The marriage lasted 73 days. Jacqueline Kent Cooke was born Jan. 25, 1988, six days before the Redskins won Super Bowl XXII. Three years later, Cooke saw the child during a deposition unrelated to his paternity, and what he saw was a near Xerox of himself—blue eyes, brown curly hair, square jaw, 80-decibel voice. He swooped her up in his arms and said, "Well, there's no question whose child this is." He hasn't seen her since.
It was late, an hour after the end of the party the Friday night before the 1989 Super Bowl in Miami. Pete Rozelle, then NFL commissioner, and his wife, Carrie, went back to their hotel suite. Carrie loved Pete, whom she had married after her divorce from Ralph Cooke, but sometimes she hated these parties. For one thing, they might mean seeing her former father-in-law.
There was a message waiting that night. Jackie Cooke had been found dead in his apartment in Glendale, Calif. The coroner would say he died of alcoholic liver disease and related cardiomyopathy. Turns out Jackie's heart was much too big. Who didn't know that?
Jackie had been dead for three days. Since he had almost no friends left, nobody had called or stopped by to check on him. Through all those three days, the festivities had raged on in Miami.
Talk about a photo op. Oct. 2, 1988: Redskins versus the New York Giants at RFK Stadium. Cooke was on the far left of his luxury box, as usual. His gorgeous new girlfriend, Marlene, then 36, was next to him, and Nancy Reagan was nearby. How often can you shoot a picture of an American billionaire sitting next to a woman with a cocaine conviction sitting near a First Lady who has just attended a pregame Just Say No (to drugs) promotion?
Cooke once said, "My life is better than any F. Scott Fitzgerald novel you have ever read," but Marlene Ramallo Chalmers is more out of an Elmore Leonard novel. Marlene was a friend of Suzanne Martin's (though Martin insists she knew nothing of the drugs); in fact, Marlene's mother was Suzanne's maid. Suzanne even lent Marlene $5,250 for plastic surgery. So you can imagine Suzanne's chagrin when a friend of Marlene's testified against her at the child-support hearings for Jacqueline, saying that he had heard Suzanne say the baby was "her ticket" to getting big cash from the Cookeie jar. Hmmmm. Marlene was tough, calculating and deceptive. Jack Kent Cooke's kind of woman? He married her on May 5,1990.
What do you figure the odds are of one billionaire's marrying two women in a row with cocaine-related convictions? Suzanne had gotten three years' probation for illicit use of a telephone to sell cocaine in 1982, and Marlene, according to U.S. government allegations, was a longtime associate of drug smugglers. In '86, Marlene was arrested at Washington's National Airport along with a companion who was carrying a suitcase containing 10 grams of cocaine. That triggered a 13-count indictment against Marlene and against three other Bolivians who, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, were involved in a drug ring that brought "$20 million worth [wholesale] of cocaine into the Washington area" between August '82 and March '86.
After agreeing to cooperate with the government, Marlene got 18 months for conspiracy to import less than a kilogram of cocaine. She served 3½. No problem. Within two years, she was sitting in Cooke's luxury box, about to have her child adopted by a man who wouldn't even see his own biological daughter. The adoption isn't official yet because the boy's father, Angel Miguens Oiler, says from an Oakdale, La., prison that he'll never sign the adoption papers. "He is my only son, and I love him," says Miguens Oiler. Still, Suzanne knows the score.
"You go against Jack Kent Cooke and...he'll try to get even with you," she says. "Everything's a game to him, win or lose."
After Jackie's death, Carrie Rozelle founded the National Center for Children with Learning Disabilities in Manhattan. Jackie had a purpose after all.