Cecil Stoughton, former White House photographer
When he was 2 years old, he fell down and knocked out a tooth. One day I saw this gap-toothed boy playing outside the President’s office and asked him to smile and took a photo. A couple of days later, I asked him to autograph it. He made a whole mess of chicken scratches, so I held his hand, and we scratched the name “John” in the corner. Recently I saw him at a party and asked him to sign that photo again. “Mr. Stoughton,” he wrote, “now I can sign my own name.” I would have been proud to have him as a son.
Joseph D’Angelo, John’s sixth-grade teacher at Manhattan’s Collegiate School
Once when we were taking a trip to the Cloisters to look at medieval art, we took the subway uptown. John had never been on a subway before, and he was so excited. He had a million questions and was asking if he could open the window and hang his head outside. Afterward, he was always on his mother’s case to ride the subway alone with his friends.
Kiki Feroudi Moutsatsos, former secretary to Aristotle Onassis
When I was in New York City with Onassis in the early 1970s, I was robbed and punched by someone. Onassis’s driver took me to the family’s Fifth Avenue apartment, and John was there. I remember he liked strawberries, and he selected the biggest one he had and gave it to me. He was always happy and loving.
Todd Murphy, crewmate during a treasure hunt John joined in 1983
It was a really salty crowd, and he fit in as well as anybody. We’d be in the water waiting to dive and freezing and having this crazy fight, squirting water out between our teeth. He was a character.
Rajeev Sethi, Indian artist
When he traveled to India in 1983, I think it must have been his first experience with seeing really severe urban poverty. His response wasn’t to cringe away but to dive right in. He wanted to organize English lessons for the children in the slum, and he even gave a few classes. When he later visited a rural project, he returned frustrated because he had wanted to be involved instead of just observing. He said, “I wish I could have been as useful as the experience was useful for me.”
Richard Wiese, Brown fraternity brother
He liked being razzed. He’d rather be the butt of the joke than tell the joke about someone else. “We’d kid him that they should call his magazine John Kennedy Living—like Martha Stewart Living—and have a lot of pictures of him without his shirt on. He laughed at that.
Owen Carragher, former Manhattan assistant district attorney
When they told me he was going to be my office-mate, I wasn’t all that happy. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, and he and I would get in each other’s face. And we were on him incessantly about the business of him being the best-dressed guy in the world, especially since most of the time it was one of my ties he was wearing.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy
“John was so much more than those long-ago images emblazoned in our minds. He was a boy who grew into a man with a zest for life and a love of adventure. He was a pied piper who brought us. all along. He was blessed with a father and a mother who never thought anything mattered more than their children…. He had a legacy, and he learned to treasure it. He was part of a legend, and he learned to live with it…. John was one of Jackie’s two miracles. He was still becoming the person he would be, and doing it by the beat of his own drummer. He had only just begun. There was in him a great promise of things to come.”
JFK Jr.’s Memorial Service
Church of St. Thomas More New York City, July 23, 1999
Charlie King, longtime friend
On the football field he was very competitive. There was one time when he knocked me almost unconscious. It was a random pickup game. I had broken up a pass that was going to John, and it was clear that I was happy about that. Then on the next play, when I was trying to catch a pass, he didn’t try to block the pass. He just knocked the s—- out of me. I felt like all the bones in my body had been shattered. He was driven to win.
Tony Karon, former copy editor at George
One time we were closing the magazine, and things were chaotic, and John comes into the office and says, “Hey, let’s all go play touch football at the park tonight.” The managing editor wasn’t happy, but that was the spirit of the place. He had a sense that people should have fun while they worked.
Larry Flynt, publisher, Hustler magazine
You know, there’s no upside for a public person to have a relationship with Larry Flynt, but he didn’t live his life to be politically correct. After the White House correspondents’ dinner this year, there was some criticism in the press about him taking me as a guest. He called me up and said, “You know, Larry, I’m taking a lot of heat, but don’t worry about it. I love it!”
Alec Baldwin, actor
Whenever I was around him, the first thing that would cross my mind was, “Whatever this guy runs for, he’s going to win.” There was no doubt in my mind that whatever race he ran for, senator or governor, he’d win hands down. And now we’ll never know.
Ken Sunshine, public relations consultant
He agreed to campaign for New York City Mayor David Dinkins’s reelection in 1993, so we negotiated doing a Saturday morning walking tour of the Upper West Side, focusing on Zabar’s deli. There was a horde of cameras outside, and when he went in by the fish counter several old ladies buying lox started screaming, “John! John!” It was like the Beatles. There was this crush. He got completely separated from Dinkins. A cheese display went flying at one point, and a big tough cop said, “It’s a bloody lox riot!” We had to get him out of there. There was flying Brie. People wanted a piece of him. It was wild.
Mike Barnicle, columnist, New York Daily News
I’m going to remember him as I saw him up here in Hyannisport. He always had his New York Yankees cap on backward, he always wore a T-shirt and bathing suit, sandals and sunglasses. I’d see him walking down to the yacht club to go sailing or cutting across the backyard gathering lots of kids up for a touch football game. He was a normal guy, a good guy.
C. David Heymann, author, A Woman Named Jackie
Once I ran into him at the airport in New York, and we were both on the way to Boston. He looked horrendous, raggedy, like he hadn’t shaved. When we arrived at Logan, someone came to pick him up, and he offered me a lift, then said, “Just a second, I have to go to the little boys’ room.” He went off looking grungy and dirty in sweatpants and a sweatshirt. Ten minutes later, at the most, he emerged completely cleanshaven. He had transformed himself, as if he had stepped off the pages of GQ.
Evelyn Lauder, longtime friend
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.
Tony Danys, firefighter stationed less than a block from his apartment
You picture him one way, like a movie star. But here on the street he was just an average Joe. Always a hello. Always a smile.
Drew Nierporent, restaurateur
We were all at a dinner to honor Robert De Niro for helping to renew Tribeca. They were serving osso buco, veal shank with a big bone, and he discreetly asked the waitress to wrap up the bones for his dog. He asked not only for his bone but for extras. He walked out with a big doggie bag.
Radu Teodorescu, fitness trainer
One night when he came by my studio on Rollerblades, he had gotten his skates tangled in a dog’s leash. He had fallen down and scraped his face and was bleeding when he came in. I said, “You have to be more careful. A President cannot have a scar on his face!” And he answered, “Let’s not go that far.”
David Sayre, friend and pilot
After his wedding we flew them down to Florida on an old Beech 18 from the ’40s or ’50s that looked a lot like Amelia Earhart’s plane. He “oohed” and “aahed” all around the plane. It was parked out in this field, and there was nobody else around. He said, “Where are all the photographers?” He was ready to have some pictures taken at that point. He loved the plane, the whole scene. He wanted to have a record of it.
Donald Trump, real estate mogul
I got a letter from him on that last Friday talking about the death of my father. He talked about the relationship between fathers and sons and how difficult it is to lose a parent. I was so touched. He had such a graciousness about him, that knack for knowing what to say in any situation. It was the last thing I read as I was going out the door on a business trip. It was special then, but it has obviously become even more special now.
Rev. Billy Graham, evangelist
John and Carolyn came home from their honeymoon three days early to interview me for George. I could see a great deal of love between them. I was impressed with how ordinary he was. 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 he was searching for something more definite. He asked, “Where does our own free will end and God’s will begin?” I told him there is a mystery to all of this, but that if he had faith in God and put his trust and confidence in him, he would provide a peace and joy and
settle life with certainty.