Author Christina Haag in Santa Monica, Calif. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles…)
Christina Haag, 50, a Santa-Monica-based theater, television and film actress, recounts her five-year romance with John F. Kennedy Jr. during the late '80s in her memoir, "Come to the Edge," which arrived in bookstores last week.
You haven't spoken publicly about your relationship with John F. Kennedy Jr. before. Why are you writing about it now?
What I was really writing about is a love story, and it happens to be with a boy I met in high school, lived with in college as roommates and then fell in love with when I was about 25. We were together about five years and parted. The person happens to be John. It's not a book about the Kennedy family. It's a love story and a story of friendship. I began writing in 2003. I had actually always written all my life. I went to Catholic school and the nuns had us keep journals, and I kept doing it. I began writing after his death just to deal with my grief. It was several years later that it was a real desire to capture that time in my life and to hold on to those memories and embrace them.
I got the sense from the book that he wanted to go into acting. Do you think he would have done that if he had another last name?
I can't speak for him, but what I can talk about is how talented he was. He had other gifts as well. I think he made the choices he wanted to make, and I think he was finding his way. Whatever John did, it would have to do with service and it would have to be somewhat artistic, and I think what he was doing with George [magazine] was fulfilling that. Who knows what would have gone after that?
Let's talk about your trip to the Caribbean, when you guys risked your lives kayaking. What do you think drove his risk-taking?
I don't use the word "risk-taking." I say "adventurous." Also the title of the book, "Come to the Edge," it's a poem by Christopher Logue, and to me it speaks to the fact that the elements of risk and trust are necessary for any passion and necessary to embrace life. But I think of him as adventurous and fun, and certainly that was a dangerous situation we got into, but anyone who's in their 20s does things that perhaps they wouldn't do later.
You wrote that at his memorial, your former college housemate, Christiane Amanpour, called him "an ordinary boy in extraordinary circumstances." What did she mean by that, and do you agree?
I do. I think he was somebody who was like all of us, and yet he was given a set of life circumstances that were perhaps more challenging in some ways. And I think just like his mother he was trying to walk through it with grace, and I think he did a really good job. He was poised, he was romantic, he was curious, he was fun. He used to climb up the side of my brownstone on West 83rd Street; he didn't like ringing my doorbell. It was just one flight up. It wasn't anything dangerous, but he liked climbing up there and rapping on the window. I also remember a great motorcycle ride we took when we were doing this play, "Winners," and when we fell in love. He said he bought the motorcycle just to woo me, and he took me to Brooklyn, and when we finally did get together, he called it the longest courtship ever because we'd known each other since we were 15 in New York.
You wrote that it ended because of bad timing.
I said because of timing. I think timing is the success of a lot of relationships. It certainly didn't end for lack of love. It's where you are in your life and what you're ready for. It was timing for both of us. It's a big step to get married.
Did you want to?
I think anyone who married John would be lucky. He was a wonderful person to be with. But there would be challenges in a life like that. And I was aware of that.
You chose not to marry after that. Do you think your experience with John had any impact on that?
I don't know. It's possible, but I think that has more to do with me. And actually, being unmarried isn't a bad thing. And it's something with men, it's never drawn attention to, but with women it is. I'm very happy with my life, and I have the freedom to do a lot of things, and there are people that are important to me in my life and the future is ahead of me.
Do you have any other books in you?
I'm starting a novel. It's also a love story. I will always be an actress; it's who I am. And part of that is telling other people's stories or telling stories in the words of others, but I really loved writing, and that's something I'm going to continue doing. A lot of people have experiences turning in a different direction in their 40s or 50s and reassessing parts of their life and trying to understand them. And I think I was trying to understand who I was then and who we were together and what that meant. And also, the book is also about a New York that doesn't exist anymore and a more innocent time.