Hollywood starlets, silent movie stars, sex symbols and mafia molls
Described as a ‘compulsive womanizer’ by biographer Robert Dallek, John F. Kennedy’s penchant for glamorous women has now become as legendary as his politics. 51 years after his assassination, we still can’t stop talking about Kennedy’s enduring sex appeal and his many suggested conquests.
As today marks the day a Requiem Mass was held for the iconic President’s funeral in 1963, 51 years after his death, we take a look at the many women who quietly orbited JFK’s career and who still continue to fascinate us today.
Hollywood starlets, sex symbols and gangster’s molls: JFK’s dalliances are still whispered and suggested yet never confirmed or declared. No mean feat when you consider today’s social media age where celebrity sex trysts are splashed across the front pages like it’s entitled fodder.
Perhaps it’s because his alleged sexual exploits only became known to us after his death that we still remain fascinated by the countless affairs that are rumoured to have occurred behind closed doors, in arguably the most powerful building in the world: The White House.
Just who were the women, powerful in their own right, who attracted the advances of America’s most iconic President? We take a look at just a few of them and tackle those rumours. Meet the Kennedy women…
The Hollywood Starlet
The secret became hearsay on Kennedy’s Birthday in 1962, the night that Washington and Hollywood merged like a runaway stellar collision. The videotape still sends electrical-shivers even today…even via that grainy monochrome footage. When Marilyn Monroe stepped out onto the Madison Square Garden stage to sing the President a sultry ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’, she meant business. Monroe’s sheer, rhinestone (2,500 rhinestones to be exact) studded dress was so tight she literally had to be sewn into it. It was later revealed she wore nothing underneath. Kennedy joked on stage that night: ‘I can now retire from politics’. What came next – or even before – has never been officially confirmed, although few doubt a frisson of an affair took place. Biopic author Christopher Anderson even claims Monroe phoned Jackie Kennedy to confess her sins. Jackie’s reported response was as witty as a Joan Collins one-liner: ‘That’s great…I’ll move out and you’ll have all the problems.’
The Silent Movie Star
You could say JFK met his match in Marlene Dietrich, whose string of brief and long-term affairs were apparently noted by her husband. John F Kennedy was just one of them. The suggestion that the affair was sparked at a White House cocktail evening only adds to the legend. In 1962, Dietrich was 20 years Kennedy’s senior…and largely unimpressed both before and after the encounter. According to the notes of a New Yorker critic, Dietrich revealed, ‘It was all over sweetly and very soon and then he went to sleep.’ Not one to remain idly forgotten, the siren woke the President ‘because I didn’t know my way around the place’ who – according to Marlene – quietly led the actress to the elevator, dressed in a towel.
The First Lady
And what a First Lady she was. Jackie Kennedy’s elegant style, grace and classic manners ensured Jacqueline Lee Bouvier’s enduring title as Washington’s ultimate style icon. It’s a title that is yet to be challenged nearly fifty years after her husband’s assassination. In fact, it is her elegant style itself – her pink Chanel suit and matching pillbox hat – that became a shocking symbol of her husband’s murder. It’s a stark image that flags the day America radically changed: Jackie stands defiantly in her blood-stained, Chanel wool. Though John’s extra-marital affairs plagued their 10-year marriage, it was Jacqueline Kennedy herself who vowed to wear this very suit to the swearing-in of Lyndon B. Johnson in 1963, only 2 hours and 8 minutes after his assassination. The suit isn’t just an image of a memorable garment shut within the pages of a history book, it’s a nightmarish article of clothing that still reminds America of the President it lost.
The Mafia Moll
She would later become the mistress of Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana (AKA Sam the Cigar), but in 1960 Judith Campbell Exner was introduced to John F. Kennedy by Rat Pack bad-boy Frank Sinatra and a close relationship was reportedly soon established. According to Exner: ‘Jack Kennedy was the world’s greatest listener,’ before warning ‘…the Kennedys have their own set of rules.’ She claimed they embarked on an 18-month relationship that carried on well into Kennedy’s Presidency. According to reporter Seymour Hersh, Exner acted as go-between between JFK and the mob and even became a White House messenger. ‘Jack was reckless, so reckless’ she would later write in her 1977 memoir.