News weeklies offer tributes, and the occasional tart remark, on Jackie Onassis

May 29, 1994|By Jan Freeman | Jan Freeman,Boston Globe

The news weeklies pay tribute to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis this week, with Peggy Noonan, former rhetorician to our Republican presidents, leading the charge for Time. It must have been an assignment she couldn't turn down, but Ms. Noonan -- still a child when JFK was assassinated -- lets the lyric impulse propel her past the point of credibility: Her paean climaxes with the state funeral she'd like for Jackie, with "a flag on her coffin and the coffin on a catafalque, [marching] down a great avenue, with an honor guard . . . and muffled drums," a vision that swells with patriotic nostalgia but doesn't suit Jackie's image at all. There's a hollow echo here that recalls the Music Man, pitching the River City parents on a band that marches only in his imagination.

Newsweek, while hardly in a debunking mode, is more clear-eyed and sharp-tongued, recalling the sniping between Jackie ("the deb") and her Kennedy sisters-in-law and reminding us that the second time around, she really did "marry a man who covered the bar stools on his yacht with the tanned leather of whale testicles." The path of skepticism leads to the land of nonsense, though, when Louis Auchincloss is quoted as saying Jackie "always knew what she wanted, and how to go about getting it." Right -- except for the times she didn't, that is.

There will be more, of course. Those who can't wait for the next wave of magazines could grab the Star's memorial issue, 72 colorful, adoring pages of Jackie. The Star is adoring even as it sneaks a peek at Jackie, age 60, slipping off a swimsuit, even as it offers before-and-after pictures of her 1989 face lift; it's not afraid to leap boldly, with the turn of a page, from Jackie kneeling at JFK's grave to 10 pages of "What Jackie Was Wearing" (in which we see that even the fabulous Jackie was sometimes defeated by the fashions of the '70s).

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Esquire's June issue has E. Jean Carroll revisiting her native Indiana, where a small town's racism has been stirred up by a few kids' adopting -- in a pale Midwestern version -- some hip-hop styles. Ms. Carroll takes these white kids to the city for some real rad rags, and their eyes are popping -- she makes early-Tom-Wolfe comedy of this expedition. But there's a real menace here, too -- back home in the sticks, the kids get snubs and threats -- and the comedy rides rather bumpily over that rough terrain. . . . In the same issue, Jennet Conant's quickie visit with R. Emmett Tyrrell, publisher of the Clinton-bashing American Spectator, offers only one surprise: that the newly divorced, 50-year-old Tyrrell, described as an "aging frat boy" and a "boorish, ill-mannered party animal," chooses the sobriquet "Boy Clinton" as his running insult to the president. Maybe it's really a compliment?

Then there's "Sex and the Married Man." Part 1 is Lynn Darling's profile of an anonymous serial adulterer who hopes, and fears, that one of his adventures will turn up Ms. Right. Then, he fantasizes, he'll pay off his wife and kids and become the man he's always dreamed of being. It's pathetic, but interesting, unlike Part 2, Edward Hoagland's recollections of cheating on his late wife; these are pathetic but boring, as flat as other people's dreams. Well, this may just be the magazine's devious way of pushing monogamy.

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