The Kennedys

Kennedy connections extend well beyond Massachusetts

By A. James Memmott

September 3, 2009 at 9:23am

The coverage of the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy last month emphasized his Massachusetts roots, but the large and extended Kennedy family was hardly limited to any one state.

A significant portion of the family’s wealth came from the Chicago Merchandise Mart in Illinois, which the family owned from 1945 to 1998.

In addition, Kennedys have been key players for years in both New York state and California.

Joseph P. Kennedy
Joseph P. Kennedy Sr.

The New York connection began in 1927 when Joseph P. Kennedy, Edward’s father, moved the family to Riverdale, a suburb of New York City. They later lived in Bronxville, another suburb, having purchased a mansion there.

Robert F. Kennedy, one Edward Kennedy’s older brothers, was 2 years old when the family came to New York. Though he moved several times in his youth and as an adult, Robert returned to New York in 1964 to run successfully for the U.S. Senate. He served for three years until his death by assassination in June 1968.

This year, there was a chance that Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of Edward’s brother President John F. Kennedy and a longtime resident of New York City, might also serve in the Senate.

Kennedy said she was interested in filling a vacancy created by the appointment earlier this year of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to be Secretary of State.

The Senate appointment was Gov. David A. Paterson’s to make. He was said to be getting advice from Charles J. O’Byrne, his former chief of staff and a close Kennedy family friend, who, while he was a Jesuit priest, presided at the 1996 wedding and 1999 funeral of John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife, Carolyn.

With or without O’Byrne’s advice, Paterson made a botch of the Senate appointment process, reportedly alienating Caroline Kennedy, who withdrew her name from consideration.

Paterson’s poor performance in this and other cases has weakened his chances to run for election in 2010 and strengthened the chances of Andrew M. Cuomo, New York’s attorney general, to run for the post.

Cuomo has a Kennedy link, albeit a severed one, as he was formerly married to Kerry Kennedy, a daughter of Robert Kennedy.

The Kennedy family’s California connections also begin with Joseph Kennedy, a film production executive in the 1920s before getting out of the business to focus on real estate and investing in the 1930s.

Joseph Kennedy was linked financially (and romantically) with Gloria Swanson, as he managed the film star’s career for a while.

Kennedy’s daughter Patricia, born in 1924, continued the family connection to Hollywood, moving there while in her 20s to work as a production assistant on a radio program.

In 1954, she married the British actor Peter Lawford. “If there’s anybody I’d hate worse than an actor as a son-in-law, it’s a British actor,” her upset father reportedly declared.

The marriage connected Patricia to Lawford’s friends, the so-called Rat Pack that included Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. She was also a friend of Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe.

The Lawfords were divorced in 1966 and Patricia Lawford moved to New York. She died in New York City in 2006 at age 82.

The most prominent Kennedy connection to Hollywood now is the marriage of Maria Shriver to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor who is the governor of California.

Rory Kennedy
Rory Kennedy

Shriver, a journalist and writer, is the daughter of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Edward Kennedy’s sister, who died this year on Aug. 11 at age 88 two weeks before his death at age at age 77.

Shriver’s cousin, Rory Kennedy, 40, the youngest daughter of Robert Kennedy, is another family member in the media, though she is based in Brooklyn, rather than Hollywood.

Kennedy, who founded Moxie Firecracker Films with Liz Garbus, has produced documentaries on a wide variety of subjects, including poverty, AIDS and nuclear power.

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