Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Once Upon A Secret

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.


Rebecca Nelson said...

Wanna know something? I'm NOT going to read this book or any of the OTHER salacious stories out there. PLEEZE! Keep your personal stuff, um, PERSONAL!

I'm not living with my head in the sand...I just don't want to know by choice. I know what goes on out there...not stupid or uninformed! I'm just tired of all the tell-alls nd can't help but wonder WHO is buying this JUNK.

By the way...I don't want reality TV either. It's the same kind of trash as far as I'm concerned. VOYEURISM at its best!


joanne said...

I was wondering the same thing when I heard about this book yesterday. Now she's the talk of the, enjoy it lady. As for me I'd much rather read about the glorious, gracious Mrs. and her enchanted life. I have no time or place for the other trash.

Elisabeth said...

If I dare to add a note of caution here: One person's trash can be another person's treasure. To me it all depends on the quality of the writing, almost regardless of the story. But I'm an autobiographer and I'm of the view that what might seem salacious to some is vital to others. Also there's something disturbing about so-called hagiographies, you know the stories that present only the bright and beautiful in a person's life. it's not really a fully rounded image of a person, for none of us are perfect, even the great Jackie O.

DUTA said...

Jackline Kennedy was indeed very gracious and elegant. Yet she married Aristotele Onassis , the greek magnate. That wasn't an indication of great Taste on her part, but rather one of great Greed.

Country Girl said...

I saw the interview last night on Rock Center and thought that Mimi Alford is a refined, quiet spoken, and dignified person whose secret had been eating her up for the last 50 years. We may not understand the reasons behind why she spoke up now, but I believe it had something to do with wanting to tell her own story, after being outed in 2003 in another book. Her story is credible and I think it took a lot of guts for her to have it published. I don't have any desire to read it, however.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

So sad that this has been lingering in the back of her mind for so long. Writing is cathartic. I know, because I do it. That being said, I don't share everything I write with the world at large.
There is a similarity between her and Monica Lewinsky. I feel sorry for both of them. Shame on the two men who used them!

Sextant said...

Confession is good for the soul, and sometimes the PURSE!

I often feel bad for Caroline Kennedy and the rest of the clan. Huge events just keep coming back to haunt them.

I also feel bad for Jackie, married to womanizer, in a clan where she was not of the sisters referred to her as "Jacqueline rhymes with queen", sat next to her husband as bullets pulverized his body, forced to perform in first televised huge gala of a funeral, lived through it all a second time with her brother-in-law, required by a nation to be a upstanding First Widow, and then vilified for her marriage to Onassis. I like many other felt betrayed by Jackie over Onassis. Why? It was none of my affair. Some how I feel that Jackie may have been far less enchanted with Camelot than trapped by it.

Jo said...

Rebecca, yes, I agree. It's junk. I don't watch reality TV either. I made the mistake of watching "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hils" Gag. It should be named "The Real Fishwives of Beverly Hills" :-)

JoJo! Yes, she is the talk of the town for having an affair with a married man who just happened to be the President. It just boggles the mind.

Elisabeth, oh yes, I agree. It's not a good idea to over-idolize folks, but in comparison to Ms. Mimi Alford, et al, Jacqueline Kennedy looks good. I love biographies, but only about people who have actually done something worth writing about. I just finished a biography of Einstein. Wonderful!

Duta, from what I have read, Onassis was very good to Jacqueline after JFK died, and she actually loved him. Strange, and seemingly impossible, but perhaps true. :-)

Kate, I saw that interview as well, and she is is very quiet spoken and dignified. I guess, to me, discretion is the better part of valour. I admire people who are able to keep their own counsel, especially if there is a chance other folks may get hurt.

Kathy, oh, yes! Shame on the men who used them. I agree with you there 100%. 100%...!

Sextant, "Some how I feel that Jackie may have been far less enchanted with Camelot than trapped by it." I think you just summed it up very succinctly. From reading her book, I could see she was very acquiescent to JFK -- surpringly so. I think the women's movement hit just as she became a widow, and she began to live her own life.

Anonymous said...

I just figured out, after hearing many of your posts/videos with you talking, who you try to sound like. You are trying to replicate the soft spoken, sometimes raspy voice of Jackie. I always wondered who you were imitating, as it didn't sound like your natural way of speaking.

Anonymous said...

I just figured out, after hearing many of your posts/videos with you talking, who you try to sound like. You are trying to replicate the soft spoken, sometimes raspy voice of Jackie. I always wondered who you were imitating, as it didn't sound like your natural way of speaking.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I heard about this book but have no interest in reading it. JFK was a horndog (that's a less genteel word for womanizer) but I prefer to think about other aspects of his presidency. He and Jacqueline brought elegance and charm to the White House and showed the world that Americans weren't all rubes, hicks and rednecks.

I must agree with Duta's comment about Jackie's marriage to Onassis. The prevailing opinion in the US was along the lines of "How could she?"

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I also agree with Kathy - shame on JFK and Clinton for preying on young, impressionable young women who felt incredibly privileged to be interns in the White House. When one person has all the power in a relationship, it's unconscionable to abuse it as they both did.

Donna B. said...


Jo said...

29a937be-5388-11e1-866f-000bcdcb2996, Whoever you are, that's my natural voice. Sorry about that. I couldn't imitate anyone else if I tried, and certainly not Jacqueline Kennedy. Until I listened to the tapes, I hardly knew what she sounded like. Maybe it's because it's reproduced over a camera video, but no, I'm not that good an actress. I have heard my voice over telephone messages, and it sounds exactly the same way. And unfortunately my voice is getting raspier as I get older. I don't really like it. As far as you are concerned, you posted your comment twice, just to make sure the unnecessary nastiness hit its mark? Thanks. Says a lot about you, unfortunately.

Susan, yes, the Kennedys did bring elegance and charm to the White House. And they brought culture and the arts too.

Donna, thanks...!

Russell said...

To 29a937be-5388-11e1-866f-000bcdcb2996 or whoever you are:

You're a coward. And you're wrong. Did I mention you are a coward - hiding behind your anonymous mask?

I have known Johanna for a long time. She does not pretend to be anyone. If you have heard her voice, it is her natural voice - she is not pretending to be anyone or anything.

One time Johanna was working for a museum in Vancouver as a volunteer. An executive noticed her NATURAL voice and asked her to do all the greetings for their telephone system at the time.

If she COULD be someone else it might be Deborah Kerr. It would not be Jacqueline Kennedy. Then again, she might prefer to be Keith Richards as the Rolling Stones is her favorite group.

She might like to be Queen Elizabeth as she enjoys the Royals -- far more than any American President's wife.

Or maybe she would be W. Somerset Maugham -- wait, you would have no idea who that person is, would you? No, I didn't think so.

Go crawl back under your rock and stay away. You are pathetic. Oh, did I mention you are a coward?

My name is Russell. You can get to my blog by clicking on my name. Unlike you, I am not a coward and if I could meet you in person you would find out what I really think of you.

Jo said...

Russell, thank you! You are a knight in shining armour. :-) And yes, if I had my choice, I would rather be like Deborah Kerr or even Glynnis Johns, than like Jacqueline Kennedy. But I guess the person who posted the nasti-gram doesn't know that. Thank you for your chivalry. You're a very nice man (but I will keep your secret *heh*).

Bruce Coltin said...

I don't necessarily believe Mimi. Funny how all the potential witnesses are now dead, and cannot rebut her story. But, even if it is all true, too bad she couldn't have lived out her life as a class act.

Jo said...

Bruce, I couldn't agree more. We are all human, and as humans, most folks have indiscretions, or things they have done that they might not necessarily want to advertise to the whole world. But to write a book about having an affair with a man who was married and had two small children? I just don't see anything dignified about that at all.

JeannetteLS said...

Don't know a thing about Mimi. And you nailed the Real Fishwives... And our anonymous guy is probably just one of those wackos who flash and burn on sites where there is nothing testing their authenticity. I say delete, delete, delete. Disagreement is fine, but Jo, to my mind, you are all about CIVILITY--sadly, a quality most have forgotten.

If the woman was outed elsewhere, and has a whole lot of flack because of it, I suppose I can see why she wants HER side revealed. And that can happen.

It is something I grapple with in memoir, though, Jo... what do we include? What do we leave out? What offers the reader something beyond MY EGO? I don't know. I guess I'll find out... I hope.

I was never a fan of the Kennedy clan on the personal level, but Jacqueline was a woman of substance, whose life reached beyond the family excesses. Ted finally lived beyond HIS excesses. No one is a saint, but I GET why Jackie had books written about her.

Have a great weekend, Jo!

Jo said...

Jeanette, my goodness, you are wonderful writer. And yes, I suppose Mimi Alford was outed earlier, but still. I find her story lacks just a tad of credibility, and a lot of "look at me! Look at me!" People don't seem to care about privacy anymore. And yes, the anonymous person is probably a very sad person. Meanness comes from a place of sadness. And that's sad.