THE JACKIE INTERVIEWS
While I was writing READING JACKIE I spoke to people who knew her. These four posts are unfiltered insights into some of the odd, intelligent, and unpredictable people in Jackie's orbit.
For most Americans Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis stood for class. We could hardly have had a better cultural ambassador than when she visited India on our behalf in the early 1960s. She looked beautiful. She was ready to engage meaningfully with non-Western culture. She had courage and a sense of humor.
But what is class? It's not only the possession of money, or the current American president would be more widely looked up to than he is. Nor does buying a beautiful outfit necessarily teach you how to behave when you're wearing it. Nor is it only bravery or manners. If it were, emergency services personnel who conceal what they're required to do under pressure would rank higher in American society than they do.
One of the attractions of writing a book on Jackie was the opportunity of interviewing people in her circle. One of these was my own editor, Nan Talese, Jackie's colleague at Doubleday. Nan told me I couldn't use the word "class" in the book. She didn't say why, but I assumed it wasn't classy to take any notice of class.
That's an unspoken rule of good manners that I'm ready to break.
Someone who taught me even more about how to behave was Francis Mason. When I met him he was in his late eighties. He'd been a friend of Jackie, who'd also edited one of his books.
Mason was a soldier during the Second World War. He participated in the D-day landings in France. Afterwards he was a cultural attaché at American embassies in Britain and in Belgrade. He was also one of the directors of the Morgan Library in New York and broadcast dance reviews on the radio in New York City starting in the late 1940s. He made friends with two essential figures of twentieth-century American dance. He knew and collaborated with the choreographer, George Balanchine. Mason was also close to the dancer Martha Graham and chaired the board that ran her company after her death.
Here's what I learned from him. Read More
Jody Linscott wrote and Claudia Porges Holland, now Claudia Porges Beyer, illustrated two children's books that Jacqueline Onassis acquired and edited. The first was ONCE UPON A TO Z: AN ALPHABETICAL ODYSSEY (Doubleday, 1991), and the second, THE WORTHY WONDERS LOST AT SEA: A WHIMSICAL WORD SEARCH ADVENTURE (Doubleday, 1993).
Claudia Beyer (abbreviated CB below)
28 May 2009
Memorandum of a telephone conversation
"I met her in the late 1970s, I believe. I had been working at ROLLING STONE for a couple of years on and off. I went every year at Christmas with my family to St Martin. One year I decided just to stay on in St Martin. I used to work for Joe Armstrong, the publisher of ROLLING STONE before the magazine moved to New York. I was 19 or something. I then had an interim job working for Annie Leibovitz when the magazine was moving from SF to NY. I was helping get her situated, and finding her an apartment. Shortly after that I was an assistant to Jann Wenner's assistant, Iris Brown. Those were wild and crazy days. I abandoned my job to go down and live in St Martin. I was living in a little shed in St Martin. I had a little hammock. I used to hitchhike around because I didn't drive. I used to collect my mail at a boutique."