Privacy goes to lowest bidder

April 24, 1996|By Mike Littwin

OH, JACKIE.

If you could see what they've done to you.

If there's one thing you stood for, other than the accumulation of wealth, it was the accumulation of privacy. If privacy were a religion, they'd be sacrificing paparazzi to you, the high priestess.

And now that you're gone, they've made you into a public monument to kitsch. It proves the old axiom: You can't control your life once you're dead. But who'd have thought they could turn you into Elvis in a pill-box hat?

It was easy, too, far easier than you could have guessed. All it took was the lure of money. And now they're auctioning off your memory, as if memories can ever be for sale.

Oh, Jackie.

They're selling your stuff -- your leftovers, your fake pearls, and the odd 40-carat diamond ring that you never really cared for -- at Sotheby's, your old stomping grounds, where you used to go shopping with the girls.

And they're lined up, all the gawkers, who have turned venerable Sotheby's into Graceland.

How could this happen?

Well, the kids did it. They did it for the cash, an estimated $5 million, and I'm betting it'll be far more.

Didn't you leave them enough money? Can't there ever be enough money?

You never worried about money yourself. You married money, like few have ever married money, so you didn't have to worry.

When you went to work, late in life, it wasn't for the paycheck. Or even for the company discount. Maybe you just wanted to do something other than be an icon.

Kids, huh?

You give them everything -- your heart, your soul, your Visa Gold card -- and then they lay you out in a sequined jump suit.

And then they try to say this was all your idea. Can this be true? It's so, well, unseemly, so tawdry, so, ummmmm, declasse. Many things can be said about you, but not that you frequented garage sales.

Oh, Jackie.

You should see the lines. You always had the limos, the discreetly opened back doors, the private rooms, so you could avoid the great unwashed.

You even married the horrible Onassis to protect you from the vultures. (It wasn't love, was it? We always assumed you were ruined for love by Jack and his adulteries).

After Onassis, you lived in New York, where you could be lost amid the millions, protected by your friends, guarded by the security guys at the door.

And, now by the tens of thousands, for the price of a catalog, they come to breach the walls, to see John John's velvet-lined (?) high chair and Caroline's rocking horse. And tens of thousands more have faxed in bids on the high-priced paintings, the silver goblets, the trinkets, the unmatched earrings and whatever else you had lying around in the basement.

There's also the desk on which Jack signed the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Couldn't the desk have gone to a museum? The trinkets to a grandchild or to one of the many grand-nieces and -nephews? Couldn't any of it have gone to charity, or doesn't Goodwill deal in 40-carat diamonds?

Oh, Jackie.

Elusiveness, that was your allure. You smoked and nobody knew it, and now they're selling your lighters. They're selling your ashtrays. If they could find one, they'd sell the ash from the end of your cigarette, maybe place it in an urn marked by the president's seal.

They people walk slowly past, mouths agape, putting you in mind of that other slow walk, the one past Jack's casket when his body lay in state.

He wasn't what we thought he was. But you fought to preserve his memory.

Now, if you want a memory, you can buy a genuine JFK golf bag.

And how about your memory, Jackie?

This is just the start. How long will be it before they're spotting you in 7-Elevens? I can see the tabloid headlines now: Aliens, Elvis Kidnap Jackie O, Force Her to Live in a Trailer Park.

Oh, Jackie.

You were the most famous person in modern America not to do a tell-all book, or even a tell-any book. And there was so much to tell -- who Jack was with and when, how your heart broke or didn't, why in the world anyone would buy a velvet-lined high chair.

Your great success in life was in keeping the curiosity seekers at bay.

And now they've won.

Oh, Jackie. Oh, Jackie O.

Pub Date: 4/24/96

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