JACKIE'S FINAL PERFORMANCE

For Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the spirit of Camelot never died. But we went too far. We deified Jackie. No one understood her exalted status after the president's funeral better than she did. It was an event she had successfully orchestrated. She knew that from that point on, no one would dare find fault with anything she did. She became the great American heroine.

"Anybody who is against me will look like a rat unless I run off with Eddie Fisher," Jackie admitted to William Manchester, the author of The Death of a President, a few months after the assassination. And so she went on to freely live the life of a courtesan. Openly, she was attracted only to men of great power or vast wealth. Despite this hunt for the gold, Jackie was able to maintain her revered status until she succumbed to cancer at age 64. Any other public figure would have been pilloried by the press. She remarried for a $3 million prenuptial agreement that even contained a clause as to the number of times she would submit to marital sex with Aristotle Onassis, the aging Greek shipping magnate, who also happened to be one of the world's richest men.

They were on their way to divorce when Onassis died.
After Onassis came Maurice Tempelsman, another extremely wealthy man, who left his wife to move in with Jackie. Despite this, the aura did not really end for the millions of people who witnessed her heroic, televised performance as the widow of the slain president, John F. Kennedy. No one could, or would want to, erase the vision of the stately, regal Jackie, dressed in mourning black, her two children by her side. Those stunning, appalling November days in 1963 that started in Dallas and ended with Jackie lighting the eternal flame at her husband's grave in Arlington National Cemetery have become a part of our national consciousness.

Who can forget the riderless horse with the boots hanging backward; little John John's salute to his father; the march in the street to the church by many of the world's great leaders, like Charles de Gaulle, Haile Selassie and Prince Philip of England? And above all, there was the valorous Jackie. This vision of her lasted a lifetime, and enabled her to hold a significant portion of the civilized world in thrall until the moment of her own burial alongside her husband last Monday. Norman Mailer explained how the murder in Dallas affected most Americans who had voted for JFK.

"It was our country for a while," Mailer said. "Now it's theirs again."
In order to marry Mrs. Kennedy, Onassis had to end his long romantic dalliance with Maria Callas, then one of the great opera singers of the world.

Callas was distraught.
"First I lost my weight," she screamed to reporters, "and then I lost Onassis."
Callas' mother, Litza Kalogeropoulos, was livid.
"Why did he marry that Jackie?" she asked. "She is ugly, with horrible legs, the skin of a hen, fat in the wrong places and eyes too far apart from one another. She's a big nothing."
Yet no one could deny that Jackie was a true patron of the arts. She saved historic buildings. She restored the White House. She helped create the Kennedy Center. At her New York City funeral the other day, Jessye Norman, the great opera diva, sang the Ave Maria. Unable to gain access inside the church, television was forced to rerun old clips of Jackie and her husband John. That was Jackie's fine hand at work once again. This was not the death of an aging woman. It was a rebirth of the Kennedy legend.

The eulogy was given by a tired, jaded Senator Ted Kennedy. One of those in the audience was Hillary Rodham Clinton. She would be joined at the Arlington burial by her husband, President Bill Clinton.

@rule:
@body:When Aristotle Onassis began to complain that Jackie spent too much money on clothes, the public didn't blame Jackie for extravagance. Instead, it pilloried Onassis for his parsimony. When Onassis died, Jackie sued to make sure she got what she considered her fair share of his vast fortune.

Jackie never had a reason to fear she would fall into disfavor with her public. It had made a lasting bond to the death with her on that historic weekend.

Jackie spent weeks being interviewed by Manchester, taping her memories of her days in the White House with Jack Kennedy while they were still fresh. This was a masterful effort at controlling history. During all of those hours, she never once mentioned her husband's infidelities, which had reached massive proportions. Jack Kennedy was the only president in history who shared the favors of a Mafia don's mistress. Jackie was often unpredictable. Just when The Death of a President was about to be published in serial form by Look magazine, she rebelled at the whole idea. She filed suit against Manchester, attempting to halt its publication. At the time she was announcing her opposition, Jackie had still not even read the book. Too late, Manchester realized what had happened. Jackie and the Kennedy family were using him to prevent other writers like Jim Bishop from publishing books on the assassination. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Jack's brother, was still alive. He had presidential aspirations. He feared that unfavorable revelations in Manchester's book about then-president Lyndon B. Johnson might prove costly to Kennedy election chances.

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