NEW YORK — What Jackie Kennedy would have made of the scrum at the Four Seasons restaurant Tuesday night for a new book about her is anyone’s guess.
The guest list alone had the makings of a Catskills-delivered joke. A nun, a handful of priests, a soap opera star and a stalker were in the crowd. All this took place in a room she once silenced merely by walking into. But while photographer Ron Gallella (against whom Kennedy once had issued a restraining order) also turned up, so did Oleg Cassini, Arnold Scaasi, Susan Lucci and Josie Natori.
Joan Rivers, the evening’s host, was there to deliver the laughs, despite standing near an oversized 1963 photo of Kennedy at her late husband’s funeral. “By the way, Jackie Kennedy caught in a rainstorm looked better coming in than I looked going out,” she quipped.
While easing off a lace pump, Tina Santi Flaherty, author of “What Jackie Taught Us,” said afterward that Kennedy was more substantive than just stylish, noting she read up to 10 books in a week. “Today, we don’t have any role models,” said Santi Flaherty. “We have pop-tart singers, bad-boy rappers and athletes in trouble with the law. Jackie was a role model for all times. She acted as beautifully as she dressed.”
Oleg Cassini, the man who helped define Kennedy’s style during her White House years, picked up a “Lessons in Living” Image & Style award, one of three awards concocted by the author. Dapper at 91, Cassini is the self-described “historian of the period.” Aside from mentioning the president had to OK many of Jackie’s evening dresses, Cassini shielded her privacy. “The remarkable thing is how little is known about Jackie,” said Cassini.
A more public person, Lucci of “All My Children,” who also pitches her signature lingerie on the Home Shopping Network, picked up the Men, Marriage & Motherhood award, despite the fact her character, “Erica Caine,” has wed nine times. Lucci is more devoted in her personal life, Rivers said.
But Flaherty wasn’t above doing a little hawking on the day. Before raffling a strand of Kennedy-inspired pearls by Carolee, she rallied the crowd to join her at a Bloomingdale’s book signing on May 6. By chance, Flaherty’s assistant won the necklace. “This is not fixed,” the assistant said before reading aloud her mother’s name.
Some guests were perplexed by other things. Josie Natori and George Simonton went relatively unnoticed, but Arnold Scaasi raised a few eyebrows. “Did Jackie wear Scaasi?” one guest asked. “Not that I know of,” said another definitively. Not so, said the designer. “I made clothes for her before Oleg. When she was a senator’s wife, she bought a lot of my clothes at Bergdorf Goodman,” said Scaasi.
Not to be outdone, Scaasi said Simon & Schuster will publish his book, “Women I Have Dressed and Undressed,” in time for the 7th on Sixth fashion shows in September. Kennedy is featured in the book, along with Marilyn Monroe, Joan Crawford, Eleanor Roosevelt and others.