The senior Kennedys' chauffeur, 1961-70, emits some whistles and settles some scores. Saunders was a 34-year-old Navy vet...



The senior Kennedys' chauffeur, 1961-70, emits some whistles and settles some scores. Saunders was a 34-year-old Navy vet running a parking lot in Boston's sleazy Combat Zone (and running a numbers book on the side) when one of his customers, a Joe Kennedy crony, offered him the chauffeuring job--for Saunders, an extra-enticing prospect (JFK had just been inaugurated) because of a police crackdown on bookmakers. His first disillusion was his quarters--over the garage, and a ""dump."" (One glance, and Joe Kennedy OK'd a re-do.) Another shock was the Kennedy cars: a superannuated Cadillac (his); a Valiant (hers); a Rambler station wagon; and a big Lincoln convertible--belonging to Kennedy niece Ann Gargan. She, Saunders soon learned, actually chauffeured Joe Kennedy; he would be Mrs. Kennedy's go-fer/ chauffeur and the whole family's unthanked, all-hours extra hand. On both scores, Saunders expresses resentment--at the same time he's talking about being an orphan and the Kennedys being his ""only family"" (and reveling in all the drinking he did, the wild parties he gave, etc.). His big resentment, though, is that Mrs. Kennedy said she couldn't afford to keep him after her husband died. And he charges that her long delay in summoning a doctor after Joe Kennedy's massive stroke was the cause of his disablement. (Saunders is pretty brutal, too, on his rejection of her during his long incapacitation.) Jack, in undershorts or on crutches, comes off well. Jackie--soft-voice, scented--allures. Joan is the nicest and the prettiest (before Chappaquiddick, ""I never saw her with a drink in her hand""); the Kennedy kids, squabbling over who was best (Kennedys, of course; but a Lawford or a Shriver?), are a pain in the neck. Word of JFK's assassination touches off pandemonium--and emotional repression; Bobby is openly, wholesomely mourned. Otherwise: a few celeb appearances (Sinatra, as a drinking buddy; Marion Javits, as a Palm Beach swinger); a few juicy anecdotes (Mrs. K. asks Saunders to pay for the coffee he has in the kitchen; he takes her to a Combat Zone burlesque house to change her clothes). As backstairs gossip, unsensational; as a personal story, unsympathetic. But there's a raw energy here, compounded of brazenness and sheer spite, that does keep attention from flagging.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1982