John F. Kennedy Jr., The President's Son: Facts And Stories
John F. Kennedy Jr. during Labor Day Weekend - August 31, 1980 at Kennedy Compound Pier in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. Source: (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
John F. Kennedy Jr., son of the assassinated president, was born into American royalty, and lived his life in public -- for better and worse. Handsome, stylish, and charismatic, JFK Jr. seemed to embody a hopeful continuation of the Kennedy saga, the optimism of youth after so much tragedy. For years, Kennedy was the heartthrob of New York City -- making headlines whether he was dating actresses like Daryl Hannah and Sarah Jessica Parker, failing the bar exam (twice) or playing frisbee shirtless in Central Park. Kennedy declined to go into politics, but launched a magazine, George, that attempted to meld politics with celebrity and fashion. He died in a plane crash with his wife in 1999.
John F. Kennedy, Jr. was born on November 25, 1960, two weeks after his father was elected President. His father was assassinated three days after his third birthday. After his father’s death, Jacqueline Kennedy moved the family, which also included a sister, Caroline, to Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where JFK Jr. grew up. After the assassination of Bobby Kennedy (John Jr.'s uncle), she moved them to Greece briefly because she was afraid that her children were in danger. He attended private schools and eventually graduated from Brown University with a degree in American Studies.
In 1989, he earned a J.D. from the New York University School of Law, then failed the New York bar exam twice. He passed on his third attempt, and began working for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in 1990, where he worked for the next four years. Meanwhile, in 1992, he worked as a journalist and wrote an article for the New York Times about a kayaking trip to the Aland Archipelago. Around this time, he began considering publishing a magazine. Eventually, he did publish George magazine. On July 16, 1999, he departed with his wife and her sister in his Piper Saratoga light aircraft from Fairfield, New Jersey. They were heading to Hyannis Port to attend Rory Kennedy’s wedding after dropping Carolyn’s sister off at Martha’s Vineyard. They never reached Martha’s Vineyard, crashing in the Atlantic Ocean, and all three passengers died on impact.
He Saved His Father’s Life
Everyone knows about the assassination attempt that took John F. Kennedy's life -- but it wasn't the only time someone tried to kill President Kennedy. In 1962, a retired postal worker, Richard Paul Pavlick, lined his car with dynamite and planned to ram it into JFK’s limo. But JFK got into his car with his wife and children, and since Pavlick only wanted to kill JFK, he was deterred and did not have another chance to kill JFK since he was arrested four days later based on a tip to the Secret Service.
An Iconic Photo
New York Daily News photojournalist Dan Farrell took the iconic picture of JFK Jr. saluting his father’s coffin. On the cathedral steps, after the funeral, Jackie leaned over to tell her son to salute his father one last time. Farrell was about 150 feet away and was using a Hasselbad 1000 with film that only allowed 12 exposures. He had only two seconds to take the shot, and the single shot was the only exposure on the film. He was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for the picture.
His Name, And Nickname 'John-John'
His mother regretted naming him after his father as the legacy would haunt her son. And his nickname, “John-John” was not given to him by anyone close to him, but rather, by the media.
His Brother Died Before He Was Born
Before JFK Jr. and his sister, Caroline were born, Jackie suffered a miscarriage, gave birth to a stillborn girl and had another son named Patrick, who died less than two days after birth from a condition called hyaline membrane disease.
A Life Of Adventure
During his kayaking trip to the Aland Archipelago, JFK Jr. paddled 125 miles in eight days, had to save one of his companions who had capsized, only ending the trip when two of his companions capsized and were washed ashore.
He bicycled to work every day. He also ran, played football, and kayaked, remaining constantly active. Always a risk-taker, he played chicken with the Staten Island Ferry in his kayak.
Before his death, JFK Jr. traveled to Mount Rushmore for a photoshoot for a USA Weekend Magazine story on “Making America Better.” The photo editors wanted him to rappel down Mount Rushmore, but the rangers denied the request. He did, however, get up close to the monument.
His mother did not want him to learn to fly planes, in part because of the horrible track record the Kennedys had with flying. He loved it, though, and kept his lessons secret, but stopped when his mother asked him to. When she died, he began the lessons again.
Sex Symbol And Actor
Kennedy was selected as People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” in 1988. He had several relationships, including one with Darryl Hannah, before he eventually married Carolyn Bessette. He met his future wife in 1992 in a Calvin Klein store; they started dating two years later and the two were secretly married in 1996.
While in college, he took up acting. He did eventually appear on Murphy Brown, playing himself, and on two episodes of Seinfeld.
He Starts A Magazine And Poses Partially Nude
Kennedy established his magazine, George in 1995 with a goal to cover politics as if it were pop culture; its tagline was “Not just politics as usual.” People discouraged the publication of the magazine because politics doesn’t sell, but Kennedy, the risk-taker, took a chance on it and the first cover featured Cindy Crawford dressed as George Washington. The first three issues were so successful that it became a monthly magazine. The magazine was not afraid of controversy. In a letter in one issue, he addressed his cousin, Michael Kennedy’s, scandalous affair with his 14-year-old babysitter. JFK Jr. posed for a picture that was included alongside the letter. In the picture, JFK Jr. posed nearly naked gazing up at an apple. The magazine folded 18 months after his death, but not before the editor who replaced Kennedy, Frank Lalli, published an issue with Donald Trump controversially on the cover. Interestingly, before his death, Kennedy hired Ann Coulter, but she was fired after he died because she wrote an article that was too homophobic
Giving Back, But Not Following In His Father’s Footsteps
Kennedy wanted to give back to the world, working construction one summer in Guatemala in an earthquake zone, traveling to South Africa to witness apartheid, and visiting Mother Theresa in India.
There was speculation about whether he would enter politics, and during a conference at Mar a Lago, he was asked if he had any presidential ambitions. He indicated that they should be asking that of Donald Trump.
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