A Black Cat Book Review
Once Upon a Secret by Mimi Alford
In 1962 nineteen year old Marion “Mimi” Beardsley was a summer intern in the press office of the White House. That summer the affair with President John F. Kennedy began; it ended in 1963 when he was assassinated. This book is her memoir of those eighteen months and how they affected the rest of her life.
To say that what Alford has written disturbed me is an understatement. My reactions while reading her story were many and varied and sometimes contradictory. Shock, anger, sadness, amusement, disbelief, were some of my reactions and feelings about this affair. When you read “affair” if you think of romance, candle-lit dinners, music, how the movies and novels usually portray affairs…think again. This was a sexual affair and nothing more.
Alford describes the affair as “WAIT”. She would be told where to be and there she would be, waiting, until JFK showed up. She occasionally travelled with the White House entourage. She would wait in hotel rooms until the President wanted her then she would be escorted to his room. JFK was a very busy man. He was the President, after all! So she was available when he “wanted” her.
Although, many in the White House, staff, JFK’s valet, the residence cook, some of his friends, and the Secret Service, knew of the affair and often facilitated their meetings, Alford kept it secret. She told the man she was engaged to the day of the assassination and later her sister and two friends but she told no one else. These four people kept her secret safe. It was not until 2003 with the publication of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy 1917-1963 by Robert Dallek that she spoke publicly about her affair with the President.
I cannot really objectively review this book and I am not going to try. Alford seems to be honest in her telling of what happened. She does not make excuses for herself and relates some of their encounters quite candidly. Some would say she let herself be used and at first that is what I thought. But with further reflection I realize that she was very young and naïve. She had a sheltered and protected up-bringing and was inexperienced. She was totally unprepared for some of the egos and self-entitlements in the powerful world of politics and politicians.
Mimi Alford has moved on as they say; married, had children, divorced, remarried, has grandchildren, come to terms with the past, and written this book. I can, almost, understand her as her nineteen year old self but I do not understand her as her seventy year old self.
I think what disturbs me the most is how Alford is still enamored of Kennedy and defends the man and his actions. The man treated her despicably! As I said I cannot review this book. I think what I have done is to try and give you my impression of the two people involved.