The Kennedys - The Way They Were Then and The Way They Are Now
Daily Express 3rd October 1993
THEY are freeze-framed in memory, those six. seconds of photographic images from Dallas on November 22, 1963, the day a president died and an industry was born. As the 30th anniversary of John Fitzgerald Kennedy's assassination approaches, those tragic ticks of time remain the most studied and debated in American history.
Anyone who was not in kindergarten that day remembers where they were when the news broke of the death of JFK as his motorcade glided past the Texas School Book Depository.
Jackie Kennedy in her pink suit and matching pillbox hat, JFK grinning and waving, the crowds cheering and then the gunshots that shattered the world.
A kaleidoscope of images have followed the assassination. Some of the most poignant were those of the stoic Jackie, the 34-year old widow, holding the hands of her daughter Caroline and son John Junior at her husband's funeral.
And then of John Junior, on his third birthday, saluting his father's coffin. Caroline was six when she and her brother became the most famous fatherless children in the world.
Three decades on, the Kennedy political dynasty established by JFK and his murdered brother, Robert, remains but it is much changed.
None of us, no matter how attractive or wealthy or gifted, can stop the clock. Tragedy and time have taken their toll on Bobby Kennedy's widow, Ethel. Jackie has aged elegantly but Senator Teddy Kennedy now casts a somewhat large and absurd shadow.
And what of the new generation of brothers and sisters and cousins that comprise the Kennedy clan today?
Maria Shriver is a television news-woman more famous for being married to Arnold Schwarzenegger. And William Kennedy Smith suffered the unsavoury spotlight in a Florida courtroom after being accused of rape.
Quietly, Caroline Kennedy took a law degree, married businessman Edwin Schlossberg and today is a hard-working wife and mother.
As you flick through the Kennedy scrapbook, there are constant reminders of JFK and his son especially Stanley Tretick's photographs of them walking hand-in-hand at the White House and John Junior playing under the Oval Office desk.
This summer, I watched JFK Junior frolic in paradise, the island Palau in Micronesia, with Hollywood beauty Daryl Hannah. Many believe she could one day be America's First Lady.
JFK Junior behaved like a man with no concerns other than enjoying himself. A lawyer turned fledgling politician, he has emerged as the family's sex symbol.
But, for the Kennedys and the American Democratic Party, he is also the ghost of charisma past.
While his cousin Joseph Kennedy II enthusiastically joined the political world, JFK Junior has quietly made the correct connections. Recently, he said: "If your father was a doctor and your uncles are doctors and all your cousins are doctors then there's a good chance that maybe you're going to be a doctor too."
Much has been written about Jackie O's influence over her son, her tantrums over his high-profile love life (Madonna and Daryl Hannah), but her priorities for her children have never changed. After the assassination, she religiously worked to establish a stable upbringing for them. JFK Junior bitterly resented her marriage to Aristotle Onassis but today he and his mother, now 64, are very close. And she is an adept political adviser.
After her own heartbreak years, she has maintained to friends that all she wants is for her children to be happy.
But the memories, like the charges of cover up, will never go away. The fascination with the assassination has eerily increased with time. More than 2,000 books have been written with the latest, Case Closed by Gerald Posner (Little Brown, £8.99), being published in Britain next month. Posner agrees with the Warren Commission that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
It goes against most of the other books, scores of television documentaries and Oliver Stone's movie JFK, which had Kevin Costner wallowing in a swamp of conspiracy theories.
Shady agents of the FBI or maybe the CIA or the KGB, fascists, leftists, mobsters, disaffected Cubans, Castro and even Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy's vice-president, have been implicated in one plot or another.
There is a JFK Assassination Information Centre in Dallas, which sells everything from video tapes to key rings to buttons with Oswald's photo on them and the caption "I didn't shoot anyone — I'm just a patsy".
In Dallas, you can take a bus tour of places connected to the shooting like Oswald's apartment and the cinema where he was arrested.
President Clinton, fulfilling a campaign promise, recently released 185,000 previously classified documents about the killing. But they were heavily censored. And others remain totally secret.
All of which, of course, is good for the assassination theory business.
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