Volkskrant, The Netherlands
“All Sirens Begin to Wail,
It Is About Sex”
By Arie Elshout
Translated By Anne Hukkelhoven
27 February 2012
Edited by Janie Boschma
The Netherlands - Volkskrant - Original Article (Dutch)
Supposedly dead fellow journalists contact Volkskrant correspondent in New York, Arie Elshout, when a juicy sex scandal arises. But the story about the former intern of John F. Kennedy is not only about sex; it is also about love, he notes.
The life of an American correspondent is usually rather uncomplicated. He is in touch with his boss in the early morning, after which he starts writing. But sometimes, everything goes differently, and it seems like a carnival when sirens start wailing and all the lights are flashing, because someone won a red imitation leather alarm clock. His inbox is overwhelmed with tips from colleagues that he did not even know were still alive.
Then he knows: this is not about the quantitative easing policies of the Federal Reserve. No, this is about what, according to psychologists, healthy people think of a large part of the day: sex.
A few weeks ago, it was the memoirs of a former intern of President John F. Kennedy that brought colleagues into a heightened state of arousal. The book was yet to be presented, but the juiciest details were already out on the street.
The American media keenly quoted from “Once Upon a Secret: My Affair With President John F. Kennedy and its Aftermath.” They described how in 1962, 19-year-old Mimi Beardsley was taken by Kennedy for a private tour through the White House four days after the start of her internship, after which he deflowered her in Mrs. Kennedy’s bed. Later, the president asked her to “be sweet” for an assistant, while he watched her pleasure him orally. According to the former intern, her sex life with the president was varied and enjoyable. But there were boundaries. During a party at the ranch of Bing Crosby, she refused the “yellow capsules” that Kennedy wanted her to take.
There was a lot of sensationalism in reporting, on the verge of repulsive. There really was no news in the book: Kennedy’s adventures with women are known. A journalist who followed the White House at the time confirmed, “there was a Mimi,” only to add: “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.”
But the weekend after the book presentation, the story took an unexpected turn. There was an interview in The New York Times with Mimi, who is now in her late 60s and has taken her second husband's last name, Alford. The reporter, Liesl Schillinger, meets a warm, serious woman, who described herself as a “footnote to a footnote in the story of America’s 35th president.”
All lewdness from the first reports evaporates when she relates that her eighteen-month affair with Kennedy needs to be considered in the perspective of the TV show “Mad Men.” In this show, the world of New York’s advertisement agencies in the early '60s is portrayed. Young women start affairs with their married bosses, the ice tinkles in the glasses, ashtrays bulge from the ashes of the many smoked cigarettes and everyone shuts up about the secret relationships. “God, I love ‘Mad Men,'” Alford said. “All of it is exactly what was going on.”
It was the time in which the sexual revolution cautiously announced itself and slowly more freedom was created, also for women. The mother of the reporter is of the same generation as Alford. During an election meeting in Springfield she sneaked into Kennedy’s hotel and addressed him. “My mother, who looked like Jackie Kennedy and who has been married to my father for 46 years, said of Ms. Alford, 'I’m just mad it wasn’t me,'” Schillinger writes.
Alford also does not regret the affair she had as a young woman with the handsome president and commander in chief, although she was at that time engaged to her first husband. Kennedy gave her money during a meeting in New York to buy a wedding present. She bought a nice gray suit at Bloomingdale’s for it. A couple of days later, Kennedy was killed in Dallas.
In the weekend of his death, Alford confessed everything to her fiance. He forbade her ever to speak about it with anyone, a promise she kept for a long time. She is glad to have written the book now (after her identity was revealed a couple of years ago). To avoid confrontation with her first husband, at the time she tore up a signed picture of Kennedy into hundreds of pieces and got rid the suit. She regrets that now. “I think I could have worn it today,” she said to Schillinger.
The story of sex has slowly turned into the story of a love.
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