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

by Mimi Alford
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Overview

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

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
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.
 
“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

Look for special features inside. Join the Circle for author chats and more.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812981346
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/01/2013
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 152,475
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

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

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
 
Everyone has a secret. This is mine.
 
In the summer of 1962, I was nineteen years old, working as an intern in the White House press office. During that summer, and for the next year and a half, until his tragic death in November 1963, I had an intimate, prolonged relationship with President John F. Kennedy.
 
I kept this secret with near-religious discipline for more than forty years, confiding only in a handful of people, including my first husband. I never told my parents, or my children. I assumed it would stay my secret until I died.
 
It didn’t.
 
In May 2003, the historian Robert Dallek published An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy 1917–1963. Buried in one paragraph, on page 476, was a passage from an eighteen-page oral history that had been conducted in 1964 by a former White House aide named Barbara Gamarekian. The oral history had been recently released along with other long-sealed documents at the JFK Presidential Library in Boston, and Dallek had seized upon a particularly juicy tidbit. Here’s what it said:
 
Kennedy’s womanizing had, of course, always been a form of amusement, but it now gave him a release from unprecedented daily tensions. Kennedy had affairs with several women, including Pamela Turnure, Jackie’s press secretary; Mary Pinchot Meyer, Ben Bradlee’s sister-in-law; two White House secretaries playfully dubbed Fiddle and Faddle; Judith Campbell Exner, whose connections to mob figures like Sam Giancana made her the object of FBI scrutiny; and a “tall, slender, beautiful” nineteen-year-old college sophomore and White House intern, who worked in the press office during two summers. (She “had no skills,” a member of the press staff recalled. “She couldn’t type.”)
 
I wasn’t aware of Dallek’s book when it came out. JFK biographies, of course, are a robust cottage industry in publishing, and one or two new books appear every year, make a splash, and then vanish. I tried my best not to pay attention. I refused to buy any of them, but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t occasionally drop into bookstores in Manhattan, where I lived, to read snippets that covered the years I was in the White House. Part of me was fascinated because I had been there, and it was fun to relive that part of my life. Another part of me was anxious to know if my secret was still safe.
 
The publication of Dallek’s book may have been off my radar, but the media was definitely paying attention. The Monica Lewinsky scandal, which had nearly brought down the Clinton Administration five years earlier, had stoked the public’s interest for salacious details about the sex lives of our leaders, and Dallek’s mention of an unnamed “White House intern” lit a fire at the New York Daily News. This was apparently a Big Story. A special reporting team was quickly assembled to identify and locate the mystery woman.
 
On the evening of May 12, I was walking past my neighborhood newsstand in Manhattan when I noticed that the front page of the Daily News featured a full-page photograph of President Kennedy. I was already late to yoga class, so I didn’t pay much attention to the headline, which was partially obscured in the stack of papers, anyway. Or maybe I didn’t want to see it. I was well aware that tabloids such as the Daily News tended to focus on all things personal and scandalous about JFK. Such stories always made me queasy. They reminded me that I was not that special where President Kennedy and women were concerned, that there were always others. So I hurried past, pushing the image of JFK out of my mind. Keeping a secret for forty-one years forces you to deny aspects of your own life. It requires you to cordon off painful, inconvenient facts—and quarantine them. By this point, I had learned how to do that very well.
 
What I missed, in my rush to get to yoga, was the full headline below the photo: “JFK Had a Monica: Historian Says Kennedy Carried on with White House Intern, 19.” Inside was a story, taking off from what was in Dallek’s book and featuring a new interview with Barbara Gamarekian, who said she could remember only the nineteen-year-old mystery intern’s first name but refused to reveal it. Her refusal, of course, only incited the Daily News team to dig deeper.
 
The next morning, at nine o’clock, I arrived at my office at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, as usual. I hung up my coat, as usual. I took my first sip of coffee from C’est Bon café, as usual. And then I sat down and checked my email. A friend had sent me a message that contained a link to a Daily News story. I clicked on it, not knowing what it was. Up came a story with the headline “Fun and Games with Mimi in the White House.” He had sent it to me, he said, because of the “funny coincidence” of our names.
 
For the first time in my life, I knew what people meant when they said they had the wind knocked out of them. I went cold. I quickly closed my door and scanned the article. Though my last name at the time—Fahnestock—was not mentioned, I felt a peculiar sense of dread, that everything was about to change. This was the moment I had feared my entire adult life.
 
I tried not to panic. I took a deep breath and mentally checked off all the things that weren’t in the article. The Daily News didn’t know where I lived. They hadn’t contacted any of my friends. They hadn’t reached out to people from my White House days. They didn’t have my picture. If they had known any more about me they would have included it, right? And they certainly would have tracked me down for a comment.
 
None of that had happened.
 
Besides, I had lived through close calls before. A year earlier, the author Sally Bedell Smith had called me at home. She said she was doing a book about how women were treated in the sixties in Washington. It sounded innocent, but it was enough to put me on full alert, and I suspected a somewhat different agenda. I wasn’t ready to start peeling away the layers of secrecy and denial yet, certainly not with a woman I’d never met. I said I couldn’t answer her questions and politely asked her not to call me again, and she honored my request. My secret was safe.
 
But this Daily News story felt different.
 
The day after it ran, I arrived at work to find a woman sitting outside my office. She introduced herself as Celeste Katz, a reporter from the Daily News, and she wanted confirmation that I was the Mimi in the previous day’s story.
 
There was nowhere to hide, and no point in denying it. “Yes, I am,” I said.
 
“Mimi Breaks Her Silence,” read the headline the next morning.
 
 
At this point in my life, I was sixty years old and divorced, living quietly, by myself, in an Upper East Side apartment a few blocks from Central Park. In the early nineties, four decades after dropping out of college, I’d gone back and earned my bachelor’s degree at the age of fifty-one. I was a lifelong athlete and a devoted marathoner who spent many predawn hours circling the Central Park reservoir, and enjoying the solitude. My ex-husband, with whom I’d had a stormy divorce, had died in 1993. My two daughters were grown and married, with children of their own. For the first time in many years, I was feeling a measure of peace.
 
I had spent time in therapy getting to this place, getting to know myself. After being mostly a stay-at-home mom, I had come to take a great deal of pride in my work at the church. I’d worked there for five years, first as the coordinator of the audio ministry (recording and producing the extraordinary sermons of Dr. Thomas K. Tewell, our senior pastor) and then as the manager of the church’s website. The audiotapes I produced had grown into a significant source of the church’s funding—and the work itself provided not just income but routine and solace. I am not a religious person, but I am a spiritual one, and I loved my work at the church. I also loved my privacy.
 
When the news broke, it broke everywhere—not only in New York but across the United States and in Europe, too. Here, unfortunately, was my fifteen minutes of fame. The headlines ran the gamut, from predictable to salacious to silly: “From Monica to Mimi.” “Mimi: Only God Knows the Heart.” “JFK and the Church Lady!” I was mocked by one of my favorite writers, Nora Ephron, on the op-ed page of The New York Times. Interview requests poured in, my answering machine full of messages from Katie Couric, Larry King, Diane Sawyer, and, of course, the National Enquirer, which actually slipped an envelope of twenty-dollar bills under my apartment door (which I gave to the church). Weekly magazines deluged me with letters. “Dear Ms. Fahnestock,” they all began, “I apologize for the intrusion. I know this isn’t an easy time for you, but …”—and then they got to the point. A Hollywood producer sent flowers before writing about acquiring the film rights to my story; he offered a million dollars in writing before meeting me. Literary agents descended, wanting to represent me. Edward Klein, author of not one but two scurrilous books about the Kennedys, called to say that if I let him ghostwrite my book I’d be rich and would “be able to live in peace.” Emails arrived from friends, well-wishers, celebrity stalkers, and critics. A college acquaintance provided some comfort: “Please remember that all of this is ‘this week’s news,’ ” she wrote. “It will go away. It’s just that JFK is like Elvis. We all think that we know him and we always want to hear more.”
 

What People are Saying About This

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

Reading Group Guide

A Conversation with Mimi Alford

Random House Readers Circle: Before you were first  outed by the press, you had already begun sharing your secret with your family and close friends. What inspired you to write this memoir and share your story with the whole world?

Mimi Alford: Before May 2003, only a handful of friends and two family members knew about my affair with the Presi- dent. As far as I know, all of them kept it a secret. They were doing what I had asked them to do. With  the public outing, you might think that everything changed immediately, but it didn’t. People knew about the affair but no one talked about it. I didn’t talk about it either. In some ways I kept as silent as before. But it became clear that I needed to face it. I needed to understand how it had affected my life and informed my relationships with men. I couldn’t let go of it. It hung around like unfinished business. My happy marriage in 2005 gave me a  newfound  self-confidence, and along with that came  the vision and hope that writing my story would help me to better understand the impact the affair had had on my life, and to unburden myself once and for all. It has.

RHRC: To  what extent has the publication of Once Upon a Secret changed your daily life?

MA: I don’t think about this book every day, but when I do, I feel good that I took on the challenge of writing my story and that I didn’t give up along the way—which I’d considered a few times. If I’d caved in to weakness, I’d still be thinking of the book as something I have to write. Instead, I have the closure that I need. I have been surprised by the readers—women  and men— who have written to me. Though they focus on different parts of my story, almost all of them express a feeling of connec- tion between their  life  experiences and mine—not a  similarity, necessarily, but a  human connection. I recently  got a letter from a young   woman   who says she was very critical of my motives when the book first  came out but when she saw it at a recent   library sale, she decided to buy it anyway. She told me that, now that she has read the book, she un- derstands  and admires me for writing it. And for that I am grateful. It’s good to have gratitude  in your day. Sometimes  something special happens, something I never would have expected. Last Friday—four months after the publication of my book—I took my car to be serviced  at the Previously Loved Subaru dealership in nearby Canaan, Connecticut. When I picked it up early the next morning, the owner, Bill, dressed in his grease-stained friendly-mechanic’s overalls, came over  to explain about the work that had been done on my car. As he handed me the keys, he stopped and looked straight at me with this thoughtful, gentle expression. He said, “Mimi, you have inspired me. Years ago I had some- thing important to face in my life, and for a long time I have wanted to write about it but have been unable to. I am ready to do it now. Thank  you.” I drove back  to Alford thinking,
My book has done something  for someone else. That’s  how my daily life has changed.

RHRC:
By the time your book was published, most of your family already knew about the affair. In your memoir, though, we get to see all the good aspects of your relationship alongside the bad. Has coming out with the whole story changed the way that you and your family talk about the affair? Has it sparked any conversations  with those close to you who may not have known the full  story?

MA: 
“Family” is always a touchy  area. It’s not easy to change the way family members communicate with each other about difficult things after so many years of doing it another way. But  they’ve  been  uniformly  supportive.  Some feel sad because they had no idea of the pain I was in for so much of my adult life. Others now understand the source of that pain. So it’s opened eyes one way or another.

The  big surprise  has been  how sharing my secret has inspired some family members to share theirs  for the first time, like my older brother, Josh, who finally decided to tell me  a most remarkable story: In the winter of 1987, Josh was out of work and in desperate financial straits. To make ends meet, he took a  job driving a taxicab   in Cambridge, Massa- chusetts. One night he picked up a fare  in Lexington. After the man sat down in the backseat, Josh realized that he rec- ognized him, so he turned around and said, “Good evening, Mr. Powers.” To  which Dave  responded,  “Do I know you?” Josh explained, “I am  Mimi Beardsley’s brother. I met you in the White House in 1963 when I came to Washington to pick up my sister  at work. You even introduced  me to President Kennedy.” Dave paused for a  few seconds, then said, “Oh, Mimi . . . oh, Mimi . . . oh, Mimi . . . When the Kennedys  get their hooks into you, they never let go.”

Josh had kept this  a  secret from me because  he was ashamed of driving a cab. But once he read the book, he finally understood what Dave Powers meant that night in 1987. The  fact that he chose to tell me demonstrates the healing power of sharing secrets—and how it gets others to open up. But it helped me, too: The fact that, twenty-five years after my time in the White House, Dave Powers remembered me in the way he did confirmed to me that in writing my book, I was finally free of the Kennedy hooks.

RHRC:
In a Washington Post article about your memoir, the historian Robert Dallek refers to the book  as a valuable  part of the JFK narrative not because it provides sordid details, but because  it  actually  humanizes the President, who, as Dallek puts it, has become some kind of “rock star, a mythological figure—he’s no longer  a real person.” Was this a side of the President that you hoped to bring out through your memoir?

MA: 
I’m not the first  person to point out that JFK had many sides, and that he was very selective in what he let other peo- ple see. He was  a master at compartmentalizing. The  side I bring out is  the only one I’m  qualified to write about: the personal, non-public, after-hours JFK, the way he was with women. There’s been gossip and speculation about his wom- anizing, but I think what Dallek is commenting on is that  I’m one of the few to share details.  Some  people have questioned my motives, but honestly, I have no desire to harm JFK or tarnish his memory, but nor do I need to protect him now.

RHRC:
In  your memoir, you write that you live now with a clear conscience, even though President Kennedy was a married man and a father.  How did you come to terms with that aspect of your relationship?

MA: Who among us hasn’t struggled later in life to come to terms with things we did or didn’t do as a teenager?  I was an innocent nineteen-year-old  single  young woman and the President was  a forty-five-year-old married man  and a father. But he was also the most powerful man in the world at the time. I think  the imbalance  in  the relationship, though it doesn’t excuse my actions, makes it clear that the impetus for our relationship came from him. He was always in control. The idea that I would or could seduce the President of the United States is laughable. In writing my book, I tried to be honest and faithful to that nineteen-year-old  as I remember her—and the truth is, I didn’t feel guilty about Mrs. Kennedy or her children at the time. I had some conflicts  about my fam- ily and my growing relationship with my future husband during those eighteen months with JFK, but not about his family. That said, I can see why people want me to express regret or to apologize for my behavior. I got that reaction in spades when Barbara Walters tore into me on The View.  I think she wanted to shame me for writing a story that could hurt  her friend Caroline Kennedy, which seems absurd to me. Far more painful things have happened to the Kennedys than the publication of a book.

RHRC:
Your first sexual encounter with the President—with any man—wasn’t  quite a  fairy-tale moment. How difficult was it for you to write that scene for this  book? Were you ever tempted to sugarcoat events like that, or other ones?

MA: I wonder how many first-time  sexual encounters  actually are the fairy-tale moment   a young woman imagines.  I doubt there are many, or else we’d all be married  to our first lovers. My intention in Once Upon a Secret was to be honest. It never occurred to me to sugarcoat that first  episode or, for that matter, to enhance  it  into  something more sexually steamy. Of course, the earliest reports about  the book focused on the most salacious details, which set up some readers for disappointment. It’s  not a  sexy book. It’s  about the power of secrets. As one reader,  a man, wrote  to me: “Some readers will find they’ve read a better  book  than  they  thought they had bought.”

RHRC:
Were there any scenes you considered leaving out of your book entirely? What made you ultimately decide to include them in your story?

MA:
I tried to write about what was most important to the story as a  whole and what would give the reader the most complete picture of this  relationship and my experience. It is  true that I struggled with the unsavory scene with Dave Powers. I took it out of the manuscript several times but al- ways  put it  back  in  because  I wanted  to show how easily I slipped into submission.  It was a  question of needing to please someone who had such power over me. It is still a dif- ficult passage for me to read out loud. It makes me angry and sad at the same time.

RHRC: You often say that your time with President Kennedy had  a profound  impact on your life, even beyond the ramifi- cations of keeping your secret. How do you think  your life would have been different if your time at the White House hadn’t included the affair?

MA: It’s easy to play the “what if ”  game. But it’s not a good idea. First and foremost, I have to accept what  the reality was and the context of the times in which my story took place. I can fantasize  that without the affair and without the secret, I might have   become   a  serious  journalist.  My internship might have been the start of a successful  career—after all, I was smart and I was capable. I don’t know if that would have happened for me, but as one reader so aptly put it in her letter, “[At that time] women were not only meant to look up to the men in their lives but to be led by them if not dominated by their superior ideas. It was shameful  to be different,  or at least one was often ostracized for it. All  of us kept secrets even if they were smaller, just to belong.”

RHRC:
After your first  husband, Tony, found out about your affair, he forbade you to talk about it, which had  a huge  impact  on your relationship and, ultimately, played   a role in ending it. How difficult was it to tell that part of the story honestly?

MA:
I’m glad you asked this question. It was difficult to write about my marriage to Tony. We were married for twenty-five years, and in many ways  our marriage never evolved into a wholesome,  balanced relationship in  which we both could flourish.  Was my relationship with President Kennedy  the only reason this happened? I don’t think  so, but it certainly started us off on weak ground.  It is uncomfortable to admit today  that I was always  fearful of Tony.  I never wanted  to make him angry. One friend told me that she feels desper- ately sad for both of us and the diminished life we had to- gether. But we did have two wonderful daughters, who have children  of their  own today,  and for  that I will  always  be grateful.


RHRC:
Was it easier to write about your relationship with President Kennedy or your relationship with your first  hus- band?

MA:
Let me start by saying it was easiest to write about my relationship with my current husband, Dick. Maybe it’s just easier to write about  something happy. We  have   a  life  to- gether that begins every morning with laughter. It doesn’t get better than that. As to your question: I had to put myself so far back in time while writing about the President that it wasn’t always easy to connect to the feelings I had as that nineteen-year- old. I spent  a lot of time just trying to remember. I wanted to be as clear and honest  as possible, and not shade those feel- ings with thoughts  and opinions that could only come later, from a much  older woman. One problem I encountered was that I didn’t have anyone to talk to who would have known me on the White House staff during those eighteen months. I think  that’s why I felt such relief when I came across  my name while doing research at the Kennedy Library. I remember saying to myself, I existed; I was there! I wasn’t invisible anymore.

Writing  about my  marriage to  Tony   presented dif- ferent problems. I was careful not to include details that would intentionally hurt  my daughters. This was my story, not theirs—which they made very clear to me. During  the twenty-five years of our marriage, Tony and I lived in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Massachusetts,  Connecticut, and New Jersey. We  had a  lot of friends. Sometimes friends  sense that you are going through a tough   time; sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they are just  too busy with their own lives and they don’t  want to know. I kept a  lot to myself during the most difficult years, and I worried that my book would make some of those friends feel that they had been left out. They would be right, in  a way. They  didn’t  know me completely because I didn’t let them. I feel closer to many of them today. It’s a wonderful relief.

RHRC:
One of the recurring  themes in  your memoir is that secrets  drag us down, and that we can’t truly  come to terms with  them until  we  learn to share them. Has your experience sharing your story inspired any others to share theirs?

MA: Absolutely. Secrets separate you, make it easy to with- draw and disconnect. I’ve  filled two three-ring binders al- ready with letters from readers, and nearly all of them focus on keeping secrets. These letters are from both women and men. I emphasize  this  because  some people  feel that my book is just a “woman’s book.” It’s not true. One man thanked me for encouraging him to have  a more open, loving marriage. The recurring theme in all these letters is that my story deserved to be told, and by telling it, I helped many people feel empowered to share their own. But once the story was out there, it belonged to the read- ers as much if not more than it belonged to me. When I was in New York  a couple  of days after Once Upon a Secret came out, I was walking across Central Park. At the 81st Street entrance on the West Side, I saw a young  woman  sitting on a bench, reading my book. For a split second I was tempted to stand over her and, when she looked up, ask if she was enjoying the book. I wanted to see the look on her face when she recognized me. But  that vanity disappeared  quickly. I realized that I didn’t need the recognition. I didn’t need to hear her say “Omigod, it’s you!” or something like that. She didn’t need me interrupting her private experience of reading the book. It was her book now, not mine. The liberation and release that I received simply from telling my story and telling it honestly was enough for me. Anything else, I could let go.

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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Once Upon a Secret 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 180 reviews.
Kylie51 More than 1 year ago
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.
ElliottW More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A quick and easy read. I enjoyed it very much. Thank you Mimi for your honesty and openess.
JamesTorriani More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent book and interesting story. I was not disappointed.
Vintagefranchesca More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting. It was a real page turner for me, from start to end!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
cd1947 More than 1 year ago
At first, I thought it difficult to believe that someone could or would wait decades before they wrote about an experience that was very personal to them. In reading this book I began to understand her personal relationship with President Kennedy. We can all judge that this affair was based on power, charisma or youth; however, Ms Alford is truly the only person that could write her feelings and emotions as to how it happened. She did a great job!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very believeable. Very insightful. If you lived during this time you will like this.
RIRN56 More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very moving, sensitive, and candid memoir.
Nook-Grandmother3 More than 1 year ago
Glad to know that someone is brave enough to tell- about Kennedy what has always just been a rumor
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had trouble putting this down; I was drawn in. Her incredible story gives a glimpse into the 1960s White House. If you love autobiographies and historical subjects, I highly recommend this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mimi's candid portrayal of her affair with J.F.K. is at times very unflattering to both of them. That is why this book is so good, its honesty. That Kennedy selfishly exploited women is indisputable. But it is also evident that he cared for Mimi in his own narcicistic way. The story of a nineteen year old's affair with the leader of the free world is a vicarious thrill. The story of her struggle to come to terms with its emotional impact is heart wrenching and ultimately deeply enriching.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
His martydom may have changed the light in which he is viewed. From the bay of pigs, the removal of the jupiter missles from Turkey following the Cuban missles crisis, to the debatable escalation in Vietnam. That tragic November day in Dallas has caused many to either over look or ignore a less than stellar foreign policy. Perhaps JFKs affliction of Graves disease, his back condition and the medications used to treat both, lead to his sexual impulsivity as well as his political judgement. As an American og Irish Catholic lineage, JFK was a saint in our household. When in reality he was flawed, perhaps more than most of us.
MJFitz More than 1 year ago
I didn't want to like this book but I found her side of the story compelling for any woman who has found herself wrapped up in the wrong relationship at a young age. I couldn't help feel sorry for her. Regardless of your thoughts or opinions, she offers a unprecendented view into the White House and mystique of JFK.
Gabrielle87 More than 1 year ago
This story stood out to me because I, like many, am enamored with the Kennedy Presidency. It was delightful to read her story because it's helped me deal with mine. I wish I could sit down with her and pick her brain because I also know what it's like to be somewhat involved with a man in power in DC (not THAT much power though, good Lord), and it's extremely hard to say no when you're young and in need of that kind of affirmation. I understand her and feel that perhaps its taken her this long to write the story because she adored him. It was almost like it was her chance to be with him again without being too embarrassed that anyone from that time would be around to take that from her. Even her critics now can't take that from her. Sounds to me like she's "loved" him her whole life and even in his death couldn't get the closure that she needed, hence the book. I would've liked to have known a lot more about the affair. Like what kinds of things did he say? More insight into the man himself that only those closest to him could tell us. Like him or not, JFK is fascinating, scandal and all. The book was a great read into a small portion of that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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 .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in less than two days. I could not put it down. This brings more intrigue to Camelot and the White House.