WEIRDLAND

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Dinner in America: punk-rock dramedy

Adam Rehmeier: "Dinner in America is salty and abrasive on the outside, but inside it’s sweet. It subversively frames something ugly, but underneath it all, these two characters exemplify the good in people, as twisted as that can be at times, especially with Simon."

A troubled punk singer and his biggest fan get into a series of scrapes in indie dramedy "Dinner in America". Adam Rehmeier’s rebel yell of a movie is as if Valley Girl was accidentally shunted into a teleportation machine alongside Sid & Nancy and the whole soupy stew beamed into the 90s. It’s about an angry punk singer with a pyromania fetish and a lonely and nerdy young woman with ADHD who is his biggest fan. Kyle Gallner plays John Q Public (real name: Simon), the lead singer of a band called Psy Ops who performs anonymously in a balaclava; off-stage, he has a vocal-fry badass voice, like Ray Liotta in GoodFellas. Simon is experiencing furious musical differences with the rest of the band and is making money through selling weed and taking part in big pharma medical experiments. Emily Skeggs is excellent as quirky, dreamy Patty, who takes indistinct Polaroids of herself masturbating to his music and sends them to him via the mailbox address on the band’s flyers. Dinner in America is a hyper aggressive comedy that deep down has a huge heart that will break down the walls built up by the characters. Twenty years ago, Sam Mendes’s American Beauty and Todd Solondz’s Happiness were at opposite ends of the spectrum of difficult weirdness for this kind of material, Solondz setting a gold standard for strangeness, dysfunction and discomfort. Rehmeier is at the American Beauty end of things. His film has its own truculent charm. Source: theguardian.com

Instant cult classic Dinner In America delivers darkly hilarious punk rock romcom thrills: As fate has it, Patty is Simon’s number one fan, though she doesn’t know it. He doesn’t know it either, not at first. The film's first 15 minutes may be a bumpy ride for some audiences as it focuses entirely on Simon and his zero-tolerance attitude to life: definitely an 'acquired taste' in character terms. However, this less-than-palatable introduction is critical to the film's success – and those who stick with Dinner In America will be rewarded by nuanced pitch-perfect performances from Gallner and Skeggs, whose tangible off-the-wall chemistry make this instant cult classic work. Patty's self-confidence grows as she witnesses Simon's brash bulldozing of school bullies, sexual harassers, amusingly passive aggressive parents/siblings and other everyday obstacles, helping her to realise that it's possible to stand up for yourself (and, indeed, re-invent yourself) while going against the grain. Source: irishnews.com

When we first meet Simon, he comes off as an irredeemable douchebag, and his quips and misadventures feel distinctly mean-spirited. Patty, meanwhile, can initially be read as a loose assemblage of Napoleon Dynamite-isms, or worse, an ableist stereotype (while it’s never stated outright, it’s generally implied that Patty has an unspecified learning disability or spectrum diagnosis). Indeed, the first act is strong medicine, and I can imagine more timid viewers bailing rather than opting to hang with these characters. As Patty, Skeggs is a ray of sunshine, a genuinely good person with just enough wry savvy that her ultimate romance doesn’t feel like a total mismatch. Gallner, meanwhile, carries himself with such snotty charisma that you find yourself liking him in spite of yourself. 

What’s more, despite their opposing acting styles, the two actors have fantastic chemistry, deftly bouncing off each other through scene after scene of witty repartee. Dinner in America is so raucous and hyperactive that, by the time its characters finally fall for each other, you don’t realize how hard you’re rooting for them. On the surface, this is not a subtle movie, but the transition from punk rock anarchy to swooning romanticism is real enough and felt enough that it sneaks up on you. By the end of the film, Patty has allowed Simon to drop some of his fuck-you defenses, and Simon has encouraged Patty to grow into her confidence and creative talents. Gallner is stunning in the role, crafting the image of a rebellious enfant terrible with a heart of gold. At the same time, Skeggs’s assertive eccentricity lends itself incredulously well to a film where everybody is trying to out weird each other. It’s a bit of a stretch to say this is some kind of subversive manic pixie dream girl narrative, yet there’s a strong sense of parity and mutual delirium between the two leads that makes their malady infectious.

Love and punk rock may seem like strange bedfellows, but they’re far from mutually exclusive. By the end of the film, these are the same smartasses you’ve come to love; they’ve just opened up their hearts a little bit more. It’s something of a cliche to refer to a film as a “romantic comedy for people who hate romantic comedies,” but in this case the description holds water. We’ll probably never hear Hugh Grant say “Take off that cat-shit-covered apron and I might be able to get hard,” and we’ll probably never see Julia Roberts furiously masturbate while blasting a dubbed cassette of hardcore b-sides, but as the movie unfolds, the emotions it evokes are the same. I had an honest-to-god lump in my throat as Patty crooned “Fuck ‘em all but us” over Simon’s sludgy guitar, and if that means I’ve gone soft in my old age, I don’t care. Dinner in America has a big, gushy heart beating under its crust-punk exterior, and it’s one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. Source: bostonhassle.com

Those who identified with the girl geeks of Ghost World and Welcome to the Dollhouse may also find something to love in Emily Skeggs’s Patty, a wide-eyed suburban nerd whose life is turned upside down by the arrival of Simon (Kyle Gallner), a punk rock runaway. A throwback to the brightly coloured offbeat teen movies of the 90s and a rude riposte to that era’s more mainstream offerings (She’s All That’s sexist makeover scene is subverted), this sweet (odd) romcom is buoyed up by the chemistry between its leads. Once Simon meets Patty his world begins to change as he finally meets his match. As Simon starts to mellow, the tone also morphs and becomes something beautifully quirky and uniquely original. 

It’s almost a punk Bonnie and Clyde. Dinner in America is an assault to the senses that really captures the attitude of punk-rock whilst at the same time crafting a quirky tale of love and self-empowerment. A joyously dark-hearted journey through suburban America that taps into the magic of films like Heathers, injects them with the spirit of punk rock and creates an instant hit that has the potential to shape a generation. Rehmeier doesn’t make explicit exactly what it is about America that Simon wishes to defy, but by the time he breaks bread with the William Sonoma family, viewers will get the idea. Suffice to say that young men like Simon grow up soaking in choiceless dissatisfaction, and they come of age renouncing their choicelessness. Partly it’s a class thing. Dinner in America doesn’t really cast America’s heartland in the most positive light. The film maintains traces of affection for the Mid-West regions mostly through the empathy felt for Simon and Patty, two loners in need of companionship who slowly become better people by being with each other. 

Grant that “better” involves, among other things, a truly gnarly revenge prank on the two asshole jocks who make a hobby of sexually harassing Patty, and causing a scene at the local pet store where she used to work in an effort at securing her final paycheck from her stingy boss. “Better” is a relative term, and given the suffocating atmosphere of their hometown, where individuality is choked out of people and replaced by droning normalcy, the strong desire to revolt feels like a moral imperative. Rehmeier litters Dinner in America with hideous examples of what “normalcy” looks like, from the asshole jocks to the racist football dad. By the time the movie ends, Simon and Patty look like heroes in spite of their abrasive rudeness and reckless actions. Source: www.pastemagazine.com

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Prankster and the Conspiracy: Kerry Thornley, JFK, LHO, Adam Curtis

Adam Curtis (February, 2021): "Individualism is born out of mass democracy. It’s a natural consequence of it. But at some point, individualism began to eat away at mass democracy, it began to strangle the very thing that had produced it, because it gets rid of collective power. What we’re waiting for is a politician who comes along with a really powerful story. The idea you could imagine something different has gone off the agenda. There are no politicians who think in that broader concept." Source: time.com

 
Aaron Good: For some reason, Adam Curtis decided to weigh in on the JFK assassination in his documentary Can't Get You Out of My Head. Though there have been a lot of good books written about the JFK assassination, from the looks of it, Curtis apparently did not read any of them. If he had done so, there would have been many angles that he could have taken to discuss the case, even if he could not cover the assassination in a comprehensive manner. He could have read David Talbot’s Brothers and then discussed how RFK came to believe that his brother had been killed as the result of a right-wing plot involving elements of the CIA, the Cuban exile community, and organized crime. The audience might have also appreciated learning about how RFK was assassinated before he could attain the presidency and reinvestigate Dallas—something he explicitly said he would do. Curtis often seems suspicious of power—especially technocratic power—but he seems even more suspicious of those who are suspicious of power.

For whatever reason, Curtis focuses on the figure of Kerry Thornley. So, what does Thornley do for Curtis? He largely serves to allow Curtis to be dismissive of “conspiracy theories,” even as he is superficially ambivalent about actual conspiracies elsewhere in the film. The Kerry Thornley arc in CGYOMYH begins with Curtis telling us how Thornley and his friend Greg Hill went to a bowling alley where they disagreed about whether the universe was orderly or chaotic. They eventually came to the conclusion that the world was chaotic, but that individuals could use their minds to create some semblance of order. But then something strange happened. Thornley joined the Marines, where he met a young defiant man named Lee Harvey Oswald. He decided he would write a novel about Oswald. While Thornley was writing this novel, Oswald defected to the Soviet Union. As a right-wing Ayn Rand devotee, Thornley detested Kennedy. He did not mourn when JFK died. But the fact that the figure he cast in his novel was the president’s alleged assassin was, according to Thornley, “very weird.”

Curtis states that around this time, Thornley got his Oswald novel published under the title, The Idle Warriors. This is an error; the novel did not get published until 1991—in the wake of Oliver Stone’s JFK. As Curtis would have it, Thornley ran into trouble because of the novel and the fact that—like Oswald before the assassination—Thornley was living in New Orleans in 1967. Thornley, Curtis tells us, believed that people in power used conspiracy theories to control people by making them believe that the world was run by hidden forces. This served to make individuals feel “weak and powerless.” Curtis does not bother to point out that Thornley is essentially positing a conspiracy theory to explain conspiracy theories. Curtis blithely asserts: 'Despite all the patterns, Jim Garrison could produce no evidence of a hidden conspiracy.' Curtis does not mention that Garrison had convinced the jury at the Clay Shaw trial that the assassination was the result of a conspiracy. That was accomplished through one exhibit and two key witnesses. The witnesses were Dr. John Nichols for the prosecution and the second was Kennedy's pathologist Dr. Pierre Finck. The exhibit was the Zapruder film, which Nichols’ used to convincingly demonstrate a shot came from the front. This showed, at the least, that Lee Oswald was not the only assassin firing at Kennedy, which would mean JFK was killed by a conspiracy. So it’s convenient for Curtis to leave it out.

Garrison also discovered that Oswald had been in New Orleans as an ostensibly pro-Castro activist, but had been working out of the office of Guy Banister—a hard-right, ex-FBI man who ran the Anti-Communist League of the Caribbean, was a member of the fascist “Minutemen” organization, and had been involved in anti-Castro CIA operations like the Bay of Pigs and Operation Mongoose. Given that Oswald’s New Orleans activities only served to discredit the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, the obvious inference would be that Oswald was a pawn in some kind of counterintelligence operation. The Zapruder film was so definitive that when it was finally shown on network television in the 1970’s, public support for the Warren Commission fell to all-time lows. Years later it was revealed that Clay Shaw lied on the stand numerous times. He was also getting considerable support from the CIA during the trial. There is no excuse for Curtis’ failure to mention that the last official word on the JFK case—the HSCA investigation—concluded that the assassination was the result of a “probable conspiracy.” He then also fails to disclose to the audience that the chief counsel of the HSCA eventually signed on to a petition which stated that the culprits were elements of the US national security state.

Upon returning to Thornley and Discordianism, CGYOMH details how the group decided to use Playboy magazine to launch “Operation Mindfuck.” They kicked off the operation by submitting a fake letter positing that all the political assassinations in the US were the work of “the [Bavarian] Illuminati.” Any explanation of Operation Mindfuck is by definition a conspiracy theory. To acknowledge this truism would entail something that Curtis does not want to admit or explain: that any conspiracy theory—like any no-conspiracy theory—should be judged on its respective merits. One of many dispiriting aspects of CGYOMH is that Thornley and Operation Mindfuck are actually interesting subjects whose reexamination could offer fresh insights. The work of the illustrious and iconoclastic Florida State professor Lance DeHaven-Smith is instructive in this regard. By the end of the year 2000, DeHaven-Smith had already enjoyed an accomplished career as a scholar of public administration and defined SCADs (state crimes against democracy) as “concerted actions or inactions by government insiders intended to manipulate democratic processes and undermine popular sovereignty.”

In 2013, Lance deHaven-Smith published Conspiracy Theory in America. There he detailed the ways in which powerful actors and institutions have aided and abetted SCADs by stigmatizing those who posit conspiratorial explanations of politically significant events: "Most Americans will be shocked to learn that the conspiracy-theory label was popularized as a pejorative term by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in a propaganda program initiated in 1967, infusing the conspiracy theory label with powerfully negative associations. This program was directed at criticisms of the Warren Commission’s report. The propaganda campaign called on media corporations and journalists to criticize “conspiracy theorists” and raise questions about their motives and judgements." Does not the Discordians’ Operation Mindfuck plot dovetail perfectly with the Agency’s goal of stigmatizing conspiracy theorizing around suspicious political events? As we will see, this becomes all the more apparent when one looks at the overwhelming amount of evidence that Kerry Thornley was an intelligence asset involved in creating the legend that made Oswald a suitable designated culprit in the JFK assassination.

Nixon could not get the CIA to cooperate with him in a number of key areas, including the president’s attempts to obtain all the CIA files which might explain the JFK assassination and the Bay of Pigs operation. Nixon eventually fired Dick Helms, the director of the CIA, and ordered his successor, the outsider James Schlesinger, to compile all information about CIA crimes. He took these actions, in part, because he believed that the CIA was somehow involved in the Watergate scandal. There were good reasons for his suspicions. Two key Watergate figures—James McCord and E. Howard Hunt—were “former” CIA officers, were politically to Nixon’s right, and were so operationally incompetent that many suspect that they intentionally bungled their crimes as part of an operation to damage or gain control over the president. It is important to note that these leaks about Nixon, and about Nixon’s adversaries like the CIA, were part of what can be described as an Establishment civil war. To say that Nixon was merely paranoid about his liberal enemies is to greatly distort this history. Furthermore, such an explanation cannot explain how the ouster of Nixon led to the US lurching far to the right politically. Both major parties became more conservative. 

The liberalism of the Kennedys was excised from the political power structure. The Republicans became a Reaganite party and the Democrats adopted positions that had previously been associated with Rockefeller Republicanism, cultural politics notwithstanding. Years after launching Operation Mindfuck, Thornley says he saw E. Howard Hunt’s photo after his Watergate arrest. He now recognized Hunt from his New Orleans days, when he also knew Oswald. Thornley also recalled how he had known Guy Bannister and Clay Shaw, suspects in Jim Garrison’s investigation. Suddenly, says Thornley, “I could not explain all these weird coincidences.” While the Operation Mindfuck hoax/operation promulgated an Illuminati meta-conspiracy theory, these bogus theories were getting mixed up with real world intrigues like CIA mind control and other scandals. Says Curtis, “The line between the reality of political corruption and a dream world of conspiracy theories started to get blurred in America.” Kerry Thornley, Curtis suggests, became swept up in this paranoid thinking. Thornley came to believe that the CIA had somehow manipulated him into setting up Operation Mindfuck, but he didn’t know how. Says Curtis, “Thornley had retreated into a dream world of conspiracy.”

There are more key facts and events that Curtis omits from his tale. The Thornley and Hill move to New Orleans in February 1961 has never been adequately explained. Right at the time of their arrival, preparations for the Bay of Pigs invasion were ramping up. Ultra-rightists and Garrison suspects like David Ferrie and Guy Bannister were involved in these operations, conducted at locales such as the Belle Chase naval air station and Banister’s 544 Camp Street office. Upon arriving in New Orleans, Thornley began associating with these hard-right, CIA connected circles. In the mid-1970’s, when the HSCA investigation was about to begin, Thornley admitted that, in fact, he had known all of these characters. Furthermore, when his book on Oswald, The Idle Warriors, finally got published in 1991, Thornley admitted in the book’s introduction that he showed the manuscript to Guy Banister back in 1961. It is hard to take seriously any non-conspiratorial explanation of these events. Thornley decided to write a novel based on a not-especially-interesting marine who defected to the Soviet Union. Then Thornley whimsically decided to show up in New Orleans, where he happens to meet Guy Banister—one of the figures involved in creating the FDC. So, he shows Banister the novel he has written about Oswald, the same guy that Bannister’s FDC associates are impersonating. And apparently Adam Curtis doesn’t bat an eyelash.

Jim Garrison had at least eight witnesses who had seen Thornley and Oswald together during that summer (New Orleans, 1963). Two of these witnesses stated that Thornley had told them that Oswald was, in fact, not a communist. Garrison had a witness who said that she, “her husband, and a number of people who live in that neighborhood saw Thornley at the Oswald residence a number of times—in fact they saw him there so much they did not know which was the husband, Oswald or Thornley.” In that 1963 summer in New Orleans, Oswald was famously arrested while passing out Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) leaflets. Carlos Bringuier and Ed Butler were both involved with Oswald in an infamous radio debate. This followed Oswald’s arrest after a confrontation with Bringuier, during his strange FPCC leafleting spectacle. This seems to have been the objective that Oswald believed he was furthering—some sort of psychological operation for propaganda purposes. In summary, Thornley, Bringuier, and Butler were all instrumental in creating the evolving Oswald legend. Thornley first did so by depicting Oswald in The Idle Warriors as a communist malcontent in the Marines. Then he furthered Oswald’s legendary persona through his and his associates’ activities in New Orleans. 

All of this is not to say that Garrison was beyond reproach. He should not have been so trusting with the volunteers he allowed to work on the case. He should have indicted Ferrie sooner, lest his main suspect succumb to a deadly brain aneurysm whilst sitting on the couch looking at two typed, unsigned suicide letters. Furthermore, given all the things that have come out about Kerry Thornley, Garrison arguably should have sought to prosecute him rather than Clay Shaw. One reason to argue that Garrison should have gone after Thornley for conspiracy comes from Thornley himself. Said Kerry Thornley, “Garrison, you should have gone after me for conspiracy to commit murder.” Admittedly, Thornley was positing a contrived hoax, but even this JFK disinformation is of a piece with his prior roles in Oswald’s framing and in the cover-up after the fact. For Curtis to omit so many crucial facts about the JFK assassination, about Kerry Thornley, and about Garrison’s case is useful to his cause. It allows him to ignore the history-making interventions of the deep state and the extent to which these interventions have helped bring about the political nadir that America is experiencing. Curtis’ obscurantism allows him to downplay American state criminality as merely “political corruption”: He omits, distorts, and cherry picks facts to present his interminable exploration of our current dystopia. Source: kennedysandking.com

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Justice Rising: Robert Kennedy's America in Black & White, America on Fire, Hierarchy in the Forest

Growing up in a large Irish Catholic family, Bobby was a loner with an instinctive sympathy for people who were having a hard time. He was the most devout of nine children and possessed a moralistic streak, but his questioning spirit helped guard against the rigidity that might have accompanied that attribute. Murray Kempton once commented that the one thing Franklin Roosevelt could have learned from Joseph Kennedy “was how to be a father.” Joe was often away from home—in Hollywood, London, and Palm Beach—and he sent his kids to boarding school, but he cultivated an affectionate and close relationship with them all the same. Bobby was “the gentlest and shyest” of the Kennedy boys and “the least articulate orally.” A childhood nurse remembered him as “the most thoughtful and considerate of all the children.”

Attorney General Robert Kennedy, in his office at two o’clock in the morning on May 22, 1961. He is on the phone with his deputy Byron White in Montgomery, Alabama, after a raging mob attacked the First Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. and other supporters of the Freedom Riders had gathered. RFK advised: “Half a million American soldiers with 700,000 Vietnamese allies, with total command of the air, total command of the sea, backed by huge resources and the most modern weapons are unable to secure even a single city from the attacks of an enemy whose total strength is 250,000.” The time had come to take a new look at the war in Vietnam, “not by cursing the past but using it to illuminate the future.” Furthermore, it was not in the national interest to wage a war so destructive and cruel that “our best and closest friends ask, more in sorrow than in anger, what has happened to America.” In their responses to Watts and successive summers of uprisings and civil disturbances, Johnson and Kennedy could not have been further apart. Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War divided the country and sapped resources for anti-poverty programs at a time of urgent need. 

Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King emerged as leading critics of cutbacks to poverty programs and as increasingly vocal opponents of the war. King and Kennedy were also closely aligned in their concerns about urban conditions and the oppression of Black youth. Early in 1966, King moved into a Chicago tenement and joined community groups in organizing a campaign to end housing discrimination. For their part, Kennedy and his aides met with residents, community leaders, and activists in the impoverished Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant and, drawing on what they learned from the community, established a major redevelopment project. The goal was to bring government, foundation, and private funds to bear on shortages of decent housing, jobs, recreational facilities, and education—all under the direction of a community board. The Bedford Stuyvesant Redevelopment Corporation marked a shift toward community control of urban revitalization, and the project remained a major focus of Kennedy’s until the end of his life. “As implemented and augmented by opportunistic Congresses,” writes biographer John Farrell, “governors like Nelson Rockefeller, and Nixon’s successors, notably Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton—the ‘war’ on drugs and the battle for ‘law and order’ would metastasize, yielding punitive measures like mandatory sentences, no-knock raids and other relaxations of defendants’ rights.” Starting in the late 1960s, America’s prison population skyrocketed, with a move to mass incarceration that disproportionately impacted Black Americans. 

As historian Elizabeth Hinton pointed out in her study of the transition from the War on Poverty to the War on Crime, “African Americans born after 1965 and lacking a high school diploma are more likely to eventually go to prison than not.” Ending inequality would require nothing less than overcoming “the scarred heritage of centuries of oppression” manifested throughout America life, most notably in white attitudes and beliefs. Kennedy warned that “it would be a national disaster to permit resentment and fear to drive increasing numbers of white and black Americans into opposing camps of distrust and enmity.” There was but one choice, he said: “to face our difficulties and strive to overcome them, or turn away, bringing repression, increasing human pain, and civil strife.” Justice Rising: Robert Kennedy’s America in Black and White (2021) by Patricia Sullivan

No social world ever went from an egalitarian community to an elite-dominated, state-structured society in one fell swoop. It’s a gradual movement towards inequality. The pathway to inequality leads through unequal, but still small-scale and stateless, communities, in which incipient elites lived with and among their neighbours, and without control of coercive state institutions. As such, they were vulnerable, and as Christopher Boehm notes in Hierarchy in the Forest (1999). Today, the top one per cent of incomes in the United States accounts for one fifth of US earnings. The top one per cent of fortunes holds two-fifths of the total wealth. Just one rich family, the six heirs of the brothers Sam and James Walton, founders of Walmart, are worth more than the bottom 40 per cent of the American population combined ($115 billion in 2012). 
Bottom line: egalitarian, cooperative human communities are possible. Widespread sharing and consensus decision-making aren’t contrary to ‘human nature’. Indeed, for most of human history we lived in such societies. But such societies are not inherently stable. These social practices depend on active defence. That active defence failed, given the social technologies available, as societies increased in scale and economic complexity. Source: aeon.co

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

"Sinatra and Me: In the Wee Small Hours"

“Everybody wanted to know Frank Sinatra; almost nobody really did. Tony Oppedisano really did…. Utterly clear-eyed yet truly loving, Sinatra and Me is a matchless portrait of a flawed, brilliant man―and of a great friendship. A gem of a book.” ―James Kaplan, bestselling author of Frank: The Voice and Sinatra: The Chairman

“What a great book!  Tony O. does here what many have tried to do without quite succeeding: he’s made Frank Sinatra accessible… Certainly, this is one of the very best of the Sinatra books and, I daresay, maybe the only one the man himself would actually read!” ―J. Randy Taraborrelli, New York Times bestselling author of Sinatra: Behind the Legend

For months in 1947, Lee Mortimer had been circulating rumors that Frank had ties to the Mob. When the two men accidentally encountered each other in the entrance of Ciro’s restaurant a month before Mortimer visited the FBI, Mortimer murmured “Dago” as he passed Frank. For Italians in the forties, dago was the equivalent of the “n-word” for African-Americans. Italians might call one another “dago” affectionately, as Frank and Dean Martin did. But coming from a non-Italian, the word was a reason for fisticuffs. Frank decked Mortimer with a left hook and paid the resulting fine with no regrets. In May 1947, New York Daily Mirror reporter Lee Mortimer sat down for a chat with FBI agent Clyde Tolson, J. Edgar Hoover’s right-hand man and reported life partner. Mortimer was about to publish another piece on Sinatra and wanted help from the FBI in collecting dirt on Frank. The newsman handed Tolson a picture of Frank with a man whom Mortimer thought looked like a gangster and said he’d also heard a rumor that Frank’s godfather, underboss Willie Moretti, had originally backed Sinatra’s career. Mortimer then mentioned hearing allegations of a “sex arrest” of Sinatra in 1938. This was just the kind of stuff Hoover was looking for. The FBI was only too happy to give Mortimer what he wanted. The deal was done to the satisfaction of all parties, and Mr. Hoover could be assured of Mr. Mortimer’s understanding the terms. So continued the long, sordid history of the cooperation between our federal government and muckraking journalism, carefully recorded in an FBI file titled “Francis Albert Sinatra.” 

The allegations made the careers of dozens of journalists and, in their endless spin-offs, created a legend that destroyed the reputation of an American citizen. From the day Lee Mortimer published his first article on Sinatra and the Mafia, until Frank died fifty years later, the top secret FBI file was supposed to be the smoking gun proving Frank’s role in the Mob. Lurid biographies made vague references to it whenever they wanted to smear Frank. When the file was finally released a few months after Frank’s death, showing no evidence of Mob ties had ever been found, it made no difference. Nobody wanted to read a dull thirteen-hundred-page file debunking stories the public was already in love with. The FBI “sources” often turned out to be the gossip columnists themselves, but the press didn’t exactly rush forward to clear Frank’s name when the file was published. Frank loved to joke that the initials FBI stood for “Forever Bothering Italians.” No kidding. Nancy Sr. had a cousin who became a soldier for a Mob guy named Willie Moretti, who was chosen by Marty Sinatra as Frank’s godfather at his baptism. Neither Nancy nor Frank got involved in Willie’s “business.” Years later, though, when the press found out that Frank was Willie’s godson, they pounced on it. 

“Young Sinatra’s Career Financed by Mobster.” Tipped off by the press, the FBI later added a note in Frank’s surveillance file that the Mob (again in the person of Willie Moretti) was “forcing” Frank to leave Ava Gardner and go back to Nancy. Sam Giancana, who took over as the boss of Chicago in the years after Capone, was one of the owners of a club called the Black Orchid. Frank played there. All the big guys played there, including Don Rickles, Danny Thomas, and Bing Crosby. Since their last names didn’t end with a vowel, however, no one cared. Frank used to get frustrated and say to me, “The joints weren’t exactly owned by Cardinal Spellman! I didn’t know any bishops, cardinals, or monsignors who owned nightclubs. Otherwise, I would have ended up rubbing elbows with them!” Clubs were highly attractive to Mob guys. They provided an environment that fit the mobster’s day-to-day lifestyle, where they never knew if there was going to be a tomorrow. Frank made a parody out of it and used to say to me, “Live each day as though it’s your last, and one day you’ll be right.” He also used to joke, “Anyone who’s dumb enough to take a nap in the trunk of a Cadillac deserves to be shot in the head”!

Everything changed when Lee Mortimer wrote an article about Frank’s trip to Havana in 1946. Frank had been performing at the Fontainebleau nightclub in Miami, the premier place to work at the time, owned by the usual Mob connections. Wiseguy Joe Fischetti came down from Chicago regularly to check on the business. Joe was an easygoing guy, and he and Frank would hang out and share a drink after the show when Frank was performing there. One night, Frank was complaining to Joe that he needed a vacation, and he was thinking about going to Cuba for a break. He’d heard that the Havana nightlife was hot, and so were the women. Mortimer and another Hearst writer, Westbrook Pegler, wrote a whole series of articles about Frank’s activities as a so-called Mob courier. Because journalists copy from each other, the stories spread like wildfire. No protests or threats of legal action on Frank’s part fazed the press. Frank was angry and increasingly desperate to stop the stories from spreading further. What happened next is something only I know. I’d never heard the tale until Frank told it to me in vivid detail. It’s the story of the day Frank Sinatra met newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, the inspiration for the iconic film Citizen Kane (1941). 

The whole experience was like something out of a movie. The meeting with Hearst came about because of Nancy Sr. Nancy was good friends with gossip columnist Louella Parsons. Parsons, in turn, was old friends with silent-film star Marion Davies. Marion Davies was the live-in mistress of William Randolph Hearst, whose newspaper empire was the biggest in the world. Mortimer and Pegler were both Hearst writers. Louella contacted Marion Davies for Nancy Sr., and a one-on-one private sit-down between Frank and Hearst was arranged. The face-to-face was to take place at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, under the strictest secrecy. Frank, Nancy Sr., and Louella Parsons drove north to San Simeon together for the meeting. For anyone who has ever seen it, the first sight of Hearst Castle, an art deco masterpiece, is spectacular. This was Frank’s first sighting. He told me he was awestruck by the sheer beauty of the place, astonished by its size. When he, Nancy, and Louella parked and got out of the car, the front door they approached looked like the entrance to a fortress. They rang the bell and they were very surprised when Marion Davies herself opened the front door to welcome them. In the towering entrance hall, Miss Davies spoke briefly with Nancy Sr. and Louella, then guided Frank down the hall to the library. Frank was very nervous as he waited for Hearst that afternoon, mentally rehearsing what he was going to say. After a few minutes, the big door to the library opened, and Hearst was pushed into the room in a wheelchair. 

Physically, he looked frail, but his face revealed a mind and will that were still strong. His attendant parked him across the table from Frank and then left the room. Without preliminaries, Hearst said to Frank, “What do you have to say to me?” Frank pleaded his case with all the passion he possessed. He told Hearst that Mortimer and other Hearst journalists were creating an elaborate lie about him. He said that he wasn’t a Communist or anti-American or affiliated with the Mob. Hearst promised to help Frank. Frank sat there for a while pondering what had just happened, until Marion Davies came in to guide him back to Nancy. For a few months, Hearst’s ultimatum was respected. The result was a brief moratorium on Frank in the Hearst press. But not long afterward, Hearst left San Simeon to seek medical care for what would be his final illness. His sons took over the running of the papers, and editorial policies shifted. Frank’s reprieve was a short one. Frank used to say about the press, “All day long, they lie in the sun. And after the sun goes down, they lie some more.” Even if William R. Hearst had lived longer, you can’t unring a bell. The damage to Frank’s reputation was done. Once Mortimer opened that door, the word was out that the feds wanted dirt on Sinatra. Unnamed informants flocked to the FBI. Informants volunteered information on Frank in hopes of avoiding prosecution themselves. J. Edgar Hoover lapped it up. Journalists continued to meet with FBI agents. In 1957, journalist Bill Davidson asked the FBI for derogatory information on Frank that he could use in what became a three-part series he was writing for Look magazine. IRS asked Frank Sinatra: Have you ever had any business dealings with Mr. Giancana? Frank's reply: None. 

Neither the IRS nor the FBI believed him. The government’s suspicions became a problem whenever Frank wanted to invest in something. Being business savvy, Frank had always dreamed of owning his own club. Las Vegas, where he headlined starting in the fifties, seemed the obvious place. The Flamingo was a lucrative possibility, but Frank told me he didn’t want to be at the Flamingo because that had been out-and-out owned by mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. When Frank started appearing at the Sands, that seemed more like the kind of place he’d like to be involved with. So many writers talk about Frank’s fascination with the Mob, but in reality, it was the other way around. The Mob, like the rest of the world, was fascinated by Frank. He possessed incredible charisma. Everyone wanted to bask in it, including mobsters. The Mob guys especially admired Frank because they recognized that he’d pulled himself up by his bootstraps—with his charm, sometimes with his fists, but most of the time with his voice and innate talent. He did it on his own—his way—not with Mafia money.

Frank and Marilyn were close, and he idolized her. She was beautiful and funny and charismatic and radiated sexuality. She was also as fragile as a troubled child, always looking for a man to take care of her and make her feel safe. Frank knew her for years, and they’d had a romance of sorts. Contrary to widespread belief, however, Frank never slept with her. He told me he badly wanted to, that he was terribly attracted to her, but he always stopped short. Marilyn was more than willing, but Frank felt she was too troubled, too fragile, for him to sleep with. He just couldn’t get rid of the feeling that sex with her would be taking advantage of her. They were close, though, and Frank was her confidante right up to the end of her life. The weekend before her death, Marilyn came up to Cal-Neva Lodge to stay in one of the bungalows and figure out the next step in her life. Privately, she was there to spend time with Joe DiMaggio. Joe had never gotten over Marilyn, and in her usual fashion, she looked to a man, a father figure, to fix her life for her. She decided Joe was the refuge she needed. Marilyn spent most of the weekend holed up in private with Joe.

She decided to make a press announcement the following week, saying they were officially back together. Once the press conference was announced, however, the rumor started that she was going to publicly rat out the Kennedys and Sam Giancana. In reality, Marilyn had no intention of going public with what she knew. Frank said she’d never have spilled her guts to the press about the Kennedys. Frank told me it was Marilyn’s death that was the final nail in the coffin between him and Peter Lawford. When everything spiraled down with Marilyn, Lawford did nothing to help her. As Frank saw it, Peter could take care of himself, but Marilyn couldn’t. Frank thought Lawford should have protected her. Within days of her death, Frank’s friend and attorney Mickey Rudin, who was told of Marilyn’s death six hours before the police were, told Frank that Marilyn had been murdered. The same rumor was circulating among Sam Giancana’s men, some of whom claimed involvement. Frank found it unbearable that such a damaged, vulnerable, helpless human being had lost her life because some powerful men feared what she might say. The assassination of Jack Kennedy a year later compounded Frank’s sense of grief and loss. He never got over losing either to premature and unnatural deaths.

Thirty years after JFK’s death, on November 22, 1993, Frank and I stopped over in Palm Springs for a brief hiatus in a heavily booked two-month tour. We got in at one a.m., drove to the compound, and slept for a few hours. That night, as usual, Frank and I watched the eleven o’clock news on the Palm Springs CBS affiliate. The reporter was doing a piece on the 30th anniversary of John Kennedy’s assassination. Frank started talking to me, reminiscing about Jack Kennedy. Gradually, the conversation drifted to Marilyn Monroe. In the hours before dawn, in the vast silence of the desert, Frank talked to me about his friends Marilyn Monroe and John Kennedy. His words rose and fell in a soft rhythm I can only describe as a lament. Three decades later, his pain and anger at their passing still haunted him. 

Frank once told me he’d never met a man who could give another man advice about women. “I’m supposed to have a PhD on the subject, but I’ve flunked out more often than not. I’m very fond of women; I admire them. But, like all men, I don’t understand them.” He enjoyed women, but he also had a lot of respect for the fairer sex, something he learned from his mother. Frank loved the ritual of courtship and seduction. He liked to pamper a woman, buy her gifts, make her feel like a queen. Frank knew what he wanted sexually, and he seemed to know what they wanted, too. But he’d rarely jump into bed upon first meeting someone. He was never a Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am kind of guy. He was surprisingly protective of a woman’s reputation. He’d drive a woman home after a date and see her to the door. Women never had to do the walk of shame with Frank. Some of Frank’s love affairs started as friendships and went from there. Many of his romances ended as lifetime friendships, including with the women he married and eventually divorced. As I’ve said, Marilyn Monroe was a woman Frank considered off-limits for ethical reasons. 

Another widely publicized example is Natalie Wood. Books about Frank nearly always state that Frank had an affair with Natalie Wood when she was a fifteen-year-old starlet, and he was nearly forty. It sounds sleazy, and it would be if it were true, but it isn’t. Frank was involved with Natalie when she was older, in between her two marriages to Robert Wagner, but never when she was a young teen. I talked about the allegation recently with my friend Robert Wagner, who was appalled by the story. He told me in pretty colorful language that it was absolutely untrue. He and Natalie had been close friends with Frank and discussed him many times. R. J. felt certain that she’d had a romantic relationship with Frank later in her life, but never as a teen. Frank told me once, “When Ava was relaxed, she could have a mouth like a truck driver. She drank as well as I did or better.”

Frank and Ava’s relationship was like fire and ice, either burning hot or ice cold. When their relationship was hot, it worked for a while, but when it cooled off, it was freezing, and Frank would be miserable. Their arguments were legendary. Frank said they were too much alike in all the wrong ways. She was a ball of fire with a red-hot temper like his. At the end of the day, Frank was afraid of what might happen if he said no to his fourth wife Barbara Marx. When he did say no to something she desperately wanted, she’d pull out the most effective tool in her arsenal, withdrawing her company. She wouldn’t talk to him or even see him for days at a time. It was Frank’s worst nightmare. When he was a kid, he was terrified every time his parents left him alone all night, frightened they’d never come back. He’d grown up fearing Dolly’s disapproval. As an adult, he had trouble coping with any strong-willed woman he loved. The thought that Barbara might leave him was more than he could face. My own relationship with Barbara Sinatra was complex. It wasn’t always an easy one, but I had real affection for her. I used to call her every year to wish her a happy birthday. When she’d pick up the phone in Palm Springs, I wouldn’t even say hello. I’d just start to sing “Happy Birthday.” Twice she thought it was Steve Lawrence singing, and I was very flattered. Even after Frank was gone, Barbara and I remained friends. —"Sinatra and Me: In the Wee Small Hours" (2021) by Tony Oppedisano

Actually, Frank and Marilyn had been lovers, on and off, throughout 1961. This was commonly known within her circle of friends, and Marilyn herself mentioned it in a letter to her psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson. The relationship ended when Frank became engaged to Juliet Prowse, but they remained on good terms until Marilyn’s death. Other sources – including Jilly Rizzo (see here) – have suggested that Frank wanted to marry Marilyn, but after three divorces, she wasn’t ready for another commitment. While she remained close to Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn said publicly that they were not a couple (“there is nothing to reconcile.”) Some friends of DiMaggio hoped they would remarry, but none among Marilyn’s circle believed she would. Furthermore, the ever-possessive Joe had abruptly ended his long friendship with Frank when he began dating Marilyn. Therefore, Frank would have had no part in Marilyn’s ongoing relationship with Joe. Frank was a vocal supporter of John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign, but their friendship cooled after Kennedy took office. Whatever encounters Marilyn may have had with the Kennedy brothers, it’s highly unlikely that she would have confided in Sinatra. Milton Rudin, who was Marilyn’s lawyer as well as Frank’s, never claimed that Marilyn was murdered in his interviews on the subject, but he was well aware of her emotional problems and addiction to sleeping pills. It’s possible that Sinatra, like many others, was swayed by the conspiracy theories about Marilyn’s death and the Kennedys that appeared in the 1970s. But at the time of her death, this was not a widely-held view, except by a small handful of far-right cranks with a rabidly anti-Kennedy agenda. Unfortunately, lurid gossip about Marilyn’s demise has become something of a cottage industry in this era of ‘fake news’, and a very profitable one for those who propagate it. Source: https://themarilynreport.com

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Camelot's Lost Paradise: Robert Kennedy, John Kennedy Jr, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy

53rd Anniversary of Robert Francis Kennedy's death: RFK was shot on June 5, 1968, soon after a speech marking his victory in the California Democratic primary for president, and died the next day. The assassination of Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles on June 6, 1968, is perhaps the most ignored American historical milestone in the second half of the 20th century. Preceding his assassination were those of his brother President John Kennedy, Malcolm X, and RFK’s colleague Martin Luther King. All four of these deaths were caused by gunfire, and were redolent with suspicious circumstances. After Robert Kennedy was killed, the Democratic Party became a shadow of its former self. Six of the next nine presidents would be Republicans. It would be 22 years before a Democrat was elected to two full terms in office. After the Democratic Party’s 49-state loss to incumbent President Richard Nixon in 1972, the Democrats abandoned their core base—union laborers, minorities and blue-collar workers—and started catering to the Wall Street crowd instead. RFK's funeral mass in New York was watched by over 100 million spectators via television. At that funeral, SDS leader Tom Hayden and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley both choked back tears. Robert Kennedy was the buffer that kept people like Hayden and Daley from savaging each other; he was the inspiration that made students and peace activists believe the Vietnam War would soon end. Jackie Kennedy had wept over his casket at a private wake, something she did not do over her husband’s death. Two million people lined the railroad tracks to bid their final farewells as his corpse was transported back to Washington to be buried near his brother at Arlington Cemetery. —A Lie Too Big to Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (2018) by Lisa Pease

Why We Search for R.F.K.: "RFK was never afraid of the truth. He never fled from the facts. He also knew, in ways that politicians these days seem to have no understanding, that truth is the token of trust. It was his view of a political leader's function to tell them the truth, even though it made them uncomfortable, even though it may have made them dislike him, and even though it may have cost him in that audience. Richard Nixon offered international competence and strength, if only we would abandon idealism. Robert Kennedy saw his success as secondary to the benefit and success of the country and the people in it. We also remember Robert Kennedy for his tenderness. His thoughts and emotions were often blurted out, and sometimes they were harsh; yet he was careful to be gentle when he dealt with the weak. In retrospect, it's clear that Robert Kennedy was the last major leader who allowed us to at least imagine we could realize the ideals of American politics. Since his death we have chosen from a spectrum that offers us everything but dignity, self-respect and hope." —Adam Walinsky, who worked as legislative assistant to Robert F. Kennedy at the Justice Department and the Senate from 1963 to 1968. Source: nytimes.com

The Kennedy Tragedy: (Boston stunned, saddened / Good night, sweet prince by Jim Smith & Harry Keaney): Former Boston mayor and Vatican ambassador Raymond Flynn said that JFK Jr. once told him during a conversation in Central Park that he might someday run for major political office. "But he didn’t want anything handed to him — he wanted to accomplish things on his own first," Flynn added. "That’s why so many of us with Irish roots feel connected to him and his family." Flynn said he had "no doubt" that, had JFK Jr. lived, he would have followed in is father’s footsteps toward the U.S. presidency. John Mooney, an executive with the Manhattan PR firm of M. Booth & Associates, recalled meeting JFK Jr. during an event marking the opening of the Sony building on 54th Street. “All the things people said about him were true,” Mooney said. “He could light up a room and heads would turn, and he was as polite as could be, even if people were snapping pictures of him right in his face.” Source: www.irishecho.com

"The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you." —David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest, 1996)

JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy (The Truth Behind Their Fights): In her book "Fairy Tale Interrupted," JFK Jr.'s personal assistant and confidante RoseMarie Terenzio reveals that the simmering tension between the Kennedy scion and his glamorous wife was the product of those never-ceasing flashbulbs. Long accustomed to the media following his every move, the son of President John F. Kennedy wasn't fazed by negative coverage. But his wife wasn't nearly as thick-skinned, and when Bessette Kennedy complained, she faced blowback from her husband. "It made him angry. He would say to her, 'Oh, big deal, so what? Get on with it," Terenzio told "20/20's" Chris Cuomo. "And sometimes that was hurtful." In her book, Terenzio wrote that Kennedy's insensitivity was "the biggest catalyst for their arguments." The nastier the press coverage got, she wrote, "the more Carolyn retreated into herself. The process was heartbreaking to witness." Source: abcnews.go.com

Citizen Kennedy: By many accounts, John Kennedy Jr. was a natural and precocious actor. “He’s got an incredible ear for mimicry, and he used to tell us all stories in an Irish brogue or in Russian character or Scottish,” his cousin Bobby once recounted. “This is starting when he was nine or ten years old, and he’d have all the grandchildren listening to him. A lot of us were a lot older than him, and he could keep us entertained.” Jackie Kennedy impressed upon her beloved son John Jr. that he had to lead a meaningful life. “Jackie was a loving but extremely demanding mother,” said her cousin John Davis. “John wanted to be an actor, and she dissuaded him. She didn’t think it was a dignified profession. She didn’t like Hollywood at all.” One of John’s closest friends heatedly denied that his mother’s influence steered him from his own chosen path: “John has a compass. He’s usually pointed in the right direction. Did Jackie guide him? Probably. But he went to law school because he likes to learn and law was a natural thing for him to do.” As an amateur actor, JFK Jr landed parts in campus productions of such plays as The Tempest, Short Eyes, and Playboy of the Western World. "He took direction well," said James Barnhill, professor emeritus of Theatre Art, "and he improvised well." Professor of Theatre Don Wilmeth, who directed Playboy, said that, although Kennedy had the right charisma for acting, he never seriously considered it as a career: "I think he knew that his persona would be too difficult to overcome." Whatever the reason, John abandoned acting and he moved from the Upper West Side to an apartment he shared with Daryl Hannah, and then bought a loft in TriBeCa. 

It looked as if JFK Jr was finally going to marry the Hollywood star. Daryl Hannah was once spotted buying an antique wedding dress at a flea market, and the couple went on a scuba trip to the South Pacific and Asia. “Daryl really liked him,” said Chicago novelist Sugar Rautbord. “She was desperate to marry him.” But only two months after tabloid reporters descended on Cape Cod, expecting a Kennedy-Hannah wedding, John was seen kissing Carolyn Bessette, a PR woman for Calvin Klein, near the finish line of the New York City Marathon. Jackie reportedly liked Daryl Hannah, but could not countenance her well-bred son marrying an actress. And Caroline, whom John openly adored, never forgave Hannah for dumping her brother in favour of rocker Jackson Browne just a week before Kennedy sat and failed his bar exam. Although the pair later kissed and made up, Caroline held firm. 'Kiddo,' she allegedly told John when he was considering marrying the flaky film star, 'she's nice but she's not the one.'  John was still struggling with the driving Kennedy will to succeed. Would he enroll at Harvard’s John Fitzgerald Kennedy School of Government, or join the Clinton administration, or perhaps even run for Congress? He turned down a House race, said Owen Carragher, because “any semblance of privacy John has ever had, he’s had to fight for. The only claim he has to keep it is to remain a private citizen.” Source: https://mgross.com

"Once Carolyn became John’s regular date, she took a profound proprietary interest in him, beyond what any of his previous lovers had shown. Carolyn had a withering intensity, and whether she was the most interesting woman he had ever dated or merely the most difficult, she mesmerized John. When she turned her gaze on you, it was like being in an interrogation room lit by a bare lightbulb. She had a gift for honesty, a staggering candor with her friends. But it was her understanding and awareness of the world around her that made her so compelling to John. “She, of all his girlfriends, was the most honest and the most capable of delivering that honesty,” says Robert Littell. “She was so sensitive—sensitive to the pain and joys of life, and that made her vulnerable to ups and downs. She could parcel a human down within thirty seconds to a three-by-five card. And be 99 percent right.” Carolyn had a thoroughbred model’s bearing, perfect posture, and a sleek, easy walk. Some would write about her later as a Cinderella—her upbringing was so different from the world of the ultra-chic New York woman she had become. She had attended St. Mary’s Girls School and, like John, was the most nominal of Catholics." —Sons of Camelot: The Fate of an American Dynasty (2005) by Laurence Leamer

John Kennedy Jr.’s temper rarely reared its head in public, save for a fiery public fight he and Carolyn Bessette had in N.Y.C.'s Washington Square Park on February 25, 1996. Madonna, who loved to lean into the parallels between herself and Marilyn Monroe, had unsurprisingly not been a big hit with John’s mom, Jackie Kennedy, who reportedly didn’t love Madonna’s adoption of Catholic iconography into her style. Madonna said that John Jr. would get up in her face and scream at her at the top of his lungs when they were in a fight, Taraborrelli writes in The Kennedy Heirs. Rumor had it that Caroline Kennedy hadn't warmed up to Carolyn Bessette. John was also reportedly dismayed at his relationship with his only sister, Caroline Kennedy. The two were barely on speaking terms prior to John's death, Taraborrelli claimed. Apparently, there was a dispute between the siblings as to what should be done with the family memorabilia at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. John Kennedy Jr had reportedly known Carolyn Bessette since November 1992. They officially started dating in late December 1994, and after John asked her to quit her job in Calvin Klein, Carolyn moved to his Tribeca loft in July 1995.  According to some sources, John Jr fell hard for Carolyn, but wasn't convinced she would adapt to his lifestyle and possible political aspirations, and after a tumultuous courtship during the summer and winter of 1993, they took a break until the next year's reconciliation.

Susanna Galanis: One would think that, stylistically speaking, Carolyn Bessette's best accessory was her husband and they were gorgeous together, but, even on her own she was stunning…she would “light up” the room. “No wonder he, [JFK Jr, the sexiest man and the most eligible bachelor in the world] married her,” that’s what I thought when I first met her. She was [and still is] a star! No wonder she is an icon and will always be… for eternity. I was fortunate enough to have met her while working at Versace back in December 1998. I remember the month because she had sent me the most beautiful Christmas flower arrangement along with a “thank you note” for something minimal I had done. Well, it was love at first sight with Carolyn…a  few brief shining moments yet, unforgettable. She was gone 7 months after our first meeting. Between her loss and the yet another earlier tragic loss of my favorite designer and boss Gianni Versace the pain was tremendous. I still can’t talk about it. Yet, I treasure the memories… the beautiful memories. Source: https://susannagalanis1.wordpress.com

-Larry King: Sasha, you had dinner with John in Manhattan about a week before his death. You remember he said what he thought about his future. What did he say?

-Sasha Chermayeff: He said a lot of different things that night. One of the things that really stuck with me was he had turned to me and we had spent a lot of -- I spent Memorial Day Weekend with him that year. I spent July fourth, my family, all of us together. We'd been together for days and days with the kids. I think it was just we had such a great time. He turned to me and said, I really want to have a child. And I just never forgot that, of course, because that was the last time I would see him, and it planted that memory in me that he must have -- he would have been such a great father. He would have been such a lovely father.

Bill Ebenstein, executive director of Reaching Up, a group founded by JFK Jr. to help front-line healthcare workers, said to Larry King: “John was tough -- he was very tough about how he wanted to run Reaching Up, and as, you know, people didn't hear much about it. To do this quietly and to do it in the way he did took -- you had to be tough. You had to know exactly what you were doing.” William Ebenstein, University Dean for Health and Human Services and Executive Director of the John F. Kennedy Jr. Institute for Worker Education added: “John wasn’t only interested in people with disabilities. He picked an issue that people weren’t talking about then but now they do all the time: that you can’t have a good service for people with disabilities unless you have a good, quality and educated workforce.” In 1989, John Jr launched Reaching Up, a nonprofit organization through the CUNY Consortium for the Study of Disabilities, and since Kennedy’s death in 1999, the John F. Kennedy Jr. Institute for Worker Education. Ebenstein worked closely with Kennedy for 10 years and together they expanded the Consortium. Ebenstein said he and Kennedy would pay surprise visits to CUNY colleges to meet with students in the Disabilities Studies program. “He was a great guy, very down to earth,” said Ebenstein. “We would take the subway together to Medgar Evers College and people would come up to him and he was always extremely, extremely polite and respectful to people in a very genuine way.” After Kennedy was tragically killed in a plane crash, his colleagues wanted to carry on his work. In 2000, with the support of the Kennedy family, they renamed this Consortium the John F. Kennedy Jr. Institute for Worker Education. “I received some very nice notes from Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver,” said Ebenstein, who in 2006 received a Mayoral Advocacy Award for his efforts to raise the quality of life for people with disabilities. “They were all encouraging.” The Institute, which still partners with Reaching Up, was integrated into the Office of the University Dean for Health and Human Services in 2007. The Kennedy family continued to support the work of the Institute. In 2009, Caroline Kennedy took part in the 20th-anniversary celebration of the Kennedy Fellows program. “John is to be respected for his vision because he saw that the destiny of people who are receiving the services is connected to the destiny of people who are providing them,” said Ebenstein. Source: https://sps.cuny.edu/about/jfkjrinstitute

William Kurtz (Celebrity & Spectacle: The Making of a Media Event): The New York Post’s front page story from an anonymous source, a very badly sourced story, had alleged that Carolyn Bessette was a coke-head, the marriage was on the rocks, they hadn’t slept together for weeks, and badda-bing, badda-boom. The New York Post, one of the ten best papers in the US, published that story without comment. Two days later, they reprinted an excerpt from that? Once a story is printed and out there, God forbid you should leave it alone? I have a problem with these print guys and their unnamed sources. "John Jr and Carolyn’s every move became front-page news," Colin McLaren (author of JFK: The Smoking Gun) said: "The headlines were not always complimentary to the Kennedy legend."

Laura Raposa (Celebrity & Spectacle: The Making of a Media Event): People were saying John was such a kind and gentle soul, and I’m thinking, you know what? He was a daredevil. He had a nasty temper, and I thought he was going to hit me once. Remember that scene in Central Park where he and Carolyn were in a big brawl – we experienced that, and it wasn’t very nice. We were at the White House Correspondents Dinner, and the thing that you try to do is get a really good guest and that year we had Frank McCourt, who wrote Angela’s Ashes, and Senator John Kerry, and we were way in back for the Herald. That’s what you do – you try and jockey to get a really good guest. So I saw John and Carolyn and I said, “Who’d you guys get as a guest?” We were talking and joking about it with him, and we said we had Frank McCourt. I thought, “Well, John Kennedy, he’s going to get a really good guest, like Barbra Streisand, Cindy Crawford, someone that was on the cover of that magazine.” He said, “Oh no, it’s just Carolyn and me. I said, “C’mon John, you can’t do any better than that?” All of a sudden, the veins started coming out of his neck, and he started shaking. I said, “What’s the matter with you?” He said, “That is the rudest thing you have ever said!” He started pointing his fingers and yelling at me in the lobby of the Capitol Building. I said, “Hey buddy, I was joking.” He said, “You weren’t joking. That was really nasty.”

Kevin Myron (Celebrity & Spectacle: The Making of a Media Event): On one hand, John Jr. signifies Kennedy troublemaking, and above-the-lawness, which dates back to Grandpa Joe, because even though he is not the badly behaved one, he nevertheless represents these meanings as a Kennedy. On the other hand, John Jr. signifies purity and virtue since the act of publicly shaming his cousins is an attempt to separate himself from those negative connotations. There is also a discourse of family betrayal running through John’s figure, that he somehow broke the code of family protectionism. Here, we see that in life the acceptable discourses for a Kennedy figure might be much more complex and controversial than in death. Last, if we analyze all of the television tributes and coverage of John Jr.’s death, we get the realization of the American dream, where the Kennedy family is seen as American Royalty, with John Jr. as the fallen prince. We get a vision of politics, where liberal is not seen as a dirty word. John Jr. embodies the Kennedys’ brand of compassionate, pragmatic democratic politics even though he never ran for office himself. We saw John Jr. as the newest tragedy from a family virtually defined by the dialectic of tragedy/success. I want to address Carolyn here now. 

As I say, she is a powerful image and certainly powerful from the perspective of the image of the marriage. She does a lot of things symbolically and from the perspective of a sign to perpetuate this. First of all, she fulfills the popular myth of Camelot. There must be a queen or at least a princess in Camelot, and she fills that purpose in a very, very compelling way. She brings a certain kind of sign value, which is different than no symbolic value. Her sign value has more to do with the fact, I think, that she’s fresh, she’s new, she’s unknown and she doesn’t cloud the glow of JFK Jr. In other words, she’s free to be imprinted with many, many kinds of images and values. —Celebrity & Spectacle: The Making of a Media Event/Mediated Realities of the JFK Jr. Tragedy (November, 1999) edited by Gregory Payne

Richard Blow (author of American Son, 2002) hinted that John Jr. was an unlikely fan of his dad’s onetime political nemesis, Richard Nixon. “After my father’s death, Nixon was very kind to my mother,” Blow quotes JFK Jr. as saying. “He invited us to the White House once, and my mother and sister were convinced that I would spill my milk because I always did. So we sat down to dinner and after maybe 10 minutes, I knocked my glass of milk all over the table.” Did Nixon erupt? “Nah, not at all. He helped wipe it up,” John said. “Actually, I always liked Nixon. He and my father got along well after the election. Not many people can relate to life at that level of politics. Those who do feel a bond, regardless of what party they belong to.” Carol Wallace, managing editor of People magazine, which had declared JFK Jr. "The Sexiest Man Alive" in 1988, noted in 1999: "His movie-star facade intrigued people. He was great to look at! He tried to be as unassuming as he could, but he was an Adonis walking around.''

In USA Today, Billy Graham was quoted as saying: “John and his wife, Carolyn, came home from their honeymoon three days early to interview me for his magazine, ‘George.’ We had a wonderful time together, and I could see a great deal of love between them. John Kennedy Jr. was one of the most terrific young men I’ve ever met. I thought he could be anything he decided to be. He had humility, he was kind, he was gracious, and he was knowledgeable. Most important, he had a religious faith, but I think at that time he was searching for something more definite. He asked me, ‘In this life, where does our own free will end and God’s will begin? Are we always responsible for our own actions, or is there a point at which God’s will takes over?’ I told him there is a mystery to all of this and that I really didn’t know, but that I did know if he had faith in God and put his trust and confidence in Him, He would provide a peace and a joy and settle his life with certainty. I think John wanted Christ to take over his life.”

The Kennedy Curse by Edward Klein was first published on April 1st 2003. There is clearly a connection between the infamous article "Secrets and Lies" by Edward Klein that was published by Vanity Fair magazine in August 2003 and curiously, the next year Harper Books publishes "The Other Man" (2004) by Michael Bergin. Bergin allegedly co-wrote it with the help of gossip columnist Judith Regan, who was fired by HarperCollins Publishers in 2006. Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation had acquired Harper Publishing (in 1987) alongside William Collins (in 1990). Murdoch's News Corporation had a reputation for exploiting salacious news in the media. Ed Klein possibly got the bulk of his material for his book "The Kennedy Curse" from dubious allegations that were first reported on November 12, 1999, mainly by The Daily Mail. Michael Bergin's narrative resulted to be too contradictory and outlandish to be credible, so much that Bergin would have to apologize to a close relative of Carolyn Bessette for his disreputable (and discredited) book. Klein reportedly pushed Bergin to pen his derogatory portrayal of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. But who pushed Klein? Could be someone associated with the Kennedy clan? Or the CIA? Or simply a polemicist like Ed Klein was seeking notoriety?

Carole Radziwill's Rebuttal of Ed Klein's allegations (In Defense of John and Carolyn, October 2003, Letter to Vanity Fair magazine): “I was a very close friend of both John and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy. My husband, Anthony Radziwill, was John's cousin and best man at his wedding. Carolyn and I were like sisters. I understand that celebrities and public figures generate a unique fascination and I realize there are people who will promote untruths for self-aggrandizement or financial reward. But Mr. Klein's collection of unscrupulous accounts is so egregious it requires a response. Who is this group of anonymous friends of John and Carolyn's who were so helpful in writing Klein's book? No one in the Bessette or Kennedy family spoke to him, and I have spoken to many of Carolyn's closest friends - none of us were asked to cooperate. I was struck not only by the absurdity of Klein's portrayal of Carolyn but also by his misogynistic language. Through his distorted lens she was a "commoner" who had the audacity to think John was "lucky to have her." Where John is "besotted," she is "obsessed." She is "hysterical" and "demanding," flying into a "rage" at the slightest provocation. She is "domineering" and "meddling," and "poisoned" John's relationship with a friend. He stops just short of accusing her of witchcraft. His assertion of "street drug" abuse is ludicrous. In the 10 years that I knew Carolyn I never once saw her use drugs. She was as much a "cokehead" as Klein is a biographer.” 

“Carolyn was kind and loving, and had an unassuming charm. She was devoted to her husband and to her family and friends. She spent countless days and nights with Anthony and me in hospitals, helping him endure the devastating effects of cancer treatment. Though it was difficult for some of Anthony's friends and relatives to deal with his illness, Carolyn embraced it with tireless and fearless compassion - she helped him live while he was dying. Her smile lit up every room she walked into and she cheered us all with an irresistible sense of humor that I miss terribly. I'd like to set the record straight on the state of their marriage. There was no separation. There was no impending divorce. As Carolyn's closest friend and John's cousin, I knew this better than anyone. In the context of the issues they were facing - a new marriage, intense public scrutiny, the terminal illness of a love one - their joint decision to seek counseling was positive. To draw a line from counseling to divorce is gratuitous. It's convenient for Klein's story, but real people to not abandon relationships at the first challenge; they address and work through them. Klein fumbles simple details, and then inserts a scene that never occurred. His intimacy is contrived, his imagination endless. Klein's most offensive suggestion—that Carolyn's pedicure was to blame for three tragic deaths—is beyond reproof. While Vanity Fair corrected some of Klein's other inaccuracies, you inexplicably included this story in your excerpt. It is an assertion with so little integrity that Klein's own publishers omitted it from his book. I'm curious why Vanity Fair chose to publish it. In essence, I disagree with everything Klein writes, and could dissect each passage in this excerpt. But Klein's tenacious effort to wring the shock value from every detail his questionable sources allege - to enhance his own book sales - says more about him than it ever will about John and Carolyn. Klein was most accurate when he wrote in this magazine in 1989, "I do not number myself among Jacqueline Onassis's close friends." Klein and Jackie Onassis were not friends. His public insistence that they were friends stems either from his eagerness to exploit the connection for personal gain. If there was a question about this, it should have been dismissed when Jackie had her attorney Alex Forger write a letter to Klein advising him to stop contacting her friends. The "Kennedy Curse" is as real as witches and goblins and enchanted forests. Their curse is people like Edward Klein, who write fiction as fact and parlay it into monetary gain with a complete lack of conscience, responsibility, or decency.” —Carole Radziwill (In Defense of John and Carolyn-Letters to the Editor/Vanity Fair, October 2003)

The Daily Mail (1999) dubiously claimed: Thirty-eight-year-old Kennedy, a publisher, lawyer and the son of assassinated president John F. Kennedy, and Carolyn Bessette had been portrayed as having a fairytale marriage. But writers Annette Witheridge and Paul Bracchi claim the couple had been attending therapy and counselling sessions, trying to salvage their relationship as Carolyn battled the fame and attention that comes from being part of the Kennedy clan. Carolyn was combating her own problems with antidepressants and cocaine. Rebuttal of The Daily Mail article (by prestigious journalist and Hearts Communications editor-in-chief Joanna Coles, November 1999): So who were these so-called "close friends" and why would they choose the unlikely confessional of a British tabloid? And why, if they were indeed close friends, would they speak so ill of the dead couple? So I start by looking up the sole named source in the British edition, Bob Cohen, the well-known divorce lawyer whom, the story baldly states, Carolyn had asked to represent her in the break-up of her marriage. I call Mr Cohen to press him for further particulars. "It's categorically and absolutely untrue," he insists. "I have never, ever met or spoken with Carolyn Bessette or anybody acting on her behalf about anything. I am quite outraged by this. Let me say it again, I-have-never-ever-spoken-to-Miss Bessette." So I call an American friend, now married with a family, who briefly dated Kennedy before he met Carolyn, and who remained friends with the couple. Like the "friends" in the original article, she does not want to be named, but unlike them she remembers them fondly. "You know they always thought the best thing to do was to ignore what was written about them," she says sadly. She recounts, instead, her own experience of being their friend and of watching aghast as the irrelevant realities of their life were rapidly turned into sensational tabloid fodder. "At one point John cut his hand doing the dishes and so he wore a bandage, and the press said Carolyn had thrown things at him. Another time she went for a regular appointment to her gynecologist and the next day there was a photo of her outside the surgery saying she'd had an abortion. For God's sake, they wanted to have kids!" There may well have been bumps in the Kennedy marriage, but there is something egregiously unpleasant about this shrill post-mortem muckraking. With the subjects safely out of the way, and the libel bar removed, we are once more treated to the awful spectacle of journalistic vultures descending with impunity.

George Rush and Joanna Molloy (NY Daily News, 1998): Ask John Jr whether he has read Seymour Hersh's scathing biography of his father, the one that portrays JFK as a reckless womanizer in league with the mob, and the son shakes his head and grins: "Comic books are cheaper." Ask what he makes of the latest Kennedy ghoul show — the sale at Florida's Tragedy in U.S History Museum of the Lincoln Continental in which his father rode hours before his assassination. "I didn't know about it," he shrugs. Is he satisfied after the battle that he and his sister, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, waged to recover their father's diaries and a love letter from a Kennedy buff? "It wasn't a happy experience," the George editor-in-chief told us. "Ultimately, it was resolved. The sooner it's put in the past the better." 

Carolyn Bessette was "elevated to the rank of top Cinderella", said Mr Oleg Cassini, a fashion designer whose clothes were often worn by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy would be the nation's new "style icon", the "epitome of American chic". With a look described as "calculated grunge" or "effortful effortlessness", Carolyn was soon noticed by Calvin Klein executives and posted to the designer's New York showroom, where she was soon handling celebrity clients. She rose rapidly, becoming Klein's publicist and later his fashion shows manager. Source: irishtimes.com

Crazy for Carolyn (Newsweek, October 1996): When she came to New York, Carolyn Bessette immediately became a denizen of such nightspots of the moment as MK, Rex and Buddha Bar. "She'd come in a lot,'' says former MK owner and veteran scenester Eric Goode: "But she wasn't wild and crazy or anything.'' Jonathan Soroff, a former nightlife writer for the Boston Herald who hung out with Carolyn in those years, recalled: "She was very good at what she did, a good networker, very professional. But she spent as little time as possible at the clubs. It was really not her.'' Tales of how she met John vary. The official version is that John met Carolyn when she was working in a Calvin Klein store. An unofficial story has them meeting at a trendy club. The most boring and probable scenario is that they were introduced by a mutual friend (maybe Billy Way). "Oh, he definitely chased her," Brian Steel (a colleague of John Jr) commented in the documentary The Last Days of JFK Jr. "Early on, he would be frustrated. He would say, 'I called her and she hasn't called me back'." 

Another friend, Richard Wiese, told Vanity Fair: "John was attracted to women who were not intimidated by him. He liked women with a point of view." Angie Hobson worked in a different division of Calvin Klein, but often shared an uptown subway ride with Carolyn Bessette on the N or R lines to Times Square. "She was the kind of person who always smiled at everyone,'' Hobson said. "We always smiled and said hello, even though we weren't close friends.'' Zach Carr was working as Chief Creative Director at Calvin Klein from 1987–1997. In 2012, Zach Carr's brother George Carr, talking of his fashion muses, remarked: “Professionally, I have been completely enchanted by Zack’s amazing friend, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy. When I was with her, I would tell her, “Carolyn, I can’t let go of you.” She just had something so special, so unique.” Source: http://fashionwhirled.com

The Independent newspaper (September 20, 1997): “Ice Queen Carolyn Bessette initiated the 'No Face' face - glassy eyes, a shiver of make-up: the palest tabula rasa on which to project fantasy or a sudden gash of lipstick. With her skinny, angular, space-girl look, striding around in her boot-cuts and platinum sheet of hair, she marries Barbie and androgyne to create a much discussed and disconcerting look.” Reviewing RoseMarie Terenzio's book Fairy Tale Interrupted (2012), Jim Dunham, one of Carolyn's classmates from Boston University, wrote in May, 2013: “I will share the brief acquaintance that I had with Carolyn our sophomore year at Boston University. I will never forget the first time I saw her; she was sitting in a auditorium chair, leaning over the fold-over wooden writing surface, taking a test. Her long, blonde hair was reaching toward the floor and she flipped her hair. She and I were eventually assigned to the same study group where we did an end of the Semester project together. As a result, we spent many long hours together with a few other people writing a group project. She and I ended up writing most of it as the other members of our group were less than industrious. She was dating the Captain of the hockey team. She had a very approachable personality and she often made me laugh or smile even when she didn't mean to; I found her way of expressing herself unique and funny in an understated way. I never saw her lose her temper but when I once spoke very snidely to her because I was in a bad mood, she said "Whoaa, OK Tiger!" and I respected that. My impression was that she was not materialistic nor superficial, and did not like to draw attention to herself unnecessarily. She was beautiful, independent, not attention-seeking, humble, accessible, a defender of others and not materialistic. Then I suddenly heard that JFK, Jr. was engaged to some girl from Greenwich, CT, named Carolyn Bessette. The girl I knew was someone special that I would never forget even if she had never become a Kennedy.” 

Around 1990, Carolyn Bessette tried modeling more seriously; posing for a series of pictures taken by her friend, photographer Bobby DiMarzo, who said, "She had everything it took. She was absolutely beautiful, had a great personality and was really cool in front of a camera." But modeling was not in the cards. And neither was a teaching career. "At the time, I felt a little underdeveloped to be completely responsible for twenty five other people's children," she told W magazine in 1995, when they profiled her as part of a feature on up-and-coming New Yorkers. So, after graduating from BU in 1988, Carolyn went to work for the Lyons Group, handling publicity for local Boston nightclubs. Later, she worked as a sales clerk in a Boston-based Calvin Klein boutique, where she was soon discovered by one of the designer's higher-ups, Susan Sokol, and transferred to Manhattan. 

"She wasn't intimidated," Sokol told author Christopher Andersen. "She had a wonderful ease about her. She was comfortable with anyone, and she had a lot of self-confidence. Aside from looking great." "She was totally crazy about John," said fashion stylist Joe McKenna, according to People Weekly. "That fact that she was not a public person and made herself public for John says a lot about how she felt about him." In the same People Weekly article (July, 2000), Lynn Tesoro, a PR executive who worked with Carolyn Bessette at Calvin Klein, recalled: "I saw her the Wednesday before (the plane crash tragedy) and I thought she never looked better or sounded more in love." Source: people.com

Carole Radziwill remembers Carolyn Bessette and JFK Jr: "Her husband called her Mouse; she called him Mousy. She called her close friends Lamb. She could be as gentle as a kitten, but a lioness, too. She was fiercely protective of her husband, her family, her friends. She’d never let anyone hurt you, and she’d never betray a trust. There was no-one else like her and there won’t be. She was curious, smart, self-deprecating, kind. She was the most beautiful woman in any room she walked into and the least likely to see it. She was a minimalist and it showed in her style. She was lauded for her sense of fashion, her chic look, and she had a good laugh at that. She jokingly referred to her particular look as lazy: vintage Levi’s and white button down by day, tailored and black by night. For formal occasions she wore a touch of Bobbi Brown Ruby Stain on her lips, pulled her long, ivory hair back, and slipped into a Yohji Yamamoto dress. She could go from a long day at the hospital with me and Anthony, in jeans and a flannel shirt, to a dinner at the White House in 10 minutes. She was vivid in the way most people are dull. She wore colour on her toes in the summer — coral, her husband’s favourite. She was wild and vivid in a cautious and pale world, always burning a little more brightly than anyone around her. Her husband was beguiled by the dazzle she left in her wake. She made people into happier, bolder versions of themselves. She made her husband into a better man. Henry James wrote a story about a young girl named Isabel in The Portrait Of A Lady (1880); a girl as brave as she was beautiful, as pure of heart as she was unafraid to love. He was writing about Carolyn, more than a century before she was here." Source: www.dailytelegraph.com.au

According to Carole Radziwill, John Kennedy Jr’s connection with Carolyn Bessette was different from the connections he had with women he had dated in the past—including Daryl Hannah, or allegedly Madonna. “I met some of John’s previous girlfriends, but I knew the minute he introduced us to Carolyn that she was it,” said Carole Radziwill. “He was really besotted with her... He was so enthralled with her, and she with him, but she was kind of fierce. She was very confident. He liked that. She was very much her own person. She was this great combination of kind of seriousness and wild child. There was this instant chemistry. To say their marriage was on the rocks is just inaccurate." Former New York Post reporter Linda Massarella recalled JFK Jr being constantly photographed with whichever celebrity he was dating at the time, and the media frenzy only intensified when John F. Kennedy's son married Carolyn Bessette. At the time, the Secret Service wasn't assigned to the children of former presidents, so Kennedy was offered little protection once he turned 18. His celebrity status likely put his wife, Carolyn Bessette, at risk as well.

John Kennedy Jr: More Impressive Than Just His Lineage by Rebecca Cooper (ABC News, July 1999): "I met John Kennedy Jr. because of a late-night bet with my freshman roommate, Lori Stover, a longtime friend from our years spent at Heritage Hall. Impressed by his good looks and political lineage, we decided it would be a real bonus to my planned summer internship in New York City if I got a job working in the same government office where John worked in 1985. After phone calls and good luck, I landed a job working for John's boss, Lawrence Kieves, the Commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Business Development. Feeling sheepish, I initially tried to avoid him. But after I started, John and two friends took me to lunch to welcome me to the office. Despite his status as a major media "hunk," John and his friends joked about his claims that he was unlucky in love. He often dropped by my desk or invited me to his floor... It wasn't special treatment or attention, it was the way he treated everyone. Some found him standoffish but he was shy if he didn't know you, aware that people were scrutinizing him, his words and his actions. Once he got to know you, he was friendly and outgoing. Despite his wealthy, international upbringing, John was always laughing and joking with secretaries and support staff, whose own lives, spent commuting from Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx bore little resemblance to his Upper East Side existence. He gravitated to the least pretentious, most real people he met, not the most self-important. While John's relative normalcy is well known, what people often failed to appreciate was his intelligence. I was impressed by his inquisitiveness. He spoke passionately about history, his favorite subject at Brown. He took seriously his beliefs in giving and community service. John spent a great deal of time on a program mentoring and tutoring inner-city kids in Harlem. He spoke enthusiastically about the kids he met and felt he was getting as much as he was giving." 

Carolyn Bessette was a very gracious and generous person, even towards people who weren't close friends with her. For example, she was concerned about Santina Goodman's welfare (Santina, who passed away in January 2019, had worked as a temporary assistant of Jackie Kennedy and was good friends with JFK Jr). Historian Steve Gillon (author of America's Reluctant Prince: The Life Of John F. Kennedy Jr.) noted: “I got to know Santina in the course of writing my book. I considered dedicating the book to her. John would have appreciated that. But I could not do it without telling she was estranged from her family. Very lonely. She and John were very close at Brown University and stayed in touch afterwards. John used to hire her for small jobs to keep her afloat. Carolyn was wonderful to her and used to pay her therapy bills. Santina had always suffered from depression. Carolyn used to pay for her psychiatrist and medication.” Gillon also remarked: “John was not looking for a political wife. He was not that calculating. I believe John hoped to make the marriage work.” In an interview with ExtraTV (July, 2019), Gillon reiterated that despite their issues, Carolyn Bessette refused to give up on the marriage and as long as she held out hope, John Kennedy Jr was not willing to part ways.

In People magazine (Summer 1999), socialite and philanthropist Evelyn Lauder was quoted as saying: "During the Whitney Museum benefit in March, John and Carolyn couldn't wait to get up from dinner and go down to dance. They looked so in love. Afterward we all went up to Rao's restaurant in East Harlem. Carolyn was very protective of him. When we were talking about the future and whether she was going to have a family, she said she wanted to do whatever would be right for the two of them. She was very strong on her own, but it was important to her that the time would be right for him to have a family."

Investigators and experts later cited JFK Jr.’s “spatial disorientation” as the cause of the plane crash. At the time of the tragedy, the Bessette family released a joint statement with the Kennedy family, thanking the rescue teams who looked for the wreckage of the plane and the bodies of its occupants. “Each of these three young people–Lauren Bessette, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and John F. Kennedy Jr.–was the embodiment of love, accomplishment and passion for life,” the statement read, according to The Washington Post, adding that “John and Carolyn were true soul mates” and that the Bessette family took “solace in the thought that together they will comfort Lauren for eternity.” “We never co-operate with the media, no interviews, no questions, and that is still our position,” Lisa Bessette’s stepfather Richard Freeman told The Post. Source:  
nypost.com