This story broke in today’s NY Post, sent to me by a good friend. I had forgotten that JFK’s affair with a young intern at the White House was previously outed by historian Robert Dallek in his 2003 book, An Unfinished Life. Dallek documents JFK’s insatiable appetite for philandering and his recklessness. During the 1960 campaign on which his father spent millions, JFK risked it all by inviting an underage cheerleader to his hotel room.
Legend has it that the term “Camelot” was applied to the presidency of John F. Kennedy by his wife. Camelot refers to the seat of the court of the legendary King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and has come to mean a place or time of idyllic happiness. Shortly after JFK was assassinated, the former first lady was talking with a journalist and described the years of her husband’s presidency as an American Camelot, a period of hope and optimism in U. S. history. Evidently that appellation might also be a slight contraction of what JFK did in the White House frequently while the first lady was away.
Some will inevitably draw comparisons between JFK’s affair in The White House with intern Mimi Alford, and Bill Clinton’s trysts with Monica Lewinsky. What makes this story different, of course, is that we are reading for the first time about a piece of history that was hidden for so many years, directly from one of the principals involved. There is moral intrigue, and there is the understanding of a different time, but perhaps of not a much different place. We will reserve full judgment until reading the book due out on Wednesday.
All this talk took me back to the infamous “Happy Birthday Mr. President” sung by Marilyn Monroe at Madison Square Garden in celebration of his 45th birthday, three months before Monroe’s death and six months before Kennedy’s assassination. The gala was attended by 15,000 of his closest friends, but was also notable for Jackie Kennedy’s absence. Not as well known is that Marilyn added some original lyrics to the tune of Bob Hope’s signature classic, Thanks For The Memory.
“Thanks, Mr. President, for all the things you’ve done, the battles that you’ve won, the way you deal with US Steel and problems by the ton.” You ain’t kiddin’, doll.