Oral History Review

“Interviewing Jackie O”

Mrs. Kennedy in the Diplomatic Reception Room, 05 December 1961 White House, Diplomatic Reception Room

I recently had the pleasure to listen to “Interviewing Jackie O” from 1981. This is courtesy of  The Wisdom Project, from the University Kentucky Library. This 20:20 min episode involves the interview with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and also explains some background information from the interview and even the perspective of the interviewer. The narrator and producer of this episode is Doug Boyd, who explains and narrates the interviews. He also talked with the interviewer years later, his name Terry Birdwhistell and explained his experience leading up to the interview with the famous Jacqueline Kennedy. This interview with Mr. Birdwhistell is also included in the episode. This podcast explains how the story is not about the subject of the interview, but the interview itself.

This unique styled podcast starts off with explaining what “The Wisdom Project” is and introduces the interview with Mrs. Kennedy. The interview also cuts up in breaks because the narrator Boyd explains and gives background information on topics and on the subjects. These breaks involve small narrations either about information to help explain the interviews in depth. These breaks all have some music, more specifically slow drums that enhance the narration. I find this to be a unique twist to the interview and keeps it interesting to listen to. The interview actually is not about Mrs. Kennedy but a close friend of hers John Sherman Cooper. She agreed to the interview because it was about her close friend.

The interviewer Terry Birdwhistell sent a letter to Mrs. Kennedy and asked for an interview about John Cooper. Boyd gives background information about John Cooper and explains how he and his wife were close friends of the Kennedys. John Sherman Cooper was a judge, senator, and ambassador. Since the relationship between the Coopers and the Kennedys were very close, Mrs. Kennedy agreed to the interview. The podcast shifts and cuts to the interview of Boyd and Birdwhistell.

Birdwhistell explains his perspective leading up to the interview. He gives immense details in his descriptions of how he flew to New York and everything leading up to the interview. He explains how he was nervous for the interview since Mrs. Kennedy does not usually do interviews and people would listen to this interview. He explains as he was trying to put the mic on Mrs. Kennedy and trying to keep his hand from shaking.

“What was making me nervous about it was it was something that I couldn’t keep secret, so people knew I was doing it. My main anxiety was this was going to be an interview that people were going to listen to and hear. If I screwed it up, it’d be a big screw up. If somehow the recording didn’t work, that’d be an even bigger screw up ” -Terry Birdwhistell

Birdwhistell even experienced technical difficulties during this interview. As Birdwhistell was testing the equipment to see if it was working, he could not hear the audio. Luckily, the quick thinking of Birdwhistell figured out that the earpiece had a technical problem and the audio and recording was working.

The interview with Jacqueline Kennedy was very interesting. Only a few snippets from the 1981 interview were presented in the podcast, but it gave so much information about Mrs. Kennedy. Hearing her talk about the relationship with the Coopers and how highly she spoke about them and considered them dear friends was super fascinating. This is also historically informative since it gives some details into parts of Mrs. Kennedy’s life that most people don’t know and wonder. This interview was informative in understanding not only the history of this interview, but also some aspects of Mrs. Kennedy that people may have never known.

Below is the link to the podcast from University of Kentucky’s The Wisdom Project called “Interviewing Jackie O”.

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