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

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:

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:

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:


echox said...

great post with lots of information,thanks for sharing!

Elena W said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it, echox, you are very welcome!