Saturday, May 19, 2007

May 19, 1994:

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Dies

In the December 1983 issue of Esquire magazine, Norman Mailer penned an essay about former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis called "The Prisoner of Celebrity." The essay includes much of the same blarney one gets when reading about her: "For she is not merely a celebrity, but a legend; not a legend, but a myth -- no more than a myth: she is now a historic archetype, virtually a demiurge."

While that may be just a famed writer exercising his talent for corroborative detail, Mailer also offered a more telling bit of first-hand experience in the piece: "The last time I saw Jackie Kennedy Onassis was at a benefit and the cameras were going wild. At one point it was my turn to stand next to the lady, and while I have seen a few such lights, I can testify that my eyes never knew the kind of bombardment before. There is celebrity, and then there is the white heat of celebrity when the paparazzi are out, but for shear impact, for the literal blast of the media at its highest voltage, get your picture taken next to Jackie..."

In some sense, however, the glare of media attention that never ceased in the 30 or so years remaining to Mrs. Kennedy after the death of President Kennedy was a Frankenstein monster that had gotten out of control. As notes in its sketch of her life:

"Often sketching designs for her clothing as First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy fashion immediately drew international attention; more than any other First Ladies her style was copied by commercial manufacturers and a large segment of young women. While she appeared largely in the media in unauthorized wire service photographs and 'paparazzi' snapshots, White House photographs were more frequently issued to the press than ever before and the role of the official in-house photographer was instigated as a result of Jacqueline Kennedy's own interest and instruction.

"She also made several television appearances, the most prominent being A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy, aired on CBS on February 14, 1962. It was the first glimpse into her restoration project and the most sustained exposure the nation had to this youthful and unique First Lady. The television special only further fueled media attention on her and she soon became the first First Lady to find herself on the cover of thousands of popular magazines. The first First Lady to also have her own press secretary, her visibility would permanently forge the media interest in the activities of the presidential spouses."


Anonymous said...

Ko-Ko. Well, a nice mess you've got us into, with your nodding head and the deference due to a man of pedigree!

Pooh-Bah. Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.

Pitti-Sing. Corroborative detail indeed!Corroborative fiddlestick!

Ko-Ko. And you're just as bad as he is with your cock-and-a-bull stories about catching his eye and his whistling an air. But that's so like you! You must put in your oar!

Pooh-Bah. But how about your big right arm?

Pitti-Sing. Yes, and your snickersnee!

-- W.S. Gilbert, The Mikado

Anonymous said...

Eleanor Roosevelt didn't have a Press Secretary? I believe she did.