*From the August 2, 1999 issue of New York Magazine.
Actress and friend
John and I met when we were 15. We knew each other as friends, and as housemates at Brown, and in many ways we grew up together. Ten years later, in 1985, we fell in love while we were both acting in a Brian Friel play called Winners at the Irish Arts Center. During the play, we began a romance that lasted until 1991.
John always had a grace and ease about him and, as I discovered, a tremendous ear for accents. When we did the play, I was in my last year at Juilliard and very pleased with myself in the area of dialects, and John usually deferred to me. However, at one point in rehearsal, we strongly disagreed over the Irish pronunciation of the word God; I was sure I was right and he was sure he was right. But it was confirmed by the director, who was Irish, that John was right. After that, I took my pointers from John. If he had pursued a career as an actor, he would have had a lot of opportunities.
JOHN PERRY BARLOW
I remember in 1977, when John showed up at my ranch in Wyoming for a summer job, he was so wide-eyed and energetic that he was like a giant Labrador-retriever puppy. Lots of energy, little focus. But he was amenable to being focused. The first thing I did was to tell him to go dig some post holes, and he just went at it like he was killing snakes. I was putting up a new corral fence, and he was digging through gravel and rock. He did it without complaining and with a ravenous intensity. It was the first time he’d ever done anything for money in his life – not that he was getting paid a hell of a lot. But at least he had a job. This wasn’t something that his mother was paying for; it was something that he was doing on his own, and he was just delighted. He wasn’t a particularly great horseman, but he was perfectly patient with being given the drag, riding on the tail end of the herd and pushing along the laggardly cows and calves. Pretty boring work, really. There’s little romance to it. But he did it uncomplainingly, as he did everything.
Friend and diving companion
The first time we went out on the Vast Explorer, in the early eighties, the captain of the ship was a guy nicknamed Stretch – six ten, 325 pounds, a real rough-and-tumble fisherman. The boat was going out on a treasure hunt, and John really wanted to go. I said, “Look, I’ve been diving with this guy for years, and he’s good. He’s a good diver and a helluva athlete, and you can depend on him, believe me.” But Stretch gave John the dirtiest jobs on the boat – he wouldn’t admit this today, but he tried to make Kennedy quit. His first job was cleaning out the lazarette, part of the rudder mechanism on the back, and it’s just filthy. The bilge makes a cesspool smell. John spent a week in there without a word of complaint. And when John came out of the bilge, in Stretch’s mind he had made the team.
Another time, there were three of us – me, Kennedy, and this guy John Beyer – on a dive into a big World War I freight vessel that had sunk off of Martha’s Vineyard. There were World War I motorcycles onboard that they were bringing to Europe. And we were inside the ship once – I mean, way down into the bowels of the ship. And then John Beyer’s regulator broke and he couldn’t breathe. Kennedy immediately gave Beyer his regulator and they buddy-breathed. But it wasn’t just a simple buddy-breathing where you had to get to the surface. We had to go through these passageways that were falling down – like going through a maze – to get out of the ship. But John didn’t even blink. There was no panic. It was just cool, calm, collected, business as usual.
Former colleague in the Office of Economic Development
When he started working here in 1985, he was like a really big kid, only 24 or 25 at the time. We had offices on different floors, and when he was walking through the stairs from one floor to another, he would yell out loud just to hear his echo. He used to chew the tops of pens, so all of us used to hide our pens from him. I issued him his very first paycheck, because I worked in payroll then. But he lost it. It was sent to the cleaners in his pants, so we had to issue him another one. He worked with us just about a year. After he left us, he went to law school.
Co-founder and former artistic director of Naked Angels
In 1987, I met him at a party in New York and we just started talking, and I remember a friend of mine said, “Hey, he really likes you,” and I said, “Yeah, but he’s John Kennedy. I’ll never see him again.” But then we started hanging out – boxing matches, basketball games, the theater. We went to the Andrew Golota match in Atlantic City, and he did this funny thing: We were on the floor, but the tickets were midway back. So Donald Trump called us to sit ringside. We looked at each other, shrugged, and decided to do it. I found myself sitting between him and Evander Holyfield. And all of a sudden the crush began. Photographers, all kinds of people. It was a madhouse. There was a waitress who was carrying a whole tray of drinks – she was dressed in a Caesar’s outfit – and they spilled all over her, and all over us. And he said, “You know, let’s get out of here and go back to the other seats.”
Former chief of investigations in the Manhattan D.A.’s office
I was his boss in the D.A.’s office. The first day he came to work, there were 100 reporters outside. A paralegal who was making $15,000 a year was offered $10,000 to take a picture of John at his desk. In the elevator, cops would ask for his autograph. He’d work quietly all day, and then we would see him at night on television giving an address at the Kennedy Center. His first year, he was assigned intake duty. Citizens would come in with a complaint, and John’s job was to interview them. It was funny to see the way they’d react. Having this legend sit down and scribble down your complaint has got to be a little strange.
Former counsel to the Manhattan D.A.
That first day, Mike Pearl called from the Post and said he knew the whole first class had gone to lunch at a Chinese restaurant, and could I tell him what John F. Kennedy Jr. had for lunch. And I said, “The whole idea is to let him settle in and give him privacy.” And he said he understood perfectly. And the next day I read in the Post that John F. Kennedy Jr. had mu-shu pork for lunch. I called Mike and said, “Why did you write ‘mu-shu pork’?” And Mike’s response was “That’s what I would’ve had for lunch.” It gave me in one short day some sense of what it must be like to be John F. Kennedy Jr.
OWEN B. CARRAGHER JR.
JFK’s officemate for two years in the Manhattan D.A.’s office
We were on top of each other. Our desks were four feet apart. You couldn’t help but be constantly interacting. We were two Irishmen who like to argue a lot – in a good-natured way, though sometimes it could get pretty heated. It would be about movies or bands or clubs. We argued about Leona Helmsley’s being prosecuted by the Feds. We argued about whatever was in the news. Sometimes we’d disagree on purpose just to have something to talk about. He’d say I’m some crazy right-wing Republican, and I’d call him a bleeding-heart liberal. At my wedding, my aunt from Ireland came up to me and said, “I’ve been very good, but I can’t take it any longer. Would you please introduce me to John?” So I went up to him, and he didn’t even wait. He said, “Tell me where she is,” and went right over. He talked to her the way one of my best friends from college would have talked to her. She talks about it to this day.
When he failed his bar exam, I wrote him a note. I told him, “Don’t feel badly. I failed my bar exam, too, and it didn’t stop me from becoming mayor.” He wrote back: “It was very kind what you wrote, but I’m still going to have a lousy summer.”
Former Manhattan assistant district attorney
We started on the same day. We were both fish out of water. We had adjoining offices, and I sat about a foot and a half from him. Every two weeks, he and I would get assigned to what’s called the complaint room, where people who got arrested would meet with prosecutors. This place was the great equalizer, a dungeon where you would be working through the night. It’s three o’clock in the morning and you haven’t eaten and you are exhausted. You are getting paid $35,000. It doesn’t matter if you’re John Kennedy or Jill Konviser or anybody else. You’re wrecked. And I think John appreciated that. Everywhere else he was the son of a president. Here it was disgusting, it was filthy. You had to steal a chair if you wanted to sit down. You are sitting there interviewing a defendant who is handcuffed to a chair. And it stinks, and people scream at you. We all complained; he never did.
Convicted of drug possession in 1992 and sentenced to two to six years; his prosecutor was John Kennedy
I talked to him in the courtroom. Even though his job was to put me away, I liked the guy. It was something seeing him – I’ll never forget it. My lawyer said, “We might have a chance. He flunked his test twice.” I remember the judge saying, “Everybody is staring at this man, a famous man, a Kennedy. But this is my court. I’m the boss.” It was something. At the recess, I spoke to him. I remember I said, “It’s the job – it’s not you.” Even though he was a D.A., he didn’t have the killing instinct.
When Bob Morgenthau turned 75, Barbara Jones, the federal judge, and I asked John if he would participate in a videotape tribute. The pretext was it was the year 2000 and Bob had stepped down as D.A., and his son Josh was taking over. And Josh’s first task was to pick an assistant, and he picked his sister. His sister, Morgenthau’s daughter, was only 4 or 5 at the time. And so in the scene, Bob’s daughter doesn’t want to do it, and John comes in to persuade her. She sat down on John’s lap, and he started singing to her. They sang, “I love you, you love me, everybody loves Morgy.” And then he said, “Will you take the job?” And she said, “Yes.” He was irresistible.
He would kid me mercilessly about my celebrity clients and the problems they were having with the paparazzi. He would call me up and do a killer imitation of Barbra Streisand or Leonardo DiCaprio. The Streisand imitation would include a chorus of “People.” As Barbra, he would yell at me because the press wasn’t treating her fairly. He’d kvetch about something, and then start singing “People.” His imitation was actually really good, though perhaps a bit too ethnic. It was a bit more Brooklyn than she really was. But he really could sing. If it was Leo, he’d say, “They’re hounding me! They won’t leave me alone! Why can’t I just be a regular guy going to a nightclub?” And then he’d launch into a routine from Titanic – like “I’m the king of the world!” He had a mischievous streak.
People used to tease him a lot. Other lawyers would want to take an extra day off for Thanksgiving. He’d ask for a day off to speak at the Democratic National Convention. He had a secretary whose sole job it was to answer all his mail, because he had a slew of it every day. There were love letters, invitations to parties, lots of pictures of naked girls. The other idiots in my office would fight over them.
CNN correspondent and friend
He was always playing practical jokes. Once, when I was starting out, there was a story breaking and I was trying to get an interview with a network president. Suddenly I get a call, and this woman says, “Hold on for Grant Tinker.” I was so nervous that I started babbling. I thought I was talking to the president of NBC. There was silence on the line, and all of a sudden, John started cracking up. “Got ya,” he said. Once, I said to him, “Sometimes it must be hard being you,” and he smiled and said, “Actually, I highly recommend it.”
I was putting together a board of directors for Naked Angels – this is ten years ago – and I was asking everyone I knew who to help in one way or another. And I knew I had to ask him, but I figured he could be involved with any cultural institution he wanted, and we were a little band of nobodies, so I didn’t expect him to say yes. But he did – he said, “Count me in.” And he was a great board member. He loved to stir the pot. He’d throw pencils at people in the middle of meetings. It was a very casual environment.
John loved the theater. We saw everything from Broadway to things in storefronts in the East Village. He’d always call me to ask if I’d like to see so-and-so and then pause, because of course he’d picked something that I’d never heard of – he’d picked something that no one had ever heard of. And then he’d complain to me, “You are so out of it! I can’t believe how out of it you are!”
Notre Dame football star and longtime friend
One night, John and I went to the Ritz to see George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars. There was a line all the way around the block, and he could have gone up to the front and they would have let him right in, but he said, “We’re going to wait on line like everyone else.” We waited on that line an hour and a half. To see P-Funk!
Senior vice-president and group publisher, Worth, Civilization, Equity
When John knew he was ready to leave the D.A.’s office, Jackie asked me to meet with him, to talk to him about what he might do next. Jackie admired the fact that he was so open to things, so curious, that he loved adventures. She identified with John – he was full of life and good humor, a constant spark – but she worried about him, too. She knew he had leadership potential, but he was so charmingly casual all the time. He needed to go out and do things on his own, but she was always working behind the scenes, totally vigilant, trying to subtly make things happen, come up with options and ideas.
He campaigned for David Dinkins for one long day in 1993. And where else would we go but Zabar’s? We purposely didn’t announce it until that morning. We didn’t let the cameras in until he got a chance to talk with people. But as soon as we got there, John was absolutely attacked by a crowd of mostly over-70-year-old women. Now, I represent Leonardo DiCaprio, and I’ve never seen anything like this. They were climbing over the lox counter to get to him. Dinkins got separated from him. John never traveled with security, and Dinkins was the only one with a phalanx of security. So it was just John and this army of screaming septuagenarians.
Executive director, Reaching Up
John thought the key to providing better health care and human services was to focus on the caregivers for people with disabilities, the people working for low wages. He formed Reaching Up, to give people scholarships and mentorships to cuny, about a decade ago. Now it has about 1,000 people who take classes and over 400 Kennedy fellows who get extra scholarship money and career mentoring, and each one of them has met John. He knew almost all of our Kennedy fellows by name; he’d known them for years. He talked to them about their work, their kids, their school, their life – did they get their new house, had their kid graduated school.
Around 1994, a friend of mine bumped into him at the gym. She asked him out to a Bruce Springsteen concert at the Meadowlands and he came. I rented this big limo to take us all out there, and we had these excellent seats in the tenth row. Literally every girl in the ten rows in front of us was completely ignoring Springsteen and had turned around to watch John. You know how Springsteen fans used to do that thing with holding up their index finger back then? John did that, too! I think everyone was careful not to offer him any drugs.
JOHN PERRY BARLOW
The first time he told me about Carolyn was a night at Tramps in early ‘94. John was still going with Daryl. And he said that there was a woman that he’d met who was having a heavy effect on him. He wasn’t going to pursue it, because he was loyal to Daryl. But it was hard for him, because he couldn’t get his mind off her. And I said, “Well, who is she?” And he said, “Well, she’s not really anybody. She’s some functionary of Calvin Klein’s. She’s an ordinary person.” Which of course was not so, she was anything but an ordinary person, but as far as the rest of the world knew, she was. And he maintained a platonic relationship with her until after he and Daryl had broken up.
One day, we were at Martha’s Vineyard, and he decided that we would swim from the shore to someone’s boat. We swam several hundred yards, which completely wrecked me, but he wasn’t even winded. On the way out, he asked me who I was dating, and I started complaining how hard it was to find anyone special. It was right before John married Carolyn, and he told me not to worry. He said that he played the field for a long time and worried about never meeting anyone, and then one day he met Carolyn and from the first minute he knew that she’d be the one. He said it all comes down to keeping yourself open: that you meet all these people who don’t work out for different reasons, and then one day, someone pops up and really grabs your heart, and suddenly what happens to them is as important as what happens to you.
JOHN PERRY BARLOW
I didn’t meet Carolyn until the fall of ‘94, by which time he and Daryl had broken up. Carolyn was as charismatic as John was. Charisma, you know, was once a theological term meaning “grace.” And she had that. I was also impressed with the fact that she was a bit eccentric. She was not conventional in any sense. Carolyn seemed a lot like John’s mother in her quirkiness and also in her unbelievable capacity to engage one’s attention. Jackie could be talking to six people at one time and make everyone feel like the only one in the room. Carolyn had the same ability. It was based on genuine interest. Having a beautiful woman want to know all about you is not such a bad thing, you know laughs.
Former CEO of Hachette Fillipachi Magazines
I first met John in 1994, over lunch at an Italian restaurant on East 60th Street. He arrived on his bike, with his briefcase slung over his shoulder. At the time, I was head of Hachette, and John wanted us to invest in this idea he had. He told me he wanted to start a magazine that would combine politics and pop culture. He said he wanted it to be “prime time for public life.” I was skeptical. I told him that magazines about politics and religion don’t sell. Why should I invest Hachette’s money in this? He said he’d put celebrities on the cover – commercialize the covers. He handed me the results of a direct-mail campaign, which he had paid for himself – it cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s how confident he was, and it was reassuring to me that he was willing to put his own money at risk.
He said that after his father got out of the White House, he had planned to go back to be a reporter or an editor for a newspaper, and his mother worked for Doubleday, so publishing was in his blood. He could make a career for himself.
John and his partner Michael Berman and I talked about the magazine for six months when it was still top secret. When they began, they didn’t know anything about publishing – they didn’t have any idea they were doing the absolutely hardest thing in publishing, to start a magazine from scratch. But John wasn’t intimidated by what he didn’t know. So I worked with them on magazine basics – editorial structure, design, circulation, direct mail, advertising, creating a business plan. He read other magazines and looked for the kinds of stories he wanted in George, the kinds of writers. He came up with the magazine’s name when he was on vacation in Vietnam.
He came to us to do the protype for George. He’d come into the office, and every woman and gay guy would immediately have to show me the layouts for Esquire Gentleman or some other project. One time John asked to see some of our other work, so I tried to find a copy of Out, which we had designed. I couldn’t find it, so I said, “Well, you can certainly get a copy on the newsstand.” And he laughed and said, “Can you imagine what would happen if I bought a copy of Out on the newsstand?”
George’s first hire
Right after I graduated from Barnard, in 1994, I went to the career-services office and there was a listing that said “Start-up political magazine,” with a phone number. I called and spoke to Michael Berman, and I went in for an interview. Michael and I spoke for a while, and he said, “Well, do you want the job?” I said yes.
For the next five months, it was me, John Kennedy, and Michael in a conference room, trying to figure out the magazine. There was one other employee, RoseMarie Trenzio. She’s really funny and she was around for a long time. She became really, really close to both John and Carolyn. She originally did P.R. for Michael, but after Berman quit, she kept working for John up until … now.
John and I had lunches with the most amazing array of media people. He brought me along because he didn’t want to go alone. We would just go and have all these “advice lunches,” where people would pontificate on their luminous career in publishing and tell John how hard they worked.
In September 1995, I sat in the front row at the unveiling of the inaugural issue of George and listened to John speak with authority and conviction about the magazine and its potential. I thought of Jackie, who had died the year before: John had tried very hard to convince her that this was a smart magazine idea, and though she hadn’t been quite persuaded, I know she would have been very proud that he got this done. He created something from scratch that he felt had a potential to make a difference, and he did it his way.
I must say that of all of the publishers that I’ve worked with as an art director, he was in the top rank. He wasn’t acting the part. He admitted that he was a complete amateur and said that he didn’t know anything – but let’s go from there. Of course he got everyone to work for him for nothing. The fact that it leaked to “Page Six” that he was hanging around my offices was payment enough for me.
When we finalized the deal to finance George in February 1995, we had a dinner at Rao’s, at 114th Street and Pleasant Avenue in East Harlem. After dinner, he just walked over to his bicycle and put his cap on. As he was going down 114th Street in the middle of the night, the photographers were all chasing him.
One time he showed up at work in the afternoon and he had this huge German shepherd named Sam – Sam Shepherd. He was like, “Hey, I got a dog!” And then this dog proceeded to bite everybody. It bit me on the nose. It bit everyone in the park every time he went to the park. It finally had to be put down. He got a new dog and named it Friday.
I handed in my first story for George, and he said, “Come up. I want to talk to you.” Meeting him – this thing hangs over you, that he’s John Kennedy. Of course, he knew that everybody he met had this anxiety, and he was good at defusing it. He asked me, “Where are you from?” I said, “Scranton, Pennsylvania,” and he said, “Oh, that’s a very special place to me, because my father’s last stop before the 1960 election was Scranton.” So he managed to take that big elephant out of the room.
Editor-in-chief, Family Life
At Hachette, George was down the corridor from us on the forty-first floor. John really did edit the magazine. He was very much a hands-on boss. George was the focus of his life. Nobody ever said no to him, so he did things his own way. I’d tell him that the magazine should be more confrontational, that they should do investigative articles, they should do articles with a greater edge – I don’t mean nasty, but that they call politicians into account in no uncertain terms. He agreed, but he was reluctant because he really empathized with what it was like on the other side. He laughed about it; he understood that this was a limitation on his part. And he’d say, “Look, I can’t do it. I can’t come down hard on somebody.” It’s just not something he could do.
Late one night, I was going home after handing in another story. I’m sort of in a fog on the subway, and I remember saying to myself, “That guy over there looks like John.” He’s reading the New York Post on the subway. Nobody noticed him, because nobody would think he’d be there. I inched over and whispered, “John,” and he had that reaction, like, “Oh, no.” Then he saw me and said, “Hey, sit down. I just read your piece.” He didn’t think I’d been tough enough on my subject – and in that particular case, he was right. He had great instincts. I always counted on him in the most important stage of the writer-editor relationship, which is before you write, when you need to think and talk and thrash it out.
Former editor-in-chief of The National Enquirer
One of my secretaries comes rushing in and says, “John F. Kennedy on the line.” He said, ’Mr. Calder?’ He was very polite. I said, ‘Well, this is a little bit of a change of modus operandi, you to be calling me.” He laughed and said, “Yeah, that’s the very point of this. Your people usually are running after me. I’d like to interview you. It’s like turning the tables.” A few months later, I went to his office for the interview.
I didn’t know what to expect – I thought he might be just a pretty face. But I was pleasantly surprised. The whole thing took about five hours, and he really listened. A few weeks later he called me and said, “I now have an advance copy of the magazine. Would you like me to send it to you?” And I told him, “We already have one.” He said, “How did you get it?” And I answered, “You forget, we’re The National Enquirer.”
He invited me as his personal guest to the White House correspondents’ dinner in May. A couple days later, he called me because some of the East Coast press had taken a swipe at him for bringing me along – as you know, there’s no upside for a public figure to have Larry Flynt as a friend. So he tells me, “I’m getting a lot of heat, you know, for inviting you.” And I said, “I’m really sorry,” and he says, “Oh, no, no, I’m loving every minute of it!”
I had first met him at a party for George magazine. I got an invitation out of the blue to a party he was throwing in New York. He and Carolyn spent almost the entire night talking with me, mostly about publishing. After that, we talked every once in a while on the telephone. I’m amazed that we never did have a discussion about his mother. You can understand why it would not be appropriate for me to bring it up, but he didn’t, either. There was a person, once, who attempted to sabotage our friendship, asking him how he could be friends with the man who published nude photographs of his mother in Hustler in 1975. His response was “I’m a Kennedy. I’m thick-skinned.”
ANN LOUISE BARDACH
I was writing this story for George about Mary Bono, and John told me that she had waged this campaign to kill it. He’d been at an event in Washington a couple of weeks before, and she had come over to him. He said, “I’m sitting there, and I have this broken foot in a cast, this helpless person, and this woman comes over. She’s towering over me and starts in, ‘Is your writer out to ruin me? What is your magazine doing? How could she ask me these questions?’ ” And John said to her, “You’re complaining about the press to the wrong person.”
Principal, Sanford Bernstein & Co.
Last year, John and I were talking at the Municipal Art Society dinner, and Ashton Hawkins, who was a great friend of Mrs. Onassis, came up. John said, “Hello, Mr. Hawkins,” in a very formal manner, and after a pause, everyone started laughing, because this was a holdover from how his mother told him to address his elders and he was acknowledging it and laughing about it. Twenty years of training really had taken their toll.
One night, we were working late – Gary Ginsberg and John and I – and we decided to go to the U.S. Open. Gary was like, “Let’s go! Let’s go!” So we all jumped in John’s car and drove out there. We didn’t have tickets, so we scalped them, and they turned out to be really good seats. It was one of those really beautiful late-summer nights – I think Michael Chang was playing.
At one point, John and I went to buy ice cream, and somebody took a picture of the two of us. It ran the next day in the Post! It was a really big picture – really blurry, because the photographer had been really far away – and it said something stupid like courting in flushing meadows. Which was completely erroneous. We laughed about it – it was absolutely no big deal. It was obviously much weirder for me than it was for him.
Last summer, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. John said, “You have no deadlines. Go home, be with her.” He also gave me the best advice in the world, which was, “While you’re frantically searching for a cure, remember that this is precious time. You’re going to have conversations with her that’ll sustain you for the rest of your life.” He helped me through the hardest time in my life. He would call while I was at the hospital, and I’d tell my mother, “John called,” and she’d light up and say, “I’m so glad you’re working for him.” I can still see my mother’s face lighting up at the time when she was most sick because he was on the phone.
When John was starting George, he was coming to Milan a lot and stopped in Gianni’s office very often. But I first met Carolyn about four years ago, when she came to Milan with John and spent time with me and Gianni on Lake Como. She was very similar to my brother, both entertainers. Gianni would usually go to bed very early, but Carolyn kept him up. Of course, I was a little envious of her, too – who wouldn’t be? She said, “I’m never going to give up my friends, but at the same time, I will be the best wife for John.” She said John had a completely open mind about her fashion friends, who were different from his friends. He adored her personality, her outlook on life.
Any entrance Carolyn made, she made a statement. Apart from the clothes she wore, she had a way of moving her head and smiling, and her eyes were so expressive, she would always seem to be looking right at you. I thought that if anyone could take the place of his mother in the family, it could be her. After Gianni died, we went to a beautiful dinner at the home of Countess Crespi. You couldn’t smoke inside it, so Carolyn and I went upstairs and smoked in the balcony outside, and then we couldn’t get back in. The door had locked. John finally came by looking for her and he let us out.
Recently, I saw her in my shop on Fifth Avenue. I said, “Carolyn, what are you doing here?” I never saw her more happy. She was full of projects. I was making fun of her, saying, “What do you do all day, sit at home just waiting for the next party? That’s not you.” She said, “You just wait and see.”
John came to my show last year. We told him we’d send over a car, but he turned us down – he insisted on arranging his own transportation. The morning of the show, my people were waiting for him outside, and suddenly, right before the show, they see this guy, all dressed up, pedaling over on a bicycle. It was John. He got on his knees, locked his bike to a post, and just walked in.
DOMINICK BOTTE JR.
Owner, New York’s Finest French Cleaners & Tailors
He always brought in his dry cleaning himself, always on his Rollerblades. There was one time I remember very well. When he was still living on Hudson Street and working for the D.A., he called me looking for a Giorgio Armani suit that had been specially designed and tailored for him. He was terrified that it had been lost, because it was missing from his closet and he wanted to wear it to an event that evening. Usually, he picked up his dry cleaning at the end of every week, so it was unlikely that we still had anything of his. But he begged me: “Do me a favor, just look for it.” And when I did, I discovered his suit in the back of the store. He came running through the rain to pick it up, and by the time he arrived, he was completely soaked. But he couldn’t have been more gracious. He was grateful that I had found it for him.
In Thanksgiving 1995, I went to Honduras with a group of twelve people that included John Kennedy and Carolyn Bessette. We stayed together for ten days at a secluded resort in Guanaja. One morning, I found myself alone with him at breakfast. I said, “So if you weren’t spending Thanksgiving here, where would you be right now?” For a moment he stared at me without saying anything; then he looked down, and I saw tears in his eyes. I hadn’t been thinking. The date was November 22, the anniversary of his father’s assassination, and a year and a half since Jackie had died. He was turning 35 in a couple of days, and it would be one of the first Thanksgivings he would spend without her. The fact that I, an almost-stranger, knew all these things about him, made me understand his need for the self-protective force field he always seemed to have. I felt bad that my thoughtless question had upset him, but moved, too, that he could, even for a moment, be so vulnerable.
Music producer and founder of Vibe magazine
I’ve known the Kennedys for the past 40 years, since I campaigned for Jack, and I watched John grow up to be a man. The last time I saw him was at Nobu, and we kidded around about our magazines. Like him, I had decided to start a magazine, and we made fun of the fact that we were both outsiders to this business. At Nobu, he leaned over and whispered in my ear if I knew what a wet test was. I laughed. Turns out it’s some circulation thing, but I told him it was a treatment for venereal disease. What was most impressive about him was that he didn’t have the swagger, the limos, the whole celebrity trip he could have had. I know people who’ve had a No. 13 record who’ve had more attitude than he did.
Friend and neighbor
He lived here a long time – he didn’t just show up when we got a dry cleaner, and that counts for a lot in TriBeCa. In 1986, I wandered into a small café called Bubby’s on Hudson and N. Moore, and I saw somebody else, facing away from me, who had a big bike chain, and I said, “Wow, you got a big chain there,” and he turned around and I was so embarrassed that he thought I was coming on to him. But we bonded over who had the better chain and whose bike had been stolen more times. We ended up meeting often there, locking our bikes to the same pole, getting the same blueberry muffins.
The last time I saw him was last week as I was coming back from yoga class. I literally ran into him. He spilled his newspapers and George; I spilled my magazines, including my magazine, Code. We exchanged magazines. I said, “What did you do to your leg?” He said, “I did it parasailing.” I said, “Okay, I’ll bite – what can you bump into parasailing?” He said, “A tree,” and we laughed. I said, “So, hey, what’s the deal with the daredevil thing?” and he said, “Wait a second. You just came tearing the wrong way down a one-way street crashing into me, and you weren’t wearing a helmet.”
One night, my son and I were standing in front of John’s building shooting the breeze with someone who lived in the building. And suddenly, John came back from a run and he stood outside his place stretching, and my son pointed as he leaned over and reached for his keys from a hiding place under the stoop and went inside. And he said, “Dad, that’s so cool! I can’t believe he just leaves his keys there!” After that, it was his little secret that he knew where John kept his keys: right there under his stoop. I actually checked this morning. The keys are gone now.
Reported by Sarah Bernard, Maura Egan, Ken Frydman, Jeremy Gerard, Vanessa Grigoriadis, Neil Hirschfeld, Beth Landman Keil, David D. Kirkpatrick, Robert Kolker, Marion Maneker, Deborah Mitchell, Jennifer Senior, Sally Singer, Ethan Smith, Eric Todrys, Michael Tomasky, and Jared White.