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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect