JFK: Trivia, Facts, And The Secrets You Probably Didn't Know
June 04, 1961 - The first communist party secretary Nikita Khrushchev talks with U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. (Photo by Don Carl STEFFEN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
How well did we really know John F. Kennedy? Ever since his assassination, he has been held up as an ideal, a president with a legacy to be admired. He was young and charismatic, a father with a loving family, and he captured a spirit of optimism for a generation of Americans. But parts of the JFK fairy tale legacy were carefully crafted, including the reference to Camelot, which Jackie Kennedy herself created a week after his death. Beneath the façade of presidential perfection, there were some darker secrets lurking: The womanizing was extreme, his health was poor, and some of his political moves may have been unethical.
JFK Was Plagued By Illnesses From Birth
Throughout the course of his public life, Kennedy seemed the image of vitality. But he had health issues from his childhood. He came down with scarlet fever before he was three, and also had a variety of other illnesses as a child, including measles, mumps, and whooping cough. He also developed colitis and was diagnosed with Addison’s disease, a diagnosis which he denied, but that required regular doses of cortisone.
JFK Had A Serious Meth Habit. But Then, Who Didn't?
Kennedy developed extreme back pain and, by 1951, required crutches to climb stairs. He also wore a back brace to keep him erect and was wearing it on the day he was shot. He was under the care of numerous doctors and had to take a host of medications, so many that his physicians kept a running log of them called a “Medicine Administration Record.”
One of Kennedy's doctors, Max Jacobson, gave him methamphetamines which he called “pep pills” to deal with depression and fatigue and injected pain killers into his back. While today we think of methamphetamines as extremely dangerous drugs, in the '60s they were thought to be helpful, and Kennedy's dealer, er, doctor did brisk business. According to a report by the National Institutes of Health:
Known as a doctor to the stars and nicknamed “Dr Feelgood,” Jacobson also treated Cecil B. De-Mille, Alan Jay Lerner, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, the Rolling Stones, and ironically, Congressman Claude Pepper of Florida, a noted antidrug campaigner. Jacobson’s concoctions were peculiar, but he was far from unique in his readiness to prescribe or dispense amphetamines for the price of a consultation.
JFK believed the drugs made him less dependent on the crutches. On at least one occasion, he took an anti-psychotic after extreme mood changes, albeit for only two days.
Was JFK Secretly Friendly With Russia?
He crafted a hard-line stance on communism, but this may have also been a façade. Before Kennedy was elected, Nixon got into an argument with Krushchev about socialism versus capitalism which angered Khrushchev. Allegedly, Russian operatives contacted the Kennedy campaign just before the 1960 election, although they were denied access. Although Krushchev claimed responsibility for Kennedy’s election, the only evidence that exists to support his assertion lies in the story of two airmen who were shot down over Russia. Nixon had tried to negotiate their release but was unsuccessful. The airmen were released after Kennedy’s inauguration.
While the evidence that the Russians helped Kennedy win the election is shaky, he did send his brother Robert to talk secretly with Georgi Bolshakov, a Russian spy. He had other conversations with the Soviets, including an attempt to work with the Russians to prevent the collapse of Laos and to work in conjunction with them in space exploration.
Joe Kennedy, Sr., Had Extreme Beliefs And Incredible Power
Kennedy was also secretive about his father Joseph’s role in the administration. Joseph Kennedy Sr. was an arch-conservative, as well as an anti-Semite and an ally of Joseph McCarthy. His contempt for Jews and communists alike had led him, early on, to sympathize with Adolf Hitler.
The usual story about Joe Kennedy is that he made his money bootlegging during Prohibition -- a story that doesn't seem to have historical basis, according to recent research. Joe was a smart, even clairvoyant businessman, wringing money from troubled Hollywood movie studios and shorting stocks when he saw that the market was heading for a crash.
Joseph Kennedy amassed not just money but also political power, serving as the first chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
How much power did Joe have, and was it all on the right side of the law? That's where the story of his influence calls into question his son's political triumph. For decades, it has been alleged that Joe Kennedy Kennedy put his thumb on the electoral scale -- either through payoffs or calling on mob connections such as Sam Giancana -- to sway key districts and states in his son's favor in the 1960 election.
Other documents have surfaced indicating the administration’s plans to overthrow leaders of foreign countries, to assassinate Castro, and to engage in agricultural sabotage in Cuba
There Were Other Women. And Other Other Women.
The images of his fairy tale romance was also a bit of a cover. Kennedy's womanizing life did not end when he got married. He had numerous sexual dalliances throughout his married life although the stories of a relationship with Marilyn Monroe may not have been true. He even got his aides involved; he had trysts with dozens of women whom his aides procured for him.
He also had a relationship with a stripper named Tempest Storm whom he met at the Casino Royale in Washington DC, and in 1955 Kennedy was living temporarily in a suite at the Mayflower Hotel and would have trysts with actresses, including Lee Remick and Audrey Hepburn.
One Affair Even Tied Him To The Mob
Additionally, he had an 18-month affair with Mimi Beardsley Alford, his intern at the time. According to Alford, she lost her virginity to the President and she has detailed doing drugs with him; apparently, JFK also urged her to perform a sex act on Dave Powers, a presidential aide, while JFK watched.
He also had ties to the mob and had an affair with Judith Exner, who claimed to deliver packages between the President and Sam Giancana, a mob boss. He also worked with mob bosses during Operation Mongoose, the attempt to destabilize Cuba.
When his wife gave birth, he was with one of his mistresses. Additionally, he had an affair with Jackie’s sister, Lee, and she was aware of this dalliance as well as others.
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