John F. Kennedy, His Brother Bobby, and Marilyn Monroe
As seen in a previous entry, John F. Kennedy was a sex addict who had extramarital affairs more frequently than many people go grocery shopping. However, of all of JFK’s numerous affairs, none would probably produce as great a scandal and media firestorm today as his affair with Marilyn Monroe. It would make the media circus surrounding Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, or Trump and Stormy Daniels, look tame.
Monroe caught Kennedy’s eye after she made a spectacular entrance at a New York dinner party held in his honor in early 1962. He was immediately attracted to her, and they hooked up in Palm Springs soon thereafter. However, she took it more seriously than he did, and did little to hide what was going on. Her sultry “Happy Birthday” performance for JFK during a fundraising event in Madison Square Garden – in the presence of his wife, no less – fueled the rumor machines.
Tongues wagged about the barely concealed affair between the president and the blond bombshell. However, JFK was lucky in that the media of his day was nothing like today’s. Nonetheless, the gossip caused Kennedy to back away from Monroe and end things – to him, she was just one among dozens of pretty (and discrete) women he had slept with. To Monroe, he was the only president she had slept with, and she was not about to give up that easy. She kept calling the White House, trying to rekindle the affair, until JFK sent somebody over to convince her that it was over and that she needed to stop.
The affair’s aftermath would have made for a spectacular scandal in of itself had it taken place today. After JFK was done with Marilyn, he basically passed her on to Robert F. Kennedy, his younger brother and the United States’ Attorney General. RFK’s image was that of a happily married and devoted husband, raising a large and steadily increasing family that would eventually number 11 children. He was viewed as the most family-oriented and straitlaced of the Kennedy brothers, so there would have been a jarring contrast between that public perception and an affair with the iconic sex symbol.
Marilyn’s unexpected death a few months later would have made things even more explosive. The coroner ruled Monroe’s 1962 death a probable suicide via barbiturates, but conspiracy theories abounded, alleging that JFK or RFK had been involved. The sudden death of a former mistress of the president, who then became the mistress of his brother, the Attorney General and the president’s right-hand man? That would have made for a nonstop media-feeding frenzy today.