She was great, but the mania at Sotheby’s last week is a little scary, if you ask me. A friend who’s not exactly rich, and who’s normally a bit sticky when it comes to parting with money, got caught up in it all and bought +a silver-plated toothbrush holder, estimated to be worth $200 to $400, for $7,000 (plus the 15% buyer’s premium, plus New York City sales tax — about $8,700 in all).

And this may actually have been one of the better deals. Three pillows, valued collectively at $150 to $200, that a friend of mine bid $800 for fetched $25,000 and change.

I was happy to see this. First off, it was very entertaining. Everyone had fun. Second, it showed that the Kennedy attraction is alive and well, and with it, one presumes, attraction to the kinds of ennobling enterprises they stood for (the Peace Corps? NASA?). Third, it made my own purchases of “historic” items these last few years seem a little less preposterous.

Last week, I quoted from a Margaret Mitchell (Gone With the Wind) letter I had bought. I guess today I get to trot out my Jacqueline Onassis. It’s a handwritten note to Rudolf Nureyev on three pages of thick “A.S. Onassis” note paper. She used dashes rather than commas and periods for punctuation. I bought it a couple of years ago.

Dear Rudolf –

This note brings you much love from Ari and me –

If you are not doing anything after your performance tonight – would you like to come and have some vodka and caviar with us at home – 1040 5th Avenue & bring anyone you like –

It would make us so happy to see you – as Ari goes back to Europe in a few days –

BUT MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than Ari and me – is Caroline –

She is coming to see you dance tonight with her governess and 2 little friends – they are all 13 years old – (except the governess!) – and are longing to come backstage and meet you – They are so shy about it –

Caroline remembers so well when you came and said goodnight to her in her room one night years ago – She is very envious of Tina –

Would you be sweet enough to say hello to them, if they get up enough courage to come backstage?

We will be home with 4 Greeks for dinner – if you can come by afterwards –

Could you tell Caroline if you can come – it would give her such a treat – or let us know by phone 628-0408 –

Anyway – much love again –

It’s signed “Jackie,” but also “Ari with love” — they both signed it. Looks as if she wrote it that morning and gave it to him to take to the office to have hand-delivered. So he added his “with love” and had an assistant type up an envelope (Mr. Rudolf Nureyev, c/o Miss Monique Van Vooren, 165 East 66 Street, New York, N.Y.). There’s no stamp on the envelope (since it was messengered, none was needed). It is engraved, simply, 647 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10022. “Onassis” is hand-typed above the engraving. Of course, 647 Fifth is the Olympic Tower, which Onassis built.

I don’t know whether Nureyev accepted — one imagines he probably did. Should I write Caroline and ask?

The last thing I would suggest is that you abandon the stock market — productive, dividend-paying investments — for collectibles like these, let alone at the insane prices people were paying last week. (I don’t know what my letter is worth, but I feel sure it is worth as much as a toothbrush holder, and I paid significantly less.)

But what fun you can have with this little scrap of history, when you start thinking about it. Nureyev defected to America in 1961, when he was 23, during the Kennedy presidency. The letter is undated, but if Caroline was 13, it must have been around 1971 (wasn’t she about two when JFK was inaugurated?).

I haven’t figured out who “Tina” is. Can one of you enlighten me?

Tomorrow: Historic-Document Sources: Where YOU Can Buy Stuff Like This


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