Kennedy social secretary Letitia Baldrige dies
The 86-year-old told America how to eat salad tastefully and say ‘I do’ gracefully.
Letitia Baldrige stands in 1998 in front of the Georgetown home where Jackie Kennedy, her friend and former employer, lived for about a year after the assassination of JFK. (Photo: H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY)
- Through books and columns, Baldrige meted out manners with humor
- Her rules evolved with the times, and technology
- She was not above self-reproach
10:18PM EDT October 31. 2012 – Letitia Baldrige, the mighty manners maven who taught America everything from how to eat a salad tastefully to how to walk down the aisle gracefully, died Monday in Bethesda, Md., reports The New York Times. She was 86.
Baldrige emerged as an empress of etiquette during the Kennedy White House, as the first lady’s social secretary (officially, her chief of staff). But her impact endured for decades thereafter, as an author, newspaper columnist and all-around expert on civility.
But Baldrige was no fusty, finger-wagging school marm. Standing 6-foot-1 and known as “Tish,” she meted out manners with a side of humor.
“We ought to be vigilantes for kindness and consideration,” she told USA TODAY in 2002. “If somebody is disrespecting somebody, we should step in — even at the risk of getting slugged over the head.”
She called cellphones “hellphones” and applauded the few who used them correctly. “I love people who lurk behind columns” in public spaces, whispering into their devices, Baldrige said. “I go up and say, ‘Good for you.’ ”
She had a rule book for rites, however. “There are people who don’t really care about traditions,” she told USA TODAY in 2001. “They want a cute wedding, and this desire of cuteness is paramount.”
Trendy theme weddings “are not eternal,” she said. “They fade in and out of popularity with amazing speed. You may think Barney (the purple dinosaur) is hysterically marvelous one year and the next year think, ‘What? I did that?’ ”
Nonetheless, the Miss Porter’s and Vassar graduate (Jackie Kennedy’s alma maters, as well) adjusted her rule book to the changing times. And perhaps no change has affected the rules of civility as much as technology. Regarding e-mail, she told USA TODAY a decade ago: “Most people don’t even bother to put their names. You get some initials and a phone number. It’s sort of like having a dinner with two courses and no dessert, no end of the meal.” She turned her nose up at the trend toward shortened sign-offs when it came to electronic missives: “Soon,” “All best” and “Best.”
But she wasn’t above scolding herself for mannerly mishaps (minor as they were). A lifelong re-gifter (gasp!), Baldrige told USA TODAY in 2001 that she once sent a silver picture frame to a business associate. “He said to me wryly one day, ‘That was a wonderful engraving job.’ ” Baldrige’s initials were etched into the back.
Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thorton & Jacki Weaver Head To JFK Assassination Film ‘Parkland’
It’s no secret that Tom Hanks as a producer is fond of looking at the past, whether through the prism of the space race, in “From The Earth To The Moon,” or through war — specifically World War II — as in companion pieces “Band Of Brothers” and “The Pacific.” Now, Hanks will set his sights on one of the most traumatic events in American history, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, with “Parkland,” which has cast its leads.
Paul Giamatti will star alongside Billy Bob Thornton and Jacki Weaver, whose stock continues to rise after her Oscar-nominated turn in the 2010 Australian crime film “Animal Kingdom.” Making his directorial debut, Peter Landesman (former journalist-turned-novelist) will adapt the film from Vincent Bugliosi’s “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy.” The film will focus on the chaotic events that occurred at ParklandHospital (where the President’s body was rushed to) on that fall day in 1963.
Barring a TV mini-series and Oliver Stone’s conspiracy epic “JFK,” Hollywood has shied away from dealing with the tragedy directly. “Parkland” will apparently follow in the footsteps of “Bobby” by being an ensemble affair, but no other names have been cast yet. With a release date scheduled for the 50th anniversary of the assassination next year, the film will begin shooting primarily in Austin, Texas, presumably with some filming taking place on the actual site of Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas.