JOSEPH PATRICK KENNEDY, JR.
He was the golden boy of the family, rich, handsome (well, they were all good lookers...at least, the boys were...) and destined for greatness. Papa Joe was determined that all his children would find substantial places in the world, but he had particularly high expectations of his eldest son. Junior studied law at Harvard and economics in London before undergoing officer's training and entering WWII. He died in a kamikaze-type mission into occupied France, where he and another officer were to pilot a plane filled with explosives, aim it at a cannon site, and parachute to safety before the plane crashed into its target. Who could predict something like this could go wrong? The plane detonated in flight, before ever leaving British airspace.
By the way, the guy next to Kennedy in this picture is Broadway star Matt Cavanaugh, who played Joe Jr. in the musical version of Grey Gardens. You can catch him in the current West Side Story revival. Hmm. I seem to have wandered off track here.
Everybody already knows this one's story. Young senator, fairy-tale marriage, a lucky break during a TV debate, then tragedy. But before that crummy trip to Dallas, JFK adopted the Camelot motif which continues to be used to describe his era today. Everybody knows his successes (Cuban Missile Crisis, banging Marilyn Monroe) and his failures (Bay of Pigs, keeping his affair with Marilyn Monroe secret), and historians are pretty mixed about how effective a president he actually would have been, had he served a full term or two. He didn't have much of a chance to prove himself. His assassination was one of those pivotal moments during which everybody on the planet remembers exactly where they were. The only other moment like that in my lifetime was the 9/11 attack. Both were instances of catastrophe. I wonder why we don't all remember seminal GOOD moments so clearly, like where we were when Neil Armstrong played golf on the moon, or when Elaine Stritch finally won the Tony?
During her father's lifetime, she was kept strictly out of the public eye, at least until her sister Eunice stepped in (more on her below). She may have had some mild retardation, though experts today believe she simply had a lower IQ than her siblings, which led her to being the slow one in the family. In the highly competitive Kennedy clan, she could never keep up, and reacted with mood swings and tantrums. But she kept a diary through her teenage years, which has been examined and seems to reveal a normal, though depressed, child. She accompanied her parents to the White House to meet FDR, and was presented to George VI during Papa Joe's tenure as US Ambassador to Britain. But her father was never pleased with her. "We don't want any losers around here," he would say, "We only want winners." Eventually, Joe was offered the chance to ease his daughter's mood swings, with a new procedure called a lobotomy (only 65 had been done, worldwide). He jumped at the opportunity to turn his daughter into a competitor, and the operation was done. And botched. Rosemary, who had been highly verbal and bright, became unintelligible, incontinent, and incapacitated. The truth about the lobotomy was hidden for many years, as it was assumed such a story would be unpalatable to American voters, so Rosemary became "the lost Kennedy," the mentally retarded girl living in an institution for the rest of her 86 years.
Eunice is remembered as a no-nonsense woman who worked tirelessly throughout her life, often on behalf of the mentally disabled. She clearly had a strong affection for her sister Rosemary, visiting her in the institution and seeing to it that she be included in various family functions over the years. I wonder what she thought of her younger sister, who appears to have been her opposite:
This guy may be my favorite Kennedy, though I'm not sure why:
ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY