Raise your hands, any of you folks who have ever heard of Mimi Alford. None of you? No, I hadn't either until now. She is the latest woman to come out of the woodwork to write a book about her affair with President Kennedy. Mimi Alford (then Beardsley) was a 19 year-old intern in the White House, who claims to have lost her virginity to President Kennedy, and says she had an ongoing affair with him for a year and a half. She is now a grandmother, a retired church administrator, and has written a book called Once Upon a Secret. Odd name for a book, if it's a secret. And why did she write about it now?
I have never been able to understand how some people feel perfectly comfortable airing their soiled laundry. Maybe I'm sort of obtuse, but whatever happened to discretion? What does this woman have to gain, writing a book about an extra-marital affair she had with a man 50 years ago? It can't just be about the money. It's no secret that JFK was a womanizer, so there may be dozens, perhaps hundreds of women out there who have similar stories to tell as Mimi Alford, but in my opinion, the ones to be respected are the ones who have actually kept their mouths shut.
On the flip side of the coin, for Christmas I received Jacqueline Kennedy, Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy. What a wonderful book. It comes with a set of CDs of her interviews in her breathy voice. The conversations are with Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and they took place a few months after JFK'S death. In one interview, Schlesinger asked Jacqueline about a pre-inaugural gala that Frank Sinatra had organized, with Hollywood stars such Nat King Cole and comedian Alan King. Jacqueline replied:
"Oh, it was all right. You know it was such a festive evening and I thought the snow was so pretty. The gala -- I didn't really -- and I had to leave half way through it. I remember one -- parts of it I liked -- I remember one thing I thought was so awful, it was a man named Alan King. He was telling all these horrible jokes about marriage -- I mean the wife is a shrew and the -- I just thought that's so sad when comedians do that. But otherwise, you know, everyone was excited."
The book is filled with candid conversations about informal dinners with Sir Winston Churchill, conversations with Nikita Kruschev, Indira Gandhi, Charles de Gaulle, and so many more. Apparently Kruschev was a clown and a joker, and it was difficult to have a conversation with him, he joked around so much. Who knew. President Kennedy was particularly fond of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, and they were very close friends, but neither President nor Jacqueline Kennedy liked Indira Gandhi. These people are all icons of the 20th Century, and Jacqueline chats about them casually as if they were the folks down the street. It's wonderful.
Mimi Alford should be just ever so slightly embarrassed to write a book about an affair she had with President Kennedy, if only for the fact that any woman he was involved with must have been held in bas relief as a very distant second -- or third, or fourth -- to the gracious Jacqueline Kennedy. What woman would even want to admit to that?
Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame, Mimi. After half a century, you have managed to make Jacqueline Kennedy look even more refined, gracious and elegant than we remember her.