IN CASE you missed it, Jackie Kennedy Onassis was back in the news recently. In a tell-all memoir, Jim Hart (see panel) wrote that the widowed First Lady of our assassinated President John F. Kennedy and widow of Aristotle Onassis asked him to arrange a date for her with actor Alec Baldwin, then a 33-year-old. Jackie was nearly 62. On a recent Late Show with Stephen Colbert the (now) 59-year-old Baldwin recounted what for him it was a blind date, though he downplayed any suggestion it could be classified as a date. Hart had asked him if he wanted to see the play Dancing at Lughnasa. They waited at Hart and Carly Simon’s apartment for Baldwin’s date to arrive when in flowed Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
When it was time to go, Baldwin related, she said it would be more discreet if she left the building before hI’m so the paparazzi could not photograph them together. At the theatre Baldwin said she sat a row ahead of him. Baldwin didn’t say whether or not they went out socially again.
Over a deli lunch several days after the broadcast my friends Doug and Steve and I were swapping stories of encounters with famous people.
Doug recalled seeing Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in a Broadway sketch show in 1973 ‘or ’74. He and his brother scored great seats—fourth row, centre orchestra — for the incorrigible duo’s satirical performance. Two rows, in fact, behind Jackie Kennedy Onassis and members of her family.
Until the intermission, few in the audience knew she was in the theatre, but following the drinks break her presence became well known. . . but perhaps not as well known as it should have been.
The second act began with Cook and Moore discussing fame, with Moore playing the part of a new peer who was about to make his maiden speech to the House of Lords and Cook commenting on how he yearned for fame. . . that’s when the bombshell exploded.
Cook said he knew how to become ‘a name’: he only had to emulate Lee Harvey Oswald and kill somebody famous.
Assuming you are as startled as I was to hear that darkly inappropriate ‘joke’, imagine how the Kennedy family must have felt. Doug recalls no public reaction but to this day, some 44 years later, wonders if Jackie was aware in advance of the sort of black humor Cook and Moore projected.
I shared to my own recollection of a ‘brush with fame’ involving Jackie O: one of the perks of my job as a field editor on Nation’s Restaurant News back in 1977, I told Doug and Steve, was being able to dine at some of the classier eating joints in Manhattan. One day, I found myself with co-workers Liz and Peggy having lunch in an expensive, over the top restaurant off Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan. The décor was gaudy — lots of mirrors and gI’ll-edged accents.
Recently opened, the restaurant (long since closed) had yet to be discovered by the lunchtime crowd of power elites. It was, to be honest, rather thinly patronised that day. Aside from we three, only one other table was occupied.
Looking around, I saw two people sitting at the table, a professorial-type man with unruly grey hair and a strikingly composed, thin, raven-haired woman with big glasses, eating a salad.
As Peggy’s back was to that other table, I whispered to her to glance in the mirror to vie the reflection of whim I thought was Jackie O. Instead, she twisted her body for a full frontal look and then, in no semblance of a stage whisper, blurted out, “It’s Jackie Kennedy!”
I shrank in my seat, but Jackie didn’t bat an eyelash. A perfect example of being cool, calm and collected at what must have been a common occurrence throughout her lifetime.