Rob Littell was a freshman at Brown University when he met the young JFK Jr. during orientation week. Although Littell came from a privileged background, it was worlds apart from the glamorous life of the son of the late President and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Eager to be accepted on his own terms, Kennedy admired Littell's irreverence toward his ce...
Rob Littell was a freshman at Brown University when he met the young JFK Jr. during orientation week. Although Littell came from a privileged background, it was worlds apart from the glamorous life of the son of the late President and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Eager to be accepted on his own terms, Kennedy admired Littell's irreverence toward his celebrity and they became close friends.
Over the years, John opened up to Littell on a very personal level, revealing the complex and sometimes tense nature of his relationships with his sister and cousins, as well as his mother's extraordinary influence on him - and how they both worked to keep it from being overbearing. John's marriage had its ups and downs, and Carolyn Bessette had made enemies of some of his friends, but they were happy together. She was healthy, and they were planning to have children.
Littell recounts wonderful dinners at Jacqueline Onassis's apartment, including one memorable Christmas Eve when she made a lonely suburban student feel among family. He remembers the weekends at her retreat on Martha's Vineyard, where she critiqued their touch football while lying on a chaise lounge, her face covered in cold cream. As students, Littell and Kennedy bummed around Europe. They slept in Hyde Park, sampled the pleasures of Amsterdam, ran afoul of customs officers, and almost got busted at the Ritz Hotel in London for smoking pot. They even shared apartments in New York City until Jackie summoned them to dinner one day and gently suggested it was time to grow up.
The two went on to pursue their professional lives. John trained as a lawyer, and then he founded his own political magazine. He confided in Littell that he would eventually run for the White House. Later on, Littell was a part of JFK Jr.'s secret wedding to Carolyn Bessette on Cumberland Island, Georgia, and three years later a pallbearer at his funeral.
From shared adventures, private moments, and lasting memories, Robert Littell offers a unique look at John Kennedy, Jr.'s life - one that has never been seen before. Compelling and revealing, this intimate story includes: Who Kennedy originally intended to marry; Kennedy confided in Littell that he would eventually run for the White House; Carolyn Bessette was in great shape mentally and physically when she died, and they were planning to have children; How Kennedy, and his mother, dealt day to day with the tremendous burden of his father's omnipresent legacy. Remembrances of weekend retreats at Mrs. Onassis' beautiful estate in Martha's Vineyard - where she would tease them about their prowess at touch football. Recalls an unexpected invitation to an intimate Christmas dinner at Jackie's New York apartment, where she made a suburban boy from New Jersey feel among family.
From Publishers Weekly
Of all of the banter recounted in this extended eulogy to his late friend, the most germane conversation comes when the author recalls his friend John F. Kennedy Jr. reading Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye, Ken O'Donnell and Mike Powers's memoir of the late president John F. Kennedy. The author writes, "[John] even suggested that I'd be writing about him one day." That quote almost serves as an ethical balm for the reader concerned that JFK Jr.'s life has been written about and exploited by so many. Though far from an autobiographical masterpiece, this book offers Kennedy voyeurs an exciting dose of nostalgia. Littell's account is adoring but not hagiographic. While most of the anecdotes involve the mundane stuff of male friendship, Littell acknowledges certain not-so-shocking facts distorted in the tabloids, such as John's seeking therapy after failing the bar exam for the second time, his occasional use of marijuana, his vanity and his marital difficulties. Littell's narrative is also a commentary on fame—and how fame affects all who are touched by it. Littell claims that John trusted him not because Littell worshiped his celebrity, but because he didn't: they became "closer each time [Robert] pushed [John's] public self away." In one telling episode, Littell plops himself down beside Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis after making a joke about John and his friends, and she gaily chides him, "I so love your irreverence." That irreverence is on full display in this sweet, heartfelt panegyric, which will undoubtedly be snapped up by readers of Laurence Leamer's Sons of Camelot. 35 b&w photos not seen by PW.
"The first half of one's life is for generating stories . . . the second half for telling them." These words encapsulate Little's twenty-year friendship with John Kennedy, Jr., and his mother, Jackie, and sister, Caroline. Meeting as Brown University freshmen, the young men shared housing, sports, and high jinks and continued their close relationship after graduation and marriage. Much of Littell's account rides on the Kennedy mystique as he reveals intimate information about John, his family, and his marriage to Carolyn Bessette. The summing up, however, is eloquent, as he asks what this "good and smart person born with extraordinary access and real power, endowed with trust and goodwill--inherited and earned--from most of the world" might have given back to that world had he lived. L.C.
Robert Littell graduated from Brown University in 1984 and worked as an investment advisor until the year 2000. He is currently writing and fundraising for Take the Fields, a private/public partnership that restores athletic facilities at New York City public schools.