By Jane Wypiszynski
November 6, 2014: I have been obsessed with Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis since I was 10 years old. That is not any form of exaggeration. I have read everything I could find about her, from the well-crafted books to the worst tabloid stories. Seriously, if they had a Jeopardy category for her I would start with the $800 answer, secure in the knowledge that I would be asking the right question.
As a young girl I fulfilled my passion for Jackie by sending her birthday cards every year and writing to the White House asking for pictures of her and her family (evidently I had a jones for a large number of photos because my response from Letitia Baldridge was a set of four photos and a letter saying that Mrs. Kennedy could not possibly send me the “dozens” I had requested). Perhaps my most brash moment was when I wrote to invite Caroline to spend the summer at my house so she would have someone to play with during her school recess.
As I matured I realized that my chances of meeting Jackie were very small. I lived in Wisconsin, went to college in Indiana, and then returned to Wisconsin to teach. But I remained under her spell, constantly seeking out information about her. I had the chance to meet Ted Kennedy several times, and after writing a senior college thesis about Robert Kennedy I took a copy of it to Hickory Hill and left it for Ethel. When I went to New York I always walked past 1040 Fifth Avenue hoping she would emerge.
In 2003 I was going to Boston for a vacation and decided, on a pure whim, to see if I could contact Hugh Auchincloss III (Yusha), Jackie’s beloved stepbrother who still lived in Newport. I sent him a letter, asking if I could interview him about her. He called me and said he would be delighted to meet me at his home, “The Castle”. This is the smaller home on the edge of what was the Auchincloss family mansion, Hammersmith Farm, which is where Jackie and Jack’s wedding reception was held in September, 1953.
By Lynn Wooten
October 30, 2014: Since I was in the fifth grade, I have had a deep fascination with the Kennedys and have spent most of my life building a collection of books and memorabilia on them.
I had the great fortune to see Jackie Kennedy Onassis in person several times, beginning at Caroline Kennedy’s wedding on Cape Cod in 1986.
That sighting was simply from being part of the crowd of tourists, fans and media outside the church, as well as putting good use to a zoom lens.
Afterward, when I became a newspaper reporter with a very convenient press pass, I photographed a number of Kennedy events at the JFK Library, around Boston, at Arlington and elsewhere.
Not long after Caroline’s wedding, I mailed Jackie some photos of the event to keep, along with an extra print of her with her mother and stepbrother, and a self-addressed, stamped envelope. In my letter, I asked if she would please personally sign and return the extra photo to me. To my great surprise, many weeks later the envelope arrived in the mailbox containing the photo, inscribed in her distinctive handwriting: “To Lynn Wooten, who was with us all on this happy day – With appreciation and all good wishes, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.” That photo is one of my most prized possessions and later appeared in Jay Mulvaney’s book “Kennedy Weddings.”
I continued to send Jackie photos after I’d photographed her and the children at public events, and I’d always get a polite thank you note from Nancy Tuckerman -- and once from Jackie herself, on her famous powder blue 1040 stationery.
At the events I saw and photographed her, Jackie always was the indisputable star of the show and electrified the crowd with her mere presence. She was the rare individual who exuded the aura of a superstar – a vibe, an energy that I can’t adequately put into words. Once, following the dedication of a statue of President Kennedy in Boston, the family and their guests retired to a private reception in the Statehouse.
Photographers and fans waited outside for them to leave and make their way to their limos. Eventually the doors swung open, and Jackie, Caroline, John Jr. and others began their walk through the gauntlet. I got swept in and crushed by the crowd directly behind Jackie, following in her wake like a pack of worshipping pilgrims, and literally followed in her footsteps down the hallway and out the door.
It was a parting of the sea, a sea of media and excited fans. By being right behind her, I experienced up-close the full force of what Jackie had handled so gracefully for over 30 years – people pressing in and calling out to her, the blinding flashbulbs in your face. It was quite unnerving! The three of them got into their limo, and Jackie angled away from the window. Although I could have pulled a full “paparrazo-style” move by snapping pictures through the glass, I simply couldn’t do it – not only was I rattled by what I’d just experienced, but it also felt far too close and rudely intrusive. The car eased away.
By Steven L. Brawley, Editor-in-Chief
October 27, 2014: In honor of LGBT History Month I am reposting this story from 2013.
President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie had a complex relationship. A lot has been written about their lives. But few know there was a third person in their marriage, and he was gay.
The third wheel was Lem Billings, JFK's lifelong BFF, who was a homosexual. They roomed together in school and would be inseparable until Nov. 22, 1963. How close were they? Well, this is what Jackie had to say. "Lem Billings has been a house guest every weekend I've been married." There is no reason to believe a sexual relationship existed between the two, although Billings truly loved JFK.
So, how did the three get along? Having a gay man in your marriage might have caused some tension, but most historians agree that Jackie appreciated Billings.
In many ways, she had much more in common with Billings than she did with JFK. They both loved all the artsy stuff JFK did not fully appreciate.
When Jackie was unavailable to go to a dinner or on a foreign trip, JFK would take Billings along. He had his own room at the White House and came and went like a member of the family. Billings never recovered from JFK's death, turning to drugs and alcohol. He died in 1981. Jackie would attended his funeral. A final sign of respect to the man she shared with JFK.
Over the years I have somehow become a Jackie historian. When I was a kid, my grandmother had one of those mass-produced pictures of President and Mrs. Kennedy hanging in her living room in St. Louis. When I would visit, I would barrage her with questions about the Kennedy's.
Today I publish pinkpillbox.com, a web magazine that looks at Jackie's influence. Through the popularity of my site, I have been asked to speak at functions (including Jackie's 50th class reunion at George Washington University in DC), display my memorabilia at events, and provide media commentary. Being gay, I am interested in her relationship with the LGBT world.
Gay men were always part of her life. Women of her social standing, and of her generation, knew who were light in the loafers, both the married and the confirmed bachelor crowd, keeping their secrets and enjoying their company.
Jackie ran with an impressive list of gays:
- Writers: Joseph Alsop, Truman Capote, and Gore Vidal (her step brother)
- Artists: Rudolf Nureyev, William Walton, and Andy Warhol
- Interior Decorators: Billy Baldwin, John Fowler, Albert Hadley (and lots more who were "technically" married)
- Fashion Designers: Armani, Dior, Givenchy, Gucci, Halston (designed her 1961 inaugural pillbox hat), Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, and others
- Stylists: Kenneth Battelle (did both Jackie and Marilyn Monroe's hair)
In the forward to Pamela Clarke Keogh's "Jackie Style," noted gay fashion designer Valentino says of her, "Quite simply, Jackie's power was to fascinate. Her manner crossed the populist with the regal…"
The gays would be helpful to her historic restoration of the White House (raising money and scouting out priceless antiques) and with her efforts to save important buildings such as Grand Central Station in New York City.
William Kuhn, best-selling author of "Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books" offered insight into one of Jackie's many gay friendships.
October 26, 2014: My introduction to Jacqueline Kennedy came early. It all started with a series of events – a poster of the presidents outside the door of my first grade classroom circa 1980, the gift of “The White House: An Historic Guide”, and a book about the first ladies.
My first grade teacher, Mrs. Parker, was big on history. We sang “My Country 'Tis of Thee” and “America the Beautiful” virtually every morning after the flag salute, and we were to have memorized our presidents and state capitols by the end of the year. The poster outside the door served as a daily reminder of this expectation but, to me, the most captivating images on the poster were those of the White House and the rooms within.
Consulting my 1964 World Book Encyclopedia, I learned a bit about the history of the president's house and, more importantly, the role that Jacqueline Kennedy played in restoring it in the early 1960's. One picture – a still from Mrs. Kennedy's tour of the White House, caught my eye, and I was off.