In a country with no tradition of royalty, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis reigns as our improbable queen. Once the wholly owned subsidiary of two of the world’s most powerful men, Jackie, at 47, has achieved a surprising independence, deftly juggling parenthood and a new career as an editor at Viking publishers. The lingering lunches at La Côte Basque have been replaced by quick hamburgers and spinach salad at P. J. Clarke’s or tuna fish sandwiches (she rarely eats the bread) at Frank’s Place. Many evenings are spent burrowing into books in her 15-room, $200,000 Fifth Avenue co-op. She jogs around Central Park’s reservoir in a red sweatsuit, smokes many Salems, taxis to her Central Park West woman analyst on Thursdays for one-hour sessions and strolls the aisles of her East 85th St. Gristede’s searching for supermarket bargains. Madison Avenue is her turf: cheesecake from Miss Grimble’s, brownies from William Greenberg’s, 12 pounds of chocolate truffles at $10 a pound from Tom Krön’s, size 10 medium shoes from Lady Continental ($55 to $88 a pair), pink lilies, anemones, violets and Boston ferns from Flowers by Philip. She also visits her dentist on East 62nd, goes to mass at Park Avenue’s stolid St. Ignatius Loyola, sketches flowers on an easel by her window, tools her green BMW out to the countryside and visits Kenneth’s midtown beauty parlor about twice a week. She likes to attend bookish parties—a dinner for Lillian Hellman, a Norman Mailer pour for Richard Goodwin and Doris Kearns, a reception honoring Brooke Hayward. But there is much more to the former First Lady than all that. What follows is a report by Cheryl McCall of PEOPLE about some of the New Yorkers who touch upon the private world of Jackie O.
An eclectic bookworm
Andreas Brown, 44, is the owner of the Gotham Book Mart and Gallery, where Jackie has been a customer for seven years. Brown is an occasional escort of Jackie and sometimes assists her in her publishing projects.
She buys books almost every day, literally hundreds a year. She’s always up on the latest. Her taste is eclectic—fiction, nonfiction, history, art—and she’s fascinated with current social issues. [She bought Gail Sheehy’s Passages, which deals with midlife crises, as soon as it was reviewed.] She also buys books for the children to keep them up-to-date.
We find her a lot of out-of-print books, and we helped on the research for her Russian book. She works at Viking; she’s not window dressing there.
The art of flattery
Lally Weymouth, 33, free-lance writer and author of America in 1876: The Way We Were, is one of Manhattan’s most celebrated party givers. She grew up in Washington during the Camelot years, the daughter of publisher Katharine Graham, and at her first cocktail party, at age 14, met Jackie.
She was terrific to me, complimenting me, telling me I was beautiful when I didn’t think I was beautiful at all. I thought she was wonderful.
When she comes to parties, she’s very imaginative, and the parties always seem a little better for her being there. It was Clay Felker who said that everybody acted a little better when she was around. She makes a huge effort with people. She’ll tell you how wonderful you look or never take off that dress because you look marvelous. Other women never do that. And men. She’s great with men—that enormous concentration and art of flattery. She has a black sense of humor, and she’s a very good mimic [her best imitation is Ari]. She’s always making people laugh.
Size six or eight
Judy Krull, 36, operates a special shopping service at Bloomingdale’s for privileged “gold card customers.” Judy, who heads a staff of four, is a personal shopper for Jackie. She screens the latest designer collections on Seventh A venue and reserves interesting items. She then accompanies Jackie on a whirlwind tour of the houses, often completing a season’s shopping in one day. The clothes are delivered to Bloomingdale’s, where Jackie is fitted and then billed at the store’s regular retail price. Jackie reads the French, Italian and U.S. editions of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Town and Country and L’Officiel to keep abreast of the fashion scene.
I have never known Mrs. Onassis to go on sprees. Price does mean something to her. She thinks over each item very carefully and only buys what she needs. She has the most perfect figure—a size six or eight, depending on the designer. She’s thin, has long legs, broad shoulders and slim hips. She looks well in everything.
An interesting thing about Mrs. Onassis is that she’s not a competitive dresser. She’s very secure. When we go through a collection, never once does she ask if anyone else has bought it. Most other women aren’t like that, believe me.
Ellens, a gourmet shop a block from Jackie’s Fifth Avenue co-op, specializes in exotic chocolates and canapés. Jackie opened an account with owners Peter and Margit Simon 14 years ago. Says Margit:
I’ll never forget the time Jackie was here and I found a prowler under the stairs. Afterward I was shaking. She was wonderful. She put her arms around me and calmed me down. “Don’t get excited,” she said. “And don’t drink that coffee, because it will just make you more nervous.” She couldn’t have been more concerned.
Tiffany’s of meat
M. Lobel and Sons, Inc. are Jackie’s chief butchers. Leon, Stanley and Evan Lobel cater to 800 accounts and call their 25-year-old store “the Tiffany’s of the meat business.” Their delivery man, Moses Ferguson, makes almost daily trips to Jackie’s apartment and still cherishes the memory of the day when Jackie let him sit in John Kennedy’s rocker. Leon speaks:
Jackie ordered lots of lamb during the Ari period, but she switched back to veal after his death. She’s very particular, especially for dinner parties. Each piece has to be the same size, weight and quality, whether it’s for her family or for 100. She comes in personally and discusses what she wants; she asks for advice on how to cook it and serve it.
One thing about Jackie is that she doesn’t mingle with people when she’s in the shop. She’s aloof, I guess you’d say. But she’ll ask a favor in an emergency. Once her cook was sick so Jackie called and asked me to come up and carve the turkey. It was just a small family-type meal, but everything had to be perfect.
Becky Singleton is an editor at Viking Press with Jackie. Mrs. O. has been nicknamed “Earth Shoes” by co-workers because of her informality.
Jackie is just another girl at the office. She doesn’t expect things to be done for her. She often runs the Xerox machine herself and gets coffee for everybody. We’ve had conferences and I’ll volunteer to get coffee, but Jackie jumps up and beats me to it.
The nickname Earth Shoes is cute, but it still doesn’t say it all about her. She’s out to prove herself as an independent working person and doing it well. Jackie becomes desperately involved in her projects. She’s likened it to the birth of a baby. It’s like being there for the delivery; she’s pushing and pulling and tugging.
The smile fools you
Pete Hamill, 41, is Shirley MacLaine’s constant escort and a columnist for the New York Daily News. In recent weeks gossip columns have referred to him and Jackie in romantic terms.
She has a very sharp wit, and don’t be fooled by that smile when she’s out in public. It gives the impression that she’s blank behind the smile. Far from it. She’s aware of everything, but it’s her way of staying out of it. I admire the way she can do it.
The magic gaze
George Plimpton, 50, is a professional amateur, author and editor of the Paris Review. He has known Jackie since prep school days, when the young Miss Bouvier would appear at dances with a pirate’s patch playfully over her eye. Caroline Kennedy is godmother to Plimpton’s daughter, Medora, 6.
I sense a change in her. She’s very much more like the girl I first knew, who had a great sense of fun and enthusiasm. It must be an electrifying, extraordinary thing for her to be on her own—she was always somewhat diminished by the men around her. Not that she was any less, but, for God’s sake, one husband was the President of the United States and the other was an enormously wealthy, powerful man.
Of course one’s friendship with her is compromised by public attention—so that she’s not the first person one would call to go to the theater with, or for a walk in the park. Which is such a shame. Perhaps this leaves her a bit isolated, maybe a bit lonely.
She has a great gift of conversation. When she turns her gaze on you, it’s like being in the beam of a searchlight. When she’s talking to you, there seems to be no one else in the world but you. She somehow knows what you’ve been up to, what interests you at that moment. I remember Norman Mailer being disturbed because he saw her share that intense intimacy—which he thought was just for him—with the country on that TV broadcast from the White House.
Another thing—she’s a terrific mother. She’s very much a pal to her kids. The last time I was over there the place was packed with teenagers. She looked like any other beleaguered mother—coping with it, but with great humor. She’s a very informal girl and one can drop by in jeans anytime. I bet she’s in jeans right now.
She’s no Liz
Jackie chooses her dresses from Geoffrey Beene, John Anthony, Mary McFadden, Calvin Klein and Valentino, but her 21-year relationship with Halston is special. The Iowa-born Halston, 44, who calls all his clients “Sweetie-cake, ” holds three major conferences a year with Jackie.
All that poppycock about her buying 50 or 100 things at a time is pure bullshit. She’s actually quite conservative. She always discusses things first, wants to know the price and only orders what she needs. I know we must have made over 100 dresses for Liz Taylor last year, where, with Jackie, it’s a seasonal thing. Jackie knows what works for her instinctively.
Ari said no
Lucy Jarvis, a TV and movie producer, met Jackie 17 years ago at the White House. They once planned an NBC project on preserving the world’s great treasures, but Ari Onassis scotched the project shortly before his death two years ago.
I remember Ari saying to me, “Grace Kelly was a working girl when she married a prince and became a princess. You want to take my wife, whom I consider a princess, who was the wife of a head of state, and turn her into a working girl?” Ari had a marvelous ability with words that influenced her. She was totally devoted to him.
No time for romance
Lee Radziwill, 44, younger sister of Jackie, turned career woman after her sister plunged into publishing. Now an interior decorator, Lee does not list Jackie as one of her clients. Her famous sister uses the Manhattan firm of Cultra-Fairholme. With Jackie so busy, Lee recently took nephew John Kennedy Jr. to Santo Domingo for waterskiing and scuba diving.
Jackie isn’t interested in getting married again. She isn’t even thinking of it until John and Caroline are out on their own. Her time is all going to her work and the children. There’s a rule that we never talk about each other, but I’d say she’s really devoted to seeing that they start life right.
Crazy about horses
The exclusive Madison Avenue saddlery, M.J. Knoud’s, supplies Jackie with handmade riding clothes that carry, from boots to bowler, an $850 price tag. Bonnie Wright, 36, daughter of owner David H. Wright, speaks.
The first time I measured her, and I did it from head to toe, I didn’t know who she was. But I kept thinking, she sure looks like Jackie Kennedy. When she went to be fitted, I asked and was astonished. She was so nice.
It used to be so much fun when John and Caroline came in for something without her because they had this great Secret Service guy. We really joked and kidded a lot. But they don’t have the Secret Service anymore.
A discharged cook
German-born Annemarie Huste, 33, was Jackie’s cook from 1966 until she was fired in 1968. Jackie believed Annemarie was planning a book about her when, in fact, Annemarie was writing a cookbook. Since then Annemarie has published two cookbooks.
It was a great challenge for me. She entertained kings, politicians and all sorts of celebrities. There was a lot of French cooking in those days.
She is a fabulous lady—of all the people I worked for, she is the one from whom I learned the most. Jackie really knows food. She knows the difference between mediocre and the best.
And she was always very thoughtful. She would sit with me in the kitchen and have a cup of coffee. We’d discuss things like the children’s nutrition or a good recipe. How many people will sit with the help over coffee?
Not for Caroline
Eve Orton, former director of the Boutique Valentino on Madison Avenue, opened her own business as a fashion and marketing counselor last month. Valentino’s prices generally exclude patronage by hoi polloi: starting at $80 for T-shirts, they range up to $1,500 for gowns. Blouses cost as much as $250, skirts and suits from $350 to $700.
She certainly doesn’t buy clothes for Caroline at Valentino’s. Not at those prices!
Days of wine
Author of The Joys of Wine and president of New York’s Sherry-Lehmann, Sam Aaron runs an elite liquor store with his nephew-partner, Michael Aaron. Jackie has been a customer almost since she was old enough to drink. Sam says:
Her entertaining is modest now; she wouldn’t rank as an important customer. She’ll buy a case of Chateau Petrus [$119.40] and a case of Dom Perignon [$322.81] when she’s having a party. But she’s not buying very much now—not like in her heyday. She’s third-generation exquisite taste. She had a lot to teach that young Irishman from Boston who liked corned beef and cabbage, heavy on the mustard.
Men are protectors
Tish Baldrige, once Jackie’s social secretary, now bosses a Manhattan p.r. firm. After Ari’s death, Tish encouraged Jackie to work and then helped her land a job by calling Tom Guinzburg, president of Viking.
She has pulled herself together lately. She’s become more independent. Now she realizes she doesn’t need a dominating man to lean on. Jackie is not a feminist, but she may have feminist leanings without really knowing. She has never been challenged by men, she’s never been forced to be competitive. Jackie’s always seen men as the protectors, the suppliers of money. She’s never had to fight for anything in a man’s world. It would never occur to her to question why there isn’t a woman on a board of directors. Occasionally we get together for cups of tea and giggles about the old times. And, believe me, there are a lot of giggles. The wonderful times far outnumber the bad when it’s all added up.