Bump in the Road
updated 09/25/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 09/25/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT
To friends, the really sad part was that Joan had seemed to be doing well at last. Divorced from the senator in 1983, she was arrested three times for drunk driving between 1974 and 1991, but after the '91 arrest she joined Alcoholics Anonymous. According to Kennedy cousin Joseph Gargan, Joan, who has homes in Boston and in the exclusive community of Hyannisport, faithfully attended AA meetings twice a week. Friends insist she was dedicated to sobriety. "I haven't seen her have anything to drink for so many years that I was just stunned—stunned," says close friend Stephanie Warburg of Boston.
During winters in Boston, Joan stays fit at the Candela Spa, where she spends a couple of hours a day doing aerobics, weight training and yoga. "She was very serious about it," says her personal trainer Paul Cagnon, who worked with her until June, when she left for Cape Cod. She is even more serious about her charity work, which includes the Boston public schools. Her goal has been to mentor young students to stimulate their interest in music, and she helped launch a curriculum that highlights courage, in memory of Warburg's son Max, who died of leukemia nine years ago. Says Ann Gund, a good friend of Joan's for the past 20 years: "She realizes that her name still has some cachet."
Her greatest joy appears to be spending time with her children—Kara, 40, who has worked in television and video production; Ted Jr., 38, a lawyer in New Haven; and Patrick, 33, a Rhode Island congressman—and her four grandchildren. Gund says that Joan takes her grandkids swimming in the pool at the Hyannisport home of her ex-husband, 68, and his second wife, Victoria Reggie, 46, whom he married in 1992. Indeed, Joan and Ted remain on very friendly terms. "She's included in a lot of things that Teddy and Vicki do as a family," reports Gund.
Though she has not been romantically involved with anyone in recent years, Joan's spirits have, on the whole, remained high. "It's such a relief to be free," she told The Boston Globe in an ebullient interview in July. "So much of my married life was about keeping secrets and pretending that I was doing great and was happy. But once you sober up, the whole idea is to become honest with yourself and other people. I mean, all the secrets I had to keep: mine and all the secrets of the Kennedy family. I don't have to do that anymore. It's such a relief to be...a genuine person."
Kennedy, who pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence and faces a pretrial hearing on Oct. 6, expressed deep remorse over the Sept. 10 incident to friends. "She's not happy about it," says Warburg, who talked to her a day after the arrest. "She doesn't take this lightly." But she is determined not to let it get her down. "She does not wallow—ever," says Warburg. "She really doesn't." Instead Joan is already exploring the idea of counseling teenage girls on the dangers of substance abuse. "She said that she was thinking of ways that she could help other people and also help herself," says Warburg. "That's Joan—always constructive and trying to think of the positive."
Jennifer Longley on Cape Cod and Fannie Weinstein and Eve Heyn in New York City