Now that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has declared his candidacy for America’s highest office, I can spill some beans about his family, having known many of its members since before JFK became president in 1961. The late president was the first Kennedy I met, at a party given by Alice Topping, recently divorced from Dan Topping, heir to an industrialist fortune and then majority owner of the New York Yankees baseball team.
Needless to say, Alice was swimming in it, and had invited a rather excited young Taki to a very chic New York dinner party. That was the night I met JFK, the very attractive young senator, who asked me where I went to school. When he heard it was the University of Virginia, he laughed out loud and said, “But that’s a party school!” I remember Jackie telling him to take it easy on “this young man.”
Both Kennedys could not have been nicer, if somewhat looking at us from haut en bas. The summer after the assassination, I met and began a long friendship with Jackie’s sister, Lee Radziwill, and after a night of wild drinking and dancing, Lee took me up to Jackie’s apartment on Fifth Avenue. That is when trouble between the most famous widow in the world and poor little me began. Lee had said that I had danced like a whirling dervish, and Jackie asked for a demonstration. I politely turned that suggestion down, explaining that what one does on the dance floor of a nightclub while intoxicated cannot be repeated in the cold light of day in a stranger’s house while cold sober. Jackie said I was a great disappointment to her, while I muttered something about not being in the entertainment business.
After Jackie became Madame Onassis, our paths crossed at times, but she was cold and rather distant. She and her sister were not on the best terms because of the Golden Greek (she had snatched him from Lee) and that didn’t help matters. Pat Lawford and Jean Smith, sisters of the two slain Kennedys, were a different matter altogether.
I had met them in Paris and they were very keen to party and meet new friends. After the Greek junta collapsed in 1974, both sisters suggested to their brother, Senator Ted Kennedy, who had been invited to visit Athens and the new democratic government, to make sure and get in touch with me.
When Ted Kennedy rang me in Athens he did not pull his punches: “I’m told you know every beautiful woman in Athens…”
“And I am aware of the long homosexual history of the Kennedys,” I replied. He laughed uproariously.
Anita was a pretty American girl spending a year in the American College of Greece, and I was going out with her friend Sarah. We went on a double date, but the evening did not end well. After Sarah and I left them at Teddy’s hotel, the inebriated senator from Massachusetts inhaled something and made a clumsy pass at Anita. Already a drama queen, the next day she rang her father in Connecticut, and he arrived in Athens in Orlando Furioso mood. I clumsily explained that I had introduced his daughter to a U.S. senator, not some gangster. By this time, Teddy had gone off to visit Pope Paul VI in Rome.
I was working at United Press International at the time, but the bureau chief did not want to touch the story, Kennedy being American royalty and all that. Anita herself admitted he had not laid a hand on her. I finally published the story in a British scandal rag, and my name has been mud among the Kennedys ever since.
The present candidate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., once invited me at a London club to shoot the rapids with him somewhere out West. It was more of a challenge than an invite. I’ve never seen him since, and that was a good 40 years ago. I was friendly with his first wife, Mary Richardson, who tragically killed herself. He’s now happily married to actress Cheryl Hines. One of his brothers, Max, is a hell of a fellow—we went out clubbing together quite recently.
Now, RFK Jr. is running for president, and I totally approve of some of his messages: seal the border, stop wildly printing money, and oppose lockdowns. Then there are his conspiracy theories, mostly anti-science and anti-Big Pharma—not a bad thing at all. But what worries me is that his own large brood of brothers and cousins are not out canvassing like mad for him.
Recently, I met up with Joe Driscoll, an old friend who had lost a close election for Congress in Pennsylvania some time ago. Joe’s a Democrat and a close friend of the Kennedys. “Why haven’t you written about Bobby?” he asked me. “You two have a lot in common.”
Yes,” I answered, “We both like dictators.” I think that’s why the family is not knocking down doors for a Kennedy. He’s been friendly with dictators like Castro, and has the mind of one himself.
But if I were Biden, I wouldn’t write him off. Personally, I’d take him over any Democrat, especially Biden and Harris. Not to mention Gavin Newsom.