John F. Kennedy Jr. was ready to run for office when he died 20 years ago

'The Loudest Voice' TV show premiere

Back in the day, People Magazine, the National Enquirer and Vanity Fair would always run covers of long-dead celebrities and I was always like “what’s the point, people don’t remember them, why do we need this?” But I’ve gotten to an age where the celebrities passed on in MY lifetime and now I get it: the covers are for bittersweet nostalgia p0rn. So it is with People Magazine running yet another John F. Kennedy Jr. cover. Is there really any new information? Of course not. But… nostalgia. And we do like to look at photos of JFK Jr. And this summer will be the 20-year anniversary of his death, and the deaths of Carolyn Bessette and her sister Lauren. Steven M. Gillon has written a book called America’s Reluctant Prince, and it’s all about “the real JFK Jr.” People interviewed Gillon:

JFK Jr. was two people: “He said he was two people,” Gillon remembers John, 38, telling him once. “He said he played the role of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr., the son of the president. But at his core, he was just John.” From the moment the 3-year-old saluted his father’s casket, “All the hopes and expectations transferred to him and he carried that burden his entire life,” says Gillon, who delved into John’s efforts to define himself separately from his father, the 35th president.

John knew the weight of his name: John knew his name carried unimaginable privilege. But he also carried the weight of “Camelot,” the myth of the Kennedy White House spun by his mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, in the wake of his father’s assassination. “Jackie told people she regretted naming John after his father,” says Gillon. “She realized it only added to the burden. The irony is that in the effort to honor her husband, she inadvertently made her son’s life more challenging.”

John’s enormous fame: During one lunch with John, Berman, his magazine partner, “looked around and he saw everyone looking at John and he said, ‘It must be interesting being you. You don’t know a soul here, but they all know who you are,’ ” Gillon recounts. “That’s not the weird part,” John replied. “The weird part is they all remember, and I don’t.”

No one will ever live like JFK Jr: “John understood the public viewed him the way they did and he accepted it. He understood what he represented to people. No one will ever live a life like John F. Kennedy Jr.”

How John viewed his father: “When I first met John in the ’80s, he referred to his father as ‘President Kennedy,’ ” Gillon says. “And then into the ’90s he referred to him as ‘my father,’ and in the last few years he referred to him as ‘daddy.’ It just suggested to me that he was becoming more comfortable with himself and he did not have to keep his father at such a distance.”

His final months: “He spent his entire life trying to figure out who he was and what he wanted to do and in those final years he figured it out. What he discovered was that politics was part of his DNA. … I think he was ready to answer that call. His whole life is about promise and what he would have become,” Gillon says, “and he will always be remembered for the promise that went unfulfilled.”

[From People]

I think we’ve talked about this before, but I do wonder if John would have gone into politics, especially when George (his magazine) folded. Perhaps he could have even folded the magazine and claimed that he was doing it to pursue office. This was 1999 – we knew Hillary Clinton was going to run for the Senate seat in New York, so would John have challenged her for the nomination? Or would he have run for something else? Or perhaps he would have been on the sidelines as a kingmaker. I don’t know. But yes, nostalgia and sadness. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years.



Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, cover courtesy of People.

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85 Responses to “John F. Kennedy Jr. was ready to run for office when he died 20 years ago”

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  1. Jegede says:

    Interesting enough John’s close friends, like Rob Littel and Billy Noonan, said John did not ever discuss JFK with them and seemed highly sensitive about the subject.

    Richard Blow said if John was watching one of JFK’s speeches, or documentaries on TV in the George office, he would immediately turn it off if staff members showed up.

    Seemed he was still sensitive/emotional about him.😞😢

    And if Trump and GW Bush could become President, absolutely could JFK Jr win the presidency.

  2. Loretta says:

    He was so handsome. I’m always sad when I think about Caroline, she lost her parents and her brother. I know she has her own family now but it’s always difficult.

    • Lady D says:

      For me it’s the Bessettes. They went from three daughters to one in the blink of an eye. I don’t know how they coped, I really don’t. I wonder if their marriage survived such devastation?

  3. mom2two says:

    I think there has been no one more charismatic or handsome than JFK, Jr. If he did run for president, I think he would have done well (hell, he would have been much better than GWB and Trump, not that it’s a high bar being set here).

    Rumors were saying that when Obama ran, that’s actually when JFK Jr. would have ran. I don’t buy that though.

  4. Mumbles says:

    I don’t think he would have challenged Hillary for that seat. He would have probably wanted to focus on his marriage and family to get that on solid ground first. Carolyn also didn’t seem the type to warm to being a “political wife”, which was still then (and even now, a little bit) a very Stepford-like existence.

    I always thought it was a shame that his sister didn’t go for that open Hillary seat when she was named SoS. She seems like a thoughtful, hard-working person, and she wouldn’t be doing it for the fame and power. There was talk at the time but she got slammed for saying “you know” too many times in an interview. Good grief, to think that THAT is a disqualifier, looking back.

    • Kay says:

      Do you think it’s too late for Caroline to run for higher office? She would only be mid 50s now right? Her level headedness would be very welcome in current climate. I’ve always thought that between John and Caroline, she inherited the political nous.

      • minx says:

        She tried running once and she wasn’t very good at it.

      • Lightpurple says:

        Caroline will be 62 years old in November. She served as ambassador to Japan. If she wants to run, she will. I have met Caroline at the JFK Library many times and she is always a delight

    • Marjorie says:

      Caroline did go after Hillary Clinton’s seat in 2009 but she quit after a couple of months. She isn’t great at public speaking and it did her in. I think also that Ted Kennedy was getting sick at the time led to her throwing in the towel.

      Also, her relationship to politics in America is unique. She was running for a seat that her uncle held when he was assassinated, five years after her father was assassinated. Maybe she just said – nah, I’ve changed my mind.

      • Tourmaline says:

        Exactly, she flamed out of that race. She did some public speaking and interviews and came across very poorly and was surprisingly inarticulate. So that was the seat that Kirsten Gillibrand ended up winning.

    • kelsey says:

      I remember reading somewhere that Caroline wanted that NY Senate seat and then-Governor David Paterson seriously considered her. But then – as you mentioned – there was a lot of backlash. Most people felt/thought she was under consideration solely because of her name and that she had no political experience. Also Ted Kennedy was dying and she probably decided after all she didn’t really want to be in the public eye that much.

      • dlc says:

        I was deeply horrified at the idea of her getting that senate seat. She had no experience, i felt she was running on her name and wealth -she had served on multiple boards.

  5. Gigi La Moore says:

    He was handsome but a bit underwhelming. Sure, he had charisma but that’s it. Death creates mythical perfection.

    • Esmom says:

      I think he was just human, struggling to pass the bar, for example. I thought he seemed pretty grounded for someone with such a high profile and so many high expectations to deal with.

      And wow, both he and Caroline are such a contrast to the Trump offspring. How far the bar has fallen.

    • Carol says:

      I’m not sure if he had the political know-how but he was darn good looking! I ‘met’ him once at a high-end store in NYC and he was (and still is) the best looking guy I have ever seen. Drop-dead gorgeous. Every woman in the store just stopped what they were doing to just stare at him. I was the cashier at the time and he could not have been nicer. Btw – He clearly could tell his effect on the women but was very nonchalant about it.

      • Christin says:

        I have always wondered if he looked even better in person than in photos.

        As for his courtesy, I ran across a mid-1990s video of John walking down the street as NYC tourists were taking photos of each other. John politely stopped walking until their photo was taken. The tourists were oblivious until John passed by, and the looks on their faces were priceless.

        John lacked anonymity long before everyone carried a camera/smartphone and had access to social media. He seemed to handle the constant intrusions with grace.

    • Jamie says:

      That’s true. People I know who knew him in college said he was a nice guy but dumb as rocks. Apparently, he was held back a year in high school and almost flunked out of college a couple of times. His mom had to lobby the school administration not to kick him out. And then, of course, we all know it took him three tries to pass the bar exam.

      • minx says:

        It sounded to me like he had ADHD that would have been diagnosed if he were born in 2000 instead of 1960.

      • Lorelei says:

        Just FYI the New York and California bar exams are well known for being the most difficult in the country — it takes lots of people more than one try to pass, and they are by no means stupid. I’m not saying JFK Jr. was a genius, but the fact that he passed at all means something. And to have to do it with your results being mocked on the front pages of newspapers…ouch.

      • minx says:

        Lorelei—yes. I think he was intelligent but not an academic and certainly not suited to being a lawyer. He also seemed to have boundless energy and couldn’t sit still.

      • Emmet says:

        According to things written about JFK Jr. after his death, there was an indication he was dyslexic. He could have had his law exam read aloud to him and he chose not to. So it took him three tries to pass.

      • Sam Louise says:

        Gee, I hope Jackie Kennedy didn’t pull a Ms. Becky/Lori Laughlin!

      • Redgrl says:

        Apparently he passed the bar on his third try (Caroline passed first attempt, FWIW). His stint as a prosecutor always puzzled me – from what I’ve read it seemed like a vanity job or a favour. He was given a ridiculously easy first case and reports suggest everyone was clapping him on the back when the guy was convicted. After that, he was only a prosecutor for four years – and people commented that he “won all six cases.” Six cases in four years?! In what world is that?! I’m a prosecutor and that makes zero sense in terms of case load. Always sounded to me that he got hired due to his name and I suspect his interests lay elsewhere. And that’s a shame since for so many of us, being a prosecutor is a dream job with fierce competition to get hired and do well.

    • stormsmama says:

      a bit underwhelming? NO
      he was truly impressive in person…Extremely handsome, athletic, thoughtful, and by most accounts funny and decent…
      He hads charisms in spades. I think his problem may have been hubris…he made a fatal error in judgement and paid the ultimate price 🙁

    • Mia says:

      Exactly and lets not forget the stupidity and recklessness of flying a small plane endangering himself and others.

    • anony7 says:

      I did grand jury duty in the early ’90s and he was one of the district attorneys. I had a front row seat–literally. I’d characterize his looks in person as strong rather than handsome, but it was the kind of face that’s photogenic–craggy, sharp-featured, pronounced chin and cheekbones, very defined. Big head IIRC. I was surprised at how long his face looked.

  6. Citresse says:

    JFK jr wasn’t ready to run for office 20 years ago. He didn’t want to go to law school. Jackie pressured him to be a lawyer. In earlier years he wanted to be a reporter.
    His only real passion was flying. He wanted to be a pilot. However, he was immature and reckless at times, and then we saw the result.

    • Gigi La Moore says:

      There was nothing spectacular about him except his looks and personality. I think his death has made people forget that.

      • minx says:

        By all accounts, though, he was a good person, a kind and generous friend to many people. He wasn’t selfish and mean spirited like the Trump kids, and he had a social conscience.

      • Catarina says:

        I agree that there was nothing special about him, really. He was not nearly as handsome as people talked about him being—like he was a demi-god.- He was also not very smart, just around average. If the media hadn’t been gawking at him all the time, I wouldn’t have even known his name. He died too soon to make any special, memorable, or meaningful contributions to the world.

      • Bella Bella says:

        @Catarina, I have met John in person at a theater event and he was indeed astonishingly handsome in person. He was so dazzling and was so perfect looking that I had to shield my eyes. No joke. I’ve never met anyone like that since. He was too perfect for me, but he definitely had charisma and the “it” factor.

      • Bumble says:

        I think he was well-known as a kind, personally generous, funny, and thoughtful human being. That’s the best thing anyone could be. Likely had ADHD, and the energy would’ve served him well in office.

      • minx says:

        Catarina—there was definitely something special about him.

  7. SJR says:

    Can I just share something here? A relative, who is a very conservative born-again Christian, has a Pastor at the church she attends regularly…This Pastor is telling his congregation that when Trump gets to ND he will announce he is dumping Pence as his VP. AND, he will run JFK, Jr. as his VP. Seriously. This tool is stating that JFK, Jr. faked his death, will come back publicly and agree to be Trumps VP.

    Now, I ask you…WTF? Grown adults are listening to and believing absolute garbage like this.
    The tv writers should be so creative.

    As for JFK, Jr. his story will always be unfulfilled promise. I do not think he would have gone into politics himself but while Teddy was alive, he and JFK, Jr. could have certainly have been Kingmakers. Any candidate endorsed by Teddy and/or JFK, Jr. would have had a huge advantage.

    • Esmom says:

      I saw something about this on Twitter a while ago and didn’t even attempt to sort through the insanity. Seems like the combination of Fox News, Alex Jones and the internet and all its actual fake news has sent far too many people off the rails. We have become dumber as a populace, which the GOP just loves.

    • Carly says:

      He’s still alive and still with Carolyn, I’ve seen the pics. several of them.

      • BengalCat😻 says:

        @Carly, um…wtf?

      • minx says:

        Joking, right? Please?

      • Christin says:

        And they are visiting 84-year-old Elvis at the nursing home, correct?

      • stormsmama says:

        OH? YOUVE seen the pics have you? Care to share???


        yeah that’s what I thought
        but you keep that trolling on

      • Carly says:

        There are you tube videos about it. I’m serious. It’s freaky.

      • sommolierlady says:

        Carly- you are cracking me up. Good one!

      • Azurea says:

        It’s very possible JFK Jr is alive if you look at the evidrnce. I certainly hope so – maybe it’ll break the spell the MSM has on so many people.

      • Ange says:

        Oh please. Even if he was alive there’s no way he’d still be with Carolyn, that alone should show it’s all a ridiculous lie. Even before they passed the marriage was in pretty dire straits.

      • Gaah says:

        Great Carly. Did you see the ones with his father and Marilyn Monroe that the tabloids would “publish” 30+ years ago too? Evidently they faked their deaths to be together too. I guess that is a just a family trait. :/

    • Doodle says:

      I have a friend who totally believes this, and she also believes that JFK Jr is in cahoots with Trump and that they, as a team, are going to save the human race.
      She is not an evangelical, but is a new age person. They follow Q, who is supposedly an insider and feeds them drops of information. You’d be surprised to see how many well known new agers are swallowing this crap along with the evangelicals. So crazy.

      • minx says:

        I had never heard of this, so I googled Trump/JFK Jr. They say the big reveal that JFK Jr. is alive is supposed to happen tomorrow, on July 4th. And the whole premise is—of course!—blamed on Hillary, that JFK Jr. faked his death as a way to….well, I’m not really sure, I stopped reading. The lunacy on display was horrifying. I think I’m going back to bed.

      • Lady D says:

        “I think I’m going back to bed.” One of those laugh so you don’t cry comments, Minx.

      • minx says:

        Lady D—exactly!

    • Lorelei says:

      Yes, the Q freaks believe he is alive and going to appear any day now. The Daily Beast has done a couple of articles about it. There’s one blurry photo of some dude in the background at a Trump rally that they claim is him. It’s completely insane on every level, but what cracks me up the most is that even if he was secretly alive this whole time (which is obviously batshit to begin with), he’s a Democrat and would most definitely not be a Trump supporter. Those people scare me.

  8. Emmet says:

    Going to recommend the memoir his former girlfriend, Christina Haag, wrote about JFK Jr.

    Called COME TO THE EDGE. Interesting read.

    • stormsmama says:

      thanks for the rec!

      • Emmet says:

        @storms you are very welcome

        Ms. Haag introduced him to Cumberland Island where he would later marry Carolyn.

    • Tourmaline says:

      That was a good book @Emmet. As a Kennedy bookphile I particularly liked the details of her visits to Jackie’s home in Martha’s Vineyard, and the goings on at Hyannis Port at Caroline’s wedding.

  9. Margareth says:

    They had their flaws like everyone else but JFK and Jackie ( especially Jackie since he died when the children were small) were good parents. They raised their children by making them good and dignified.

  10. TIFFANY says:

    If John John were still on this earth, he would be on wife Number 3 and if you are a Democrat that is poison.

    Yeah, he and Carolyn were not built to last. They went into that marriage with the same reckless abandonment as their relationship.

    They would have split and Carolyn would have been a socialite who wanted to continue playing the shy recluse.

    • Digital Unicorn says:

      Goop clearly would have thrown herself at him, considering she has been cosplaying Carolyn for years. Could you have imagined that and how insufferable she would have been. SJP had a thing going with him at some point but she doesn’t talk about him now.

      • Tiffany says:

        Insufferable, yep.

        The gossip as a result, oh, I am getting excited about what could have been.

      • Redgrl says:

        @digitalunicorn – yes! I can only imagine the GOOP headlines!

    • Bella Bella says:

      No one in his immediate family and friends referred to him as John John. They all hated that.

      • Lady D says:

        I seem to remember Carolyn using it during his eulogy. It was a long time ago and I only got to watch it in pieces, but I’m sure I remember her saying that. She also mentioned their mother making sure they always wrote their thank you notes and someone was always late, ‘and that would be John’ She looked so sad when she said that part. I remember him standing with his arm around her, trying to be strong while they buried their mother. They never showed how the complete lack of privacy affected their lives.

      • skiff says:

        I don’t think Caroline ever referred to him that way. Rumor is the name came to be from the media. Someone heard Jackie calling John to come somewhere and she said John and then John again when he didn’t come and then you got the name John John. Not sure if that was true as he was older than me, but it was the story I heard and my mother told me who would remember much better. I do remember my mother always sad for Jackie. The Kennedy’s really did have some tragedies. It’s all very sad.

  11. lowercaselila says:

    When I see stories about the accident I always feel sad for the Bessette family who lost 2 daughters. I wonder how they got through that and what happened to Carolyn’s other sister.

    • Citresse says:

      Yes, very sad, very tragic.
      From a legal perspective, Carolyn and Lauren’s mother was ready to file wrongful deaths suit, however Caroline and her uncle Ted negotiated a settlement of 10 million.
      I presume the other sister; Lisa, is still alive and living in NYC area.

      • ME says:

        I wonder, since the couple had no children, who got the money/belongings the couple left behind? Did that 10 million come from the couple’s estate or from the Kennedy family?

      • Citresse says:

        John’s will caused more upset- he left the bulk of his estate to Caroline’s children and a Kennedy trust. Had Carolyn survived, she would have inherited their Tribeca real property and few of his personal possessions.
        The 10 million settlement paid to Carolyn and Lauren’s mother from the Kennedy trust.

  12. minx says:

    I read Carole Radizwill’s “What Remains” about her friendship with John and Carolyn and her marriage to Tony Radziwill. She’s an excellent writer. She lost all three people within one month.Carolyn sounded much warmer and more fun loving than her public persona.

    • BengalCat😻 says:

      I read that book too and fell in love with them all over again. Carole is an excellent writer. My favorite bio of them so far. Slightly OT, but I always feel so bad that Lauren is only referred to as ‘Carolyn’s sister’. She was so much more than that! Such a tragic loss all around. Still makes me sad all these years later.

    • ToiFilles says:

      I read Radizwill’s book a few summers back. I appreciated how the narrative moved between her own personal history and that fateful night. I never knew she is an Emmy-winning journalist. The book is a testament to her skill.

  13. Wooley says:

    The author says “I think he was ready to answer that call” – so he is speculating trying to sell books. Everyone wanted him to run for office but there is NO proof he was going to, and it’s spawned into these Q theories that that’s why he faked his death and will return to help Trump.

  14. Sunnee says:

    My bff knew him as they went to Brown at the same time. I was so envious that I chose NYU. I saw him once on 8thStreet early one morning. I was walking to NYU. I met him years later, on the side street outside the DAs office. He was beautiful. IIRC, they were to fly to Rory’s wedding in daylight but his sister-in-law had to work late-unexpectedly. That meant that they had to fly in the dark. In addition, a pilot, who was also flying from NYC to Martha’s Vineyard that night , said there was the most horrrendous fog. So many wrong turns resulted in their death. If he didn’t leave late, if there was no fog, if they had flown commercial. So many ifs. And yet so sad. I believe in his eulogy Ted Kennedy said something along the lines of this: god granted John John the gift of everything, except the gift of time. That broke my heart.

    • Christin says:

      There was also a line in the eulogy about this John Kennedy, like his father, not living to comb gray hair.

      I’ve previously read that John did not seem to have concrete memories of his father. Sometimes he thought perhaps he had a little snippet of a memory, but was not sure if it was a true impression or base on something others had described. So sad that neither father nor son had very many years.

      • stormsmama says:


        its chilling to think about the gift of everything but time
        and the never combing a grey hair comments

        Also i recall as well that he wasn’t sure what memories were HIS and what were other peoples’ that he had been told over the years 🙁

  15. Lynne says:

    I think he was always trying to find his own path but I don’t think that path was ever going to be in politics. There were enough father/son comparisons already that were probably very stifling without needing that burden.

    • Digital Unicorn says:

      Apparently he desperately wanted to be an actor but Jackie wouldn’t allow that, explain why he dated a lot of actresses. I think that he would have gone into politics, after all that is the Kennedy family thing.

  16. He was in love withh Daryl Hanna

    • duchess of hazard says:

      @I’m telling ya – yeah, he and Hanna dated, but supposedly broke it off when his mother asked him not to marry an actress, so it ended.

  17. Laura says:

    I always find it incredibly interesting how Americans often seriously/jokingly nominate someone they like to be president. American politics and celebrity seem to go hand in hand and now the ultimate case of ‘celebrity turned politico’ is the president to awful results. JFK seemed more suited to the celeb lifestyle than the political one (I could be wrong as a millennial, way before my time) which is a thankless job anyway, you’re always going to have to disappoint people eventually due to the nature of the job.

    • A says:

      There is very little difference between politics and celebrity, not only in America, but in literally everywhere around the world. People would like to act as if politics is above the rabble of celeb culture, but it just isn’t. The way politics is constructed today, with the heavy emphasis on personality and style over substance (because substance and intelligence and the actual work that needs to be done to run a country is boring minutiae and it doesn’t sell) makes it an impossibility to separate the two.

  18. A says:

    There have been a trickle of articles about JFK jr recently because he never actually died. Just like how Fox new ran a price about the “disappearance of JFK Jr.” He owner George magazine and published articles that were against the main stream narrative discussing the cabal. He knew who the people who had his father killed and he wanted (wants) revenge. JFK Jr was eyeing running for senate as a stepping stone for a run for the presidency but that just happened to coincide with Hillary’s plans and he decided to disappear before he was killed. He was friends with Trump and there are photos of them spending time together at basketball games. Trump often quotes “Where we go one we go all” which was engraved on a bell on JFK Sr. Sailing ship. There is more to the story then the media talks about. There is a man visible in the background of Trump rallies named Vincent Fusca (name translates to overcome darkness) many believe this is JFK Jr with a nose job.

    • minx says:

      Take this conspiracy crap somewhere else.

    • Gaah says:

      Back in the 70s and 80s, the tabloids used to publish stories that JFK and Marilyn Monroe faked their deaths to be together on an island in the Pacific. Similar story, different celebs. People need to grow up with these stupid conspiracy theories.

  19. tuille says:

    I’ve yet to see any picture of JFK Jr. that comes close to showing his physical beauty in person. I saw him at arm’s length range twice & he was radiant, as if he shone with a golden light, even while he was modest & perhaps slightly shy. He was breathtaking.
    Once was in the George days, when he went to Palo Alto for a meeting. I waited a few paces behind a man speaking with a hotel receptionist about the location of a business meeting. When he finished & very politely thanked the clerk, he turned & we were face to face. He made eye contact, smiled slightly & nodded.
    Next time was after he married. He & Caroline, in jeans & parkas, were waiting at a crosswalk for the light to change. Saturday a.m. in San Francisco. He was undeniably gorgeous, as before, far better looking than in pictures or videos. Caroline, by contrast, photo’d far better than she appeared in real-life. Make-up & hair-dos did her gigantic favors, because she looked drab, pasty, dead-eyed & sullen, kind of like a druggie. Zero glow or attraction. She wouldn’t get a second glance in any group of half a dozen young post-college career women.

  20. Kay says:

    Okay I think he’s beautiful and his wife was so glamorous so I’m here for the nostalgia. But from what I have read he honestly did not have his shit together on so many levels and I would not want him running the country. Even the way he died was a result of his terrible decision making process and recklessness.

  21. A says:

    Of course he would have run for office. Duh. He would have won on the strength of the nostalgia vote alone. The Camelot myth, the tragic life story, the scion of the great Kennedy family. I don’t think Jackie Kennedy regretted for a moment that she named her son after JFK. It was just another detail in the mythology she was constructing of their lives, and she knew it. It was only a matter of time before he stepped up to the plate.

    I do have to wonder just how much of the charisma was because of who he was as a person, vs how much was projected onto him by a very hungry public. We see the same with Carolyn Bessette too. She was an utter blank slate, and yet people went wild for that blank plainness that she had, and formulated all sorts of theories about who she was. JFK Jr wasn’t quite the same in that he came with a lot of baggage and a legacy and all that, but you still see a lot of projection on the part of people who are always hungry for more.