This morning I was watching a special “Meet the Press” that featured interviews with John Kennedy, when he was running for president of the United States in 1960. It kind of takes you back, and it is a bit shocking that Kennedy actually answered the interviewers’ questions. What a concept! We know that this week marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, TX, and I will have more to say about that later this week.
But the “Meet the Press” clips got me thinking about Kennedy and his image. Despite the fact that he suffered from Addison’s disease and severe chronic back pain. He almost always, for the camera portrayed a vigor – or as he said it “vigah.” If we analyze our collective image of John Kennedy from countless archetypical photographs, he is always impeccably dressed: a suit or even black tie.
However, in the fall of 1960 as the presidential campaign was moving to its close, I went with my mother to see Kennedy’s motorcade head west along East Fourteenth Street in Manhattan. My mother and I decided to stay back from the crowd which was swarming a block or so up from us, where Kennedy was going to speak. Then there was the moment. Kennedy was standing up in his car. The only way to describe it was that he was bronzed. His hair had shining streaks of blonde, and he was deeply tanned. And he was wearing a tan buckskin jacket. It was what every boy wanted in those days, the ultimate cowboy jacket, and, of course, symbolic of Kennedy’s “New Frontier.”
Kennedy turned, flashed a big smile at my mother and I, and waved. I have just spent several hours trying to find a picture of Kennedy campaigning in that jacket. I know that they are out there, but I have not yet been able to find one – a picture that captured that shining moment of Camelot and optimism.