September 1, 2020
Interview by Steven Louis Brawley with Paul Brandus, author of Jackie: Her Transformation from First Lady to Jackie O.
Why did you pick this period of Jackie's life to focus on? Most Jackie books focus on other periods of her life, e.g. her White House years, or Jackie through the prism of one of her two marriages. But I think the period in between her marriages - Nov. 1963 to Oct, 1968 - is perhaps the most fascinating and revealing of all. It shows us Jackie on her own. Evolving, grieving, moving forward.
What are a few things that you discovered that have not been reported on before? She once was asked other than JFK, which president she would have liked to have married. Her answer: Jefferson. She was attracted to Jefferson because he was a renaissance man who had so many varied interests. People need to understand that Jackie was a renaissance woman, a woman who had so many interests - and had the intellectual firepower to engage with the country's preeminent artists, writers, thinkers, and more - and do so on their level. She was a woman - First Lady or otherwise - like no other,
Jackie was so very private, did you run into any issues with sources not wanting to talk? Most are gone, but those that are still with us were very helpful.
In recent years, people have discussed the PTSD she must have suffered. Did your research support this? She did indeed suffer from PTSD. It began on Nov. 22, 1963 and stayed with her for the rest of her life. It never went away - never - but she learned to deal with it, suppress it as best she could. Little things - a sudden, sharp noise for example - could bring it all back in an instant.
Many people say Jackie only married Ari for the security and money, Do you think your book sheds more light on the complexity of their relationship? Even before Dallas, Jackie craved - needed - security and privacy. These needs grew after the assassination, and the murder of Robert Kennedy in June 1968 was the final straw. There's no question that Jackie - who was well-off, but not that well off, also enjoyed the security and freedom that money conveyed. And yet her initial attraction to Onassis.- and they had known each other since the early 1950s - was based on other things. Like Jackie, Onassis spoke several languages. He was incredibly charming and attentive. He was a very good listener, and very solicitous of women. This, along with his fantastic wealth, more than compensated for the fact that wasn't as physically attractive as, say, JFK. Women flocked to him like fireflies to light.
After researching and writing the book, what is your main takeaway about Jackie? I think she was utterly brilliant. She blazed her own trail, was comfortable in her own skin. She, to this day, remains a fine example for others.
What's your next book topic? Not sure! But it won't be politically-related.
Image courtesy of Simon & Schuster.