Jackie Kennedy is most often remembered as a beautiful and elegant First Lady with great taste in fashion, the Guinevere in the fable of an American Camelot. This is the main reason that tabloids have been salivating for decades over the epic seven-part interview with Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. recorded just a few months after President Kennedy's assassination in 1964 and meant to be embargoed until 50 years after Jackie's death. It's one of only three interviews the former First Lady gave after her husband's assassination, and excitement surged when news broke that Caroline Kennedy would release the interviews early, allegedly in order to stonewall the planned mini-series on the Kennedys starring Katie Holmes as Jackie. Caroline Kennedy now says the book is being released to coincide with the 50 year anniversary of her father's presidency. Regardless of the reasoning, the entire oral history--Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy--is scheduled to be released in book form with accompanying audio on Wednesday.
"Explosive" is the word most often used to describe what the unreleased Jackie Kennedy tapes would reveal. Last month, a volley of speculative reports suggested that the revelations may not be that explosive after all. So far, reports on the contents of the interview say nothing about her rumored affair with actor William Holden, but they do give us a glimpse of a sassier Jackie. New York magazine says that "Jackie O. would be perfect for reality TV" considering the extent to which the tapes portray her as a bit of a "backbiter," in Dan Amira's words. ABC News is hosting a two-hour special on the tapes that's so far highlighted how Jackie's admitting that the prospect of a Lyndon Johnson presidency made John F. Kennedy Jr. "worried for the country." The New York Times describes the interviews as "candid," noting that in the book's foreword Caroline Kennedy says her mother was in "the extreme stages of grief" when the interviews were conducted.
Sifting through the sneak previews, we've collected some memorable quotes. Indeed, some sound like they wouldn't be out of place in an episode of Jersey Shore, and others confirm that JFK was pretty suspicious of how his vice president would run the country. But collectively, they show us a Jackie we've never seen before. To borrow the Associated Press's description, "It's a side of Jacqueline Kennedy only friends and family knew. Funny and inquisitive, canny and cutting."
On her husband--quoting from The Times: "He was, she says, kind, conciliatory, forgiving, a gentleman, a man of taste in people, furniture, books. Fondly, she recalls him ever reading--while walking, dining, bathing, doing his tie. She remembers with amusement how he would change into pajamas for his 45-minute afternoon nap in the White House. She lets slip a reference to a 'civilized side of Jack' and 'sort of a crude side,' but she clarifies: 'Not that Jack had the crude side.'"
On her marriage--quoting from The Times once again: "Her marriage, she remarks, was 'rather terribly Victorian or Asiatic.' Her aim was to provide 'a climate of affection and comfort and détente'--and the children in good moods. She suggests the couple never really had a fight. She insists she got her opinions from her husband. On that last point, at least, Michael Beschloss, the historian, who was enlisted to write an introduction and annotations to the book, said in an interview, 'I would take that with a warehouse of salt.'
On the Cuban Missile Crisis: She told her husband, "If anything happens, we're all going to stay right here with you. Even if there's not room in the bomb shelter in the White House. ... I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too--than live without you."
On her husband's opinion of LBJ: "Jack said it to me sometimes. He said, 'Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon were president?'"
On "violently liberal women," her husband, and Adlai Stevenson: "Jack so obviously demanded from a woman--a relationship between a man and a woman where a man would be the leader and a woman be his wife and look up to him as a man. With Adlai you could have another relationship where--you know, he'd sort of be sweet and you could talk. ... I always thought women who were scared of sex loved Adlai."
On the positive reaction to her televised tour of the White House: "Suddenly, everything that'd been a liability before--your hair, that you spoke French, that you didn't just adore to campaign, and you didn't bake bread with flour up to your arms--you know, everybody thought I was a snob and hated politics. … I was so happy for Jack, especially now that it was only three years together that he could be proud of me then. Because it made him so happy--it made me so happy. So those were our happiest years."
On Indira Gandhi: "a real prune--bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman."
On Charles DeGaulle: "that egomaniac"
On Martin Luther King, Jr.: "a phony"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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