John F. Kennedy, Conversations with Kennedy
“Bobby and I smile sardonically. Teddy will learn how to smile sardonically in two or three years, but he doesn’t know how yet.”
John F. Kennedy, Conversations with Kennedy
“I was born in this country! My children were born in this country! What the hell does someone have to do to become an American?”
Joseph P. Kennedy, after a Boston paper identified him as an Irishman, via An Unfinished Life, John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963
“There are people who can mess up in life and not get caught, but you’re not one of them, Teddy.”
Joseph P. Kennedy to His Son Ted Kennedy, via The Patriarch, The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy
Sidebar. There are such people in life: those whose charm and magnetism allow them to vault over even their most glaring blunders. Former president Bill Clinton is such a person. His wife, Hillary Clinton, not so much. In 2016, this was but one card in what proved to be a losing hand (but what a difference one card sometimes makes).
One of the fringe benefits of working for Jacqueline Kennedy was that even after one was no longer on the payroll, a former employee (turned family friend) might still summer at the family compound in Hyannis—at least that was the case for Kathy McKeon. In her recently published memoir, Jackie's Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family, her fond portrait of John F. Kennedy, Jr. matches that of others who have gone on the record about him. He exuded natural charm and was free of malice. The gods gave him many gifts, but he appreciated them. He was also accident prone. In the book, she describes an occasion when she arrived at the home in Hyannis and discovered police and fire trucks in the driveway:
“John laughed and admitted that he’d been making hamburgers and left the pan on the burner when he went to take a shower. The smoke alarm had gone off, but that was it".
That incident was not his first offense:
“John had a checkered history of combining showering and cooking; his attention deficit disorder tended to sabotage that kind of multitasking. We never let him forget the time he had been fresh out of the shower with a towel around his waist when he fired the grill to make us hamburgers. He’d turned around and lost his towel, causing [my husband] to drily remark, ‘I thought you were making hamburgers, John, but it looks like we’re getting wieners instead.’”
Image Credit: Sex in Fashion
"I would always just say, ‘Yes dear,’ and then I’d go to Paris."
--Rose Kennedy, When Asked How She Handled Marital Disagreements, via The Patriarch, The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy
“There is a myth that Palm Beach people don’t know the Kennedys are alive, and never talk about them. The truth is that Palm Beach people say they don’t know the Kennedys are alive, and then devote entire evenings to talking about them.”
--John Ney, Palm Beach, The Place, The People, Its Pleasures and Palaces
John Ney never achieved the prominence of Cleveland Amory or Stephen Birmingham as a chronicler of social history, but what he lacked in output, he made up for in quality. His book Palm Beach, The Place, The People, Its Pleasures and Palaces is ostensibly limited in scope to this specific and one-of-a-kind Florida community. There is a broader meaning, however. The author considers Palm Beach an American social experiment: what does it mean to be idle and rich in a republic founded upon the Protestant work ethic? Palm Beach is the only city in America in which the residents might genuinely inquire, “What is a weekend?” As such, what is unique about this book is that it takes the froth of café society seriously, and in so doing, discovers that beyond the caffeine, there is substance.
Formerly employed in the motion picture industry by David Selznick, Ney relocated to Palm Beach in the early 1960s. In that era, the community was frequently in the news as result of President Kennedy’s visits to his parents' home there. The first chapter, “The Royal Family” considers the Kennedy’s outsized influence on the community’s international reputation versus its minor social presence there. The author then quickly segues, concluding that despite the hoopla, the Kennedys are not the typical denizens of the city.
In addition to interviewing various residents and summarizing their mentions in leading gossip columns, Ney considers the appearance of Palm Beach in various works of literature and nonfiction. Cleveland Amory covered some of the same territory in The Last Resorts, A Portrait of American Society at Play, and several pages of Ney’s book are spent reviewing and quoting The Last Resorts. Curiously, the Chicago Tribune asked Amory to review Ney's book. In spite of the potential conflict of interest, Amory did so in an article entitled, “Trodding the Middle Ground.” He mostly applauds Ney's effort, amusingly citing the Chinese proverb, “With the rich and mighty, always a little patience.”
Image Credit: Palm Beach, The Place, The People, Its Pleasures and Palaces. Except where otherwise noted, they were taken by the Bert & Richard Morgan Studio