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.
Travel has always been the best tonic for me. Stepping away from problems and out of the daily routine puts things in perspective. It recharges the batteries and helps with the creative juices. There’s no better time to think than on a 4 hour flight when you have nothing to read and refuse to watch yet another Kate Hudson romantic comedy.
I’m taking a four day weekend to sip the tonic and prepare for the drama that is coming next week. The mid-west is having another frightful winter but there is an upside to zero degree weather: cheap airfare and cheap hotels. Tonight I’m at one of my favorites, The Palmer House in Chicago.
To me hotel lobbies are usually a let down. I’ve stayed at some grand hotels through the years: the George V in Paris, the Hotel Imperial in Vienna, Beck’s Motor Lodge in the Castro. Their lobbies were elegant but understated. But the first time I rode up the escalator at the Palmer House the great reveal was amazing. Their lobby is like a Beaux Arts Sistine Chapel
Bonhams is only taking some of the higher end items from my collection, less than 5% of the total. They have no interest in the kitschy weirdo things, which are the lifeblood of the collection to me. But there is no money in heart and soul so at the end of the day I’m still going to have to come up with a way to divest myself of all this quirkiness.
I’ ve always been fascinated by the kitsch because it was such a contradiction to how she was brought up. She was a child of privilege, attended the Sorbonne and studied with Bernard Berenson. She became a refined and intelligent woman who was told by her father in law that, in order to win the presidency, she and her husband were going to be sold “like a box of soap flakes.” I think of her embarrassment and disgust whenever I see her mawkish image on one of these carnival giveaway quality tchotchkes.
One of my friend Marilyn’s husbands (there have been so many I can’t remember them all) was a pilot for UPS. When he had layovers in San Francisco in the 1980’s he would stay with me. There were two things that intrigued him about my apartment: the lack of a television and the perversity of my Jackie collection.
He did contribute, however, in the form of a cigarette lighter from the 60’s. When he was in the New Zealand Air Force he and his buddies would buy these lighters thinking they were Jackie. It’s not the usual America’s Widow image we’re used to. Still I think we have to accept his word that he thought he was buying Jackie.
I’ve always given it a central spot in the display case. His intent was pure even though his thoughts might not have been.
When I went to the preview of Jackie’s auction at Sotheby’s I was surprised that she and I didn’t have more things in common. In fact, this is the only item we both owned.
The official lighter of the New Zealand Air Force in the 1960’s.
Jackie wine bottle stoppers.
Melmac Jackie. A horrendous rendering of the First Lady. To make things worse there’s also a poem, To The Beautiful Heroine in Pink. One of the low points of Western Civilization.
Big eyes. Not Keane but his Parade Magazine mail order archrival, Medeiros.
Creepy porcelain heads either for dolls or maybe puppets.
A stacked deck
Park your butts on the Kennedys. The ashtray.
About a year before he died Onassis wanted a divorce and he was scheming to sully his wife’s reputation. He alerted the paparazzi of the times she sun bathed nude and had his security allow them close range so they could get their shots. Nothing came of it except a commemorative calendar for Screw Magazine.
We were antiquing on Cape Cod and came across this lithograph of the iconic swearing in photo. LBJ autographed it with his best wishes to the artist. My friend Dale said he was surprised he hadn’t inscribed it “on the happiest day of my life.”
Plastic molds for something, not sure what.They seem too flimsy for pottery. Jello perhaps?
No Jackie collection would be complete without a replica of the convertible.
Trivets make wonderful collectibles especially when associated with someone like Jackie who loved to cook. She would always be up first thing Sunday mornings to rustle up a skillet of sausage gravy for Jack and the kids.
“The Speeches of Jaccqueline Kennedy at Home and Abroad.” The title of this record album is a little misleading because 40% of it is orchestral filler, 58% is a man narrating the story of her life and 2% is her speaking. When children in India hand her some drawings she responds “they’re absolutely lovely.” That’s about it. Pericles she was not.
A vintage Halloween mask. Spooky, scary.
An early 70’s charicature. America’s widow had fallen off her pedestal by marrying Onassis. Most of the country saw her as a money grubbing chatelaine even though they didn’t actually know what a chatelaine was.
In the late 20th Century Boym Partners started creating tabletop architectural miniatures of tragic sites. The series was called “Buildings of Disaster” and included things like Chernobyl, The Oklahoma City Federal Building, Neverland Ranch and the World Trade Center. This is their version of the Texas School Book Depository. Collecting truly can be a fun hobby for the whole family.
The salt and pepper shakers that started the whole collection.
Ben and Rags were part of the 70’s Polk Street/Chicken Little’s/Matinee social scene until they moved to New York around 1977. Ben went to work for Andy Warhol. Rags did something too, though I can’t remember exactly what other than laughing a lot and having a good time.
Rags and Ben were close with Halston and his partner Victor Hugo. They partied with them at their Lenox Hill home and vacationed with them out in Montauk. When Victor gave him the Jackie note, Rags immediately thought of my collection. The next time he was in San Francisco he presented it to me.
Jackie’s note writing was mentioned by Senator Kennedy when he eulogized her. “At the end, she worried more about us than herself. She let her family and friends know she was thinking of them. How cherished were those wonderful notes in her distinctive hand on her powder blue stationary.”
We’ll find out just how cherished when the hammer comes down at Bonhams.
The wedding invitation, 1953
The place setting menu for the State Dinner where Pablo Casals played. He’d previously performed at the White House in 1904 but vowed never again after the US recognized the Franco regime. Jackie coaxed him back. There’s a coffee stain on the back which leads me to believe this was Ethel’s.
In his diaries, Warhol mentions being at one of Jackie’s annual Christmas parties and how Warren Beatty cornered her to whisper raunchy nothings into her ear. Jackie dismissed him with a cool, “Oh Warren.”
The Sexiest Man Alive of 1988’s birth announcement
Reading between the lines one can almost hear her huge sigh of relief
Herb Caen ran a piece on Mrs. O being unhappy with her manicurist selling her Christmas note to a Manhattan book shop. The next time I was in New York I visited the store and, amazingly, it was still available.