Wed. February 8
The Most Shocking Part of Mimi Alford’s Story
By now, you’ve probably heard of the delicious new book out by Mimi Alford, a White House intern during the administration of John F. Kennedy. Her memoir, Once Upon a Secret: My Affair With John F. Kennedy and its Aftermath, details her eighteen-month affair with the president.
The Daily Beast has an excellent and—more importantly—detailed review of Alford’s book:
Uncertain and all of 19, tall and striking Marion “Mimi” Beardsley rode the train from Trenton, N.J.., down to Washington, D.C. in the summer of 1962 to intern at the White House. The Wheaton College undergraduate was puzzled as to why she’d been chosen for the internship—she hadn’t applied. Beardsley had, however, written an article for her all-girls boarding school, Miss Porter’s School, about one of its most famous alumnae, the first lady. A trip to the White House had led to a chance meeting with the president. And a year later, there she was, on her way to one of the cushiest posts available to a young woman whose parents frequently consulted the Social Register.What happened over the next week—and continued for the following year and a half—forms the body of Once Upon a Secret: My Affair With President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath. Alford, now 69 and a grandmother of seven, reveals that from the first week of her internship in the summer of 1962 through November 1963, she conducted an affair with President Kennedy, spending nights with him in his private bedroom, traveling to be with him at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and seeing the president for the last time shortly before his fateful trip to Dallas. In this memoir, part confession, part hagiography, Alford divulges the intimate details of the time she spent with one of America’s most beloved presidents.
So Mimi went from sharing Mrs. Kennedy’s high school to sharing her bed.
One day, during the first week of her internship, the special assistant to the president David Powers invited her and two other staffers to go for a swim in the White House’s indoor heated swimming pool. Alford took the offer—why not? It was a break from the random tasks she was assigned as a nobody intern. A few minutes after she arrived, none other than the president of the United States himself showed up. Eventually, everyone changed back into their clothes and got back to work as if nothing unusual had happened. Then, later that day, Alford received another call from Powers, inviting her to get a cocktail with the president and a few others. So she did. After a few drinks, Kennedy offered to give her a private tour of the house. When they found their way to Jackie O’s bedroom, Kennedy undressed Alford and, on his wife’s private bed, took the virginity of the 19-year-old girl.
There is plenty that will shock and awe in this story (click here, read the heading “In the Company of Other Men”), but one of the most surprising tidbits comes from Alford’s interview with NBC’s Meredith Vieira, clips of which you can see here. Vieira, quoting from Alford’s book, says “I wouldn’t described what happened that night as making love, but I wouldn’t call it nonconsensual either. He had maneuvered me swiftly and unexpectedly, and with such authority and strength, that short of screaming, I doubt I could have done anything to thwart his intentions.”
But here is part that took me back. Responding to Vieira’s intimation that Kennedy forced himself on her—that the sex was nonconsensual, that it was rape—Alford denied the allegation, saying she was “not overpowered physically [in the sense] that someone had grabbed me and made me do something that I wasn’t really willing to do, because I really think I was willing to do it.” Her candor, and the courage to admit that on national television, is what surprises me most about this sensational story.
Anyway, that’s my take. What’s yours? What’s the most shocking part of this story?