Dear Blog Readers: Following my post yesterday on the career of CBS Cameraman Mario Biasetti, I got some comments from women readers asking about the women in Mario’s life. I promise in upcoming posts I will fill you all in on Mario’s Italian-American Mamma, Mario’s talented and forbearing Connecticut Yankee wife, some of the powerful women Mario has covered and some women who with strength and determination have broken into Mario’s field.
PART II – COVERING MOVERS AND SHAKERS WITH GRACE AND GRIT
As the CBS man in Boston, Mario Biasetti was assigned to cover JFK’s presidential campaign. He was amused how in the early years nobody paid attention to the young JFK when he campaigned through the streets of Boston. Mario told me,
“I watched him stand at Downtown Crossing between Filenes and Jordan Marsh and say, “Hello, my name is Jack Kennedy…” “So what…” they’d say, “why don’t you get lost” and walk away. Bostonians, not the Irish Bostonians, did not seem to care about this young guy. I’d say “y’ know Jack, I could never do that”, but Jack was tough. He was a killer politically.”
Mario knew his limits with both Jack and Jackie. He told me he knew all about Jack’s women but back in those days, that was not to be reported.
5) It can be hard for journalists to figure out which rules they need to follow when covering famous figures. What is important for the public to know and how much privacy should be respected. Covering the Vatican I have found there are a lot of rules for journalists that must be respected. Journalists who are physically near the Pope at events must be dressed in black and well-covered (See Watch Your Tongue, Hands and Eyes). If one does not follow these rules, it creates problems for everyone. Respecting privacy can also be a fine line for television journalists. During the final years of the papacy of John Paul II we often found it hard to know what were the limits of privacy. John Paul II was in bad physical condition at the end, frequently completely bent over during mass, having great difficulty speaking. Sometimes he would appear to nod off or would drool. How much of this should one broadcast, or ,out or respect for the individual, leave out? The rules on politician’s privacy have changed dramatically since the 1960s.
As he says, “In those days the media was very careful not to needlessly invade an individual’s privacy. We all knew of Kennedy’s women, Jackie’s pay-back affair with a security guard, Eisenhower’s woman, etc. etc., but nobody breathed a word about it.”
Mario continued to cover JFK as President when he came to the Boston area, particularly on vacation in Hyannisport.
As Mario walked across the lawn towards the beach carrying his camera, he saw the President and First Lady walking ahead of him unaware of his presence. She was very pregnant. When they reached the shore, JFK rolled up his pants, and picked up the pregnant First Lady and carried her about 10 yards out to a flat-bottomed rowboat. Mario filmed the whole thing and was convinced he would win the Pulitzer Prize for capturing the President of the United States in such a tender gesture. But as Jackie sat down in the rowboat she looked up, saw Mario, and had a fit. The President turned around and yelled, “Mario get rid of that!” So he did, pulling out the film right there on the beach.
As much as Mario was fond of Jack, his relationship with Jackie was distant. He says he found her to be uninterested in individual journalists but very interested in the image they might be projecting of her. Years after this incident with Jackie, he would come face to face with her again on the Greek Island of Skorpios, just after she announced her engagement to Aristotle Onassis.
A little personal note here. I grew up in the Boston area and was raised on the Kennedy- Camelot myth. For me Jackie Kennedy was always the essence of elegance and glamour. As so many young girls growing up in the 1970s in Boston, I wanted to be like her. Over the years the myths surrounding John F. Kennedy have been debunked. We now know the most salacious details of Jack Kennedy’s womanizing and Jackie’s appetite for wealth and prestige. Still, I admit, that I loved hearing about Mario’s lost pulitzer and that touching Jack and Jackie moment.
Tomorrow: Part II: The Glamour and Grime of the Foreign TV Correspondent