Aristotle Onassis - why he wanted Jackeline Kennedy
Ari and Jackie in Paris
On August 7, 1963, Jackie gave birth prematurely to her son Patrick; he was the last child Jackie was to carry, and he lived only two days. Following baby Patrick's death, Jackie spiraled into a serious depression, from which her younger sister Lee Radziwill tried to help her recover.
Lee invited Jackie for an October cruise on Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis' yacht, the Christina, to give Jackie some solace from her loss, and a week away from the pressures of being First Lady. Lee and her husband Prince Stanislas Radziwill chaperoned the cruise, along with Commerce Secretary Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., and his wife Susan.
During Spring and Summer 1963, Lee Radziwill had become intimately involved with Onassis; her marriage to Prince Stanislas Radziwill was deteriorating rapidly. The Onassis/Radziwill affair surfaced in the American press during the Summer of 1963, causing embarrassment for a Kennedy administration hoping for easy reelection in 1964; they didn't want any scandals. Onassis had been indicted by the U.S. Government for fraud, was divorced, and for years had carried on an open affair with married opera diva Maria Callas. Europeans did not bat an eye at such things, but Americans still did. Bobby Kennedy asked Jackie to talk Lee into cooling the affair, which Jackie refused to do. On the contrary, Jackie was impressed that her sister was friends with one of the world's wealthiest men.
Onassis' interest in Lee Radziwill was due at least in part to the fact that she was Jackie's sister, and the sister-in-law of the most powerful man in the world. Washington Post columnist Drew Pearson asked, "
|Lee Radziwill, sister of Jackie Onassis|
Ari and Tina Onassis had 10 years of happy marriage, they loved each other
The October 1963 cruise wasn't the first time Onassis and Jackie had laid eyes on each other. One night in 1958, while then-Senator John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline were vacationing in the south of France, Onassis had invited them onto his yacht to meet former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, one of JFK's idols. Churchill wanted to meet JFK, whom he considered "Presidential timber." Remember, this was 1958. While Kennedy and Churchill talked, Onassis met Jackie for the first time, and noticed everything about her, from her clothing to her short dark hair blowing in the evening breeze. He told Costa Gratsos, one of his most confidential aides, "There's something damned willful about her, there's something provocative about that lady. She's got a carnal soul." Gratsos tried to talk Onassis out of his obvious intense interest in the young Jacqueline Kennedy, telling him he was too old for her.
Back to October 1963. The Christina, stocked with gourmet chefs, paté, lobsters, caviar, wine, a masseuse, and two hairdressers, set sail the beginning of October. The yacht had nine double guest cabins, each named for a Greek island. Jackie stayed in the cabin named Ithaca. They cruised through the Aegean, docked in Istanbul, Lesbos, and Crete, and navigated along the Pelopponnesian coast. The media went wild. Photographs appeared of Jackie and Onassis touring the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, and walking hand-in-hand in ancient Smyrna, where Onassis showed Jackie the places from his youth. They also visited Ithaca, Odysseus' island kingdom, and Onassis' private scorpion-shaped island of Skorpios, where they walked up the rocky hillsides, among the cypress trees and olive groves. Onassis guarded his privacy so strictly that he had had his island removed from the official maps of the Ionian Sea, to discourage sightseers and journalists. Walking with Onassis along the water's edge, Jackie told him she wished her Greek island vacation would never end, and that she did not like her life as First Lady. As a 10-year-old girl, she had written a poem, entitled "Sea Joy," which ended with the line, "Oh - to live by the sea is my only wish."
The cruise on the Christina O
On the last night of the cruise, Onassis gave everyone expensive gifts, including a diamond and ruby necklace for Jackie. On October 17, Jackie returned to Washington, DC refreshed and revitalized. The White House staff noticed the changes in Jackie. One worker remarked, "Jackie has stars in her eyes - Greek stars." Others felt Jackie was more independent and stronger after the cruise, having successfully beguiled a powerful and wealthy man. Partly because of the negative media coverage her cruise on Onassis' yacht had caused - some thought it was wrong for the wife of the President of the United States to accept hospitality from a convicted felon, among other things - Jackie agreed to accompany her husband on his November trip to Texas.
There are conflicting reports about Jackie and Onassis' conduct during the two-week cruise; Franklin Roosevelt Jr. swears that nothing romantic happened during the cruise. JFK's personal secretary Evelyn Lincoln, however, disagreed. Asked if she thought Jackie and Onassis had had an affair before the assassination, Lincoln answered, "I think so, yes. Jackie loved money. Onassis had money." In either case, Jackie later remembered the cruise as a tension-free oasis between tragedy and tragedy, between the premature birth and death of her son Patrick, and the gruesome assassination of her husband.
The cruise marked the end of Lee Radziwill's affair with Onassis, because he fell in love with Jackie during the cruise. Onassis began courting Jackie very soon after the assassination the following month, by which time Onassis' daughter Christina was already referring to Jackie as "my father's unfortunate obsession."
In October 1963, Americans had little reason to believe that Jack and Jackie's marriage was shaky. But in more recent years, evidence has come to light indicating that all was not well behind closed doors. In 1975, Judith Campbell Exner testified to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that in the early 1960s, she had had an affair with President Kennedy at the same time she was Chicago Mafia leader Sam Giancana's good friend. In her autobiography, My Story, she claims that she had a sexual relationship with JFK while he was President, that his marriage was unhappy, and that Jackie wanted a divorce. Exner's exact testimony was sealed until 2025. Exner's story blew the lid off the conspiracy of silence surrounding JFK's private life; his numerous extramarital affairs are now well-publicized. Ben Bradlee's sister-in-law Mary Pinchot Meyer also had an affair with Kennedy while he was in the White House. She was murdered during the Summer of 1964 in Georgetown; her diary and letters were obtained by CIA counterintelligence chief James Angelton, who claims that he burned them. Perhaps Jackie, fed up with her husband's incessant philandering, decided during the cruise on the Christina to have a little fun of her own.
While she was First Lady, Jackie sadly confessed to a family member that she "would go mad" if she could not get away from Washington soon. If you wonder why Jackie stayed in the marriage, there are several reasons. First of all, the Kennedy's were Roman Catholic, it was the early 1960s, and divorce was rare, and stigmatizing. Joseph P. Kennedy, Jackie's father-in-law, more than once offered her money (reportedly $1 million each time), which she accepted, in order to keep the marriage going for political reasons. Appearances meant the world to Jackie. When her father, Jack Bouvier, was too hopelessly drunk to give her away at her wedding, she was crushed, but she was determined not to let her disappointment show, and that no outward mishaps or embarrassments happened during the wedding. So strong was Jackie's need for the world to see what she wanted it to see, that we saw only what she wanted us to see.
By the Fall of 1963, Kennedy's personal popularity as President remained high, but administration blunders such as the Bay of Pigs invasion had diminished the country's belief in his political effectiveness. Division within the Democratic party was also growing. Jackie's reputation, however, was higher than ever in 1963. She stood tall and beautiful on a sacred pedestal, and no one would publicly criticize her.
As the cruise through the Greek isles came to an end, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover demanded an updated file on Onassis, who he had previously investigated as a spy and a criminal, and who was now beguiling, and dangerously beguiled by, the First Lady. Hoover had always disliked Onassis, and the cruise only served to deepen Hoover's distrust. And Hoover wasn't the only powerful Washingtonian who held firm that the First Lady of the United States should not have accepted the hospitality of a foreigner who had been indicted in the United States.
Jackie fell apart when Bobby was assassinated. Despite her recent arguments with him over her relationship with Onassis, they were still very close. He was her closest male friend, a confidante, and a devoted uncle to her children. She was incoherent upon hearing of Bobby's death. Onassis flew to Hammersmith Farm, the Newport, Rhode Island estate of Jackie's mother Janet Auchincloss, to comfort Jackie, who was completely shattered. "If they're killing Kennedys, my children are targets. I hate America," she sobbed, on Onassis' shoulder.
She suddenly felt terror and panic, and feared for her children. She needed to escape the Kennedy nightmare of killings. As her escape, she chose a secluded island in the Ionian Sea, and a yacht fit for a queen. And king. Camelot was replaced by an enchanted Greek island. Onassis offered Jackie and her children safety and protection. The Kennedy clan continued their campaign against the marriage, but in the end, no one could stop Jackie. On October 20, 1968, she married Onassis in a small, private chapel on Skorpios.
The press was extremely unforgiving of the thirty-nine year old widow's marriage to the much older billionaire. It was rumored that Jackie would never have married Onassis if Bobby had not been killed. Jackie's reputation suffered terribly from her marriage to Onassis, especially in Europe where Onassis was strongly disliked. He was often condemned in the European press, for details of his personal and business life that the American press never covered.
|Jackie's wedding ring made by Van Cleef and Arpel|
Even among those who knew them as real people and appreciated their human complexities, the marriage of Jackie Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis is often reduced to a clash of identity labels: age, social backgrounds, physical appearance, nationality, education, ethnicity, religion.
A number of internal yet powerful factors, however, allowed their genuine mutual affection to develop into a mature appreciation if not romantic love for who each really was as a person.
The marriage made no sense to most people, some of whom were disgusted by it and didn't mind saying so in public or in print. How could she, the dutiful widow of a beloved president, believed to be flawless, devoted to her dead husband's memory and ideals, marry a vulgar and disreputable foreigner with no looks and even less class? Onassis displayed Jackie in public as if she were a jewel, and enjoyed shocking his guests - and Jackie, a lifelong animal lover - with bloody tales of harpooning whales.
People need closure and completion in their lives. They need - and deserve - answers. When Jackie and Onassis circled the Greek Orthodox altar three times in October 1968, she had no way of knowing what she may have later come to learn, but it was part of her journey to find out. The marriage provided Jackie - eventually - with answers to questions that must have plagued her for years. In 1977, Jackie confided to a cousin at a family funeral, "there are some things you never get over."
In the musical version of Camelot, King Arthur's reign comes to a sudden, crashing halt, not because of politics, but because of passion, because of an affair between Guinevere and Lancelot. Passion and sex brought down Camelot, not politics. On that day in 1963 when Jacqueline Kennedy, recently widowed, first spoke with Theodore White about Camelot, did she, however unconsciously, hint at truths she felt, but did not yet know, truths that would take years to surface? Camelot had come and gone again, once again a reign full of intrigue and secrets, and once again suffering a tragic end because of passion, not politics.
Jackie's cousin, author John H. Davis, noticed profound changes in Jackie during her marriage to Onassis, and remembers that the loneliness and insecurity which clung to Jackie in the years following the assassination of her husband were transformed during her marriage to Onassis, and that she became happier and more outgoing. At least during the early years of that second marriage.
Whatever the feelings of families and friends, the newlywed couple showed every sign of being in love. They would have sex in all sorts of unconventional places, aeroplanes, small boats, the beach, regardless of who might be watching – or photographing. The brother of one of Jackie’s Washington friends was shocked by the way Onassis would drag Jackie suddenly into any one of the cabins on Christina and make love to her without bothering to shut the door. This sort of exhibitionism satisfied his ego – he would boast embarrassingly to Jackie’s friends, like Pierre Salinger, of her sexual appetite and his own prowess in bed with her.
Only those very few people invited to spend time with both of them in the rooms of their private spaces shared by the couple who had a real sense of how they lived, be it on the yacht or the island.
Jackie went along with this. On Christina she appears not to have minded sleeping in the bed he had shared with Maria Callas for the past nine years. She did, however, have the huge portrait of Tina moved from its dominant position on the staircase. She realised that in many ways Ari still loved his first wife and it upset her to see ‘that beautiful face’.
It was not Tina, however, but Maria who posed the threat. Maria never again came to Skorpios, but her apartment in Paris at 36 Avenue Georges Mandel was conveniently close to the Onassis apartment at 88 Avenue Foch. Onassis and Maria appeared closer and happier together now than they had been before his marriage to Jackie, but Onassis, for once, did what he could to conceal his frequent rendezvous with Maria. He warned her to switch off the lights at the entrance to her apartment when he was due, so that no one could see him arriving, and arranged to see her through his aide, never calling her directly.
Jackie was aware of her husband’s continuing affair with Callas, and was hurt by it. Once again, she was not number one in her husband’s life. For all the satisfactory, frequent sex, the kissing and touching, the little endearments, there was an element of unreality in their marriage. She was kept away from his business affairs. ‘It would bore you, honey,’ he said, just as Jack had not wanted to discuss the political issues of the day with her. With Maria, it was different. No one who saw them together at this time thought that Onassis went to her only for sex.
In reality Jackie was psychologically terribly wounded by the traumas of the past five years and the deaths of Jack and Bobby. ‘She was,’ said the daughter of a close friend of Onassis, ‘a deeply shattered person. How could it be any different? She spoke to me of the assassination, of how she felt during it, immediately afterwards, what it was like coming back to the White House in that state. And I remember when I first saw her it struck me that her face was entirely laboured by these tiny crack-marks. Like crackle glaze on porcelain. It was the outward sign of what she had gone through.’
Marriage to Onassis was a curiously rootless life for Jackie, who was often left alone. According to one of her few Greek friends, ‘She had no real life in Greece. There were no big parties. Our days were very, very quiet. We read, we walked, we went swimming.’
The Onassis compound at Glyfada was not exactly the sort of setting to which Jackie had been accustomed. Damaris, Lady Stewart, wife of the British ambassador in Athens, Sir Michael Stewart, described the Glyfada villas as ‘appalling, of no taste or interest whatsoever’. Lady Stewart had the impression that Jackie had nothing to do with the running of the houses. ‘When I went to lunch with her he [Onassis] was having a lunch in the next-door house, because the food was coming backwards and forwards across the lawn … When we got to the pudding stage – it was a sort of bought chocolate cake – we had half, the other half had presumably gone there … My superficial impression,’ Lady Stewart went on, ‘was that she was bored and didn't feel in any way at home.’
Ari Onassis proposed to Jackie to live on Skorpios Island and provided her with unlimited funding to redecorate the main house, called the "Pink House", Jackie was finally happy as she created the environment she loved although she missed her many New York based friends.
The color images provide the first pubic glimpse into the place Ari and Jackie Onassis called home, although it is difficult to always discern which rooms are from which house.
The main house is a large villa situated at an elevation affording breathtaking views of the water from stone terraces.
Apparently built by Onassis for Jackie, its grand exterior seems to belie a simple and modern interior architecture.
Nearer the shore is a smaller house, Its exterior walls covered in the sandstone which traditionally mark those seen in Mediterranean homes but painted a soft shade which gave it a magical glow at dusk.
He called it “The Pink House.”Onassis had purchased Skorpios only six years before Jackie Kennedy came to live there with him as his wife.
There are three residences on the island and several smaller buildings which can house up to almost fifty guests, the thirty servants and eighteen gardeners who worked there full-time and utility centers for the considerable upkeep of the entire property.
Certainly, an inviting space seen in the new pictures is a large living room with breathtaking views of the island. It seems fairly clear that this room was located on perhaps of the second story of “Jackie’s Villa.” Some of the images, once enlarged, become blurry but nevertheless provide a sense of the room (see the pictures below).
There are two clay tennis courts, a swimming pool with an impressive fountain beside it, even a farmhouse where goats and other livestock were raised to produce fresh dairy products, meats and cheese.
A greenhouse afforded freshly-cut flowers all year. There was a helipad built to permit the Onassis helicopter a place to land. His two seaplanes were docked at an interior cove, reached by small launches.
There is also a modest Greek Orthodox chapel. This was not only where Jackie Kennedy married Onassis but also where he remains buried in a crypt, along with his son, daughter and one of his sisters.
A lushly wild but otherwise barren property when Onassis first purchased it, he immediately began landscaping portions of Skorpios with pine and palm trees and those bearing fruit and nuts. Paved roadways encircle the island and a drive through an endless grove of olive trees is said to be an especially magical experience.
In the Pink House on Skorpios, Jackie Onassis had free reign to redecorate the rooms in various pastel shades, matched to the changing light in the rooms as cast by the rising and setting sun. In the Athens residence, however, she dared not change anything.
It wasn’t just her long familiarity with Paris, but also the more pleasant home atmosphere which made the Onassis apartment there on the Avenue Foch a more comfortable place for Ari and Jackie to be in residence together. Even when her father was away, if Christina Onassis found herself alone with Jackie in their Paris place was exceedingly more polite than her brother.
|The "Pink Villa" on the Island of Skorpios|
There is also a desalination plant but no fresh-running water, which must be brought from a nearby mountain top. Onassis bought the mountain. There is also a large electrical generator.
After coming to live on Skorpios, Jackie Kennedy would introduce wild blueberry bushes into the loamy soil near the shoreline, the moisture and temperature being a perfect match to that of Long Island’s East Hampton in New York where she’d spent many hours of her childhood summers rambling through the brush gathering and snacking on her favorite fruit.
|The "Pink Villa" on the Island of Skorpios|
Inside the house on Skorpios
The Terrace of the house - Skorpios
|Skorpios - The mooring|
|Skorpios - The Greek Orthodox chapel where Jackie and Onassis wed and where he remains buried in a family crypt with his children Alex and Christina.|
|Skorpios - The lounge of the House decorated by Jackie|
|Skorpios - The lounge of the House decorated by Jackie|
|Skorpios - The lounge of the House decorated by Jackie|
|Jackie Onassis’s private bedroom in the Pink House, with the wrought-iron canopy, made in Greece; it seems to be the same one she later used on her Martha’s Vineyard home.|
|Skorpios - The private beach near the "Pink House"|
Household manager Marta Scubin with Ari and Jackie Onassis in the Pink House on Skorpios; the picture is from Scubin’s cookbook about her years with Mrs. Onassis, Cooking for Madame)
|Skorpios - The pool and a man-made waterfall at left.|
|Pine trees were among the many types of green life Ari landscaped into Skorpios as this view shows looking out from the island.|
|Some of the birds - Skorpios.|
|One of several terraces finished with flagstone overlooking the water.|
On another side of the island, in a lagoon cove of quieter waters, Onassis found the perfect spot for a private beach.
To create it instantly, he shipped in tens of thousands of tons of fine sand. Here he built a one-story beach cottage with terra-cotta walls and open-air windows through which soft breezes wafted.
The family referred to it as the “taverna.”
The “taverna” on Skorpios.
Beneath there were rattan scooped-out oval chairs with white-piping blue cushions, similar to those found in the houses and on the yacht. Inside was a simple kitchen where afternoon luncheons of freshly-caught fish, and salads of greens, onions, peppers and beets which were all grown on Skorpios, were prepared. A big fan of cucumbers, Jackie also had a small garden of these also planted, yielding enough of a harvest to supply her and her guests with the green in all forms, including her particular favorite cold cucumber soup.
|Jackie Onassis carrying out food to the lunch table.|
|Jackie Onassis getting the lunch table ready at the “taverna.”|
|Jackie Onassis practicing yoga on the beach at SkorpiosAri and Jackie Onassis|
Jackie Onassis especially protected her time on Skorpios when she could be there alone with Ari. It was on the island, she later reflected, that he was at his best, relaxed, generous, philosophical and funny. The moment he was on the Christina, he would inevitably retreat after breakfast to his office, entirely absorbed in his business matters, emerging only briefly for meals, working into the wee hours with very little sleep.
Yet even on this remote paradise with all of its houses, this person who fiercely protected her personal privacy needed not only time alone for herself, but an isolated place for her solitude.
Also on Skorpios, tucked into a cove which is so shrouded in a tall, leafy grove where the water laps the shore is a small and simple cottage, with one door, that Ari built for Jackie Onassis. More than any other place, this was “Jackie’s Villa.”
For well over half of their six year and five month marriage, Ari and Jackie Onassis shared a depth of knowledge about Greek culture and continuously pursued even more of it. No place seemed to focus this passion more than the base they shared, a place in that country of unearthly natural beauty, their home of Skorpios Island.
There was open hostility to Jackie in the Onassis circle. Quite apart from his children, Alexander and Christina, who could not abide Jackie, there was Costa Gratsos, one of Onassis’ oldest friends and a devoted partisan of both Maria and Christina. Gratsos had been unequivocal in his denunciation of Ari’s marriage. As Jackie’s spell over Onassis faded, so Costa’s influence grew, as he worked on his friend’s superstitious nature.
The immediate public reaction to the October 20, 1968 Onassis marriage was hostile shock.
Within two weeks, however, an intense curiosity about the newlyweds arose around the world, arousing seemingly everyone with an opinion about the match.
Even the usually humorless Mao Tse-tung, revolutionary Chairman of Communist China, couldn’t refrain from a bit of speculative, amused gossip about the marriage: “If Soviet premier Khrushchev had been killed instead of Kennedy, I don’t think Mr. Onassis would have married Mrs Kruschev.”
Not only supermarket gossip magazines but legitimate news sources were soon enough offering sweeping assessments about the newlyweds, based on tidbits emerging in off-handed remarks by those who had been with them on Scorpios.
Alexander and Christina were irreconcilable and Jackie made little effort to win them over. ‘I will never sleep in the same house as that American woman,’ Alexander told his father’s secretary, even before the wedding. Onassis’ efforts to improve relations only seemed to make things worse: once when he was about to leave with Jackie for New York, he told her to wait while he went off to find Alexander to come and say goodbye to her. After fifteen minutes, Jackie, increasingly nervous, despatched Kiki Feroudi to fetch him because they were going to miss their flight. Feroudi overheard Alexander flatly refusing to do what his father wanted. Jackie was furious and her usual self-control deserted her. ‘I have done nothing to deserve such rude treatment.’
‘Worry only about your own children, not mine, my dear,’ he told her nastily, as he walked so fast to the plane that there was no way she could keep up with his pace.
Alexander’s reaction to Jackie was relatively calm compared with Christina’s. ‘Christina resented her terribly because Christina herself had had an impossible childhood,’ a family friend said. ‘Because of that, her father meant a great deal to her … She was a completely neurotic girl, hanging on to everything which could give her some sort of security … She would have resented anyone because she was too insecure herself. I mean that girl was not all right. When she was thin, Christina was a very pretty girl, with large dark eyes, delicate wrists and ankles, but when she became particularly depressed, her weight yo-yoed. Jackie, with her slim elegance, was a constant reproach to her, even had she not appeared as a threat to take her father away from her.
As much as she was able to control his schedule, Jackie Onassis resisted inviting too many guests for too long a time to Skorpios, and usually did so only when she knew her husband would be away from her for an extended period.
Her stepson and stepdaughter, Alex and Christina Onassis would drop in frequently but as young adults more often than not preferred to spend their time among their young European crowd in the south of France, London or New York.
|Christina and Alexander on the way to the beach|
|Ari loved his children deeply but was not always good at showing it the right way|
While Alex and Christina Onassis have always been depicted as hating their stepmother, it wasn’t a matter of particularly disliking Jackie Kennedy as much as that their father’s remarriage forever ended their hope he’d someday remarry their mother Tina Livanos. They had resented their father’s mistress Maria Callas with equal intensity.
Another ignored factor was that Alex Onassis had begun to display an open hostility towards his father before his marriage to Jackie Kennedy, a resentment of Ari’s intense control to groom him as heir to all of his many business interests.
While Alex Onassis refused to acknowledge Jackie when they were forced to sit at the same table, he never openly belittled her. In contrast, he told his own mother he would never see or speak to her again, after she married Stavros Niarchos, who was not only his father’s primary rival but her late sister’s husband.
Although she voiced the same sentiments about Jackie to her brother, Christina Onassis more frequently visited her father and Jackie. Her stepmother managed to grow somewhat close to her in the early years of the marriage and they were often hiking companions around Skorpios. She encouraged Christina to date Peter Goulandris, whose family Jackie had known before her marriage to Onassis. “Maria Callas never liked me very much,” Christina Onassis bluntly told a reporter in 1971, “but Jackie is my stepmother and she is a great friend.”
On several occasions, they went together to Catholic or Greek Orthodox church services on Sundays in the nearby towns.
During the Easter season in 1969, they even attended a service in each church.
Ari was not big on church.
|Jacqueline Onassis, Caroline Kennedy and Christina Onassis attend Christmas church services in Lefkas, Greece, 1968.|
|During a Mets game at Shea Stadium, Ari Onassis chats with his wife, stepdaughter and stepson.|
John Kennedy, Jr. formed a friendly bond with his stepfather, who especially rose in his estimation after Ari gave him a gift of a speedboat.
They often stayed up talking late into the night. And while it was no yacht, like the one named for his own daughter, Onassis also gave his stepdaughter the gift of a vessel, named for her.
The large, bright-red sailboat Caroline provided the children and their governess Marta Scubin, who Ari Onassis had first interviewed before Jackie did, a way to go off and explore different islands around Greece for journeys of several days endurance.
Onassis once spoke candidly about his role as a stepfather to the children of the late President Kennedy:
|The Kennedy kids and their cousin Tina enjoy the trampoline which Ari Onassis installed for them on Scorpios.|
|Caroline and John Kennedy with cousin Tony on the motorboat Onassis gave his stepson.|
During several of her visits to New York, Christina Onassis also stayed at 1040 at Jackie’s insistence. Before that, Christina Onassis had been making a New York hotel suite her home, living alone since her late teens.
There were inevitably the tense moments when the children of one spouse irritated the other partner. No matter how politely Jackie Onassis smiled back in response to the rude grunts of Alex Onassis or his ignoring of her expressed interest in his activities, she got no where.
She finally blew up, bewildered as to why Ari’s son could not even act civilly towards her. Onassis shot back that he’d take care of his kids and she should take care of her own.
On occasion, however, Onassis could burst his legendary temper on John Kennedy, like the time the boy had gotten the the bits of hair from his freshly-cut head trim all over the yacht furniture.
Yet he unleashed his anger on everyone in his own family and Jackie as well. If anything, Ari Onassis tended to be a bit worried and even more over-protective of her son than Jackie could be.
Once the Kennedy children were on summer vacation from school, they joined their mother and stepfather on Scorpios for most of June and July,
Frequently, they were joined by their aunt and uncle, Stas and Lee Radziwill, Jackie’s brother-in-law and sister, and their children, first cousins Tony and Tina Radziwill.
In the summer of 1971, Jackie invited her friend photographer Peter Beard to join them on Scorpios, a period he recalled as idyllic and full of natural beauty and humor.
Outside of this “blended” family of four children, brought together by divorce and death, Ari and Jackie Onassis shared most of their life in Greece and on Skorpios with extended family members.
|Onassis and his stepson John Kennedy|
That she gave her blessing to her daughter-in-law’s controversial re-marriage proved to be not only a grateful relief to Jackie but seemed to mark a turning point in their relationship.
Drawing closer to each other, Rose Kennedy was a guest on both the Christina and on Scorpios and the Onassises also came to visit at her family’s winter home in Palm Beach, Florida.
Although President Kennedy‘s sisters Jean Kennedy Smith and Pat Kennedy Lawford had come with Jackie Kennedy to her 1968 wedding on Skorpios, along with the three Lawford daughters, they did not return for a visit.
The only other member of the Kennedy family who would come to visit Scorpios and visit Jackie in her new life there was her brother-in-law, U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy.
In the summer months between the June assassination of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy and the Onassis-Kennedy wedding in October, Ari Onassis came to visit the Kennedy family compound at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.
Despite the darkness her husband’s recent murder had left upon her, Ethel Kennedy’s humor returned during Ari’s visit, she and Onassis teasing each other through an evening gathering of the extended family. However startling the match might be to them, those family members of President Kennedy at the dinner were welcoming to Ari.
Onassis would also visit the Newport, Rhode Island estate of Jackie Kennedy’s mother and stepfather, Janet Lee and Hugh Auchincloss.
Janet Auchincloss had been especially displeased about the impending marriage, although it had not yet been officially announced.
During the visit she was fascinated by a little tape recorder and cassettes of classical music which Onassis listened to as he worked virtually through the entire night. At the end of the stay, he gave it to her as a gift. She protested that it was too generous for him to part with his prized music player – causing family members to laughingly assure her that Onassis could surely afford to buy another one for himself.
Still, when her daughter made an unexpected call and asked her to release an announcement to the press that she was marrying Onassis, Janet Auchincloss was flabbergasted and madly tried to talk Jackie out of it.
|Onassis and his mother-in-law Janet Auchincloss.|
Hugh and Janet Auchincloss made their peace with Jackie’s decision, and they also made at least one known lengthy stay on Scorpios during the 1969-1970 holiday season.
Using the island as their home base, Jackie Onassis and her children took her mother and stepfather to various other islands and towns in Greece.
When Onassis was in New York, he also encountered his mother-in-law if she happened to be visiting her daughter’s apartment. Family friend Ros Gilpatric recalled the deadpan look Ari humorously shot his way when he came into the living room at 1040. Jackie had invited Ros up without telling him why. He was to be Rose Kennedy’s bridge partner, pitted against the team of Onassis and Mrs. Auchincloss. Jackie giggled from behind a door, peeking in.
She never learned how to play bridge.
When Onassis had first visited Newport in 1968, he was accompanied not only by his daughter but his closest sister.
|Artemis Onassis Garoufalidis , the compassionate older sister of Ari who befriended Jackie Kennedy.|
Always protective and supportive of her brother “Aristo,” as she called him, Artemis had a more patient and nuanced understanding of human nature than he did. She was extraordinarily humorous and hospitable.
Artemis had first met Jackie Kennedy when the First Lady and her sister Lee were guests on the Christina in October of 1963 and offered her a compassionate empathy following the death two months earlier of her infant son Patrick, a welcome warmth Jackie never forgot. When Mrs. Kennedy arrived in Greece for her wedding, it was Artemis who was there to embrace and whisk her away, shooing off reporters and paparazzi.
Artemis Onassis between her brother and Maria Callas, his mistress, on his yacht in Venice the day Callas announced her divorce and Onassis left his wife.
A garden path connected Artemis’s Glyfada house to the one Ari Onassis kept there; her home was always the gathering place of the extended family. The matriarch filtered out the frauds who sought to infiltrate her brother’s circle and served as a maternal figure for her niece Christina, who lived in a suite at her aunt’s house Artemis was relieved when Ari and Jackie married, never trusting his lover Maria Callas and never stopped imploring Alex and Christina to be more civil to their stepmother.
With Ari so often speeding out to the nearby airport and flying off to do business deals at points all over the world, it was Artemis who acted as a guide for Jackie Onassis who wanted to begin exploring Athens. Her sister-in-law’s encouragement of her curiosity about the history and architecture of different parts of the city even led the former First Lady to revive her political lobbying skill for a public issue which would remain of lifelong concern to her.
As the American First Lady, Jackie Kennedy had famously helped save the rows of historic building on the east and west blocks which faced Lafayette Square, the White House facing it from the south, across the street. There had been a federal order to demolish these to make room for desperately needed office space for workers in the executive branch. The challenge which she successfully sought to address was a way to keep the historic character of this important public park where generations of people had gathered in times of national crisis and celebration, but to also have it serve the practical needs of contemporary society.
Little did she then know how that experience would now serve her in saving some Greek history while permitting the commerce of the present to flourish.
The city had already begun scheduling plans to pull down building and make way for an archaeological dig intended to uncover some of the ancient walls preserved within ones added later.
Melissinos recalled: “I explained to Mrs. Onassis that it would be good to see more of the old city’s walls and other buildings, but that we, also, are making history, and that it would be a pity if this street, which has its own character, were destroyed.
“Two days later I received a telephone call from the Ministry of Public Works saying that the street will stay.
Mrs. Onassis intervened. She said a word in the right place. They had already put the crosses on the pavements showing that this part was to come down, and then nothing more happened.”
Guided largely by her husband, Jackie Onassis immersed herself in Greek history, art and literature.
He taught her how to speak enough of a rudimentary Greek that she was soon speedily making herself familiar with idiomatic and dialect subtleties which differed in parts of the country.
First with him, and then on her
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