John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was a charismatic and influential figure in American history. While he is primarily remembered for things like his leadership during the Cuban Missile Crisis and his tragic assassination in 1963, Kennedy’s personal life has also been the subject of much public interest and scrutiny.
One part of Kennedy’s personal life that has garnered lots of attention over the years is his alleged affairs. During his presidency and before, Kennedy was alleged to have engaged in extramarital relationships with multiple women. One of these reputed affairs was with the legendary German actress Marlene Dietrich, and he had an unusual question for her afterward.
‘That doesn’t give us much time, does it?’
In 1962, Marlene Dietrich was invited to the White House. Dietrich later recalled the event to critic Kenneth Tynan, who recorded the story in his journals. Excerpts from these journals were later published in The New Yorker magazine.
While at the White House, Kennedy apparently approached Dietrich and said, “I hope you aren’t in a hurry.” Tynan’s notes recalled that she was. The time was 6:30 pm, and according to Dietrich, she was scheduled to receive an award at 7 pm.
Kennedy reportedly responded, “That doesn’t give us much time, does it?” Dietrich replied, “No, Jack, I guess it doesn’t.”
Dietrich told Tynan, “It was all over sweetly and very soon.” Kennedy then went to sleep, and Dietrich looked at her watch, seeing it was 6:50 pm.
She shook Kennedy awake because as she later recalled, “I didn’t know my way around the place, and I couldn’t just call for a cab.” Kennedy, dressed only in a towel, led the actress to an elevator and told the elevator operator to get Dietrich a car to the hotel for her 7 pm appearance.
‘Did you ever make it with my father?’
Before Dietrich left, Kennedy asked her, “Just one thing… Did you ever make it with my father?” The president’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy, had been friends with Dietrich in the 1930s and had reportedly had an affair with another famous actress, Gloria Swanson.
Dietrich replied, “No, Jack, I never did.” In response, Kennedy said, “Well, that’s one place I’m in first.” And with that, the elevator door closed, and Dietrich never saw Kennedy again.
According to Tynan’s journals, Dietrich told the truth about her involvement with the president’s father. However, a biography of Kennedy claims she was lying to him.
One of his most well-known affairs associated was with Marilyn Monroe, the Hollywood actress and icon. Monroe’s close association with the president fueled widespread speculation about their relationship, but the precise nature and extent of their involvement remain unclear.
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Another alleged affair that attracted attention was with Judith Exner, who was linked not only to Kennedy but also to Mafia boss Sam Giancana. Exner claimed to have had a romantic relationship with the president while simultaneously serving as a go-between for Kennedy and Giancana, which only added intrigue to the situation.