us.” —The Day John Died (2007) by Christopher Andersen

Following Jack Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Bobby—who could never shake the suspicion that their enemies had retaliated by killing his brother—began reading ancient Greek tragedies for consolation. “In the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles,” writes RFK’s biographer Evan Thomas, “Kennedy discovered fate and hubris. He began to wonder if the Kennedy family had somehow overreached, dared too greatly. In his copy of Edith Hamilton’s The Greek Way, he had underlined Herodotus: ‘God calls men to a heavy reckoning for overweening pride.’ The Kennedys were the House of Atreus, noble and doomed, and RFK began to see himself as Agamemnon.” Senator Edward Kennedy told a reporter that among the “irrational thoughts” that had occurred to him after the Chappaquiddick debacle was the question of “whether some awful curse did actually hang over all the Kennedys.” It was not until the 1999 crash of JFK Jr.’s private plane, that many people were finally shocked into thinking seriously about the nature of a possible Kennedy curse and its origins. We can trace these feelings back to the Kennedys’ early history, which left an indelible scar on their psyche. Among America’s immigrant groups in the nineteenth century, the Irish were the only people who had suffered the soul-searing experience of English colonialism. Before coming to America, they had lived under the heel of cruel English oppressors for several centuries. That experience left them stuck with feelings of humiliation and powerlessness. Life did not improve much for the Irish folk after they arrived in America. The poor, powerless, dispossessed Irish souls who came over on crowded ships wore themselves out in America “digging, shoveling, lifting, hauling and dragging, laboring for ten, twelve, fourteen hours a day with seldom a break and never a vacation.” The sons of these immigrants were treated as badly or worse than Negro slaves; they were despised and they were excluded from living in good neighborhoods, from sending their children to prestigious schools, and from joining WASP clubs. Although the Kennedys eventually achieved financial security in their American sojourn, they were denied social acceptance and status by the Protestant establishment. Decades after arriving in this country, Irish Catholics such as the Kennedys remained, in the words of sociologist Oscar Handlin, “a massive lump in the community, undigested and undigestible.” 

“Mrs. Kennedy didn’t say she loved her children,” recalled Luella R. Hennessey, the children’s nurse. “It just wasn’t said. It was all about respect.” Joe Jr., Jack, Bobby, and Teddy were full of longing for a warm and tender mother. They had an overpowering craving to be close to a woman, and yet they feared it meant that they were weak as men. As a result, they put on a tremendous show of Don Juanish behavior to demonstrate that they were in actuality strong, powerful men. But this was actually a compensatory image. Deep down, they felt like helpless boys. The physical and emotional absence of a loving mother was keenly felt by all the Kennedy sons. “My mother was either at some Paris fashion house or else on her  knees in some church,” John F. Kennedy once complained. “She was never there when we really needed her. My mother never really held me and hugged me. Never! Never!” In 1993, the year before Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s death, molecular geneticists reported a major scientific breakthrough regarding altruistic behavior that made headlines and captured Jackie’s attention. The scientists announced that they had discovered a variant of the gene that makes the protein receptor for dopamine, the brain’s chemical messenger, in that portion of the brain controlling the personality. Jackie was very interested about the discovery. Fifty percent of people with attention deficit disorder, like her son John, were found to have the rare variant of the DRD4 7R gene. “The best evidence that the gene DRD4 7R probably runs in the Kennedy family is in the consistent grandiose behavior of its members,” said Dr. Robert Moyzis, professor of molecular genetics at the University of California at Irvine. “Individuals with this gene are always out on the edge, taking more chances than most other people. And being out there, they’ve had some spectacular successes. But risk taking obviously has its downside, too. In the case of the Kennedys their drive for power is often supported by good deeds, by a desire to help the poor and disenfranchised, by achieving humanitarian goals. They describe what they do not merely as ‘politics’ but as the much more elevated concept of ‘public service.’ But it doesn’t solve their substantive problem, because they still have to contend with the consequences of reality, of a fatal collision course with reality. Thus, there are these destructive collisions between their fantasy of the world and the cold, hard reality, and therefore those repeated disasters happen.”  

In the early 1960s—a tipping point in America’s cultural history—the postwar flood of American affluence was flushing away many of the country’s old Puritan restraints, leaving people eager for more personal freedom. Americans had grown tired of fatherly figures like Truman and Eisenhower in the White House. John Kennedy was nothing if not cool. “His ‘coolness,’ writes historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., “was itself a new frontier. It meant freedom from the stereotyped response of the past. His personality was the most potent instrument he had to awaken a national desire for something new and better.” Kennedy met many women with whom he had dalliances—airline stewardesses, Las Vegas showgirls, campaign workers, Palm Beach socialites, and Hollywood starlets. “More alarming,” writes the historian James Giglio, “Kennedy occasionally had affairs with casual acquaintances and virtual strangers, who surreptitiously entered the southwest service entrance of the White House. They came during Jacqueline’s frequent absences, joining the President in the pool.” “A womanizer like Kennedy was not driven, as people often think, solely by the desire to be a macho person,” wrote Sue Erikson Bloland, the daughter of famed German-American psychoanalyst Erik Erikson who coined the concept of 'identity crisis.' “Kennedy himself gave us a clue to his pathological behavior when he complained that his mother was cold and distant and never hugged him or showed him any affection. His compulsive womanizing can be seen as the desperate effort of a deeply wounded child to obtain what was missing from his seemingly glamorous life—the experience of a genuinely intimate connection,” Sue Erikson argues. It is generally accepted by historians that Rose Kennedy was an absentee mother. What is less understood is the confusion that Rose sowed in her children’s emotional lives. On the one hand, she insisted on outward displays of family solidarity; on the other, she did not permit expression of personal anxieties within the confines of their own home. Inevitably, her contradictory behavior left its mark on Jack Kennedy's behavior. Christopher Lawford, Patricia Kennedy’s first child, told Collier and Horowitz that all his cousins—the Kennedys, Shrivers, Lawfords, and Smiths—felt somewhat alone and unprotected. “When Uncle Bobby was alive,” Chris thought to himself, “we knew who we were. But now he’s gone. What will happen to us?  What comes next?” —The Kennedy Heirs: A Legacy of Tragedy and Triumph (2019) by J. Randy Taraborrelli

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years

Brothers (2015) by David Talbot begins with Robert Kennedy's reaction to the news of his brother's death in Dallas. The structure flashes back to a year-by-year review of the Kennedy presidency. It then picks up again with RFK after his brother's death, and then follows him forward through to 1968 and his own assassination. It concludes with a summary of the actions taken to try and resolve the issues surrounding both assassinations since 1968. In many ways, the first chapter is the best in the book. It opens with J. Edgar Hoover telling RFK that his brother has been shot. In conversations with two assistants, Bobby immediately refers to the perpetrator of the crime as "they" and not "him". He instinctively believes that the crime centers around the CIA, the Mafia and Cuba and he begins to question people with access to each group, including John McCone, Director of the CIA. When the body arrives back in Washington, RFK questions Secret Service agents Roy Kellerman and James Rowley and finds that both believe there was a crossfire in Dealey Plaza. RFK then told his friend Pat Moynihan to investigate the Secret Service while Bobby interviewed agent Clint Hill himself. In 1962, Bobby told journalist George Bolshakov that Khrushchev did not seem to realize that every step his brother took to meet the premier "halfway costs my brother a lot of effort. In a gust of blind hate, his enemies may go to any length, including killing him." This chapter is the highlight of the book. It may be one of the most important ever written on either the Kennedy presidency, or Robert Kennedy himself. It basically confirms through much firsthand evidence what many have suspected. First, whatever Bobby said in public about the Warren Commission was a sham. 

From the beginning, RFK never believed the lone gunman mythology. He always suspected a powerful domestic conspiracy. Second, he was going to bide his time. He would wait until he was in position to do something about the crime. But he would not jeopardize his path to get to that position by making public comments that would make him a media target in America. As pointed out by Jim Garrison and Harold Weisberg, this strategy entailed its own dangers. For enough people knew about Bobby's suspicions to let the word reach out to others in the power elite. And this is probably one of the chief reasons for what happened in Los Angeles in June of 1968. In fact, both Harold Weisberg and Vincent Salandria predicted that if Bobby won that California primary, he would be killed before he won the presidency. And Talbot does go in explicit terms with that implication. I believe this is the first time that this message, however subliminal, has been contained in a book that reached a mainstream audience. That is a real and salutary accomplishment. In this regard, Talbot deserves kudos.

Talbot quotes Kennedy as saying, "We're not going to plunge into an irresponsible action just because a fanatical fringe in this country puts so-called national pride above national reason." (p. 51) Arthur Schlesinger told Talbot that after the Bay of Pigs Kennedy dismissed the Joint Chiefs "as a bunch of old men. He thought (JCS Chairman) Lemnitzer was a dope." It is at this pivotal point that Kennedy began to withdraw from his formal advisers with disdain and turn more to people like pacifists Ted Sorensen, Pierre Salinger, and his brother Robert. And JFK actually told Walton, "I am almost a "peace-at-any-price president." However, Talbot doesn't write about Operation Forty, which the CIA designed to wipe out the Kennedy Cubans and their leadership so the CIA/Batista Cubans would prevail in Havana. Although he later writes about Operation Northwoods, he skips over the Guantanamo provocation part of the Bay of Pigs, which would have insured an American response. In the aftermath, although he mentions Kennedy's firing of Allen Dulles and Director of Plans Dick Bissell, he leaves out the termination of Deputy Director Charles Cabell. Yet it was Pentagon man Cabell who was at CIA headquarters that night trying to get the analysts to tell Kennedy that the Cubans were using Russian MIG's to strafe the exiles on the beach. This was utterly false but would have put pressure on Kennedy to send in American planes to knock them down. So although his discussion is correct, I believed it lacks texture and layered depth. I point this out because it is generally symptomatic of how Talbot treats the two other great confrontations of the Kennedy presidency, namely the Missile Crisis and the decision to withdraw from Vietnam. He is deft and accurate in his appraisal of these events, but he leaves out some valuable information that I think would aid his argument and make it more compelling to his reader. For example, although he believes that Kennedy was disengaging from Vietnam he writes that the only White House document that gave some indication of this was NSAM 263. This ignores the record of the May 1963 Sec/Def meeting which clearly shows that the administration was withdrawing from the conflagration and rapidly increasing the Vietnamization of the war. (Probe Vol. 5 No. 3) It also leaves out the famous Honolulu Conference of November 20, 1963. This meeting resulted in the tentative draft of NSAM 273, which was then pointedly altered after Kennedy was assassinated. 

These alterations were so serious that in his fine book JFK and Vietnam, John Newman titles his chapter on the subject, "NSAM-273 -- The Dam Breaks." Talbot describes the infamous meeting in July of 1961 where Lemnitzer and Dulles recommended plans for a nuclear first strike against Russia on Kennedy. Talbot also describes how Kennedy, feeling the heat from the organized opposition to his liberal foreign policy, was forced to demote both Goodwin add Chester Bowles at the end of 1961. The book features a good discussion of the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro. In this section he is explicit about the duplicity of Richard Helms in attempting to switch the blame for those plots from the CIA to the Kennedys. He neatly notes that Helms had photos of all the presidents he served except Kennedy's. A deft stroke by Talbot in this regard is his further exposure of Seymour Hersh's hatchet job, The Dark Side of Camelot. He notes how Hersh was so cozy with the CIA in his writing of this book that he trusted covert operator Sam Halpern. Halpern told Hersh that RFK used the late Charles Ford to activate Mafia assets in Cuba to destabilize, and even kill, Castro. Talbot found a Church Committee memorandum by Ford. In discussing his interview with them he explained that his meetings with RFK on Cuba were about "the efforts of a Cuban exile group to foment an anti-Castro uprising, not on Mafia assassination plots." Talbot properly concludes that Helms and Halpern "fabricated their story about Bobby Kennedy and the Mafia. Officials like Helms and Halpern tried to deflect public outrage over their unseemly collusion by pinning the blame on the late attorney general." Talbot could have added here that Halpern should have already been suspect to Hersh because he is listed as a witness in the CIA IG Report. Further, Halpern was placed in charge of the internal investigation of the CIA's supersensitive Operation Forty. The man who placed Sam Halpern in that position was Richard Helms.

Any serious chronicler has to be just as careful with the Marilyn Monroe episode as with Judith Exner's story -- and to his credit, Talbot managed to avoid that disinformation filled land mine. A surprising source Talbot uses here is none other than CIA counter-intelligence chief James Angleton, the guy who was likely handling Lee Harvey Oswald until 1962. Talbot actually quotes the nutty Cold Warrior, Kennedy antagonist and Warren Commission cover up artist waxing poetic about Kennedy being in love with Mary Meyer: "They were in love... they had something very important, not only sexual, also on an intellectual and platonic level." About Kennedy's philandering, Talbot dismisses this facet a great deal: "Kennedy often had to sleep on a piece of wood. The possibility of him being a Lothario would have been a miracle. He would have been delighted to be thought of as the Errol Flynn of his era. And then he would have been angry, because it takes away from what he truly accomplished. Did he like the ladies? Yes. Did he find bright, fascinating people a challenge and a delight? Yes. But in recent years, the Kennedy legacy has been clouded by a spate of books and articles that have attempted to demythologize Camelot by presenting JFK as a drug-addled, sex-addict. And this pathological interpretation misses the essential story of his presidency. There was a heroic grandeur to John F. Kennedy's administration that had nothing to do with the mists of Camelot. It was a presidency that clashed with its own times, coming to office at the height of the Cold War and held hostage by their party's powerful Southern wing. The Kennedy brothers steadily grew in vision and courage, until they were in such sharp conflict with the national security bureaucracy and Southern Democrats that they risked splitting their own administration and party. This is the fundamental historical truth about the presidency and greatness of John Fitzgerald Kennedy."

Talbot picks up with RFK as he begins to assimilate himself to the pain of his brother's death and his now completely altered future. He relates how Jackie Kennedy reaffirmed to Khrushchev that domestic opposition to his quest for Soviet/American detente had killed JFK. Talbot quickly sketches in the fact that with his brother gone, Bobby was now under Hoover's thumb. For example, when he met with Hoffa, to presumably talk about the assassination, RFK had to borrow Jackie's Secret Service for protection. But he felt he could not move while he was slipping from power or, as he said, "there would be blood in the streets." In addition to Hoover now superseding him, LBJ cut him out of intelligence briefings while Allen Dulles lobbied to get on the Warren Commission. And when the Warren Report was issued in September of 1964, RFK sharply commented, "I have not read the report, nor do I intend to." Talbot quotes an aide whom Johnson had charged with reading the report that LBJ didn't believe it either. Furthering this point about people in power, the author adds to his non-believer list Larry O'Brien, Mayor Richard Daley, and Kennedy aides Fred Dutton and Richard Goodwin. Goodwin specifically pointed to a plot between the CIA and the Mafia. After Bobby was murdered, Secret Service Agent Kenneth O'Donnell acquired a serious drinking problem and died of a liver ailment at age 53. 

RFK delegated the reading of the critical literature to people like Adam Walinsky. As criticism about the Warren Report picked up speed, various critics wanted to talk directly to Bobby. He only met with Penn Jones. As part of his own inquiry, Bobby went to Mexico City and did some work on Oswald's trip down there. (p. 301) As his investigation continued, his enemies began to spy on him. In addition to Hoover, Talbot mentions both Helms and LBJ. And clearly, the policy differences over places like the Dominican Republic, South Africa, Latin America, and especially Vietnam all begin to fan Johnson's fear and paranoia about an RFK run in 1968. The worst chapter in the book, by far, is entitled "New Orleans". This is allegedly about Robert Kennedy's reaction to the investigation of the JFK case by local DA Jim Garrison. One problem seems to be a hangover from the David Talbot of 1992, the man who thought that Robert Blakey (The Plot to Kill the President, 1981) was the ultimate authority on the JFK case. And, to his credit, the author seems to have amended this judgment. About Clay Shaw, Talbot confirms his linking to the CIA. We have this not just from the declassified files, but from FBI agent Regis Kennedy, who said, in referring to Shaw's association with Permindex, that Shaw was a CIA agent who had worked for the Agency in Italy. For over a decade. Jim Garrison had busted at least three bars in New Orleans which were run either by Carlos Marcello or his associates. I have been through a large part of the extant Garrison files. His son Lyon Garrison allowed me to copy them in New Orleans. I then had them shipped to Los Angeles and filed them in chronological order. In a legal deposition, Gordon Novel admitted that he was being paid by Walter Sheridan on a retainer basis for spying on Jim Garrison. Since Novel was writing letters to people like Richard Helms at the time, it's fair to say he was working with the Agency. Further, Garrison discovered that Sheridan was getting the expense money for people like Novel through a local law firm, which was laundering it for the CIA. And a declassified FBI memo reveals that NBC had given instructions that the special was meant to "shoot him Garrison down". 

Further in Robert Kennedy and his Times, Arthur Schlesinger quotes Kennedy as saying that it was NBC who sent Sheridan to New Orleans, and further that he felt Garrison might be on to something. As many commentators have noted, including Carl Bernstein -- who Talbot uses (p. 390) -- the major networks worked with the CIA on issues like defending the Warren Report. And the chairman of NBC at the time, General David Sarnoff, had worked in intelligence during World War II. In a further imbalance, Talbot barely discusses Sheridan's intelligence background, devoting all of two sentences to it. I could go into much more length about Sheridan's activities in New Orleans, and how they continued even after RFK was dead. And I could point out even more errors Talbot makes on this issue. For instance, he writes that Garrison "turned the tables" on Sheridan and arrested "him for bribing witnesses." Sheridan got an entourage of proven CIA affiliated lawyers for his defense. And in a recurrent tactic, they got the charges switched to federal court where they were eventually thrown out. Sheridan clearly did not like Garrison's focus on the CIA in the JFK case. He then worked a lot with the HSCA, Dan Moldea, and Robert Blakey pushing the Mafia/Jimmy Hoffa angle, which was certainly prominent in the HSCA Report and volumes. Yet on the day the report was issued Marcello's lifelong friend, lobbyist Irving Davidson, told an acquaintance that he had talked to Sheridan and that he agreed that the HSCA report was a piece of crap too. (Vincent Bugliosi, Reclaiming History, p. 1175) So if Sheridan did not believe the CIA was involved, and he thought Blakey's focus on the Mafia was B.S., what did he believe then? The mystery of Walter Sheridan -- who he was, and why he did what he did -- is a long, serious, and complex one. Talbot does not even begin to plumb its depths. For that reason I believe and I can demonstrate that every tenet of this chapter is just plain wrong.

The last part of Brothers deals with RFK's run for the White House, his assassination, and a final chapter called "Truth and Reconciliation" which attempts to summarize the various attempts to solve both assassinations since 1968. Talbot posits that Kennedy's increasing estrangement from Johnson's foreign policy, especially on Vietnam, is what provoked his premature run for the White House, which he had originally scheduled for 1972. That and Eugene McCarthy's good showing in New Hampshire. It was a campaign that Jackie did not want RFK to make since, as she told Schlesinger, the same thing would happen to him that had happened to her husband. (p. 352) In keeping with this main theme throughout, Talbot includes RFK telling campaign worker Richard Lubic in San Francisco, "Subject to me getting elected, I would like to reopen the Warren Commission." The night of the great California primary victory Mayor Daley called RFK in his suite and told him he planned on backing him at the convention in Chicago. As the phone call ended, Pierre Salinger said: "Bobby and I exchanged a look that we both knew meant only one thing -- he had the nomination." In the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel, where RFK was shot, Lubic recalled seeing Thane Eugene Cesar with his gun drawn. When investigators from the LA police department arrived at his home, Lubic tried to tell them about this. But they cut him off, "It's none of your business. Don't bring this up, don't be talking about this." Talbot quotes Richard Goodwin on what happened to America afterward: "We've been on an endless cycle of retreat ever since the Kennedys. A retreat not just from liberal ideals, but from that sense of involvement in the country." The last chapter deals first with first the Church Committee and then the HSCA. In an interview with Gary Hart, the former senator told Talbot he thought that Helms was in on the cover-up. For his review of the HSCA, Talbot interviewed former Deputy Counsel Robert Tanenbaum who told him of his interest in and confrontation with David Phillips. He also talked to the co-author of the Mexico City report, Dan Hardway. Hardway also presents his suspicions about Phillips. Hardway believed some CIA officers were implicated. Talbot takes a strong swipe at the media in this last chapter. He writes, "The American media's coverage of the Kennedy assassination will certainly go down as one of its most shameful performances, along with its tragically supine acceptance of the government's fraudulent case for the wars in Vietnam and Iraq." He then interviews Ben Bradlee and tries to press him on why he did not push for a better investigation of JFK's murder. Bradlee states that he was young and not established, therefore probably afraid for his career since he might be discredited over those kinds of efforts. He then adds that it would have been fantastic if they had solved the case. Talbot concludes this section with a quite interesting interview with Frank Mankiewicz who ran the public relations desk for Oliver Stone's JFK: "I worked on the film's behalf because I believed in it. Oliver was the first serious player to tackle the subject." Source: kennedysandking.com

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Coup in Dallas (2020) by H. P. Albarelli

James DiEugenio: Edward Epstein implies that Jim Garrison failed to reveal any “hidden associates” of Oswald’s in New Orleans. This is simply balderdash. As depicted in the Warren Report, Oswald was supposed to be a Marxist oriented, pro-Castro sympathizer. Yet, as Garrison showed, here was a communist who had no communist friends. On the contrary, he associated almost exclusively with anti-communist extremists, intelligence operatives, and/or anti-Castro Cuban exiles in both New Orleans and Dallas: George DeMohrenschildt, Guy Banister, David Ferrie, Clay Shaw, Richard Case Nagell, and Orest Peña. Which is an odd group for a communist to be hanging out with. Also, the declassification of the FBI report on the JFK case revealed that Director J. Edgar Hoover did not agree with the Single Bullet Theory. He believed that a separate shot hit Governor John Connally. The former DA Jim Garrison was a reserved, intellectual, literary man who carried the painful scars of his two-year battle against the Washington-New York power center in his prosecution of Clay Shaw. He ended up with a tarnished reputation, a pile of bills, $5,000 in the bank—since he financed most of the expenses of the case—and many death threats. The Kennedy case was the reason he was voted out of office. In fact, it ruined a promising political career. Garrison later stated that if he had it all to do over, he probably would not have done it because of the personal and emotional toll. The way that Garrison came to be interested in Shaw was through the testimony of lawyer Dean Andrews in the Warren Commission volumes. There, Andrews said that he had been called by a person named Clay Bertrand within 24 hours of the assassination. That call was corroborated by at least four sources, including Andrews’ secretary and his investigator. (William Davy, Let Justice be Done) According to former FBI agent Bill Turner, they used one of the best wire men they had to spy Garrison. Hoover wanted to know everything that Garrison turned up, because he knew it was making him look bad: for example, that the FBI had covered up the Clinton/Jackson incident.

When Garrison talked to Dean Andrews, he refused to reveal who Bertrand was. Just as he had previously refused to reveal the man’s true name to Mark Lane, and he would later refuse to do so with Anthony Summers. He claimed he would be in physical danger if he did reveal the name. (Destiny Betrayed, p. 181) Garrison’s assistant Andrew Sciambra first interviewed Perry Russo in Baton Rouge on February 25, 1967. Russo stated that he had attended a gathering at David Ferrie’s apartment in September of 1963. During this gathering, the talk turned to an assassination plot to kill President Kennedy. Sciambra gave Russo photos to identify, and he picked out photos of Ferrie, Shaw and Oswald. Sciambra took notes on a legal pad and marked the photos the witness had identified. He concluded by telling Russo he should come down to New Orleans for further discussion. Garrison wanted to test his testimony, so he was taken to Mercy Hospital and given Sodium Pentothal (truth serum) by Dr. Nicolas Chetta. Dr. Chetta told Garrison's assistant Alvin Oser that there was no chance one could lie under truth serum; what Russo said had to have happened. Russo’s story was corroborated by his friend Niles Peterson, who had left the gathering early but recalled the presence there of a Leon Oswald. On February 28, Sciambra drove Russo by Shaw’s apartment, where Russo identified Shaw from a parked car. Finally, posing as an insurance salesman, he greeted Shaw at his door. This finalized the identification process. When Garrison asked David Ferrie, “Who killed the president?” it is clear that he did not mean that Ferrie was in on it. It was simply an exploratory query. Ferrie said no one knew, not even the assassins. Because these kinds of set-ups are all wrapped up in a layered cover operation. But the odd thing is: If Epstein had looked, there was evidence in Garrison’s files that Ferrie had at least planned an assassination attempt. Ferrie was measuring trajectory angles and distances of shells ejecting out of rifles. One would not need to do that for guerilla fighting or firefights during Operation Mongoose—which Ferrie was a part of. But you might need it for a covert operation that included assassination. So why did Coroner Chetta rule as he did, that the cause of death was a natural one, by aneurysm? As Minyard told me, no one could recall a case in which the deceased left a suicide note and then died of a seemingly natural cause. Chetta apparently wanted to play it safe in the face of the tremendous publicity Ferrie’s death had caused. Which included a phone call to him from Robert Kennedy. 

We know David Ferrie had a diagram of Dealey Plaza in his desk at work. Clay Shaw was Bertrand. And it is not just Garrison who knew it. The FBI and the Justice Department also knew it. But we will never really know the complete extent of Garrison’s files, because so many of them were stolen or incinerated by his successor, the disastrous Harry Connick. But what did survive reduces Epstein’s weird world to rubble. Some information that Jack Martin relayed to Garrison’s office within 48 hours after the assassination. Although Martin did not fully explicate why Guy Banister exploded and pistol whipped his former investigator/employee. Martin had made some rather incriminating comments, like implicating Banister in the Kennedy assassination. Martin specifically said: “What are you going to do—kill me like you all did Kennedy?” Martin later said that if Banister’s secretary had not intervened, he thought Banister might have killed him. (HSCA Volume 10, p. 130) After the assault, Banister threw some money at his victim. On his way to the hospital, Martin told an acquaintance: “The dirty Nazi bastards did it to him in Texas, and to me here.” (Affidavit of Martin and David Lewis to Jim Garrison, 2/30/68). Since Martin was describing events on the day of the assassination, who does Fred Litwin think Martin was referring to when he said, “Did it to him in Texas?” In light of the Martin’s previous comment, it was probably President Kennedy. Source: kennedysandking.com

“I have found that the assassination was much more complex than anyone believed, and that a corner of it— John Kennedy was killed because he was against the war in Vietnam. There is no doubt of that.” ~Jim Garrison (The Garrison Tapes by John Barbour, 1992). JFK has been described as charming, witty, contradictory, elusive, inspiring. The respected American journalist Hugh Sidey covered the White House and the American presidency for Time Magazine for close to half a century. Said Sidey: “The special quality of John Kennedy that still defies those who would diminish him is that he touched something in the American spirit and it lives on.” That mix of personal magnetism and practical idealism made Kennedy the iconic leader who inspired millions although his presidency was cut short after less than three years. Journalist Ben Bradlee (1921-2014) described Kennedy as “graceful, funny, witty, teasing and teasable, forgiving, restless, interesting, interested, exuberant, blunt, and loving. He was all of those and more.” Robert Dallek quotes aide Dave Powers’s whisper to another Kennedy aide, Kenneth O’Donnell, in February of 1960 when, during the presidential campaign, Kennedy stood for hours in the freezing cold shaking hands with workers arriving at a meatpacking plant in Wisconsin: “God, if I had his money, I’d be down there on the patio at Palm Beach.” The sex stories, “legendary love life,” or “obsessive womanizing,” may or may not be true, but there seem to be far more rumors, gossip and allegations without evidence spun for political purposes than documented history. The story that the MSM do not want Americans to know: “John F. Kennedy had a story of iron-willed fortitude in mastering the difficulties of his chronic illness,” as Dallek succinctly puts it. Source: consortiumnews.com

Sharon Weinberger’s review of Stephen Kinzer’s “Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the C.I.A. Search for Mind Control” (2019) states that Frank Olson “jumped, or was possibly pushed, out of a hotel room window in New York in 1953.” According to H.P. Albarelli Jr.’s book “A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the C.I.A.’s Secret Cold War Experiments,” Olson was in fact pushed. Interestingly, Weinberger mentions the docudrama “Wormwood” (2017) but doesn’t mention Albarelli’s book. H.P. Albarelli, Jr. has written a fully detailed, compelling account of the murder of CIA-linked 1950s Army biochemist Frank Olson. The somewhat surprising death of an otherwise little-known Midwestern scientist would become for contemporary historians, journalists, and researchers a crucial nexus connecting a welter of secretive Cold War intelligence and military programs. The Olson case burst upon the public's consciousness in the mid-1970s, along with other revelations at the time concerning CIA and medical experimentation upon unwitting victims. Pursued by Olson's family, attorneys, government commissions, newspaper reporters, and even some CIA agents, the truth behind Olson's death after a hundred-foot fall from a Manhattan hotel window on November 28, 1953, had been obscured over the years by a combination of government misdirection, amateurish "research," and, crucially, a lack of access to essential documentation. H.P. Albarelli has produced his magnum opus on Olson's death, and it has been well worth the wait. Throughout, we are entertained by a kaleidoscopic sequence of characters, including former CIA chiefs Allen Dulles and William Colby, CIA psychiatrists, former CIA agents, hotel managers, dubious informants, U.S. diplomats and politicians. While there remains little direct evidence that Oswald was some sort of programmed assassin or covert operative there certainly are enough circumstantial facts that nudge this possibility into areas for serious consideration. 

The CIA, Dallas, and the Hard Details of the JFK Assassination: Coup in Dallas (2020) aims to leave speculation and theory aside to give the hard details of who killed President John F. Kennedy, how the murder was carried out, and why Kennedy was assassinated. Through exhaustive research and newly translated documents, author H.P. Albarelli uncovers and explains the historical roots of state-sponsored assassinations, finding disturbing parallels to the assassination of JFK. Albarelli goes beyond conventional JFK assassination theory to piece together the biographies of instrumental players in the incident, such as Otto Skorzeny, Pierre Lafitte, James Angleton, Santo Trafficante, and others. Albarelli provides shocking detail on the crucial role that the officials of the city of Dallas played in the maintenance of Dallas as a major hub of CIA activity, and how it led to JFK’s assassination and its cover-up. Go beyond Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby, and read one of the fullest and most definitive accounts of what happened on November 22, 1963—and how it came to fruition. This title will be released on November 17, 2020. You can pre-order it on Amazon. Source: www. amazon.com 

Monday, October 05, 2020

Fredrik Logevall's JFK, JFK Jr "Forever Young"

The first of a two-volume set, Fredrik Logevall’s “JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century“ aims to give the clearest picture yet available of the 35th president set against the historical, political, and cultural context of a pivotal age. The book begins with great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy’s arrival in Boston during the Irish potato famine and runs through Jack’s childhood, studies at Harvard, and military duty, and finally his rise in politics in 1956, when he almost became the Democrats’ vice presidential pick. FREDRIK LOGEVALL: I guess the conceit of the book is that I can tell two stories together: the story of John F. Kennedy’s rise and the story of America’s rise. I believe we can better understand the first half of the so-called American Century through the lens of Kennedy’s life. One thing that people have underplayed is the degree to which he was a serious student of democracy and world affairs at an earlier point than we imagine. We tend to think of him as a callow playboy, not serious about public policy or his career until quite late, until he runs for Congress in 1946, and maybe not even then. But you can look at the papers he wrote as an undergraduate at Harvard, some of which are available, and you can look at his senior thesis which became a best-selling book “Why England Slept” and see a young man already thinking deeply and in sustained fashion about important issues. A second finding is that the young Jack Kennedy was in important respects his own master. Though his father was a towering force in his life, Jack proved willing, to a degree I did not expect, to chart his own course. The Harvard years are interesting in this regard: In 1939‒40, as World War II began and debate raged in the U.S. about how to respond, Jack showed himself willing in a way his older brother, Joe Jr., never was to separate himself from his father. Long before Pearl Harbor, Jack had become an interventionist while his father adhered throughout to a staunch isolationist position. Later, during his political campaigns, Jack always kept the key decision-making role for himself, notwithstanding the common misconception that his father called the shots.

Bobby Kennedy greatly admired his brother, and Jack could see Bobby’s intelligence, loyalty and good cheer. Then in 1952 Bobby, all of 26 at the time, came aboard to take charge of Jack’s floundering Senate campaign against Henry Cabot Lodge and helped to turn the thing around. Jack could now see just how important Bobby could be to his career. Jack Kennedy was quite a complex character. He did have his playboy side, but some of his war actions can be called heroic. There is a seriousness of purpose which you see in his letters home from the South Pacific, and more dramatically in the actions he took to help save his crew after his boat, the PT-109, was rammed by a Japanese destroyer. Was there heroism there? I believe so. The efforts he made in the succeeding days to try to save his crew were really quite extraordinary. We might note here as well that he came back from the war, as many of the servicemen did, with a seriousness of purpose evinced to some degree before but deepened as a result of seeing combat. He was convinced that the U.S. would need to play a leading role in world affairs, even as he also had a skepticism about the use of the military’s power that he would carry with him for the rest of his days. Despite his womanizing–highly exaggerated, keep in mind that Kennedy was in pain most of his life suffering from Addison's Disease, back ailments and other maladies–there are paradoxes here, among them the fact that his administration took important progressive steps, establishing, for example, the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, with Eleanor Roosevelt as chairwoman. In 1962, at the urging of the commission, Kennedy ordered federal agencies to cease sex discrimination in hiring. GAZETTE: In the second volume you’ll have to unravel the mystery around the assassination. Do you have a sense of how you will approach that? 

LOGEVALL: There is certainly a fascination, and it shows few signs of fading. It is a vexing issue to any biographer of JFK, and it has spawned a whole cottage industry of its own. I haven’t yet written Volume 2 so I haven’t fully decided how I will proceed on this. But certainly I will talk about Lee Harvey Oswald’s background, and will give the reader a full sense of how it all culminated in this terrible moment. And I think I will owe the reader my assessment of what I believe happened. So I will provide it. I don’t think I will get heavily into the deliberations of the Warren Commission or the various conspiracy theories that have sprouted up over the years. That’s another book, not to mention a potential morass. Oswald’s associations and meetings in the weeks leading up to the assassination are worthy of investigation, however, and have been examined in recent studies. I will delve into that material and be interested to see what I find. Source: news.harvard.edu

On February 3, 1971, President Nixon invited Jackie Kennedy and her children to the White House for a private dinner with him and his family. It was their first visit back since the days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. They were together for a bit more than two hours, including a visit to the Oval Office. At one point during the dinner, John Jr. spilled a glass of milk into Nixon’s lap, who reportedly “reacted graciously.” In his thank-you note to the president the next day, John Jr. thanked him and the First Lady for showing him the White House again. “I don’t think I could remember much about the White House,” he wrote Nixon. “I remember that once I sat on Lincoln’s bed and wished for something important to come true.”

“Greetings from Planet Ocean” by John F Kennedy Jr., postmarked from Koror, Republic of Palau, August 9, 1993: "Dear Kevin, Jim B., I feel a little guilty writing this while N.Y.C. shimmers in the summer heat and Rick Costello prowls the halls. But its pretty bitchin and I thought you should know. I'm in Palau in the South Pacific scuba diving and exploring the battlefields of WWII. Lots of Japanese but I watch my back. One whole week here and I haven't killed one. Only kidding Kevin. I'll let you be the first. Then on to Vietnam. Please tell all who ask that. I've decided to become a flight attendant. See ya. John" This postcard was from the trip he took with Daryl Hannah to Koror Island after he quit his D.A. job.
     
Jimmy McElligott worked as a legal clerk at the Supreme Courthouse in NYC and knew John Kennedy Jr. as an assistant D.A.: "Despite all his notoriety and fame, John was a down to earth guy who truly cared about his friends. We spent many days and weeks handling hundreds of cases together and we always started each day having coffee in my office after his bike ride to work. Every day there would be girls hanging outside the courtroom when they knew he was in there with me. I'd have to sneak him out the back hallway half the time. He had a group of girls who stalked him, but he was never rude to them. He was always a gentleman and made time to talk to everyone, he was that nice. Funny story, one day we were on trial and he forgot his suit. Turns out this was the day he had to give the summation to the jury. He came into the jury room in sweats and a T-shirt with a borrowed suit. He went into the bathroom like Clark Kent and came out in this suit that's a size too small with pants that were 4 inches too short. I asked him "WTF are you wearing?" He responded: "I forgot my suit so I borrowed this from Kevin" (his office mate Kevin Hynes). I said: "well, you better stand behind the prosecution table so the jury can't see those flood pants that you're wearing." He laughed and assured me that he would be fine. Daryl Hannah was his girlfriend at the time and she was there in the audience for support. John and I last saw each other at his farewell party at Forlini's restaurant in August of 1993."

Ron Fitzgerald in a recent review about HBO's Perry Mason on TVLine: "What was even more appealing about Perry Mason to me was that Kevin J Hynes was not only a co-executive producer, but wrote several of the episodes' scripts. After John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr.'s death on July 16, 1999, in early 2001 I was discussing the representation of a memoir about John that was being written by Kevin J. Hynes. Kevin was a dear friend of John and worked with him in the D.A.’s office in NYC. Kevin was waiting for JFK Jr. at the airport on Martha’s Vineyard to drive John, Carolyn and Lauren to the Kennedy's compound. Kevin Hynes attended John's memorial and was one of the funeral pallbearers, since Caroline Kennedy appointed him to help honor John's memory. Sadly, Kevin got a backlash when he came out with a proposal for a memoir about John in February 2003. Apparently the book proposal was shelved. Kevin said that the media widely exaggerated the 'conspiratory' contents of his proposal and ultimately all the backlash he received made him cancel the project."

"Dear Young Kevin and Beth, I have a year but I know you two will give me a little slack. I send this on with great affection and trust it will go well with Larchmont-Gothic. Hope you dig it. Love John + Carolyn" This letter was enclosed with a gift to Kevin and Beth (Kevin's wife). Beth Hynes also was friendly with Sasha Chermayeff, one of John's best friends. At Andover, they had become fast—and lifelong—friends. They shared three classes together at Phillips Academy their first year. They talked about their families, and they immediately clicked. She recalled how they were once dancing around in the dorm and he started talking about how uninformed women seemed to be about their sexual power over men. “He said, ‘God, women have no clue that they’re driving men completely crazy, being such naturally sexy creatures,’ and stuff like that,” she said. Sasha also remembered that John was getting “pissed” at her for being so naïve about how her innocent-seeming flirting was affecting other guys at Andover. He was being protective the way an older brother would be to a younger sister. She and John were never a couple but there was one moment, during the fall of their first semester at Andover, when it might have happened. 

They were in the old part of the stately Oliver Wendell Holmes Library in an area where books had been removed from the shelves. They decided to climb onto the shelving and lie down and they started making out. The next day, Sasha remembered, they got into “kind of an argument” about what had happened “and then we were both like, ‘Okay fine, we would just go back to where we were before, we're just friends,’ and we just stayed there.” Professor of History Edward Hill recalled: "John didn't like to talk about his father's assassination, which I learned for the first time at Andover, on the steps on Samuel Phillips Hall, leafing through the pages of The Best of Life with John and Sasha when we hit the inevitable assassination chapter. And John almost tore the pages out of the book he flipped through them so—just quick. Then suddenly we’re on, like, the moon landing. He didn’t even look at those pictures.” Hill said he always believed that John’s closest friends “all seem to have come from the Land of Misfit Toys”; this was the “interesting dichotomy” in John’s personality. 

“I think John understood and believed, as I did, that he would and should be the president of the United States, that he was born to it,” Hill said. “Everything about his personality and his life made it appropriate, due to his commitment to do the right thing. It was all there.” John started dating Jenny Christian, an Andover senior from Englewood, New Jersey. Her father was a doctor. Jenny and her older sister Vicky were legendary at Andover for their combination of beauty and intelligence. On January 5, 1979, John applied to Brown University. He matter-of-factly listed his father as deceased, with a former occupation listed simply as “government.” He indicated on the form that he was interested chiefly in studying political science, international relations, and American civilization, and also that he had an interest in studying the dramatic arts. Without guile or irony, he wrote that his “academic interest” had always leaned toward “conceptual studies.” Although Daryl Hannah had been his "full-time girlfriend" John distanced from the actress shortly after his mother's death, taking on an exclusive relationship with Carolyn Bessette. Sasha Chermayeff was struck by Carolyn’s beauty and magnetism, among other qualities. “Carolyn was hilarious,” Sasha said. “She was often sarcastic without being mean. She was a nice girl, but she also had a rebellious streak. She was very funny, and a great listener. You cannot tell in photographs how beautiful she was in real life. I never saw a picture of her that did her justice. John was totally smitten in Carolyn’s company. I think Carolyn was the only woman who could make him happy and on the flipside the only one who could hurt him.”

Ron Fitzgerald: I would've read Kevin's book, because unlike other writers, Kevin Hynes was close to both John Kennedy and Carolyn Bessette. Kevin said he got to know Carolyn really well. Kevin's book had the working title “Forever Young,” in collaboration with People magazine staffer Johnny Dodd. Its controversial contents stirred up resentments among Kennedy’s other friends. It promised to chronicle the women of his life–from Daryl Hannah to Carolyn Bessette–the George magazine contretemps, his political ambitions and a spurned invitation to join Bill Clinton’s Justice Department. Kevin Hynes, the son of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles “Joe” Hynes, became an assistant district attorney in Westchester County. He struck up a friendship with Kennedy when both started their careers as assistant district attorneys in Manhattan on the same day in 1989. Said one Kennedy friend who is still close to the family, “It was a reprehensible proposal. He’s nakedly trying to cash in on his friendship with John. The family was not happy.” Hynes reveals he was waiting for Kennedy on Martha’s Vineyard the day the plane carrying Kennedy, his wife and sister-in-law Lauren Bessette plunged into the ocean on July 16, 1999. The morning after the disappearance, Hynes reported he received a beeper message from JFK’s apartment. Briefly, hope soared that JFK Jr. was somehow still alive. “John is beeping me!” Hynes recalls screaming to his wife. Alas, it turned out to be Kennedy’s Girl Friday, RoseMarie Terenzio, calling from inside Kennedy’s TriBeCa apartment. Several of Bessette’s friends – who apparently had keys – also showed up inside the apartment, supposedly to get rid of the pot or drugs. Kevin Hynes' failed project was not the first Kennedy book proposal to stir controversy. Former George magazine Executive Editor Richard Blow was also opposed by some of Kennedy's friends. Agent Peter Miller, who was handling the Hynes proposal, said: “The Forever Young book business is dead right now, and we’re not pursuing it. Whoever gave you that proposal is a despicable person.” A call to Hynes office was not returned by presstime. Source: medium.com

Laurence Leamer (author of The Kennedy Men and Sons of Camelot) interviewed on FOX, 2004: John Kennedy Jr was very serious about running for the Senate. In fact, he'd talked to Roger Ailes (FOX CEO) about his political plans. And Roger Ailes, who's a great political expert, said that he thought that John had a big chance of becoming senator in New York. So he was hoping to run for it. But he was very upset with Hillary Clinton. Despite the Kennedy myth, I don't think John Kennedy Jr was so liberal. I think so many people associated him to be so far in leaning to the left. But he was a centrist Democrat, and he wanted to do his campaign the right way. When his cousin, Patrick Kennedy, ran for the state legislature in Rhode Island when he was 21 years old, all of the Kennedy money came there to get this young man into office. On election day, John was there at one of the polling places and a photographer took some Polaroids of his cousin. An incumbent came in and John went up to him and said, "You know, this is not the way this should be done. This is not the way you should win an election." So John wanted to wait until he was ready to win an election because he really cared about doing the right way and was going to come out and ask for people's votes in the right way. John was sharp as a tack and not easily fooled. He had his father’s gift of being able to ask just the right questions. There were some early polls which indicated he would have done quite well had he run. Actually John was ahead of Hillary, but he was just too much of a gentleman. In fact, that was one of his problems. He just was too nice. I mean Hillary came in, she was the carpetbagger. He should have gone into that race and would have won. But today, you aren't going to win an election because you're a Kennedy. In fact, you know, in the last couple of elections, the young Kennedys have lost the Senate. They all have lost. So the Kennedy name is not enough anymore, that's for sure. Why are we still so fascinated with the Kennedys themselves? Because the drama is just so overwhelming. It's the ultimate immigrant drama. It's the American story to the Ninth degree. The promise they had when we think of JFK. And he was a symbol, we remember when JFK died and then there was such closure with his son dying so young and promising. It really was the beginning of Camelot with JFK and Jackie. What we have witnessed it's essentially the end of that romantic idea with the death of John Jr. Source: www.foxnews.com/category/interviews