Historian Steven M. Gillon sheds light on the couple's highly publicized 1996 fight in his new book, America's Reluctant Prince.
As the 20th anniversary of the deaths of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette looms, more and more is being revealed about the wildly famous late couple’s relationship.
Many remember the riotous fight John and Carolyn had in N.Y.C.’s Washington Square Park on Feb. 25, 1996 (which was made highly public with the help of a National Enquirer photographer), but few know precisely what caused the outburst.
The screaming match, which got physical as John reportedly tried to remove Carolyn’s engagement ring from her finger, landed an eight-page spread in the New York Daily News alongside the cheeky headline “Sunday in the Park with the George Editor,” much to Kennedy’s colleagues’ dismay.
According to America’s Reluctant Prince: The Life of John F. Kennedy Jr., written by historian and friend of John’s, Steven M. Gillon, “the cause of this infamous fight, and the many that followed, stemmed from Carolyn’s ongoing complaint that John let people walk all over him.” Gillon goes on to write that the inciting incident behind this particular confrontation was a recent wedding they’d attended. “Couples whom [John] knew only casually did not just invite him to their wedding; they even asked him to be the best man,” he continued. A few weeks earlier they’d gone to one of such weddings, where they found themselves seated next to society editor of The New York Times. “Carolyn surmised instantly that the bride wanted to get the Times to cover her wedding and was dangling John as incentive,” Gillon explained. “She was furious at John for not making a statement by walking out.”
“Carolyn, more than anyone who John had been with, would stand up to him, and confront him, and I think that John to an extent needed that,” Gillon told InStyle exclusively, noting how John and Carolyn’s dynamic differed from his relationships with the carousel of women who had preceded her (including Sarah Jessica Parker, Madonna, and Daryl Hannah).
Meanwhile at George, the magazine’s co-founder, Michael Berman, was anxious about how the fight would impact sales. John’s Chief of Staff at George, RoseMarie Terenzio, told Gillon, “[Berman] was furious that John hadn’t told him about the brawl before its public screenings.”
Berman, livid, thought George should issue a response, and according to Gillon, would have arranged a complimentary photo-op for the couple had he been notified ahead of time.
Despite the high-profile drama, Carolyn and John wed 7 months later in a private ceremony on Georgia’s secluded Cumberland Island. They’d hoped the paparazzi would lose interest in them after they were married, but it was sadly just the beginning of the media’s fascination with America’s former First Son and his fashionable wife.