Fairy Tale Interrupted is a memoir written by John F. Kennedy Jr.’s assistant and publicist, RoseMarie Terenzio, who became close friends with John and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy.
Working at a New York PR firm, “Rosie,” as John called her, arrived at her office one morning to see John and another man boxing up the contents of her office. John had been a frequent visitor to the office, but the rest of the starstruck staff never knew why. Now it seemed he was moving in.
RoseMarie was mad, and not afraid to let it be known. When John said, “We can figure this out,” she replied, “Figure this out? Clearly we’re not figuring out anything, because you have already packed everything up.” (Italics the author’s.) John later commented that he liked her tough Bronx way of handling things.
Rosie subsequently became John’s assistant – more like a chief of staff, as she saw it. Immediately upon arrival she would attack the mail and voicemails and separate the worthwhile from the crackpots, some of whom even arrived at reception.
A close relationship formed with both John and his girlfriend Carolyn. She took RoseMarie on shopping trips to upgrade her look. Carolyn had been a publicist at Calvin Klein, and was always dressed in a beautiful and sophisticated way. RoseMarie almost fainted at the price tags.
There are two stories about how John and Carolyn met. One was that they were introduced by a mutual friend, Kelly Klein (Calvin’s then wife). Another says that John couldn’t stop staring at Carolyn when they were both jogging in Central Park.
Not too much later they planned a private wedding on Cumberland Island, Georgia, in a rustic Baptist church without electricity, lit with candles and lanterns. Only forty guests attended. Even some members of the Kennedy extended family weren’t invited. Extraordinarily, they pulled it off. No cameras and no helicopters.
After their honeymoon in Turkey, followed by ten days on an Aegean cruise, they returned to their Tribeca loft to hundreds of paparazzi. John had grown up being followed by the press. He knew how to banter with them and move through the crowd. Carolyn was a private person who longed for a quiet life and practically never gave interviews. Privacy didn’t exist the moment she walked out the door. At one point John snapped, “Just ignore them. I do.”
Even before juggling wedding plans (preceded by a press statement that John and Carolyn were not engaged), John and his creative director, Matt Berman, created George magazine, named for our first president. Its tag line was “Not Just Politics As Usual.” Its theme was to combine politics with lifestyle. The first issue featured Cindy Crawford as George Washington. He never looked so sexy. Every month a different celebrity was morphed into a historical figure. (Well, there was the Happy Birthday, Mr. President issue, with Drew Barrymore as a spot-on Marilyn Monroe.)
John appeared on Oprah to publicize the magazine. The audience reacted as if the 1964 Beatles were there. Oprah gushed, as she often does, and used the word “hunk” in her introduction. No one advised her that he hated that? RoseMarie was called to the green room and was surrounded by Oprah’s staff. Told the surroundings were all Oprah’s vision, both John and RoseMarie were shocked by the group’s sycophancy. When John introduced her, Oprah’s snide how-do-you-do was “You must be the helper.”
George leaped off the shelves, partly because of Kennedy, but declined after his death, and early 2001 produced the last publication.
When Frank, RoseMarie’s best friend, suddenly died, John hugged her and shared kind words. One touching remark was, “Whenever there’s a tragedy, a tiny nub of green starts to grow inside you. It’s a regrowth. You have to hold on to that little nub until it grows into the tree that is the next part of your life.” He was a Kennedy. He knew tragedy. (I don’t usually cry when reading a book, but that did it.)
Carolyn didn’t want to go to Rory Kennedy’s wedding in July. John didn’t want to go without her and relied on RoseMarie to persuade Carolyn. She told Carolyn she was judged enough, and she shouldn’t want to be in that position. Carolyn agreed to go.
John and Carolyn had often spent weekends at his home in Martha’s Vineyard, and he was a confident and experienced pilot. On July 16, John and Carolyn met up with Carolyn’s sister Lauren, and they headed to Hyannis, intending to drop Lauren off in Martha’s Vineyard on the way. As the world knows, hours later the plane crashed. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that John had lost control as a result of spatial disorientation. Pilots were interviewed later and described a feeling of losing the horizon and not knowing whether they were going up or down.
Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy was 33. John Kennedy was 38. They had been married for three years. The romance was too short. The world cried.