NEW YORK -- Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis had grown bitter against Jacqueline Kennedy and was planning to divorce her to undo his 'betrayal' to his longtime love, opera star Maria Callas, before he died in 1975, a new book reports.
Author Arianna Stassinopoulos says in a biography of Miss Callas published this month that Onassis married the former first lady for prestige -- not love -- and quickly grew disenchanted with her and what he considered her extravagant spending. Ms. Stassinopoulos says he resumed visiting the opera star shortly after his 1968 honeymoon.
When he found he was suffering from myasthenia gravis, a nerve disorder, Onassis became embittered against his wife and irrationally came to blame her for his health problems, she wrote. He asked a lawyer to prepare for divorce proceedings and 'hired a private detective to follow her with the specific brief of producing evidence of adultery,' the book says.
'He decided to divorce her, but only after he had made it as humiliating as possible for her,' the author wrote in 'Maria Callas -- The Woman Behind the Legend,' published by Simon and Schuster.
'He saw his marriage ... (as) his life's supreme act of betrayal... his heart had pointed him toward Maria.'
But soon after he made his divorce plans, Onassis, who had to tape his eyelids open because the illness caused him to lose muscular control of them, collapsed in Athens.
Ms. Stassinopoulos said a liver specialist advised him to go to Paris for immediate gall bladder surgery, but a heart expert cautioned he should go to New York first for special treatment to strengthen him before the operation.
The book, drawing on never-before-released tapes and letters and interviews with friends and relatives of the opera star, said Onassis chose to go immediately for the operation in Paris, where Miss Callas lived.
'The one thing he made sure he took with him' was a red cashmere blanket Miss Callas gave him for his birthday, the book said. He died five weeks after the operation in March 1975.
Ms. Stassinopoulos said Onassis, who met Miss Callas in 1959 but shied away from marrying her, wed the former first lady because he wanted the prestige of having 'the world's most famous woman' as his wife.
Nonetheless, he still tried to visit Miss Callas, and when she turned him away at first, he whistled under her window and later 'threatened to drive his car through the front door,' Miss Stassinopoulos wrote.
The book said Onassis felt the former first lady, who spent an estimated $1.5 million in the first year of their marriage, was using him.
After the death of his son in a plane crash in 1973 and the diagnosis of his illness, the shipping tycoon 'irrationally considered (her) the source of all his accumulating woes,' Miss Stassinopoulos wrote.
Onassis had reduced his wife's share in his will, but after his death she reportedly contested it and Onassis' daughter, Christina, agreed to a settlement of $25 million to end the matter quickly.
Miss Callas died of a heart attack in 1977 at the age of 54.