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


Susan Denaker,Mimi Alford


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


Biographies & Memoris

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Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (February 8, 2012)




Leaders and Notable People

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Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath by Susan Denaker,Mimi Alford

In the summer of 1962, nineteen-year-old Mimi Beardsley arrived by train in Washington, D.C., to begin an internship in the White House press office. The Kennedy Administration had reinvigorated the capital and the country—and Mimi was eager to contribute. For a young woman from a privileged but sheltered upbringing, the job was the chance of a lifetime. Although she started as a lowly intern, Mimi made an impression on Kennedy’s inner circle and, after just three days at the White House, she was presented to the President himself.   Almost immediately, the two began an affair that would continue for the next eighteen months.   In an era when women in the workplace were still considered “girls,” Mimi was literally a girl herself—naïve, innocent, emotionally unprepared for the thrill that came when the President’s charisma and power were turned on her full-force. She was also unprepared for 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. Then, after the President’s tragic death in Dallas, she grieved in private, locked her secret away, and tried to start her life anew, only to find that her past would cast a long shadow—and ultimately destroy her relationship with the man she married.   In 2003, a Kennedy biographer mentioned “a tall, slender, beautiful nineteen-year-old college sophomore and White House intern, who worked in the press office” in reference to one of the President’s affairs. The disclosure set off a tabloid frenzy and soon exposed Mimi and the secret that she had kept for forty-one years. Because her past had been revealed in such a shocking, public way, she was forced, for the first time, to examine the choices she’d made. She came to understand that shutting down one part of her life so completely had closed her off from so much more.   No longer defined by silence or shame, Mimi Alford has finally unburdened herself with this searingly honest account of her life and her extremely private moments with a very public man. Once Upon a Secret offers a new and personal depiction of one of our most iconic leaders and a powerful, moving story of a woman coming to terms with her past and moving out of the shadows to reclaim the truth.

I had to read this book twice before I could decide how I really felt about it. And to be completely candid, Alford's book surprised me. I bought it expecting its focus to be on her relationship with the President. While that may be the event that gives this book its direction, Alford's story is not the same as Monica Lewinski's. What gives Alford's book life for me was the real storyline - the many ways that keeping a secret for so many years can literally consume you.

The author admirably straddles the very fine line between telling most of the sordid details of her encounters with JFK and the effects they were having on her. More than half a century after his death, it is clear that Mimi Alford remains very much under the spell that Kennedy cast upon those who came in and out of his circle. She describes in detail how some members of the White House Staff enabled the President's behaviors and how Kennedy was emotionally void when he took her virginity on the Executive Mansion's second floor. Alford understood then that JFK's actions were far beyond the bounds of propriety, but power is a strong aphrodisiac that she only came to terms with as the relationship progressed. Her recounting the tale of being asked by the President to provide sex to one of his key staffers trumpets Kennedy's dark side in all of its ugliness. Still, Alford's story shows that he could also maintain relationships with women without being intimate, such as asking her to come to the White House on the darkest night of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Chaucer said, "Truth will out" and Alford's tale takes a strange turn on November 22, 1963. As the news of Kennedy's assassination spreads around the world, Alford feels a particular pain that few people could understand. She shares with her fiance the secret she has been carrying, and his resulting emotional outburst was typical of the time. She is forbidden to speak of it again and the remainder of the book details the process by which Mimi Alford ultimately found both healing and redemption.

When this book was published, there was no absence of claims that she wrote it for the national and international attention that it would inevitably bring. But for me, Ms. Alford emerges from these pages as a sympathetic character that all can identify with on some level. Some may be bigger than others, but all of us carry around our own secrets. Big or small, those secrets may lie dormant for years and perhaps some of us will die never having shared our story. There is an old adage that says, "Two can keep a secret if three are dead." But Alford's account of her affair with the President is really the story of how consuming the keeping of a secret can become, and how liberating it can be when years of secrecy no longer must be maintained.
I admired President Kennedy my entire life. I personally found this book difficult to read as each chapter destroyed a little bit of my admiration for the President. Particularly disturbing was the incident with Dave Powers. I kept asking myself how a grown man could treat a young woman this way. Of course I was aware of Kennedys numerous affairs through the years from other books and this author admits she was happy to be with him but that did not give him the right to use and humiliate her.

Now I see President Kennedy as a kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The public smiling, outgoing family man and the secret schemer to get anything he wants no matter who it hurts.

I am so sad. I can never think of him the same way again!
A fascinating and surprisingly well written memoir. The author tells her story with the self-awareness and introspection of a lifetime of dealing with its aftermath. However, the most interesting aspect of the book was not the tawdry details, but her own denial of the true nature of the relationship: a powerful 45 year old married father with a pregnant wife using his goons to recruit an innocent teenager into becoming one of his many women. Although she chronicles in detail how "exciting" and "fun" the experience was, she never fully addresses the consequences of having her innocence stolen at such a tender young age by a serial predator. Half a century later she seems star struck and infatuated with him, her affection and admiration come across as a kind of Stockholm syndrome. Like a former cult member, she is apparently still under his spell.
I can't imagine the outrage any parent would feel for their child to be used and taken advantage of in such a sickening way. The author never shares any feelings she may have had from her perspective as a mother of daughters, but as a parent, this story was disturbing.
This is the story of a young girl who was dazzled by President Kennedy's charisma and whose life was influenced by the secret she carried -- He was a man of many facets -- and as she says, he was capable of compartmentalizing the many sides of his life. She knew a personal aspect of him, aside from the public persona, family life, and other parts of him, including affairs with other women, as have been documented through the years. Somehow Mimi managed to stay beneath the radar for a very long time. It was only after a diligent reporter uncovered her identity and her private life exposed that she wrote this memoir. So it was not a "tell all" book written for publicity of sensationalism. I feel compelled to emphasize this to a judgmental person who gave the book only one star -- and who hadn't even bothered to read it! It is well written and honest.
Tyler Is Not Here
I love reading about JFK. Don't know why because he was gone before I even started going to school but there will always be mystery around Camelot.
Mimi Alford writes a candid account of her time with JFK that I just do not doubt in the least. She gives intimate details without the sordid light that might make me hate him. Seriously, we all knew he was a womanizer. Mimi just explains how he managed his relationship with her.
Then after the death of JFK, how Mimi lived a "normal" life.
I really liked the book.
I bought this book feeling I knew what it was about. I was wrong. This book wasn't just about a man in power taking advantage of a teenager. It is about what those actions do to a person too young to absorb what it all means. It also wasn't about a women blaming anyone......least of all herself. The work, courage and desire to grow that it took Mimi to overcome and find happiness is amazing. God bless her for sharing her story. It has helped me move closer to being able to share mine.

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