Sex, drugs and JFK: memoir of a White House intern

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The publisher of a new book promised an intimate portrait of the President – how right he was

When a retired church administrator called Mimi Alford decided to write a memoir of her teenage love affair with President John F Kennedy, her publisher was quick to deny that she intended to cash in with titillatory revelations about the Camelot-era White House. "I've seen enough to know what an extraordinary heart and soul exists in this book," Random House's executive editor, Susan Mercandett, told The New York Times, after paying "close to" $1m (£630,000) for the story. "It's about a loss of innocence. I was just struck by how simple, yet how profound it was." The book's author, he added, was "just not that type of person, where she's going to spill her guts about intimate stuff for the whole country to see".

That was in 2009. Fast-forward almost three years and, well, we can all guess what has happened. Alford's book Once Upon A Secret is released tomorrow, and yesterday it was filling acres of newsprint with graphic accounts of the 35th President's stupendous appetite for sexual misadventure.

The God-fearing author, a 19-year-old White House intern when she met JFK, devotes 208 pages to their liaisons. She describes, in splendid detail, a succession of their extramarital encounters, some of which, she claims, were fuelled by narcotics, and all of which were covered up by White House aides.

In one chapter, Ms Alford, who at 69 is now a grandmother known by her married name of Marion Fahnestock, recalls being instructed by Kennedy to perform oral sex on his assistant, David Powers. "I don't think the President thought I'd do it, but I'm ashamed to say that I did," she claims. JFK, for his part, "silently watched".

In another, she recalls joining him for a drug-fuelled Hollywood party at Bing Crosby's home. "I was sitting next to him in the living room when a handful of yellow capsules – most likely amyl nitrate, commonly known as poppers – was offered up by one of the guests," Alford writes.

"The President asked me if I wanted to try the drug, which stimulated the heart but also purportedly enhanced sex. I said no, but he just went ahead and popped the capsule and held it under my nose."

Ms Alford's memoir became public yesterday by way of the New York Post, which alleges that it obtained a copy from a Manhattan book shop. Its publication will only fuel the still vibrant market in tittle-tattle about the private life of America's most glamourous political dynasty.

Only last week, the US national archives published transcripts of tapes that were recorded on the flight that took the recently-murdered Kennedy's body from Dallas to Washington in November 1963. They shed light on the harrowing journey experienced by passengers, including JFK's wife, Jackie, and his successor, Lyndon Johnson.

There has never, it's safe to say, been a shortage of witnesses to JFK's personal failings. His sexual conquests are rumoured to have ranged from Marilyn Monroe to Zsa Zsa Gabor, with plenty in between.

Indeed, when Ms Alford's existence was first revealed by the historian Robert Dallek in 2003, Time magazine carried an item by the Kennedy-era White House journalist Hugh Sidney confirming that "there was a Mimi" on the President's romantic CV. But he added: "there was also a Pam, a Priscilla, a Jill (actually, two of them), a Janet, a Kim, a Mary and a Diana I can think of offhand."

Alford's book begins by detailing how he first seduced her, during a personal tour of the White House which ended-up in in Mrs Kennedy's bedroom: "Slowly, he unbuttoned the top of my shirtdress and touched my breasts... Then he reached up between my legs and started to pull off my underwear."

The book goes on to discuss their "varied and fun" liaisons. At one point, when she feared she was pregnant, he arranged for her to see an abortion doctor, even though the procedure was then illegal in the US.

JFK only rarely gave Alford a deeper insight into what made him tick. She recalls him once breaking down in tears following the death of his infant son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy. On another occasion, during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he confided: "I would rather my children were red than dead."

The book finishes on a sombre note. Alford recalls that she last met Kennedy at the Carlyle Hotel in New York, a week before the ill-fated trip to Dallas on which he was shot.

"He took me in his arms for a long embrace, and said: 'I wish you were coming with me to Texas!" Alford responded by informing him that she had recently become engaged to a college sweetheart. "'I know that,' he said, and shrugged. 'But I'll call you anyway.'"

JFK's lovers

Marilyn Monroe

Hollywood's most infamous star never spoke publicly about her relationship with JFK. But according to the biography The Secret Life Of Marilyn Monroe by J Randy Taraborrelli, she became "fixated on the President" after they met in February 1962. The book claims JFK invited Ms Monroe to Palm Springs the next month but dumped her after the trip.

 

Judith Exner

The socialite claimed she was introduced to JFK by her previous beau, Frank Sinatra. Their affair began on the eve of the New Hampshire primary in March 1960. "When you talked to him, you felt you were the only person on the planet...," Exner wrote in her 1976 memoir. It later emerged that she was used to pass classified CIA plans for the assassination of Fidel Castro to Chicago mafia boss Sam Giancana.

 

Marlene Dietrich

The German-American actress was 20 years JFK's senior when they allegedly shared a brief encounter at the White House in 1962. "It was all over sweetly and very soon... and then he went to sleep," a reporter from The New Yorker magazine quoted Ms Dietrich as saying.

 

Gunilla von Post

In her 1997 memoir, Love, Jack, the Swedish socialite described meeting the charming 36-year-old senator in 1953, a month before his marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier. She claimed his marriage vows did not stop him from sending her love letters soon after, and visiting her for a week of passion in 1955. Ms von Post claimed the affair fizzled out when she declared she would only move to New York if she was his new wife. She says she bore him no hard feelings: "I borrowed him for a week, a beautiful week that no one can take away from me," she wrote. ENJOLI LISTON

Life and Style
tech
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Pay between ?110 - ?130 Day: Randstad Education Cardiff:...

SAP Deployment Manager

£480 per day + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Deployment Manager-Ta...

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Consultant

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Urgently seeking a Dynam...

Test Lead - Financial Reporting - Banking - London

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Test Lead, London, Banking, Financial Reporting, ...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game