Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath

by Mimi Alford

Hardcover, 2012




Random House (2012), Edition: First Edition, 208 pages


Biography & Autobiography. Family & Relationships. History. Nonfiction. HTML: #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER � �With the benefit of hindsight and good old-fashioned maturity, [Mimi Alford] writes not just about the secret, but the corrosive effect of keeping that secret. . . . You can�t help liking her, or her elegant and thoroughly good-natured book.��The Spectator   In the summer of 1962, nineteen-year-old Mimi Beardsley arrived in Washington, D.C., to begin an internship in the White House press office. After just three days on the job, the privileged but sheltered young woman was presented to the President himself. Almost immediately, the two began an affair that would continue for the next eighteen months. Emotionally unprepared to counter the President�s charisma and power, Mimi was also ill-equipped to handle the feelings of isolation that would follow as she fell into the double life of a college student who was also the secret lover of the most powerful man in the world. After the President�s assassination in Dallas, she grieved alone, locked her secret away, and tried to start a new life, only to be blindsided by her past.   Now, no longer defined by silence or shame, Mimi Alford finally unburdens herself with this unflinchingly honest account of her life and her extremely private moments with a very public man. This paperback edition includes a special Q&A, in which the author reflects on the intense media attention surrounding the book�s initial release. Once Upon a Secret is a moving story of a woman emerging from the shadows to reclaim the truth. �What [Alford] sacrificed in lucre she has more than recovered in credibility and dignity.��The Washington Times   �Compelling . . . a polished voice telling a credible story you can take to the bank.��Seattle Post-Intelligencer   �Explosive . . . searingly candid.��New York Post .… (more)


(86 ratings; 3.4)

User reviews

LibraryThing member PortM
A mildly interesting story from the young woman's point of view. At least from the viewpoint of her older, wiser self. Although she draws life lessons from the experience and feels she has become more self-actualized than she would have without the experience, I still found it a depressingly common
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story of abuse of power by the men who run our country. Even worse, men whom so many idolize and admire.
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LibraryThing member carolfoisset
I found this story riveting. I couldn't stop thinking about how this experience would be for a 19 year old. I want one of my friends to read it so I can talk to them about it. It would be an interesting read for a book club, at least it made me want to talk about it! The audio was easy to listen to
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- parts of it were a tad melodramatic.
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LibraryThing member Whisper1
If you like to read about the life of President John F. Kennedy, then this is a book for you. Mimi was a mere 19 years of age when she obtained a coveted internship working with the press corp. at the White House.

Hailing from pedigree and a family of stature and means, she fit the classic mold of
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high society. She attended the same prep school as Jackie Kennedy. Pretty, charming and easily swayed, within a week of arrival, President Kennedy noticed and seduced her.

The author never portrays herself as a victim. Throughout the book, she notes her young age, and freely admits she was enamored, and thrived in the heady atmosphere of an incredibly handsome man who took a liking to her. Bill Clinton was not the first President to seduce an intern!

Traveling on Air Force one with the President, arriving at locations where she was sequestered in a hotel room, or a compound with a pool and all amenities, she felt special and very fortunate to be part, albeit a hidden part, of a glamorous world of the Presidents entourage.

Now a grandmother, she looks back at that time in her life. She is not bitter, nor is she writing a gossipy tell all book for notoriety, rather, she has a story to tell, and it is an interesting tale.

The affair began with an invite to swim with the President in the White House pool. He then asked if he could give her a tour of the White House. Quickly, her virginity was lost in Jackie Kennedy's bedroom suite.

Lasting a few years, she acknowledges that when she began to stand up for herself, and when Jackie lost their baby son, the President graciously affirmed her decision to marry and begin a life without him.

There are a few disturbing scenes portrayed regarding JFK's dark side. Mimi grew increasingly uncomfortable with Kennedy's lack of class and brashness in treating her as a sexual object to be shared with his friend and brother Ted. She refused to "make Ted comfortable", and said a resounding No!

Drugs were distributed at Bing Crosby's house, and a raucous time was had by all, but Mimi. Using her as a guinea pig, Kennedy insisted she take the drug amylnitrate When she declined, he broke open the capsule and she inhaled the contents. Immediately her heart raced to out of control levels.

The affair was winding down, still he invited her to meet him in Dallas. When Jackie decided to accompany her husband on that fateful trip, Mimi was left behind. She learned of his death while listening to the radio of the car her soon to be husband was driving.

She was young and naive, and to her credit, she could have told the world about the affair when it was occurring, the only person she told immediately after Kennedy's death, was her soon-to-be husband.
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LibraryThing member dpappas
I was interested in reading this book for obvious reasons. This is a relatively short book, so it didn't take long to finish at all. Something about this book seemed odd to me, I can't quite place exactly what it was though. Some of this book was truly fascinating. Although I do have to say I think
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the topics in this could have just been revealed in an interview and it probably would have been better. With all of the self-refelection in this book I feel like a television interview would have been a much better format.
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LibraryThing member schatzi
I'm not big into the Kennedy dynasty (although a liberal, I wasn't born until 1980, and my history books in high school always ended before JFK was assassinated, so I never really studied much about this period), but this book was recommended to me. And it is an interesting book. Mimi Alford, an
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intern in the White House press corps when she was nineteen years old, unabashedly details her "affair" (she is hesitant to call what passed between her and JFK by that term).

While the nature of the book is a bit voyeuristic by default, Ms. Alford doesn't give the gory details. She also relates how the "affair" impacted the rest of her life, from her first marriage (which was, shall we say, "rocky") and how she lived. Revealing the secret appears to have liberated her, although it wasn't her choice to do so - the press did that for her.

The book isn't the best written, but it is a memoir, and it has a ring of truth to it. JFK was a known philanderer, and the contents of the book shouldn't be that surprising to anyone (except the thing by the pool...). Altogether, an interesting memoir showing that presidents far before Bill Clinton had dalliances with their interns.
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LibraryThing member bobbieharv
I found it gripping - even though we've heard about all his women, I resisted believing it till I read the telling specific details of Alford's affair with him in her memoir. At its heart, though, the book felt hollow. She spent over a year in an intimate relationship with him, but what was he
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like? What did they talk about? How did she feel about it at the time?

Maybe the absence of psychological detail is due to how long ago it happened. Maybe I just wanted more because he was such an iconic figure of my youth - and so I'm willing to give it 4 stars, despite this lack.
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LibraryThing member knightlight777
I happen to pick this book up wondering as I began it why I really want to read it. I was I have to say impressed how Mimi Alford told her story about her relationship with JFK.

A different era for sure and in this day and age JFK would have had a bit more challenge juggling all the affairs he did.
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What I found most interesting was how she became kind of like the stay over night gal when others were not available. It seemed like Jackie was not around much in those days.

It is kind of comical to think JFK the pro that he was in conducting these things kind of makes Bill Clinton seem like a rank amateur. It made think about what would he have thought of that scandal.

I'm glad I took the time to read it and was well worth it.
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LibraryThing member brianinbuffalo
Any reader who is expecting "Shades of Gray With JFK" in Mimi Alford's "tell-all" memoir will likely be disappointed. That is, unless one considers vignettes that have a revered president frolicking in a White House bathtub with an intern and rubber duckies to be exceptionally racy. With few
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exceptions, Alford stops short of serving up loads of bedroom-based details about her affair with John F. Kennedy. What's most fascinating about this short tome is how the author puts her White House escapades on a historic time line, allowing readers to discover what the president was doing "after hours" during such milestones as the Cuban Missile Crisis and Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. As a contemporary history buff, I really enjoyed most of the book. True, the author seems to go easy on JFK, never really condemning his absolutely despicable behavior. And the last couple sections of the book regarding Alford's later relationships seem to go on for too long. But overall, I think it's a book worthy of reading.
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LibraryThing member etxgardener
The best things I have to say about this book is that a) I got it from the library & didn't waste my money on it and b) it was a short, quick read. Author Mimi Alford had an affair with John F. Kennedy while she was a teenage intern at the White House and she "Kept her secret" (well except for the
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seven or eight fiends that she told) until she was outed by the New York Post in 2003. Then, presumably, although she "didn't want to capitalize" on her experience, nonetheless here we are with her book bout her relationship.

I'm not sure what is worse, her refusal to see how sordid & wrong the two-year relationship was, or how she still makes excuses for Kennedy's unpardonable behavior. And it is a sordid tale from the President's near rape of a 19-year-old virgin intern, to his aide Dave Powers acting as his procurer, to the President ordering the author to perform oral sex on both Powers and his younger brother, Ted, While he watched.

I guess Ms. Alford needed the money for her retirement years because otherwise why write such a sad, and pathetic book.
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LibraryThing member gaillamontagne
Quite the book! If you are interested in the Kennedy's lives, this is a must read.
LibraryThing member Salsabrarian
Narrated by Susan Denaker. I admit to a bit of pink-faced chagrin over my prurient curiosity in this memoir. But while there are some titillatingly shocking moments (she lost her virginity with the President!? Wha-at!), this is in the end a sad story about how power corrupts, and not just the
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person in power. It has an effect far beyond its epicenter. That Mimi kept this a secret, buried her emotions for so long, and constantly managed her life around her secret, is pretty remarkable. Denaker is immediate and compelling in her reading, perfectly voicing an older woman who has no regrets but looks back with sorrow at what was and what could have been.
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LibraryThing member wellreadcatlady
More like 3.5. I don't normally read books like this but this one interested me. The stories shared are very selective and Mimi doesn't go into great detail about her relationship with JFK only specific exchanges with a common theme are detailed. She did a good job explaining what kind of person
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she was before the affair and how she ended up getting into it and the after effects of it through out her life. She repeats herself quite a bit through out the book which can be annoying and towards the end of her relationship with JFK I question how much of it is true. The gifts, things he said about her to her, and most of all whether or not her descriptions of some of the most iconic & memorable moments of JFK's presidency took place like she described them (Missile Crisis & trip to Dallas). This is definitely worth reading if you are interested in JFK and that time period in America or even just in general because it is an interesting story.
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Physical description

208 p.; 5.8 inches


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