Photo by Brian Cassidy
Fascination With Subject Still Vibrant for 'Jackie Historian'
by Robbi Courtaway, St. Louis Suburban Journals (Kirkwood-Webster)
A picture from the Globe Drug Store in St. Louis sparked a lifelong fascination-turned-hobby for Kirkwood resident Steve Brawley.
As a child, Brawley sometimes spent the night with his grandmother, who had a portrait of President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, displayed in the living room of her Lafayette Square home.
The portrait, taken by photographer Yousuf Karsh, had been purchased from the discount drug-store chain.
"She would tell me stories about the Kennedys and how brave Mrs. Kennedy was," said Brawley, 37, who until that point had been fascinated by Abraham Lincoln and all things historical. "I became a big Jackie fan."
The self-described Jackie historian will speak at 7 p.m. May 18 at the Webster Groves Public Library, 301 E. Lockwood Ave. He will celebrate Jackie's 40th anniversary as first lady and her 50th wedding anniversary with Jack via a lecture that tells her life story through magazine covers and collectibles.
Admission is free. To register, call (314) 961-3784.
"As time goes on, I strongly believe she will emerge as more of a substantial woman in her own right, with very deliberate and strategic goals, not just a fashion and image icon," he said.
The founder of the consulting firm The Consultancy Inc., Brawley began collecting books, magazines and knickknacks about Jackie O. as a youngster. He continued the hobby while studying communications and political science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and St. Louis University.
"The next thing you know, I had a lot of cool stuff and ended up finding lots of Jackie O. items, especially from garage sales, flea markets and e-Bay," he said. "Today I have more than 1,000 Jackie-related items.
"The centerpiece of my collection is magazines that feature Jackie O. on the cover. They tell her life story, from her dating JFK in 1952 to her death in 1994."
In 2002, Brawley was selected as a keynote speaker and event consultant for Jackie's 50th class reunion at her alma mater, The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
"I also am researching several books on Jackie and the White House," he said. "This summer I will be launching www.pinkpillbox a web-based magazine that salutes Jackie-inspired style with Jackie remembrances and quarterly style and trend forecasts."
One might think it would be tiring to follow a single celebrity so intensely for so many years. But Brawley, it seems, never becomes bored.
"Every day I learn something new about Jackie or find a new collector's item about her," he said. "So it's never boring and always a challenge. Although so much has been written about her, I have several research projects under way that will provide even more insight into the important role she played in our recent history."
And his favorite collectible?
"My favorite Jackie item is the picture that my grandmother had hanging in her living room," Brawley said. "I inherited it from her, and it proudly hangs in my house today."