Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis.
One of the richest men in the world, Aristotle Onassis, was married twice. His first wife was Tina Livros, the seventeen year old daughter of a shipping tycoon. (Onassis was forty when he married her). His second wife was one of the most famous women in America at that time — Jackie Kennedy, the widow of the assassinated president JFK.
But one woman was with him for longer than either of his wives – and during both marriages. She was Greek, like Onassis, and was the most famous woman in the country. She was his mistress for many years and was the highly acclaimed opera singer, Maria Callas.
Both were married to other people when they met and embarked upon their affair. But they soon divorced their previous spouses. The couple were made for each other. For the rest of his life, Onassis could talk to Maria about anything, he loved her company and they were both passionate and sensual beings. According to those who were closest to Onassis, he would rather be with Maria than anyone else.
To the Greeks nothing is more important than their families. Aristotle Onassis was very close to his adoring sister Artemis and, along with others close to him, she disapproved of his relationship with Maria. So did his two children from his first marriage, Alexander and Christina. They wanted more than anything for their parents to get back together.
But Maria was exactly what Onassis wanted and needed. She was beautiful, voluptuous, intelligent, talented, passionate and fiery. Although some people refer to the relationship between King Edward VIII of England and Wallis Simpson as ‘the love affair of the century’, others would say that this accolade should be given to the relationship between Callas and Onassis.
Through her sister, Lee Radziwill, Jackie Kennedy met Onassis on many occasions. When she lost her new-born son in 1963, Onassis offered her a cruise of his luxury yacht in order for her to recuperate and get away from her worries. John Kennedy, his family, the press and even members of the general public disapproved wholeheartedly but nevertheless a strong friendship grew between Jackie and Onassis.
She was becoming increasingly nervous about living in the States – and about securing a financial future for her two children – and this became even more serious when her brother-in-law Robert was also assassinated. There was only one man in the world who could offer her the security (and the wealth) that she desired and that was Onassis. Jackie Kennedy and Onassis were married in 1968.
It’s said that for him, marrying one of the most famous women in America, one with her own wealth, would be advantageous to him in business and socially. Jackie Kennedy was hardly his type. He preferred fiery, voluptuous and passionate women such as Maria and Jackie was almost the direct opposite. Maria was said to be heartbroken when the marriage took place but her affair with Onassis continued almost seamlessly until his death.
Why didn’t Onassis marry Maria?
Even his sister Artmis and his close friend and secretary Kiki pondered that question without coming up with an answer. Artemis, who knew her brother very well indeed, believed that Aristotle had no desire to marry again once he and his first wife had divorced. He had Maria and no formal marriage was required as far as he was concerned.
Artemis believed that the idea of marriage came entirely from Jackie Kennedy. Kiki thought that Onassis had known that Maria wouldn’t leave him when he married Jackie. The two women discussed the issue endlessly.
The death of Aristotle Onassis
Onassis’ only son, Alexander, died in a plane crash in 1973 and this marked a rapid decline in Aristotle’s health. He felt he had nothing to live for. His marriage to Jackie had been on the rocks for some time and she was increasingly spending more and more time in the United States.
Eventually he was hospitalised in Paris. It was clear that he was not going to recover. Maria called the hospital daily and begged to be able to see her lover for the last time but the family would not allow it. On March 15th, 1975, Onassis died without Maria having been able to visit him.
She was also not allowed to attend the funeral on Onassis’ private island, Skorpios. During the service, those in attendance were heard to wonder between themselves why Maria had not been allowed to be there. They said ‘She, of all of us,deserves to be standing here’.
Maria’s final tribute
Some months later, Maria called Kiki, who was still working for the Onassis organisation, and asked her if she could arrange a private visit so that she could go to Aristotle’s grave on Skopios. Kiki was only too happy to do so. She met Maria at the airport and recorded that she was thinner, looked a lot older and was dressed all in black. She was carrying a bouquet of red roses.
Maria went to the island alone. She placed her flowers on Onassis’ grave and stayed there for about an hour, saying goodbye.
Shortly afterwards, Maria Callas died on September 16th, 1977
She was only fifty three.
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