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

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Overview

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 ...

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

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Today Mimi Beardsley Alford is a retired church administrator. In the summer of 1962, Mimi Beardsley was a teenage intern beginning an internship in the White House press office. Within weeks, this tall, beautiful, impressionable woman had begun an affair with President John F. Kennedy, a link that was severed only by his November 1963 assassination. Until six years ago, when an investigator divulged the relationship, Mimi's great secret and sadness remained concealed. Even then, she only made a general acknowledgement of the liaison; it is only now that she writes candidly about this central relationship in her life. Once Upon a Secret recounts not just her presidential romance, but also the story of how she maintained silence, sometimes at great cost, about an affair that would have riveted the nation.

Edward Ash-Milby

From the Publisher
“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
 
“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
Kirkus Reviews
Kiss-and-tell memoir about the author's affair with President John F. Kennedy, beginning when she was a White House intern in 1962. Alford describes life as a debutante and the import her parents placed on The Social Register. In 1961, as a high-school senior at Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Conn., she attempted to set up an interview with one of the school's alumna, Jacqueline Kennedy, then the First Lady. Her request was declined, but she was nevertheless invited to visit the White House. There she was introduced to JFK, whose charisma struck her at once. The following year she was offered a summer internship in the White House press office. On her fourth day, Alford writes, she received a phone call from one of JFK's closest aides, Dave Powers, asking her to come for a swim in the White House pool. As she swam in a borrowed suit, the president appeared and asked to join her. That evening, the president offered the star-struck 19-year-old a personal tour of his residence and, in Mrs. Kennedy's bedroom, deflowered her. Alford is adamant that their sex was consensual, yet other aspects of their affair, which lasted from June 1962 to November 1963, bordered on brutish. The author describes two instances in which the president urged her to service other men sexually and another involving his insistence that she take amyl nitrite. Alford also discusses how she joined him on trips around the country, where they met for trysts in hotel rooms. The rest of the book is light on personal revelations and salacious details, but its subject alone should be enough to guarantee bestseller status. The first half, which unpacks her affair, is far more compelling than the second, which tracks the author's life after JFK's assassination. Voyeuristic and occasionally fascinating.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400069101
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/8/2012
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 697,744
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Mimi Alford lives in western Massachusetts with her husband, Dick. Together they have seven grandchildren. This is her first book.
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Reading Group Guide

1. The  beginning of Mimi’s  relationship with the President was hardly fairy-tale. In  your opinion, was there anything Mimi could  have done to change this? In what ways did this beginning influence the dynamic of their entire relationship?

2. Mimi  admits that while she was comfortable around  the President, there was always  going to be an imbalance  of power in their relationship, and that, in fact, she never called him anything but “Mr. President.” Do you think  that Mimi would  have been able to overcome this imbalance if she had desired? How do you think  it might have changed her relationship to the President?

3. On several occasions during their relationship the President coerced Mimi into performing acts that she was uncom- fortable with, such as taking amyl nitrate at a party. Mimi attributes this  to the President’s  desire to assert his  power over her. In  what other, less harmful ways did the President assert that same power throughout the course of their relationship?

4. In  one of those instances, Mimi  refused the President’s request, and the matter was dropped. What do you think the outcome would have been had Mimi refused the President on the other occasions as well? Does Mimi seem to take responsibility for her part in these events, or does she seem to view them as having been beyond her control?

5. Mimi  talks about  Dave  Powers with  nothing but affection, and often Powers was the one who provided emotional support for Mimi while she was with the President. Do you think that Powers had an obligation  to protect Mimi, or was it simply his responsibility to do everything he could for the President?

6.  When Mimi  first  told the President about Tony, she de- scribed him as being, on paper, “a  perfect match.” In  what ways do you think Mimi’s relationship with JFK might have impacted the sort of man she would consider to be a perfect match for herself?

7. Do you think that Mimi’s interpretation of the President as intentionally winding down the affair is correct? What might have motivated  him to do this?

8. What do you think  of Tony’s  reaction to Mimi’s  revelation about her affair? In  what ways did Tony’s reaction and Mimi’s acceptance set the tone for the rest of their relationship together?

9. Do you think Tony might have reacted differently if Mimi had told him about the affair earlier in  their relationship? What might have changed?

10. In what ways did Tony’s instruction that Mimi never share her secret with anyone else liberate her, as she describes it? In what ways did it imprison her?

11. Neither Mimi’s  relationship with Tony  nor her relation- ship  with the President was as emotionally healthy as the relationship she found with her current husband. In  what ways were those early relationships similar? In what ways did they differ?

12. When  Mimi  finally  shared her secret with  her cousin Joan, she seemed unsure if she would “ever have the nerve” to talk to anyone else, despite how much better it made her feel. What do you think might account for this?

13. At several points in the book, Mimi describes the act of revealing her secret—to friends, to family, and even having it exposed by the media—as being liberating. In  your experience, has keeping secrets had a negative  impact  on your life? Has sharing them been as freeing  as Mimi describes?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 173 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(57)

4 Star

(45)

3 Star

(33)

2 Star

(14)

1 Star

(24)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 173 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 9, 2012

    Interesting story

    While I found this story at times disturbing, I found it still believable. For anyone who has been swept up in a relationship (business, friendship, or love) with an individual who has immense power, they will understand this book. I've seen a few cruel reviews on other sites about Mimi and how she was naive, has no self confidence, or needs to just get over this and move on. First, she was a nineteen year old in the 1960's, a completely different era. Second, anyone who thinks they could just easily "get over" or move on from a affair with such a powerful figure is full of it. For those who know the complexities of the human mind and heart, it's completely understandable how something like this would change someone's life, especially years later as you mature and realize some of the things that happened in the past. Looking back in our youth, there are a lot of moments we just didn't understand or had to learn from. I truly believe Mimi when she says this is just a book she had to write to fully reveal the true story she kept a secret for so long. As an older, more mature woman, she reveals a number of her feelings in the book, to fully admitting how she was naive and had a lack of understanding in her youth. But she also began to grow from the experience, until she did gain confidence and the belief in herself to be the woman she is today.

    103 out of 111 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2012

    Abuse of political position

    What starts out as an adventure of a lifetime for a innocent girl quickly turns into an ugly abusive show of political power by the President of the United States. How could young Mimi stop the sexual advances of the most powerful man in the world; the answer, she could not and he knew it.
    Sending his friend to lure her into the abusive web of the Kennedy lair, Mimi felt she was doing no wrong. She cannot be held responsible for her acts because she was a mere child and the President knew it.
    Facinating reading into the background of the abuse of political power.

    34 out of 42 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 10, 2012

    Enjoyable read about an emotional journey

    When I first heard about this book my first thought was why now.. But as I heard a bit more of the story it was quite intringuing and needed to be "owned" by Mrs. Alford. The 60's were a very different time and if we want to be real, it isn't hard to imagine in that time a naive (sexually and otherways) girl being swept up in the romance of Camelot. A powerful handsome charasmatic man, a naive young woman, not a stretch.. I found many aspects of the relationship abusive, the sexual dares in particular. However, I'd like to believe that Kennedy did actually care for her, that she was more than a presidential sex toy. I also found Dave Powers role to be more than a little distasteful, but I guess that is the "fixer's" job.. All-in-all I would say this book is less about Kennedy and more about empowerment and self-discover of Mrs. Alford, how you can overcome the decisions of your past and own your future.

    33 out of 39 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 11, 2012

    Waste of money and time

    She should not profit from her lack of morals and ethics. He may have started the affair, she continued it, time and time again. While knowing he was married . And now again NO consideration of Caroline and her children. If Mimi needs to talk to free herself from the burdens of her continuous actions, talk to a therapist behind closed doors. She continues to hurt others with no consideration, this book is a waste of time and good money. President Kennedy is a fool for starting the affair, she is despicable for continuing it! This book is a waste of my time and money.

    24 out of 98 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2012

    Don't listen to Barbera Walters

    Before reading this book I heard all the interviews cutting down the author for writing this book, and why now. I found this read less about the Kennedys and more about the development of a person. Yes, there are a few paragraphs of detailed information, but it is part of her story and why she is who she is today.

    22 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2012

    Wonderful

    I purchased this book on a whim. I don't gravitate towards biographies, and while I am intrigued with history, I cannot claim I am a fanatic. That said, this is a beautiful book that I could not put down. I read it in a matter of hours. It is insightful and provocative.

    21 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    my affair with the president

    young mimi alford was very excited at the prospect of working as an intern in the white house and got to meet president kennedy who later took a more thean work intrest in her he begain a 18 year long affair with this 17 year old by first seducing her in jackies bedroom . this is very hard to put down the young intern also gives some details about the asasination great gift idea.

    17 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2012

    Great read

    A quick and easy read. I enjoyed it very much. Thank you Mimi for your honesty and openess.

    16 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2012

    Excellent read ....

    This was an excellent book and interesting story. I was not disappointed.

    12 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2012

    Very Moving Story

    This is one of the most moving stories I have ever read. While the media has focused on the sexual aspects of the story, I found the effects on Ms. Alford's life the most moving. She entered her first marriage while still grieving. Her first marriage was destroyed. The effect of this secret on her life. From an historical point of view how this could have gone on in view of the press, and customs before the era of sex harresment law suits(Though this clearly is a love story) I agree with other comments about Barbara Walters behavior. What journalist kills a story because it is seen as critical of her friend's father.

    11 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 1, 2012

    History, no Heart......

    My Mother had adored the Kennedy's all her life as she was Irish and proud that they became so prominent & powerful in an era that Irish-Catholics were scorned as drunkards, deadbeats, and n'er-do-wells. I just don't think she fully realized that like many rich and powerful families, they didn't get to the top honestly. We now know patriarch JP Kennedy was not really a great businessman, he was an opportunist, who made his money on the backs of the unfortunate and taught his family to do the same. His ancestors still believe themselves to be above all reproach when they bear the Kennedy name, just read the internet news today about one of the newest escapades of a grandson. As I now have a bad image of the Kennedy's in general, I'm not sure why I bought this Nook Book. Curiosity? History? Who knows. I can tell you though, when I finished it, I felt very empty and a bit depressed. I'm not sure why Mimi Alford really wrote this book. Supposedly to set the story straight? Well, I hope she somehow got some closure or at least plenty of money as it's really not much of a story and I don't honestly know why she would want to tell it... A young girl loses her virginity to an older man kind of as a 'sexual waitress' no affection, no kisses, no love, no sugar with that. And she continues the relationship as if she were a call girl, with Dave powers playing the role of a pimp. I feel bad for her that she was so used and allowed herself to be. And Kennedy? He was taught people, especially women, were disposable, and I guess never managed to develop any non-narcissistic thoughts on the subject. When I began the book I think I was hoping for a somehow "good" reason this affair occurred. Possibly it had a purpose, an emotion. Frankly, I saw none.

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2012

    Really?

    Very easy to write fiction when everyone else is long gone. Just another person making money. After so many years memories change to what we want. Save your money not a good read.

    8 out of 35 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2012

    Great Book

    Very interesting. It was a real page turner for me, from start to end!

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2012

    Ehhhhh

    This book is ok. If you are wondering between this book and another book. Get the other book. It is only kinda good (like a really long People magazine/Inquirer article kinda good)up until the death of JFK. Then it is like....blah blah blah blah blah. Just skipped all the way to the end after that. Sorry Mimi. I felt like I kinda wasted my money. She still seemed to be making excuses for JFK. He was an oversexed guy that ended up in the White House. Didn't live during that time. Was interested in what she had to say. It was just ok.

    5 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 11, 2012

    Good read!!!!

    Easy, enjoyable read! Kennedy took advantage of a young woman, and used her sexually. I truly believe she was a victim. Fascinating read! Loved it!

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2012

    Person

    I hate book

    4 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2012

    Good but wouldn't recommend

    Although I find Mimi's story to be very honest, and intriguing. It could have all been summed up in 100 pages. I found it to page turning up until the President's death. All information re: their affair can be found on the Internet.

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2012

    WOW

    Undoubtedbly true and a very mixed consequence for this girl. Lots of courage here on her part. well written with classy lack of salaciousness. it would have been interesting to be part of those intoxicating times although the dark side is disturbing
    .

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2012

    Interesting read, especially for the over 60 people

    Intersting, not surprising at all. I think if JFK had been President today, he wouldn't have gotten away with all his affairs. I really like JFK, I think he was a great leader but not so much a great person.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2012

    Eye-opener!

    My thoughts go out to the author. I understand it may have been the time and setting of that decade, but I am overwhelmed and taken back that a man (especially the president) would treat a woman that way.

    My opinion of JFK is forever changed. I appreciate the book for its clarity and the author for her honesty. Obviously I will continue to see JFK as a great president. His contributions to this country are forever appreciated, but his flaws as a man are noteable

    A great read that I will recommend again and again!

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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