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John-John Is Gone-Gone | The Media

From Tabloid Icon to the New Master of Elusion

September 24, 1996|PAUL D. COLFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A month after the Star crashed the Democratic Party by uncovering presidential consultant Dick Morris' relationship with a call girl, the gossipy tabloid reported in its Oct. 1 issue out Monday: "JFK JR. DUMPS GALPAL CAROLYN: America's sexiest hunk gets cold feet on way to altar."

People magazine had nothing. It was Sunday afternoon, the day after John F. Kennedy Jr. married Carolyn Bessette on a remote island off the Georgia coast, when the mag learned about the wedding that got away.

The 35-year-old Kennedy, pursued and photographed and chronicled like few other public figures, pulled off the extraordinary feat of eluding the media at a red hot moment of interest. Monday's newspapers and the early broadcasts were long on biographical background about the newlyweds but short --very short--on details about Saturday's main event.

Who was there? What did the couple wear? Where's the honeymoon?

The details were unavailable until Monday afternoon, when they were released by the groom's uncle Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

A spokeswoman in the senator's Washington office quoted the younger Kennedy as saying: "It was important for us to be able to conduct this in a private, prayerful and meaningful way with the people we love."

"He outfoxed us," said Landon Y. Jones Jr., People's managing editor. "The wedding was media-proof. He did a very good job of protecting it. You couldn't have dreamed up a more remote and inaccessible place to have it--I know, because I've been there."

While Jones conceded that the couple was entitled to a private wedding, he revealed that during the past two years People had chased a number of false leads from sources who swore that Kennedy was about to marry actress Daryl Hannah, as well as Bessette, a former publicist for designer Calvin Klein.

The media freeze out on Cumberland Island, Ga., where Saturday evening's wedding took place, contrasted sharply with the access given to reporters who covered Kennedy's sister's wedding 10 years ago. Although the press was barred from the small Catholic church on Cape Cod where Caroline Kennedy married Edwin Schlossberg, the couple posed briefly for photographs afterward and an aide to Sen. Kennedy distributed pages of details about the bride's gown, the wedding party, even the floral arrangements. Portrait photographer Harry Benson took at-home pictures for the newlyweds and for Life magazine.

Not that John Kennedy Jr. is hostile to the media. After all, he's a co-founder and editor in chief of George, the political magazine, and has used his star power to attract more press coverage for the monthly in its first year of operation than money alone could have bought.

Despite Kennedy's silence, a few bits of information had slipped out. New York magazine reported last week that friends of Kennedy and Bessette were saying the couple was planning "a secret wedding for the end of this month, though the privacy-obsessed John refuses to divulge the date and place even to family members."

On Sunday, the Boston Herald echoed a report broadcast by a Florida TV station, which said a local caterer was servicing "a Kennedy wedding" on Cumberland Island. The Herald went on to detail John F. Kennedy Jr.'s strong ties to the island and to Janet "GoGo" Ferguson, a friend who maintains the island's Greyfield Inn and apparently helped him conceal the weekend arrangements.

Meanwhile, Jones said People has dispatched "human shock waves of reporters" to learn more. He added: "It's a high-interest topic to our readers and we want to deliver."

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