Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

A Camelot Tale

CAROLE RADZIWILL shares her story of LOVE, LOSS and KENNEDIAN tragedy

Carole Radziwill's story is both fairy tale and tragedy. After leaving her working-class upstate New York hometown, Radziwill became an award-winning producer for ABC News, where she met her future husband, Anthony Radziwill, who as nephew to President John F. Kennedy and Jackie Onassis, and one of the princes of American public life. Through marriage she became close friends with JFK Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette during summers in the Hamptons and on Martha's Vineyard, and intimate dinners in New York City.

Now, she is the only one of the quartet who remains to tell a unique story of love, friendship and loss in "What Remains," a tender memoir of the time before John and Carolyn died in a plane crash and Anthony died from cancer. Here are excerpts of an interview of Carole Radziwill by Carol Joynt at the Q&A Café at Nathans:

Carol Joynt: You have carried on remarkably and I think the first thing I want to know is, was this book
therapy for you?
Carole Radziwill:
I first started writing the book four years after the summer of '99, when my husband, John and Carolyn died. I was moving on with my life a bit but I was forgetting things. It started as a little bit of therapy but then it quickly became good old fashioned hard work.

CJ: Well, let's go back. How did you meet your husband?
I was working at ABC News as a production assistant for Leslie Cockburn, working on a documentary about Cambodia. Then, I was assigned to "Primetime Live" to work on the Menendez murders and Anthony Radziwill was one of the producers. There was something very sort of steady and stable about him. He was handsome and very polite. When I walked over to the table where he was sitting, he stood up immediately. Most don't do that.

What remains

CJ: Did the romance happen right away?
No, no. Although there are some of the producers who to this day say that they saw sparks. It wasn't. I didn't see him that much.

CJ: At what point in your relationship, if ever, did he sort of give you the 411 on his family?
I think he assumed that I knew a lot about his family. [He never said] that John Kennedy is my cousin, Jackie is my aunt, and my mom is Lee Radziwill. He was very compartmentalized about his family and I liked that. We dated for a long time, almost two years, and we had very few conversations about family, mine or his. We were kind of creating a little private world for just the two of us.

CJ: You fell in love and got married. Did you know when you got married that he had cancer?
I did, because he was diagnosed right before we got engaged. I also knew he had testicular cancer already five years prior, and couldn't have kids. It never reccurred. He didn't have testicular cancer the second time. It was a completely new, different, primary cancer. And we were talking
about kids or something…no we were talking about sex actually. Actually, safe sex.

CJ: It was on your honeymoon that you thought you saw or you felt a lump? When was the first time you were scared? How did you deal with your fear?
The very first time that he was diagnosed was before we even got married. I didn't have any experience with cancer. My grandmother had died of cancer, but she was very old. I was pretty nervous. [But] I put it in the back of my mind.

CJ: Could you talk to him about it?
No, he wasn't on the same track. He was always beating it and except for the cancer, he was very healthy. It allowed us to be in denial because he was very strong. He ran marathons. He was at the gym twice a day and biking twenty miles. He was good at compartmentalizing, and he comes from a family of stellar people. They kind of just keep marching on.

CJ: So let's try to walk through when you met John Kennedy, Jr., for the first time. How did you meet?
Anthony and I shared a summer house with him in 1992. We'd been together for almost two years and this was the first time I was meeting any of his family. John came out of the bedroom and he knew that I was there and he introduced himself. When he felt comfortable with people and when he was around people that he trusted, he was very funny and very open. He came over to me and he was wearing his boxers. He and Anthony had a very close relationship and they had pet names for each other all the time too. John would call Anthony Princeipo or Tony Pro. They were like brothers in the way that brothers can really get on each other's nerves. They constantly kept each other in check. There were times when I could see Anthony being protective of John. They knew each other's secrets.

CJ: You were a journalist, and you saw John's world. How did you see the world that he saw?
I think nowadays, anyone who has a camera, and screams a question, claims to be a journalist. I worked with people like Leslie Cockburn and Peter Jennings, who are journalists. What we did at ABC and what I saw people doing to John and his family are not the same things. It would be like saying that pharmacists and drug dealers are both in the pharmaceutical business. But John was really good at dismissing it. He didn't really let it intrude on his life.

CJ: Carolyn enters the picture. [With the relationship you shared] I couldn't help but think of Princess Diana and the Duchess of York.
Does that mean I'm Fergie? (Laughter)

CJ: Or that the men you were [each] in love with were from this strange family.
Yes. John and Carolyn were out for the weekend and I didn't know anything about her, but she seemed familiar to me. Her mannerisms, how she spoke, what she talked about. She just felt familiar. I got to know her more, it turns out she grew up not far from where I grew up. We found out we both worked at Caldor, which was a discount department store in the Northeast. It was funny, but I had never told my husband I worked at Caldor. We didn't talk about that kind of stuff. And Carolyn hadn't told John, either. One night we decided to tell both of them, and we realized we were kind of being snobs. They didn't care, they enjoyed it.

Carole Radziwill
Carol Joynt


CJ: And Carolyn had pet names for you, too?
Yes, Lamb or Lamby.

CJ: How did Carolyn Bessette get along with Caroline [Kennedy Schlossberg]? Did she have a good relationship with her?
I don't think that they were very close. There wasn't enough time and they were very different. I spent a lot of time with Caroline, because Anthony was very close to her, but she had a different life with children.

CJ: Was John different around Caroline?
He was definitely different around his family than when he was out in public.

CJ: You were going through grief for such a long time and in many instances you were experiencing it all alone because you were surrounded by people who said, ‘No we're going to keep going. We're going to get through this. Nobody's dying."'
I was.

Graham Wisner and Leslie and Andrew Cockburn at the Q & A Cafe


CJ: Except you had Carolyn [Bessette] because she was going through all of it with you.
She saw that I was struggling with it a little bit. I was already two years into his illness and probably two or three operations down the line, she stepped in. We used to go together to the NIH down in Bethesda to Dr. [Steve] Rosenberg.

CJ: Everybody knows that John and Carolyn and her sister Lauren were killed in a plane crash. And at the time that happened, your husband [Anthony] was virtually at death's doorstep. He died three weeks later. How did you get through that night, those three weeks?
I really don't remember those three weeks. I think that the night of the accident I was mourning and grieving for the three of them. Anthony as well because I knew it was just a matter of time. But Anthony was still in denial about his illness. And he handled it much better than I did. At this point, he was on dialysis every morning because his kidneys had failed. It really is a bit of a blur to me, those three weeks. I stayed in bed a lot.

CJ: Do you think there is a curse on the Kennedy family?
No, no but they've certainly had to endure their share of sorrow.

CJ: They don't wallow in their sorrow?
No, no not at all. They just keep moving.

For more information please visit www. nathansgeorgetown.com. Coming up: One of the nation's top divorce layers, Washington's own Sanford Ain, February 28.


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