Aristotle Onassis forced Jackie Kennedy to have sex in wild public locations – and their 170-clause marriage contract dictated the precise number of times she had to endure it, MAUREEN CALLAHAN reveals

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On Friday, Maureen Callahan’s new book ‘Ask Not: The Kennedys and the Women They Destroyed’ revealed untold secrets of JFK’s assassination. Now, in this second exclusive extract, discover the explosives scandals of Jackie’s second marriage…

Few wedding announcements would have generated such universal outrage.

How could she?

In October 1968, almost five years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his revered widow announced she would be marrying billionaire Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

Jackie Kennedy was 39 years old, the epitome of dignity and elegance, while Onassis was 62 and viewed by high society as a crass, gnome-like vulgarian. His affair with the opera singer Maria Callas was well-known.

Less so was his bisexuality. Or that he had a string of bought-and-paid-for young men, some of whom he savagely beat after sex.

The Kennedy-Onassis engagement made the front page of the New York Times: ‘The reaction here is anger, shock and dismay,’ read the headline.

In October 1968, almost five years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his revered widow announced she would be marrying billionaire Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. How could she?

In October 1968, almost five years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his revered widow announced she would be marrying billionaire Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. How could she?

The Kennedy-Onassis engagement made the front page of the New York Times : ¿The reaction here is anger, shock and dismay,¿ read the headline.

The Kennedy-Onassis engagement made the front page of the New York Times : ‘The reaction here is anger, shock and dismay,’ read the headline.

Jackie and Onassis at their wedding day in Greece on October 20, 1968.

Jackie and Onassis at their wedding day in Greece on October 20, 1968.

Germany’s Bild, the second-most-read paper in Europe: ‘All the world is indignant.’

A Fleet Street tabloid roared: ‘Jackie weds blank cheque.’

The Vatican denounced her.

Jackie Kennedy — America’s one-time heroine — would now be talked and written about as nothing more than a prostitute who’d sold herself on the global marketplace.

The truth, however, was far more complicated than that… as was the other unlikely love affair she’d embarked upon after JFK’s death.

On November 25, 1963, Jackie Kennedy knelt before the world’s cameras and lit the eternal flame at JFK’s grave.

After the service, Jack’s brother, Bobby Kennedy, stayed behind in the White House to console Jackie.

That night, he turned to her and said: ‘Shall we go visit our friend?’

Bobby left his wife Ethel, mother of their seven children, behind.

It was an explicit acknowledgment of a new and terrible bond between Jackie and Bobby, the two most important people in Jack’s life. This shared trauma would soon lead to a years-long affair.

Whispered about in their social circles, this most scandalous liaison was well known among the press corps — not least because Jackie and Bobby would be seen dining out in New York City, openly kissing and cuddling.

This affair, had anyone revealed it, would have been cataclysmic. But because it was the Kennedys — because of what happened to the president — the secret was kept.

Jackie’s delicate psychological state was a factor, too. As she said more than once, Bobby was the only person keeping her from killing herself.

None of the sleeping pills she took could stop her from obsessively replaying the terrible events in Dallas. They didn’t stop the nightmares. The only person who could rouse her from her grief, from sleeping her days away, from drinking and weeping and fearing ever going outside again, was Bobby Kennedy.

Yet Bobby, too, was destroyed and disconsolate. Already wiry, he’d begun dropping an alarming amount of weight. Like Jackie, he cried all the time and suffered insomnia. He began spending more and more time at Jackie’s new DC townhouse, more time with her two children than his own.

Bobby and Jackie were practicing Catholics who nonetheless bristled when others tried to explain Jack’s murder as ‘God’s plan,’ or suggested Jack was now in a better place. Faith, for Bobby and Jackie, had its limits.

Jackie stand hand-in-hand with Bobby as s the coffin carrying the body of JFK is placed into an ambulance after his assassination on November 22, 1963.

Jackie stand hand-in-hand with Bobby as s the coffin carrying the body of JFK is placed into an ambulance after his assassination on November 22, 1963.

Jackie and Bobby struck up a 'years-long' affair after JFK died.

Jackie and Bobby struck up a ‘years-long’ affair after JFK died.

When Jackie’s friend Susan Alsop — one of the few outsiders she saw during this time — came for tea, she learned that lesson all too well.

‘At least,’ Susan said, ‘Jack is resting peacefully with God.’

‘That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard,’ Jackie replied.

She never spoke to Susan again.

Bobby found his wife’s religiosity equally unbearable. When one of their guests brought up a governmental conundrum, Ethel said: ‘Well, Jack will take care of that. He’s up in heaven, and he’s looking down on us, and he will show us what to do.’

‘The voice you just heard,’ Bobby interjected sharply, ‘belongs to the wife of the attorney general of the United States. Let’s hear no more out of her.’

Throughout late 1963 and early 1964, Bobby was so distraught that he was on the verge of quitting public life. It was Jackie who talked him out of it, Jackie who ensured that, in 1968, he’d make a pitch for the presidency himself.

But there was one thing Bobby simply couldn’t offer Jackie: marriage.

One who could, and did, was Aristotle Onassis. By the spring of 1968, Jackie wanted out of the Kennedy crucible, out of being a living American saint. She wanted to smash that image to pieces.

Bobby, whose presidential campaign was heating up, was apoplectic.

‘For God’s sake, Jackie,’ he said. ‘This could cost me five states.’

Bobby had known Onassis for years and hated him. The feeling was mutual, for both personal and business reasons.

Onassis worried that if Bobby became president, he’d keep Onassis’s oil tankers from ever docking in American ports. And years before, Bobby had had the temerity to tell Onassis to stop sleeping with Jackie’s sister Lee, then a princess by her own marriage to Prince Stas Radziwill.

Onassis, knowing full well that Bobby and Jack Kennedy were both sleeping with Marilyn Monroe, took umbrage.

Jackie and Onassis enjoy lunch in New York City.

Jackie and Onassis enjoy lunch in New York City. 

Onassis and Jackie are seen during a visit to the Isle of Capri, October 23, 1970.

Onassis and Jackie are seen during a visit to the Isle of Capri, October 23, 1970.

Jackie and Onassis on their private jet.

Jackie and Onassis on their private jet.

‘Bobby,’ he snapped, ‘you and Jack f*** your movie queen and I’ll f*** my princess.’

Bobby was also motivated by jealousy; he had long suspected that Jackie enjoyed a fling with Onassis while Jack was still alive.

Still, for Bobby’s sake, Jackie agreed to wait until after the November 1968 presidential election.

But her attraction to Onassis wasn’t just about money or escape. Ari, unlike Bobby, understood what Jackie was trying to do.

‘Jackie needs a small scandal to bring her alive,’ Onassis said. ‘The world loves fallen grandeur.’

Shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, while out campaigning in Los Angeles, Bobby was shot by an assassin.

News crews and photographers captured him on the floor, bleeding from the head, asking if everyone else was okay.

Within hours, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the next great hope of the Kennedy dynasty, was pronounced brain dead.

Jackie flew immediately from her home in New York City to LA.

Whether or not Ethel ever suspected the affair with Bobby, she allowed Jackie to comfort her, to make the decision she could not: to turn off Bobby’s life-support machines.

‘If they’re killing Kennedys,’ Jackie said, ‘my children are the number one targets. I want to get out of this country.’

Aristotle Onassis was her one-way ticket. He had a private Greek island, a private army and a yacht the size of a navy destroyer.

And Jackie could do something for him, too. As she wrote to one former lover, Ari was ‘lonely and wants to protect me from being lonely… Only I can decide if he can, and I decided. I know it comes as a surprise to so many people. But they see things for me that I never wanted for myself.’

Onassis had been in Jackie’s life for a long time. Upon their first meeting in the late 1950s, when she and Jack accepted his invitation for drinks on his yacht, Jackie had impressed him with her cool reserve.

Bobby and Jackie at a news conference where he announced that public contributions to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library have exceeded $10 million.

Bobby and Jackie at a news conference where he announced that public contributions to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library have exceeded $10 million.

Jackie and Ethel Kennedy at Forest Hills Stadium in New York City, August 23, 1975.

Jackie and Ethel Kennedy at Forest Hills Stadium in New York City, August 23, 1975.

Later, in 1963, Onassis invited her for an extended stay on the yacht following the loss of her baby Patrick, who had died just 39 hours after his birth. It proved a remarkably healing time, and she never forgot Ari’s kindness.

When Jack was killed, Onassis was among the chosen few to stay at the White House in the immediate aftermath.

Later, he would claim that he, unlike Jack Kennedy, had always seen beneath Jackie’s prim veneer to what he called her ‘carnal soul.’

He wasn’t conventionally attractive like Jack, but he was highly sexual. Among his favorite possessions was a set of barstools he’d had covered in whale scrotum.

It didn’t really bother Ari that the beau monde thought him crude.

‘Fortunately, people with class are usually willing to overlook this flaw,’ he said, ‘because I am very rich.’

For all their protestations of love, Jackie and Onassis were both aware that their union was a merger of two global brands.

Her financial adviser, André Meyer, opened the pre-nuptial bidding by proposing the billionaire pay $20 million to make the marriage happen.

‘Your client,’ Onassis replied, ‘could price herself right out of the market.’

Jackie ended up receiving $3 million upfront, $1 million for each of her children, $600,000 a year for travel and millions more in the event of divorce or Onassis’s death.

In all, she negotiated 170 clauses in her marriage contract. She insisted, for instance, that they should have separate bedrooms at their shared residences, though they agreed theirs would be a marriage in every sense, save children.

Yet there were stipulations as to how many times a year Jackie would have sex with her new husband.

On October 20, 1968, Jackie wed Ari on his private Greek island of Skorpios. She wore a high-necked, knee-length, white Valentino dress, a white bow in her hair, looking like a girl taking her First Communion.

It was a rebuke to the church that had denounced her and a signal to the world: Jackie Kennedy, as they knew her, was dead.

Let them recoil in disgust — all the better.

Italian sailors help Jackie as she steps from a boat at Amalfi, Italy, August 19, 1962.

Italian sailors help Jackie as she steps from a boat at Amalfi, Italy, August 19, 1962.

Onassis on his yacht in 1972.

Onassis on his yacht in 1972.

Jackie swimming in the Mediterranean off Ravello, Italy, on August 9, 1962.

Jackie swimming in the Mediterranean off Ravello, Italy, on August 9, 1962.

Jackie O, as she was now known, was dressing for a new era, the 1970s, and her new incarnation. She strolled the streets of Greece and Italy barefoot in tight white capris, her nipples poking through tissue-thin black T-shirts.

Onassis reveled in this new Jackie and spoiled her. Expensive jewels were nestled on her breakfast tray. She lunched. She sunbathed. She did yoga by the pool and shopped extravagantly.

As in the White House, she demanded that her bed linens (12 pairs of hand-embroidered Italian pink sheets, which she always travelled with) be cleaned and ironed every morning and every afternoon, after her daily nap.

No amount of luxury, however, could obliterate the horrors of Jack’s death. November, now and for the rest of her life, would be her darkest month.

‘I’m a freak,’ she’d say. ‘I’ll always be a freak. Sometimes I think I will never be able to be truly happy again.’

She suffered excruciating, pulsating pain in her neck, which she believed was permanent nerve damage from clutching Jack’s shattered head in her lap. There were still days when she couldn’t get out of bed.

So what if, in her better moments, she shopped and shopped and shopped? So what?

Her dread that no one would ever really know or understand her could be quelled, for a little while, with things. As could her anxiety that, at any moment, Onassis might tire of her, the latest object in his empire.

Her shopping sprees went into vengeful overdrive whenever she suspected her new husband was secretly romancing his old flame Maria Callas.

She was right: Ari had started cheating on Jackie just two weeks into their marriage.

And so Jackie started flashing his credit cards in the world’s most expensive department stores, buying doubles and triples of shirts and sweaters in the finest cashmere, secretly reselling half her purchases and pocketing the cash.

There were times when Onassis treated the former First Lady like a prostitute. He’d summon Jackie from her New York City apartment to Greece at a moment’s notice and send her away just as swiftly, to remind her, he said, of ‘what she really was.’

He also loved to have sex with her in places where people could see them — behind a first-class curtain, in a tender tethered to his yacht, in his bedroom with the door cracked open. It thrilled him to defile this American icon of dignity, showing that he owned her and could humiliate her.

For Jackie, there was something novel in her second husband’s open lust. Jack had never been so passionate, and Onassis loosened her up sexually.

The idea that Jackie Kennedy would watch a pornographic movie in public was unthinkable, but in 1969, Jackie O was photographed exiting a screening of an adult film in New York.

Jackie and Onassis walking along 5th Avenue in New York City, after dining at La Cote Basque, October 7, 1970.

Jackie and Onassis walking along 5th Avenue in New York City, after dining at La Cote Basque, October 7, 1970.

Jackie on vacation in Ravello, Italy, August 11, 1962.

Jackie on vacation in Ravello, Italy, August 11, 1962.

Jackie walks with their children John Jr. and Caroline on the day before her wedding to Aristotle Onassis in Greece, October 1968.

Jackie walks with their children John Jr. and Caroline on the day before her wedding to Aristotle Onassis in Greece, October 1968.

Coco Chanel, whose image Jackie embodied in that pink bouclé suit on the day of the assassination, said that the world had never met the real Jacqueline Kennedy.

‘Everyone knew,’ Chanel said, that Jackie ‘was not cut out for dignity. You mustn’t ask a woman with a touch of vulgarity to spend the rest of her life over a corpse.’

Yet no one criticized Aristotle Onassis.

No one reported his betrayal when he tipped off paparazzi to Jackie’s nude sunbathing on his private island, or allowed them to shoot her with their long lenses.

No one stood up for Jackie when Hustler magazine published pictures of her exercising topless, calling her ‘The Billion Dollar Bush.’

And no one asked how paparazzi had managed to get unobstructed shots of Jackie and Ari having sex on the beach.

Two years into the marriage, Onassis became openly contemptuous of his wife; as feared, Jackie was a once-glittering acquisition that had lost its luster.

He began to insult Jackie in front of their guests, something Jack, for all his faults, never would have done.

She increasingly sought refuge in her beloved New York City. There, in 1971, she started seeing a psychiatrist.

Dr. Marianne Kris diagnosed Jackie with PTSD and explained that her trauma not only stemmed from that day in Dallas, but also from her marriage to Jack — the constant infidelities, his assignations in the White House swimming pool and their marital bed, the strain of keeping up appearances – the great lie of their perfect union.

The media would soon learn the truth about her marriage to Jack.

And whether she realized it or not, Jackie was bracing for the world to judge her all over again.

She still had so much rage towards Jack. ‘His death really robbed me of my chance to be angry with him,’ Jackie told Dr. Kris. ‘He really went out in a blaze of glory.’

Reports circulated that Jackie and Onassis were separating, that he’d had enough. That Jackie — callow, selfish, vainglorious, materialistic Jackie — was getting what she deserved.

Most embarrassing was a National Enquirer cover photo, which showed her belly looking distended. ‘Is she or isn’t she expecting?’ was the coverline.

Jackie in the Mediterranean.

Jackie in the Mediterranean.

Jackie water-skis in Sardinia, 1972.

Jackie water-skis in Sardinia, 1972.

Jackie disembarking a chartered jet, November 14, 1968.

Jackie disembarking a chartered jet, November 14, 1968.

Always fanatical about her weight — really, always in the throes of disordered eating, attempting to control the one thing she could — Jackie went on a crash starvation diet.

Each day, she allowed herself just half a grapefruit, a little yogurt, 2½ ounces of meat, one apple, 3½ ounces of green vegetables, and a salad without dressing.

She lost 24 pounds in nine days, started having panic attacks and could barely stand up. She wound up in the hospital.

Onassis showed as much care for Jackie’s crises as JFK had — none. He was busy flaunting his affair with Callas.

‘Everybody knows three things about Aristotle Onassis,’ he would say. ‘I’m f***ing Maria Callas, I’m f***ing Jacqueline Kennedy, and I’m f***ing rich.’

Onassis had no tolerance for Jackie’s depressions or her increasingly lengthy absences. Nor could he understand why she hadn’t held up her end of the bargain to expand his empire, to make him palatable to politicians and CEOs.

For Jackie, this period was nightmarish: she was reliving Jack’s humiliation of her, but this time on a global scale. Yet, in 1973, she — more than anyone — helped Onassis recover after he lost his 24-year-old son Alexander in a plane crash. She understood that kind of pain. She held him and let him cry.

To distract Ari — as he had distracted her after losing baby Patrick — she took him home to the States for a week to her mother and stepfather’s estate in Rhode Island. No one knew they were there, and Ari tried to heal.

He was moved by such kindness, but his softening didn’t last long. That same year, their fourth together, Onassis began drinking heavily and blaming Jackie for Alexander’s death.

She was the Black Widow, the living embodiment of the Kennedy Curse, visiting death upon his only son. He hit Jackie in the face and gave her a black eye.

By March of 1975, Jackie was ready to leave Onassis — and get what he owed her for suffering through this marriage.

She didn’t have to wait any longer.

Jackie was in New York City, at her 14-room apartment on Fifth Avenue, when she got word: Ari had died at the American Hospital in Paris, making her one of the richest women in the world.

March 1975: Jackie and her children Caroline and John Jr. at the funeral of Aristotle Onassis on his island of Skorpios.

March 1975: Jackie and her children Caroline and John Jr. at the funeral of Aristotle Onassis on his island of Skorpios.

Jackie and Onassis on his Greek island Skorpios, October 20, 1968.

Jackie and Onassis on his Greek island Skorpios, October 20, 1968.

The money was only half of it. For the first time in her adult life, Jackie was free.

‘Her new fortune will be a buffer against the world,’ a family friend said. ‘At her age, this second widowhood may be liberating rather than hampering.’

Indeed.

During her marriage to Ari, Jackie had almost agreed to host a TV special about endangered relics in Cambodia and Italy, but her husband forbade it.

‘No Greek wife works,’ he told her. It was 1973.

Now, two years later, Jackie was nobody’s wife. Her greatest challenge lay ahead: What would she, the world’s most famous woman, do with herself now?

UK READERS: Adapted from ‘Ask Not’ by Maureen Callahan, to be published by Harper Collins on July 4 at £25. © Maureen Callahan 2024. To order a copy for £22.50 (offer valid to 30/06/24; UK P&P free on orders over £25) go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 02031762937.

US READERS: Adapted from ‘Ask Not’ by Maureen Callahan. Copyright © 2024 by Maureen Callahan. Used with permission of Little, Brown and Company. New York, NY. All rights reserved. Order a copy here. 

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