Growing Up Kennedy

Christopher Kennedy Lawford poses for a photograph in Encino, Calif., Friday, Sept. 16, 2005. He grew up in the libertine world of Hollywood and the Kennedy family compound at Hyannis Port. Lawford writes about his double life in "Symptoms of Withdrawal : A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption."
AP/Rene Macura
Christopher Lawford's book is incredibly candid. Yet, he says, no one in his family said, "Don't do this." But, then, when correspondent Erin Moriarty interviewed him for CBS News Sunday Morning, he admitted no one had read it at that time.

Among those pictured on the cover of the book, titled "Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption," is his uncle, President John F. Kennedy. Other uncles: Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and, of course, Sen. Ted Kennedy.

"I sent my Uncle Teddy a letter when I wrote this book," recalls Lawford, "and I told him that I was gonna write this book because I had something to say about my life, and I hoped it was the beginning of many books. And I told him that I loved him. I loved my family and I'm gonna honor my family in this book. And I think I did that."

What was his uncle's response to that?

"He lifted his eyebrow," Lawford responds with a laugh.

As a member of the tight-knit clan that has always guarded its privacy, Lawford has done something highly unusual: He has written an insider's view of what it is like to be a part of America's royal family, revealing both highlights and terrible lows.

Surrounded by art and familiar faces in his mother's lavish New York apartment, Lawford explained why: "I've been writing this book my entire life. People have always asked me what it was like to grow up in the circumstances I grew up in. And now they're gonna find out."

His mother is Patricia Kennedy, the sixh child of Joseph and Rose Kennedy.

Says Lawford, "My mother was in the middle of a big, energetic, accomplished, driven brood."

His father was Peter Lawford.

"Basically, my grandfather's worst nightmare," says his son. "My father was English. He was Protestant and he was an actor."

Their marriage in 1954 was a merger of Washington and Hollywood: The stylish, accomplished Kennedy marrying a handsome movie star who later became a member of the infamous Rat Pack.

The fun-loving antics of Lawford — along with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin — were legendary both off the screen and on, in movies like the original "Ocean's Eleven."

Christopher Lawford was born in 1955 and by the time he was able to walk, he was already hobnobbing with a pretty ritzy crowd.

"I grew up in a house built by Louis B. Mayer," he recalls. "Judy Garland would come over and play piano. Frank Sinatra would show up with these gifts — these completely inappropriate gifts for my sister, Victoria, who was his goddaughter... And this was my life."

Marilyn Monroe was another frequent visitor.

"She would come over, and she'd always have a scarf on because she stayed out of the sun," Lawford says. "And one night she was there, and we were dancing — the twist was the craze — and Marilyn got up and showed us basically how it was done. And let me tell you something, doing the twist as a 5-year-old in front of your parents is not easy. Following Marilyn Monroe is impossible."

But, at that age, was he aware that he was dancing the twist with an icon?

"No," replies Lawford. "Not at all. But what you were aware of was the reaction of other people, the other adults in the room when she did the twist. And she had a way of moving that was extraordinary."

And if dancing with stars wasn't enough, there were frequent visits from his mother's brothers, one of whom happened to be president of the United States.

"My uncles were different than the movie stars," says Lawford. "My uncles really wanted kids around. They loved kids. They were family. It was all about family with them."

The fairy tale life ended on Nov. 22, 1963, when Lawford was 8 years old.