See Kitty Kelley’s “Gore Vidal’s Final Feud” in the November 2015 Washingtonian magazine for an account of the consternation caused by Vidal’s final disposition of his wealth and property: “Given his penchant for dissent Vidal–who died in 2012–would be smacking his lips to know that, between his death and this fall, there has been a bitter fight over his will pitting distant relatives against one another.”
Update 11/9/15: The article has been posted at the Washingtonian website here.
Photo: Gore Vidal with Burr Steers, son of Vidal’s half-sister Nina Auchincloss Straight.
Washingtonian magazine posted online Kitty Kelley’s “Death and the All-American Boy” (June 1974) as part of its 50th Anniversary collection.
The article attracted some new media attention.
For example, see Gawker, Sept. 26, 2015.
See also the Huffington Post, Sept. 30, 2015.
Kitty Kelley spoke on December 8, 2014 at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence 4oth Anniversary Celebration in Washington D.C.:
This is an evening I’ve been looking forward to because it gives me a chance to be in a room with people I consider royalty who are enlightened and represent a sense of values that I have long admired. So I come here tonight to pay tribute to each of you for your commitment to stop gun violence.
I salute you because you have refused to be defeated by huge odds. You have not become disillusioned by the political failure in this country to legislate gun control; you have not been intimidated by the N.R.A. You have stood tall and you have not wavered. You are clear-eyed about the obstacles but you focus on your high purpose, which is to bring us back to our humanity. And in the words of that old spiritual sung by those who marched for Civil Rights–you shall not be moved.
Everything about this organization underscores humanity. You named yourself a “coalition” which by its very definition embraces outreach to others–of different religions, different regions, different races. Your roots spring from the hopeful days of the Civil Rights movement for justice and equality. To date your organization covers 47 different organizations which share your mission of non-violence. One purpose, many people.
When President Kennedy addressed the nation on Civil Rights in 1962, he said, “This is not a legal or legislative issue alone. We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and as clear as the American constitution.”
But old as it might be and clear as it might seem, it sometimes looks impossible to achieve. Yet Martin Luther King, Jr., never lost hope. He told us that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” He said that arc would lead us to a place of peace for all humanity. He called the place the Beloved Community.
And tonight I feel like I am in the middle of that Beloved Community because for 40 years you have given your time, your talent and your treasure to stop gun violence. You have held faith in the worst of times even as we are still reeling from Ferguson, Missouri, and Trayvon Martin and too many school shootings to recount.
Some days it’s hard to believe that the arc of the moral universe is ever going to bend, but this Coalition keeps us on course, and remind us in the words of Abraham Lincoln that “To sin by silence makes cowards of men.” This Coalition helps us all be brave, to stand up, to speak out, and to not be moved.
Your mission is more than an act of faith, or a statement of hope in a noble cause. It’s a real vow, a pledge of allegiance, and a promise to help us reclaim our humanity and to live in a civilized world.
So you have great reason to celebrate tonight and on the occasion of your 40th anniversary I salute each one of you–and none more so than your founder, Mike Beard, the man who brought us together. Mike marched with Martin Luther King and he worked for John F. Kennedy. He saw in both men the best hopes for America, and when both were struck down by gun violence, Mike found his cause and this Coalition. For those of us who never marched with Dr. King and never knew President Kennedy, Mike has bound us to their legacies, and for that we owe him our deepest thanks.
Kitty Kelley donated copies of Let Freedom Ring for those attending the Celebration, with a letter from her enclosed:
by Kitty Kelley
The little girl looked forlorn. Standing in the Starbucks line in East Hampton, she tugged at her mother’s cashmere sleeve, almost in tears. “Oh, Mummy,” she said. “I forgot to kiss Daddy good-bye this morning before he got in the helicopter.”
This child of the “one percent” summers with her prosperous parents on the luscious East End of Long Island known as “The Hamptons,” a term that annoys many locals, who prize the uniqueness of each little village and hamlet tucked into the 27 miles from Montauk Point to East Hampton, including Wainscot, Sagaponack, Bridgehampton, Water Mill, Southampton, Sag Harbor, Amagansett and Shelter Island, which can only be approached by ferry.
“The Hamptons” conjures the good life of pristine beaches, million dollar mansions, gleaming yachts, and emerald green golf courses where even the sand traps glisten. In addition, the area boasts windmills, horse farms, flowered meadows, rolling fields of corn, and acres of vineyards. The food is farm fresh and, just like Provence, there is a farmer’s market every day in a different town offering fresh fruits and vegetables, sunflowers, eggs still warm from the hen house and even fresh chicken.
For foodies, there are gourmet chefs and starred restaurants, notably Nick and Toni’s (East Hampton), Tu Tu Il Giorno (Sag Harbor), Tom Colicchio’s Topping Rose House and Pierre’s (Bridgehampton). The most romantic restaurant by far is the bricked alley of Sant Ambroeus (Southampton). The orchids cascading from the walls and candles flickering at small tables make you feel like Cinderella with two glass slippers, plus the fairy godmother who grants your every gourmet wish from fresh seafood to locally harvested wines. Plus—all the waiters look (and act) like Prince Charming.
“The Hamptons” also mean celebrities, celebrities, celebrities. In East Hampton you’re bound to see Alec Baldwin with his yogi wife, Hilaria, carrying their baby down Main Street. If you breakfast at the American Hotel in Sag Harbor, you can be sure the man ordering an egg white omelet is the former president. Bill and Hillary Clinton (a k a “Billary”) are summer regulars. Kitchen czarinas like Martha Stewart and Ina Gartner are fixtures as are tycoons like Ron Perlman (Revlon), Ronald Lauder (Estee Lauder), and Len Riggio (Barnes & Noble). Don’t be surprised if you see Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, standing at the door welcoming customers.
Fashionistas love spotting Tory Burch, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren and fans occasionally glimpse Madonna, Paul McCartney, Jon Bon Jovi, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mathew Broderick, Jennifer Lopez, Kelly Ripa, Andy Cohen, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mariska Hargitay and Christie Brinkley, who in her 60’s looks better than when she was as Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl.”
The main streets of every town in the Hamptons are filled with bistro bars, patio restaurants, antique shops, and pricey boutiques. You’ll find many of your favorite labels at the shops of Ralph Lauren, InterMix, J.Crew, Wonder, Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Calypso, J. McLaughlin., Theory and Eli Tahari. In East Hampton you can buy a cashmere sweater for $1250 at Brunello Couchinelli or an $18 t-shirt from Bookhampton that says, “I Believe in Books.” (I skipped the sweater and bought the t-shirt).
While in East Hampton make your way to The Monogram Shop on Newtown Lane for anything you want personalized from finely stitched pillow cases, bathrobes and night gowns to beach bags, sun bonnets, glasses, placemats, napkins (paper or linen) stationary, invitations, and place cards for your dinner parties (the funniest being monogrammed Stop Talking beneath which the impish owner, Valerie Smith, wrote the name of Bill O’Reilly). She also sells 16 oz. shatter-proof glass cups that go in the dishwasher and—ta dah—predict presidential elections.
“The cups know,” said Smith. “The cups always know.” Since 1994 she has been monogramming political cups—last ones were Obama/Biden and Romney/Ryan. “I keep a daily tally of how many sold and post it in the window so passers-by can see the results, and every four years my cups have accurately predicted the presidency.”
Beyond the glitz and glamour of the Hamptons is a cornucopia of culture—theater, music, dance, art, film, and spectacular garden tours. Nearly every night in the summer there is a charity event open to the public for a price to raise money for every good cause from local schools and libraries to hospitals and hospices. Not to be missed is an evening of Shakespeare Under the Stars at Mulford Farm in East Hampton presented by HITFest (Hampton Independent Theater Festival). Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor offers a summer comedy series and top-quality productions by Equity actors. One of the funniest evenings is “Celebrity Autobiography” at Guild Hall in East Hampton, featuring a troupe of actors reading inanities from books written by celebrities like Dolly Parton, Arnold Schwartzenegger, and Tony Danza.
An absolute must-see is Longhouse Reserve in East Hampton, the 16 acre sculpture garden created by world-renowned textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen. He has filled his little piece of paradise with towering oaks, weeping Japanese cherry trees, and Hemlock hedges surrounded by flowers in full bloom year round. You will be mesmerized by the marriage of art to nature as you stroll through 37 pocket gardens under rose-entwined arches. Wandering around ponds teeming with lilies, and pools bedecked by outdoor furniture as colorful as a peacock’s feathers, you will see sumptuous sculptures–a deKooning here and a Chihuly there. Yoko Ono’s mammoth white marble chess set gleams in a green garden not far from an arresting fiberglass dome designed by Buckminster Fuller.
On summer weekends the main roads of the Hamptons are clogged with Jaguars and Ferraris. The traffic is bumper to rich bumper; crossing guards (try to) protect pedestrians and parking places are strictly monitored. A ticket will cost you more than the price of an upscale dinner. Fleets of jitneys arrive from Manhattan filled with Generation X-ers heading for summer rentals and Saturday night clubbing. The one-percenters fly in on private planes and then helicopter to their multi-million dollar mansions by the ocean. The sky traffic over the Hamptons on Friday afternoons and Monday mornings has kicked up such a kerfuffle that Sag Harbor recently held a town hall meeting to discuss the racket. The local newspaper headlined the story: “The Very Rich are Angry at the Extremely Rich,” and quoted one resident as saying: “When I look up at small planes and choppers, I see a fleet of middle fingers across the sky.”
While the Hamptons are famous for summer vacations, any season can be rewarding, especially without the hordes of tourists. The Baker House in East Hampton, features canopy beds, plus a spa and honor bar. So whether you choose the full celebrity throttle of summertime, the dialed-back leisure of spring, or the fireplace romance of fall and winter, the Hamptons promise a memorable trip.
From Travelgirl magazine
Dr. Angelou and Kitty Kelley
On April 24, 2014, Kitty Kelley was presented with the Founders’ Award for Career Achievement by the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) during a ceremony at the group’s 43rd annual writers’ conference in New York. The following are her remarks at the Awards Presentation.
My love affair with the American Society of Journalists and Authors began on September 21, 1983 when we were introduced by Frank Sinatra. That was the day he sued me for $2 million to keep me from writing his (decidedly unauthorized) biography. In court papers, he declared that he and he alone or someone that he authorized could write his life story. No one else was entitled to what he called his “right of publicity.”
ASJA immediately stepped forward and joined with other writers’ groups to protest Sinatra’s assault on the First Amendment. In a press conference, they said: “The apparent goal behind Sinatra’s filing of this suit is to scare Ms. Kelley away from her investigation and ultimately to force her to scrap the book.” They asserted that “the unauthorized or unblessed biography” is the essence of free speech and open commentary and declared that Sinatra’s lawsuit was an assault on all writers’ constitutionally protected freedom of expression and should be dismissed on its face.
This public stance stirred a great deal of publicity from outraged journalists, who wrote columns, editorials, and even a few cartoons. One of the funniest was drawn by Jules Feiffer, who showed a mug’s face under a snap-brim hat, swaying on skinny legs and snapping his fingers:
“I’m chairman of the Board. If some broad wantsa write a book about me… She gotta talk t’one of my boys who talks t’one of my other boys… who talks t’me. And MAYBE if the broad looks OK, I say, ‘Go Baby.’ Or Maybe I say ‘Shove it, Bimbo.’ And before she can write word one I sue her.
“So don’t give me any First Amendment crapola, I got the Frank Amendment and mine is bigger than hers. Ring a ding ding.”
After a year of litigation that cost me over $100,000 in legal fees, Sinatra finally dropped his lawsuit, but by then he had sent his message to my publisher and the rest of the world that he did not want the book written. Many people were too frightened to speak on the record, and some actually feared for their lives, but over the course of three years I managed to interview 800 people, including members of Sinatra’s family, his mistresses, co-stars, friends, neighbors, employees, FBI agents, a few antagonists, and a couple of mobsters.
In 1986 His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra was published, and– despite his threats– I lived to see the book become number one on the New York Times best seller list and sell more than 1 million copies in hardback. All very gratifying, but best of all was receiving ASJA’s Outstanding Author Award that year for “courageous writing on popular culture.”
Publication of the Frank Sinatra biography was a triumph for all non-fiction writers who struggle against immense pressure to find their way to examine the public figures who influence our society.
Thirty years ago ASJA made it possible for me to find my way– and for that I am profoundly grateful. I accept your award for Career Achievement because YOU made my career all it has been– and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
by Kitty Kelley
The Board of the American Society of Journalists and Authors has voted to give Kitty Kelley the Founders’ Award for Career Achievement. According to Minda Zetlin, President, ASJA, “The award goes to a member whose ability to tell a story and whose style, range, and diversity of career exemplify the profession of independent nonfiction writer.” The award will be presented at a ceremony in New York on April 24, 2014.
Let Freedom Ring and Capturing Camelot both won USA Best Book awards.
More information here.
Let Freedom Ring won in the History: United States category. Read reviews of Let Freedom Ring here.
Capturing Camelot won in the Gift & Specialty Books category. Read reviews of Capturing Camelot here.
Kitty Kelley’s Capturing Camelot: Stanley Tretick’s Iconic Images of The Kennedys and Let Freedom Ring: Stanley Tretick’s Iconic Images of the March on Washington are available from Thomas Dunne Books in both hardcover and ebook formats.
Kitty Kelley appeared on C-Span2′s Book-TV “In Depth” program on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013, answering questions from host Peter Slen and from viewers for three hours. The show may be viewed online here.
by Kitty Kelley
President Kennedy had to be pushed but after two bloody summers of Freedom Riders, television coverage of Bull Connors’ police dogs chewing children to bits, police men clubbing peaceful demonstrators and fire hoses slamming children against jagged brick buildings, leaving them torn and bleeding, JFK found his voice. He watched with disgust as Alabama Governor George Wallace, who had pledged “Segregation now. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever,” threatened to stand in the school house door to prevent two black students from integrating the state’s all-white university. That evening, June 11, 1963, John F. Kennedy ennobled his presidency with an address to the nation on equal rights:
We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and as clear as the American Constitution…. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best schools available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him…then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed? Who among us would then be content with counsels of patience and delay?
Next week I shall ask the Congress of the United States to make a commitment it has not fully made in this country to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law.
The President’s approval plummeted from 60 to 47 percent after his speech, and he and his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, began counseling “patience and delay,” pleading with Civil Rights leaders to call off their scheduled March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Fearing violence and re-election in 1964, the administration said the March would do more harm than good. “We want success in Congress, not a big show at the Capital,” said the President.
Kennedy summoned Civil Rights leaders to the White House to try to dissuade them but they remained resolute. The President relented and then called his brother: “Well, if we can’t stop them, we’ll run the damned thing.”
The March organizers agreed to demonstrate on a Wednesday so people would get back to their jobs and not stay the week-end. Parade permits were granted from 9 a.m to 5 p.m so that marchers would leave the city before dark. Schools, bars, restaurants and stores were closed. All elective surgeries in area hospitals were cancelled to free up 340 beds for riot-related emergencies. The DC National Guard spent the summer training for riot duty and 2400 Guardsmen were sworn in as “special officers” with temporary arrest power. The city, including leaders like Mrs. Agnes E. Meyer, whose family owned The Washington Post and Newsweek, predicted “catastrophic outbreaks of violence, bloodshed and property damage.” The government closed the day of the March and federal employees were told to stay home.
The comedian Dick Gregory was amused by the fears of the white establishment. “I know the senators and congressmen are scared of what’s going to happen,” he said. “[But] I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. It’s going to be a great Sunday picnic.” To the Kennedy administration it looked like it was going to be a great big political fiasco.
Weeks in advance, the March, set for August 28, 1963, became global news as Civil Rights activists around the world announced that they, too, would march in Berlin, Munich, Amsterdam, London, Oslo, Madrid, The Hague, Tel Aviv, Cairo, Toronto, and Kingston, Jamaica. Celebrities chartered planes from Hollywood’s progressive community, including Harry Belafonte, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck, Billy Eckstein, Lena Horne, Sidney Poitier, Sammy Davis, Jr., Tony Bennett, even Charleton Heston. Burt Lancaster flew from his movie location in Paris, and the dancer and jazz singer Josephine Baker arrived from France in her Free French uniform.
Even with unprecedented police presence on the Mall, the President was so concerned about hot rhetoric stirring the crowds to violence that he positioned one of his advance men behind the sound system at the Lincoln Memorial ready to flip a special switch to cut the public address system, if necessary, and play a recording of Mahalia Jackson singing, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”
The day dawned with Washington’s usual summer swamp humidity but most of the 250,000 marchers arrived in their Sunday best. Women donned hats and high heels; men wore white shirts and ties. They dressed for church; their mission was religious—to heal sick hearts and open closed minds.
They marched and sang and swayed to the soaring sounds of the Freedom Singers and Odetta and Marian Anderson; they sat ten- deep at the Reflecting Pool, many dangling their feet in the water like pilgrims who once gathered at the Sea of Galilee.
They cheered the speakers, and then they rose and roared in unison for the spell-binding finale of Martin Luther King, Jr., who had come to tell them about his dream for America “that one day the nation will rise up and live out the true meaning
of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”
The vast throng of humanity erupted into thunderous applause with each crescendo of Dr. King’s dream. In the rising cadence of a master spell-binder, he told America that if it was to become a great nation, it must make the dream of freedom come true for its black citizens. Even President Kennedy, watching on television, was transfixed. “He’s good. He’s damn good.”
The President had refused to participate in the March, but he invited the Civil Rights leaders to the White House at the end of the day. He greeted Dr. King by shaking his hand and saying, “I have a dream.”
Bubbling over with the success of the day which had occurred without one incident of violence, the President told reporters that he was edified by the speeches, the singing, the crowds—the entire event. “The nation can be properly proud of this march,” he said.
Even fifty years later with a black man as President of the United States, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream is not completely realized, but this month’s anniversary of the March on Washington gives us a chance to commemorate its dazzling ideals.
Photos from Let Freedom Ring: Stanley Tretick’s Iconic Images of the March on Washington, ©Estate of Stanley Tretick, used with permission.
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Cross-posted from Huffington Post