Central Park in New York attracts all sorts of people. You may be staying close by at the Plaza Hotel and decide to take your new Prada sneakers for a walk. Or, dressed like a carrot, a coconut or a cashew you may walk around the park offering tourists samples to promote your new start-up juice bar. Some use the park lawns as their personal gym and the benches as their office. Comfortably clad, and with all necessary exercise gear and technology in their briefcases, they lift weights, stretch limbs, and attend to business at the same time. Beats the cost of Manhattan health clubs and office space. Or, like me, you go to Central Park to remind yourself why migrating from Australia and living in New York is the perfect thing to do. Quirky, obsessive and eccentric. It’s all here and I love it!

I sit on my towel at Sheep Meadow taking in a dose of Vitamin D. Nearby, two women sit cross-legged under a psychedelic sun umbrella. They eat chocolate ice cream, knishes and pretzels covered in mustard, and hot dogs with ketchup. In that order. They are comfortable with their large frames and hairy legs and armpits. They are dressed similarly in hot pink and yellow muumuus. They wear hairnets under their baseball caps and their rubber flip-flops have scrunched sunflowers on top. “I love Jackie” stickers are plastered all over their carry bags. They are looking at their scrapbooks, swapping pictures and magazine articles and comparing notes.

“She was such a pet. Don’t know what she saw in him. He was such a playboy.”

“I guess we all have our weaknesses, don’t we.”

“I love her like a sister. She was a saint. She’ll be canonized one of these days. Just you wait and see.”

Almost as if performing a ritual, the women slowly turn pages of their scrapbooks. They gasp and smile with compassion and admiration at the various images of Jackie O. They have pictures of her attending various parties and fundraising events, at the White House surrounded by dignitaries, alone on a couch browsing through a coffee table book, on vacation in Italy, swimming in the South of France, climbing the Eiffel Tower, sitting on top of a mountain, riding on the back of a camel . . .

“They shouldn’t have let her do stuff like that. She could have hurt herself,” they declare.

One of the women takes out a magnifying glass from her carry bag. She looks closely at Jackie dressed in one of her infamous A-line dresses with three quarter sleeves, matching pillbox hat, and white gloves.

“I’m going to have that dress made up for this year’s Jackie O Remembrance Day party. Don’t know where I’m going to get the jewelry.”

“You’ll have to rob a bank.”

“Getting a Jackie O wig shouldn’t be too difficult, though. Everyone wants hair like hers.”

“Not my daughter, Jessie. She doesn’t. Came home last night with hair that looked like it was dipped into a bottle of orangeade and then nibbled at by rats on the subway platform.”

“Same with my Aggie. Came home with a head looking like pink cotton candy, and with a silver loop hanging from her eyebrow. Jackie wouldn’t have been seen dead looking like that. She was a real lady. They just don’t make ‘em like her anymore.”

“They sure don’t.”

They catch me peeping at their scrapbooks and invite me to join them for a closer look. Of course, I jump at the opportunity. They introduce themselves as Jean and Joan from Middle Village, Queens.

“You do love Jackie, don’t you?” demands Jean.

“Honestly, I don’t know a lot about her,” I say, hoping my ignorance would inspire them to impart more information about their beloved.

“Where are you from?” asks Joan, suspiciously.

“Australia,” I respond.

“Oh. That figures. You probably learned all about kangaroos and koala bears. Well, they should have taught you about Jackie. The whole world should know about Jackie!” exclaims Joan.

“Yes,” says Jean. “She had it all. Beauty. Class. Money. Respect. Would have cut off my right arm to spend a day in her shoes.”

“You know,” confided Joan, “my husband is always threatening to divorce me. Says I spend more time with Jackie than I do with him. Well, she was more interesting than he could ever be. Anyway, I can say the same thing about him and James Dean. Insists on watching his movies over and over. Only made three movies, mind you. Says James Dean’s lines out loud with him! Got posters and pictures of him plastered all over the garage. And when they brought out that stamp with James Dean’s face on it, he went and spent his entire paycheck at the post office. Says they’ll be worth a lot of money someday. We’ll see. I may get a new washing machine after all.”

“Could be worse. My husband thinks he’s Lassie,” complains Joan.

And so, from under that psychedelic umbrella in Central Park, I hear about Jean and Joan’s husbands’ obsessions with James Dean and Lassie, and I learn everything they know about Jackie O. Whether their information is fabricated or exaggerated doesn’t matter to me. Meeting characters like Jean and Joan from Middle Village, Queens, adds pieces of gold to my Big Apple jewel box.

Stella Pulo is an Australian actress, writer, and English Professor at SVA. She has lived in New York since 1997. Her latest work is Shrimp Shells in My Cleavage, Travel Tales from an Aussie Actress on the Run. www.stellapulo.com