Sunday, July 20, 2008

What Would Jackie Do? Presents Hints for Living with Courage, Discipline, Balance -- and Great Style

Long before J-Lo became a pop culture icon of the snappy abbreviated moniker, Jackie O was pursued by the paparazzi, celebrated by mass media, and obsessed over by fans. What Would Jackie Do? distills the fabulous femme’s life into a guidebook for living life with courage, discipline, and balance.

Shelly Branch and Sue Callaway have given me renewed respect for this former First Lady whose brilliant husband, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was famously assassinated with her by his side in an auto parade in Dallas, Texas. The authors state that Jackie Kennedy made sure that her young children – then six and three – slept in their familiar White House bedrooms that night, not at the homes of relatives. Kennedy was convinced the children needed the stability of familiar bedrooms in their lives. Later, she recreated these bedrooms for the children in her Fifth Avenue apartment. Unbelievably in these days when a million dollars buys a 500-square-foot studio apartment in Manhattan, that purchase cost her $200,000.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis was a strict but loving mother, according to Branch and Callaway. It was refreshing to read about a wealthy society woman of JBKO’s stature who was so engaged with her children. Memorable anecdotes are Jackie sending John Jr. for counseling when he started sowing too many wild oats, JBKO seen on Manhattan streets with Caroline laughing and sharing secretively like gal pals, and Jackie indulging her grandchildren with a sledding trip to Central Park not long before her untimely death at age 63 from cancer.

JBKO practiced balance in her inner and outer lives. A lifelong practitioner of yoga, she investigated the Eastern and alternative healing therapies that were in vogue for much of her life. But, Branch and Callaway note, she never went overboard about anything that could endanger her life.

Her homes also illustrated her emphasis on balance. She loved beautiful things, but she created environments (with the help of many famous designers) in which her children and friends could feel at home. Priceless treasures were displayed so casually that a visitor might not notice at first glance that the art was by world-famous masters.

Yet, above all, Jackie is remembered for her fabulous sense of style. Her over-sized dark black sunglasses are iconic. They remain a wardrobe staple for which I will pay almost any price. Her little shifts were copied throughout the sixties and seventies; her pillbox hats were immortalized in a Bob Dylan song. She was always impeccably dressed.

She made culture a part of White House life when she hosted internationally famous musicians, dancers, and writers with the President during their all-too-brief White House years. Her restoration of that historic landmark has been nearly undone by subsequent administrations, report the authors. Jackie and an elite committee put time and research into to getting the details right.

What Would Jackie Do? is written in short information bytes that make this the perfect book for waiting room reading. The breezy style is seasoned with memorable short anecdotes. The authors, editors for national magazines, have done their research. They know what they are doing when it comes to capturing and sustaining reader attention. Tuck this one in your bag for those times when you unexpectedly get stuck with time on your hands. The seconds will speed past as quickly as those fatal moments in Dallas that changed the world.

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