If you believe the majority of the post-Camelot books about John F. Kennedy and his clan, the family could be summed up in one sentence: The women prayed, and the men preyed on women. Author C. David Heymann has written several best-selling books about the Kennedys and their many peccadillos. His latest, Bobby and Jackie: A Love Story, focuses on the lengthy and passionate affair Jaqueline Kennedy reportedly had with her brother-in-law Robert F. Kennedy.
Heymann recounts in detail JFK’s serial infidelities, the women the Kennedy brothers “shared,” and Jackie’s alleged payback affairs. But it was only after JFK’s assassination, when both Jackie and Bobby moved to New York, that their relationship turned amorous, according to Heymann: “Although many of the Secret Service files concerning Jackie during this period seem to have mysteriously disappeared, several of those that remain contain choice tidbits on the former First Lady’s relationship with RFK. One set, dated October 18, 1964, reveal that Bobby and Jackie shared a bedroom on at least one occasion . . . .”
Many sources are all too ready to tell of seeing Jackie and Bobby engaged in conduct unbecoming a grieving widow and a would-be President. Heymann relates the experience of Mary Harrington, who happened to be staying at a house next door to the Kennedy casa in Palm Beach. Harrington says she observed Jackie sunbathing on the grass, Bobby kneeling by her side, and the two beginning to kiss—and then “he placed one hand on her breast and the other inside of her bikini bottom.” The couple soon disappeared inside, out of Harrington’s view.
It would be easier to think of Bobby and Jackie as star-crossed lovers were it not for the fact that both apparently continued to have liasons with others during their great romance. Jackie had begun to see Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis, who Heymann says helped pay her considerable living expenses. Among Bobby’s inamoratas, he claims, was Mary Jo Kopechne, the young woman who would eventually drown in a boating accident with Bobby’s brother Ted Kennedy.
Heymann throws in enough political history to make this book appear to be about more than the sex lives of Kennedys. But he can’t spare us any of the juicy stuff surrounding this bunch. There’s an account of a particular revolting incident in which FBI director J. Edgar Hoover—who hated Bobby Kennedy—showed Kennedy insider Clark Clifford a film of actress Marilyn Monroe performing a sex act on an unidentified man. Hoover implied that the man was RFK and that the film came from a hidden camera planted in Monroe’s bedroom. Clifford reportedly responded: “How do you know it’s not President Kennedy? Wasn’t he also involved with Marilyn?”
I wish I could say I put Heymann’s book down after that passage. But I read every word. There’s no question that the JFK generation of Kennedys was larger than life in both virtues and vices. Bobby and Jackie adds a lot of dirty details but not much more to our understanding of this fascinating family.
C. David Heymann