Former President John F. Kennedy is remembered for de-escalating tensions with the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis, his speech at the Berlin Wall in 1963, and (eventually) speaking out against segregation in American schools. He also became famous — nay, infamous — for his long list of alleged mistresses, the most notable being actor and national sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe. “I can now retire from politics after having had ‘Happy Birthday’ sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way,” JFK joked after the “Gentleman Prefer Blondes” star performed a sultry rendition of “Happy Birthday” in 1962, just a few months before her untimely passing (via Esquire). Some Marilyn Monroe conspiracists argue that the Kennedy brothers are linked to her death, although very little evidence supports their claim.
The President’s wife, First Lady Jackie Kennedy, was apparently aware of her husband’s dalliances with other women. “She wasn’t naive to it,” celebrity biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli told People, adding, “They did have many conversations about it, and she did tell him that she was sick of it and she didn’t like it.” That said, the Kennedys stuck together — Jackie believed marriage was forever.
Marilyn Monroe wasn’t JFK’s only mistress, far from it, in fact. Here’s a look into some of his lesser-known (alleged) affairs and his attempts to hide them from the public.
Mimi Alford, a White House intern
According to her best-selling 2013 memoir, “Once Upon a Secret,” White House intern Mimi Alford was only 19 when President John F. Kennedy pursued her. He was 45. Alford, then Mimi Beardsley, wrote First Lady Jackie Kennedy a letter asking for a job. Mimi came from an upper-crust East Coast background and apparently had a few connections in common with the affluent Bouvier family.
Mimi met the President and his best friend, Dave Powers, by the White House pool during her first week on the job. Her boss immediately took a liking to her. “[He] couldn’t resist a girl with a little bit of social register in her,” Alford wrote in “Once Upon a Secret,” recounting how the President invited her back to his suite for a drink (via The Guardian).
What followed was a year-and-a-half-long affair. As Alford claimed in her book, she even lost her virginity to JFK. “Blinded by the president’s power and charisma, I was fully committed to keeping our affair secret,” she explained. Allegedly, the head of state introduced Alford to drugs, asked her to perform sexual favors for his friend, Dave Powers, and continued to pursue her after her engagement and up until his assassination in 1963. “I can’t say our relationship was romantic. It was sexual, it was intimate, it was passionate,” wrote Alford, only gaining the courage to speak up 50 years later.
Pricilla Wear and Jill Cowen, White House Secretaries
Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston
During the Kennedy presidency, White House secretaries Pricilla Wear and Jill Cowen were given the code names “Fiddle and Faddle” by the secret service due to their regular involvement with the president. According to accounts from various co-workers, they’d skinny dip in the pool with JFK (when he wasn’t busy figuring out how to deal with The Cold War, of course), per The Atlantic. Much effort was put in to ensure First Lady Jackie Kennedy was none the wiser. Teams would come to clean up after JFK and his various mistresses, picking up any incriminating artifacts before Jackie got back from her travels.
Despite the president’s best efforts, his wife wasn’t fooled. While giving a French reporter a tour of the White House, as rumor has it, the First Lady passed by Pricilla Wear’s typing station and said (in French, of course), “And there is the woman that my husband is supposed to be sleeping with.” According to Forbes, Kennedy also had a relationship with Pamela Turnure, Jackie’s personal secretary, although Turnure’s family has said there’s no truth behind these claims.
Judith Exner, Frank Sinatra’s ex and mob conduit
In her 1977 memoir, “My Story,” Judith Exner alleged that she had an ongoing affair with John F. Kennedy for over two years. Exner, who was married to actor William Campbell in the early ’50s, was friendly with several Hollywood A-listers. After her divorce, she began a casual relationship with Frank Sinatra, and the “Fly Me to the Moon” singer eventually introduced her to JFK in 1960. Thanks to Sinatra, she also got to know Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana. Contrary to what she told the Senate under oath in 1975, Exner reportedly served as a link between the most powerful Chicago mob family and the President. “I lied when I said I was not a conduit between President Kennedy and the Mafia,” she told People in 1988 after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. “I lied when I said that President Kennedy was unaware of my friendships with mobsters. He knew everything about my dealings with Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli because I was seeing them for him.”
According to Exner, she would pass messages between the two parties, and JFK allegedly asked Giancana for support on the campaign trail. “I was 26 and in love. Was I supposed to have more judgment than the president of the United States?” Exner asked Vanity Fair in a 1997 interview. In 1962, she became pregnant by the President, and Kennedy (along with Giancana) helped arrange an abortion, which was illegal at the time.
Hollywood icon Marlene Dietrich & East German model Ellen Rometsch
According to Marlene Dietrich, who appeared in movies like “Judgement at Nuremberg” and “Witness for the Prosecution,” she once slept with JFK while performing at the White House in 1962. That catch? She had also had an affair with Joe Kennedy, JFK’s playboy father, over two decades before. As Dietrich’s long-time friend, Gore Vidal, recounted years later, the actor was over 60 when JFK propositioned her. “You know, Mr. President, I am not very young,” she said, eventually relenting (via Vanity Fair). A relatively brief encounter followed, after which JFK asked a burning question: “Did you ever go to bed with my old man?” Dietrich decided to lie. “He tried, but I never did,” she said.
Marlene may be one of the most legendary women that JFK ever bedded, but another affair with a high-profile woman may have been the president’s riskiest, as the East German model that caught his eye may have had more sinister intentions. Ellen Rometsch met Kennedy while working as a hostess at a private hideaway called the Quorum Club, but she was an alleged East German spy. According to Washington insider Robert Gene Baker, she looked like Elizabeth Taylor and quickly sparked the interest of many men. Baker recalled his conversation with lobbyist Bill Thompson that started it all (per Politico). Thompson asked, “You think if I invited her to my apartment she’ll go to the White House and see President Kennedy?’ I said, ‘She would jump at the chance.’ So she went to the White House several times.” JFK’s brother, Robert Kennedy, eventually deported Ellen Rometsch back to Germany — he was worried that her relationship with the president would come to light, especially considering the FBI’s ongoing investigation into her communist ties. What’s more, Rometsch also (allegedly) had an affair with Gerald Ford.
Mary Pinchot Meyer, Jackie Kennedy’s friend
Like the story of Marilyn Monroe, Mary Pinchot Meyer’s relationship with JFK also ends in tragedy. Meyer ranked high on the social ladder. She grew up wealthy, attended New York’s best schools (where she first met John F. Kennedy), and married a CIA official. In the mid-’50s, years before JFK became president, the Meyers and the Kennedys lived next door to one another in Washington D.C. Here, she became friendly with future First Lady Jackie Kennedy.
After her divorce in 1958, Meyer began an affair with JFK. They had a years-long relationship, allegedly experimenting with psychedelics and discussing top-secret politics. In 1964, the year after JFK died, Meyer was mysteriously killed. Despite an overwhelming lack of evidence, Ray Crump Jr. was arrested for the crime. He was eventually acquitted thanks to his lawyer, Dovey Johnson Roundtree. “[Crump] was the perfect patsy, better even than Lee Harvey Oswald,” claimed “Chappaquiddick” author Leo Damore, alleging, “Mary Meyer was killed by a well-trained professional hit man, very likely somebody connected to the CIA” (via Smithsonian Magazine). The case remains one of Washington’s top unsolved mysteries.