THE DARK SIDE OF CAMELOT
If ever a book delivered on its title, this is it. THE DARK SIDE OF CAMELOT is an amazing read for anyone who wants all their golden age Kennedy smut and scandal in one neat volume and written by a distinguished source, too – Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour M. Hersh. It’s all here and more: Sex, Drugs, stolen elections, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Sam Giancana, Judith Cambell Exner, Ellen Rometsch, pool parties and even masks!
The first short chapter of Hersh’s absorbing profile in recklessness will have even the most jaded student of JFK’s excesses riveted. These pages describe all the loose ends that Lancer (the Secret Service code name for the 35th President of the United States) left behind when he met his tragic fate in Dallas on November 22, 1963. It fell to Robert F. Kennedy, along with a few Secret Service agents, to help hide or dispose of evidence that would tarnish JFK’s then sterling public reputation.
According to the author, examples of this frantic clean-up included RFK’s retrieval of White House Usher Logs that revealed the endless parade of paramours to the President’s second-floor personal quarters (these documents are not on file at the Kennedy Library and the inference to be drawn is that they were destroyed); the dismantling of the White House taping system (and removal of tapes); the shipment of all of JFK’s Oval Office and National Security Council files to a sealed, guarded office in the Executive Office Building; the removal of JFK’s medical files that (a.) contradicted his repeated denials that he suffered from Addison’s disease, (b.) confirmed his heavy reliance on “feel good” shots from Dr. Max Jacobson (injections that consisted of high concentrations of amphetamines), and (c.) provided evidence that the President had suffered from venereal disease for more than thirty years.
Perhaps the single strangest revelation in the entire book is something that sounds like it is straight out of EYES WIDE SHUT, the 1999 Stanley Kubrick film. It concerns the late President’s fondness for posing for formal photographs with naked women in the White House… in masks. Hersh actually interviewed Sidney Mickelson of the Mickelson Gallery in Washington, D.C. to confirm that the Secret Service regularly brought these bizarre photographs in to his gallery for framing. Other pictures brought in for framing featured naked people lying on beds in the Lincoln bedroom. “The women were always beautiful,” remarked Mickelson in his interview with Hersh.
The author also managed to get several retired (and still disgusted) Secret Service agents to talk on the record about JFK’s relentless carousing and how they and some of the President’s aides helped enable his indiscretions. In one passage the Secret Service helps stall Jackie Kennedy from catching her husband “with a couple of bimbos” in the White House pool.
The reader of Hersh’s book is left with a sense of amazement at just how much President Kennedy got away with during his mere thousand days of office. It makes the 42nd President’s impeachment seem all the more petty and ridiculous.
Note: An excellent companion piece to THE DARK SIDE OF CAMELOT is the ABC News documentary DANGEROUS WORLD: The Kennedy Years (1997).
THE DARK SIDE OF CAMELOT
By Seymour M. Hersh
Copyright 1997; Published by Little, Brown and Co. New York
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CATEGORY: Political Science
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