Happy Times

Happy Times by Lee Radziwill was a small yet hefty coffee-table book published in 2000, filled with photos and drawings of and by its author, who died on February 15. Radziwill was an extraordinarily beautiful woman and spent the 1960’s, the decade on which this book was focussed (with a few spillovers into the early seventies) hobnobbing with Truman Capote, Andy Warhol, and her Kennedy and Onassis in-laws. Candid colour and black-and-white photos filled the book along with equally revealing commentaries by Radziwill. She takes the reader into her luxurious homes and on her trips around the world. It was a delight to read.

The end of the book reprinted colour excerpts from the booklet she wrote and illustrated with her older sister Jacqueline Bouvier, One Special Summer. Jacqueline, aged 21, and Lee, 18, embarked on an unchaperoned trip to Europe in the summer of 1951. Their drawings and observations had me in stitches. For example, while on the trans-Atlantic voyage, they encountered a certain “Fausi Shehadi who is about 35 or 40–from Lebanon–and very much resembles Ali Khan. It’s like having a flirtatious puppy around and we simply send him off to do all our errands. However I do think he has deeper motives and Jackie has warned me about the quirks in the sex lives of Near Easterners!!” The Bouvier sisters have one mishap after another and Lee quite literally loses her knickers at a fancy ball.

Radziwill’s memory faulted her on at least two occasions. Her account of John F. Kennedy’s visit with French President Charles de Gaulle, when she accompanied Jacqueline, took place in 1961, not 1960. Also, her daughter Tina must have been christened in Westminster Cathedral, not as she stated in Westminster Abbey, as the Radziwill family was Roman Catholic.

Only after I finished the book did I wonder why she dedicated it only to her daughter Tina. Her son Anthony was featured throughout Happy Times. Sadly, Anthony died of cancer in 1999.

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