delanceyplace.com 1/10/12 - increasing your stature by writing a book
In today's excerpt - the Kennedy family was ruled with an iron hand by John and Bobby Kennedy's father—reputed bootlegger and multi-millionaire Ambassador Joe Kennedy. It was Joe's ambitions that pushed John to run for President, and Joe's money and acumen that guided the campaign. And it was Joe's idea that his sons should try and increase their own stature by having books ghostwritten for them and then published under their own names—a practice then radical but now commonplace. Although Ted Sorenson was the primary author of John Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning Profiles in Courage, and John Seigenthaler was the primary author of Bobby Kennedy's The Enemy Within, Joe was not pleased when anyone suspected that someone other than his boys were the authors. Still, the boys were able to assert their independence from the father in subtle ways:
"One newspaperman closer to the [Presidential campaign] action than most in July 1960] was John Seigenthaler. A reporter for the Nashville Tennessean who supplied Bob leads on union violence around the border states during the Rackets Committee investigations, in 1959 the courtly young Seigenthaler had taken a leave of absence to join Bob in the deserted summer manse at Hickory Hill and help grind out Bobby's memoir about labor corruption, The Enemy Within. The Tennessean was backing Lyndon Johnson, and in 1960 sent Seigenthaler out to Los Angeles to forage for inside dope around the Kennedy camp. ...
"Soon after that, Bobby was able to lean on his father to let Seigenthaler through the gates of the Davies property [in Los Angeles where Joe Kennedy was staying during the nominating convention] for a personal interview. 'The old man had run the Los Angeles Times' guy off the premises a day earlier, so this was a big deal,' Seigenthaler laughs now.
"Less than a year earlier, Seigenthaler had joined Bobby for a couple of dinners with the crusty Ambassador at Pavilion, the sumptuous Manhattan eatery in which the father reportedly owned a percentage. Joe Kennedy was fidgeting on the inside seat of a banquette, upset, as he told them immediately, 'because he thought Ted Sorensen had taken too much credit for writing Profiles in Courage,' the book of sketches for which the Ambassador had finagled the Pulitzer Prize for Jack.
" 'He began to lecture me about loyalty,' Seigenthaler remembers, 'and ego, and ambition. I was a little slow; I didn't know whether he was talking to his son or to me.' Ed Sullivan, the television impresario, was at the next table, 'and the next thing I know, he's got Sullivan entering into the lecture. When I finally got it I said, 'Look, this is your son's book, I've agreed to help edit... we signed a contract, and I'm perfectly satisfied.' The financier calmed down little by little, flaring up again at the end of the meal at the maitre d' because he had been charged $10 for two saucers of ice cream.
"When they next met, again at Pavilion, The Enemy Within was out and doing quite well. Robert Kennedy inscribed Seigenthaler's first edition on the way in from the airport. It was a celebratory evening, with champagne toasts and the Ambassador holding forth about how 'you fellas knew exactly what you were doing, you never took your eye off the ball, everybody I've talked to thinks it's a great book....
" 'And Bob says, 'John, show Dad how I signed your book.' ' Seigenthaler handed it over. Bob had written: 'To John Seigenthaler. Who wrote my book for me.'
"Glowering, the founding father looked up. 'Bobby,' he erupted, 'you're a goddamn fool. That'll be in the New York Post in two weeks!'
" 'He was sending his father a little needling message,' Seigenthaler says, 'and he laughed, and I laughed, and finally the old man laughed too.' "
|Bobby and J. Edgar: The Historic Face-off Between the Kennedys and J. Edgar Hoover That Transformed America|
|Copyright 2007 by Burton Hersch|