The Lost Prince: The life, death, and legacy of John F. Kennedy Jr

As a new film project enters production about America's favourite son, Harry Shukman examines the life of the president that never was

Americans old enough to remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when his father died thought John F. Kennedy Jr bore the weight of the Twentieth Century on his shoulders. But to the young women born after November 22nd 1963, young John wasn’t just famous. He was a catch.

The mania was inescapable. In 1988, after People magazine announced that he was the sexiest man alive, the 28-year-old became so besieged by girls that he had to develop a survival strategy. He tried to give off the impression that he was never single — an ingenious ruse which required dating as many women as he could. Madonna, Cindy Crawford, Brooke Shields, Daryl Hannah, and Julia Roberts were each deployed as human shields. It didn’t work. By 1989, JFK Jr needed some time away from the squealing stalkers of Manhattan. So he booked a holiday with some friends to go mountain climbing in Washington state, south of Seattle, just to get away from it all. No strangers asking for his number, no weirdos demanding dates — just him and his buddies and the wilds of the Cascade mountain range. Bliss.

But things didn’t go to plan. It soon transpired that, halfway up Mount Rainier — one of the biggest active volcanoes in the world — a high school girl was lying in wait for John. “I knew you were coming here, so I came up because my prom is tonight,” she said, hoping to snag a dance with America’s most eligible bachelor. Later, on the flight home to New York, another woman sat in the empty seat next to John. She introduced herself as an off-duty flight attendant who found out his schedule and flew six hours out from New York to Seattle that same day so she would have the chance to meet him on the six-hour trip back east. Twelve hours on a plane in one day, all to see John. “You gotta rescue me,” John begged his friends, who just laughed. Like a scene from a French farce, there was a third woman waiting for John at the airport in New York, naked under a huge mink coat. It was one of his new girlfriends — an actress by the name of Sarah Jessica Parker. Some vacation.

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