so there was a little article in the daily mail last week about how everyone who was anyone in the 1960s slept with the danzatore rudolph nureyev. as we all know, pretty much everyone who was anyone in the ’60s was a kennedy. and so: nureyev made it with the whole clan!!!
(and in DEEPLY ANNOYING things, the daily mail has ‘updated’ this article by removing the most ridiculous elements- including a reference to one of the primary sources [a hollywood psychic] and a discussion of a filmed meeting of jackie and marilyn monroe, kept on a tape eventually lost in the estate of merv griffin. so forgive me is this whole analysis appears somewhat neutered… it’s because half the subject matter went missing.)
let’s start with what we know… all of these people did, in fact, know each other.
and though the hand-colouring of these photographs might lead you to believe they were extremely modish victorians, um… no. this was approx. 1967: the year that jackie and nureyev went for a walk in nyc and the tabloids went squee.
and i know, i know. i should’ve never made fun of that victorian tinto-type picture because the pics on this mag cover are SO.MUCH.WORSE. like someone rendered jackie’s walk with nureyev in clay figurines.
so this walk was a big deal at the time not because everyone thought they were banging or because of nureyev’s ambiguous sexuality or even because it looked like they were dating. it was a big deal, according to motion picture in september 1967, because jackie looked happy. it was proof that ‘she was still Jackie Bouvier- gay, vital, untouched by violence. This is less a woman than a girl; sparkling, eager, laughing not only with her lips but with her eyes and her heart.’
would that we could all laugh with so many organs.
so, historically, this was the role of nureyev. his name appears in the list of, in the journalist paul mathias’s words, ‘the world’s most brilliant and important men [she had] dangling like marionettes, dancing at her fingertips, most of them very married, very old, or very queer.’ because they hung out at the russian tea room. because he made her laugh on the street one day. and because the following year, after her remarriage, he would spend thanksgiving with her at the english country home of her sister. et voilà. friendship sealed.
except did they also have loads of sex? according to the daily mail‘s report on a new book by darwin porter and danforth prince (best.name.ever), indeed.
sample dialogue: ”The First Lady arranged a private jet for Nureyev and the dancer reportedly sat in JFK’s rocking chair and informed the president’s wife: “Unlike your husband, I have a powerful back.”‘
because we’re in the business of deep reads here, let’s do this. where shall we begin?
let’s begin with the book. the pink triangle. because i think it’s important to note that this isn’t a book about the kennedys per say (a realization that makes the title make so much more sense). rather, it’s a book about the various feuds of truman capote, gore vidal, and tennessee williams. ‘AND THEIR ENTOURAGES’… which is where the kennedys come in.
and, omg, how great a giggle would the kennedys get out of knowing their lives were now being retold as though they were ancillary characters in other’s people’s dramas rather than their drama being The Only Drama in town?!
but wait. this article isn’t actually based on the daily mail‘s analysis of the book. it’s based on an article about the book that appeared in globe magazine in the US.
please also note that this book isn’t set to be released for another 5 months, and it’s publication is intended to coincide with the 20th anniversary of jackie’s death. sweet.
so what is the article saying? everybody slept with nureyev!!!
how do we know this? a direct quote: ‘”I am the sexiest man alive,” he told a Danish newspaper before his death from AIDS in 1993. “Just ask Lee Radziwill. Just ask Jackie Kennedy. And if you don’t believe me, ask Bobby and John-John Kennedy. Nobody can resist me. Everyone who has gone to bed with me has fallen in love with me,” he added.’
let’s parse… was he sexy? uh… YEAH.
was he friends with lee, jackie, bobby, and jfk jr? yup. particularly with lee (whose jewelry is amaze and whose wig is awful)…
and who doesn’t get nearly enough credit for being belle ‘o the ball of the mid-60s/70s…
and for being an absolute badass to this day…
so yeah, nureyev knew the whole gang. what it comes down to is how you choose to read that last sentence. is it applied to what preceded it? in which case he’s saying he slept with all those people (one of whom was a kid).
call me crazy but i’mma say that’s a bit of a leap. i’mma say he’s saying he’s the sexiest man alive and that he’s good friends with people who would agree with him on that. and [new subject] the people he has slept with have a habit of falling in love with him because he’s so sexy.
can we prove that that was what he was saying? no. can we prove it wasn’t? nope. does it even matter? probably not really. because biography is speculation, whether or not we want to call it that, and sex lives, in particular, are probably one of the most speculative areas of all.
you know what does matter, quite a lot in biography? sources. and in this case, as is so often the case, that boils down to dear old truman capote.
whom i adore. and whom i also find a terribly unreliable biographical source.
(sidenote: somehow, in my mind, dear capote and leo dicaprio’s gatsby have become intertwined, which maybe isn’t so surprising given these two are somewhat aesthetically adjacent…
if only 2005-2006 hadn’t brought us all of the capote movies we’ll need for the next 20 years then perhaps we’d be treated to truman capote: just desserts… the lifetime movie starring leonardo. dear god, for reals, lifetime, why have you not hired me as executive vice countess of made-tv-movie development? i got what you want. i got what you don’t even know you need. moving on…)
i am continually amazed by capote’s ability to stir up trouble from the beyond the grave.
srsly. guy had a gift and, though he’s been gone 30 years, he continues to rock it to this day.
i know of no other dead man from whom shocking ‘new’ revelations so regularly emit. [Update, 2015: GORE FREAKING VIDAL.]
and so it’s capote who told porter, at a dinner party in 1977, about all these love affairs. it’s capote who said jackie told him: ‘I think Rudi systematically plans to seduce every member of my family, even my son when he grows up.’
which, you will note, is a long way from saying he actually did seduce him when he grew up.
this demands a bit of knowledge of capote and his history with these people, these women in particular. how he tried to immortalize them and, in the end, betrayed them by doing so. it’s a history that is brilliantly written up here, but which, for our purposes can be used as a demarcation of unreliability.
after the publication of “La Côte Basque 1965” in november 1975, capote’s version of facts has to be considered deeply unreliable.
which isn’t to say it can’t be used biographically. just that it should be couched in terms of speculation. it should be interrogated. it should be acknowledged that he was hurt and bitter and mad as hell. at precisely all of the people he is quoted as talking about here.
these shocking 40 year old ‘revelations’ from a man who’s been dead 30 years happen to have popped up as i’m wading through the morass of evidence about whether or not jackie and bobby had an affair- a historical maybe that has leached its way into biographical fact. it’s an experience that has been an education in parsing the way people talk about their memories of the people they knew and the gossip they heard about them fifty years before.
which is to say, not factually.
and so we have fdr, jr. talking about how people he knew said they’d seen jackie and bobby out dancing in new york, their bodies stuck together like ‘lovesick teenagers.’ and we have gore vidal asserting: ‘as i let the drama idle away in my mind, i suspect that the one person jackie ever loved was bobby…’ and an employee of ethel kennedy who felt ‘there was something in the air.’ and we had a film producer’s friend who was staying at a hotel and saw them together and concluded they were having an affair because, according to the film producer she related all this to, ‘you can look at people and tell if they’ve been intimate….’
and we have truman.
this is from c. david heymann’s bobby & jackie: a love story, cited as coming from a series of taped interviews capote did in 1976: ‘In retrospect, it seems hard to believe that it happened, but it did… It was passionate. But it was fraught with incalculable difficulties: his career, her renown, his marriage, her affairs with other men, including Onassis. There was something sad about it. What was sad about it was that the love affair was doomed. Because of who they were and what they represented, sooner or later it had to end.’
he was told this, reportedly, by lee.
but riddle me this: how much value can we put on suspicions drawn from dramas that have idled away in the mind? from feelings in the air? from what a woman’s gay BFF recalls, months after he was abandoned by all of his friends, of what she said about her sister 10 years before?
rfk’s press secretary, when asked about all this, said that, yes, in people’s fantasy world of how the kennedys were, bobby and jackie would’ve definitely had an affair. but in the real world? no.
i see it as a bit more grey. they very well may have slept together. but that isn’t something we can likely ever actually know. and so the question then becomes where do we locate biography? is it, ultimately, fantasy or is it a stab at recreating a real world? better yet, how can we marry the two?