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Sargent Shriver's family in "Winter White House" in the 1960's
Sargent Shriver's family in "Winter White House" in the 1960's
GUESS WHERE MARIA GOT HER FIRST REPORTING GIG? THE SHRIVERS IN PALM BEACH
Oct 13, 2003 - Palm Beach Post
Thom Smith Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
For one brief shining moment in the early 1960s, Americans knew it as the "winter White House."
For nine notorious months in 1991, it was the "Kennedy compound."
But to the members of the family who occupied the home from 1933 to 1995, the Addison Mizner-built estate at 1095 N. Ocean Boulevard - no air, no heat - was "the beach house."
John F. Kennedy may have spent pensive hours on the lawn, writing Profiles in Courage, or mulling potential Cabinet members at the kitchen table, but the place was more often the arena for raucous touch football games or screaming kids wolfing down sandwiches after a morning on the beach.
At least that's how the Kennedy children - including California's new first lady, Maria Shriver - saw it.
"To us, it was always the beach house," said Anthony Shriver, nephew of JFK, brother of Maria and son of Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps and later a candidate for vice president.
Sargent was married to Eunice, fifth child of Joseph and Rose Kennedy. Thus the Shrivers were entitled to full rights and privileges to the house. On major holidays, the whole family dropped by. But to avoid chaos, other visits by siblings and their offspring were loosely scheduled.
"It's our month," Eunice said in 1993, when she and Sarge helped Anthony host a fund-raising party for his fledgling Best Buddies organization.
Though it may have been considered the winter White House, La Guerida, as its first owner called it, also could have been called "Hollywood East." Tales often flew that Joe brought actress Gloria Swanson there for a visit. Then daughter Patricia married actor Peter Lawford, who had lots of contacts. The trend continued into the next generation, as Anthony's big sister, Maria, married movie hunk Arnold Schwarzenegger, now governor-elect of California.
Right up until the house was sold to John and Marianne Castle in 1995, Kennedy visits continued. Maria had been there as a baby, and in 1988 she took Arnold to Mass with the family. They were back for Thanksgiving in 1993.
It seemed so comfortable, so ordinary to Anthony Shriver that he was surprised when the Castles bought all the furnishings.
"I don't know how valuable they could be," he said at the time of the sale. "Most of the sentimental stuff that was in the house is gone. I have some of my grandmother's china - it was important to me. But what's left is all beach furniture."
Shrivers didn't take themselves seriously
The Shrivers never saw the house as anything special, certainly not a shrine. And although much of the world may have viewed the Kennedy family as American royalty, the Shrivers hardly took themselves seriously. For example, when Anthony announced the first party at the beach house for Best Buddies, which pairs mentally disabled individuals with college students, he naively asked a friend, "Do you really think 100 people will come to the house if we charge them $100?" He closed the book at 150.
"I was over at the house a lot, and oftentimes Sargent would be stretched out with his feet up on the sofa, watching a football game, drinking a beer," Palm Beach society photographer Bob Davidoff recalled. "I'd go in the kitchen, and the cook would make me a sandwich. They didn't make a big deal of it. But they loved pictures."
Davidoff made it a point to know when any Kennedys were coming to town. He met them at the airport, accompanied them to social events, was at the front gate on special occasions - usually religious holidays.
Rose, he said, would attend both Sunday Masses at St. Edward's Church. One Mass was enough for the five rambunctious Shriver kids.
Eunice and Sargent's oldest child, Robert Sargent Shriver III, a businessman and film producer, was born in 1954. Barely a year later, Maria arrived, followed by Tim, now director of Special Olympics, in 1959; Mark, who last year lost a campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives in Maryland, in 1964; and Anthony, a Miami businessman, in 1965.
Taking their picture was never easy.
"The boys were pretty rowdy," Davidoff recalled. "They liked to poke each other and trip each other and look up at the sky like nothing happened. If they weren't pulled into line, I couldn't get the picture. At the airport, they were all over the place; at church, they were up and down the aisles, until the services began. Then they knew they had to sit down. They'd all sit quietly in the pew that had the Kennedy name on it.
"They were very tight-knit. Eunice ran the whole show. She decided when they ate, when they went to sleep. And they were nice people."
Maria always had a 'devilish' side
Maria may have worn a Dior gown at her wedding in 1986 in Hyannis Port, but the Palm Beach teenager leaned typically to cutoffs and tank tops. She could be devilish, too, as Davidoff recalled.
One Christmas Eve, the photographer arranged to visit several Palm Beach homes with a Santa Claus. The kids would give Santa milk and cookies as Davidoff shot the pictures.
"When we got to the Kennedys, Maria recognized the Santa," Davidoff said. "It was the Kennedy chauffeur. She reached over and pulled his beard, so he leaned over and said, 'If you do that one more time, I'm gonna break your little arm.'
"She stopped. But she was always doing funny things. Once when the White House press corps was hanging around the house looking for stories about the Kennedys, she went out with a pen and notebook and started interviewing them. She must have been about 8 or 9. I still have the picture."
Security in Palm Beach was never a concern, and the Shrivers enjoyed an occasional night on the town. They liked to visit Marshall Grant's nightclub (now home to the Palm Beach Daily News) on Royal Poinciana Way, and they took in a few shows at the Royal Poinciana Playhouse.
"Sometimes they would go with Rose," Davidoff said. "They had good seats up front. Once Jack Benny was performing, and he said he'd like to introduce someone in the audience. He pointed to them, and they stood up, a little embarrassed, and took a bow. It was nice. They mingled with everybody, because they didn't think their faces were as recognizable."
As Rose's health declined in the late '80s, and after Shriver cousin William Kennedy Smith was charged and tried for rape in 1991, the house lost some of its allure. Children were growing up and tending to their own families. John Kennedy Jr. would visit, but his sister, Caroline, was more likely to visit her in-laws at the south end of the island. The Shrivers still took advantage of the house when they could, mostly for holidays but also for Anthony's Best Buddies appeals. Not even a bomb threat could stop the 1993 bash. After 300 guests packed the place a year later, Anthony was planning to move the party when the house was sold.
The 1995 party was held at one of Palm Beach's largest homes, and Shriver brought in celebrities - actress Joan Cusack, basketball legend Kareem Abdul- Jabbar.
News of the sale upset Sargent. "Personally, I'd prefer that they didn't sell it. I really like the place," he said. He, however, was not calling the shots.
Football for last Shriver 'beach house' gathering
The last major Shriver gathering, 25 family members present, was held in April of 1995 and included a touch football game on the lawn. Eunice, a spry 73 at the time, didn't play after injuring herself in a fall the day before. Davidoff took photos, but in a unprecedented twist, Eunice had him agree in writing not to release them to the public.
That same week, while Arnold was in Orlando at a Planet Hollywood charity auction, Maria dropped by Davidoff's office to go through old baby pictures. The photographer introduced her to his 12-year- old granddaughter.
"I told her Maria was President Kennedy's niece, that her father ran the Peace Corps and that she was a TV reporter," Davidoff said. "Nothing, no reaction. Then I said she was Arnold Schwarzenegger's wife, and she said, 'No! You mean she knows Arnold Schwarzenegger? Wow!' "
Maria and Arnold were back at Christmastime in 1997 with the kids, and Sargent and Eunice were honored in February 2002 by the American Ireland Fund at its gala at The Breakers. Last Feb. 2, when the word recall to Arnold was still just part of a movie title, he lent support to the Simon Wiesenthal Center by attending a private reception at a Palm Beach home. Maria didn't attend.
Of all the Shrivers, Anthony has stayed closest to his old stomping grounds. Miami isn't that far away, so he's maintained his old friendships and added new ones, but the father of three is also an unrepentant romantic. After all, beneath swaying palm trees on the lawn of the old house with the waves crashing and a full moon above, he asked Alina Mojica to marry him.
"It just sort of worked out," Anthony said of the setting. "I've always loved that house. It's my favorite."
|By Anonymous (ool-18baa58e.dyn.optonline.net - 126.96.36.199) on Saturday, February 09, 2008 - 7:32 pm: Edit Post|
nice story. I can relate to the love of a house.