Jackie Gets a Facelift

As I continue to tie up loose ends around the place–clearing brush down by the crick, taking care of the larvae infestation in the chicken coop–sights were turned to the Jackie door. Not really her door but a door saluting the sensationalist tabloid school of journalism that made her a household name. And kept her that way for decades.

The Baader-Meinhof color scheme of steel gray and neon yellow did not flatter the former First Lady. To her credit, I didn’t hear a peep. She’s never been one to complain.

The real problem was the veneer molding on a roll, fake wood crap used to section off the articles. It had about 20 coats of paint on it because I could never get the color even. By the time I gave up it was buckling and warped.

Poor Mrs. O had to live with it for a year and a half. I felt if she can survive having her husband’s head blown up in her face, or being held captive on a remote island by a pot-gutted Greek thug for five years, she could handle a little adversity in home decor.

Her patience has paid dividends. Now she’s all dolled up and ready for dinner at La Grenouille followed by a frolic in the backroom at Studio 54.

The new presentation is reminiscent of the mid-century, tutti frutti pieces Cartier made with precious stones. Which brings to mind one of the great stories of 20th Century Jewelry.

The Duchess of Windsor was a client of Cartier and had a few of these multi-colored pieces. Many of her jewels were custom made from stones given to the Duke when he was Prince of Wales. Technically they were given to the people of the United Kingdom but the Duke appropriated them anyway. As royals are wont to do.

The Duchess wore one of her original necklaces for the first time to a Paris Ball in 1957. Her bib was the talk of the night and met with universal acclaim from everyone she encountered. Including the Maharani of Baroda.

The Maharani possessed one of the world’s largest private collections of jewelry and had an encyclopedic knowledge of precious stones. She studied the necklace carefully for a few moments then expressed her admiration. She specifically remembered the emeralds. They’d once been part of anklets she wore.

The Duchess stormed home from the Ball, put the necklace back in its case and never wore it again. I’m sure the Duke was browbeaten that night for letting her make such a fool of herself. Probably for the rest of his life as well.

The idea that her anointed-by-god jewels had once adorned the feet of another woman was just too much for the Duchess. And a non-white woman to boot.

It’s this depth of thought and feeling that characterizes the House of Windsor even to this day.

The googley eyes contain mini-webcams. Like Chuck Berry, I keep tabs on what people do in my bathroom.

Back Pages

How could something that was worthless 45 years ago still be worthless today? In the mind of a collector this should never happen. The mere act of preserving something fragile for that many decades should add some value.

In the case of tabloid newspapers it doesn’t. My stack of Jackie National Enquirers, International Tattlers. and Weekly World News that cost me 10 to 50 cents back in the day don’t even fetch the $4.95 of a current issue.

After all that effort, the archivist in me couldn’t allow them to be tossed or destroyed. I thought of salvaging them as bathroom art but who among us wants to see another door papered with Jackie Kennedy covers?

Then I decided rather than focus solely on her I would celebrate the toilet bowl genre of journalism that fed her celebrity so effectively.  There are a few Jackie front pages included but they are among more hard-hitting pieces like: the tallest known traveling salesman in the world at 8′ 2″; the woman who sprouted porcupine quills; and, the first ever pictures of the Antichrist.

To honor her lifelong struggle of protecting herself and her children from the hordes, Privacy Film was used to cover the articles. And the borders are neon yellow to warn of potential hazard: there are some dangerous ways of thinking out there.

It’s fascinating to think how appalled this refined woman must have been to have her gawkish likeness on two-bit tea towels and coffee cups. Then how she was turned into a cartoon character for the tabloids by the Kennedy publicity machine. They had no problem using her because it only increased the power of the family brand among the masses. Plus it gave her a few bargaining chips in life.

It’s also hard to reconcile that figure with the one who studied art with Bernard Berenson and debated philosophy with Andre Malraux; who was the only one ever to convince the French to temporarily lend the Mona Lisa; whose influence brought the Temple of Dendur to the Met; and, who would charge clothing to Onassis’ haute couture accounts then immediately sell them to second hand shops to pad her cash on hand. You gotta do, girl, what you gotta do. It was the perversity of how she got ahead, and not so much idolatry, that appealed to me.

That was the inspiration for starting the collection 50 years ago. I was so much older then I’m younger than that now.