|DEAD MAN TALKING: A Kennedy Cousin Comes
house itself, if it had a voice,
would speak out clearly. As for me,
I speak to those who understand;
If they fail, my memories are nothing."
-- Aeschylus: Agamemnon, 453 B.C.E.
Dead Man Talking: A
Kennedy Cousin Comes Clean is a first-person account of the inner workings, both
political and familial, of the myth-enshrouded, Machiavellian and ruthless Kennedy clan.
For thirty-five years, books
about the Kennedy family have consistently appeared on the best-seller lists. Doris Kearns
Goodwins The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, Christopher Andersons Jack
and Jackie: Portrait of An American Marriage, Marcia Chelliss Living with the
Kennedys: The Joan Kennedy Story, and most recently, Seymour Hershs The
Dark Side of Camelot, among many others, attest to the reading publics unabated
appetite, when it comes to the Kennedys, for both romance and iconoclasm.
This unwavering fascination
extends to the present generation of Kennedys, with the sons of RFK on the cover of the
current Esquire, and recent stories in Vanity Fair, Life, and Newsweek. This
younger generation of Kennedys has also given rise to a new crop of best-sellers, among
them Sheila Rauch Kennedys Shattered Faith, Collier and Horwitzs The
Kennedys, and several others, appealing to readers who cannot seem to get enough of
the House of Kennedy. There are well over a hundred books about the Kennedy family
currently in print, many in their third or fourth edition. Dead Man Talking is the
first insider account, however, of what it means to cross the Kennedys and incur their
At once a memoir and a piece
of historical nonfiction, Dead Man Talking will combine the best features of both
these genres to bring the reader into the inner workings of campaigns, dirty tricks, back
rooms, bedrooms, courtrooms, and lay bare the devious workings of a propaganda machine
that works night and day to hide the sordid truth behind a scrim of patriotic idealism,
hero-worship, and religiosity. Think Angelas Ashes meets The Dark Side of
Camelot. Think Primary Colors without the veil of fiction.
I was there. By bringing to
bear all the tools of dramatic writing, the reader will feel that he has been there too.
Beginning with the death of
my cousin Michael Kennedy, the story unmasks the truth about the scandal and controversy
that accompanied his last year, the subsequent cover-up, and my betrayal at the hands of
the ruthless Kennedy political machine when I would no longer lie to hide the truth of my
My attempt to understand what
happened, to connect causes and consequences, then leads me to a family secret kept for
two generations: that my mothers father, an attorney, was betrayed, slandered and
vilified, in almost precisely the same way, by Joseph P. Kennedy long before I was born.
My maternal grandfather, a monogamous family man, found that he had unwittingly become
dangerous by declining to take part in an orgy arranged by the Kennedy patriarch. Within
days he was smeared in the press, slandered in an instance of character assassination very
much like the one I suffered at the Kennedy familys hands, and typical of tactics I
saw employed again and again before my own fall from favor.
In the aftermath of my
expulsion from the clan, I looked back with new eyes on the feuding, the mutual distrust,
the competitive disdain between my fathers family, the Skakels, and the Kennedys.
This ill will was merely arrested, not resolved, by my fathers sister Ethels
marriage to Robert Kennedy. In trying to understand the love-hate relationship between
these two parts of my family, whose histories and tragedies are inextricably entwined. I
have had to confront the systemic dysfunction, at times surfacing as extreme pathology,
that is common to both. I have come to see this dysfunction as the price of wealth and
power in a society that worships romantic myth at the expense of truth.
My attempt to extricate
myself from this trap of lies, secrets, and silence takes me back to my patrician boyhood
in the exclusive enclave of Belle haven, in Greenwich Connecticut, and to the examination
of its corrupted values and toxic lessons. For all its wealth, the Skakel family had all
the problems of any family afflicted by chronic illness, alcoholism, and a repressive
Catholic moral and sexual outlook. My struggle for identity and self-respect in the face
of extreme and unrelenting cruelty, chaos and psycho pathology is really the struggle of
many children of alcoholism, but in the case the Truth, the much-feared obvious, was
further obscured by all the denial that money could buy.
A poor student whose
undiagnosed dyslexia (I was at least diagnosed in my 20s) all but ensured repeated failure
in school, I became my familys scapegoat, ashamed, wondering if I was crazy. When I
was twelve, my mother died, and in the aftermath and even more intense level of chaos came
to rule our household. I became a full-blown daily-drinking alcoholic by the time I was
On the night before
Halloween, 1975, a neighbor and new friend of mine, Martha Moxley, was murdered near our
home. My brother Tommy was considered the chief suspect. I was also questioned. This
murder, the subject of a best-selling novel by Dominick Dunne, and renewed press and media
attention, has had consequences for me to the present day. The recently published book, Murder
in Greenwich by Mark Fuhrman, alleges that I am the murderer! I have seen fit, in this
book , to recount that evenings events as honestly as possible, to refute any and
all suggestion that I had anything to do with Martha Moxleys death, and to let the
chips fall where they will.
I continued to careen and
caroom through my life without an understanding of either dyslexia or alcoholism. After
failing out of more than a dozen schools, and after several brushes with the law, I was
sent to a reform school in Maine called Elan. It seemed to operate on the pedagogical
principle that beatings, humiliation, and degradation are helpful tools in restoring
teenagers self-esteem. (Later in the book I recount my efforts, with other former
students, to close the place down.)
The turnaround came for me in
my 20s when I found sobriety. Like many other alcoholics, my reputation by the time I
sobered up was that of a five-star debaucher so when it was clear that I was in fact clean
and sober and not merely "on the wagon" temporarily, I became an example of
sorts to others in my family. My Kennedy Cousins watched me carefully. Wed done a
good deal of drinking and carousing together, including trips "offshore" where
we could drink without worrying about the press or that in the States we would have been
under-age. Later, each would tell me that I had represented hope that there was another
way to live.
David Kennedys first
brush with death was the first time I found myself able to help. I threw myself into
helping him not only because I had committed myself to helping other alcoholics, as my
recovery program suggests, but because he was cousin and I was damned lonely being the
only sober one among us.
The same weekend that I
shepherded into treatment, Bobby Jr. was discovered strung out on heroin, a needle in his
arm, in an airplane bathroom. Aware that I had been clean and sober for some time, and
that Id just gotten David on the path of sobriety, Bobby entered treatment saying,
"if Skakel can get clean and still enjoy himself, what the hell, maybe theres
hope for me."
When David died of an
overdose, it was terrible blow to me. I had felt closer to David than to anyone else in my
family. During the period of his sobriety we were like brothers. We needed each other. We
relied on each other. Nobody else saw so clearly the insanity, the pathology, the thickly
layered alcoholic denial that distorted and twisted all the best intentions of the people
we loved. When David relapsed, my aunt Ethel called me to see if I could get him into
treatment. She insisted that David remain anonymous. I called every place I knew. None had
any beds available. I felt desperate. I was sure that if I told them it was for David
Kennedy, theyd relent. I knew how dire the situation was. I begged my aunt to let me
use the Kennedy name. "No. Absolutely not," she said. "Im not going
to let him drag this family through the mud again." By the following evening, David
Not long after I embarked
upon a life of sobriety, I was diagnosed with a severe learning disability. This was a
tremendously uplifting time in my life I had discovered that I was not crazy but
alcoholic, and that I was not stupid, but dyslexic. Decades of shame, rage, and
self-loathing seemed to fall away in a very short period. I enrolled at Curry College, a
school with extensive programs for learning disabled students, and graduated four years
later. I turned my love of both skiing and sped (I had already been to car-racing school)
to speed-skiing and made the U.S. World Cup team. I spent a great deal of time with my
cousins, Bobby, Chris, and Max Kennedy. Just as we had once pursued drinks, drugs, and
thrills, now shared a commitment to sobriety and, I thought, to building a better world.
I settled down, got married,
and began looking for work.
One day, I got a call from my
cousin Michael asking if he could bring his family to our house in Windham for a weekend
of skiing. Bobby, Chris, and Max had been coming to Windham and staying with us for years
by then. I was happy to have him come, and I looked forward to getting to know him and his
family a little better. My friendships with Bobby, Chris, and Max were close. We often
went to 12-step meetings together. All three of them were ushers at my wedding. I was an
usher at Bobbys. I hope to become better acquainted with Michael, whom I knew to be
fun-loving, energe3tic, witty and a great skier.
He arrived with his children,
without his wife, and with a teenage babysitter, Marisa Verochi. As the weekend unfolded,
two things became apparent first, Michael was not in control of his drinking, and
second, there was something not right about his interactions with the babysitter. At one
point, both of them having a good deal to drink. Michael asked her for a backrub and lay
on the sofa while she straddled him and rubbed lotion on him. My wife and I retreated to
the bedroom, feeling awkward and somewhat alarmed.
Michael asked me to come and
work on Senator Kennedys campaign. He emphasized that it would be a lot of fun, that
wed be working closely together, and that after the campaign, thered be a good
job waiting. I needed a job. Id been interviewing for six months without an offer,
and my self-esteem was sinking to a level I knew all too well. But I declined. I had my
eye on a career in sports marketing, and I wasnt yet ready to throw in the towel.
Over the next several weeks,
Michael was persistent, calling me to nudge and cajole me to come to Massachusetts and
help with the campaign. Finally, after a phone call I remember as especially convincing
since Id just been on another raft of interviews without success, I said yes. My
wife was losing faith in me. I was going nowhere fast. Michael made it sound like a great
adventure. Michael made most things sound like a great adventure.
The truth, as I would find
out later, was that Michael desperately needed someone to replace a Kennedy lieutenant,
Jimmy Recidlow, who had been accused of rape by a young college volunteer whose father was
a wealthy campaign contributor. In order to assuage the fathers rage, it was agreed
that Recidlow would have nothing further to do with Senator Kennedys campaign. The
Kennedys found a quiet spot to hide Recidlow (whose sister, by the way, was sleeping with
Michael) at that National Association of Government Employees. There, at N.A.G.E. he was
in a position to provide them with inside intelligence on any number of potentially
threatening political enemies.
Not long after the campaign,
I was hired on at Citizens Energy Corporation, where I worked my way up to Director
of International Programs traveling with Michael to Portugal, Cuba, Angola, Venezuela,
Brazil, and elsewhere.
When Michaels wife,
Victoria Gifford Kennedy, caught him in bed with Marisa Verochi, I saw this along with his
many other infidelities as the out-of control behavior of an alcoholic. I arranged for
Michael to enter treatment for his alcoholism, and drove him there on the weekend of Rose
The following year, in the
midst of growing scandal, I convinced Michael to seek help for his sex addiction, and took
him to treatment. Upon his return, he began stalking Marisa Verochi, frightening her and
her family. She came to me for help. I asked Bobby and Joe to help and was refused. I
brought Marisa to a therapist. Michael and I fought, bitterly. He claimed that Id
threatened him physically. H even tried to claim that I was the one who had been stalking
Marisa Verochi in an attempt to smear and blackmail him. He dropped that strategem only
when confronted with a security-camera videotape that showed him breaking and entering the
private garage where Marisa kept her car. He was a desperate addict caught in a trap of
his own devising. He had used up all his options. He was dangerous. How dangerous I was
soon to find out.
As Michaels image
suffered in the press, as Joe Kennedy was forced to drop out of the Massachusetts
gubernatorial race, as John F. Kennedy, Jr. referred to his cousins as "poster-boys
for bad behavior", the timeless Kennedy strategy of circling the wagons and looking
for a scapegoat began. They did not have to look very far.
Soon I was blindsided by a
series of betrayals that were designed to assassinate my character and sacrifice me to the
media in order to hide the sordid truth about my cousins addiction and its many
secret consequences. I was already reeling from successive waves of disillusion when the
scapegoating began. I had been taken in . All the idealistic talk was conceived as a
useful mythology to hide reality, not only about Michael, but about his brother Joe, and
even my aunt Ethel, who had been like a mother to me.
Called before the District
Attorney in 1997, I chose, since I was the only one subpoenaed who did not have immunity
to tell the truth of what I knew. In this book, I am expanding upon that truth, plumbing
its dimensions, coming to understand its lessons, and offering what I have learned for the
sake of others.
The necessity for the book
and the intention giving rise to it. More than an expose, the book seeks to communicate
the human complexity of the people, both famous and unknown, whom it portrays, and to show
how unbridled privilege, alcoholism, and an idealistic mythology combine to hide the
truth, destroy individuals, and distort public policy.
"Never!" my father
would growl, his fingers in my face and his sour-sweet gin breath in my nostrils.
"Never say the obvious. Never!"
Much of what is now obvious
to me about the world in which I grew up, my class and family, including my cousins the
Kennedys, was for most of my life so incongruent with the myths we all clung to, defended,
and reinforced that I had hardly any way to apprehend it, let along speak it. Even now the
memory of my fathers angry words in my reddening ears gives me pause, but I know too
well, by now, the cost and consequence of lies and silence.
My own journey to the edge of
despair and back has brought me to believe deeply in the saying "Youre only as
sick as your secrets." I am a member of a family sick unto death with generations of
secrets. I have seen wasted lives, tremendous pain, and needless death, and I have
concluded that there is no escape from recurrent tragedy that does not begin with telling
the truth. Though cynics may convince themselves otherwise, I tell this story, as truly as
I possibly can, in the spirit of love and healing, for the sake of the future, not the
past; for the living, not the dead.
Chapter 1: 12/31/97
I receive the news that my
cousin, Michael Kennedy, had been killed while skiing at Aspen, a trip I would have been
on under normal circumstances, had Michael and I not been fighting over the consequences
of his scandalous behavior, including the statutory rape of a young girl who later came to
me for help. My memories of other Aspen ski trips with the Kennedy family. Michaels
death opening the old grief-wound of David Kennedys fatal overdose. The story of my
taking David to a treatment facility in Minnesota, and the familys refusal to visit
or take part in "family week" at the treatment center. Aunt Ethel calling me for
help when David relapsed. How Davids death could have been prevented and why it
wasnt. My relationship with Michael, with my aunt Ethel, with my other cousins.
Family conflicts and estrangement in the days leading up to Michaels funeral.
Chapter 2: The Campaign That
Why I agreed to work with
Michael on Senator Edward Kennedys campaign. Inside the Kennedy campaign. My brief
career in commercial real estate: in retrospect, the first time I was used as a pawn in a
Kennedy power game. My work as Director of International Programs for Citizens
Energy. Traveling with Michael to Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, Angola, Portugal, and
elsewhere. Trying to play the "good lieutenant" and protect him from the press
as rumors began to circulate about his relationship with Marisa Verrochi, daughter of a
powerful Massachusetts Democrat, and his childrens teenage babysitter. Interceding
with his wife, Victoria Gifford Kennedy, to save his marriage after she had discovered him
in bed with the young girl on the weekend Rose Kennedy died. Getting Michael into
treatment for alcoholism.
All the while that Michael
was in treatment, I was trying to save his marriage. As a recovering alcoholic, I had seen
some very unlikely people turn themselves around. I was one of them. I believed that
Michael, Vicki, and their kids all deserved another chance. I spent every evening for
about three weeks at Michael and Vickis home. I brought her books about alcoholism,
videotapes of Father Martin lectures, tapes of Melody Beattie talking about codependence
and family systems. Vicki cried and raged. "I love him!" shed declare one
moment and the next shed be planning to leave him, saying she hated him, fantasizing
about hiring some guys to teach him a lesson.
"Look, Vicki," I
told her, "Michael has never had his shot at being sober. He doesnt know who he
is sober. Give this some time. You look at me and see a friend, dependable, honest,
faithful to his wife. But you put booze or drugs in my system and Im none of those
things anymore. I cant be trusted. Im not reliable. And Im sure as hell
not faithful. So please, give him this chance. If she doesnt stay sober, then give
him the boot. But give him this chance."
She agreed. And also agreed
to let Michael visit with her and the children in Vail later that month on the condition
that I supervise him.
I arranged for her to stay at
the Tivoli Lodge, owned by a friend of mine from car racing school, Buddy Lazar. Like me,
Buddy, who went on to become the youngest driver every to win the Indy 500, is dyslexic.
He was a schoolmate of mine at Curry College.
I also arranged for Michael
and I to stay at his uncle Steven Smiths condo a couple of hundred yards away. By
the third night we were there, Vicki and the kids moved out of the Tivoli and in with us.
I was shepherding Michael to
12-step meetings every day. The family was back together. I remember one night going into
my room and hearing Vicki and Michael and the kids all laughing together in the living
room, and I felt so good I started crying. It was just the way Id hoped and prayed
it would work out.
At least thats what I
Chapter 3: Open Secrets
Returning from Maryland where
Ive taken Michael, I attend Rose Kennedys wake. Joe Kennedy takes me aside
(ironically in David Kennedys old bedroom) and asks where Ive taken Michael.
Told, he replies, laughing, "Michael doesnt have a booze problem! Michael has a
pee-pee problem! What happened? Did he get caught fucking that babysitter?" Another
woman, a campaign worker, calls me, claiming to be pregnant with Michaels child. I
convince her to have an abortion, get money, $2000, from Michael. Later, she decides to
have the child. Michael demands his money back.
Everyone knew it, but no one
said anything about it. I didnt either. But even Michaels children were aware
of what was going on.
It was obvious. Once, on a
rafting trip, we were all sitting around the fire preparing dinner when Michael and Marisa
suddenly emerged from the woods. Somebody yelled out, "Where have you two been?"
Marisa turned to Michael,
winked, and said, "Yeah where have you been?" Everyone laughed. My eyes
met Michael Jr.s He was not only not laughing, but the depth of pain and confusion
in his eyes frightened me. What a burden for a thirteen-year-old kid to have to carry.
What does he do, I thought, when he gets home and his mother asks him if he had a good
time with his Dad?
It is a deadly game of
silence and lies and secrets, and it has a life of its own, drawing in new players too
young to have a choice whether to play or not.
After that rafting weekend,
one of the women on the trip who had seen what was going on told a friend of hers, who in
turn told June Verocchi, Marisas mother. June called Paul, Marisas father, in
Washington where he had gone to meet with Vice President Gore about an ambassadorship to
Italy. He canceled the meeting and come home to Cohasset. That night they confronted
Marisa. She denied it. Then she called Michael.
I was out sailing with Max
Kennedy and Michael Mailer, and a Harvard student named Ethan whod been hired to
crew. I got a call from Michael on my cell phone.
"Where the hell are you?
You get your ass back here, Skakel! Jesus, the shits about to hit the fan! This is
your fault, damn it! Your wife has been talking to people about this, damn it. You get
your ass aback here and straighten out this mess."
I figured he was just
panicked. I tried to calm him down. "Look, Michael. You knew you were going to get
caught. Didnt I tell you? So cut the crap about This is your fault,
Skakel, and listen to me. What do you hear from Paul and June?"
"Nothing. Marisa denied
it. They believe her."
"OK. So think. You just
dodged another bullet, Michael. What do you have to do?"
"I have to stop."
"Right. I dont
care who you fuck, OK? But this is wrong. This is a kid. You have to stop."
But of course, he
Chapter 4: A Boyhood Above
The Skakel family returns, in
June 1969, in our private plane, from the first anniversary memorial for RFK at Arlington.
My familys love-hate relationship with the Kennedys. The rags-to-riches story of my
grandfather, George Skakel Sr., who founded the Great Lakes Carbon Company and
revolutionized the worlds aluminum industry vs. the whiskey-running gangsterism of
Joseph Kennedy. The story of Joseph P. Kennedys calumny and slander against my
mothers father. Memories of that day with my aunt Ethel and my cousins. My terror
when my father insists, over the pilots objections, that we fly back from Washington
in a thunderstorm. Airstruck from turbulence, I wonder what will happen if lightning
strikes the plane. While praying silently, I hear my mother saying in a frightened voice
that this is how my grandparents and later my uncle George died. Death is palpable to my
nine year olds mind. We land in Greenwich. The exclusive world of Belle Haven.
Introduction of my siblings. The family servants. Private boats and planes. Our own
private ski area in Windham, New York. Our own baseball team: The Atlanta Braves. Meeting
Hank Aaron. Genteel racism. Jean Claude Killy presides over my sisters birthday
party at Windham. The Florida compound at Longboat Key. Touring NASA with John Glenn.
First indications of the high price of unreality. Alcoholism, Violence. Neglect. Abuse.
Repeated injuries. Hiding in my closet, looking for safety, needing the darkness and
My early schooling. Reading
difficulties. Severe dyslexia that would not be accurately diagnosed until I was 26.
Shame. Removal to St. Marys School. Failure not an option for a Skakel. Mother
enrolls me in Persons Reading School. Its obvious: Im stupid. Shame. My
fathers lectures become spankings become beatings. My brother Tommy follows suit,
bullying and terrorizing me with my fathers tacit consent. I continue to fail in
school. My mother becomes ill. My fathers drinking. The daily appointment with my
father before the bell for dinner adults in one dining room, children in another.
My fathers relations with her sister and other members of the Kennedy family. His
devout Catholicism. My friends and I, age 10, discover a cache of Playboy
magazines. I struggle to understand sex. A neighbor tries to rape me, and I get away.
Shame. My father discovers my friends and me with the magazines, and I learn my mother is
dying. We pray, in vain, for her recovery. Relics are brought from all over the world.
Just after my twelfth birthday, she dies, and to my frightened guilty mind it is obvious
that I killed her.
All the way home wed
been rough-housing on the bus my father bought for us to go back and forth from Greenwich
to Windham. My brother Rushton Jr. drove while we threw sneakers at one another, fought
and mooned other cars out the windows. As we came through the gate we saw cars parked all
along both sides of the drive. Here and there people were walking across the lawn. We were
We slowed in front of the
house, and before wed come to a full stop there was a banging on the door. Rush
pulled the lever, the door hissed open, and my father stepped up into the bus and faced
us. "Well," he said, "you know what happened. Shes dead." Then
he turned and got off the bus. We all just sat there in the dark.
I knew what had happened. No
one else. It was between me and God. I had tried not to think the terrible thoughts that
kept intruding as the rosary droned on and our singsong prayers wafted up with the
incense, but I couldnt help it. I chased them away by pinching my beads harder and
concentrating on the words of the prayers, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us
sinners, now and at the hour of our death, amen," but they kept coming back. Im
sick of going to church after dinner every night. This is stupid. Its obvious my mom
is going to die. And after a while, the thought, the wish, the prayer that rose and
had reached Gods ears: I want my mother to die so things will change. I had
killed my mother.
Chapter 6: 10/30/75: Murder
The murder of Greenwich teen
Martha Moxley. The character of Halloween and "mischief night." Booze and drugs.
The who, what, when, where, how of that evenings surreal, nightmarish, and
ultimately tragic events. Repudiation of various press accounts of that evening, including
the account by Mark Fuhrman in his new book, Murder in Greenwich, which attempts to
prove I was the murderer. My relationship with Martha. Why I lied to investigators. Where
I really was and what I really did. The investigations continuing impact on my
family. The personal and psychological consequences of that evening include the necessity
for ongoing therapy, continuing painful suspicion by the community, estrangement from
several of my siblings, and a public vulnerability that has allowed others, particularly
the Kennedy family, and now Mark Fuhrman to cast me as the scapegoat whenever it suits
Looking back, Id have
to say that my brothers and I were pretty wild, especially when it came to Halloween.
Halloween was our favorite holiday of the year, better than Christmas, better than New
Years, better than Fourth of July. In fact, my brothers and I used to stockpile our
Fourth of July fireworks to use on October 30th mischief night
which was the best part of Halloween. Mischief night meant setting off fireworks, soaping
windows, greasing doorknobs, throwing eggs. There was nothing really malicious about it.
It was all pranks and laughter. It was sheer fun.
My father was away on a
hunting trip that Halloween, in 1975. Hed gone to Gil Waymans house in
Cambridge, New York. Gil had a private 600 acre preserve and my father was among his
frequent guests. Hed left on Thursday and wasnt coming back until Sunday, and
had left us in the charge of Ken Littleton who had only that week been hired as our
live-in tutor. Littleton scared me. He was the football coach at school, a swaggering
tough guy who could glare a hold right through you. Humorless and cold, he had a weird
quiet way about him that disturbed me.
Probably on my fathers
instructions, and certainly on my fathers tab, Littleton took us all to the Belle
Haven Club for dinner that night. When the waiter came around I ordered a rum and tonic. I
tried to look nonchalant and waited for Littletons veto. It never came. About the
third drink I began to think that this live-in tutoring might work out nicely. Here I was
having just turned 15 years old, ordering rum and tonics and planters punch with the
football coach in this swanky club, and no one batted an eye! I looked around at my
brothers Rush, Tommy, and David, my sister Julie and her friend Andrea Shakespeare, my
cousin Jimmy Terrien, and Ken Littleton, and I began to form an idea. I would become
Littletons drinking buddy. I would get in good with him, and he would make my life a
lot easier by getting the other teachers to lay off me.
After dinner, we went back to
the house. We were all drinking my fathers booze, hanging around, playing
Backgammon, and feeling like at least trying to act like grown ups. This
turned out to be pretty boring though so after a while we began to chase each other
around, whoo0ping and giving out "noogies" to each other and knocking things
over. Then my cousin Jimmy suggested that we go over to his house to watch a new show,
Monty Pythons Flying Circus, that was supposed to be really funny and was going on
the air for the first time that night. He also said he had some great pot over at his
We had some more to drink,
and after a while Martha Moxley, Geoffrey Byrne, Helen Ix, Marjorie Walker, and Jackie
Wettenhall came by to see what we were all going to do for mischief. I remember standing
in the kitchen drinking with Littleton and telling him that I thought Martha was really
pretty. "Yeah, shes hot!" he said. After a while I saw her through the
window, standing a little aside from the others, so I went out and asked her if she wanted
to hang out and smoke a cigarette in my fathers Lincoln.
We called my fathers
Lincoln "the lust-mobile." After my mother died, my father really went off the
deep end trying to impress women with his money and with what he thought was his
impeccable taste. He bought the Lincoln and had a sun-roof put in it. He had a
machine-shop remove the Lincoln ornament from the front and replace it with a
five-thousand dollar Lalique eagle, and then he had them mount a little light under it. We
used to joke around, never within his hearing, that we were going to buy him some fuzzy
dice for the rear-view mirror.
While we sat in the Lincoln,
I tried to convince Martha to come to the Terriens with us. I really liked her. I
wanted to kiss her. I wanted her to be my girlfriend, but I was going slow, being careful.
The truth is that with Martha I felt a little shy. I thought that maybe if we spent the
evening together at my cousins something romantic might develop between us. Maybe we
could hang out there if she wanted. She seemed to like me. I told her there was a new
English show that was supposed to be hilarious.
"I cant," she
said. "My Mom gave me a curfew. I have to be home by nine."
"Come on! Nine
oclock? Thats ridiculous! Its mischief night! Come on, come with us.
Well have a blast!"
"I cant," she
said. Then she touched me, on the shoulder. "Tomorrow night, though. OK?"
Tomorrow night, shed
said. Shed touched me. It was a promise. I nearly swooned with joy.
"Well go nuts and
trash this town," she said and smiled.
"Great!" To try to
get a kiss then would have ruined everything. Tomorrow night, I thought. Tomorrow night
Ill kiss her.
"Hey! Hey, you guys!
Its time to go!" My brothers Rush, David, and Johnny and my cousin Jimmy opened
the doors. "Its coming on in fifteen minutes, man. Lets go."
Martha got out. I jumped in
the back with David and Johnny. Jimmy drove, with Rush riding shotgun. I waved to Martha,
my brother Tommy, Helen, Jackie, Marjorie, and Geoffrey at the back door of the house as
we pulled away.
We headed over to
Terriens fifteen or twenty miles away. Jimmy always liked to race, to time himself
from one place to another. He always had to beat his best time. He was running all the
lights, driving like maniac.
I wished Marthad come
with us. At Terriens you never had to worry about anything. My cousins
stepfather was a drunk, and he was always away in New York, living at the New York
Athletic Club or shacking up with his latest mistress. My aunt Georgeanna was also drunk
all the time and she pretty much kept op her own wing of the house. They had a huge
castle-like place. We could do anything. We were basically on our own. I always felt good
there. My father couldnt get at me, and my brother Tommy couldnt give me a
hard time either; it wasnt his turf. I felt safe there.
It was great. We smoked a lot
of pot and drank some more and laughed through the whole Python show. Afterward I wandered
off to my older cousin Johnnys room. He was away somewhere. His room was a
kids fantasy, so big it had a balcony, and an oval section with about twenty windows
that looked out over a meadow and an orchard. He had a king-size bed with two life-size
statues of palace guards, the Beefeaters, on either side. There were three big TV sets
stacked on top of one another, and a movie screen that dropped down. In one corner was an
old upright honky-tonk piano like the ones Id seen in Westerns, but the front had
been replaced by plexiglass so you could see the hammers hit the strings. God, I wished I
could have brought Martha here, I thought.
I lay on the bed, flanked by
the stalwart Beefeaters, thinking of her. I loved this room. I was sleepy with booze and
pot. I wanted to fall asleep. I wanted to stay the night, but how would I get back the
next day? And the next day would become tomorrow night and I would see Martha. I roused
My brother Rush decided to
drive us home. He was really hammered. Johnny, David, and I all rod in the back seat since
neither of us trusted him to get us home in one piece. We got out of the Terriens
driveway and on up to Cliffdale Road, about a half mile. Then we turned onto River View
Road, but after about 300 yards, Rush pulled over, put the car in park, and fell asleep.
Johnny took the wheel even
though he didnt have a license. He managed to get us home.
No one was around. All the
lights were out in the house and
I went upstairs. My sister Julies bedroom door
was closed so I figured her friends had gone home. The TV was on in the master bedroom,
but nobody was there. I went to the kitchen and got something to eat, then I headed up to
I couldnt settle down.
A part of me really wanted to go to sleep but I was keyed up, nervous and horny. After a
little while longer, still unable to fall asleep, I kicked off the covers and decided,
"Fuck it. Im going back out."
Chapter 7: Elan, or
"Boldness of Spirit"
Still failing school
Dismissed from several high schools. The "hippie" Vershire School: drug central.
I lose my virginity to a 30 year old teacher. I quit. My shame, despair, and alcoholism.
Drunken car crash in Windham. Forcible removal to reform school: Elan. "A
concentration camp for kids." Synanon model. "Aversive therapy." Brutality,
public humiliation, indoctrination, inhumanity. Interviews with others who were there. The
4-foot dunce cap. The sign around my neck: I am an arrogant rich brat. Confront me on
why I murdered my friend Martha. My cousin Michael Kennedy my one and only visitor. My
escape. Hiding from the dogs. The journey home. I am disbelieved. My father sends me back.
I slept till about nine
thirty. When I woke I went into the kitchen where the bottle of gin and my glass sat on
the counter from the night before. I filled the glass, looked in the fridge for some
orange juice to splash in it, stirred it with my finger. Halfway to the living room, glass
in one hand, bottle in the other, I raised my glass in a wordless toast to nobody. The
first drink of the day is the worst one, but the best one too because once you get it to
stay down, the day is possible. Maybe the cops were right, I thought. Maybe I was trying
to kill myself. Maybe I ought to. At least this time Id left school by choice
without being thrown out. I sat at the backgammon table by the big plate glass window and
looked out of the mountain. It was Monday, everybody was gone, back to their jobs, their
families, their lives. The other kids were all gone back to school I realized that almost
the whole season had gone by and Id skied maybe half a dozen times. What the hell
was wrong with me?
I sat there for a long time,
smoking and drinking and lining up the cigarette filters along the windowsill like toy
soldiers or something. I remember staring at the label, at the guy in the brocade and
muttonchops. Mutton. Never ate it, I thought. A sheep. Not me. Im a Beefeater. Ha!
They guard the palace. I took another drink from the bottle, held it up. So here they are,
the fucking Beefeaters. Guarding the palace. Protecting the king and queen. Two genies in
the bottle. Spirits. Ha! You cant see them, though. Theyre secret.
Theyre disguised. They look like water. Ha! Another swallow and I felt protected,
safe, as the familiar feeling lifted me, rocked me gently held me.
I heard footsteps. Somebody
was in the house. My brother Tommy? Shit My father?
"Michael? Where are you,
Michael?" It was Tom Sheridan, my fathers lawyer. "Michael. There you
"You want a drink?"
Nothing. "Well, fuck it then. Ill have another one. Have a seat." He
didnt sit down. I refilled my glass. Your fathers made a decision. You have to
go back to school."
"Not to Vershire. To
another place, in Maine."
"Its a great place
for you. Theyve got skiing. White-water rafting. Rock climbing. The school has a
great reputation for working with kids like you."
"I thought you wanted to
go back to school?"
"Of course, I want to go
back to school. I want to graduate at least from fucking high school."
"Its the middle of
the term. What school is going to take me in the middle of the final term? Forget
"No. Im not
"Because its all
set up already. Nothing for you to worry about. Just pack your stuff."
"Hold on a minute. This
isnt right. I dont know anything about this place. Why should I just pack up
and go some fucking place I dont know anything about?"
"You are. Youre
"No. I want to know
"Your father wants you
to pack and go. Today."
"Go where, God damn
"Fine. You refuse. I
dont have time for this." He walked backwards, his palms up, holding his
shoulders in a shrug. He turned, went down the stairs, muttering, and slammed the door on
his way out."
Id blown it again. What
was I supposed to say? Before I even know whats going on, Im wrong. Im
always fucking wrong. Thats a given. I looked at the Beefeaters. The Guards. Ha! I
poured. No orange juice in the glass by now. Another swallow. Out the window a lone skier
slalomed down the mountain.
I lit a cigarette, smoked it,
lit another from it, and stood the filter in the row with the others. Then I heard the
door open, and what sounded like an army coming up the stairs. It was Sheridan, and there
were four guys with him. The first guy up the stairs was wearing a lumberjack shirt. The
guy behind him had a bomber jacket and sunglasses on. Another guy had a huge Afro .
Bringing up the rear was a guy about six foot two; later Id learn his name was Joe
Carrier. They surrounded me.
"Why dont you use
an ashtray, man?"
"Whats going on
here? Who are you guys?"
Tom Sheridan said, "are here to talk to you about the Pinehenge School in
"You always drink in the
morning?" the lumber jack asked me.
"You want one?
Anybody?" I held out the bottle.
"Look, kid, we
dont want trouble," said the bombardier. "Tom says you have some questions
for us." He took off his Ray-Bans. His eyes were bloodshot. "Personally, if I
were you, Id can the questions and come along."
"Hold on a minute,"
Carrier said. "The kids got questions. Wouldnt you?"
"I dont have time
for this," Tom Sheridan put in.
They all kept glancing back
and forth among themselves and I knew I had to get out of this.
"Wheres he think
hes going?" Afro asked, looking at me. "You want to stay here getting
drunk in your bathrobe till you shit yourself? You want to wreck another car, maybe kill
somebody this time? Maybe its jail you want. Do you want a taste of jail? Is that
"Just let me get
dressed," I said. I went downstairs to my bedroom and my brother David came in,
looking as scared as me. I locked the door.
"Jesus, man, I
dont know. These guys are upstairs and they want to take me away somewhere." I
was putting on my clothes when the lumberjack threw himself against the door and broke in.
"Youre coming with
me, you little motherfucker." He got me in a headlock with my arm up behind my back.
"You come with me or Ill break your fuckin arm. You hear me?"
"I want a different
lawyer!" I screamed. "Sheridan! Youre fired! You hear me? You work for my
family, you bastard. You cant do this! Youre fired! Now! Im firing you!
Your hear me?" Sheridan stood on the stairs watching, shaking his head.
Soon we were in a twin engine
plane, the four goons and me. I sat handcuffed, and looked out the window at the terrain,
trying to figure out where we were headed. They all had headphones on and paid no
attention to me. When we landed at the airport in Poland Springs, Maine, there was van
waiting on the tarmac. "Where are we going?" I asked.
"We had enough of you,
"Just shut the fuck
After a short ride we passed
through a security gate and on up a dirt road to a building where I would go through
The first thing I noticed was
that people were screaming. Everywhere throughout the building people were screaming
obscenities. The kids my age had signs around their necks. I couldnt read them. The
good behind me kept shoving where he wanted me to go. He shoved me up the stairs and into
a room. A man behind a desk got up, walked around and leaned against the front of the desk
with his arms folded. He just stared at me for a long time. I tried to see in his eyes if
he was somehow benign and trying to help me, unlike the thugs that had brought me here. I
couldnt read him. "Why do you think youre here?" he asked me.
"I dont know.
Because I have a problem with alcohol?"
"He threw his head back
and laughed. Then he jabbed two fingers into my chest. "Let me tell you something.
Theres no such thing as a problem with alcohol. You got that? You, my
friend, are here because youre slime. Because youre an arrogant little
asshole. Thats why youre here. Because youre slime.
"Take him and strip
I had landed in hell.
Chapter 8: The Road Back
Continued drinking. Failed
attempts to stop. Accidents and injuries. "Hitting bottom." A voice inside me.
Asking for help. After three months sobriety in a recovery program, I know I will need
more help. St. Marys Treatment Center in Minnesota. The generosity of strangers. Car
racing school in California. An accurate diagnosis of my dyslexia. Entry into Curry
College. Graduation. Speed skiing. Marking the US World Cup team. I resume my
relationships with my Kennedy cousins, especially Bobby, Chris and Max, this time with
sobriety as our common bond. My attempts to have Elan shut down. The Maine Attorney
Generals investigation of Elan. Marriage: Bobby, Chris and Max Kennedy are ushers. A
Chapter 9: Firestorm at
The truth comes to light.
Trying to get Joe and Bobby to intervene. Running political interference. Michaels
behavior also a betrayal of Marisas father who had treated him like a son since
RFKs assassination. Attempting "damage control" with Marisas mother.
Taking Michael to sex addiction treatment in Pennsylvania. After treatment Michael stalks
Marisa. For several weeks, he denies his behavior, saying I am framing him. Finally, he is
caught on a security camera videotape, breaking into the garage where Marisas car is
parked, and placing an artificial penis on her windshield. When his brothers can no longer
deny whats going on, Bobby says to me, "Oh my God, hes just like
Willie!" Questioned further, he tells me that William Kennedy Smith was guilty of
rape, that his acquittal was the result of Kennedy power.
Chapter 10: Something to
Hide, Someone to Ride
Helping Marisa into therapy.
The Kennedys close ranks. "Circling the wagons to protect the cesspool." Ethel
Kennedy invites me to lunch. Representative Joseph Kennedy calls from his congressional
office to urge me to lie. My refusal to slander Marisa in the press. Michaels rage.
My banishment from Citizens Energy. Im called to appear before the Preliminary
Grand Jury. Just before the date of my testimony, I am slandered in the press in the same
way as my grandfather had been. I decide to tell the whole sordid story.
Ethel asked me to meet her
for lunch the week before Christmas at the Boston Harbor Hotel. "OK," she said,
taking a quick look around, "this is dead man talking, Michael. I know the whole
story. All of it. I invited you here to thank you for keeping this out of the press.
Sometimes I dont know what this family would do without you." She reached
across the table and put her hand on mine.
All I could think was that
she was pitifully mistaken. What she meant, no doubt, was that she knew that Michael had
first had sex with Marisa when she was fourteen. I doubted that she knew of her
"other" grandchildren, or any of the rest of what I knew. By then I knew enough
to doubt that any of us knew the whole story.
Certainly Joe and Bobby knew
a great deal. Earlier, in October, at the Annual RFK memorial Golf Tournament and Fund
Raiser, I had tried to enlist their help. Marisa had been calling me and pleading with me
to keep Michael away from her. He was obsessed. He wouldnt leave her alone.
Shed become afraid of him.
Joe was already telling the
press that Michael was going to run his campaign for governor of Massachusetts. I told Joe
and Bobby that Michael was about to self-destruct. I suggested we do an intervention of
some kind. I told Joe that I thought Michael was dangerous to his campaign that he was
harassing Marisa. They had known about her for a long time. It was an open secret as early
as Senator Kennedys 1992 campaign.
"I dont see how
thats any of your business," Bobby said.
"My brother can fuck
anybody he wants," said Joe.
I also acted as liaison to
the other Democrats in New England, and it was becoming more and more difficult to put off
their requests for Michael to stump for them. I tried to substitute other speakers. The
Kerry campaign was calling and asking for him. "We need Michael," they kept
saying. Finally I took aside a guy I know and told him what was going on and what a time
bomb Michael was.
A few weeks later Marisa came
to me and asked for my help. I took her to a psychotherapist in Cambridge. Not long after
that she called to tell me her therapist was urging her to tell her parents the truth.
"You wont be mad
at me, will you?"
"Why would I be mad at
you? Marisa, you need to do whats right for you."
"Yes, but this has been
going on a lot longer than you think. Will you support me?"
"Oh, my God,"
Michael said. "Oh Jesus, Im going to jail! How could you do this to me, Skakel?
Who the fuck do you think you are? Youve gone off the fucking reservation! What the
fuck do you think youre doing taking Marisa to a therapist? I had her under control.
Now you fucked everything up. Everything! Wait. What if I got Vicki pregnant? What do you
think? If we had another kid on the way, they wouldnt put me in jail, would they?
Would they? And that would take Vickis mind off all this for a while too."
Michaels next move was
typical. There was a guy who had worked in the Senators campaign named Jimmy
Recidlow who might be able to help. Recidlow who had been accused of raping a young
campaign volunteer whose father was a wealthy Democrat. It was agreed to keep everything
quiet as long as Recidlow left the campaign. Someone on the campaign got Recidlow a job at
NAGE, the National Association of Government Employees. NAGE includes the FBI, ATF, CIA
and all the State Police Departments, everyone whos a government agent.
"Get Recidlow on the
phone!" Michael said. "Right now. Tell him to dig some dirt on Paul Verrochi,
see if theres a file on him. Maybe he beats his wife or something. Tell him to get
Next think I know, Im
reading in the papers that "the young womans family has declined to pursue the
The morning of the
Preliminary Grand Jury Investigation, I came out of my house and there were reporters
everywhere, satellite trucks, lights, cameras. Of the four people testifying that day,
Michael, Vicki, Marisa, and me, I was the only one who couldnt plead the Fifth
That mornings Boston
Herald convinced me what to do. An article by jack Sullivan purported to have the
inside scoop on Michael Skakel, a suspect in an old, unsolved murder and a chauffeur for
the Kennedy family, who was trying to extort a quarter million dollars from them by
fabricating a story about Michael and the family babysitter. Clearly the family was taking
no chances on me.
I should probably have seen
it coming. Earlier, when the truth could no longer be hidden, Michael had instructed me to
tell the press that Marisa was promiscuous little slut who had come on to him, been
rebuffed, and was angry. I refused. Later, Joe called me from his office in Congress.
"What are your memories of what I said to you about all this?" he wanted to
I recounted them.
"Oh, my God. I said
that? Look, Michael, I need you to say that neither of us knew anything about this. Can I
count on you? Can I count on you to say that you are certain I never knew anything about?
God damn it, I need to know! Can I count you?"
I told him I would simply
reply to questions with "No comment." Evidently that wasnt good enough. A
half hour later the phone in my office was dead, and all my Citizens Energy credit
cards had been canceled; a half hour after that and The Boston Herald was getting
the story that would run the next morning: Michael Skakel, a chauffeur for the Kennedys
was trying to extort money from them by making up lies about Michael Kennedy and an
Whatever one may think of
loyalty such as mine, whether it seems laudable or immoral, or just plain foolish, I had
been prepared to do time. Though I did not want to lie, I would have kept silence and gone
to jail if necessary. For Michael. For the Kennedys. For the myth. For the memory of a day
in Aspen when I came down with a fever and my aunt Ethel sat by my bedside, soothing me
with a cool cloth on my forehead, a hand on my cheek and a soft maternal concern on her
face. But that mornings paper had finally slapped me awake.
I told the DA everything I
Epilogue: Longboat Key, 1998
A visit with my father. An
encounter with Ethel. History repeats itself as Joe of Citizens Energy and others,
no longer useful, are discarded. Speculation about the real reasons for Joes
decision not to run for reelection. My uncle Jimmy Skakels funeral where Wild Bill
Donovan reassures me that I will survive the slander. A meeting with Bobby Kennedy. The
rift between the Kennedys and Skakels widens.
Michael Skakel is a
graduate of Curry College, a former member of the U.S. World Cup Speed Skiing Team, and
the former Director of International Programs for Citizens Energy Corporation.
Richard Hoffman is the
author of the critically acclaimed memoir Half the House, published in 1995 by
Harcourt, Brace. Publishers Weekly called Half the House a
"moving boyhood memoir," and Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post
wrote that it "offers heartening evidence, to borrow William Faulkners phase,
of the human capacity to endure and prevail." In this "spare, poignant"
work (Time) the author depicts his familys struggle to care for his two dying
brothers and his own harrowing coming-of-age. Moving from darkness to light, from grief
and rage to understanding, Half the House "is ultimately a story of love,
reconciliation, and triumph over adversity," (Library Journal) and "as
stark and graceful as a bare winter tree." (Los Angeles Times) Mr.
Hoffmans work has appeared in Hudson Review, Bostonia, New Age Journal, The Boston
Globe, and elsewhere, as well as in several anthologies. He has been awarded fellowships
from the New Jersey Council on the Arts for poetry, the Massachusetts Artists
Foundation for non-fiction prose, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council for fiction.
Authors note: Dead
Man Talking: A Kennedy Cousin Comes Clean will be approximately 90,000 words in
length, and we anticipate that it will take 9 months to complete.
Dead Man Talking: A
Kennedy Cousin Comes Clean, the first account by an insider of the avarice,
perversion, and gangersterism of "Americas Royal Family," will reveal:
- The incontrovertible
truth about Michael Kennedys statutory rape of his childrens baby-sitter and
his attempt to destroy her when the word got out.
- Michael Kennedys
instruction to a well-placed henchman (who had been dismissed from Senator Edward
Kennedys campaign for raping a young college volunteer) to dig up dirt on the
baby-sitters father, a key Massachusetts democrat, friend, mentor, and board member
of Citizens Energy Corp.
- Michael Kennedys
three-way tryst with his secretary and his brother Bobbys wife.
- Michael Kennedys
several illegitimate children by various women
- Bobby Kennedy Jr.s
attempt to get Tim Collins, a supporter of Senator Kennedy, to lie about Michael
Kennedys transgression and to say instead that I, Michael Skakel, had been sleeping
with the young girl
- Representative Joseph
Kennedys phone calls from his office in Congress, pleading with me to lie about his
full knowledge and approval of Michael Kennedys statutory rape of the teenager
- Bobby Kennedy Jr.s
attempt to perform an "intervention" on Senator Kennedy
- Tim Collins
officer to Victoria Reggie Kennedy to pay the whole of Senator Kennedys $2.2.
million 1992 campaign debt if he would enter rehab for drug and alcohol abuse
- The truth about William
Kennedy Smiths Florida rape case: he did it
- Bobby Kennedy Jr.s
admission that he cheated while at The University of Virginia Law School
- That it was Ethel
Kennedys refusal to allow me to use the Kennedy name to get my cousin David into
detox that resulted in Davids death by overdose less than 48 hours later
- The true sequence of
events surrounding the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley, the subject of a new book murder
in Greenwich by Mark Fuhrman, Dominick Dunnes best-selling novel, A Season in
Purgatory, the book GreenTown from Arcade Books, and numerous articles in the
press and magazines. In Dead Man Talking, I will speak publicly and at length about
my involvement in the events of the evening of Martha Moxleys murder.
- The cruelty and depravity of a
"concentration camp for kids" Elan, in Poland Springs, Maine, where I was
sent at the age of seventeen to "rehabilitate" me, and where I was subjected to
a level of torture deemed unacceptable even for prisoners of war.