By Judith Gaines, Globe Staff, 09/23/96
Susan Bickelhaupt and Ellen O'Brien of the Globe staff, and the
Associated Press, provided information for this report.
The handsome 35-year-old Kennedy scion often called ''the nation's most
eligible bachelor'' is single no more.
JFK, Jr. and Carolyn Bessette (AP Photo)
At a mansion once owned by the Andrew Carnegie family, on a remote Georgia
island where wild horses still roam, John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. married
Carolyn Bessette Saturday evening.
Bessette, 29, a former publicist for Calvin Klein and a graduate of Boston
University, reportedly had been dating Kennedy for more than two years.
Kennedy, the son of the late President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy
Onassis, is co-editor of the political magazine George, which he started one
Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) confirmed the wedding while speaking at a
fund-raising event yesterday in Steubenville, Ohio. ''My cousin John did tie
the knot yesterday,'' he said, according to the Associated Press.
The 7:30 p.m. nuptials took place on Cumberland Island, beginning with a
ceremony in a log-cabin church. Built in 1893, the African Baptist Church is
no longer active, and serves as a local historical monument. The small chapel
seats about 40 people, said Camden County Probate Judge Martin Gillette. He
said the couple appeared Thursday in his office to apply for a license and a
blood test. ''They asked us not to talk about it until after the ceremony,''
The site of the reception was at the exclusive Greyfield Inn, according
to Janet Brinko, director of tourism for nearby St. Mary's, Ga. Among those
attending was William Kennedy Smith.
The wedding party rented the entire 13-room inn for the gala, buying out
anyone with prior reservations, Brinko said.
A resident of St. Mary's who witnessed preparations surrounding the inn
said the driveway was lit by small ground lights, or luminaria, ''like it
would be for Christmas.'' She described the wedding as a small, intimate
affair, presided over by a Catholic priest.
An icon of the Camelot era, Kennedy captured the nation's attention when,
as a small boy, he stood in solemn salute before his father's casket, after
the former president was assassinated. Since then, Americans have watched
John-John grow up, including his publicized failures to pass the New York bar
exam and his dalliances with movie stars and models, including Daryl Hannah.
Although he allegedly tried to stay out of the public eye, he became a
familiar sight to New Yorkers, who knew his passion for running in Central
Park and roller-blading on Manhattan Streets. His magazine, George, which
debuted last year, reportedly has a circulation of 450,000.
Several members of the Kennedy family did not attend Saturday's festivities
-- including US Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy 2d of Brighton, who celebrated his
birthday this weekend on Cape Cod, Ethel Kennedy, and Joe's sister, Courtney
A source close to the Kennedy family said, ''If John wanted a quiet
wedding, this is the way he would have gone about it.''
Staging the event at an inaccessible, offshore location and without the
huge Kennedy clan in attendance was the best way to keep the wedding private
and relatively low-key, the source explained.
The largest and southernmost of Georgia's barrier islands, Cumberland is a
lush, marshy wilderness of an island, 18 miles long and 3 miles wide, first
known as one of the ''Golden Isles of Guale.''
The Greyfield Inn, still owned by members of the Carnegie family, is so
secluded that guests arrive only by ferry, private boat or helicopter. They
communicate with the mainland by cellular phone.
Rates start at $245 a night for a room, or $350 for a suite. The charge
includes the services of a naturalist to help visitors explore the island's
18 miles of unspoiled beaches and exotic wildlife.
The traditional, Southern-colonial style inn, now owned by Mitty and Mary
Jo Ferguson, was constructed for the Andrew Carnegie family in 1901. The
Kennedy family frequently vacationed there, according to Brinko. Other
celebrities who have sought its privacy and beauty include Jimmy Buffett and
Jimmy Carter, she said.
Cumberland Island is home to less than 100 people, and most of them work
for the National Park Service, which is a major landowner. With pristine
marshlands and a regal oak forest, a large part of the island was designated
as a ''national seashore'' in 1972.
It is an intensely private sort of sanctuary. The island has no grocery
store, no gas station, no commercial establishments of any kind, other than
the inn. Only landowners and park rangers are allowed to have automobiles.
Two other island mansions -- named Plum Orchard and Dungeness, both also
built by the Carnegies -- may have housed members of the wedding party.
A recent article in W magazine, which predicted the couple would wed,
described Bessette as ''a cool blonde'' with ''something sexy -- even raunchy
-- about her.''
The article quoted a colleague at the Lyons Group of Boston nightclubs,
where Bessette worked before joining Calvin Klein. ''She's got Princess Di and
Jackie O down pat. She does the wave. She knows how to get out of a limousine.
But she's modernized it. It's street chic,'' the colleague said, referring to
A doctor's daughter from Greenwich, Conn., Bessette met Kennedy when she
worked for Calvin Klein assisting celebrities looking for clothes. Kennedy
stopped by to purchase three new suits and she was assigned to be his
''personal shopper.'' They started dating after that.
Kennedy has always been closely watched by the paparazzi, although he
managed to keep a low profile as assistant district attorney in Manhattan. But
he became a bona fide public figure last year when George, a magazine
featuring political essays and satire, hit the newsstands.
Many speculated that he would marry actress Daryl Hannah. But that 5
1/2-year relationship ended not long after his mother's funeral in May 1994.
Rumors had been circulating recently that the romance with Bessette was
ending, too. But the couple spent time together in August in Hyannis,
according to a source on Martha's Vineyard. And, according to a source in St.
Mary's, the Cumberland Island chapel has been reserved for three months.
In its latest issue, New York magazine reports that the couple planned a
secret wedding at the end of September -- so private that John would not even
tell relatives when it would be held.
Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg was spotted yesterday at the Fernandina
Airport in Florida, eight miles from Cumberland Island, according to the
Associated Press. When asked about reports of the wedding, she responded only
with a thumbs up.