Until We Meet Again, Sweet Prince
In our very first “Throwback Thursday” episode, Winona makes the acquaintance of John F. Kennedy Jr., the closest thing to royalty this country has ever produced. Growing up in New York, she’s known him all her life. But now, with a brand new, traffic-stopping billboard of her own in Times Square, he knows her, too.
PROLOGUE: Belle and I have mad history. Meeting in a city-run summer program for under-privileged kids, we click somehow and start hanging out together downtown on the weekends. Before long we’re shoplifting. Just petty stuff at first. But then we get serious and two years later, we’re boosting from the higher-end boutiques on Fifth. Up and down Madison Avenue, too. Versace, Armani, Ungaro, Oscar de la Renta. We hit them in rotation and slide in and out every few weeks. 5 top-of-the-line pieces can get us as much as a thousand dollars from our street guy. Of course, he’s getting a lot more but what do we know? We’re sixteen and stupid, with five bills in our pocket. Each.
In the Gucci boutique, Belle and I are eyeballing fifteen hundred dollar sequined jackets and testing their stuff-ability. I look up to clock where the sales crew are positioned and that’s when I spot him at the register. John Kennedy Jr. It’s not my first sighting. I’ve been seeing him around town for years. Still at Brown University, he’s gotten really hot. Girls wanna do him, guys wanna be him.
Not surprising, the Gucci sales crew are blind to everyone else but him. That gives me and Belle the prime opportunity to clip and stuff two jackets into the Barney’s bag she’s carrying. Tiny, blond, and way cuter than Madonna, Belle is never suspect. Me? Everyone assumes I’m a model. If I could get a dollar for every time someone asks if I’m Iman…
With purchase in hand, JFK heads for the door. But before leaving the boutique, he stops, turns, and looks directly at me. His grin is sneaky, like he knows what we’re up to. My heart almost stops. Not because of the thrill. Shit. It’s the attention we don’t need. The chick at the register is still watching him. She follows his gaze. And now she’s looking at me.
That’s when Belle screams, “John-John!” Startled, he blinks, spins around and dashes out the door. Belle follows after him—with the Barney’s bag. I look at the sales lady and shrug. She shrugs too, before turning her attention to the next customer. I hang around for another minute or so and wave goodbye to her before leaving.
Six years later…my Revlon billboard in Times Square is three stories tall. I’m one of the highest paid models around but haters are everywhere. And working overtime. Stories show up about me in the NATIONAL ENQUIRER regularly. All about the drugs, the men I sleep with, my so-called temper tantrums. Some are true, most aren’t, but it doesn’t matter. I’m a favorite target for all the gossip rags. They ride me like a Harley every chance they get.
It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon. We’re rollerblading near the bandshell in Central Park. One of the hot spots in town, it’s the place to be seen while getting your skate on. Lots of people are out. Somebody’s got a boombox, they’re bumping Kool Moe Dee’s Wild, Wild West and I’m doing my thing, backwards. Suddenly, someone slams into me from behind.
Before I know it, I hit the ground. Hard. With a lingerie photo shoot in four days, bruises I don’t need. Gearing up to cuss this clumsy muthafucka out—whoever it is!—I look up into a pair of dreamy brown eyes looking back at me. Good grief. It’s John Kennedy Jr. He’s leaning over me. “Are you okay?” he asks.
He helps me to my feet. Eyeballs are glued on us as we limp-roll-limp over to a bench and plop down. I examine my thigh. “You really should be more careful, John,” I say, and take a good, long look at the bare chest we see so regularly these days in PEOPLE and NEWSWEEK, before gazing up into those brown peepers again. He stares into my face and I see when the lightbulb flips on. “Winona, right?” he says. Then he grins. “But you’ve got it twisted, beautiful. YOU ran into ME.”
We blame each other for the crash. “It was you.” “No. You!” In the meantime, the electricity between us could set this bench on fire. He is, truly, one of the finest White men I’ve ever seen. The paparazzi shows up and starts snapping our picture. I admire the easy way he ignores them. What is it? Total acceptance? He’s lived in a fishbowl all his life and acts as if they aren’t even there. Me? I’m as uptight as a virgin at a prison rodeo, to quote my favorite Golden Girl Blanche. I can’t ignore the swarm. I suggest we get the hell out of here.
He unties my skates, helps me out of them, and takes my rental ticket before rolling off to retrieve our things. I’m excited to meet him at last. Even more excited now that he knows who I am, too. The timing couldn’t be better. But the camera vultures are everywhere. “Just go away!” I hiss at them. “Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista are over there somewhere…skating with Prince.” It’s a lie but so what? Like the ridiculous vermin they are, they gather their gear and scurry off to find them.
John returns with our backpacks, I slip into my shoes, and we’re out of there. We stroll along the winding path towards Fifth Avenue. He’s chatty, toying with the hem of the shirt tied around my waist. I can’t stop touching him either. “I saw your billboard in Times Square just yesterday,” he said. “Crashing into you today feels a little spooky. Like it was meant to be.” I laugh at him, changing the subject. “So you admit it,” I say. “You DID crash into me!”
He leads me downstairs to a small Italian restaurant in the basement of a brownstone off Fifth. It’s late afternoon, too early for the dinner crowd, and only a handful of tables are occupied. We have our choice of seats but he plops down at a table in the middle of the place. Okay? Heads are turning. There’s chatter. But his focus is fully on me. He’s quoting lines from Uncle Buck and cracking me up. John is funny! Who knew? He marvels over my “delicate” bone structure and wraps his thumb and middle finger around my left wrist. I can feel my pulse race—so does he—while we have hot, eyeball sex.
A short, round man wearing suspenders and an apron is coming towards us. He reaches out and shakes John’s hand. “It’s good to see you, boy,” he says. “Where you been hiding?” Then he wags his finger at me. “I’m Paul. And I know you, too, young lady. I was in Times Square with my daughter last week and saw your billboard. I asked my daughter, “Who is this beautiful girl?” I look at John. “Wow. I think I like this place.”
Paul brings out small platters of breads with meats, cheeses and olive oil in dipping bowls. He’s been feeding John for years and knows what he likes. Pasta, roasted chicken breasts, grilled veggies, salads, the food keeps coming. John eats like a starving horse but I nibble and between forkfuls, we talk. A lot. We share our war stories with the press, gossip from my last Vogue photo shoot, his struggle with the bar exam. He’s taken it twice. “If I don’t pass this time,” he says, “my mother is going to kill me.” My heart skips a beat. It’s the first time he’s mentioned his mother, the fabulous Jackie.
Excusing myself for the ladies room, I lock the door and do a couple of lines from the eight ball I copped in the park earlier. Then I check my backpack for an emergency headscarf and clean undies. Stay ready. That’s my motto. There’s a knock on the door. “I’ll be out in a second,” I say. I hear John’s voice on the other side. “What’s taking you so long? Let me in.” Ooooo, you bad boy. I check myself in the mirror and unlock the door.
I’m feeling loose from the wine, wired from the coke, and my dial is turned all the way to nasty. I let his wandering hands get into my pants. Hmmm…he’ll have something to sniff during the cab ride to his place downtown.
We lock ourselves inside his loft on Moore Street and for three days we drink Wild Turkey, order in, finish the eight ball of coke, dance, laugh, and fuck until we’re raw. He applies cold compresses to my bruised thigh and I make him remember me from the Gucci boutique years earlier. “You were wearing braids,” he said. “Oh my God. I do remember you!”
John leaves for Beijing four days later. The following week I jet out for Madrid. We can’t get our schedules in sync and after weeks of trying, eventually our little romance fizzles out. He goes back to his on-again, off-again with Daryl Hannah and, well, the rest is history. But I have the sweet memory of a fun-filled fling with America’s finest young prince and PEOPLE Magazine’s sexiest Sexiest Man Alive. With just one tiny regret. I reee-eally wanted to meet Jackie.