BY MOTOKO RICH
Mimi Beardsley Alford, a retired New York church administrator who had an affair with John F. Kennedy while she was an intern in the White House, is breaking a silence of more than 40 years to tell her story in a memoir to be published by Random House.
Ms. Alford’s secret was initially divulged six years ago when a biography of Kennedy was published with portions from a 1964 oral history that described the president’s 18-month sexual affair with a young intern named Mimi Beardsley. The Daily News tracked her down and discovered that she was Marion Fahnestock, who was divorced, working for the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church and living in Manhattan. At the time, she gave a short statement confirming that she was “involved in a sexual relationship” with Kennedy from June 1962 to November 1963.
Ms. Alford, 66, who in the years since the disclosure had married Richard Alford, a former sports marketing executive, has not spoken about her affair since the statement. Before that, she had not even told her parents or her children. Now she is working on a memoir, to be titled “Once Upon a Secret,” about the consequences of hiding such an explosive past for so long.
Susan Mercandetti, executive editor at Random House, acquired the book after seeing about 20 pages and meeting with Ms. Alford. “I’ve seen enough to know what an extraordinary heart and soul exists in this book,” Ms. Mercandetti said.
Ms. Mercandetti, who was herself a White House intern under Gerald R. Ford, said the book would be a “woman’s coming-of-age story.”
She added: “It’s about a loss of innocence. I was just completely struck by how simple, yet how profound, it was.” She declined to say how much Random House had paid for the book, but a person familiar with the negotiations said it was close to seven figures.
Mark Reiter, Ms. Alford’s agent, said that Ms. Alford, who was just 19 when the affair with Kennedy started, was stunned by the tabloid takeover of her life in 2003. “As she thought about it, she said, ‘This is a story that I’d like to take control of, rather than have somebody else tell my side of it,’ ” Mr. Reiter said. Ms. Alford declined to comment.
Mr. Reiter said Ms. Alford attended Miss Porter’s School, the same prep school attended by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. According to “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy 1917-1963,” by Robert Dallek, Mimi Beardsley was a “tall, slender, beautiful” college sophomore who worked in the White House press office in the summer when she began her affair with the president.
After Kennedy’s assassination, Ms. Alford married Anthony Fahnestock, an investment manager. Their marriage ended in divorce, and Mr. Fahnestock died in 1993.
According to Mr. Reiter, Ms. Alford is not writing a tell-all memoir. “She’s just not that type of person, where she’s going to spill her guts about intimate stuff for the whole country to see,” Mr. Reiter said. “The story has three acts to it: before the White House, during the White House, and then the really powerful part is what happens afterwards. What’s the impact on your family life, your marriage, knowing that this happened to you in your early life and you have chosen to keep it a secret.”
Mr. Reiter said Ms. Alford would be working with a co-author and hoped to finish a manuscript this fall. Ms. Mercandetti said Random House had not yet set a publication date.
See Related: SOCIAL DIARY
VZUME JOB SEEKER SEAN McMAHAN INTEREST: A position as a paralegal in the SF Bay Area.Sean is a recent graduate from the University of Oregon and is looking for a position as a paralegal. He has worked for Charles Schwab and The SF District Attorney’s Office.
INVITE SEAN McMAHAN FOR AN INTERVIEW AT CONTACT@VZUME.COM
San Francisco Sentinel impressions reach more than 125,000 readers daily.
Our readers are those who make things happen in stage, film, fashion, dining, travel, business, philanthropy, and governance.
Published online since 1999, The Sentinel is updated many times during each day as news breaks.
More than 3,400 readers receive Sentinel Emails, sent at least once daily, listing the most up-to-date stories, with photos, synopsis, and link to each new story.
Sentinel Advertising couples your campaign to our high net readership, with your message changed as needed to drive newest market trends, respond to issues, display latest service and product values.
We offer choice of Right Column, Left Column, Center News Section ad placement.
Your message appears on all Sentinel Archived Pages, accessed frequently through Google topic search, with archived pages now numbering more than 3,600.