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- November 28, 1983
- Vol. 20
- No. 22
It's a Passage to India for JFK Jr., While Sister Caroline Launches Big Bird at the Metropolitan Museum
Twenty years after the death of their father and 14 years after the death of their grandfather Joseph P. Kennedy, who served as Ambassador to the Court of St. James's from 1937-40, Caroline and John Kennedy are each going their own way. "They're a lot like Jackie," says a family friend. "They have a strong sense of the family legacy, and an equally strong sense of privacy."
As her 26th birthday approaches on Nov. 27, Caroline is settled comfortably into her third year as a member of the Office of Film and Television at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her responsibilities have expanded from researcher to liaison producer between the museum staff and outside directors shooting footage at the museum. Besides the special on the Met's American collections (which will air on PBS next spring), she coordinated Don't Eat the Pictures (Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum), which was shown on PBS last week.
"Most people have the impression that Caroline Kennedy is a rich young lady who just lunches," says Tony Geiss of the Children's Television Workshop, co-producer of the show. "It's just not true." Adds executive producer Dulcy Singer: "Caroline worked 16-hour days with us while we were filming. She paved the way with curators in every gallery we used, checked historical accuracy and helped select transparencies." Still, there were intrusions. One curator was taken aback when a museum guard rushed up and asked, "Are you Caroline Kennedy?" Casting off her usual reticence, Caroline accepted a cameo at the program's end, appearing on-screen as one of the museum's first visitors of the day.
Like Caroline, who once took Sotheby's Works of Art course in London, John Kennedy decided to study abroad after receiving his B.A. in history last June from Brown University. "He was interested in both Spain and India," says a friend. "He decided on India because of his interest in developing countries." Kennedy, who worked during previous summers for a Peace Corps program repairing earthquake damage in Guatemala and briefly in a South African mining camp, will pursue his interests in food production, health care and adult education at the University of Delhi and devote the rest of his time to working on a development project, possibly in Rajasthan. "I know six months isn't a long time," Kennedy explained, "but I hope to learn as much as I can." Afterward he plans to travel in India. "Jackie approved of the idea," says a friend. "She loved the country when she visited there [on a state visit] in 1962." Another friend adds that John went to India partly to avoid the press. "His graduation from Brown was a real circus. I think he wanted to avoid the anniversary attention."
John's decision to study abroad and then apply to law school (he took the LSATs last June in Providence, R.I.) may allay his mother's reported fears that he would choose an acting career. At Brown he received generally good notices in two productions, Boom Boom Room and Short Eyes. "Anyone with his talent and looks would act," says a friend at Brown who worked with John. "But politics is what he was really interested in. He loved to stay up late talking, and it was never about acting or baseball, it was always politics."
Before leaving for India John spent several months at his mother's 15-room apartment on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue studying, socializing and occasionally visiting his uncle Ted Kennedy in Washington. Often in his company was his girlfriend of two years, Sally Munro, 23, of Marblehead, Mass., who, like Caroline, attended Concord Academy. She graduated from Brown the year before John and now works in a bookstore in Boston, from where she commuted weekends to visit him. "A lot of people around John at Brown were Beautiful People," says one friend. "Sally definitely wasn't. She's very down to earth."
Caroline's pals, on the other hand, say they have seen less of her during her two-year romance with Edwin Schlossberg, 38, a self-employed writer, artist and graphic designer whom she met at a party in the fall of 1981.
Schlossberg, a man of eclectic interests, grew up on Park Avenue in New York and attended Birch Wathen, a private school off Fifth Avenue that counts among its alums Judith Krantz and Barbara Walters. In his senior year he headed the school's social committee and captained the soccer team. In his class yearbook he was described as "a serious, self-fashioned poet philosopher" and was willed "a brace for his knee and his ego."
Schlossberg enrolled at Columbia University and went on to receive a double Ph.D., in science and literature, in 1971. At graduate school he became enamored of Buckminster Fuller's theories about the interrelationship of technology and the environment. "He chaired Bucky Fuller's World Game Workshop in New York in 1969," says Fuller's co-author, E.J. Applewhite, "and he was on top of all the complex material; very articulate and quite brilliant."
Schlossberg's Ph.D. thesis, an imaginary conversation with Albert Einstein and Samuel Beckett, was later printed in book form. "His work brings together his interest in literature, science and art," says friend and art critic Carrie Rickey. Schlossberg has devised game books and handbooks on such topics as pocket calculators, home computers and the ideas of great philosophers. In addition, he has had gallery exhibitions of his art, including works using letters on paper that turn different colors with light, temperature and touch. Schlossberg has gotten the most recognition for his design work, with which he has fashioned educational exhibitions for the Brooklyn Children's Museum and Sesame Place, an "interactive-play" park on the outskirts of Dallas. In 1979 the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals commissioned him to design an educational animal farm in Framingham, Mass. Visitors walk through different barns that use computer games to show how animals perceive the world. "Caroline and Ed are both very serious about what they do," says friend and art dealer Ron Feldman. "The Kennedy myth has very little effect on each of their work."
If both Caroline and John have succeeded somewhat in escaping the pressures of publicity, they have their mother to thank. Jackie once said, "I want them to know about how the rest of the world lives, but also I want to be able to give them some kind of sanctuary when they need it, someplace to take them into when things happen to them that do not necessarily happen to other children." Before John's departure, brother and sister were dancing in a New York rock club when several youngsters approached them for autographs. The Kennedys politely refused. On another occasion a journalist who had arranged an interview with John arrived after a two-hour drive only to have John say regretfully that his mother had asked him to decline. As one family friend observes, "That Caroline and John turned out the way they have—unspoiled, nice and with a real sense of responsibility—is a real tribute to her. She pays attention to the details." Another friend recalls that Caroline has complained, good-naturedly, "Mom's always on my case about the doctor or the dentist or my clothes."
Although they are broadening their family's definition of serving the public interest, there is little doubt that Caroline and John will continue to be active. Caroline has found her niche in film and museum work and has contributed her expertise to the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, where she is a board member and helps plan exhibitions. By following seven of his cousins to law school, John is positioning himself on the political springboard that also served his uncles, Ted and Bobby. "Both the kids are extremely goal oriented," says a friend. "And it has very little to do with the fact that their father was President."
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