As I watched Mimi Alford make the media rounds, I couldn't help think about another women who was infatuated with our 35th president.
She told me about it in the fall of 1981. We were sitting in a cozy, upscale Italian restaurant in Westwood.
At the next table an effervescent Michelle Phillips dined with two men who seemed to hang on her every word. My friend and I had just finished our salads and were well into our second glass of Chianti and I remember feeling a pleasant buzz.
We'd been talking about love, when she turned to me and said: "I'll never love anyone more than I loved Jack. He was incredible."
"Jack?" I replied.
"Jack Kennedy," she said. In a tone that implied, who else?
Who else indeed?
My friend was decades older than me -- wealthy, striking and from a well-connected East Coast family that had long played a major role in Democratic politics. She ran in those rarefied circles in the early 1960s and probably did know President Kennedy.
But did she know him in that way?
I was a naive 24 year old just off the boat from Minnesota and working in my first big job. My friend -- a co-worker who was dabbling in public relations -- had taken me under her under her wing. Sophisticated and with cash to burn, she would whisk me off for lunch in Beverly Hills, a play in Hollywood or to her luxury townhouse to enjoy catered parties. These were heady experiences for a small town girl.
In the midst of a divorce, my friend needed to talk and I was willing to listen. Much of what she said seemed to ring true, but my radar also told me her life story was a blend of fact and fiction.
While I didn't really know what to think at the time, I now believe my friend probably did have an affair with President Kennedy. I recall she had a calm glow as she described his energy, passion and intellect. Sounding like a woman protecting her man, she spoke derisively about Jackie Kennedy, calling her "a cold bitch, who made his life miserable." For my friend, the affair (if there had been one) obviously wasn't just about sex. Although she knew there were other women in his life, she had cared for him deeply. Few people knew about their relationship and she liked it that way. It was a part of her past that she fiercely protected.
Yet, she never asked me to keep it a secret and she never brought it up again.
We kept in touch on and off. She came to my wedding in 1989, but by then we had drifted apart. I was a newlywed intent on starting a family and she was a wealthy, single lady of a certain age dating much younger men. We had little in common.
These days, I don't think of her often. However, when someone new comes forward about their long-hidden affair with President Kennedy, I do wonder where she is and what she is thinking.
Does her affair seem diminished and tawdry to her now that it is revealed how many women JFK actually bedded? Or does she still bask in the memories, excuse his countless dalliances and defend his sexist and brutish behavior toward women?
For myself, I think about how many more women are out there with their own sexual stories to tell about President Kennedy. Who will come forward next and does it really matter? I wonder how he could have ever found time to be a husband, father, brother, son, friend, politician, and the leader of the free world? What was it about this man who could compartmentalize his life in such a way?
It's a mystery, and one that historians and others will continue to contemplate.
Sadly, for Mimi Alford and for my long-lost friend, I think they are part of a very long line of women. A line that seemingly has no end.
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