How Jackie Kennedy Helped John F. Kennedy, Jr. Start George Magazine
- In 1995, John F. Kennedy, Jr. founded George, a magazine that chronicled the crossroads of politics and culture.
- JFK Jr. died in a plane crash in 1999 at the age of 38. A large part of the legacy he left behind was George, which had made a huge splash in its short, four-year run.
- In a new report, Kennedy's former colleagues remember some of their favorite moments from working at George—including John's full-frontal photo shoot with Kate Moss, and the time John asked Madonna to dress up as his mother.
This July will mark 20 years since John F. Kennedy, Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, died in a plane crash. There's a lot to remember about the couple—and high on that list is John's work with George magazine. The publication upended the political publishing playbook, with the goal of creating for the D.C. scene "what Rolling Stone was to music and what Sports Illustrated was to sports," in the words of George publisher Elinore Carmody.
The Hollywood Reporter has just published an oral history of the whole project, from its inception in 1995 to John's death in 1999. Below, some of the juiciest, funniest, and sweetest anecdotes from the report.
JACKIE KENNEDY WAS A KEY PLAYER IN THE PROJECT'S BEGINNING STAGES.
Jackie's close friend Joe Armstrong remembered how the former First Lady kickstarted the whole enterprise. "Jackie called me up and said, 'You know, John doesn't know what he wants to do. He's at the DA's office. Two weeks ago, he had to file an action against somebody who stole a bag of potato chips. Would you just talk to him?'" Armstrong recalled her saying. "He didn't want to be a lawyer, and she knew that... We had a few lunches before the magazine idea came up. It was Michael Berman's idea. It wouldn't have happened without John, but it also wouldn't have happened without Michael."
John at a 1995 press conference for George.
TO PAY ONE INTERN, JOHN DUG INTO THE KENNEDY FAMILY TRUST.
Sasha Issenberg, who was an intern for the magazine at age 15, revealed that "
ACTUALLY, HE GENERALLY TOOK GOOD CARE OF HIS INTERNS AND JUNIOR STAFFERS.
Senior editor Matt Saal recalled a time that John himself pushed some extra chairs into a room so some interns could have a seat. ("I remember thinking, like, "What?") Michael Oates Palmer, a former George intern himself, remembered being shocked that he was invited to staff dinners at John's home. "My first week on the job, he had a party at his loft for the staff," Palmer said. "He invited the interns! Suddenly I'm having dinner at John Kennedy's house. It was like a buffet, super casual. Some of the staff climbed up to the roof to play Frisbee."
There were some very John F. Kennedy, Jr. perks for young George staff, too. "He used to get clothes sent to him, designers who'd want John wearing their clothes," associate editor Sean Neary said. "And he didn't need them, so he kept them in a closet in the offices, and every now and then he'd tell the junior staff to go raid the closet. Here you were, like 22, 23 years old, probably making $25,000 a year, but you got access to Prada ties and Donna Karan jackets or an $800 pair of Gucci loafers."
John and Carolyn in 1998.
JOHN'S DOG, FRIDAY, ALSO SOMETIMES STOPPED BY THE GEORGEHEADQUARTERS.
Onetime George fact-checker Rob Wherry reminisced about how, when they were up against a deadline, John's dog might show up. "[John] was in the trenches, there on Saturdays or late in the evenings when we were closing an issue," Wherry said. "He'd bring in his dog, Friday, and we'd throw him a ball in the hall."
John and Carolyn walking with their dog Friday on the first day of 1997 in New York City.
IN THE SPUR OF THE MOMENT, JOHN CAST HIMSELF IN AN ADAM AND EVE-THEMED SHOOT ALONGSIDE KATE MOSS.
Berman recalled the scene. "It was a beautiful cover. Then John was like, 'Yeah, we've got Kate Moss on the cover naked. How funny would it be if I'm Adam inside?' Some of the staff got all wigged out," Berman remembered. "But it wasn't a vain thing or an exhibitionist thing, it was an editorial idea that was great."George intern Sasha Issenberg remembers the incident well. "They shot it in Matt's office," Issenberg said. "No fancy photographer. At one point, John ran out in a towel and said, 'Rosie, I did full frontal!'"
John with his bike for a George event.
JOHN WANTED MADONNA TO DRESS UP AS HIS MOTHER ON THE COVER OF GEORGE.
"There were always things that we'd think he was going to be weirded out about but he wasn't. He wanted to do a cover about his mother," Berman, the magazine's creative director, recalled. "He called Madonna and asked her to do it. We were like, 'Holy shit, you're going to see Jackie Kennedy on the cover with the sunglasses and the hair and then you're going to look again and it's Madonna.'"
*This article originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors