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RoseMarie Terenzio

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Fairy Tale, Interrupted

Posted: 01/24/2012 11:27 am

I was John Kennedy Jr.'s Executive Assistant and publicist from 1994 until his death in July of 1999.

I spent on average, 10 hours a day with John at George magazine and got to see a side of him that few knew. We laughed and talked and argued and it was the best job I could have ever imagined.

Some called me his "gatekeeper," as a big part of my job was controlling access to him. It was my job to appease those who wanted access to the most famous man in the world, and to assist those who had it. It wasn't an easy job, but I loved every minute of it. Even the times when I found myself in tears in the bathroom over some mistake or stressing about the latest headline, I knew I was right where I was supposed to be.

If one had to conceptualize the type of person who would have worked for John Kennedy, a working class girl from the Bronx wouldn't have been be the first image that came to mind. But that's who I was and still am: a fish out of water thrown into a world I knew nothing about.

Although I was self-conscious in this land of Ivy League educations and New York elite, I managed to forge a friendship with John and his wife, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. They became part of my family--John was the older brother I never had and Carolyn was my fairy godmother--and I was fiercely loyal.

When John and Carolyn were gone, so was my life as I knew it. My earth cracked in half and it was the most inconceivable blow I could ever have imagined. I missed them; the world missed them. They were so young and had had so much to give to the world. John's sense of service and Carolyn's generosity would have benefitted so many. It's impossible to imagine what could have been for them or for us.

For years after their deaths, I was approached time and time again to write a book. I turned down the million dollar offers and never had a second thought about it. I had no interest in dissecting or defending every tabloid rumor.

But when I did an interview in 2009 on Good Morning America to talk about the charity John founded in 1989, Reaching Up, I saw a renewed interest in John's life and was approached again to write a book. Ten years had passed and I had gained some perspective so I was willing to reconsider. I started to realize that no tribute to what John accomplished with George magazine existed and he certainly wasn't being remembered as the genius editor of a political magazine.

I wondered if there was a way to tell MY story; MY fairy tale interrupted, and for John to be remembered for an idea that was ahead of its time.

Every cover and the content of George magazine stand up today. George Clooney graced the cover of George and is now among the most politically active and civic-minded celebrities of our time. Newt Gingrich is shaking up politics again and I think most of us would still like to know what Madonna would do if she were president. Even Gossip Girl referenced George in two episodes.

It seemed that at that time we began to care about politics and public service, and George was a by-product of that. The staff at George was, for the most part, young, hungry and intelligent, and we were at the center of the publishing world believing we would make a significant difference on how the country viewed politics.

We believed that through our efforts, people would begin to care about politics the way they did about celebrities and ultimately, engage more in the democratic process. We never wanted to leave the office and it wasn't just because we were working with John F. Kennedy, Jr. We were as excited and enthusiastic about the idea as John and his business partner, Michael Berman, were and we wanted to contribute in any way we could.

John and Michael were keenly aware of what was happening and how the politician was transforming to celebrity right before our eyes. Michael and John had an idea that had John lived, would still be relevant.

So here I am, telling my story about me and a John Kennedy that very few got to know. It's the story of an ordinary girl whose life was intertwined with an extraordinary man. It's the story of two different people coming together and seeing that differences can be much less significant than similarities. The most unlikely pair becoming the best of friends.

My book Fairy Tale Interrupted (Gallery Books, $25.00) is my tribute to two people who took me under their wing and protected and cared for me. I thought it was about time to honor them and remember them for more than the way they died and the fodder that followed.