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Carolyn Bessette Kennedy: from shy student to accomplished celebrity wife
By Nathan Cobb, Globe Staff, 09/24/96
Globe staff writer Joseph P. Kahn and Globe correspondent Suzanne C.
Ryan contributed to this story. Material was also included from wire services.
The details emerging from the very private wedding of John F. Kennedy Jr.
to Carolyn Bessette on Saturday include no small amount of Kennedyabilia. How
the groom wore his father's watch during the double-ring ceremony off the
coast of Georgia, for example. How Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg was matron of
honor. Or how the best man was JFK Jr.'s cousin, Anthony Radziwill.
Carolyn Bessette Kennedy (AP Photo)
It's almost as if Carolyn Bessette wasn't there. And that's the way it's
been for much of her life, ever since she appeared on the page of her Boston
University yearbook that is reserved for ''camera-shy graduates'' who didn't
care to have their pictures taken.
Perhaps that's one of the things that makes her so attractive to Kennedy, a
man obsessed with privacy. In any case, there really is a Carolyn Bessette.
Here, then, is the file on the latest Princess of Camelot:
The Basic Stuff: She's 30 years old, 5 feet 9 inches tall, has blonde
hair, blue eyes, and a broad, flat face that looks rather . . . well,
Jackie-esque. Her middle name is Jeanne, which means she could heretofore be
known in tabloid headlines as CJB, unless, of course, she becomes CBK. That
decision hasn't been reported.
Deep Background: She was raised in Greenwich -- the Weston of southern
Connecticut -- and is the daughter of William Bessette of White Plains, N.Y.,
and Mrs. Richard Freeman of New Canaan, Conn. Her stepfather, Dr. Richard
Freeman, is an orthopedic surgeon. She spent two years at Greenwich High
School before transferring to St. Mary High School, a defunct Roman Catholic
institution also in Greenwich. She graduated in 1983.
Evidence Her High School Classmates Knew What Was Ahead: They voted her
''The Ultimate Beautiful Person.''
The BU Years: She came to BU right after high school, majored in
elementary childhood education and received a bachelor of science degree in
January 1988. She is described as ''not overly athletic and very low-key, a
nice person,'' by one college friend. She clearly didn't leave a large
footprint on Commonwealth Avenue.
But Maybe She Wasn't So Camera Shy After All: Boston photographer Robert
DiMarzo said yesterday he took several photos of Bessette while she was a
student at BU but wouldn't say what they were for. One buzz at BU is that
Bessette was one of several coeds who posed for a ''Women of BU'' calendar
that was sold at the university's bookstore during the 1980s. No such calendar
could be located yesterday.
The Dating Game: At BU, Bessette dated John Cullen, a Canadian-born
hockey star who became one of the school's all-time leading scorers. Cullen,
now with the Tampa Bay Lightning, yesterday declined to discuss Bessette.
Postgraduate Gig: Although she never became a teacher, Bessette is said
by a former college classmate to have considered social work. Instead, she
ended up doing marketing in Boston for That's Entertainment, a part of the
Lyons Group nightclub consortium. Joe Verange, who brought her into the firm,
remembers her as ''a good schmoozer, a good networker.'' She staged parties at
a variety of Lyons clubs -- including Citi (now Avalon), Axis and Zanzibar --
for such clients as Reebok, Lotus and Manufacturers Hanover.
Big Break I: Bessette lived in Boston's South End and worked long hours.
One day she was spotted walking on Newbury Street by some employees of Calvin
Klein Ltd. They asked her to work in the firm's Chestnut Hill Store, and she
quickly accepted. ''She was obviously looking for more than a life of hanging
out in nightclubs,'' Verange recalls.
Big Break II: When Calvin Klein himself showed up at the local store one
day, according to Verange, he deemed her worthy of working at corporate
headquarters in New York. She never looked back.
Big Break III: There are two versions of how Bessette met JFK Jr. The
first says that while assisting celebrities looking for clothes, she was
assigned to help him in the purchase of three new suits. Another says she met
her future husband while jogging in Central Park. Neither has been confirmed,
Bumps in the Road: The relationship between Kennedy and Bessette has been
volatile. No one knows what precipitated their famous (and videotaped) street
fight last February, when Kennedy appeared to pull an engagement ring off the
finger of his betrothed. In any case, it's obvious now that he gave it back.
Stepping Out, Reining In: In a story in August, W magazine reported that
the once low-key BU grad had turned into something of a party girl in
Manhattan. But as her relationship with Kennedy intensifed, the fashion mag
said, she toned down her behavior to please the publicity-shy Kennedy.
The Family Patriarch Speaks: Through a spokesperson, Sen. Edward Kennedy
stated yesterday that ''she shares John's love of the outdoors.'' Kennedy, who
attended Saturday's wedding, said that he met Bessette two summers ago when
his nephew brought her to Cape Cod. ''You could tell right away there was
something special with the two of them,'' he said. ''They're both obviously
very deeply in love.''
OK, A Few More Wedding Facts: Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg's three
children -- daughters Rose and Tatiana and son, Jack -- were the flower girls
and the ring bearer. Rev. Charles J. O'Byrne of the Church of St. Ignatius
Loyola in New York City flew in to perform the Roman Catholic ceremony in the
island's First African Baptist Church, which has been in continuous use since
being built by freed slaves at the end of the Civil War. The couple is
reportedly honeymooning on a yacht off the coast of Florida and Georgia.
And one other thing -- the bride's wedding dress was designed by Narciso
Rodriquez for Cerutti 1881, not Calvin Klein. Bessette left CK last spring.