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Jackie O. biographer Taraborrelli delves into private life of a public figure


Journalist and celebrity biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli will be the guest speaker at the Delaware County Press Club’s Holiday Luncheon at noon Dec. 13 at Fava Ristorante Italiano, 1102 Baltimore Pike, Suite 101, Glen Mills, Pa. The event is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased at thepressclubpa.org

The private life of Jackie Kennedy Onassis isn’t private anymore with the publication of “Jackie: Public, Private, Secret,” by Ridley Township native J. Randy Taraborrelli.

With the publication of his 25th biography, Taraborrelli has uncovered what many of Jackie’s admirers may find surprising or even shocking. Taraborrelli writes about the intimate relationship Jackie had with Jack Warnecke, an old flame before she married John F. Kennedy, a romance that began within a year of JFK’s assassination and ended when Warnecke told her he was $1million in debt.

Actor Warren Beatty didn’t fare too well either during their brief fling. Jackie dismissed him as being self-absorbed and when someone close to her asked how Beatty was in the bedroom, Jackie said, “Oh, he’s fine. Men can only do so much, anyway.”

Taraborrelli was doing research for a biography of Barrack Obama when he shifted gears to Jackie.

“I just had a feeling about Jackie, and I didn’t want to wait,” he explained.

The author had already written four books about the Kennedy family and had a wealth of research upon which to draw. Warnecke himself was an invaluable source and shared his memories about Jackie with the caveat that none of the information was to be made public until 10 years after his death. He died in 2010 at age 91.

Taraborrelli said another valuable source for information was Jamie Auchincloss, Jackie’s younger half-brother. The Auchincloss family included Jackie’s mother, Janet, her stepfather Hugh Auchincloss, her sister, Lee, two half siblings and three step siblings. The dynamics of the Auchincloss family are a fascinating part of the latest Taraborrelli book.

“Jamie was my best source. How much better a source than Jackie Onassis’ half brother?” Taraborrelli said.

And of course, the entire Kennedy clan is entwined throughout the book. The author writes about how the members of the immediate Kennedy family were staying at the White House for several days encompassing the slain president’s funeral and were horrified when they learned Jackie invited Aristotle Onassis to stay at the White House. But there were no more rooms available so one of the world’s richest men at the time was put up in a third floor sitting room with no bed, just a sofa, no windows, and no bathroom. He would have to use the bathroom down the hall. Five years later he and Jackie Kennedy were married.

Taraborrelli writes about the competitive relationship between Jackie and her sister, Lee, with their mother, Janet, pulling the strings. At one time JFK was more interested in Lee than in Jackie and that displeased her mother.

“You’re older. You need to get settled now, Jacqueline, not later,” Taraborrelli quotes Janet.

“Jackie always had the clear advantage – her mother,” Taraborrelli said. “It was Jackie who ended up with JFK and Onassis.”

Lee had an affair with the Greek tycoon, but it was Jackie who wound up marrying Onassis.

The book ends with the desperate attempts by Jackie’s brother-in-law, Sen. Ted Kennedy, to get Jackie to a clinic in Texas where a doctor was using unconventional methods of treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with some measure of success. Jackie died the day of her appointment, in her own bedroom in New York City.

“A lot of people (readers) have commented on the ending of the book. They said it was such a sad ending (but) that was how her life ended,” Taraborrelli said. “If I can make you feel good or bad, if I can reach you, I wrote a good book.”

Apparently, the author was right. “Jackie: Public, Private, Secret” debuted No. 3 on the New York Times Best Selling list the first week of its publication in July. It is the 17th of Taraborrelli’s 25 biographies to make the Times coveted best-selling list.

When Taraborrelli was a teenager and a student at Ridley High School, he founded the first Diana Ross and the Supremes fan club, taking over his mother’s sewing room for an office and recruiting his younger sister, Roz, as secretary. He was a huge fan of the trio and before long the fan club had attracted nationwide interest. After one year at Temple University, he dropped out of college to take a job with the group’s public relations office in Los Angeles. And just six years later he wrote Diana Ross’ unauthorized biography “Call Her Miss Ross.”

Taraborrelli also had a stint as editor of Soul Magazine music publication and is a frequent commentator on numerous news magazine shows and on CNN. He has been averaging the publication of a new biography every two years since his first book.

About four years ago Taraborrelli made the decision to move back to the East Coast after more than 40 years in California. He now lives in West Chester, Pa. He said he still travels to Los Angeles a few times a year for business purposes, but he loves working remotely from West Chester.

He’s already started work on his next book.

The subject?  “Can’t say right now,” he said.

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