June 29, 2023
Now that Robert F. Kennedy has declared his candidacy for America’s highest office, I can spill some beans about his family, having known many of them since before JFK became president in 1960. The late president was the first Kennedy I met, at a party given by Alice Topping, recently divorced from Dan Topping, heir to a platinum fortune and then majority owner of the New York Yankees baseball team.
Needless to say, Alice was swimming in it, and had invited a rather excited young Taki to a very chic New York dinner party. That was the night I met JFK, the very attractive young senator who asked me where I went to school. When he heard it was the University of Virginia he laughed out loud and said, “But that’s a party school.” I remember Jackie telling him to take it easy on “this young man.”
Both Kennedys could not have been nicer, if somewhat looking at us de haut en bas. The summer after the assassination I met and began a long friendship with Jackie’s sister, Lee Radziwill, and after a night of wild drinking and dancing, Lee took me up to Jackie’s apartment on Fifth Avenue. That is when trouble between the most famous widow in the world and poor little me began. Lee had said that I danced like a whirling dervish, and Jackie asked for a demonstration. I politely turned that suggestion down, explaining that what one does on the dance floor of a nightclub while intoxicated cannot be repeated in the cold light of day in a stranger’s house while cold sober. Jackie said I was a great disappointment to her, while I muttered something about not being in the entertainment business.
After Jackie became Madame Onassis our paths crossed at times, but she was cold and rather distant. Her sister and she were not on the best of terms because of the Golden Greek (she had snatched him from Lee), and that didn’t help matters. Pat Lawford and Jean Smith, sisters of the two slain Kennedys, were a different matter altogether. I had met them in Paris, and they were very keen to party and make new friends. After the Greek junta collapsed in 1974, the sisters suggested to their brother Sen. Ted Kennedy, who had been invited to visit Athens and the new democratic government, that he make sure to get in touch with me. When Kennedy rang me in Athens he did not pull his punches: “I’m told you know every beautiful woman in Athens…” “And I am aware of the long homosexual history of the Kennedys,” I replied. He laughed uproariously.
Anita was a very pretty American girl spending a year in the American College of Athens, and I was going out with her friend Sarah, making it a natural for what Americans used to call a double date: The evening did not end well. After Sarah and I left them at Teddy’s hotel, the inebriated senator from Massachusetts inhaled something and made a clumsy pass at Anita. He did not touch her but frightened her. Already a drama queen, the next day she rang her father in Connecticut, and he arrived in Athens in Orlando Furioso mood. By this time Teddy had gone off to visit the Pope in Rome, and as I clumsily explained to Clifford père, I introduced his daughter to a United States senator, not some gangster.
I was working at UPI at the time, but the bureau chief did not want to touch the story, Kennedy being American royalty and all that. Plus Anita herself admitted he had not laid a hand on her. I finally published it in a British scandal rag and my name’s been mud among the Kennedys ever since. Never mind. The present candidate, Robert Kennedy Jr., once invited me to shoot the rapids with him somewhere out west, and it was more of a challenge than an invite. It took place in a London club and he was a bit out of it. I’ve never seen him since, and that was a good forty years ago. I was friendly with his first wife, Mary Richardson, whom he treated badly and who killed herself. He’s now happily married to actress Cheryl Hines. One of his brothers, Max, is a hell of a fellow, and we went out clubbing together quite recently.
Now RFK Jr. is running for president, and some of his messages I totally approve of: He would seal the border, would stop wildly printing money, and is against lockdowns. Others are conspiracy theories that he is known for. They are mostly anti-science and anti–Big Pharma—not a bad thing at all—but the only thing that worries me about him is the fact that his own large brood of brothers and cousins are not out canvassing like mad for him.
Recently I met Joe Driscoll, an old friend who had lost a close election for Congress in Pennsylvania some time ago. Joe’s a Democrat and a close friend of the Kennedys. “Why haven’t you written about Bobby?” he asked me. “You two have a lot in common.” “Yes,” I answered, “we both like dictators.” I think that’s why the family is not knocking down doors for a Kennedy. He has the mind of a dictator. But if I were Biden, I wouldn’t write him off. Personally, I’d take him over any Democrat, especially Biden and Harris. Not to mention Gavin Newsom.