Liz Smith: Once Upon A Secret — Another Kennedy Mistress Revealed. What A Shock and Should We Care?

And more from our Liz: A Kennedy book that might really mean something — Clint Hill’s Mrs. Kennedy and Me 

“THE ONE charm about marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties,” said Oscar Wilde.

* * *

I DECIDED recently that sometimes people with a real story wait too long to tell it. It may lose impact and forcefulness — principals die and escape immediate opprobrium. Pop history kind of passes it all by.

Still, I was mildly intrigued when Mimi Alford came out with her story of being a 19-year-old intern who had an affair with President John F. Kennedy in 1962. For a lot of people, this is a big “so what else is new?’ story. Others continue to be mildly titillated by the foibles of the famous, no matter how long some of them are dead.

Mimi, now an attractive older woman, tells her tale a little late in the book Once Upon a Secret. (Mimi’s relationship with Kennedy was actually uncovered back in 2003, in another book about JFK. No big deal was made of it at the time.)

She recited her feelings openly to TV legend Meredith Vieira. The latter conducted the interview while frowning in feigned, or perhaps actual, disapproval at the straightforward recitation of youthful infidelity. But Mimi seems to present her minor — and not unique! — place in history as a philosopher. She offers JFK’s powerful position as a ragingly attractive man who also happened to be the most powerful chief executive in the world. She refuses to apologize for her behavior in the past.

* * *

I WAS thinking that this story of Mimi and JFK has plenty of other associations that weren’t all that free of heartbreak and public disdain and dismay. I wrote for years about Kennedy’s love affair with Judith Exner, and that seems to have been a different kettle of fish.

Judith slept with a gun under her pillow ever after. (She claimed J. Edgar Hoover’s men spied on her for years and she was afraid they might kill her.) She was desperately in love with JFK and thought he was with her. She told me of breaking with the President and not wanting to. “I was 25 and in love. Was I supposed to have more sense than the President of the United States?” (I always admired this quote.)

Judith confessed to me many years after I met her that she became pregnant by the President and had an abortion arranged by mob boss Sam Giancana. She said she became an innocent go-between carrying pay-off money between the White House and Chicago. (And Judith Exner never spoke publicly about any of this until forced to by a Congressional committee. So I more or less believed most of what she confessed to me.)

* * *

MIMI is in a different category. She tries to come off as playful; as she says she and the President were “playful.” They took baths together with yellow rubber duckies, she asserts. He was sometimes downright “silly.”

Except for the feelings of Jacqueline Kennedy, about which Mimi remains buttoned up. Her attitude attempts to strike an “Oh, it was completely harmless” vibe. But was it really? JFK pushing drugs on her … expecting her to perform sex on other men while he watched … never showing her real tenderness. They never kissed, she recalls. JFK might have been a potentially great president, but he was a flawed human being. And she was still a teenager! That she would say the sex was consensual — adding, “I wouldn’t call it rape” — is in itself disturbing. Who was calling it rape? Maybe even at this late date she herself wonders?

There is no longer anything shocking about adultery. Nor can the myth of “Camelot” be any more tarnished than it has been. There is no one left alive to verify the more salacious aspects of Mimi’s tale. Or the rubber duckies. Still, based on what we know from other sources, Mimi’s confessions sound like JFK’s behavior with all his women, except for Jackie, whom he alternately revered and disrespected.

With changing times, and a much less protective media, we suffered through the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, which led to impeachment and a rather ruined life for Miss Lewinsky. Monica wrote a book to pay off her enormous legal fees and attempt to rehabilitate herself in the eyes of all. (In Europe, the entire incident was considered laughable. We would impeach a president for his infidelities?!)

I don’t know why Mimi wrote her book. If, as she says, it was all so casual, playful and consensual, why bother? It doesn’t help JFK’s reputation, and unless she wanted to paint herself as a victim of a powerful, insistent man, the parade has passed by on Kennedy mistresses.

* * *

AND NOW comes another book which I can’t wait to read. In April we’ll get Mrs. Kennedy and Me from Clint Hill, the secret service man who was the watchdog for the then First Lady and climbed on the back of the limo to protect her when JFK was shot.

After fifty years, Clint who has been supremely quiet and always tasteful, will tell his story of four years with Jackie for the very first time. After the assassination, Clint rose in the Secret Service to the very pinnacle. But he remained enthralled by Jackie — “swept up in the whirlwind of her beauty, her grace, her intelligence, her coy humor, her magnificent composure, and her extraordinary spirit.”

His book is being published by Gallery Books of Simon & Schuster, and will also be available on Amazon Kindle. Maybe Clint Hill will still impress us with candor and feeling. I’m betting he will; he has always been a heroic figure to me.

18 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Barbara says:

    I just can’t figure out how you get a whole book out of sleeping with someone, even if it is a president. Recount the act(s)? The places she waited for him? She really does come off as someone looking for their 15 minutes of fame, but kind of a high society 15 minutes.

    I recall hearing the Jackie called the president’s assorted women “the dogs.” Seems rather fitting but also sad that it was expected that she put up with the behavior.

  2. avatar Elizabeth L says:

    I don’t care the President was assassinated 49 years ago and Ms.Alford should have kept quiet I also find it convenient the photos of them, notes, jewelry the dress are all gone. This was nothing more than a money grab.
    I just don’t understand when and why being an adulterer became acceptable.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      As Liz Smith points out, Mimi Alford was “named” in a previous book. Although she really wasn’t. But it didn’t take the media long to find out who she was. She was silent at the time. Perhaps she merely decided not to be silent. I doubt it was a “money grab” as you put it.

      She does take an odd tone in the book. Perhaps to cover up something that is still very painful. Something all the Kennedy women, it seems, share. The pain. 

      What I found offernsive was the interview on NBC last week. The interviewer asked her if perhaps she wasn’t placing a burden on Caroline. What about the burden Caroline’s father placed on her?  Caroline, like all the Kennedys, prefers to have only a very perfected history recorded. And some in the media seem intent on enabling them. Her father may have been a great man in his vision of the future but he also was not a very nice man in his attitudes towards women. An attitude he shared with his brothers. An attitude they shared with their father. Camelot may seem quite romanic. Unless you happened to be one of the Kennedy women. Particularly those who were used and abused and cast aside.

  3. avatar Rho says:

    I don’t care either.  Enough already.

  4. avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

    I don’t care how young she was or how powerful the President was. She knew exactly what she was doing. I saw parts of the interviews here and there and found her attitude to be offensive. She was asked if she gave any thought to Mrs. Kennedy and she very easily said no. For me that said it all. Don’t intend to read the book as I have no desire to add to her bank account.

  5. avatar Lila says:

    Much is made of Ms. Alford’s “teen” age at the time, but she was 19 and an adult. Granted, a young and pliable adult and I do think Kennedy abused his power in these affairs, as so many powerful men do. But Ms. Alford was an adult.

    • avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

      Exactly, Lila. And the person making the most of her “teen” status is Ms Alford. I was married at 19 and still married to the same man. He was 20, yes we were young but knew what we were doing. Not the right thing for everyone but it has been wonderful for us. Before I was married, I worked for a large corporation as a secretary. There was an executive who thought he was the be all and end all. He knew that I sang in local clubs and used to come to the clubs to hear me. He tried many times to get me to go to “dinner” with him. I always said, sure, let me know when you wife is available. Yep, I was young but I knew right from wrong. I am not giving the President a pass, his behavior was unforgivable but the only person who could have forgiven him and may have is no longer alive.

  6. avatar Jay Gentile says:

    Liz, the dignified thing would have been not to devote a full column to this woman. All you accomplished was burnishing this creature’s slim claim to fame.

  7. avatar JCF4612 says:

    Much as I admire Meredith Vieira’s interviewing skills, I would hardly call her a “legend.”
    After being outed in 2003, I think it’s understandable why Mimi Alford eventually decided to have her own personal say on her own affair with JFK. Why should she let an oh-by-the-way reference in someone else’s book be a bullet to her own reputation and then stay silent?  
    As for JFK, we’ve all known for decades that he was a big-time adulterer — with celebs like Monroe, gangster babes like Exner, even Ben Bradlee’s ex-wife’s sister who eventually got murdered.
    But for the first time, Alford puts JFK in harsh new light: Predator. For a teen-age virgin. 
    And, if one believes her (and I do) he was an ultra-twisted one at that, being as how Alford allows he had her blow his pal Dave Powers. (So much for Internet sites making Powers, as a weenie procurer, look respectable if not downright statesmanlike. His descendants, if he has any, should really be embarrassed.) 

    • avatar Reggie says:

      I was thinking the exact same thing, i.e., that I find her story believable and that Kennedy was a creepy predator/manipulator.  If anybody is a “dog”, it’s him.  If anybody should have thought about Jackie Kennedy’s feelings, he should have.  She is responsible for her own conduct, however, I find the greater fault and lack of character emanated from him.  19 vs 46 and President?  Get real. 

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      She wasn’t really “outed” because she wasn’t named in the book. But it didn’t take the media long to figure out who she was.  She simply decided to finally tell her side of the story. And is now being maligned by the media which of course wanted the story in 2003. 

      And JFK was a predator. Just as Bill Clinton was. But some women, some of them supposedly “liberated,” seem to love the “bad boys.”  I still get nauseated by the “excuse” offered by Hillary Clinton. And even more nauseated by the “acceptance” of the excuse by Gloria Steinhem who apparently isn’t as liberated as everyone believed and anyone who would excuse a predator isn’t really that liberated. Maybe the fumes from her burning bra effected her brain. Whether Mimi Alford was a “wiling participant” in the matter really avoids the matter which was his pusuing her to begin with. And the matter of his obvious disdain for not only her but his own child when she thought she might be pregnant. And of course there are still the rumors about Marilyn Monroe. The baby might have been his. Or his brother’s. And maybe she refused to have an abortion. And so maybe, well, maybe she was murdered.  Honestly they both were capable of it. And others were capable of covering it up. As we say in Connecticutt in the matter of Ethel Kennedy’s nephew.  A nasty lot the Kennedys. Particularly the men.

  8. avatar JCF4612 says:

    While I look forward to Clint Hill’s book, I doubt it will present any significant revelations. Mostly, it’s likely to be yet another an Ode to Camelot.  

  9. avatar considerpleeze says:

    I think Mimi Alford has ever right to come out with her story now. I haven’t read the book and don’t know if I will, but I think it’s bothered her for years – the way she lost her virginity (pretty close to rape to me!) and then being coerced by the President into performing oral sex on Dave Powers etc. I’m 11 years younger than Ms. Alford and I remember how different the times were then and in the 70s as well. Young women had no power or say – especially in the workplace, to say nothing of the White House! As for the rubber ducks, if you listen to Jackie’s tapes that were just released last year, she mentions that the President had all of John-John’s toys around his bathtub so that’s why they were there. I feel sorry for the women who were used by these kind of men. Look at poor Monica Lewinsky, whose life was practically ruined by her affair with Clinton, while it didn’t seem to tarnish his reputation a bit. I think Monica must be close to 40 now and as far as I know has never married or had children. I occasionally get email “jokes” with her name as the punchline and I always get annoyed and give the person who sent it to me my two cents’ worth.

    • avatar Reggie says:

      I was thinking the same thing.  I also felt bad for Monica.  Her conduct was dishonorable, but if you think about it so was that of Callista Gingrich, whose affair had a happier ending….for her…not for Marianne Gingrich.  And likewise, apparently Marianne Gingrich had a similar affair years earlier resulting in the end of Newt’s first marriage.

      I think Monica actually thought Clinton cared about her.  Just as I think Mimi thought JFK cared for her.  Youthful delusion, perhaps.  But what did each man (married, highly educated, powerful, master manipulator, and with 20 yrs more of life experience) say to these gals in private to keep stringing them along?  Neither was a one-night stand. 

      I applaud them telling their stories.  It’s part of their life history.

  10. avatar central coast cabin home says:

    I cannot believe I am longing for the days when we would have NEVER known the women our presidents slept with, the shape of their penis or who they blew in the white house or elsewhere. Rubber duckies and abortions, spare me! Whatever happened to good manners and respect? Who is she self disclosing for and why? Please let the pendulum swing back to intelligence, grace and kindness.

  11. avatar ShiverMeTimbers says:

    Kennedy and his brothers were whore-mongers and there’s probably a sex addict or two in the bunch.  I’m not impressed by who he was or what he did in the least.  He used his power to screw around.  Where’s the glory and honor in THAT, I’d like to know. 

    It doesn’t matter, he’s in hell now anyway, him and his nasty murderous bootlegger father and all their brothers. 

    Good men and women lay DEAD because of the Kennedys.  Who cares about who they screwed 50 years ago, I know I don’t.