Upon meeting a Kennedy

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Plugged-in around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Photo: JH.

Diary 7_13_23. Hot and sunny with temps in the 80s and real-feel in the 90s, yesterday in New York. Although not that deeply humid air that kept so many of us saturated in air-conditioning and comfortable. Except for the dogs’ walk I was in most of the day at my desk, but later was glad to get out and dine at Sette Mezzo with my old friend Pax Quigley who is busy promoting her new book Armed and Female; Never An Easy Target.

This past Wednesday night I had the good fortune to be invited to a dinner for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. by journalist/writer Doug Dechert at Tony’s, the Italian restaurant on Third Avenue and 63rd Street. There were sixteen of us including the guest of honor at a large square table in a private room of the restaurant with a totally family-style Italian menu that was greeted with enthusiasm and ultimately consumed.

Special guest Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and host Doug Dechert. Photo: Joe Mafia.

I am always interested politically although do not write about it because such opinions if opposed usually lead to either an argument or someone feeling seriously alienated.  It is also my opinion that most opinions political are not the result of reading or study or curiosity. They tend to be “feelings” as in “I just feel …”

Political feelings, at least in this country, are wisely private, otherwise frequently inspiring bad relations. Although all of us are living at a time when so much of the world is under enormous and profound stress both social and financial — all of which is deeply personal — that many of us choose to ignore as much as is personally possible.

During the ‘60s and ‘70s I volunteered in seven different campaigns from Councilmanic to the Presidency. Back then it was about knocking on doors and meeting your neighbors, and hearing what concerned them personally. In addressing political campaigns we forget how deeply personal everyone’s feelings are. At the end of the day, aside from our problems in relationships, paying the rent and feeding those under our care are the main issue for Americans.

I am a person who follows the politics and finances of the world. It’s my nature and it’s also my “business” chronicling us humans. So when Doug Dechert, a prominent man about town and also a native New Yorker out of the Upper East Side environs, invited me to a dinner for Bobby Kennedy who is running for President, I was at first flummoxed – as I don’t write about candidates as explained above. But I was curious about the man because …

Although I didn’t know Mr. Kennedy or even much about his personal life, nor had I ever thought about him, or even knew of him, I could see that he has that “quality” of his forebears, and I wanted to see “what he was like.” Remember, he was also a third generation rich kid, part of the privileged who most often although not always become used to it to the point where they don’t get the reality of hundreds of millions of us citizens.

RFK, Jr. meeting and greeting. Photos: Jules Hamilton.

I had already heard from friends that Mr. Kennedy has been connecting to us ordinary folk just to hear what we’re thinking about (including $$$). As I said, I knew  little about him from genuine lack of interest. Until he announced or made it be known that he was planning on going for the Presidency. Naturally Doug Dechert’s invitation was one of those threats.

The group assembled at Tony’s were mainly media people. Page Six was represented and so was the Amsterdam News and Rita Cosby, the TV and radio host. We were all there by 6:45, and shortly thereafter, crowded  around this enormous table in a very small square space, when suddenly this separate character appears. He was, tall and buff and smartly dressed in suit and tie, and looking like the rest of us but much more distinguished —in  both face and costume — that I realized it was he: Mr. Kennedy.

It is important to understand that my generation that came of age as JFK became President was deeply impressed by the ideas and sensibility of the man, and later of his brothers Robert Sr. and Teddy. I don’t mean to compare, but standing there in that room at Tony’s, the man who was suddenly there shaking hands was not that man, of course, but a man whose presence deeply reminded of history.

We shook hands; never had time or reason to share a word. But soon we sat down for Tony’s banquet of an Italian dinner, and all sixteen or eighteen of us, including the guest of honor, was busy consuming.

After the main finish of the first course, people started asking him for opinions from across and around the table on the state of various situations in our lives, in our country and in our world. And while finishing consuming ourselves, despite the distinctive quality of his presence, the honored guest talked about his thoughts on various subjects and situations he was asked about. 

What transpired was the presence of this man who very much resembles that sensibility from which he came in our own history. He has the ability, with all that he brings, to relate. Like a Kennedy; but this time a younger generation who has not only seen it all in his own family, but possesses the ability to move forward in his own life.

Our host’s natural hospitality gave the table different personalities full of curiosity and the sophistication of having “been around the world” in New York. It was a sense of being at home, except the main voice turned out to be the visitor who is now running  for President.

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