Monday, April 06, 2020

Troubling times in Camelot

Two sad news stories caught my eye this past week.

Maeve McKean and her son, Gideon, were lost in Chesapeake Bay. Maeve was the daughter of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the oldest child of Robert and Ethel Kennedy. Gideon was her 8-year-old son. Because of the pandemic, the Kennedys can't mourn together. Because they're Kennedys, they can't mourn privately anyway. Friends and neighbors have hung home made cards on the trees outside the family home, and the Kennedy clan held an online prayer service in memory of mother and son.

Maeve's mother, Kathleen, is a favorite of mine. She was the first grandchild of Joe and Rose Kennedy, yet no one expected her to to go into the family business because, well, she's a girl and girls born in 1951 didn't get to have political careers. Kathleen showed 'em. In 1994, she ran on the ticket with Parris Glendenning and was Lt. Governor of Maryland for 8 years.

Kathleen -- born on the 4th of July -- actually knew her Uncle Jack and father (who lovingly nicknamed her "Clean Kathleen" because she was such a good girl). She was 12 when President Kennedy was assassinated, and just shy of her 17th birthday when she lost her father. She has worked her entire adult life to be a credit to their memories. Today, she's on the faculty of Georgetown University and a member of the Points of Light Foundation (started by President George H. W. Bush). And, because she's a good Kennedy, she's a fundraiser for the Democratic party.

Clean Kathleen has been married more than 45 years to her first and only husband. I hope they are a comfort to one another at this awful time.

Photographer Peter Beard is missing. He loved Kenya and became well respected for his photos of elephants and big cats. In 1969, his work was championed by JBKO, who invited him to Skorpios. He babysat John Jr. and mentored Caroline in photography. He also had an extra-marital affair with her sister, Lee, which reportedly ended badly. But he and Jackie remained friends until her death.

Some of the Jackie O glitter rubbed off. With his good looks and talent, he became a member of the jet set, hanging around with Andy Warhol, Truman Capote and Mick and Bianca. He was married to model Cheryl Tiegs.

He was more than just handsome and glamorous. Karen Blixen and Salvador Dali were as enamored of his work as Jackie had been.

Now 82 and suffering from dementia, he disappeared last Tuesday from his Montauk home. K-9 units and drones have searched for him, but so far, no luck.

I have hopes that this survivor of the wilds of both Africa and Studio 54 is still all right somewhere. After all, Peter Beard was once gored by an elephant and lived to joke about it.

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