January 24, 1994 12:00 PM

by Wendy Leigh

Leigh can be faulted for not having chosen a more worthy subject than John F. Kennedy Jr., who at 33 is hardly the world’s richest subject for a biography.

But the author, a British-born, Florida-based freelance writer, does her best to wring substance out of his life by repeating what an unexpectedly-nice—and not so unexpectedly—sexy guy Kennedy is in this uncritical recapitulation of his life.

The ingredient that might have made something more of this book—Kennedy’s cooperation—was not forthcoming. Leigh thus relied on previously printed information and interviews with people who have been peripheral to Kennedy’s life—his nanny, Maud Shaw; his grandmother Rose Kennedy’s secretary, Barbara Gibson; his grandfather Joe Kennedy’s nurse, Rita Dallas; Madonna‘s erstwhile friend Erika Belle; and his stepfather Aristotle Onassis’s secretary, Lynn Alpha Smith, among others. There’s no Jackie. No Caroline. No Teddy. No Daryl.

Leigh dwells on Kennedy’s fling with Madonna, emphasizing that the singer found him too straight for her sexual or romantic taste. The author also touches on Kennedy’s often spurious encounters with such show-business personalities as Julia Roberts, Cindy Crawford and Sinéad O’Connor. But she has little fresh to offer about Kennedy’s very public life.

Otherwise, much space is devoted to Jackie’s disagreements with the Kennedy sisters, John’s lifetime of sparring with reporters and photographers, his father’s assassination and other recycled events.

General Kennedy family groupies may find Leigh’s book a handy fantasy feeder. But it is more along the lines of a letter from a loving aunt than a historical document. When Kennedy’s political career begins, someone will have to tackle this subject again more seriously. (Dutton, $22)

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