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As she entered her late forties, Jackie was surprised to discover that the once-antagonistic press had become a willing co-conspirator in her calculated effort to project a new image that of working woman and single mom. But it soon became clear that the demands of part-time employment, in [Gore] Vidal's words, "did not exactly cramp her style."
There was the usual number of galas, parties, and openings, and the faces of many of Jackie's escorts were familiar: Peter Duchin, [Felix] Rohatyn, Tom Hoving, and Karl Katz, the Metropolitan Museum's Special Project Director alternately described as a "confirmed bachelor" and Jackie's "intellectual boyfriend." After she showed up at one or two functions with George McGovern, there was speculation that he might leave his wife, Eleanor, for Jackie.
Then there was the night Jackie glided onto the dance floor at a Kennedy Center bicentennial ball with Alejandro Orfila, the dashing former Argentine Ambassador to the United States and General Secretary of the Organization of American States. As President Gerald R. Ford, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, Ted and Rose Kennedy, and half of Washington officialdom looked on, "Jackie swept into the Kennedy Center on Orfila's arm," as one columnist gushed, "in the manner of a beloved queen returning from exile."
The highly touted relationship with Orfila, if there ever really was one, fizzled. In subsequent months, Jackie was linked with heart transplant pioneer Christiaan Barnard, Saudi tycoon Adnan Khashoggi, and NBC executive Karl Killingsworth. No one noticed that, largely away from the prying lens of the paparazzi, Jackie was carrying on a romance with one of thetowering entertainment figures of the century.
In 1976 the myth of Camelot remained relatively intact. Details of John F. Kennedy's affair with Marilyn Monroe, of his rampant womanizing, and his ties to the Mafia were yet to shock the American people. It would not be known for at least a year that Frank Sinatra had introduced Mafia moll Judith Campbell (later Judith Campbell Exner) to JFK, and that while Exner was sleeping with the President in the White House she was also the mistress of Chicago crime boss Sam Giancana.
All the public knew then was that Sinatra had mobilized his notorious Rat Pack (consisting of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Kennedy brother-in-law Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and ex-officio member Shirley MacLaine) and half of Hollywood to get JFK elected President. They also remembered that Frank had produced the 1960 Inauguration Gala (his rendition of the patriotic ballad "The House I Live In" reduced Jackie to tears). Most people had forgotten, if they ever knew, that at Bobby's urging Jack had distanced himself from the Mob-connected singer, causing a permanent rupture in their relationship.
From the beginning, JFK admired Sinatra's success with the opposite sex. "Even though he had his hands full with Marilyn Monroe and all the others," George Smathers said, "Jack still asked about Sinatra and his women. He wanted to know all the details."
Significantly, just as Ari had suspected that Jackie and Sinatra were having an affair in 1972, Jack Kennedy was wary of Old Blue Eyes's intentions. Kennedy, in fact, was always highly suspicious of his wife. "Believe it or not," said Chuck Spalding's wife, Betty, "Jack was jealous of Jackie seeing any other man... because he was convinced she was doing the same things he was doing." Oleg Cassini agreed that "Jack was jealous of her," but added that "if she had slept with somebody other than him, it would have been disaster for her."
Yet as First Lady, Jackie had not given the slightest indication that she was interested in Sinatra. On the contrary, Jack told Peter Lawford that Sinatra was welcome at the White House only when Mrs. Kennedy was out of town. "Jackie hates Frank," he told his brother-in-law, "and won't have him in the house."
Still, JFK remained vigilant when it came to Sinatra. "Jack was a jealous guy," Smathers said, "and he didn't like it when Jackie showed too much interest in another man especially not another man whose interests, shall we say, were so similar to his."
After Onassis's death, Sinatra took Jackie out on a few low-key dates, only to be ambushed by waiting paparazzi. Subsequently, they devised a plan to keep their budding relationship a secret. Jackie and Sinatra met in the early-morning hours at various watering holes around New York Jimmy Weston's, P.J. Clarke's, and "21" among them. Occasionally, Jackie would go to the theater or the ballet on the arm of one decoy escort only to "bump into" Sinatra at a prearranged restaurant or nightclub.
The ploy worked. While newspapers speculated about the nature of her relationships with Katz, Barnard, and even McGovern, Jackie and Sinatra quietly pursued their behind-the-scenes courtship. But among those who knew them, rumors flew. "I remember seeing them go into her apartment quite late at night," Doris Lilly said, "but it didn't really surprise me. Everybody was talking about it."
There is little doubt that Sinatra persisted in his hatred of the Kennedys, but that in Jackie he recognized someone who had also endured much at their hands and managed to survive. "I suppose they reminded each other of happier times, and they were both single at the time," Nancy Dickerson said. "A dalliance, if you will, seemed logical."
In 1976 Frank married Zeppo Marx's widow, Barbara. Years later, while sitting at the bar of a private men's club in Manhattan, Sinatra became emotional as he discussed his feelings for Jackie. "The lady is one class act," he said. "Look at all the crap she has had to put up with in life, and still she can laugh... I was in love with her once."
Whatever feelings Sinatra and Jackie may have shared for each other at the time, she had reached a crossroads in her life. "She was simply no longer willing," Baldrige said, "to be dependent on an older man." Jack had been twelve years older than Jackie; Ari twenty-nine years older. Nearly all the other men she had leaned on to varying degrees over the years Andre Meyer, Roswell Gilpatric, Lord Harlech were also many years her senior. Sinatra, born the same year as Jack, was simply too old for her now.
By this point in her life, Truman Capote said, "Jackie had lost her taste for domineering older men. She didn't need any more sugar daddies in her life telling her what to do. She wanted to be the one to call the shots for a change, and so she started looking around for some young stuff."
The manner in which Jackie selected her escorts was rather Byzantine. "People would get a signal," [David] Halberstam said, "that she might be interested in going out with a particular person, and then word was relayed to you by her friends and you'd call her up and you'd go out."
Copyright © 1998 by Christopher Andersen