Despite what we may learn from popular history, presidents are human beings just like the rest of us. The like to drink, they like to smoke, they like to have sex, and they like to party. And also just like the rest of us, sometimes they indulge in these merriments to a fault. In his new book Party Like a President, Brian Abrams circumvents hundreds of years of work by the White House’s public relations department to deliver the low-down on the partying habits of the forty-four men that have run the world’s most powerful country. Also featuring the illustrations of John Mathias, the book is an exhaustive, eye-opening work full of hearsay, documented accounts, and delicious anecdotes about all that went on behind closed doors in the White House and beyond. Below is an exclusive excerpt detailing some of the many extracurricular exploits of one of our most revered commanders in chief, John F. Kennedy.
Like some mythical rock star enjoying both his first chart-topping record and his cocaine addiction, John F. Kennedy had problems remembering the names of his sexual conquests. As problems go, this was a bit like having too much money, or too many friends. But it was a dilemma nonetheless. Kennedys standard opening line for those occasions when he would come across an old fling was the catch-all Hello, kid, which no doubt sounded less cheesy when delivered in his Boston accent. And time was precious in his pants-dropping schedule. We have only fifteen minutes, he said to an attractive college student while on the 1960 campaign trail. One mistress joked that while he was in bed, Kennedy kept one eye on his wristwatch. Always a charmer.
Kennedys indiscretions were not limited to his 1,036 days as president. From losing his virginity at age seventeen to a prostitute in Harlem, to rendezvousing with movie actresses as a senator, to skinny-dipping in the White House indoor pool with interns nicknamed Fiddle and Faddle, sex was both his life force and his main vice. During a meeting with British prime minister Harold Macmillan in December 1961, Kennedy over-shared that if he did not slip the presidential sausage to a woman once every three days, he would get a splitting headache. I cant get to sleep unless Ive had a lay, the satyromaniac once admitted, for some reason, to a United States ambassador. Does the fact that said ambassador was a woman make his comment more or less sleazy? And did he consider taking his problem to a medical professional?
It was pretty stressful for anyone working in the White House at that time. A purported champion of civil rights and world peace whose intense diplomacy during the Cuban Missile Crisis protected the country from nuclear annihilationeven as he concealed a severe illness from the publicJFK remains an inspirational figure in American history. How could the youngest man elected president perform under the pressures of the Cold War and the agonies of Addisons disease? Popeye the Sailor Man had his cans of spinach. For Kennedy, it was poontang.
Even with highly publicized flirtations, JFK somehow managed to never get busted. At times, it seemed as if the entire White House staff had pitched in to help the adulterous president cover his tracks.
There was a conspiracy of silence to protect his secrets from Jacqueline and to keep her from finding out, wrote White House kennel keeper Traphes L. Bryant. The newspapers would tell how First Lady Jacqueline was off on another trip, but what they didnt report was how anxious the president sometimes was to see her go. After Kennedy sipped daiquiris and took naked swims with beautiful women, a clean-up crew swept in to remove any leftover jewelry, hairpins, or underwear. Again, the early 60s were a tense time for those in government.
The left coast provided more efficient means to score tail with less worry. On occasions when JFK spent weekends at Frank Sinatras place in Palm Springs, Ol Blue Eyes renamed the star-studded entourage the Jack Pack. (That was not a weekend you brought the kids into, daughter Tina Sinatra said.) There were, of course, other choice venues for making whoopee. The Sands Hotel in Las Vegas was an old standby for Beefeater gin martinis and chasing showgirls around a suite, and Lawfords digs in Santa Monica still befitted as a reliable hump pad. His brother-in-law kept it short about Jack and his broads in His Way, Kitty Kelleys unauthorized Sinatra biography. Im not proud of this, Lawford said. All I will say is that I was Franks pimp and Frank was Jacks. It sounds terrible now, but then it was a lot of fun.
Surely one highlight took place at 1600 Penn when Lawford and Kennedy gave a dose of amyl nitrite to either Fiddle or Faddle (who can keep track?) and watched as the intern suffered a panic attack. They were both too chicken to try the poppers themselves, but Kennedy dabbled in more than his share of psychedelics. One night, at the height of the Cold War, Jack smoked three marijuana cigarettes with Mary Pinchot Meyer, the ex-wife of a CIA official andshockinglya Kennedy mistress who visited the White House two to three times a week when Jackie was out of town. When offered a fourth joint, the president begged off. Suppose the Russians did something now, wondered the bloodshot-eyed leader of the free world. Apparently, one can deal with a Soviet ripple in the Cold War when stonedjust not that stoned.
And a quick bonus excerpt…
In December 1962, Kennedy and a few cronies crashed Bing Crosbys estate in Palm Springs. A United States Secret Serviceman claimed to witness aide David Powers banging a girl on the edge of the pool. Meanwhile, Kennedy sat on the other side of the pool and chatted up airline stewardesses with foreign accents. Everybody was buckass naked, U.S.S.S. Agent Larry Newman said.
Hours later, Powers went inside the house and grabbed as many of Crosbys suits as he could. Then he ran back outside and jumped into the swimming pool for the sole purpose of ruining the Old Groaners wardrobe. The president thought that was pretty funnylaughed and about fell out of the chair, Newman added. The only difficulty was Bing Crosby didnt think it was funny.
Excerpts from Party Like a President reprinted with permission from Brian Abrams and Workman Publishing. All rights reserved.