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This episode contains four letter words, I think it has longer words than that. OK, you know what I mean?
It's July 14th, nineteen ninety nine, and JFK Jr. is hobbling across the lobby of the Stanhope Hotel on New York's Upper East Side. He's been on crutches for six weeks, and boy, is it cramping his style. This is a guy who commutes on rollerblades, a guy who likes to take his kayak out and play chicken with the Staten Island Ferry, a guy who once tried to rappel down Mount Rushmore. All of that sounds exhausting. I know, right?
He tells his friends he has to stay in motion because if he stopped and thought about everything that's happened to him up until this point in his life, he'd fall apart. But his friends still love to tease him about his daredevil streak, which often ends in some sort of mishap. His buddies call him the master of disaster. Case in point, the paragliding accident that snapped his ankle and forced him into this dumb cast. The worst part is that it's sidelined him from his favorite hobby, flying.
He can't take his plane up alone until he can use his ankle again. Luckily, that changes tomorrow. He's got an appointment with his doctor to get the cast off. He'll be rollerblading and kayaking and flying solo in no time.
John gets to the end of the lobby and seesaws into the hotel's bustling cafe.
But when John walks in, everyone stops talking, stops chewing and pretty much stops breathing. He's used to this.
People have been gazing at him, open mouthed for as long as he can remember. He's hard to miss.
At 39, he's still as handsome as he was a decade ago when People magazine crowned him the sexiest man alive.
Even on crutches, he looks like a Greek God.
OK, settle down. Never. But the thing about John is he's not just good looking. He's the embodiment of JFK's legacy, which makes him a living, breathing national treasure. So people gawk like the Washington Monument just came in for lunch. He crosses the restaurant to a corner table where two women, one blond and one brunette, are waiting for him. The blonde is his wife, Carolyn. The brunette is his sister in law, Lauren Lawrence, the one who arranged this lunch.
She likes John and wants to see her sister happy. But it wasn't easy for her to get John and Carolyn to agree. I'm guessing that's why she picked the Stan Hope. She must have figured John couldn't say no, since he only had to travel a few hundred feet. He's been living in one of the upstairs hotel rooms for a few nights now, ever since he and Carolyn had a blistering fight. Even the rich fight and get to stay in a five star hotel instead of crashing on a friend's futon.
Yeah, Lauren breaks the ice. She asks John and Carolyn to talk about their problems and tell her how it got so bad. They decided to take a break. She figures maybe she can help facilitate. But John's not in a talkative mood. He just sits there all stony until Lauren suggests they all hold hands. He hesitates and finally complies.
Carolyn, follow suit. Lauren starts talking about the upcoming weekend. She knows John is planning to fly himself up to the Kennedy family compound at Hyannis Port for his cousin's wedding, but Carolyn has refused to go with him. It's partly because she's never felt welcome at Kennedy family events. But it's also because Carolyn hates flying with the master of disaster. Lauren gives her hand a squeeze and asks what could make you change your mind. Carolyn says she doesn't know.
So Lauren's like, OK, how about this? I'll fly with you. Come on, it'll be fun. John likes the idea and says so. And finally, Carolyn relents. Great. Lauren says, I'll see you guys at the airport. Even the rich is brought to you by soul mates, ABC's new series from the Emmy winning writer of Black Mirror and Stranger Things set 15 years in the future. Soulmates tells six different stories where life changing scientific discovery gives people the ability to uncover their one soul mate.
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As a listener of our show, you can get 10 percent off your first month at better help Dotcom wondering again. That's better help Dotcom wondering for 10 percent off your first month. From Thundery, I'm Brooke Zafran, and I'm Erica Skidmore Williams, and this is even the Rich where we bring you absolutely true and absolutely shocking stories about the greatest family dynasties the world has ever seen. It's a show about power, how you get it, how you keep it and what happens when it goes to your head.
It's also about how the rich are just like us, because even the rich love and cry and dream and hope and burn their mouth on pumpkin spice lattes.
Yeah, that too should pay. So, Erica, what do you know about JFK Jr., to tell you the truth? Not a ton. I mean, I know he was JFK son, obviously.
I know he was unreasonably hands on and lots about it.
Oh, I mean, I also know about the tragic ending. Yeah, I think that's the basic set of facts most people have.
But what a lot of people don't know is that up until the end, John was desperate to be his own man and be with the woman he loved.
There's nothing I like better than Love Story set in the 90s, which is why I'm fascinated by Caroline and JFK Jr.. So on these next two episodes, I'm going to fill in the blanks. It's a story about two people who were caught between worlds, the life they were trying to build together, and the one John inherited, the life of a Kennedy.
I can relate to that. Can you? Yeah.
I'm caught between the Skidmore's and the Williams's classic Shakespeare. This is episode one, Great Expectations.
OK, to start this story, we need to rewind about 10 years. Picture this. It's July 19th, 1988, and John F. Kennedy Jr. is on the roof of a sprawling convention center in downtown Atlanta doing what anyone would do on top of a building in 100 degree heat. He's going for a jog to clear his mind. Tonight, he's got to get up in front of a crowd of thousands of people and a bunch of TV cameras and give a speech.
And he's a big ball of nerves, which is odd because the guy's been alive for 27 years and he's been in the spotlight for all of them.
His birth announcement was on the front page of The New York Times, above the fold. OK, now I'm longing for the days when a birth is big enough news for the front page. The same John usually loves to perform.
He even thinks of himself as an actor. But tonight is different. He's not playing Hamlet or Macbeth. He's taking on an even harder role. He's playing a political Kennedy, something John never wanted to do.
John's Uncle Ted asked him to speak at the Democratic Convention. The idea is to trot out a handsome young face, someone who can show the nation that a new generation is ready to carry on the Kennedy legacy. John couldn't say no when someone in the Kennedy clan asks for something, especially his father's brother. What's he going to say? I'm busy, but he's not sure he wants the part, which is why he's on the sticky tar roof, running circles around air conditioning units trying to calm down.
He's anxious he'll get sucked into the family business after giving a speech. And he knows that if he pursues politics, he'll always be compared to his father. And how can he ever live up to that? Well, for starters, don't get heatstroke on the roof of a building. Yeah, good point.
John must realize that, too, because once he's worked up a good sweat, he goes back inside showers and changes into a pinstripe suit and a pocket tie.
At nine, 10 p.m., he struts out on stage and the crowd goes berserk. When they finally settle down, he launches into a speech. Do you want to hear a clip? Yeah, of course. Play away.
OK, over a quarter century ago, my father stood before you to accept the nomination for the presidency of the United States. So many of you came into public service because of him in a very real sense, because of you. He is with us still.
And you can tell he's still nervous a few times he even visibly gulps. But for the most part, he's in command, smiling and gazing at the crowd with a confidence that can only be described as Kennedyesque.
Ladies and gentlemen, my uncle Ted Kennedy. When a speech ends, people jump to their feet and no one is more moved than John's mom, Jackie Jackie O, Jackie O.
She spent years grooming her son for something big and it took a lot of work. When John goofed off in class, she packed him off to boarding school. When he only got average grades, she sent him to a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with AIDS and put him on Ritalin. But no doctor could help him transform into an A student.
He still flunked 11th grade, but Jackie was unfazed. She made sure John got into an Ivy League school and when surprise he ended up on academic probation.
She wrote letters to his teachers, promising them that she would personally see to it that he got his shit together.
Nothing like being in college and having your mom write letters to your teachers. About the only teachers who don't receive Jackie letters are John's theater professors. He loves to act. So after he graduated from college in 1983, he begged his mom to let him apply to drama school. But she vetoed that faster than you can say, method acting.
But John wasn't ready to give up his dreams, so he moved to New York City and got a part in an off off off Broadway show about a guy and his pregnant girlfriend who end up drowning. He was actually pretty good. A producer even offered to bring the show to a real theater. But Jackie put her foot down. She told John she'd disinherit him if he didn't quit his silly dream and get serious.
She even gave him an idea. How about law school? It's the best first step to a life in public service, right?
Because a guy who practically flunked out of college should definitely be studying torts and contracts.
Yeah, but by now, John's learned it's generally a good idea to do what his mom says. Plus, he loves his mom. So in 1986, he showed up on the campus of NYU with a Jansport backpack and a pair of his trusty roller blades. He just finished his second year of school when he makes his star turn at the convention. And of course, Jackie is delighted. John is finally growing up to be the fine young man she always hoped he'd be, except nothing ever works out quite that way with the Kennedys.
I want you to imagine something.
It's September 1988, three months after JFK Jr. gave his speech at the convention. And you're rushing to your mailbox. You're a devoted reader of People magazine. And the new issue comes out today.
OK, I wasn't even two years old then, so I was probably going for the Ranger Rick magazines.
Well, in my fantasy, you're extremely precocious and you crave gossip just like now.
You pull your magazine out of the mailbox and they're staring at you is JFK Jr.. But it's not the photo that grabs your attention. It's the caption alongside it. JFK, Jr., the sexiest man alive.
You start flipping through the magazine trying to find the accompanying story. And when you land on it, actually here, you have to look at this way.
You found a copy. I'm impressed. OK, holy shit. People need to hear this. OK, ladies, this one's for you. But first, some ground rules. Get your eyes off that man's chest. He's a serious fellow and get your eyes off that man's extraordinarily defined thighs. What do you think? He strips down to his shorts for a game of touch football in Central Park so strangers can gape at them. They are fantastic, though.
Legend has it that if you lived in Tahiti, he could crack coconuts with them. That is so thirsty.
Yeah, the people cover may seem like harmless fun, but not to Jackie. She tells a friend he already knows that he's gorgeous. I hope all this doesn't distract him from what's really important.
Jackie's afraid people will stop taking him seriously if he embraces his sex symbol status. OK, so what does he do? He embraces his sex symbol status.
The month after being crowned the sexiest man alive, John shows up at a Halloween party wearing nothing but a fig leaf.
The tabloids run stories comparing his Playboy status to his dad's notorious womanizing. But it doesn't slow John down one bit. Women practically throw themselves at him like get this one time he's at JFK Airport trying to hail a cab back to the city. When he hears someone call out his name, he turns around to see a woman step out of a limousine dressed in a mink coat, high heels and nothing else. It's Sarah Jessica Parker. Apparently, she managed to get her hands on his flight plans and figured it'd be a great way to meet him.
OK, you have to really want someone if you're willing to go to the airport for them. Yeah, but also, how does one get their hands on someone's flight plans? Asking for a friend, of course. OK, well, it's not enough to make John fall head over heels. Instead, he ping pongs from one beautiful woman to the next Cindy Crawford, Sharon Stone, Madonna and the people covered doesn't just bring more zeal to a sex capades after the magazine comes out.
John Stark. To realize he's got star power, strangers come up to him on the street, photographers follow him places he never knew it before, but he's a celebrity. And so he starts to wonder, maybe I can use that. People love me for being me. So maybe I don't have to keep trying to live up to all my family's crazy expectations.
He doesn't want to become the world's sexiest lawyer. Well, for now, he's still committed to finishing law school, even though he's begun to fantasize about doing something else with his life. He knows how much this degree matters to his mom, and he's not about to let her down. He manages to eke out the grades he needs to graduate in May 1989.
To celebrate, he runs a forty six foot yacht and go sailing on a big, beautiful lake in Virginia. And he brings along his new girlfriend. His uncle Ted set them up, part of a ploy to butter up the lucky ladies billionaire stepdad. But John's not after her for her money. He likes her because she's tall, blond, absolutely gorgeous and a bona fide movie star. It's Daryl Hannah. They've been seeing each other for a few months at this point, and it's been going well.
They go out to fancy restaurants and stay up all night shooting pool in trendy bars. But when they get back to New York after they're sailing trip, John doesn't have as much time to paint the town. He's got to cram for the bar exam, even though he's not sure he wants to be a lawyer. He hasn't come up with an alternative. So for now, he's just doing what's expected of him.
Darryl apparently doesn't like playing second fiddle to his textbooks because before John's exam date, she dumped him and goes back to California to be with her ex-boyfriend, singer Jackson Browne. A week after Darryl leaves them, John sits for the bar exam and he fails. The tabloids are beside themselves. The headline in the New York Daily News reads The Hunk Flunks.
OK, I got to say, I love a good rhyme. That's actually pretty funny.
Well, not to John. He's humiliated practically everyone he's related to as a lawyer. His sister, Caroline, who's only three years older than him, passed the bar exam on her first try and is already writing a book about the Bill of Rights. He tries to put on a brave face about the whole thing. He tells reporters, Now, I have to suck it up and give it all I have next time so I won't have to do this again.
And luckily, he's still a Kennedy. To help them save face. His family pulls a few strings and gets him a job working as an assistant prosecutor in the Manhattan DA's office. He won't be allowed to try cases until he passes the bar, but they'll give him a desk, pay him a meager salary and let him do research.
John shows up for his first day of work on August 21st, 1989, as he approaches the imposing stone courthouse that houses the DA's office. He's mobbed by a gaggle of reporters. They bar the entrance to the building. Eventually, some cops come out and escort John inside.
They take him to the elevator, and when the doors close, one of the cops turns to him and says, Hey, can I have your autograph? This is what it's like to be John F. Kennedy Jr..
Even though John's the most junior person in his office, he's getting a secretary because someone has to go through the piles of mail that have already started arriving for him. Love letters, party invites and an endless stream of naked photos when he's not at the office, John, studying or trying to.
His plan is to retake the bar exam in early 1990. And this time he signs up for a test prep class, but it doesn't help.
He fails a second time. And guess what?
The press goes really easy on him and runs stories like Don't worry, Johnny Boy, you'll pass out one of these days. Yeah, just kidding.
The New York Daily News runs a front page story with the headline The Hunk Flunks Again. So they're really going for the golden originality. Yeah. They also run stories comparing John to his father, pointing out that when JFK was John's age, he'd already fought valiantly in World War Two, won a Pulitzer Prize and been elected to Congress.
OK, I was going to say the kid can't catch a break, but yeah, no. Yeah.
Jackie can't stand to see her son mocked this way. So she comes up with a plan first. She insists that he hire a private tutor and then she petition's the exams administrators to let John take the test in a private room.
Usually you need to have a serious medical condition to qualify for that kind of special dispensation. But no one can say no to Jackie. And when John takes the test a third time, he finally passes.
Now he can start prosecuting criminals. And it turns out he's a natural. He's so handsome and charming and friendly that defendants are constantly confessing things to him.
Guys will literally turn to him as they're being led away in cuffs and say, thanks, it was great meeting. You can't wait to spend my life behind bars because of you.
But after all he went through to get the gig, John's not sure this is how he wants to spend his life. And he still hasn't found a woman he wants to spend it with. But both of those things are. To change. We get support from core zeltzer, core Zeltzer, isn't your average seltzer rooted in cause long history of sustainability? Their brand was inspired by a generation that wants to do good in the world with a mission to restore America's rivers.
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The park's not too crowded. So early in the day, a few bikers whiz by the trails are dotted with a handful of joggers. One of them catches John's eye. She's tall and slender and her hair so blond, it's almost white. John picks up his pace trying to catch up with her. She's even more stunning up close. And because he's JFK Jr., he has absolutely no qualms about interrupting a woman who's just trying to get a workout in.
He says something like, You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. What's your name? And she says, Carolyn Bessette, the start of a perfect rom com.
That's one version of how they met other people have a different story. It's the fall of nineteen ninety three and John's at Calvin Klein picking out a suit for an upcoming wedding. He's strolling around feeling different fabrics. Is that how men shop? I have no idea. Anyway, he's doing something.
When a woman comes over and taps him on the shoulder. She says her name is Carolyn and it's her job to make sure all of Calvin's VIP clients are taken care of. Then I picture John grabbing a suit off the rack and holding it up to his six one frame. How about this one? Carolyn points him to a more stylish cut. It goes on like this for a while. By the time they're done, John's paying for three suits, six shirts and a bushel of ties.
Before he leaves, he tells Carolyn, there is one more thing I think I like. What's that? She asks. And he says here, No. Paging Hallmark.
We've got two great rom coms that need to be made. STATT Well, however, it happened. Carolyn can't believe her luck. She's had her eye on JFK Jr. ever since she was a student at Boston University. Whenever his name came up, she'd tell her friends, I'm going to get him. I'm going to move to New York and I'm going to get him. That's the thing about Carolyn. When she sets her mind to something, she makes it happen.
That's how she ended up at Calvin Klein in the first place. When she graduated from college, she walked into a Calvin Klein store and they hired her as a clerk on the spot. She was so elegant and outgoing that an executive took notice and offered her a job in New York handling Calvin's VIP clients, whether they meant jogging in the park or shopping on Fifth Avenue.
This much we do know in the fall of 1993, John and Carolyn start dating on the DL.
They go out to dinners where John tells her about his childhood and what it was like growing up in the most famous family in the world.
And the whole time, Carolyn can barely believe she's with him. She keeps having to tell herself, snap out of it.
He's just a guy, but she can't help herself. She's smitten.
After their first kiss, she looks at him and says, Holy shit. But as much as John likes her, he's not ready to commit. Daryl Hannah has come swimming back into his life.
And who can resist a living, breathing mermaid? So John breaks up with Carolyn. She's crushed. Obviously, this was her dream guy.
While she's reeling, she gets a note from her mom, Carolyn. It says, Please get on with your life, love, mom.
But little does she know she's not out of John's life for good. It's December nineteen ninety three, and John and his sister Caroline are sitting on a couch in their mother's fiftieth floor apartment overlooking New York's Fifth Avenue. Jackie takes a seat across from them. She's not supposed to be here. She's supposed to be sailing in the Caribbean. But something happened.
She collapsed and was rushed to a hospital in New York. She tells her children that when the doctors did their exam, they found a swollen lymph node in her neck. They took a biopsy and the results aren't good. She has an aggressive form of cancer. Her doctors want her to start chemo right away. Oh, God, that's terrible. Yeah. John can't believe what he's hearing. He leaps up from the couch and goes over to embrace his mom.
Pretty soon, both of them are sobbing. Sure, they've had their differences over the years, the fights about his acting career and all the pressure she put him under to achieve great things.
But he also knows he wouldn't have accomplished anything without her love and guidance. So the thought that he might lose her, it's too awful to imagine. Jackie wipes away her tears.
Don't worry, she says, I intend to beat the odds. Jackie's diagnosis comes at a difficult time for John professionally.
He recently quit his job at the DA's office after everything he went through to pass the bar. Yep, he got restless. He told his boss he felt like a passenger on an ocean liner when what he wanted was to be the captain. So he quit, grew a goatee and started a company with an old friend. They call it Random Ventures emphasis on random. Their goal is to mass produce handmade kayaks.
It's not exactly what people are expecting from the guy who's supposed to be carrying on the Kennedy family legacy. And other Kennedys have no problem letting John know that one of his cousins tells him, when I stack my value to society against yours, I when I win by a lot and you know it clearly.
That guy has never been kayaking.
Yeah, well, it turns out John and his buddy kinda misjudged the size of the kayak market.
Would you say they're up a creek without a paddle?
No, I would not say that. But yes, he definitely needs a new plan. It's early nineteen ninety four, and John's at his mother's apartment, hanging out with her and a sister, I'm picturing Jackie looking elegant as always, with a scarf tied around her head to hide where she had gone bald from chemo. And Caroline's curled up on the couch with a notebook in her hand, furiously writing her next book.
John, as always, can't sit still. He's up and down, up and down, fiddling with trinkets on the mantel, grabbing a poker and prodding the fire, messing with the radio.
Then he turns to his mom and sister and says something like, you know what I've been thinking? And they're like, What's that, John? And he goes, I think people don't care about politics because they don't understand politics. And the reason they don't understand it is because it's so fucking boring.
OK, no way would he have sworn in front of Jackie. She was so prim and proper.
OK, yeah, you're probably right. Anyway, then he tells them he knows we'll finally get the general public interested in politics. A magazine, Jackie frowns and says, and this is a quote, Oh, John, you're not going to do the Mad magazine of politics are you know, John tells her it'll be more like people.
Now, Caroline looks up from her notebook, stares at John and says traitor Jackie jumps in to defend him. She reminds Caroline that the family has long been connected to publishing. JFK was an author before he became a politician, and Jackie has been working as an editor for years.
But then she admits she's still not exactly thrilled with the idea. There's a big difference between books and trashy magazines. And what about his law degree? Is he intending to just forget he even has it? She calls in her companion, Morris. He's a short, bald, jowly man with a megawatt smile and a nose for business.
John Takamori says magazine idea and Morris dismisses it almost immediately. Even if the magazine succeeds, he says, it'll be years before it turns a profit. John nods. You're probably right, he admits, but over the next few days, he keeps coming back to the idea he can't help thinking it's the perfect blend of the different parts of his personality. A mix of politics and celebrity, part serious and part irreverent. He starts brainstorming with a buddy who helped him with the kayak business, and then he goes back to see his mom.
We're thinking of calling it George. He tells her she gives him a confused look, you know, as in the father of our country. And Jackie just sighs John. She says, I think it would be a good idea if you talked to Morris again. And this time listen to what he has to say. John doesn't bother. So Jackie tries another approach.
She writes, John, a letter here. Why don't you give it a read? I understand the pressure you'll forever have to endure as a Kennedy, even though we brought you into this world as an innocent, you especially have a place in history. All I ask is that you continue to make me the Kennedy family and yourself proud. Stay loyal to those who love you, especially Morris. He's a decent man with an abundance of common sense. You will do well to seek his advice.
It's touching, right? Yeah.
I mean, it's like she's trying to explain why she's put so much pressure on him for all of these years.
Yeah. And then I love how at the end she's like, P.S., talk to Morris.
Right. It's like, I love you. I'm proud of you, but please let Morris talk you out of launching that stupid magazine.
Yeah, but John won't give up on George. And there's at least one person who seems to think it's a good idea.
Daryl Hannah, she's encouraged him every step of the way. She even helped him come up with the name. Things have been going well between them. She left Jackson Browne supposedly for good, and she and John are spotted all over town.
Are they still shooting pool at midnight and playing darts at dawn or whatever? No, but the paparazzi do catch her buying an antique wedding dress at a flea market, which, of course, sets off excited speculation that she and John are headed for the altar. But John can't seem to commit.
Maybe it's the fact that his mom is definitely not Darryl's biggest fan. When he brings her over for dinner, Jackie retreats to her room and eats off a tray.
A marriage proposal might crush her, and that's the last thing he wants to do, especially now when she's already sick and getting worse. It's May 1994 and John is a wreck, he just got off the phone with his mom, who told him, I don't think I can take it anymore.
Her cancer's gotten worse now. She's in constant pain. So John does what he always does. When life gets him down, he throws on his short shorts, laces up his running shoes and heads outside to work up a sweat. Today, he brings along a jogging buddy, Darrell's dog.
She's in L.A. shooting a movie or something. So John's on doggie duty, John, in the perp head outside and zip around busy New York sidewalks. They run a few miles and then they head back to Daryl's apartment. When they're out front, something distracts John for a minute.
Maybe it's a passing car. Maybe it's an idea for George. Or maybe it's the realization that his mother, the woman who has always been there for him, doesn't have much time left.
He snaps back to attention somehow, Darrell's dog slipped out of his hands, darted into traffic and got hit by a car.
Oh, no. Yeah, John feels terrible about it. But the way Daryl reacts, well, it's pretty terrible, too. She demands that he have the dog cremated and then personally deliver the ashes to her in L.A. so she can stage a puppy funeral. The last thing John wants to do is fly across the country to attend a dog funeral. He wants to stay in New York with his mom and take advantage of however much time they have left.
But he's a good boyfriend, so he flies to L.A., meets up with Daryl and hands her a plain wooden box.
She yanks it from him and says something like, My dog died and you didn't even think to buy a fancy box for the Ashes. John realizes he screwed up. But I mean, he's got a lot on his mind. His mom is dying. He's got to be wishing Daryl would at least recognize what he's giving up to be here. But apparently she doesn't. As soon as John can, he races back to New York to be with Jackie. Things aren't good.
While he was gone, she was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with pneumonia. The doctors ran some tests and discovered her cancer had spread. The chemo isn't working anymore. There's nothing else to do. Jackie checks herself out of the hospital and goes home, which is where John finds her. When he gets back to the city. He and Caroline spend the next few days at her bedside, reading her poems and stories, laughing about some of their favorite memories there with her on May 19th, 1994, when she finally slips away.
She was in and out of consciousness near the end, but in one of her lucid moments, she called for Maurice and told him that something was weighing on her. She knew John had always fantasized about getting his pilot's license. He even took a few lessons back in the 80s until she found out and put the kibosh on it with a little strength she had left.
She made Maurice promise he would never under any circumstances let John fly a plane. Even at the end, she's trying to protect him. Maternal instincts never fade. She's always guided John always put him on the right path. Now that she's gone, he'll have to fend for himself. And it couldn't come at a trickier time because John has some big decisions to make. We get support from Hello Fresh, you can get fresh, pre measured ingredients and mouthwatering seasonal recipes delivered right to your door with Hello Fresh America's number one meal kit.
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It's June 1994, one month since Jackie died, and John is walking in circles on the streets of lower Manhattan. He was supposed to meet his friend for dinner 10 minutes ago, but he's not ready to go inside the restaurant. He's afraid if he shows up for dinner before his guest, he'll end up alone at the table. If that ever happened, he'd be a sitting duck. Strangers would feel free to come over and ask for his autograph or stare at his chest or give him a coconut to crack with his thighs or that.
But he's got a system to combat that, something he calls, well, the system. He shows up exactly 15 minutes late for everything.
John checks his watch. It's been 15 minutes.
So he pushes through the double doors of an old school Italian restaurant and finds the guy he's looking for seated at their table. So the system works. It did. John's companion is a childhood friend he hasn't seen for years. So they play the usual game of catch up. What's new house things? I heard you killed Daryl Hannah's dog. No way did he say that. OK, maybe not. But honestly, I'm not over yet. But he does ask John about his romantic life and John tells him I met someone else.
Someone not Daryl. Yep. The friends like. So things with Daryl are really over this time. And John says to everything there is a season. I guess his friend wants to know the new woman's name.
And John says, Carolyn John spends the rest of the summer of nineteen ninety four swooning over Carolyn. He feels like he's known her his entire life with women in his past. He's always felt like he had to play to type the hunky celebrity or the political science or whatever. But with Carolyn, it's different.
He can be himself. He even shares with her the challenges of living up to being a Kennedy.
Honesty is the best aphrodisiac. Definitely. John's so gaga that by the end of the summer he makes a big decision. He's going to introduce her to his family. Usually he keeps the women he's seeing far away from the Kennedy clan. They're intimidating and he's afraid they'll scare his girlfriends off. But Carolyn, strong and confident and John's convinced his family will like her. And what better time to introduce them than the annual Labor Day clambake? Carolyn has just one question.
What is a clambake? Oh, poor Carolyn. You haven't lived until you plan baked.
It's September 4th, 1994, Labor Day weekend at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port.
It's totally luks three tasteful white mansions spread across six oceanfront acres on prime real estate in Cape Cod. Our return customers may remember that this is where Ted Kennedy holed up after his accident on Chappaquiddick. Hmm. Anyway, Caroline and John sit down to dinner and they are surrounded by Kennedys, nothing but great teeth. And the care as far as the eye can see.
Caroline can't believe how formal they all are. The women wear dresses. The men are in khaki suits. Luckily, Caroline opted for a chic outfit, white silk skirt, mothe blouse and a bright pink scarf draped around her neck.
I love these fashion moments. I always try the clothes on in my mind.
So Carolyn's sitting there making small talk. When an older woman walks in and struts confidently toward the empty seat at the head of the table. It's Ethel Kennedy, Bobby's widow, and the de facto family matriarch. Well, Carolyn's busy staring. Everyone else jumps to their feet.
She scrambles up to. But it's a minute too late and everyone's noticed her blunder. Of course, Caroline is mortified. Then Ethel tinkles a little bell. That's the cue for the servants to bring in heaping platters of food, clam chowder, roast beef and giant plates of fries.
As everyone digs in, Ethel looks out over the table and starts lobbing out questions. She points out one of her nephews and asks, Is there enough evidence to convict O.J. Simpson? She barely waits for the answer and then turns to another and asks, What about the possible invasion of Haiti?
Carolyn listens to these back and forth, amazed by how much everybody knows. Then Ethel stops and looks in her direction and says, John, who's your guest?
John says, This is my new friend, Carolyn.
Yeah, Carolyn pretty much feels the charisma spirit out of her and offers up a meek pleasure to meet you. Ethel doesn't miss a beat. So, my dear, do you think a federal assault ban on weapons will impact crime? Carolyn knows this is the moment where she will be judged by the Kennedy clan, but she's not sure what to say. She doesn't know anything about the band. Finally, she says, I think that maybe it will. Ethel just stares at her.
Then, according to the book The Kennedy Heirs, she says, Indeed, I'm sure you do, dear, but you may want to read up on it. It's quite important. Oh, ouch. Yeah, Carolyn sinks into her antique dining chair, hoping she'll disappear. Can we just skip to dessert and call it a night? Not quite, because Ethel has something else on her mind. Remember how Carolyn is wearing a pink scarf?
Yeah. Ethel says a scarf in this weather. I'm feeling overheated just looking at it. Carolyn quickly takes it off.
This can't bode well for her Calvin Klein job.
Right after dinner, Carolyn asks John why he didn't warn her about the booby traps. If she'd known she would have stood up when Ethel entered and boned up on the news. John laughs it off, but Carolyn is mortified. The rest of the weekend is pretty much a parade of embarrassing moments for poor Carolyn, like missing meals, because John forgot to tell her there was a sign up sheet. Wait, wait. Yeah, there's a sign up sheet for breakfast and lunch.
When Carolyn goes down for breakfast at nine a.m., she finds Ethel in the kitchen who tells her, Dear Breakfast is served at six and seven thirty. And you didn't sign up for either.
Wow. Passive aggressive much.
Right? Or Jerilyn. It goes from bad to worse.
She can't keep anyone's name straight because they all look the same. And then in the last night, the night of the clambake, she keeps putting her foot in her mouth or making some social faux pas. And every time she does, Ethel is there looking on shaking her head.
This trip was supposed to bring John and Carolyn closer.
Instead, it feels more like a hazing ceremony. And she doesn't like that one bit. Back in New York, things start to look up, John throws himself into planning his new magazine. George and Carolyn is totally supportive. He's teamed up with his kayak business buddy, a guy named Michael Berman. Like John, he's a rich kid who doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. The two of them attend a two day seminar called Starting Your Own Magazine.
And John actually manages to sit through the whole thing.
That's a pretty big feat for a guy who spent decades not paying attention in class.
Yeah. After the seminar, John uses his clout to get meetings with publishing companies. He figures it'll be an easy sell.
Who wouldn't want to put money behind a magazine that's going to make politics sexy and is backed by America's favorite son? But no one's buying. They all tell John his idea is fun, but it's not financially viable.
He's about to throw in the towel, but he's got just one last meeting with the publisher behind Elle magazine.
John goes through his pitch. This is a magazine about politics for people who hate politics, blah, blah, blah. And the guy eats it up. He offers John 20 million dollars.
George magazine is a go.
John's dreams of stepping out from under his father's shadow are finally coming true. And with a woman of his dreams on his arm, he feels like the king of the world, which means it's time for another bold move. It's Fourth of July weekend, 1995, Carolyn and John have been dating for almost a year and they're on vacation at one of the Kennedy homes, but they can't agree on the plan. Let's go fishing, he says. Carolyn frowns fishing.
She'd much rather hang by the pool with a glass of wine.
But then John shoots her this dazzling smile and she gives in.
They climb into a boat and John throws them over to a quiet inlet. Then he sets down his orders and gets out of his seat. Carolyn's wondering what he's doing, like, does he need the tackle box?
But no, he gets down on one knee. He says fishing is better with a partner. Everything's better with a partner. Then he pulls out a velvet box. Inside is a delicate platinum band of diamonds and sapphires. It's a replica of a ring that his mom wore. Will you marry me? He asks. And then little birds start to tweet and drop garlands on their heads. Not quite. Carolyn is too stunned to speak.
Sure, she's fantasized about marrying John since her college days, but something inside her is holding her back.
She looks at him with her big blue eyes and says, I don't know. I'm afraid that people will judge me, especially your family. They never accept me. John promises his family will come to love her, but she confesses that's not the only problem. She's afraid they'll never be able to live a normal life if they're married. She's worried they'll be hounded by paparazzi and she'll have to surrender her privacy forever.
But John has an answer for that, too. He says that once they get married, the press will lose interest. They'll move on to new stories. But still, she won't give him an answer. Not yet. She needs time. Essentially, she does the unthinkable. She leaves America's most eligible bachelor hanging. Wow. That takes guts.
Yeah. Three weeks go by. Then finally she makes the call. Yes. She tells John I'll marry you. She figures he's right. The press will move on. There's always another story. Except that's not what happens when reporters find out about the engagement. They'll start to document their every move and what the press captures will come close to breaking them. This is the first episode of our two part series on JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette, if you like our show, please give us a five star rating and a review and be sure to tell your friends subscribe on Apple podcast, Spotify, the Wonder App or wherever you're listening right now.
Join one degree plus in the Wonder app to listen ad free. In the episode notes, you'll find some links and offers from our sponsors. Please support them. Another way to support us is to answer a short survey at One Direction, a survey we use many sources when researching our stories like Vanity Fair and Town and Country. But we especially recommend three books, The Good Son by Christopher Anderson, The Kennedy Curse by Edward Klein and the Kennedy Heirs by J.
Randy Taraborrelli. Whoa. Is there a rich family that Taraborrelli guy hasn't written about? Truly, he's like the Stephen King of rich people. I'm Brooke Zafrin. And I'm Tricia Skidmore.
Williams Donita Jones wrote this episode. Our editor is LaDonna Voda. Our producer is Caleb Bissinger, Sound Design by James Morgan, audio assistant by Sergio Enriquez. Our executive producers are Stephanie Jones, Marcia Lui and Hernan Lopez for wondering.
October is here, and that means it's time to turn down the lights and turn up the volume on your favorite true crime podcast like Murder and Hollywoodland. There are some murder cases that attract attention far and wide. And when the victim is a Hollywood big shot, you can almost guarantee it when Detective Ed King showed up to the crime scene. The evidence had clearly been picked over and cleaned up by movie studio goons. That was no surprise. It was standard procedure for a natural death.
They were just making sure the media didn't find anything that might make their deceased talent look bad and possibly hurt box office numbers. But this time was different. This was a murder and not just any murder. William Desmond Taylor, the most famous director in Hollywood, was dead on the floor, a bullet hole in his back. Everyone knew this was going to be big, but no one could have known how close this investigation would come to destroying Hollywood forever.
Subscribe to Murder in Hollywood, Land on Apple podcast. Or you can listen and free by joining one free plus in the wandering app.