8 questions for Greg Lawrence, author of "Jackie as Editor"
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis spent longer working as an editor than she did married to either President Kennedy or millionaire Aristotle Onassis.
(Page 3 of 4)
Right. That's what I mean. She knew how to lead you along. As we turned in each chapter, there was all of this praise. She would quibble with this and that, but it was all very positive.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
By the time we had this 600-page manuscript, it came back to us and it was really cut almost in half. There were all these suggestions, and she emphasized that these were only suggestions.
I knew she was going to return a phone call after we had gone over all this and were traumatized. And I was all ready to argue with her, and say, “Oh no, we have to keep that scene in and that scene in!”
But when you heard that voice, it was so disarming. I just said, “Good, we'll do it your way, Jackie.”
One of her writers – he was also her step-cousin – Louis Auchincloss, when I told him that story, said, “Yes, we all learned very early that you don't argue with a former first lady.”
4. From Michael Jackson to Louis Auchincloss is quite a wide spectrum. Which books most interested her?
Her favorite projects were the very lavish illustrated books. They were very expensive. But she managed to do quite a few of them. She did five of those books with Tiffany's ... Peter Sis did a very elaborate illustrated children's book called “The Three Golden Keys,” that was enormously successful.
She did her share of novels. Some of them are quite noteworthy. After Naguib Mafouz won the Nobel Prize, she immediately got on the track of having him published in English.
She kept up with everything being published in France, because she spoke so fluently. That's how she found Edvard Radzinsky, “The Last Tsar.” That was in Russian, translated into French. That book became an enormous bestseller.
Michael Jackson, I think, was a project she undertook to please the people at Doubleday – even though a number of them didn't know who Michael Jackson was, including Sam Vaughan, who was editor-in-chief at the time. He said he was fortunate he wasn't fired.
5. You point out that she was an editor far longer than she was first lady, or longer than she was married to Aristotle Onassis, but it's not something that gets much attention in other biographies.
One reason – Bill Moyers pointed it out to me – she was very private, not only about her personal life, but about her professional life, her editing. After her initiation at Viking Press in 1975, '76, she was never photographed in her office. She didn't give interviews. So her work life, her professional life, was something that most people didn't know about. Most of her books, her name doesn't appear. So, it was kind of a sanctuary for her, that, I think, that enabled her to balance her personal life, somehow survive the incredible public scrutiny that was always ongoing with her.
6. The people working with her were very protective of her. In fact, some won't talk about her even today.
There are a handful, like Shaye Areheart is one. She started as Jackie's assistant and became a real colleague and partner. She took a vow of silence. I think there were several others who did that.