Caroline Kennedy’s Journalism Days — And Meeting Elvis

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By: Greg Mitchell

Since Caroline Kennedy?s name resurfaced last week in the sweepstakes to replace Hillary Clinton as New York?s junior senator, reviews of her life often contain one brief line about her being a former “journalist” with some also referring to her once writing a story for Rolling Stone about visiting Graceland following Elvis Presley?s death ? and somehow getting a rare private viewing of the King lying in state.

So let’s dig a little deeper.

A People magazine online bio observes that young Caroline “considered becoming a photojournalist (her mother’s original career) but soon realized she could never make her living observing other people because they were too busy watching her.”

However, she did, during college, intern at the New York Daily News in 1977, where according to People “she sat on a bench alone for two hours the first day before other employees even said hello to her.” Explained former News reporter Richard Licata, “Everyone was too scared.”

She was apparently doing “copy girl” tasks but the newspaper “had to post guards at every entrance to keep camera crews out. Once a photograph of Caroline fetching coffee for the editors from a local Bagel Nosh came over the wire in the newsroom even before she returned from her errand.

“Another time Caroline and Licata, who gossip columnists wrongly assumed was her boyfriend, snuck out the back door to avoid network reporters coming up to interview them.” Caroline supposedly said, as the pair waited, “Now you have an idea what my life is like.” Later she worked as a photographer’s assistant at the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.

But Kennedy is best known, at least in the journalism field, for her Sept. 22, 2007 article in Rolling Stone. Reading it today, one may be surprised to find that it does not seem to match some of the recent press accounts which suggested that Caroline had sneaked into the mansion or carried out some other kind of derring-do.

Yes, the estate had been sealed off by cops and private guards as 75,000 gathered following Presley?s death on August 17, 1977. But Kennedy was simply outside mingling with others in line when Winslow “Buddy” Chapman, the director of police, ?invited me into the house where a scarlet carpeted hall led into a large room filled with gold and white folding chairs,” she wrote. “At the far end of the room was the gleaming copper coffin that contained the body of Elvis Presley. His face seemed swollen and his sideburns reached his chin.

?A couple in their late twenties stand beside the casket. The woman was sobbing. The man had his arm around her. Behind the coffin, an arch led to another room where a clear glass statue of a nude woman stood high off the floor, twirling slowly, adorned by glass beads that leaked like water. Potted plastic palms surrounded the coffin and on the wall was a painting of a skyline on black velveteen.?

Priscilla Presley entered. “Would you like a Coke or 7-Up?” she offered. Kennedy described the living room as mahogany-paneled and decorated with fur-covered African shields and spears.

Then Priscilla introduced Caroline to Elvis?s father, Vernon Presley, who was watching the 10 o?clock news in a nearby bedroom. Nobody in the group spoke.

At the front door, Caroline interviewed Charlie Hodge, Elvis’ rhythm guitarist. “It’s really hard to believe,” he said. “I went to the dentist with him on Monday night around 9:30. We were getting ready for the tour and we talked about the songs we’d use. But we never did rehearse. We just used to make it up right on the stage?.I’ve been with Elvis all day. Just this afternoon I shaved his sideburns. It was the least I could do.”

Kennedy closed with this description: ?Outside the front door were hundreds of wreaths; some spelled ?Elvis? in flowers, others were shaped like crowns, broken hearts, hound dogs and blue suede shoes.?

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