07.15.09 12:21 AM ET
Remembering JFK, Jr.
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• On the 10th anniversary of the plane crash that killed John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife, Carolyn Bessette and her sister, a look back provides a reminder of a man who went from reflecting a nation's sorrow to becoming an object of its fascination.
• While at Brown University, JFK Jr. was "just one of the guys" despite his special place in the annals of American history. While he may have exuded an effortless charm, the dark side of life as a Kennedy was just below the surface. When JFK Jr. went to parties, he would always duck out when the Rolling Stone's "Sympathy For The Devil" was played (The song famously asks the question, "who killed the Kennedys?").
• A lifelong family friend, Billy Noonan, said JFK Jr. never spoke of his father's assassination.
• Jackie O had sheltered her son from Washington, DC until he went college. In a New Yorker story, John Updike related an anecdote about a grown-up JFK Jr. at a White House reception. "JFK Jr. was asked: "'Do you remember this place?' The answer came: 'Only vaguely.' (He then) asked, 'Do you want to come back?' John Kennedy Jr., smiled, and repeated, 'Only vaguely.'"
• After college, JFK Jr. famously failed the NY bar exam twice (The Hunk Who Flunked!) before succeeding on the third try. According to Time magazine, while working for the D.A. in New York City, he admitted that he at times sympathized with the downtrodden defendants he was meant to be prosecuting.
• In 1988, JFK. Jr was named the Sexiest Man Alive at age 27. When Barbara Walters asked him what he thought about the label, he replied, "people can say a lot worse things about you than you are attractive and you look good in a bathing suit."
• JFK Jr. founded the short-lived magazine, "George." Eulogizing him in The New Yorker, John Updike noted that George's subject matter was a perfect fit. "Politics as celebrity: who knew more about it than he?"
• JFK Jr. had to learn his craft on the fly and occasionally his temper would flare. Some of his staff recalled him and the magazine's president having knock-down screaming fights that escalated to wrestling matches. Still, his charm kept his staff happy; Time reported that he was known to splurge on Yankee box seats for the whole staff, or demand that they all go play a game of touch football in Central Park in spite of a looming deadline.
• In the end, it was JFK Jr.'s personality that sold copies of George. He was a reckless adventurer. with a love of the outdoors. He paraglided, scuba dived, and even tried to rappel down Mt. Rushmore before he was rebuffed by park officials. It was his penchant for adventure that made his loved ones expect him to have survived the plane crash in 1999.
• After the crash, rumors of drug use resurfaced, as posthumous muckraking reported JFK Jr.'s supposed porn and drug habits, along with his wife's alleged cocaine use. In the book "The Kennedy Curse," JFK Jr. came home to his apartment to find his wife snorting coke with "a crowd of gay fashionistas." John, enraged, shouted at his wife, "You're a cokehead!"
• Numerous reports said JFK Jr. and Bessette's relationship was on the rocks in the weeks leading up to the crash. Supposedly, Bessette insisted on getting a two-hour manicure before takeoff; A delay that caused the plane to fly into rough weather.
• Jackie O had a recurring premonition that her son would die in a plane crash, and begged him to abandon the hobby. "The Kennedy Curse" revealed an even more chilling detail, JFK Jr. left a note to his instructors at the flight academy where he trained: "People will only care where I got my training if I crash. Best, John Kennedy."
Compiled by Stephen Rex Brown.