Wednesday I reached the end of the long, debauched road that is Jerry Oppenheimer’s RFK Jr. It’s not a complex book, or a great book, but it’s a page turner that build a case that Jr is an arrogant, shallow man with little regard for other people. The book is an enjoyable ride through the gutter with “American’s royal family.”
The end of the book focuses on Jr’s life in the 1990s and beyond with particular attention given to his three marriages and chronic philandering.
Oppenheimer gets in some savage digs at Jr over his treatment of his second wife, Mary Richardson Kennedy. In a classic bit of snark, after Jr married Mary, one of the guests referred to the no-frills ceremony as “bare bones on a barge” (p 285). Eventually, the couple began divorce proceedings. In May 2012, Jr’s sister Kerry Kennedy (alleged to be Mary’s best friend) pressured Mary to sign an unfavorable divorce settlement. The next day, Mary hanged herself.
Rehash of ’90s Woes
RFK Jr misses the mark when Oppenheimer recounts the “third generation’s” many 1990s scandals. These stories – regarding Willie Smith, JFK Jr, Michael and Joe Kennedy – are all familiar to Kennedy watchers and seem like padding to give the the book more heft.
Still, I enjoyed Oppenheimer’s cutting prose. He said that Frank Gifford liked Michael “…before Gifford had come to know his son-in-law as a booze-guzzling, cocaine-snorting sex addict who was cheating on his beloved daughter” (p. 293). Likewise, he quotes Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel as saying that the Kennedys’ reaction to Michael’s scandal involved “circling the wagons to protect the cesspool” (p. 295).
At the end, Oppenheimer struggles to summarize Jr’s life and its impact. His discussion suggests that Jr is an unbalanced underachiever. At the end, Oppenheimer weakly states that he hopes that the book “has offered some clues” (p 360) about Jr.
I will try to be more definite in my assessment of Oppenheimer’s book. Yes, it’s flawed with some weak material and questionable assertions. But, it’s also a page turner and you won’t be bored. I give it 7.5 out of 10.
As further proof of the Kennedys’ enduring appeal, my mother has asked me for my copy of the book. I’m going to drop it off at her place today.
Until next time…