Onassis may have had a public reputation for partying, but with business deals being simultaneously conducted in every part of the world, managing his global empire meant he rarely slept for any given stretch of hours. More than than any one location, he was most at home on the move in his great pride and joy, his yacht Christina.
Onassis bought the 325-foot naval frigate for scrap metal in 1954 , paying $34,000 but spent $4 million to meticulously convert it into the fabled luxury yacht it soon became. Then married to the former Tina Livanos, by whom he had two children, Alexander born in 1948 and Christina, born in 1950, he named the vessel after his daughter.
Soon enough, even those who never had a chance of being invited onto the Christina learned that it was the magnate’s magnet for drawing he world’s most famous celebrities.
The Christina had enough suites (all named after different Greek islands) to accompany over two dozen guests at any given time.
During a summer sojourn in the south of France, U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy had the chance to meet his hero on the yacht, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who was a close Onassis friend.
Accompanying the Senator was his young wife, the former reporter Jacqueline Bouvier.
After this first look around the Onassis yacht, she famously came back a second time in late September and early October of 1963, a stay that was part of a more extensive vacation she made which included visits to Morocco as the guest of King Hassan and Yugoslavia, during her tenure as First Lady.
That private vacation had been arranged by her sister Lee, then married the deposed Polish prince Stanislaus Radzwill, both of whom would join her on it. Residents of London, the Radziwills had already been to some of the legendary Christina parties.
Much has been written about that trip, with President Kennedy’s secretary Evelyn Lincoln later claiming that he was against his wife and sister-in-law being the guests of Onassis on his yacht because the magnate was then involved in questionable acts violating U.S. shipping regulations.
The vision of the tawny-haired bride and her shorter, slicked-back silver-haired groom on the cover of national magazines and then numerous black-and-white press snapshots of them in the daily newspapers initially unnerved and even depressed millions of people who reverentially followed her every move.
Yet that’s what she hoped to escape. When a friend told her that marrying Onassis would knock her “off your pedestal,” she quipped, “That’s better than freezing there.”
Women’s Wear Daily newspaper christened them “Daddy O” and “Jackie O,” a nickname handle which stuck to her forever.
Coming two weeks before the 1968 election of Richard Nixon and his vice-presidential nominee Spiro Agnew, comedienne Bob Hope cracked about the former First Lady’s wedding, “Nixon got a Greek running mate. Now everyone wants one.”
The event itself became a fiasco.
Onassis, who had always enjoyed the publicity which came from his parties and exploits, convinced Jackie to cooperate with the press and let them get footage and snapshots of them as they emerged from the church.
The real problem was in the water around the Christina, however.
There motorboats and small vessels were overloaded with reporters and photographers from around the world.
Finally, the newlyweds emerged onto the deck to pose for more pictures before any of the small vessels capsized and someone could potentially drown.
If the images taken as they pose show the former First Lady a little less than happy on her wedding night, it may have only further affirmed the primary of practical reasons she had offered to some friends and family about why she was marrying Ari.
He literally had an island and that was one place that could ensure her the privacy from the press and public which had so desperately sought.
Part of her determination was not just personal preference but fear. Just eighteen weeks earlier, Jackie Kennedy’s brother-in-law, United States Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) had been assassinated like her husband.
Such acts tend to bring out more such threats and as she was famously quoted as saying at the time, “my kids are next.”
Although she lost her Secret Service protection when she re-married, her daughter and son Caroline and John Kennedy, Jr. would continue to be trailed and watched by the agents assigned to them and thus further help ensure the privacy of Ari and Jackie.
When she was alone with her husband, however, the new Mrs. Onassis had to depend on the private guards which Ari only haphazardly hired at times.