The Stars Look Down


PLACE: Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis’s drawing room in heaven

GUESTS: Marilyn Monroe and Diana, Princess of Wales

TIME: The present

JACKIE: Ooooh—look, girls! Look! Down there, between those precious pink clouds! There’s the glorious Metropolitan Museum of Art on my beloved Fifth Avenue, and oh, can it be? They’re honoring me! Me! Well, at least my darling outfits!

MARILYN: Your clothes? No offense, doll, but isn’t that just a teensy bit . . . boring?

JACKIE: Ennui-producing? Absolument non! My frocks! My socks! Room after room brimming with my Venetian yellow suits, my Watteau pink shifts, my Nattier blue skimmers, my Tintoretto gold shirtwaists! Their covered buttons! Their three-quarter sleeves! Their matching coats! My Cassinis! My Givenchys!

MARILYN: No offense, doll, but how come everything you owned looks the same?

JACKIE: Mais non! These identical silhouettes came to life when I accessorized them with my opera gloves and crocodile purses and Bergdorf Goodman pillbox hats and scrumptious gilt-and-paste costume jewelry!

MARILYN: Fake stuff? I had a lot of fake stuff, too.

DIANA: Not me. For me it was the real thing . . . royal pieces, you know, big gaudy hunks from that bloody clan I married into.

MARILYN: Gosh, there sure weren’t any crown jewels in my foster family. Though even my phony junk ended up going for big dough at auction. They unloaded a bunch of your stuff at auction, too, didn’t they, J?

JACKIE: They certainly did. Isn’t it lovely that so many wonderful ordinary people want to own little pieces of us? My sterling silver Tiffany tape measure sold for $48,875. And some silly duck got carried away enough to spend $211,500 for my Kenneth Jay Lane triple strand of simulated pearls.

MARILYN: Jeez, people are nuts.

DIANA: That gown I wore to the Reagan White House, when I danced with John Travolta? Christie’s lot 79? A bloke paid $225,500 for it. People lined up at the Tropicana in Atlantic City to see it.

JACKIE: A casino? Ari liked those. . . .

DIANA: Ari? Who’s that?

JACKIE: Oh, somebody. Greek fellow. I wore a lot of striped sailor shirts and white pants and espadrilles and Hermes scarfs when I knew him. Wonder why they’re not in the exhibit—they were awfully chic. Oh, I see, the exhibit is only “The White House Years.”

MARILYN: I had a lot of fun during the White House years.

JACKIE: There’s that nubby sable-trimmed melton coat I wore for Jack’s inauguration. The museum card describes it as “greige.”

MARILYN: Greige?

DIANA: Greige?

JACKIE: You know, greige. A charming combination of beige and gray—a sort of taupe, like the dawn fog over Hammersmith Farm, our estate in Newport.

DIANA: It was greige all the time at Althorp, the Spencer ancestral home.

MARILYN: It was real sunny in L.A.! I used to like to wear toreador pants and a little shirt and run barefoot in the water.

JACKIE: I had a casual look, too, and it’s in the Met show! There’s the sleeveless dress designed by Herbert Sondheim, Stephen’s father, that I wore for Good Friday services in Palm Beach. I wore it with big white sunglasses, and sandals, and a scarf wrapped around my head, and someone called me “a beatnik—a gilded one, of course.”

DIANA: Was it in the press? Those blokes will hound you into the very grave! I hated them looking at me all the time. Blimey! I was self-consciousness itself, so tall with such big feet.

MARILYN: With me it was the keister! How could I get them to take me seriously as an actress when they were looking at my heinie all the time? I remember I had a beautiful Jean Louis dress once, so snug they had to sew me into it. I wore it to a giant birthday party in Madison Square Garden.

JACKIE: Look, girls! There’s my ancien, très frayed tweed hacking jacket. I used to wear it to go fox hunting on Paul Mellon’s Virginia estate. And my stock and my hunt cap and my absolutely worn-to-bits riding boots from Peal & Co. in England, complete with their “Miss Jacqueline Bouvier” boot trees.

DIANA: Oh, doesn’t England make the grooviest boots? Goodness, but those are worn. At Althorp we never threw anything out either. Hey, you know who looks exactly like a horse? That bloody husband-stealing hussy Mrs. Parker Bowles.

JACKIE: Now, now, Diana . . . haven’t you learned anything up here? If I can forgive Norma Jean . . . oh look, look! The exhibit is broadcasting my televised tour of the White House, where Charles Collingwood says things like “Are there many state dinners?” and I whisper,”Yes, there are.” No one knew I bellowed like a stevedore when the cameras weren’t around. Oh, and there is the very suit I wore for the tour, from Chez Ninon, my favorite Park Avenue custom dressmaker—they made the most cunning couture copies, a godsend when Jack was president and I wasn’t allowed to buy Paris originals. Isn’t it a lovely crimson? So unfortunate that the show was in black and white.

MARILYN: I did pretty well in black and white.

JACKIE: Oh, golly, girls, this is a treasure chest! There’s the silk shantung suit I had on when I swept Nikita off his feet. There’s the evening coat I wore for dinner at Versailles. And the bouclé with the passementerie button I donned for Buckingham Palace. And the black Cassini I chose for my audience with Pope John XXIII. The matelasse silk dress I was wearing when I went for a camel ride in Jaipur! Gosh, but the dry cleaner had a time dispelling that camel aroma! The Lanvin copy I wowed them in at the Nehru dinner! Marilyn! Diana! Stop fidgeting! Don’t you want to see the Givenchy I wore for the White House staff Christmas party? The gold minaudière Charles de Gaulle gave me? And, oh, luck of luck, the Met has even reproduced the seating arrangements for my state dinners. Wasn’t it clever of me to put Ralph Bunche between the Norwegian ambassador and Fredric March at the Nobel Prize Winners of the Western Hemisphere dinner? I placed Mrs. Dos Passos across from the attorney general, the vice president next to John Glenn. Oh, there’s the seating chart for the André Malraux party! I sat Sargent Shriver next to . . .

MARILYN: Jackie . . . I’m so sorry, but Diana seems to have drifted off. She’s snoring like a sailor. And I was just thinking—if you wouldn’t get mad or anything—as long as I’m at the museum and all, could I go look at the Vermeers?

“Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years,” through July 29, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, 212-535-7710.

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