“If I don’t have a lay for three days I get a headache.”
So said the 35th President of the United States, as recalled by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. Although he carefully cultivated the image of the devoted family man, John F. Kennedy was possibly the most prolific philanderer ever to grace the Oval Office.
It was these images of JFK playing with his two children, John Jr. and Caroline, or stood alongside his famous, urbane wife Jackie, that shaped the image of Kennedy the man during his political career. However, the record shows that JFK had a propensity for prostitutes and risqué sexual encounters that bordered on the criminally irresponsible.
This sexual intrepidness, alongside a myriad of other factors, has helped secure the enduring Kennedy myth and image. Although at best a moderately successful president, Kennedy has attained icon status.
Here we list 11 of JFK’s more famous extramarital partners.
1. Marilyn Monroe, actress and icon
Although it was only speculated for many years, it is now certain that JFK and Marilyn Monroe had an affair.
They first met in February 1962, at a dinner in New York. What followed was a brief affair, conducted primarily at Bing Crosby’s house in Palm Springs, but it seems Monroe harboured dreams of becoming the First Lady. Allegedly she wrote to Jackie explaining her intentions.
Furthermore, it is alleged that JFK’s brother Bobby had a much longer affair with Monroe, and possibly arranged for Monroe to be murdered and have her death disguised as suicide.
2. Judith Exner, mob moll
Before becoming President, JFK openly socialised with the infamous Rat Pack. He was close with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr, and through them maintained a politically expedient channel to mobsters.
It was at one gathering at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas in 1960 that Sinatra introduced JFK to Judith Campbell, an ex of Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana. They struck up an affair, which continued for whilst JFK was President. She regularly visited the White House, and their affair spanned a few years.
More shockingly, Exner later claimed that she was a courier for packages between JFK and Giancana. These claims were substantiated by the research of investigative journalist Seymour Hersch.
Exner was the first person to publicly expose JFK’s dark side, describing in detail her affair to a Senate committee and ushering in a period of revisionist analysis on JFK’s presidency.
The Kennedy administration has been conclusively shown to have collaborated with mobsters during Operation Mongoose, the covert programme to destabilise the Castro regime in Cuba (where the mob has substantial financial interests) and that collaboration was perhaps anchored by JFK’s relationship with Exner.
She also claimed to have aborted JFK’s child.
3. Inga Arvad, ‘spy’
Dane “Inga Binga” was a long-term girlfriend of JFK whilst he worked in the navy, and was rumoured to be a Soviet spy. Their break-up was driven by Kennedy’s father, who feared the terminal effects this relationship could have on his son’s future political career.
4. Anita Ekberg, actress
The star of La Dolce Vita and global sex symbol was briefly connected with the President.
5. Ellen Rometsch, call girl
East-German-born Rometsch was married to a German Air Force sergeant Rolf Rometsch, who was stationed in Washington during the height of the Cold War.
However, she was also a high class call girl who had a brief dalliance with JFK. She was one of many prostitutes who Dave Powers, JFK’s Special Assistant, solicited for the President.
Moreover, she was heavily rumoured to be a communist spy, and was expelled from the US in August 1963 (at the behest of Attorney-General Robert Kennedy), with the Profumo Affair in Britain highlighting the danger of sexual promiscuity.
6. Gene Tierney, actress
A running theme of JFK’s affairs was his dalliances with movie stars. One of the more illustrious was Gene Tierney, who Kennedy had an affair with around 1948, when she was still married.
7. Mimi Alford, White House intern
Whilst an intern at the White House, 19-year-old Alford lost her virginity to the President and engaged in an 18-month affair. A few years ago she revealed the details of their relationship, including that JFK took recreational drugs with her.
JFK also successfully dared her to perform oral sex on his Special Assistant, Dave Powers, in the White House pool.
8. Marlene Dietrich, actress and singer
Dietrich revealed the details of her 1962 tryst with the President, saying, ‘I don’t remember most of what happened because it was all so quick’.
She later told friend Gore Vidal that her initial reaction of, “You know, Mr President, I am not very young” eventually became, “Don’t muss my hair. I’m performing”.
She was also a long-time lover of JFK’s father, Joseph P Kennedy.
9. Mary Pinchot Meyer, CIA agent’s ex-wife
Meyer, who had a fairly well-known affair with JFK, was shot and killed in mysterious circumstances in 1964, a year after the president’s death.
It has been claimed that she was murdered to prevent her revealing the details of their affair.
10 and 11. Fiddle and Faddle (Priscilla Wear and Jill Cowen), White House secretaries
Two secretaries in the Kennedy White House whose primary role was to skinny-dip with the President in the enclosed pool. They also were brought on business trips to Berlin, Rome, Ireland and Costa Rica.
Jackie once gave a tour of the White House to a Paris Match reporter and, coming across Priscilla, apparently remarked in French, “This is the girl who supposedly is sleeping with my husband”.