There is a rumor, you see, that the relationship between Edie and Joe Kennedy ended when Big Edie told him precisely how she came by her nickname. This story is recounted in the theatrical adaptation of Grey Gardens, and it may be apocryphal, but it is certain the Joe was said to have ended the relationship very abruptly. There’s some debate over whether or not they were ever technically engaged – no engagement notices were ever sent out, but supposedly Joe’s father had given his consent to Edie.
Edie was so furious that she tore his face out of all of their pictures. Though I guess she felt less angry about him later. He died, in any event. In World War II, when he was an aviator. He was awarded the naval cross for bravery posthumously. It read:
For extraordinary heroism and courage in aerial flight as pilot of a United States Liberator bomber on August 12, 1944. Well knowing the extreme dangers involved and totally unconcerned for his own safety, Kennedy unhesitatingly volunteered to conduct an exceptionally hazardous and special operational mission.
Intrepid and daring in his tactics and with unwavering confidence in the vital importance of his task, he willingly risked his life in the supreme measure of service and, by his great personal valor and fortitude in carrying out a perilous undertaking, sustained and enhanced the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service
Which does not make him less of a schmuck if he broke up with Edie because she was really cool with being naked, but might make him less of a schmuck overall. Much later, at the Kennedy inauguration, Edie took the opportunity to remind Joe’s father that if Joe hadn’t died “I probably would have married him, and he would have become President instead of Jack and I would have become First Lady instead of Jackie!” I have no idea how Joe’s father responded to this. Probably with some discomfort.
I suppose her mother may have really screwed that up. Or maybe it was Edie’s own instability – no one knows for sure. It’s easy to say that Edie’s mother was a spiteful, self centered, vain woman, but she didn’t kill 650 people, so that’s something. Take what you can get.