Primary tensions

It’s the night of the West Virginia primary, May 10, 1960.  Candidate John Kennedy, and Ben Bradlee, then Washington Bureau chief for Newsweek, cut the tension by going to see a porno:

(You can see the trailer here, it does seem like soft stuff by our standards)

Good luck out there voters, I hope your favorite candidate wins!

Jackie smoking pregnant


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Trying to learn what brand of cigarette Jackie Kennedy smoked (no clear answer) I came across an evocative picture of Jackie Kennedy smoking while visibly pregnant, which you can see here.

I couldn’t and can’t find the source for it.   Google Image searching leads me in an endless looparound of Tumblr and Pinterest.  Maybe it’s in an old magazine.  Maybe some Kennedy guest or family member took it and it got on the Internet somehow.  Maybe a British tabloid published it, they go crazy for Kennedy goss.


Public domain pic of Jackie, August 31 1963, by Cecil Stoughton, found

Not mine to “print” I guess on Helytimes — we take sourcing semi-seriously.  (But is it that different to link to it?)

Kennedy and Marilyn

Public domain photo of Robert and John Kennedy with Marilyn Monroe, taken by Cecil Stoughton. Found here:

This home movie footage, on the other hand, is in the public domain and online at the Kennedy Library.  Some of these movies feel almost too private, too intimate — you can for instance see our current ambassador to Japan, then age six, jumping on the bed in her swimsuit with (possibly) the future first lady of California?

Here are two clips.

Jackie smokes:

The President’s golf swing:

If you know anything about golf would love to hear takes on JFK’s swing.

Like a Hockney painting

ST-C206-15-63 05 June 1963 Trip to Western States: White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico Please credit "Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston"

JFK checking out a missile test at White Sands, New Mexico.

Trip to Western States: White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Not to be missed

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This take from the Dick Nixon Twitter feed is so great.

When did JFK’s soul go to Heaven?

Doing some research for a Kennedy-related project, came across this interview with Father Oscar Huber, Dallas priest who ended up giving JFK last rites:

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Sounds like he was all good!

I’ve spent hours and hours combing the JFK Oral Histories at the Kennedy Library website, and the best thing I’ve found is this one, from Massachusetts Democratic operative and Harvard prof Samuel Beer, interviewed long after the fact.  Here he’s talking about Adlai Stevenson and Kennedy’s lady game:




The White House Pool


LBJ in the White House pool, from Michael Beschloss Twitter/NARA:

There used to be an indoor swimming pool in the West Wing of the White House.   From the White House Museum website:

As the men and women of New York opened copies of the New York Daily News on March 14, 1933, they learned of a campaign to raise money for building the president a swimming pool at the White House. The effort was a way to honor President Franklin Roosevelt, a New York native who suffered from the crippling disease, poliomyelitis. The President often swam at therapy pools at his Hyde Park home in New York or at a center in Warm Springs, Georgia.

The campaign was a success, and the workmen gathered around the pool on June 2, 1933 to listen to President Roosevelt, who spoke from his wheelchair and thanked them for their work. The pool was built inside the west gallery between the White House and the West Wing in place of the old laundry rooms, which were moved to the basement of the mansion. Arched ceilings and high rows of half-mooned windows surrounded the rectangular pool. French doors opened into the Rose Garden. The president’s pool was a modern-day showcase of technology, featuring underwater lighting, sterilizers and the latest gadgets. For several years, he used it multiple times a day. Harry Truman swam in it frequently—with his glasses on.

Pool 2

When his son was in the White House, Joe Kennedy paid French artist Bernard Lamotte to paint a mural of sailing scenes and the harbor of Christiansted, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands:


Christiansted, from Wiki

I cannot find a picture of JFK in the pool.

Pool 3

Here’s what the White House Museum says about the pool in the Kennedy years:

John Kennedy sometimes held swimming races with Cabinet members. He liked the pool so much that he made a habit of stopping by at noon, stripping down for a swim, and padding back to his bedroom for lunch and a nap in nothing but a robe. He did the same at the end of the day, dressing again for dinner. As a result, Chief Usher JB West observed, “John F Kennedy wore three separate suits of clothes every day of his White House life.”


I believe this was pre-mural?

Here is JFK’s sometime doctor Janet Travell in the pool.

Once Upon A Secret

In her book Once Upon a Secret, Mimi Alford describes the pool as like the center of JFK’s sexual life.  Frequent poolers, in her memory, were two staffers, one from the President’s Secretary’s office and one from the Press Secretary’s office, with the nicknames Fiddle and Faddle:

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Can’t really sort out the origin of this photo. The Daily Mail cites it as being from “Wikipedia”

A lot of stories about JFK get thrown around as true without a lot of investigating into the source.  Who can say now what was happening in the pool?  Caitlin Flanagan reviewed Alford’s book here, her takes are always engaging:

The overheated White House swimming pool, painted in a lurid Caribbean theme (its renovation a kinky father-son gift from Joe to Jack), was, according to a number of respected sources (among them Seymour Hersh and three on-the-record Secret Service agents), the locus of endless lunchtime sex parties. Two young secretaries named Priscilla Wear and Jill Cowen—the now infamous Fiddle and Faddle—often left their desks to splash and skinny-dip with Jack, returning to their desks with wet hair so they could go on with their important work of autographing his photographs and wondering how to type. They, like Mimi, were regularly packed along on official trips, apparently so that the president could always get laid if there was any trouble scaring up local talent. Although neither has ever commented on their relationship with Kennedy, their joint interview for the JFK oral-history project is astonishing for the number of trips they casually allude to having taken with him; they were the sex-doll Zeligs of JFK’s foreign diplomacy, their eager faces just out of frame in Berlin, Rome, Ireland, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Nassau, to say nothing of their extensive domestic work in places like Palm Beach and Hyannis Port.
It’s impossible to think Jackie had no idea that any of this was taking place. Once while giving a Paris Match reporter a tour of the White House, she passed by Fiddle’s desk and remarked—acidly, and in French—“This is the girl who supposedly is sleeping with my husband.”

Say what you will about Nixon, he wasn’t frolicking with secretaries in the pool:

President Richard Nixon arranged for the construction of a press briefing room above the old pool to accommodate the growing demand for television news.

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The old mural is now in the Kennedy Museum & Library in Boston:


The single best picture I can find of the pool shows astronaut Edward White throwing his daughter into it:


It’s from an old National Geographic.  Seven years later White died in the Apollo 1 fire:

Apollo 1

Pool 2

There is still an outdoor pool at the White House.

pool 3


4,835 words on Ta-Nahesi Coates and Gawker controversy and Donald Trump

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 7.49.32 PM; ) just kidding!  Instead here:

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“My mother told a funny story,” says Caroline Kennedy, who is now the US ambassador to Japan, but was once – a little over 50 years ago – a toddler growing up in the White House.

“She was sitting next to Khrushchev at a state dinner in Vienna. She ran out of things to talk about, so she asked about the dog, Strelka, that the Russians had shot into space. During the conversation, my mother asked about Strelka’s puppies.

“A few months later, a puppy arrived and my father had no idea where the dog came from and couldn’t believe my mother had done that.”

The puppy was Strelka’s daughter, Pushinka, listed on her official registration certificate as a “non-breed” or mongrel.

“Pushinka was cute and fluffy,” says Ambassador Kennedy – in fact the Russian name translates as Fluffy.



From the Traphes L. Bryant oral history over there at the JFK Library:

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Charlie and Pushinka:

Charlie and Pushinka

Tennessee Williams -> Dr. Feelgood -> Mark Shaw


Tennessee Williams in Key West

Strewn around the apartment of a friend this weekend were a few biographies of Tennessee Williams.

I don’t know much about Tennessee Williams.  The most I ever thought about him was when I was briefly in Key West, where there’s some stuff named after him.  He jockeys with Hemingway for local literary mascot top honors.

Looking into it, I found this stupefying article about TW in Key West from People Magazine, 1979, entitled “In His Beloved Key West, Tennessee Williams Is Center Stage In A Furor Over Gays.”  Tough reading, on the one hand.  On the other maybe we can find some optimism in how far things have come?:

Some of Williams’ friends are less sanguine—notably Rader (whom some Key West sympathizers find faintly hysterical on the subject). “It has been terrible,” he said in the aftermath. “Tenn won’t talk about it, but it has been really frightening what’s happening in Key West and in this house. The worst was the night they stood outside his front porch and threw beer cans, shouting, ‘Come on out, faggot.’ When they set off the firecrackers, I remember thinking, ‘God, this is it. We’re under attack. They’ve started shooting.’ ”

Williams’ imperturbability springs both from a matter of principle (he once defined gallantry as “the grace with which one survives appalling experiences”) and from a diminished interest in the Key West gay scene. “I’ve retired from the field of homosexuality at present,” he explains, “because of age. I have no desires—isn’t that strange? I have dreams, but no waking interest.” The thought does not cheer him. “I’ve always found life unsatisfactory,” he says. “It’s unsatisfactory now, especially since I’ve given up sex.” His own problems seem far more pressing to him than the city’s. “I suspect I’ll only live another two years,” says Williams, 68, who tipples white wine from morning on and complains of heart and pancreas disorders. “I’ve been working like a son of a bitch since 1969 to make an artistic comeback. I don’t care about the money, but I can’t give up art—there’s no release short of death. It’s quite painful. I’ll be dictating on my deathbed. I want people to say, ‘Yes, this man is still an artist.’ They haven’t been saying it much lately.”

As a consummate prober of human passions, Williams does have theories on why his adopted hometown is under siege. “There are punks here,” he explains. “That’s because a couple of gay magazines publicized this place as if it were the Fire Island of Florida. It isn’t. One Fire Island is quite enough. But it attracted the wrong sort of people here: the predators who are looking for homosexuals. I think the violence will be gone by next year.”

Other residents seem less willing to wait. The leader of the anti-gay forces, the Reverend Wright, says Anita Bryant has promised to come to Key West to help his crusade. Recalling nostalgically the days when “female impersonators and queers were loaded into a deputy’s automobile and shipped to the county line,” Wright warns: “We’ll either have a revival of our society or the homosexuals will take it over in five years.”

Mamet On Williams

This morning happened to pick up in my garage this book by David Mamet:


Highly recommend this book as well as Three Uses Of The Knife, True And False: Heresy And Common Sense For The Actor, and On Directing Film by Mamet.  All short, all tight, all good.  (His subsequent nonfiction seems to me to be a bit… deranged?)

Found this, and thought it was great:

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Wikipedia Hole

Reading about Tennessee on Wikipedia, I learn:

As he had feared, in the years following Merlo’s death Williams was plunged into a period of nearly catatonic depression and increasing drug use resulting in several hospitalizations and commitments to mental health facilities. He submitted to injections by Dr. Max Jacobson – known popularly as Dr. Feelgood – who used increasing amounts of amphetamines to overcome his depression and combined these with prescriptions for the sedative Seconal to relieve his insomnia. Williams appeared several times in interviews in a nearly incoherent state, and his reputation both as a playwright and as a public personality suffered.[citation needed] He was never truly able to recoup his earlier success, or to entirely overcome his dependence on prescription drugs.

Let’s learn about Dr. Feelgood, who was also screwing up Elvis and everybody else cool back then:

John F. Kennedy first visited Jacobson in September 1960, shortly before the 1960 presidential election debates.[9] Jacobson was part of the Presidential entourage at the Vienna summit in 1961, where he administered injections to combat severe back pain. Some of the potential side effects included hyperactivity, impaired judgment, nervousness, and wild mood swings. Kennedy, however, was untroubled by FDA reports on the contents of Jacobson’s injections and proclaimed: “I don’t care if it’s horse piss. It works.”[10] Jacobson was used for the most severe bouts of back pain.[11] By May 1962, Jacobson had visited the White House to treat the President thirty-four times.[12][13]

By the late 1960s, Jacobson’s behavior became increasingly erratic as his own amphetamine usage increased. He began working 24-hour days and was seeing up to 30 patients per day. In 1969, one of Jacobson’s clients, former Presidential photographer Mark Shaw, died at the age of 47. An autopsy showed that Shaw had died of “acute and chronic intravenous amphetamine poisoning.”

Well, that takes us to

Mark Shaw

Born Mark Schlossman on the Lower East Side, a pilot on the India/China Hump in World War II, he became a freelance photographer for life:

In 1953, probably because of his fashion experience, Shaw was assigned to photograph the young actress Audrey Hepburn during the filming of Paramount’s Sabrina. Evasive at first, Hepburn became comfortable with Shaw’s presence over a two-week period and allowed him to record many of her casual and private moments.

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He married singer Pat Suzuki, “who is best known for her role in the original Broadway production of the musical Flower Drum Song, and her performance of the song “I Enjoy Being a Girl” in the show”:

In 1959, Life chose Shaw to photograph Jacqueline Kennedy while her husband, Senator John F. Kennedy, was running for President.[8] This assignment was the beginning of an enduring working relationship and personal friendship with the Kennedys that would eventually lead to Shaw’s acceptance as the Kennedys’ de facto “family photographer”. He visited them at theWhite House and at Hyannisport; during this time he produced his most famous photographs, portraying the couple and their children in both official and casual settings. In 1964, Shaw published a collection of these images in his book The John F. Kennedys: A Family Album, which was very successful.

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Jackie 1


A bunch of even better ones can be found here, at the tragically disorganized website of the Monroe Gallery, they’re stamped “No Reproduction Without Permission” so whatever.  Don’t miss this one.

Here’s another famous Jackie Mark photo’d:

Jackie Gleason1959© 2000 Mark Shaw

And finally:

BB 1





Conversations With Kennedy

IMG_5902Ben Bradlee, then a reporter for Newsweek, and John Kennedy, senator and then president, were good pals.  Their wives, Toni and Jackie, were pals as well.  This book is full of incredible detail.  The night of the 1960 West Virginia primary, Kennedy and Bradlee go to a DC movie theater and see a porn:

This wasn’t the hard-core porn of the seventies, just a nasty little thing called Private Property, starring one Katie Manx as a horny housewife who kept getting raped and seduced by hoodlums.  We wondered aloud if the movie was on the Catholic index of forbidden films (it was) and whether or not there were any votes in it either way for Kennedy in allegedly anti-Catholic West Virginia if it were known that he was in attendance.  Kennedy’s concentration was absolute zero, as he left every twenty minutes to call Bobby in West Virginia.  Each time he returned, he’d whisper “Nothing definite yet,” slouch back into his seat and flick his teeth with the fingernail of the middle finger on his right hand, until he left to call again.

[regrettably a newer actress, “Catie Minx,” makes further research here come to a circuitous end.]

How much did JFK drink?

Normally he sipped at a scotch and water without ice, rarely finishing two before dinner, sipped at a glass of wine during dinner, rarely had a drink after dinner, and he almost never had a drink in the middle of the day.


says an impressed Bradlee.  From a footnote:

Kennedy was justly proud of the uncanny ability of the White House telephone operators to find anyone, anywhere, at any time of the day or night.  Once, he dared Tony and Jackie and me to come up with a name of someone the operators couldn’t find.  Jackie suggested Truman Capote, because he had an unlisted telephone number.  Kennedy picked up the telephone and said only “Yes, this is the president.  Would you please get me Truman Capote?”  – no other identification.  Thirty minutes later, Capote was on the line… not from his own unlisted number in Brooklyn Heights, but at the home of a friend in Palm Springs, Calif., who also had an unlisted number.

A recurring theme:

Philosophically, Kennedy worried out loud about the widening gap between the people who can discuss the complicated issues of today with intelligence and knowledge, and those he later referred to as “the conservative community.”  It is a theme that fascinates him, and one to which he returns time and time again: a kind of Dialogue of the Deaf, growing and disturbing, between the comparative handful of people truly knowledgeable about the increasingly complex issues our our society, and the great majority who just don’t understand these issues and hide their lack of understanding behind old cliches.  (He made an important speech on this subject at Yale University.  It was never far from his thoughts.)

How much did JFK swear?:

Jackie’s question, “What is a Charlie-Uncle-Nan-Tare, for heaven’s sake?” [re: reporter Dick Wilson] went unanswered.  (Kennedy’s earthy language was a direct result of his experience in the service, as it was for so many men of his generation, whose first serious job was war.  Often it had direct Navy roots, as above when he used the signalman’s alphabet.  He used “prick” and “fuck” and “nuts” and “bastard” and “son of a bitch” with an ease and comfort that belied his upbringing, and somehow it never seemed offensive, or at least it never seemed offensive to me.)

May 29, 1963, the President’s birthday party, a cruise on the yacht Sequoia down the Potomac:

Kennedy has not gotten the word that the “twist” is passe; any time the band played any other music for more than a few minutes, he passed the word along for more Chubby Checkers [sic].  he was also passing the word all night to the Sequoia’s captain.  Apparently through an abundance of caution in case he wasn’t having a good time, Kennedy had ordered the skipper of the Sequoia to bring her back to the dock at 10:30 PM, only to be ordered back out “to sea” – which meant four or five miles down the Potomac.  This happened no less than four times.  Four times we moored and four times we unmoored.  The weather was dreadful most of the evening, as one thunderstorm chased us up and down the river all night, and everyone was more or less drenched.  Teddy was the wettest, and on top of everything mysteriously lost one leg of his trousers some time during the night.

September 12, 1963, Kennedy in Newport:

The president arrived thirteen minutes late, timidly carrying a felt hat. I had never seen him wear a hat, but he told us “I’ve got to carry one for a while… they tell me I’m killing the industry.”


November 23, 1963:

The sledgehammer news that President Kennedy had been shot came to me while I was browsing through Brentano’s bookstore on my lunch hour.

Six months earlier, over dinner at the White House:

It’s so hard to answer the question, “What’s he like?” about anyone interesting, with all the contradictions in all of us.  “That’s what makes journalism so fascinating,” the president commented, “and biography so interesting… the struggle to answer that single question, “What’s he like?”


Kennedy Exaggeration

From The New Yorker blog:

In 1962, the Trillings were invited to the White House for a dinner honoring that year’s Nobel laureates. Jacqueline Kennedy, Trilling wrote, was “a hundred times more beautiful than any photograph had ever indicated”

Start reading about the Kennedys and you’ll never stop.

… the greatest thrill I had in my life was when the President’s wife, Mrs. Kennedy, addressed a corwd of about 600 people at this Michelangelo School when he was running for the senatorship against Lodge, and the gracious lady stood up before the big crowd and the Italian people, the elderly people, were there, didn’t know who she was, and when she opened her mouth and introduced herself in Italian, fluent Italian may I say, as the wife of Senator Kennedy, all pandemonium broke loose in the hall.  All the people went over and started to kiss her, and the old women spoke to her as if she was a native of the North End.

So says William DeMarco, JFK’s first campaign manager, in this oral history you can read at the Kennedy Library.  DeMarco says this happened during the campaign against Lodge, 1952.  Is his memory off?  The Kennedys didn’t get married until Sept. ’53.

Things like this come up all the time if you get deep in Kennedyana.  How could it not?  The basic facts of his life are absurd. While he was president he essentially raped a nineteen year old.  He could’ve easily died of various ailments before World War II, during which he ended up stranded on a straight-out-of-cartoon desert island:

Massive insurance but if you haven’t seen Errol Morris’ eight minute documentary The Umbrella Man do yourself a favor.

(Cartoon swiped from here)

Six Crises


Nixon is talking about his campaign against John F. Kennedy in 1960, and why it is that he did so much better in the second TV debate than in the first:

What, then, were the major reasons for the difference in impact between the two debates?

First, there was a simple but important physical factor – the milkshake prescription had done its work.