Part Two

In 1958, when Kennedy decided to launch a campaign for the presidency from his Massachusetts Senate seat, the United States was on the cusp of a sexual revolution that would challenge and change many people. JFK’s numerous affairs (before, during and after his marriage to Jackie) and his friendships with gay men suddenly had a social and cultural context. Criticisms from others in the Kennedy orbit insinuate that Jack took advantage of Lem’s love for him without reciprocating. David Pitts quotes Vidal cruelly calling Billings “a lifelong slave,” “the principal fag at court,” and a “nurse” who helped Jack deal with the pain caused by Addison’s disease.

Indeed, it often seems that Kennedy did treat people who loved him for granted. This may have been true of his wife, although perhaps she understood that their marriage would be non-monogamous. Our most accurate accounts of JFK’s carelessness are not from Lem, but from women who later came forward.  For example, in Once Upon a Secret (2012), Mimi Alford describes an affair she had with Kennedy, beginning in the summer of 1962 when she was 19 and ending shortly before his assassination on November 23, 1963. She was expected to be constantly available for him, he was inconsiderate and unloving, and she was permitted to tell no one. The affair was socially isolating for a very young and sexually unliberated woman, causing her to deceive friends, boyfriends and ultimately her husband and children for most of her adult life.

In many ways, Kennedy was enjoying the kind of sex life that would later characterize the gay men’s “party” of the 1970s. Some of his partners saw the lifting of monogamy as liberating too, viewing their romps with the President as special and carefree episodes that they were happy to flaunt. In 2009, Robert Dallek published part of an interview with Barbara Gamerekian, a former White House aide, who named three prominent women, two secretaries nicknamed “Fiddle and Faddle” and a college sophomore who “couldn’t type” (Alford) as a few of the sexual partners who helped the President release his “daily tensions,” often in the White House swimming pool or on official trips around the nation.

Lem, although said by Arthur Schlesinger to have been “jealous” of others who drew Jack’s attention, was undoubtedly one of the personal assistants and friends who facilitated the President’s daily need for sex by making sure that women were available when needed. Was this part of his commitment to the President’s good health? And did he personally lend a hand from time to time? In American Adulterer (2009), novelist Jed Mercurio ‘s fictional Kennedy believes that ejaculating several times a day was crucial to maintaining good health and mental alertness, and that his attacks of Addison’s Disease are caused by seminal fluid backing up into his body.

JFK also “shared” women with male friends and relatives, a homoerotic impulse often seen in fraternities or other male organizations where men reinforce intimacy by having sex with the same woman. Once, Alford remembered, Kennedy suggested that she would be doing him a favor if she agreed to “help” his younger brother, Ted, a newly elected Senator, with his own “tensions,” while the President watched from across the pool. Although she refused, earlier she had fellated a staff member in Jack’s presence. Recently historian Lois Banner has also provided details about Marilyn Monroe’s affair with JFK, one of numerous women procured for the President by Peter Lawford, who also held orgies attended by the President.