Selling a book has everything to do with getting sudden, splashy attention. The most effective way to do that is to combine a couple of hot words like “intern” and “president” — then sit back and watch the show. The media will do the rest.
That’s what happened last week with the story of yet another “revelation” that John F. Kennedy was as horny a dog as Clinton ever tried to be. The end result was a great deal of tabloid clamor and TV bubble talk about a biography of Kennedy that contains far more interesting and new information about his physical health than his dalliance with an “intern” named Mimi. Because of the clever combination of those two words, Mimi, who is now 60 years old, was last seen on the 6 o’clock news running down Madison Avenue ahead of a pack of drooling pressies. She is now a grandmother, an officer of an East side church and a woman of graceful and dignified mien. She was also able, for more than 40 years, to keep her mouth shut about an affair with JFK that went on for several months in 1962 and 1963.
And so it was that last week my phone began to ring with reporters asking if I had ever known someone named “Mimi.” It is commonly known that I worked in the JFK White House in a totally utilitarian capacity during that blink of time. Considering the fact that anyone else who was there then is either dead, sworn to silence, or gaga by now, the media had its work cut out.
I didn’t know anyone named Mimi, but I did know (and here names are changed to protect the women who surely don’t want to be annoyed with phone calls) Kiki, Muffy, Chapin, DeeDee, and Mary Francis, Mary Ellen, Mary Grace, and Mary Margaret. They all had the same things in common: a Catholic upbringing, big blonde or red hair, a closet full of sleeveless linen dresses, and disabling crushes on John F. Kennedy.
He was so gorgeous. That was back when you didn’t call a man a hottie, hunk, or stud muffin. He was tall and always tan (if you read the really important parts of the book you’ll learn that was from cortisone injections not sun lamps). He smiled a lot and walked with kind of a stiff bend to his shoulders that made you think he was leaning forward to listen to only you. The girls — and they were truly girls — didn’t just love him, they worshiped him with the same squealing hysteria their mothers felt for Sinatra. This adoration extended beyond the staff and into the pressroom where female reporters went weak in the knees in his presence and later at their typewriters.
None of the girls called him sexy because no one — and certainly not the Muffykikideedee — would admit that what they felt about the boss had to do not with furthering the idealism of the New Frontier but with trashy, squirming lust. To the Muffykikideedee, admitting to lust would be a sin. Then, of course, there was the incandescent Jackie and those two angels Caroline and John-John; to think that way was a guarantee that you would fry in hell forever.
To work in the Kennedy White House was to dwell in a magic kingdom where the light was always gold. You were invited to parties, envied by your peers. The fact that you were constantly hit on by loud Irish guys with red faces and unfortunate teeth didn’t matter. You floated in Oz. You were among the chosen.
JFK once touched Mary Francis (was it Mary Catharine?) and she didn’t come down from her lust high for days. She had been rushing through a hallway in the West Wing with some papers when suddenly ahead of her she saw HIM moving toward her with half a dozen other men. When the group reached her he slowed his pace, smiled, and touched her shoulder. When she returned to the office she was shivering.
Everyone heard the rumors about certain women, women in the press corps, women on the campaign, movie stars, and friends of his wife — even his wife’s secretary. It was said that two girls in the press office used to go up to the private quarters at lunch when Jackie was out of town. The Muffykikideedee knew these were just the lies of the jealous. There were stories about naked pool parties that were beyond belief. Mary Francis would cup her hands over her ears and say, “La-la-la, I don’t want to hear.”
Then he got shot and the dream ended. The older women, in the warrens and basements and cubicles, who really made the place run properly and supervised the girls, got bigger, better jobs. The girls got married and life went on.
Then came the news stories, the books, the scandal sheets, the TV documentaries. A mobster girlfriend, more movie stars, tales of how that nice Dave Powers or Kenny O’Donnell who used to tell all those racy Irish jokes would go out on F Street and find…well, hookers is what they were…for the Man. Most grew up about JFK. Some never believed. Others remained sad and hurt and terribly disappointed but still secretly in love with his style, his panache, the legend of Camelot, and those fleeting golden days when proper people simply didn’t talk about such ugly, dirty stuff.
Forty years later the phone rings and a tabloid journalist asks, “Did you ever know a Mimi?” I said “No” but afterward, thinking about it, I probably did.
I probably knew a lot of “Mimis” and didn’t know it. Maybe the Muffykikideedees were putting me on with all their breast clutching and adoration because they knew I didn’t have a crush on JFK. I just liked the parties and the golden light. Maybe they were all members of a secret club who “lunched” and splashed naked in the pool.
Now I think, somewhat wistfully, that back then a certain kind of girl didn’t talk about that stuff. Mimi was one of those.
— Lucianne Goldberg,a syndicated talk-show host on Talk Radio Network and the publisher of Lucianne.com.