You see one of them waiting to be seated at a restaurant, tall and self-assured, handsome, freckled face, something that makes the eye move directly to him. And you know, without being told who he is.

You see another walking down a dusty hot southwestern street, studying the hovels sheltering undernourished citizens, pausing to chat with oldsters, and you know, without being told, who she is.

You see yet another living it up inside a fevered disco in midtown Manhattan, arm around a half dressed girl, cigarette tilted in the mouth Bogart-style, and you know, without being told, who he is -- a Kennedy.

There is virtually nowhere in the world where the name is not known. And now there are 29 grandchildren of the family patriarch, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, and the matriarch, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, to carry on the name and fame for decades to come. If the Kennedy kids have it bred in them to play hard and to win, the third generation also seems to have a built-in probability of mishap.

If the stories about the patriarch are true -- that he trafficked in liquor during Prohibition, that he could manipulate stocks and bonds, barely skirting the law, then who can doubt that the ghost of Joe Kennedy is alive and running with the Kennedy kids who get caugt speeding on the highways, who are charged with possesion of drugs?

Nor is it surprising that after their stints in the backwashes of society, helping the poor, the Kennedy kids throng the discos and night spots.

Work hard, play hard.

The law of primogeniture is a Kennedy tenet. By this rule, the mantle of authority, responsibility and worldly goods is handed down to the first-born male, and if then abrogated by death or inability, is handed on to the next-born male. So Joe III is the leader of the third generation, even though his sister Kathleen is its first-born.

And there is the matter of the Kennedy money.

The amount is estimated to range from $300 million to $500 million, and each son and daughter of Joesph P. Kennedy benefits from the interest on the trust fund set up for him or her. On his or her death, the trust is dissolved and the assets divided among his or her children. The sum of each trust is thought to be $12 to $15 million. The managemnt of the trust is done by others. The Kennedys live off interest and other profits. Not one of the third-generation kids will have to worry about their financial security.

Patrick Joe Kennedy set up his first trust in 1926 for his sons and daughters. Then in 1936 he set up eight trusts, one for each of his children (except Rosemary, the mentally retarded eldest daughter), providing more than $100 million. Though he created additional trusts in 1949 and 1959, it was the 1926 and 1936 trusts that established their vast wealth.

The trusts are in no way the bulk of the family fortune. There are four "legs" on which it stands: real estate, oil holdings, stocks and bonds and family foundations.

"In his own way, I think old Joe Kennedy put a self-destruct mechanism in that family-funding operation -- money," says a close observer of the Kennedy clan. "When he set up those trust funds for his sons and daughters so they would all be rich the moment they reached maturity, he fixed it so none of the kids could ever touch the money. They could only live off the profits.

"Perhaps the fact that Joe Kennedy didn't let his children touch the money may have effectively chocked off a native ability to make money, a chance to determine their own talents in life, a right to become even greater captains of industry than Joe himself was." JOHN F. KENNEDY JR.

It was a heart-wrenching sight. In the flag-draped casket lay the body of the 35th preseident of the United States, gunned down by an assassin's bullets. In front of the casket stood a small boy, his little arm raised in a salute to his dead father. It was John Fitgerald Kennedy Jr.'s third birthday.

By early December 1963, the children and their mother had left the White House forever. The family eventually settled in a $200,000 cooperative apartment overlooking New York's Central Park.

A typical morning for John began when a bus from Collegiate School came by to pick him up. Two secret Service agents would hop into a car and drive after the bus, watch to see John alight at school, and retire to the school cellar to play cards and talk until John went home.

Like his father, John has a good sense of humor. His cousin Christopher Lawford once told a writer: "He's one of the funniest guys I've ever known. He tells these long, involved old Irish jokes, in an accent. I don't know where he learned them."

When Aristotle Onassis became his stepfather, John seemed to thrive on every minute with him. Onassis would drop in at the house on Fifth Avenue, and soon he and John would be deep in conversation about flying, traveling, warships and adventures. In the fall of 1975, John started in at Phillips Academy, a prestigious boarding school in Andover, Mass. It was the first time he was really away from home, and he liked the freedom.

From the beginning he seemed to be over his head academically. Jacqueline agonized over the situation. When john's grades came in the first semester, she took him to psychiatrist Ted Becker, a specialist in adolescent problems.

Meanwhile, a whole new life was opening up to John. He began acting in school plays, and he had unexpected talent. "He's a natural at hamming it up," said a friend. "He's good."

Jacqueline, despite her academic background, her love of art, ballet and theater, could not see it. When she heard about John's interest in acting, she sent him out into the "real world." John wound up on a Peace Corps mission to Guatemala, which had then been hit by a severe earthquake. Then he was signed up in a Outward Bound course to learn survival tactics.

John went back to school the next fall, plunged into the books again -- and acted in plays. He had to retake a number of courses, but in June 1979, he was graduated. He entered Brown University that September, and the lure of acting was still strong. Almost 18, he was nearly grown. A cousin called him "the best looking of the Kennedy kids." Others agreed. Producer Robert Stigwood, of "Saturday Night Fever" and "Grease" fame, talked to John about the role of his father in a motion picture.

Jacqueline wanted John to get on with college. "All Jacqueline wants is for the dear boy to finish his schooling," one of her cousins told a reporter.

"If I were to make a prediction about John Kennedy, I would say he will end up in California," said a former colleague at Andover. CAROLINE KENNEDY

No child outside of European royalty has had as much public exposure as Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, going on 3 when her father was elected president. Though Jacqueline Kennedy was determined to raise her daughter as normally as possible, Caroline -- with her wealth, position and charm -- seemed destined to become the fairy princess.

Long after the White House days, when Caroline was attending a convent girls' school in New York, she complained to her nanny about the constant probing by her peer group.

"The other girls keep on telling me how lucky I am to be Caroline Kennedy, and they keep staring at me," she said. "Isn't that silly? I'm just the same as anyone else, aren't I?"

In 1972 Caroline was enrolled in the 10th grade at the Concord Academy in Massachusetts. She worked hard at her studies. She also took up photography, and was coached by Peter Beard, a successful writer-photographer and family friend. In the summer of 1973 Caroline spent six weeks in the hill country of Tennessee with a film crew making a documentary about coal miners.

"You would never know she's the daughter of the late president, and so rich," one woman said. "She goes up and down those mountains just like us other hillbillies."

Jacqueline, impressed with Caroline's photographs, decided her daughter should have an exhibition. A New York amateur photography gallery agreed to hold the show, but the press began to badger gallery officials for stories. Jacqueline ordered the showing canceled.

Less flattering stories about Caroline have also surfaced. Wanting quick service at a bank, she is said to have elbowed her way to the head of the line. sShe angrily told patrons she was Caroline Kennedy, but they wouldn't let her ahead of them.

After a year of art study in London, Caroline began college at Harvard in 1976, majoring in fine arts. Around Cambridge she acquired a reputation for thriftiness.

Caroline dated occasionally but more frequently was part of a group. "She never had a steady boyfriend at Harvard," one friend said. "She didn't flirt around. A lot of guys looked upon her in an almost sisterly fashion. As far as her love life was concerned, she was always a bit of a mystery. Sitting around the pub on a Friday night, her girlfriends would gossip about their relationships, even give intimate details. But Caroline would only sit and listen."

On Nov. 27, 1978, Caroline turned 21. She began dating a more worldly set of men -- Peter Beard; fashion designer Willie Woo; Rolling Stone magazine editor Jann Wenner. Her favorite, though, was Tom Carney, a writer 10 years her senior. Caroline loved writing -- she had been an editor on the Harvard Crimson, had worked one summer at the New York Daily News and had covered Elvis Presley's funeral for Rolling Stone.

More recently the romance is said to have faded and Caroline has successfully taken her activities and herself out of the public eye. JOSEPH KENNEDY III

After Bobby Kennedy died, his son Joe III, oldest male of the third generation, next in line to Ted, inherited the spotlight.

When he failed a course in school, that made the personality columns. Joe felt the weight of the family name, and he seemed headed into a familiar Kennedy cul-de-sac: rich, spoiled playboy.

"There are those of us who have had to learn quickly that publicity is a two-edged sword," he said later about those mixed up years.

In 1970 after spending a summer in Washington as a guide on Mount Rainier, he went to work for his Uncle Ted, who was up for reelection to the Senate.

In the fall of 1972, Joe enrolled at Berkeley, but he was already involved in the presidential campaign of George McGovern and Sargent Shriver, Joe's uncle. He left Berkeley in February 1973.

The following fall he transferred to the University of Massachusetts, but not before being involved in an accident in which he was driving a car that crashed into a tree, seriously injuring several passengers, including his brother David and a young woman who was paralyzed.

"The fact is," Joe was quoted in Newsweek some years later, "I am who I am, and I'm never going to change that."

But he did.

Graduating in 1975 with a degree in legal services, he went to work as a juvenile court probation officer in Boston, a job in which he reportedly became deeply involved, though he left in 1976 when asked to manage Ted Kennedy's reelection campaign.

One colleague said: "Joe grew up a lot in 1975 and 1976. He was in fact, as well as in name, the campaign manager . . . He talked back to him [Ted]. He argued strategy with him. This was no longer a boy dealing with a sort of surrogate father. This was a politician dealing with a politician."

In 1978, Joe returned to Boston and bought a house in Brighton, a working-class neighborhood. Rumors flew. Would Joe Kennedy III run for Congress from the area? When was he going to declare?

He didn't.

In 1979 Joe married urban planner Sheila Brewster Rauch, an Episcopalian from the Philadelphia Main Line and almost three years his senior. Last year they became the parents of twin boys.

Joe had been working on an undisclosed plan to help get cheaper home heating oil in the Northeast. When details were announced at a press conference in Boston, a reported asked if Joe would run for office.

"If you think this helps me, well, that's up to you," he said. "I did it because I thought there was a gap where I could do something."

He told correspondent Hays Gorey: "I want to be effective. There are plenty of ways to be effective, and running for political office is only one of them. It may not even be the best one."

"He wants to run, all right," says one Boston politician. "I look for him to wait a couple years, and then we'll see another congressman named Kennedy. And he'll be a good one." DAVID KENNEDY

On the afternoon of June 4, 1968, while swimming at Malibu, Calif., David Anthony Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's third son, was caught in the ocean's undertow. His father pulled him out. That night, in the family suite at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel, David was sleepily watching the Kennedy victory party on TV when he saw the televised shooting of his father. David could think only of his own trauma earlier that morning.

His father had snatched him from the arms of death, but death, refused to be thwarted. If it couldn't have the son, it must take the father.

Later the nightmare faded, but David's feeling of guilt did not.

Over the next decade he was in and out of the papers -- traffict arrests, illnesses requiring hospitlization, problems apparently related to narcotics prescribed for pain following his 1973 Nantucket auto accident, dropping out of college.

In April 1978, he was admitted to Massachusetts General with pneumonia. One of the physicians who treated him was Dr. Lee Macht, a prominent Harvard psychiatry professor, who later admitted he had issued David at least 50 prescriptions over a two-year period for various drugs like Percodan and Quaaludes.

David moved to a Manhattan penthouse and began looking for a part-time job, looking into the college scene and drifting into the night life. He met a model named Rachel Ward and began moving in what was described as "a very fast crowd" frequenting nightclubs like Xenon.

It was a long hot summer in 1979. No one knows for sure what David was doing Sept. 5 in the early evening at a ramshackle hotel in Harlem.

According to his story, he was driving his BMW along West 116th Street near Eighth Avenue when two men "signaled" him to stop. He got out of his car and after a short conversation the men took David into the lobby of the Shelton Hotel, where, David reported, they beat him and robbed him of $30.

Meanwhile, a patrol car sped to the hotel. The muggers fled. Police found David bleeding in the lobby -- and 25 decks of heroin on the third floor.

David was not arrested; he was sent home.

He went to Hyannisport. A curtain of secrecy descended. A family spokesperson said David was in a "metropolitan area hospital" for treatment of a drug addiction problem.

On Sept. 13, the press reported David was in Massachusetts General suffering from bacterial endocarditis -- a heart infection often associated with narcotics addiction.

David made his first "return appearance" in New York in March last year, when he showed up at Xenon. He told people he was out on the West Coast where he was working for a "publishing company."

In July, David was arrested in Sacramento, Calif., and charged with drunk driving. In October he was fined $380 after pleading guilty to the charge in a California court. OTHER KENNEDYS

Not every Kennedy makes the headlines. Certain of the 29 grandchildren "draw the lightning"; others rarely make the papers.

Kara Anne Kennedy, 19, is the oldest of Ted and Joan's three children. Her life has been troubled with assassinations and accidents, her brother's bout with cancer, her parents' marital problems and her mother's alcoholism.

By the time Kara was in high school, she was exhibiting signs of what friends simple called "adolescent problems." She vanished from home once and was located by the police.

At Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., Kara tried to settle down to student life. In her second year, her father assigned two bodyguards to her. It has not been easy for Kara to continue a normal school life. Lately she's been hitting the night spots in New York.

As a child Edward Moore Kennedy Jr., the second of Joan and Ted Kennedy's three children, was swimming, playing tennis, sailing and camping. He had a certain shyness, and he was the only Kennedy, one observer said, seen to blush at a compliment.

In 1973, doctors discovered that Ted Jr., then 12, had a rare bone cancer in his right leg -- the leg would have to be amputated. On Nov. 30, 13 days after his operation, Ted Kennedy Jr. walked out of Georgetown Hospital on crutches. Once home, he studied hard, continued therapeutic exercises and began painful chemotherapy. Ted apparently bore the treatments well. One doctor on the staff at Children's Hospital said, "That kid's terrific." Four months after the operation, photographers snapped Ted skiing in Vail on one ski, minature outrigger skis attached to his poles.

A student at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, perhaps the bravest of the Kennedy kids was nominated for the Valor in Sports Award given in London in 1979.

The youngest of the Ted Kennedy family, Patrick, 13, was once described as "a cross between Peter Pan, a leprechaun, and Huck Finn." Patrick lives with his father in McLean and attends the private Potomac School. He and his father jog each morning before breakfast together.

"I spend as much time with him as I can," says Ted Kennedy. "In the evening in winter we try to play as much outdoors as possible. He likes Frisbee, tennis and soccer, and he's a very good card player." All this activity takes place despite the fact that Patrick has been asthmatic from birth.

Robert F. Kennedy set a pattern for his 11 children many years ago. "I think that life for them must be an adventure," he said. "Young people must be shown a way to escape from the mold they live in, in a responsible way, and to get out of themselves, and get interested in other people. That is the important thing."

In the summer of 1968 when her father was killed, Kathleen Kennedy, first-born of the Kennedy grandchildren, was a 16-year-old teaching English to the Navahos on a reservation in Chinle, Ariz. Now the mother of two daughters, she has continued to be involved in public service, having worked for the Human Rights Commission in New Mexico after graduation from Radcliffe and marriage to Harvard graduate student David Lee Townsend. She has been a law student at the University of New Mexico.

Bobby Kennedy Jr., the third eldest child of Robert and Ethel, has known adventure, pursuing an interest in animals, has written a book, worked in politics and attended law school.

At 15, he and cousin Bobby Shriver were arrested by Hyannisport police along with 40 other teen-asgers in a marijuana raid and placed on probation. A year later he was arrested for "loitering" in Hyannisport and fined $50.

On the positive side, Bobby's personal interests always included a love for and knowledge of animals. In 1974 he acted as consultant to a camera crew in Kenya. Called "The Last Frontier," the 26-part series was broadcast by ABC-TV.

During his senior year at Harvard, Bobby's thesis became the basis for his book, Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr.: A Biography, a study of the progressive federal judge whose decisions had broad effects on U.S. civil rights.

In 1975 Bobby worked as a "ward heeler" in a New Jersey assembly district campaign at the suggestion of his Harvard roommate, who lived in that state. His candidate won.

In late 1979, when his Uncle Ted announced for the presidency, Bobby, a law student at the University of Virginia, was assigned to stump in Alabama on the theory that he had already worked the territory when he lived there researching his book. He drew good crowds but saw his uncle defeated in the primary.

Bobby and Joe III have flirted with politics, but a leaning toward communications careers seems a commoner pattern among the young Kennedys. Consider these offspring and their interest in print journalism:

Caroline Kennedy has been published in a national magazine and spent a summer working at the New York Daily News; Bobby Kennedy Jr. was the first of his generation to become a published author; Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has written several articles for law journals; Bobby Shriver has written feature stories for a Los Angeles newspaper; David Kennedy is said to be working in publishing.

And consider these ties to the television industry:

Bobby Kennedy Jr. and his work on the ABC series; Joe Kennedy III, who worked with an "American Sportsman" TV documentary crew in Kenya; Mary Courtney Kennedy, who has worked for the Children's Television Workshop in New York; Maria Shriver, who is a TV producer in Baltimore.

America discovered the Kennedys through the media. If we had not discovered the Kennedys, we probably would have discovered someone else. The vacuum demanded filling. The need to ogle, to envy, to emulate was there. It still is. THE 29 John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Caroline Bouvier Kennedy -- b. 11/27/57 John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. -- b. 11/25/60 R. Sargent Shriver Jr. and Eunice Kennedy: Robert Sargent Shriver III -- b. 4/28/54 Maria Owings Shriver -- b. 11/6/55 Timothy Perry Shriver -- b. 8/29/59 Mark Kennedy Shriver -- b. 2/17/64 Anthony Paul Kennedy Shriver -- b. 7/20/65 Robert Francis Kennedy and Ethel Skakel: Kathleen Hartington Kennedy -- b. 7/4/51 Joseph Patrick Kennedy III -- b. 9/24/52 Robert Francis Kennedy Jr. -- b. 1/17/54 David Anthony Kennedy -- b. 6/15/55 Mary Courtney Kennedy -- b. 9/9/56 Michael LeMoyne Kennedy -- b. 2/27/58 Mary Kerry Kennedy -- b. 9/8/59 Christopher George Kennedy -- b. 7/4/63 Matthew Maxwell Taylor Kennedy -- b. 1/11/65 Douglas Harriman Kennedy -- b. 3/24/67 Rory Elizabeth Kennedy -- b. 12/12/68 Edward M. Kennedy and Joan Bennett: Kara Anne Kennedy -- b. 2/27/60 Edward Moore Kennedy Jr. -- b. 9/26/61 Patrick Joseph Kennedy -- b. 7/14/67 Stephen Smith and Jean Kennedy: Stephen Smith Jr. -- b. 6/28/57 William Smith -- b. 9/4/60 Amanda Smith (adopted) -- b. 4/30/67 Kym Maria Smith (adopted) -- b. 11/29/72 Peter Lawford and Patricia Kennedy: Christopher Lawford -- b. 3/29/55 Sydney Lawford -- b. 8/25/56 Victoria Lawford -- b. 11/4/58 Robin Lawford -- b. 7/2/61