"He was not an attractive woman."

By Isabel Jones
Jun 11, 2019 @ 5:00 pm

John F. Kennedy Jr. had been preyed on by paparazzi for decades (more or less since birth, really), and for the most part he’d grown used to it.

He was known to even joke about the camera-wielding legions so often on this path, telling friends, “Damn. If only I was slightly less photogenic.”

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Generally, it was John’s wife, Carolyn Bessette, who took issue with the paparazzi’s constant invasion of her and the wildly famous Kennedy son’s privacy. “Welcome to the circus,” John would tell her earlier in the relationship, “Just ignore the clowns, is all.”

In comprehensive new biography The Kennedy Heirs, author J. Randy Taraborrelli reveals that despite his often lax approach to media attention, JFK Jr. did occasionally go to great lengths to avoid it.

According to Lenny Holtzman, a longtime Kennedy family hairdresser, John would sometimes call on him in an attempt to thwart the paparazzi.

“He would call me from the Barnstable Municipal Airport when he got to the Cape from Manhattan and say, ‘Lenny, I need my bike and my disguise.’ So I’d have to go and meet him with his bike, his wig, and a dress. He’d go into the ladies’ room and change and get on his bike and ride right past the paparazzi. They wouldn’t recognize him; he was not an attractive woman. I used to laugh so hard, I would pee in my pants,” Holtzman said.

Taraborrelli writes that by the summer of 1995 John had become more abrasive with photographers in deference to Bessette — he would actually “shout at them to back off.”

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Of course, the worst was yet to come in his and Bessette's paparazzi dealings — in February 1996 Carolyn and John were photographed outside a restaurant in Tribeca engaging in a brutal fight.

“At one point, John snatched the engagement ring right off her finger,” Taraborrelli wrote of the scene. “It was ugly, the two pushing and pulling at each other while screaming and sobbing.”

The soon-to-be infamous argument even threatened to affect business at Kennedy’s new magazine, George. “We were afraid of how it would affect advertisers, especially women’s fashions and cosmetics,” executive editor Richard Bradley explained. “We all knew John had a temper, but the public didn’t. It looked like Carolyn had brought out the worst in America’s Prince, that she was changing him, and a lot of people held that against her.”

He added, "In the end, I think Carolyn was more angry at herself that she'd let John get to her in public than she'd been at whatever they were arguing about." 

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