Ari & Jackie Onassis: Their “Blended” Family Adapts in Rare Photos (Part 3)

Ari and Jackie Onassis at home in Greece.

Ari and Jackie Onassis at home in Greece.

As much as she was able to control his schedule, Jackie Onassis resisted inviting too many guests for too long a time to Skorpios, and usually did so only when she knew her husband would be away from her for an extended period.

Christina and Alexander Onassis arrive at the Athens airport, their father talking to the drive behind them.

Christina and Alexander Onassis arrive at the Athens airport, their father talking to the drive behind them.

Her stepson and stepdaughter, Alex and Christina Onassis would drop in frequently but as young adults more often than not preferred to spend their time among their young European crowd in the south of France, London or New York.

It wasn't that Onassis didn't love his children; problems came from his never expressing it and his tyranny towards them. (viewimages.com)

It wasn’t that Onassis didn’t love his children; problems came from his never expressing it and his tyranny towards them. (viewimages.com)

While Alex and Christina Onassis have always been depicted as hating their stepmother, it wasn’t a matter of particularly disliking Jackie Kennedy as much as that their father’s remarriage forever ended their hope he’d someday remarry their mother Tina Livanos. They had resented their father’s mistress Maria Callas with equal intensity.

Another ignored factor was that Alex Onassis had begun to display an open hostility towards his father before his marriage to Jackie Kennedy, a resentment of Ari’s intense control to groom him as heir to all of his many business interests.

Christina Onassis (seen here with her father during his wedding reception) was less hostile to her new stepmother.

Christina Onassis (seen here with her father during his wedding reception) was less hostile to her new stepmother.

And yet, as pictures show, Alex also had many times he got on just fine with his father and stepmother, even joining them for an Athens nightclub bash in Athens that Ari hosted for Jackie’s 40th birthday.

Onassis listens to his son Alexander at anightclub.

Onassis listens to his son Alexander at anightclub.

Of course, pictures don’t reveal what was widely reported as his outright nasty treatment of “the American” as he called his stepmother behind her back.

While Alex Onassis refused to acknowledge Jackie when they were forced to sit at the same table, he never openly belittled her.

In contrast, he told his own mother he would never see or speak to her again, after she married Stavros Niarchos, who was not only his father’s primary rival but her late sister’s husband.

Onassis strolls Skorpios with his wife and daughter.

Onassis strolls Skorpios with his wife and daughter.

And he never did.

Although she voiced the same sentiments about Jackie to her brother, Christina Onassis more frequently visited her father and Jackie. Her stepmother managed to grow somewhat close to her in the early years of the marriage and they were often hiking companions around Skorpios. She encouraged Christina to date Peter Goulandris, whose family Jackie had known before her marriage to Onassis.

“Maria Callas never liked me very much,” Christina Onassis bluntly told a reporter in 1971, “but Jackie is mo stepmother and she is a great friend.”

Jacqueline Onassis, Caroline Kennedy and Christina Onassis attend Christmas church services in Lefkas, Greece, 1968. (Corbis)

Jacqueline Onassis, Caroline Kennedy and Christina Onassis attend Christmas church services in Lefkas, Greece, 1968. (Corbis)

On several occasions, they went together to Catholic or Greek Orthodox church services on Sundays in the nearby towns.

During the Easter season in 1969, they even attended a service in each church.

Ari was not big on church.

Along with Alex, Christina also made at least one Christmas season and summer stay on Skorpios with them and Jackie’s children Caroline Kennedy and John Kennedy, Jr.

Ari and Alex Onassis looking over an open-pit barbeque of lamb on Scorpios.

Ari and Alex Onassis looking over an open-pit barbeque of lamb on Scorpios.

While the two Onassis children’s deep-seated dislike of Jackie Kennedy continued, they instantly liked and befriended the two Kennedy children.

During a Mets game at Shea Stadium, Ari Onassis chats with his wife, stepdaughter and stepson.

During a Mets game at Shea Stadium, Ari Onassis chats with his wife, stepdaughter and stepson.

When the children of the late U.S. President were in Greece, they were also joined by the Secret Service agents who would continue to protect them until they reached the age of 16 years old, and their presence afforded Ari and Jackie Onassis a bit more privacy.

John Kennedy, Jr. formed a friendly bond with his stepfather, who especially rose in his estimation after Ari gave him a gift of a speedboat.

John Kennedy, Jr. and his stepfather looking over the yacht railing together.

John Kennedy, Jr. and his stepfather looking over the yacht railing together. (Corbis)

They often stayed up talking late into the night.

And while it was no yacht, like the one named for his own daughter, Onassis also gave his stepdaughter the gift of a vessel, named for her.

Marta Scubin aboard the Caroline sailboat.

Marta Scubin aboard the Caroline sailboat.

The large, bright-red sailboat Caroline provided the children and their governess Marta Scubin, who Ari Onassis had first interviewed before Jackie did, a way to go off and explore different islands around Greece for journeys of several days endurance.

Onassis once spoke candidly about his role as a stepfather to the children of the late President Kennedy:

The Kennedy kids and their cousin Tina enjoy the trampoline which Ari Onassis installed for them on Scorpios. (photo by Marta Scubin)

The Kennedy kids and their cousin Tina enjoy the trampoline which Ari Onassis installed for them on Scorpios. (photo by Marta Scubin)

Jackie is often at the other end of the world with her children – whom I should say I love very much.

But they need time to get used to me, and I want to give them that time.

Caroline and John Kennedy with cousin Tony on the motorboat Onassis gave his stepson. (Getty)

Caroline and John Kennedy with cousin Tony on the motorboat Onassis gave his stepson. (Getty)

They need time to understand that their mother has remarried and that I want to be their friend, and not replace their father, whom I admired so much. A father cannot be replaced, especially one like John Kennedy.

I only desire that they consider me a best friend.

Ron Gallela captured this picture of Ari joining Jackie Onassis on the balcony of 1040 to watch a parade.

Ron Gallella captured this picture of Ari joining Jackie Onassis on the balcony of 1040 to watch a parade.

When Jackie and her children were living in their 1040 Fifth Avenue apartment in New York during the school year, Onassis lived there with them during his brief business trips of several days duration.

During several of her visits to New York, Christina Onassis also stayed at 1040 at Jackie’s insistence. Before that, Christina Onassis had been making a New York hotel suite her home, living alone since her late teens.

There were inevitably the tense moments when the children of one spouse irritated the other partner. No matter how politely Jackie Onassis smiled back in response to the rude grunts of Alex Onassis or his ignoring of her expressed interest in his activities,  she got no where.

She finally blew up, bewildered as to why Ari’s son could not even act civilly towards her. Onassis shot back that he’d take care of his kids and she should take care of her own.

Onassis strong-arms his stepson into the car as the paparazzi appear to snap his mother. (Corbis)

Onassis strong-arms his stepson into the car as the paparazzi appear to snap his mother. (Corbis)

On occasion, however, Onassis could burst his legendary temper on John Kennedy, like the time the boy had gotten the the bits of hair from his freshly-cut head trim all over the yacht furniture.

Yet he unleashed his anger on everyone in his own family and Jackie as well. If anything, Ari Onassis tended to be a bit worried and even more over-protective of her son than Jackie could be.

The Bouvier sisters chat while cruising on the Caroline.

The Bouvier sisters chat while cruising on the Caroline.

Once the Kennedy children were on summer vacation from school, they joined their mother and stepfather on Scorpios for most of June and July,

Frequently, they were  joined by their aunt and uncle, Stas and Lee Radziwill, Jackie’s brother-in-law and sister, and their children, first cousins Tony and Tina Radziwill.

In the summer of 1971, Jackie invited her friend photographer Peter Beard to join them on Scorpios, a period he recalled as idyllic and full of natural beauty and humor.

Jackie Onassis takes a dip in the Scorpios lagoon with her brother-in-law Stas Radziwill. (Corbis)

Jackie Onassis takes a dip at Scorpios with Stas Radziwill. (Corbis)

Ari gets a flower tucked in his kerchief by Jackie. (PBeard)

Ari gets a flower tucked in his kerchief by Jackie. (Peter Beard)

He even managed to coax Ari to slip one of Jackie’s head on, then tucked a flower in it and snapped a picture of him.

While Jackie’s protection and nurturing of her children legitimately earned her the reputation of being a passionately devoted mother, by the time they were teenagers, she also protected her own time alone.

On the David Letterman Show several years ago, Caroline Kennedy recalled a “character-building” stunt her mother used to give herself a bit of solitude:

Outside of this “blended” family of four children, brought together by divorce and death, Ari and Jackie Onassis shared most of their life in Greece and on Skorpios with extended family members.

Jackie Onassis and Rose Kennedy, emerging from a Sunday Catholic mass in Athens. (UPI)

Jackie Onassis and Rose Kennedy, emerging from a Sunday Catholic mass in Athens. (UPI)

Rose Kennedy, mother of Jackie’s first husband, had actually known Onassis socially since the 1950s when she and her husband met him in Cannes.

That she gave her blessing to her daughter-in-law’s controversial re-marriage proved to be not only a grateful relief to Jackie but seemed to mark a turning point in their relationship.

Drawing closer to each other, Rose Kennedy was a guest on both the Christina and on Scorpios and the Onassises also came to visit at her family’s winter home in Palm Beach, Florida.

Although President Kennedy‘s sisters Jean Kennedy Smith and Pat Kennedy Lawford had come with Jackie Kennedy to her 1968 wedding  on Scorpios, along with the three Lawford daughters, they did not return for a visit.

Following the Onassis-Kennedy wedding, the late president's sisters Jean Smith and Pat Lawford returned from Greece, escorting home to New York their niece and nephew. (Corbis)

Following the Onassis-Kennedy wedding, the late president’s sisters Jean Smith and Pat Lawford returned from Greece, escorting home to New York their niece and nephew. (Corbis)

The only other member of the Kennedy family who would come to visit Scorpios and visit Jackie in her new life there was her brother-in-law, U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy.

In the summer months between the June assassination of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy and the Onassis-Kennedy wedding in October, Ari Onassis came to visit the Kennedy family compound at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

Despite the darkness her husband’s recent murder had left upon her, Ethel Kennedy’s humor returned during Ari’s visit, she and Onassis teasing each other through an evening gathering of the extended family. However startling the match might be to them, those family members of President Kennedy at the dinner were welcoming to Ari.

Onassis would also visit the Newport, Rhode Island estate of Jackie Kennedy’s mother and stepfather, Janet Lee and Hugh Auchincloss.

In the summer of 1968, Onassis was a guest of Hugh and Janet Auchincloss at their Newport, Rhode Island estate Hammersmith Farm.

In the summer of 1968, Onassis was a guest of Hugh and Janet Auchincloss at their Newport, Rhode Island estate Hammersmith Farm.

Janet Auchincloss had been especially displeased about the impending marriage, although it had not yet been officially announced.

During the visit she was fascinated by a little tape recorder and cassettes of classical music which Onassis listened to as he worked virtually through the entire night. At the end of the stay, he gave it to her as a gift. She protested that it was too generous for him to part with his prized music player – causing family members to laughingly assure her that Onassis could surely afford to buy another one for himself.

Still, when her daughter made an unexpected call and asked her to release an announcement to the press that she was marrying Onassis, Janet Auchincloss was flabbergasted and madly tried to talk Jackie out of it.

Onassis and his mother-in-law Janet Auchincloss.

Onassis and his mother-in-law Janet Auchincloss.

Although she and her husband came to the wedding on Scorpios, she insistently whispered in Jackie’s ear, even as she walked down the aisle of the chapel, “You don’t have to go through with this!”

Hugh and Janet Auchincloss made their peace with Jackie’s decision, and they also made at least one known lengthy stay on Scorpios during the 1969-1970 holiday season.

Using the island as their home base, Jackie Onassis and her children took her mother and stepfather to various other islands and towns in Greece.

Jackie's mother Janet Auchincloss on her last trip to Scorpios, 1975. (Corbis)

Jackie’s mother Janet Auchincloss on her last trip to Scorpios, 1975. (Corbis)

Out of a sense of duty, Janet Auchincloss would return to Scorpios one more time in 1975. It was for the burial of Onassis there.

When Onassis was in New York, he also encountered his mother-in-law if she happened to be visiting her daughter’s apartment. Family friend Ros Gilpatric recalled the deadpan look Ari humorously shot his way when he came into the living room at 1040. Jackie had invited Ros up without telling him why. He was to be Rose Kennedy’s bridge partner, pitted against the team of Onassis and Mrs. Auchincloss. Jackie giggled from behind a door, peeking in.

She never learned how to play bridge.

When Onassis had first visited Newport in 1968, he was accompanied not only by his daughter but his closest sister.

Artemis Onassis, the compassionate older sister of Ari who befriended Jackie Kennedy. (original photographer unknown)

Artemis Onassis Garoufalidis , the compassionate older sister of Ari who befriended Jackie Kennedy. (original photographer unknown)

Of Ari’s three sisters, Meropi Konialidis and Kalliroe Patronikolas were by his widowed father’s second wife. His full sister Artemis was two years his senior and a welcome and frequent visitor to Skorpios. She lived with her husband Theodore )in a villa on Vassileo Georgiou in Glyfada, close to Ellinikon the Athens airport. The daily sound of planes ascending and landing didn’t bother her, she joked, because it reminded her how fortunate she was to have a brother who owned his own airline.

Thin, nervous and highly fashionable, Artemis took the tragedies that hit her life to heart: her family’s displacement and loss of fortune when she was young; the early death of her mother Penelope, the birth of a child with mental disabilities.

Upon arrival in Greece for her wedding, Jackie Kennedy was welcomed by her sister-in-law Artemis. (Argentia)

Upon arrival in Greece for her wedding, Jackie Kennedy was welcomed by her sister-in-law Artemis. (Argentia)

Always protective and supportive of her brother “Aristo,” as she called him, Artemis had a more patient and nuanced understanding of human nature than he did. She was extraordinarily humorous and hospitable.

Artemis had first met Jackie Kennedy when the First Lady and her sister Lee were guests on the Christina in October of 1963 and offered her a compassionate empathy following the death two months earlier of her infant son Patrick, a welcome warmth Jackie never forgot. When Mrs. Kennedy arrived in Greece for her wedding, it was Artemis who was there to embrace and whisk her away, shooing off reporters and paparazzi.

Artemis Onassis between her brother and Maria Callas, his mistress, on his yacht in Venice the day Callas announced her divorce and Onassis left his wife. (Corbis)

Artemis Onassis between her brother and Maria Callas, his mistress, on his yacht in Venice the day Callas announced her divorce and Onassis left his wife. (Corbis)

A garden path connected Artemis’s Glyfada house to the one Ari Onassis kept there; her home was always the gathering place of the extended family. The matriarch filtered out the frauds who sought to infiltrate her brother’s circle and served as a maternal figure for her niece Christina, who lived in a suite at her aunt’s house

Artemis was relieved when Ari and Jackie married, never trusting his lover Maria Callas and never stopped imploring Alex and Christina to be more civil to their stepmother.

Eleven days after her brother married Jackie Kennedy, Artemis Onassis welcomed her new sister-in law back to Athens. (Corbis)

Eleven days after her brother married Jackie Kennedy, Artemis Onassis welcomed her new sister-in law back to Athens. (Corbis)

With Ari so often speeding out to the nearby airport and flying off to do business deals at points all over the world, it was Artemis who acted as a guide for Jackie Onassis who wanted to begin exploring Athens.

Artemis and Jackie Onassis strolling an open-air Athens market, checking out a stand of ocean sponges.

Artemis and Jackie Onassis strolling an open-air Athens market, checking out a stand of ocean sponges.

Her sister-in-law’s encouragement of her curiosity about the history and architecture of different parts of the city even led the former First Lady to revive her political lobbying skill for a public issue which would remain of lifelong concern to her.

As the American First Lady, Jackie Kennedy had famously helped save the rows of historic building on the east and west blocks which faced Lafayette Square, the White House facing it from the south, across the street. There had been a federal order to demolish these to make room for desperately needed office space for workers in the executive branch.  The challenge which she successfully sought to address was a way to keep the historic character of this important public park where generations of people had gathered in times of national crisis and celebration, but to also have it serve the practical needs of contemporary society.

Little did she then know how that experience would now serve her in saving some Greek history while permitting the commerce of the present to flourish.

Caroline Kennedy and her stepfather. (wireimage.com)

Caroline Kennedy and her stepfather. (wireimage.com)



Categories: Ari & Jackie Onassis, First Ladies, History, The Kennedys

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10 replies

  1. Another great article! Thank you!

    • Thank You Cynthia for reading it and responding to it. I am always on the verge of this time-consuming, no-paying, grand scheme of a distraction, save for my love of the challenge of writing and the desire to clarify and detail so much about the American culture – but then a simple nod from a reader like yourself provides a bit more fuel to go on a bit longer.

  2. Perhaps what fascinates me most about Jackie’s life with Onassis is this: how did someone as private as Jackie, who could not accurately be described as a hermit or recluse but who did seem to have a tremendous capacity and need for inviolate personal time and space, cope with the demands (would ‘assaults’ be a better word?) upon her most private self and life which seem to have been a constant aspect of the years when she was married to Onassis? He gave her a lot (and not just in terms of financial advantages) which she would not have had otherwise, but one senses that there would have been a tremendous, even quite harrowing and terrible price which she must have had to pay in return. If so, how did she manage this? The full answer to this question, of course, is one that only she could have answered for herself, but still I wonder. She always preserved an elegant exterior, ever captivating, but it’s the interior stresses she would have had to face in managing her relationship with her extraordinary second husband and the whole incredibly supercharged world he brought in his wake which most intrigue me. Thanks for researching, writing and publishing this great article.

    • I apologize for the delay in responding – you always compose such well-thought and well-wrought responses – and that’s an honor for any writer, so thank you. I think the shorthand answer to your question of how she survived this is simply “an iron mind and interior life of resolution.” I think surviving the assassination made her feel she could face just about anything which fate thrust her way. I will also say this. What Onassis did to his daughter Christina, in terms of emotional neglect and belittlement was beyond the pale. She struggled mightily with her sense of self. It’s a pretty grim tale, one of the most dramatic ones in terms of illustrating the old morale lesson of how wealth does not provide “security” in the most primal sense.

      • I have read some pretty harrowing things about how Christina was treated, such as being told from an early age: ‘Just look at yourself in the mirror, Christina. Who could ever love that?’ So one can only imagine the long-term effect. Meanwhile, I’ve sometimes wondered if JKO’s early death was simply the result of all that stress catching up with her. By the way, your CSPAN Ida McKinley segment reminded me again last night of how great that series is, both in itself and as a springboard for the rest of us to further reading and exploration of some fascinating people and topics. I hope you do many more.

        • Thank you for the thumbs up on the CSpan series – yes it is fantastic. There are some of course about whom relatively little is known but by and large new research is always showing up new aspects of their lives. I will be writing more about Christina Onassis in the future articles in the series but yes, it is pretty shocking what was done to her. Not just by her father but her mother as well. In a sense, there was more damage for their neglect than anything else.

  3. Regarding this blended family, I remember an interview with John Jr. where he said that he really liked Ari O. and accepted him. He went on to point out that understandably it was different for Caroline because unlike him “she could remember our father.”

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  1. Ari & Jackie Onassis: New Photos of Their Private Rooms (Part 2) « Carl Anthony Online
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