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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Heralding the return of grace, class

2005 for Gato is about becoming our own novel, or better yet, novella. Last year, Gato left his readers with the story of Maria, who had just moved to Philadelphia from Madison. In the first column of the New Year, Gato promised to provide first-hand career advice on landing a job in the music industry. However, since the lives of people Gato knows in the music industry are ever so soap opera, he had to switch to a parallel story this week.

In a way, it’s a back story that informs Gato’s semester-long novella filled with useful advice on how to move into the metropolis of the world and become the sort of chica or chico that gets pursued by the good things in life, not continually chases after the proverbial losers in really bad bands. It’s a back-story with Gato’s patron saint, St. Jackie Kennedy, at the center.

In real life, like soap storylines, beginnings are not really straight point A to point B; they are one more spiral in a spirograph drawing.


Soap operas, real life — which one is more interesting? Gato thought of this as he left Philadelphia, heading through the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside, bound for Madison.

Staring into the winterscape, his mind turned to stories from his friend Yolanda Jordana, an executive at the Mexican media conglomerate Televisa, who traveled around South Asia with Mexican mega-star Thalia by helicopter. The tales were far more intriguing than anything Thalia has put on TV or her husband, Tommy Motola, has pressed on CD. Realizing that, Gato determined our real lives as the most interesting teleplay being shopped in Hollywood.

As the train entered Pittsburgh’s suburbs, Gato raised a prayer high to his patron saint, St. Jackie Kennedy, that all his friends leaving Wisconsin would have lives filled with the drama of novellas. A life filled with lovers who had perfect jaw lines. A world where at any moment, another jealous suitor, with more ravishing looks than the first, can burst into your executive office to ask you about, “Antonio! Antonio!”

Gato also prayed that no one’s soap opera, en vivo, would be as ghetto as TV’s “Passions.”

That night, in Gato’s sleep, right before the Amtrak pulled into Chicago’s Union Station, St. Jackie, wearing a yellow Oleg Cassini dress, appeared to Gato in a dream and simply told him, “Look to Susan Lucci. All answers are with Erika Kane.”

First Gato blamed the dream on the Glenlevit he snuck on the train. But when he stepped out into the bare light and hard chill of the Chicago early morn, trying to figure out which one of the ten Starbucks “right across the street from Union Station” he was supposed to meet his manager Magda at, the words of St. Jackie began to haunt him.

Gato began to think that so many great events in the course of human history would have never happened if it required people meeting at a Starbucks. He imagined Winston Churchill leaving message after frustrated message on FDR’s cell phone, becoming even more agitated that every place in the city had gone no smoking.

After 30 minutes, Gato’s cell phone died and, like so many things we attempt to begin in life, Gato figured he had gone to the wrong Starbucks.

2004 was a glass-half-empty year for a lot of people, too many people. Gato made a resolution that not only would 2005 be a completely full-glass year, it would be full with Campari and orange juice.

Bright spots bloom like Roman candles. For example, some people are still mourning the results of the election like bizarre overly devoted fans of canceled TV shows. Bright spot: think of the ’80s Reagan-Thatcher era. It was the best period for pop music since the late 1960s. In the social shadow of semi-Reaganomics, 2005 is going to begin another great vintage as music looks back to the 1980s.

In that, Gato had a revelation. St. Jackie was telling him to look to the past. He remembered that Chicago’s Field Museum had an exhibit about his patron saint Jackie Kennedy! Magda could fume and curse in Polish at the Starbucks baristas; Gato had to make a spiritual journey.

At face, the Jackie exhibit seems like just a bunch of dresses. It’s sad to think that’s what many have reduced the former first lady and vanguard book publisher to — a bunch of dresses and big sunglasses. But that’s like so many things of magnificence that we disregard as kitsch in an age where we can no longer tell the difference between snide and clever.

Walking through the exhibit, the text teaches us that St. Jackie very carefully worked with her designers so that the style of each outfit could communicate key ideas about the event it was being worn to.

Gato converted to the St. Jackie faith through his friend, journalist Brian Mier, who wrote his master’s thesis on the role Jackie Kennedy had in winning the election for her husband and for ushering in an era of internationalism. Mier focused on the famous speeches in New York, where she stumps for “Jack” in Italian, then Spanish, then Portuguese. He analyzed voter turnout and argued the winning edge for Kennedy was not just the famous Chicago vote, but votes of new citizens. Film from those speeches is shown in the exhibition.

If there is one word that combines generous, studied, meticulous, empathetic, panache and strategic, it’s the only single word to describe whom Jackie Kennedy was. Along with film from international visits where throngs of Venezuelan women in Jackie hairdos, Jackie-inspired white gloves and Jackie-inspired dresses clamor to meet a U.S. leader who spoke to them sans translator, the exhibit features revealing personal letters that show how she exercised influence with the soft and hard power of words.

St. Jackie, in asking a friend to become a national arts chair, implores, “If you do not take this position … then later, Jack will no longer have the power to fight for the things you and I care so much about and soon, all those beautiful buildings will be gone and replaced by cheesy skyscrapers.”

Her letters also reveal how much she believed in privacy as a way to keep the public focused on the important part of the national conversation, not get lost in a swamp of petty gossip. In a letter for an article in Life Magazine, she is asked if she will write a tell-all book when she leaves the White House. Her simple response, in letters slightly larger than the rest, “NO.”

St. Jackie has important lessons to teach us in 2005, and as Gato passed through the exhibit, he became evangelized to adopt Jackie’s gospel. He’ll relate that gospel in a meandering way.

Marvelous transformations are afoot for 2005. There are so many must-haves and new discoveries. While talking to people at Soho boutique Wink about Lolli bags and the comeback of gold jewelry, the conversation would turn to two celebrity customers who had just come through, Cameron Diaz and Lindsey Lohan.

Tabloids have been tearing Lindsey apart, talking about her in a way that seems quite different from people who actually know her. Those people speak of her as a woman under 20 managing and steering her fireworks career largely on her own. Words like “gracious” came up repeatedly.

Perhaps we need to put the big St. Jackie “NO” on the national obsession with tell-alls and train wrecks. Perhaps all the dirt muddies the wonderful aspects people have that could teach us strategies for success in our own lives.

In a Chicago Tribune article about the Jackie Kennedy exhibit, a woman commented, “I wish my nieces could learn about class from Jackie rather than learning about showing their belly buttons from Britney Spears.”

Gato feels a zeitgeist for the return of class. He’s asking the Girls Gone Wild to pull down their shirts for a while. Haven’t we all had enough boobies, bleeps all over the TV, and cheap long island iced teas? In the spectrum of the sacred and profane, porn culture has its place in human joy. However, St. Jackie would never allow it at the dinner table.

Formality allows everyone present to become equal. Getting serious things done happens when wit, articulation and appreciation for things of beauty have a social forum.

Exiting the Field Museum, Gato didn’t need to be visited again by St. Jackie to understand the positivist message her life has for modernity. She taught her countrymen to deepen the sides of their rivers, not be afraid of making rapids and to fulfill every yearning to learn. Then, fulfilling things will come to you.

“Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years” is at The Field Museum of Chicago until May 8. For more information, go to

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