This episode contains yeah, I know, I know you're going to swear, I'm probably going to swear to. Let's get on with a story.
May hold on. There's also a fight scene.
There's also a fight scene. Yeah. OK, I'm going to go grab some popcorn, OK?
It's September 1st, nineteen ninety five, a Friday morning, and JFK Jr. sitting at his desk trying to figure out how such a glorious summer could have come to such a shitty end.
Everything was going so well. He got the money he needed to start George magazine and set up shop on the first floor of a Manhattan high rise. You think with a Kennedy running things, the office would be glamorous, but they're not. The carpet is covered in coffee stains and the walls are coated in grime. But John didn't care.
He was too busy having a blast getting the first issue ready in a few days. He's going to reveal it to the world at a press conference. Even though he's still a novice editor in chief, he's come up with a pretty good governing ethos, surround yourself with smart, young, ambitious people, listen to all of their ideas and show them you're not above pulling all nighters and disco napping in a cubicle. OK, companies really need to bring back disco napping in cubicles.
And it wasn't just work that had John feeling so great this summer. Carolyn finally accepted his proposal and then they spent as much time as they could living in a bubble of private love. They both knew once they made their engagement public, the press would never leave them alone. So they decided to keep it under wraps, only confiding in their closest friends.
But then things took a turn. One of their friends blabbed. And just like that, John's perfect summer has turned into a perfect storm. Now Michael Berman's standing in the door of his office brandishing a copy of today's New York Post. Berman is his co-founder. He asks John, have you seen it? John doesn't need to ask what he's talking about. Of course he's seen it. Thanks to the friend, the Post has a story on his engagement.
The sneaky bastards even managed to get a close up picture of Carolyn's diamond and sapphire engagement ring. Michael is not happy. This is going to take the thunder away from George, he says. In other words, no one's going to give a shit about the magazine because all anyone will care about is John's love life. Then Michael starts playing the blame game.
How did she let this get out? He asks. Wait, he thinks it's Carolyn Fall. It seems like it, but the whole reason they didn't tell the press in the first place is that Carolyn was nervous about what the tabloids would do.
Exactly. And John knows this is Carolyn's worst nightmare and he just wants it to go away. He says to Michael, Who cares? I'm going to do what I've always done, ignore it and move on. But Michael won't let up.
They've got to nip this rumor in the bud before it screws up the magazine launch. They need to issue a statement. It's the only way to squash the rumor because as far as anyone knows, other than John and Carolyn and a few other people, it is a rumor he suggests John deny he's engaged at all. Even though John's not happy about Michael's suggestion, he has to admit they've got a problem and there's a lot on the line. His backers are trusting him to make good on their twenty million dollar investment, and he's got his staff to think about.
And then on a personal level, if he can kick ass with this magazine, maybe he can finally put a little distance between himself and the shadow of his dad. And he knows Michael is right. As long as these engagement stories are out there, no one's going to give two shits about a magazine launch. So John tells Michael Fine, they can issue a statement denying the engagement and it doesn't cross my mind.
Carolyn might not be thrilled how this will look to the public.
He'll just have to take his chances, I guess. So they draft a statement. Oh, shoot. I think we're having some sort of audio feedback issue. No, that's a fax machine firing up its 1995 Orisha.
That's how they got the word out back then. Once again, the statement reads, John Kennedy seems to be bearing the brunt of a slow news day. A story circulating regarding an engagement are untrue. He is not engaged and then they fax it out to the world. Time is a non-renewable resource, and lately Audible has been helping me make the most of my time because I'm able to listen while I'm commuting, cooking, exercising or just relaxing at home.
Audible's got bestseller's, celebrity memoirs, news business, self development, whatever you want to listen to. They've got it right now. I'm really enjoying, in my own words by the legend herself, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Obviously, hers is an incredible story and it's narrated by Linda Lavin with some real audio of the Notorious RBG thrown in here. And they're listening on. Audible has been a fantastic way to experience this title, and I can't recommend it enough.
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I promise you, you'll find something you love to start your free 30 day trial, visit audible dotcom, even the rich, or text even the rich to 500 500. Again, that's audible dotcom, even the rich or text even the rich to 500 500. From London. I'm Brooke Saffron. And I'm Trisha Skidmore Williams, and this is Even The Rich. In our last episode, John Kennedy Jr. took the leap and proposed to Carolyn Bessette, and she eventually said yes.
Now America's most eligible bachelor is finally off the market and the press is ready to have a field day. This is episode two, for better or worse, should.
It's September 7th, 1995, one week after John told the world that he wasn't engaged, if he's lost any sleep over it. You wouldn't know it. Looking at him now, he's standing at a podium with a twinkle in his eye and he's wearing the hell out of a double breasted blue suit. It's the launch of his magazine and a knot of photographers and reporters are gathered at his feet. He warms them up with a joke.
I don't think I've seen as many of you in one place since they announced the results of my first bar exam.
And then he addresses those pesky engagement rumors around Carolyn publicly.
For the first time, the answers to the most frequently asked personal questions are as follows. Yes. No, we're merely good friends. None of your business, honest. She's my cousin from Rhode Island. I've worn both. Maybe someday, but not in New Jersey.
Wait, wait. Really good friends.
I know he's trying to be charming and jokey, but still. Yeah, I can imagine. It's got to be painful for Carolyn to have the man she loves jokingly dismiss her as his cousin from Rhode Island. Then John quickly pivots away from personal questions. After all, he's here to reveal the first issue of his magazine. He turns and points to a giant poster behind him.
These gentlemen meet George. It's a blow up off the front cover showing Cindy Crawford dressed as George Washington, a very sexy George Washington. She's wearing a powdered wig, a black and yellow frock coat and silk bra and no shirt. It was Carolyn's idea to put her on the cover. As John gauges the reaction from the press, his anxieties start to fade away.
The reporters seem genuinely excited about his new venture, although there are a few skeptics in the group. One of them asks him if the magazine's only getting this attention because John's behind it. Here's what John says.
Certainly it helps and it draws attention. And what any new launch needs is that. But ultimately, this magazine is going to stand or fall on whether or not it's a good magazine.
Can I just say I love his voice? I know everyone seems enamored by John. And advertisers buy up 175 pages in the first issue. At that point, it's a record for a new publication. Meanwhile, John's engagement is on a much bumpier track.
Understandable after the friends comment.
Yeah, the whole thing really messed with her confidence. But here's the thing about Carolyn.
She's used to being the most captivating person in any room, like, you know, those people who are so interesting. They make you feel interesting. That's Carolyn. She's beautiful and smart and she has an amazing sense of humor. Ralph Lauren was so taken by her when they met that he later told his team, every time you design something, think of Carolyn Bessette. The point is people are usually infatuated with her. But now that she's with John, Carolyn is finding out a hard truth.
No one is more captivating than JFK Jr. When he walks into a room, he's all anyone seems to care about. It's like even if you're a star, he's the moon.
OK, so who's the star and who's the moon in the Orisha broke relationship?
I mean, come on, Tricia, we're both Uranus.
In addition to JFK getting all the attention, there's the issue of his family.
Carolyn is still hurting from her awful visit to the Kennedy compound. Before she and John got engaged, they made her feel like an outsider. They mocked her outfit, put her on the spot and snickered at all of her faux pas has since then. She's sworn to spend as little time with the Kennedys as possible. But John is having a hard time with Carolyn's aversion to his family. He loves being with them in his daily life. People never see him for him.
They see JFK and Jackie and everything that could have been when he's with his family. He's surrounded by people who all share the peculiar burden of being Kennedys. John figures Carolyn just needs time. So his family wasn't great to her on the first trip. He can admit that now, but like it or not, if they're going to get married, she's going to have to figure out how to be a Kennedy because she's in this now for better or for worse.
But Carolyn isn't convinced yet.
A few weeks after the launch of George in the fall of nineteen ninety five, John and Carolyn are out to dinner with friends when the conversation turns to a trip. John has planned up to Cape Cod another weekend to kick back with the Kennedys, but Carolyn quietly announces that she's going to stay behind and John loses it. According to the book The Kennedy Heirs, he says, Fine, don't come with me. How? If I care, I'm sick of having the same fight.
Carolyn burst into tears, but still, John won't let up your crying because you don't want to have fun on the beach with my family. OK, he's being a real dick. Yeah, and he doesn't let up.
Finally, Carolyn can't take it anymore. She gets up from the table and runs out of the restaurant. John turns to his dinner companions.
Should I go after her? He asks. They all look at him like, what are you, stupid? Yeah, I'm looking at him like that, too, right. So Jon tosses his napkin onto the table and runs through the streets of Manhattan trying to find his bride to be. A quarter of an hour later, he stomps back into the restaurant. She's gone, he says. Took a cab back to the apartment, I guess. I'm so over her now.
What a big baby. Sounds more like he's the baby.
His friend pretty much agrees. His friend is like, stop badgering her. So what if she doesn't want to go? But John doesn't get it. He argues back she wants to marry me and this is my family. Why can't she just get over herself now? John's buddy loses his cool. He's like, do you know how hard it is to blend in with the Kennedys? And now you're making her feel bad about it. Christ, John, it's like someone dumped a cold bucket of water on John's head and in an instant, his mood shifts.
He gets up from the table and says he's got to go home to apologize. Caroline forgives him, but before long, they're fighting again. And when you're the most photographed couple in New York City or the country, for that matter, sooner or later you're bound to get caught in the act.
It's March 3rd, nineteen ninety six, John and Carolyn wake to find photos of themselves sprawled across the pages of the tabloids again. This time it's the New York Daily News with an eight photo spread of the not so in love. Birds, lights, camera, action, the headline reads. It's a series of photos of John and Carolyn in Washington Square Park going at it. There's one of John reaching out and grabbing her arm. There's another of Carolyn jumping on John's back.
Then there's one of John's sitting on the curb with his head buried in his arms. What the hell happened? It started out as just a normal Sunday. They had brunch at one of their favorite spots and then they decided to take their dog for a walk. It was an unseasonably warm day. John was in shorts. Carolyn was wearing sweats and a windbreaker. They looked relaxed, at ease. They were even holding hands. But when they entered the park, something happened.
Carolyn stopped dead in her tracks and out of nowhere started yelling at John. Turns out she was pissed about this wedding they had to go to a few weeks back. They barely even knew the couple.
But Janet insisted it be rude to refuse their invite. At the reception, they'd found themselves seated next to the society page editor of The New York Times and Carolyn realized that it was the only reason they'd been invited at all.
The bride and groom knew that with John in attendance, their wedding was guaranteed to be covered by every newspaper in town.
Carolyn was still seething about it. How people use John in the park. She tells him it's time to cut the Mr. Nice Guy act. Stop letting people walk all over him. She tells him he needs to start creating some boundaries. She's got a point, but John doesn't take it well, and their lover's spat turns into a shoving match, which is bad enough if you're a regular couple. But it's really bad if you're a Kennedy and the paparazzi follow your every move, which they were.
Hence the photos, eight of them. And of course, the public eats it up.
When John and Carolyn see the paper, they're super embarrassed by it all. They want to forget it, have it all go away. But then the co-founder of John's magazine, Michael Berman, calls and he's super pissed. He tells John once again his personal life is threatening to derail the magazine they worked hard to build. He's worried this is game over for George. John's response to Berman is simple. Get the hell out of my personal life.
But Berman won't listen. This is not just personal, he says. This is the point where your personal life and your professional life mesh in ways they don't for other people. Then Michael drops a bombshell. He says, and John, there's a video. Oh, that's bad. John thinks for a minute. And then he says, So what? It'll show that she was the aggressor, not me. Hold on. He's gone from get out of my business to my fiance is the aggressor.
I guess he wants to be vindicated or have the magazine survive the storm, even if it means Carolyn has to pay the price. And then the video comes out.
One nightly news show runs it as part of a segment called Blow-by-blow. They literally narrate the whole fight like it's a WWE match. The disagreement turns physical as John appears to rip a ring off her hand here. Supposedly it was their engagement ring. Wait, hold on. He took back the engagement ring. Apparently, it's hard to tell, though. The video's pretty jerky, but he's definitely grabbing at something. The newscasters like John walks off, leaving a shocked Carolyn behind.
She runs up behind him and tackles him.
She grabs his neck as he fends off blows and the crowd goes wild. How will it end?
It's messed up that the paparazzi and their ilk take such twisted pleasure out of what sounds straight up violent. Yeah, it's totally upsetting to watch. What's happening between John and Carolyn is not cool, but the newscaster acts like it's just great entertainment. She finishes it off saying Carolyn doesn't hesitate to shove and push him as he tries to walk away. And there's still more after John tries to walk away. The video shows the two of them sitting down on a bench.
They don't say anything or even look at each other. Then they get up, presumably heading home, but they only make it a few blocks before they're fighting again. And then John sits down on the curb and starts crying. Meanwhile, Carolyn is pacing around. Finally, she offers him her hand and he put something in it. The ring, yes. But things still aren't settled between them. Carolyn tries to take the dog's leash from John's hands and apparently he yells out, You've got my ring.
You're not getting my dog to that poor dog, that poor couple. They've worked hard to avoid the paparazzi and find some normalcy. But now the whole world knows that things aren't well between the hunk and his honey. That's what the tabloids call them, the hunk and his honey. And by the whole world, that means the. Kennedy Clan two and John's family is not pleased in their eyes, Kennedy simply don't behave that way. And if they do well, there are going to be consequences.
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It's early March nineteen ninety six, and Carolyn is stepping off a private plane in Washington, D.C., absolutely dreading what she has to do next.
It's been two weeks since she and John had that public kerfuffle at Washington Square Park. All their dirty laundry was hung out to dry on national TV.
It shocked a lot of people, but no one more than John's family.
They were straight up horrified to them. This kind of thing doesn't just reflect poorly on him. It reflects poorly on the entire Kennedy dynasty. There's supposed to be model citizens, not temper tantrum throwers.
Something has to be done. So Carolyn has been summoned to D.C. Ethel Kennedy, the take no prisoners head of the Kennedy family, wants to have a little chat.
And we all know how well Caroline got along with her the first time. Yeah, Ethel made Carolyn look stupid at dinner. And then she was like, P.S., I hate your scarf.
Well, Carolyn was probably hoping never to have to spend time with her again, but she doesn't have much choice. Ethel is not the kind of person you say no to, and if you do, she'll hound you until you give in. Even John is a little afraid of his aunt. When Carolyn asked him to come with her, he was like, Oh, sorry, I have George business to handle. The Carolyn is scared to go alone, so she drags along a close girlfriend for support, sort of her wing woman.
Yeah, we have a great account of all the details of Carolyn's visit from the book The Kennedy Heirs. So Carolyn in her wing woman go straight from the airport to Hickory Hill. That's Bobby and Ethel's estate in Virginia.
When they arrive at the thirteen bedroom brick mansion, a woman in a business suit ushers them inside, presumably Ethel's assistant.
Carolyn's never seen anything like this mansion before. It's like some kind of Kennedy family shrine. Everywhere she looks, there are photos of the Kennedy boys, JFK, Bobby and Ted, along with other priceless heirlooms like framed letters from George Washington and a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation. If Caroline wasn't already nervous, she is. Now, the House is like this reminder that John's not just some hot guy she's engaged to. He's part of American history.
The assistant leads Caroline and her friend to the drawing room where six maids are busily cleaning.
OK, I'm trying to picture what sorts of things six maids might do. Well, let me just tell you, when I used to clean rich people's houses, I would have killed for six helpers. Even the rich are slobs.
OK, so the maids are cleaning and then the woman in the business suit claps her hands and the maids scatter and disappear.
Carolyn and her friend take a seat on a yellow couch. Then one of the maids reappears carrying a tray of tea and butter cookies. About a half an hour goes by in total silence, while except for the crunching of butter cookies.
Finally, Ethel walks in wearing pink linen and pearls.
Carolyn jumps to her feet. Ethel apologizes for the wait, and then she gives Carolyn's wing woman a confused look like, Who are you and what are you doing here?
Then she sits down and stares at Carolyn. You are afraid to meet me alone, dear. Carolyn's perfect alabaster skin turns flaming red, you know.
Ethel says people think I'm scary.
Then she leans in close to Carolyn. They think it because it's true. She does sound scaley. Yeah, that's an actual quote.
But then Ethel softens up a bit.
She starts talking about how hard it is to be with a Kennedy man. After all, she was married to Bobby and that opens Carolyn up. She confesses to Ethel that she feels insecure about being with John. She's never felt that way with anyone else. Ethel is stunned, she says, but you're so beautiful and smart. Why would you feel insecure? Carolyn tells her that John is such a force.
He's like a giant magnet, which he draws everyone in.
Ethel is sympathetic, she says. I went through that with Bobby. At first I realized the only way to survive in this family is to look in the mirror in the morning every single day and say, you know what, I am enough, plain and simple. That's it. I am enough. Eventually it sinks in that yes, you are enough and that no one can ever take that away from you, not even the Kennedys. OK, that is like Oprah level advice.
She's not done.
Ethel finishes by saying you have heart, so don't let John or reporters or anyone change who you are in here. And she touches Carolyn's chest. OK, I heart Ethel Kennedy.
Who would have thought the lady who gave her the humiliating pop quiz the year before would give her such an uplifting speech? Now it's a game changing moment for Carolyn. She leaves with a totally new attitude. She tells her friend, I am enough, Arni.
Well, Carolyn is getting an Oprah style lesson from Ethel, JFK Jr. is busy with the magazine and things are not going so well.
The third issue just hit newsstands. Basketball great Charles Barkley is on the cover, dressed in a powdered wig and Phoenix Suns shorts. It's edgy, but apparently the public isn't ready for edgy sales. Go down. It's not Free-Fall bad, but it's bad enough because here's the thing with a third issue of a new magazine.
It's where advertisers get to take the temperature and find out if all the hoopla on the first two issues is a fluke or if this thing has legs.
And because expectations for George were so sky high, given Jon's involvement, there's nowhere to go but down and rival publications are positively gleeful about it. One critic wrote, The magic seems to be wearing off for John F. Kennedy Jr..
S magazine venture. What a sourpuss, right?
But John isn't daunted by the press. He's still committed to making George succeed. He's a risk taker and he decides to double down. He cans the first editor he hired and decides to take an even bigger role in overseeing the magazine. And then he turns to Carolyn for help. Carolyn spent years working at Calvin Klein and helping make the brand a success. She understands how to market. She knows what advertisers want.
For the next few months, she and John routinely hole up in his office until 2:00 in the morning, tossing around ideas and poring over spreads. It's a new blossoming for them. They light a fire in each other like the old days. It's like when they're left alone, away from the pressures of being a Kennedy and all the press, they shine together.
Oh, I mean, don't get me wrong, they still fight sometimes whatever it is that pulled them together and brings out the best and the other can also bring out the worst.
It can be so fun until it's not OK. Fine. I can take a hint. I'll leave you alone.
No, we're having too much fun. Well, so are John and Carolyn, because right now they're over the moon in love, which means.
Wait, wait, wait, not yet. Carolyn and John are loving their lives away from the press so they decide to get married in utmost secrecy. It's going to be need to know only. OK, but I need to know. OK, well, I don't know a whole lot. That's how secret it is. But let's imagine.
Hello, it's September 1996 and you get a call from your pal JFK Jr.. Hey, Junior. OK, no one calls him that, OK? Hi, buddy boy. Hey, bro. Taito. Chip, what's up? Listen, I need you to come to Cumberland Island next weekend. Where is that? It's a wild piece of land off the coast of Georgia population. Thirty five and a bunch of feral horses. There's also a tiny little in and a teeny tiny church.
Dude, I think I'll pass. It sounds humorless. Fuck. Which messes with my hair. OK, there's no way you are saying no to an invite from John F. Kennedy Jr..
All right. True, but I was playing hard to get. Well, I'm pretty sure whoever got the call said Cumberland Island.
I'd love to do.
What we do know is that all they were told is buy a plane ticket and don't tell anyone where you're going.
This is very mysterious. I know God, I love rich people weddings.
I actually searched everywhere for details, but they're seriously only like two books that even mention it. But here's what I do know. When guests step off a ferry boat, they're taken to a tiny little known, and even though there aren't many guests. The end is so tiny it can't fit all of them. So the overflow is sent to a converted chicken coop with just a tiny bed and teeny tiny chair.
I'm trying to imagine how that would go down with a Kennedy. Well, one of the guests is rumored to have said, Are you kidding me?
But they're stuck now and they still have no idea why they're here. Next, they're instructed to head to the INS tiny porch. That's when John and Carolyn come out looking all radiant. Carolyn says something like, this isn't just a party. And then John chimes in and says, this, my friends, is a wedding. Our wedding. OK, romantic. Definitely talk about romantic. I found a clip of something John said at the rehearsal dinner that night.
I changed my life in a way that I never thought about. I know, OK, all I could make out was life possible and marbles, he said, Caroline has changed my life in a way I never thought was possible and made me the happiest man alive, not marble's. The next afternoon, guests take Jeeps over to the church on the far end of the island.
The seating is open pews, super informal, like no electricity or anything. Everything's lit by candles.
One cool tidbit I read was that before the ceremony, John surprised a maid at the teeny tiny in. She was so shocked to see the JFK Jr. here on this middle of nowhere island that she almost fainted and John was so tickled by that he invited her to the wedding.
Oh, my God, stop.
So anyway, everyone sits down and waits for the ceremony to begin and waits and waits while they fend off mosquitoes and fanned themselves with their cravats.
And then the sun is going down. OK, so where are the bride and groom? No one knows. Finally, a jeep pulls up outside.
John walks through the open doors of the church. He turns to one of the groomsmen waiting by the entry and says, Sorry, I couldn't find my shirt, but still no one's seen the bride. She finally shows up two hours late, but no one minds because, well, she's the bride. Plus, she looks absolutely stunning. She's wearing a forty thousand dollar silk gown, which she spent the last two hours trying to get into. Apparently, one of her friends had to take her into the bathroom, tie a scarf around her eyes and yank the dress down over her head at the altar.
John takes Carolyn's hand and the priest begins to talk about why the couple wanted such an intimate ceremony. He tells guests, this is a reflection of the quiet life that John and Carolyn hope to lead.
Boy. Good luck with that. When it's over, everyone files out of the church, climbs into convertible jeeps and drives through pouring rain back to the end for the reception under the cover of a small tent. John's best man gets up to give a toast.
He says it might sound corny, but it is true love.
And it has brought all of us who love John a great deal of happiness, knowing that he will have someone as special as Carolyn by his side for the rest of his life.
No, I could have done better. Orisha way to ruin the moment.
JFK Jr. and Carolyn got the wedding. They wanted just the people they loved, watching them say their vows and pledging eternal love on a teeny tiny island in a teeny tiny church and no press.
How long does that last?
Two weeks. When they get back to New York from their honeymoon, practically every photographer in the tri state area is camped out in front of their apartment. And much to Carolyn's horror, they're not going to let the couple out of their sight ever again. We get support from indeed, indeed knows that it's a tough time right now for businesses across America and now your next important hire is more crucial than ever.
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It's October 1996, two weeks since John and Carolyn said, I do. Now they're back in New York, and every time John steps through the metal doors of his apartment building, bam, the paparazzi are out in full force.
They've always been obsessed with John and Carolyn, but now they've taken things up a notch. People have been trying to take John's picture for as long as he can remember, but he's worried about Carolyn since the very beginning. This was her fear. So he tries to nip it in the bud by making an announcement to the mob outside their apartment building or just asking, you know, getting married is a big adjustment. And for her, who is a private citizen, up until about two years ago, it's even more so today.
John wants to make a deal. Carolyn will come outside, answer a few questions and posed for some photos and then the paps leave them alone. The paps are like, sure, man, no problem.
But as soon as Carolyn comes out, they get in her face, yelling and snapping pictures. Carolyn grabs John's hand and looks up at him and is like, What do I do? They make their way to John's car. But when they get in, the photographers surround the hood so they can't leave their yelling any little John's on the way. Jesus. Two weeks after the honeymoon, they're already wanting a Kennedy air. Yeah, they're probably imagining the money they can get for those pictures.
In the clip, it looks like John is going to have to plow them down if he wants to get away. Finally, there's an opening and he hits the gas and they're safe.
For now. John figures the press will get bored, but he's wrong.
They follow Carolyn everywhere for months. They get in her face and call her a whore and a bitch just to see if they can provoke her. God, fuck the paparazzi. Seriously, by the time their marriage is, one year old, Carolyn barely ever leaves their apartment.
As time goes by, John is less sympathetic.
He misses the old Carolyn. She used to be the life of the party. Now all she does is sit inside all day playing with their pets. After another evening of not much to say, he tells her, I just can't come home and talk about the cat and the dog all evening. But Carolyn can't seem to pull out of it. I mean, of course she can't. The press won't let her move.
Yeah, John tries to cheer her up and suggest other activities. Maybe she come back to the magazine and help out again. That was fun. Right?
But things that George have changed to before they got married, it felt like they shared a passionate hobby. These days, it doesn't seem like a hobby for John. It's all consuming. Sales are in free fall and advertisers are running away. He's desperately trying to come up with a plan to turn things around. And now Carolyn is the one growing resentful. Both of them are under extreme stress. And rather than leaning on each other to pull through the hard times, it's like the bad times are pushing them further apart.
In the spring of 1998, John finally lures Carolyn out of the house for a benefit dinner, where she bumps into an old friend, actually an old flame. His name is Michael Bergin. He's a former male model who Carolyn met during her days at Calvin Klein. He has thick, dark hair, even thicker eyebrows, and a perfectly chiseled jaw line on his dimpled face. Talking to Michael makes Carolyn suddenly feel like her old self. He knew her before she became a Kennedy and reminds her of who she used to be before the press decided she was a total bitch.
Michael likes being around her, too, and at the end of the night they agree to meet again soon for coffee. That coffee date leads to another and then another and another. Wait, don't the paps get suspicious?
I mean, I'm picturing them wearing wigs and ducking into alleyways and changing cab. Be cool if she dressed up like a garbage man and hitched rides on garbage trucks.
Yeah, but who wants to have an emotional affair with someone who smells like garbage?
True. Although maybe she smelled like rich people. Garbage. Yeah, like empty bottles of Chanel number five and old caviar. I might date that honestly. Maybe I would too.
However, it went down for the first time in a while. Caroline is starting to feel like she has someone she can confide in about the pressures of being a Kennedy probably doesn't hurt that he's hot. Yeah, fun fact. He was the face, actually. He was the crotch of Calvin's tidy whities after Mark Wahlberg.
Anyway, that spring, John takes a trip out of town and Carolyn and Michael decide to turn their coffee date into dinner. Afterward, they go back to Michael's apartment where Carolyn opens up. She tells Michael that John is either working on the magazine or learning to fly his new plane. She's lucky if she even sees him these days. She starts crying and Michael starts comforting her. And before she knows what's happening, they're kissing.
Oh, Carolyn jumps up and says, no, God, what am I doing? And she runs out. She calls Michael the next day and tells him it can never happen again, and then she's like, I think you should know, I told Jon about it.
Is this the right time for a dun dun dun?
I learned the hard way. There's never a right time for that. OK, well, I tried.
Two days later, Michael is woken from a deep sleep. He stumbles out of bed and goes to the intercom, who's there? He says the person on the other end says he's a cop. So Michael buzzes him up, he opens his door, and it's John before he can do anything. John Daxam, POW right in the kisser. Mm hmm. Michael goes down hard and then John says, Stay away from my goddamn wife.
Wow. But Michael doesn't stay away.
A few weeks later, he gets a call from Carolyn, and before long, he's right back where he was meeting up with her, listening to her secrets and happily giving her a little normalcy in her not so normal life.
And then one thing leads to another, as they say, and pretty soon they're buttering each other's biscuits.
Actually, no one really knows about the biscuits and butter. Some books say they were getting it on. Others say it was just an emotional affair. Whatever whatever's happening, it goes on for nearly a year.
And John has no idea, probably because he's not around while apparently he's not totally clueless because one night in March 1999, Carolyn says she's got to take care of something and John follows her.
Turns out she's not running an errand.
She's going to see Michael. John sits down on the curb outside Michael's apartment and waits for two hours.
Well, when Carolyn finally comes out, he grabs her by the arm and practically throws her into a cab.
According to the book, The Kennedy airs when the two get home, Carolyn swears to John she's not sleeping with Michael. She says he's just a friend, someone she can be honest with in a way that she can't with John because he's always so preoccupied. You think John would be relieved knowing that Carolyn is not sleeping with someone else, but actually it's the opposite.
He feels like he could get over it if it was just sex. But this is worse. She turned to someone else for emotional support when she should be turning to him. John feels like it's a violation of the trust that their marriage is supposed to be built on. But the more he thinks about it, the more he realizes why she felt the need to turn to someone else. Between his obsession with work and desire to succeed and trips to see his family and his plane, he hasn't exactly been available.
If he had been there, maybe so would Carolyn. Now, John tells Carolyn he's ready to make a change. He wants to give their marriage a second shot. Is she willing? And she is.
If they go to couples counseling and he agrees for a few months, they give counseling, the old college try, but it doesn't work. In July, Carolyn walks out of a session and refuses to go back. Then she moves out of their bedroom and into the spare room where John keeps his workout equipment. Then, in a rash, quid pro quo maneuver, John moves out of their apartment and into the Stanhope Hotel.
Well, he doesn't really move. He hobbles because at this point, his foot isn't a guest. Oh, yeah.
I feel this coming full circle. Back to the start of episode one. Yes. So John spends hours on the phone with friends. It's all falling apart. He tells them we've become like total strangers, but he's not ready to throw in the towel. Across town, Carolyn is doing more or less the same. She tells her friends that she feels like she doesn't have ownership over her life anymore. And she and John just can't seem to make things work.
But when they ask if she's considered divorce, she tells them not yet. She still believes they can find a way. And that's when Carolyn sister invites them to lunch. She convinces them to bury the hatchet and fly to a wedding at the Kennedy compound this weekend. And she's even happy to go with them if they can drop her on Martha's Vineyard on the way. And Carolyn says, OK, which is big of her because remember, the Kennedys never treated her great.
And she's told John she doesn't want to spend time with them even though they are his family. True. But let's not take sides. I'm Switzerland, OK? Me do.
The day after lunch with Carolyn, Sister John gets his cast off and the day after that he gets a bite on George.
He's trying to sell the magazine. In the last year, George's lost ten million dollars. His co-founder quit. His publisher is going to dump him. John's looking for an exit ramp, free up some stress and figure out what to do with the rest of his life.
And now he has two interested parties, James and Lachlan Murdoch, the Murdochs.
I love a good even the rich call back. Same.
Yes, the Rupert's kids. For those who don't know, John meets the Murdoch boys at a Yankees game. He lays out a price and they tell him they'll think about it. On the way home from the stadium, the magazine's editor asks John what he's going to do with himself if he's not running George anymore. And John says something surprising. He's been thinking about running for governor. But first he wants to get things working in his marriage. He tells the editor he won't put Caroline through the turmoil of running for office until she's ready.
And that brings us to. Friday, July 16th. Late that afternoon, Carolyn sister meets John at his office. They go down to his car and head for the New Jersey airport where John Parks's plane, they figure they'll get there around 6:00 p.m. or so, leaving them plenty of daylight to fly up to Martha's Vineyard. But the traffic is horrible. It's after 8:00 p.m. when they arrive at the airfield and Carolyn is not there. She was supposed to meet them.
She rolls up half an hour later and climbs out of her town car. As they're getting ready to climb into the plane, a flight instructor runs over to talk to John.
Hey, he says you're taking off late. There's cloud cover over the vineyard. Like most Americans, I'm willing to inconvenience myself out of my love for you. Don't go without me. But John tells the guy to go home and be with his family.
A little after eight thirty there off, he flies up the coast using the lights below to guide him when he hits Rhode Island, he veers right and heads out over the dark, open ocean. John hasn't spent much time flying at night without anything to guide him but his controls. He dips the plane's nose, then pulls it up and starts climbing. But something's not right. It's dark and cloudy and it's hard to tell up from down. And then out of nowhere, the plane is in a perilous corkscrew.
Pilots call it a graveyard spiral. Seven and a half miles off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, it disappears into the Atlantic. No one makes it out alive. Seriously, Brooke, look, I'm just telling you what happened, and we don't know exactly what happened, but you can imagine the next day the press go nuts.
And of course, they put forward all sorts of theories to sell papers, mostly mean things about Carolyn. And then later after she was gone, they say how difficult she was, how obsessive and selfish. I mean, they just lambasted her.
It's so maddening. The truth is, Jon didn't have a lot of hours flying, but he was a good student. And what happened to him could have happened to anyone without tons of experience. One pilot who study the crash said he was like a blind man trying to find his way out of a room. They speculate the instruments on the plane should have told him he wasn't flying level. But John probably trusted his instincts. When officials complete their investigation, they'll conclude the crash was caused by, quote, the pilot's failure to maintain control of the airplane during a descent over water at night, which was a result of spatial disorientation.
Was there a big royal funeral for them?
Actually, the funeral was pretty small. Only three hundred and fifty people, mostly John's family and friends and a few of the people close to Carolyn and her sister Lauren, who, remember, died to God. Their poor parents. I know.
But at the funeral, most of the people talked about John, his potential, all the great things to come, which is true. He was principled. He had charisma. He had ambitions and drive. I just wish there was a little more about Carolyn, her accomplishments, her caring, the people she touched. They both had more to offer the world. It's too bad they never got the chance. Is there ever a happy ending for one of these things?
Jesus, I'm going to hang up and polish off a bottle of whiskey and go watch a Disney movie. I'm going to grab my mask and head right over.
This is the final episode of our two part series on JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette on our next episode. I'll be talking to someone who will take us behind the scenes with the Kennedy family. 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 Wonder E-Plus and the Wonder Free App to listen ad free.
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Another way to support us is to answer a short survey at Wonder Income Survey. We use many sources when researching our stories like Vanity Fair and Town and Country, but we especially recommend three books, America's Reluctant Prince by Stephen Guillén. What Remains by Carole Radziwill and the Kennedy Heirs by J. Randy Taraborrelli. I'm Brooks Ephron. And I'm Erica Skidmore. Williams. Danita Jones wrote this episode. Our editor is LaDonna Elevado. Our producer is Caleb Asinger, Sound Design by James Morgan.
Audio assistants by Sergio Henriquez are executive producers, are Stephanie Gend Marshmallowy and Hernan Lopez.
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