John F Kennedy
Mimi Alford's memoir "Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath," struck me as very sad but very true. Now she is 69, a grandmother and a retired church administrator. She says she wrote her book to "unburden" herself.
Here's her story: Alford was a very pretty debutante, just nineteen, whose connections got her a summer job as an intern in JFK's White House in 1962. Just a few days after she started working in the Press Office, she was invited to swim at lunchtime in the White House pool where the President swam daily to ease his chronic back pain. Needless to say, at that time Americans knew little about Kennedy's many health problems or his many, many sexual indiscretions. .
Alford was swimming when the President met her. Later that day she was invited to a party by Dave Powers, the President's pal, who worked as an aide to JFK. The party consisted of Powers, a couple of other young female staffers, and a pitcher of daiquiris.Powers made sure her glass was never empty. When JFK arrived he offered to take her on a personal tour. She thought the others were coming with them, but they were alone. He took her to "Mrs. Kennedy's bedroom."
"I noticed he was moving closer and closer. I could feel his breath on my neck. He put his hand on my shoulder," she recounts.The next thing she knew, he was standing above her, looking directly into her eyes and guiding her to the edge of the bed. "Slowly, he unbuttoned the top of my shirtdress and touched my breast." Yes, she writes a bit like it is a bodice ripper. But the facts are not romantic.He took off his pants but not his shirt. After it was over, he pointed her to the bathroom. She had been a virgin.
The affair continued. She would swim with the President, then race back to her desk to await his summons. She called him "Mr. President." He never kissed her on her lips. She traveled with him, waiting to be summoned to his hotel room. She watched him, she claims; take a handful of poppers at a raucous party at Bing Crosby's ranch. And she once gave Dave Powers oral sex while the President watched but demurred when he wanted her, at another time, to service Ted Kennedy.
The last time she met JFK, Alford was about to be married to her college sweetheart. It was November 15, 1963, just a week before JFK was assassinated in Dallas. She writes:
"He took me in his arms for a long embrace and said, 'I wish you were coming with me to Texas.' And then he added, 'I'll call you when I get back.' I was overcome with sudden sadness. 'Remember, Mr. President, I'm getting married.' 'I know that,' he said, and shrugged. 'But I'll call you anyway.'" Oh, the arrogance.
Alford writes, trying to explain her behavior, "The fact that I was being desired by the most famous and powerful man in America only amplified my feelings to the point where resistance was out of the question." And, oh, I believe her. I do. It was a time when all that most girls wanted was to have a powerful and important man interested in them. The only power young women then felt they could have was sexual.
But is it so different now? Of course, there was Monica Lewinsky who carried in the pizza, snapped her thong and initiated that Oval Office seduction. Clinton was another President who behaved badly while Lewinsky was young and insecure and needy. In the current move "The Ideas of March," the plotline also revolves around the affair a Presidential candidate has with an attractive intern. So we still believe important men behave arrogantly and young women still primarily rely on their sexual power. Sad but true: Mimi Alford's fifty-year-old story is not yet out-of-date.
Myrna Blyth is editor-in-chief of ThirdAge.
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