It would be tough if Jackie O was your sister, wouldn’t it? You’d probably be super jealous. And then you would have an affair with Jackie’s husband Aristotle Onassis, which would mean that Jackie would cut you out of her will. At least that’s what Lee Radziwill supposedly did.
To be fair, Lee knew Aristotle first. In 1963 Lee’s marriage to Prince Stanislas Radziwill was deteriorating and she began highly publicized affair with Onassis – so public that the Washington Post wondered whether the Greek tycoon hoped to become the brother-in-law of the American President. Lee invited Jackie onto Onassis’s yacht, which was equipped with two hairdressers, a masseuse, caviar, pate, and, you know, yacht stuff. Lots of yacht stuff! Jackie won Ari over by… I mean, frankly, probably by being very powerful in her own right, a quality that appealed to Onassis.
Also, apparently she told him that when she was ten she wrote a poem called “Sea Joy” which ended “”Oh – to live by the sea is my only wish!”
Oh, God, I hope it was the former, not the latter.
All of this might have been moot, but JFK was assasinated about a month later, and Jackie and Ari began an affair. (He thought she had a “carnal soul.”) Basically every time Ari is quoted about this affair, his description boiled down to “Sex! Five times a night!” He used to sneak into her apartment through the service entrance, which, admittedly, is kind of charming.
Lee was horrified, and apparently screamed ““How could she do this to me?” on the phone to Truman Capote.
Jackie’s triumphs reportedly always grated on Lee (at one point, Truman wrote “I never realized how much she hated Jackie”) especially since, as children, Jackie had been seen as the shyer, bookish one, and Lee more social and popular. Check out this picture of the two of them from a debutante ball – Lee looking all lively, Jackie looking super demure:
Later in life, Truman Capote claimed that Lee moaned to him “I can’t take it! Will I ever be known as anything other than Jackie’s kid sister?”
Or, maybe she didn’t hate her! Maybe that was all just false reporting. Lee denied that there was any rivalry, noting that the four years between their ages proved enough separation, and that they were very close friends. But they were sisters who dated the same dude.
Still, of course, Lee had interests of her own. Namely, she wanted to be an actress. She played the Main Line Philadelphia Story heiress Tracy Lord onstage – a part that, with her breeding and good looks, ought to have been perfect for her – but was unfortunately widely panned. Even her half brother Jamie Auchincloss claimed she made a “jittery, uptight Tracy Lord” and the newspapers read that “Lee Lays A Golden Egg!” (It was a reference to her being a princess; it wasn’t a compliment).
She did not give up, though. She starred in a TV adaptation of Laura, but unfortunately it met with no better reviews. Because it’s terrible. It’s very rarely shown, but Lee basically comes off stiff and frankly unlikeable. George Sanders is in it, though! George Sanders is great.
Ugh, it was all Truman Capote’s fault. He talked her into it. It’s always Truman Capote’s fault. Beautiful women – do not befriend Truman Capote, he is a weird little goblin who is out to destroy you. He wrote the script and convinced Lee that she would outshine Jackie, which was not going to be done, and certainly would not be done by starring in a TV movie.
Nor by being a talk show host, which was her next move. William Paley (Babe’s husband) gave her a show called Conversations With Lee Radziwill but later noted that having friends is high places does not make someone a journalist. Harsh, Bill Paley.
However, that failing didn’t stop her from mingling with the glitterati of the time, something for which for she had a great deal more freedom than Jackie. One of her closest friends was Andy Warhol. Her book, Happy Times, documented the life – a smattering of images from house parties with Truman Capote and nights with Mick and Bianca Jagger, as well as some pictures hand drawn by Jackie and her. One can’t help but feel that Andy Warhol, who claimed that “a good picture is one that’s in focus of a famous person”, would have loved the effort.
And whether or not they had their differences, Jackie and Lee did work together to keep the house of their cousin, Edie Beale, from being condemned. Lee later offered commentary on the HBO movie Grey Gardens stating that the Beales “were charming eccentrics with wonderful imaginations, and there is so little room these days for people like that.”
I mean, that still didn’t stop Jackie from cutting Lee out of her will, but it’s nice to know there were some good times in there, too. I mean, no matter what, that yacht did have two hairdressers and a masseuse.