Published in Aug 2021 / Updated in Sep 2021
Once upon a time, there was a passing wisp of grandeur known as Kennedy’s Camelot.
A lot has been written about John F. Kennedy. The American President during the early 1960s garnered much praise and adoration. Who knew about the dark side of Kennedy? Was Camelot all it was cracked up to be?
Red flags were popping up all over during the reign of Kennedy. How is it that no one saw them? People did but said nothing. Or, if they did, it was buried in stories on page six of the newspaper. Most people gave no credence to such papers. “Left-wing rubbish” they were dubbed and subsequently ignored.
Kennedy’s wife, Jackie, baptized the era as Camelot, about King Arthur and Guinevere, and that nickname stuck. Go onto IFC’s Criterion Collection, look at the movie Camelot, and figure out what Jackie was getting at. It is a musical, and you probably will not last long, but just get the picture of sweet damsels drifting about (singing), knights defending the honor of king and country (and women) (singing), then you can turn the thing off.
America’s own royal family
In today’s world, we would laugh and fall about at such antics. In the Kennedy world, though, this was serious business. The presidency had never known anything like it, and the people loved it.
It was America’s very own royal family. Think Madonna singing to the adoring mob in Evita, and you get it. Think Beyoncé singing Crazy in Love, and you get it even more.
“What’s the point?” you may say wearily. The point, dear reader, is love. Everyone was in love at that time. There were no protest marches, no issues, no burning of buildings. This was Camelot’s time.
Then, geographically, Camelot extended from the White House to Massachusetts. This was the magical land that needed no Game of Thrones characters. There was Kennedy, and there was Jackie. That was enough.
A shock so palpable that you could taste it
Women swooned, and men admired. Kennedy’s reputation as a man of character and integrity knew no bounds. Pictures of his and the family’s lifestyle graced the papers, magazines, and newsreels of the time. When he was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, the shock was so palpable that people could taste it. It was as if they were frozen in time and were incapable of moving out of that bubble.
The picture that will forever be remembered is that of four-year-old Kennedy’s son, Kennedy Jr., saluting the coffin during the funeral. Through wracked sobs, the people watching the proceedings on television could barely contain themselves.
Meanwhile, the red flags that had been springing up remained firmly at attention. The people still didn’t notice or, in grief, refused to.
The assassination itself was a huge red flag, but that was a madman’s work, wasn’t it? Maybe. You need to know what had actually been going on in Camelot to begin to think that maybe this dastardly deed was something more than met the eye.
Journos had been dubbed communists
But then, if no one was aware of that, save the journos who had been branded communists and unworthy of any attention, then there was no reason to believe that a legend known as Camelot was about to disappear forever.
It was an unthinkable thing, yet it was happening. People cried out to God, asking him how he could allow such a thing to happen. This was their hope, their reason to live, that had been snatched out of their hands. In any event, God remained resolutely silent, leaving the people to try and figure this out for themselves.
These things happen, the stoics say, and indeed they do. They also say that time heals everything, and it largely does. Hysteria is not easy to displace, though. It was the end of Camelot and sunshine and roses and time to get down to business.
Lyndon B Johnston, who succeeded Kennedy, succeeded after a while in doing that. The era of swooning was over, for good.
Wiping the glitzy times off the map
There were also events looming that would wipe the glitzy, golden times clean off the map. One was the Vietnam war, which overshadowed Johnston’s tenure, and the other was Watergate and a disgraced Nixon. Camelot? What was that?
Richard Harris, who had bravely sung: “In short, there’s simply not a more congenial spot for happy-ever-aftering than here in Camelot” in the movie, as the end credits rolled, didn’t count on the shocking events to come. These would mostly pluck Camelot totally out of people’s minds if Jackie’s dangerous liaisons with oil tycoons hadn’t done that already. Sorry, Richard.
So, what exactly was behind the faҫade of Camelot? Well, seeing as the notion of Camelot was all slightly ridiculous, really, the notion that you could have such a preposterous idea when the world really barked “No way!” was an oxymoron in itself. The world didn’t allow such things or did so only in willing imaginations and movies.
The fact that all sorts of things were going on, and red flags whipping wildly in the wind, should have been a clarion call for sanity.
Kennedy – a reckless man up to no good
Kennedy was the knight in shining armor, wasn’t he? Far from it, says Pulitzer Prize-winning author Seymour Hersh. The man, who wrote the tell-all shocker The Dark Side of Camelot, following many years of examining the recently un-classified JFK Files. Hersh tells of a “reckless man” who was up to no good from the get-go.
Hersh says the family had links to organized crime and was also putting the nation at risk. He spoke of myriad marital affairs involving Kennedy and Jackie that have only recently come to light.
When he was asked why these details had taken so long to be made known, he said that the Camelot myth had lasted for a long time, and people hadn’t wanted to desecrate it.
Also, when Jackie died, it was as if she had given the all-clear for the facts to be made known. The principal characters in this drama had passed away.
When the Camelot generation had itself passed away, the next and the one after that would wonder what all the fuss had been about.
Explosives hidden in seashells
The fuss could well have been about the sordid crime allegations, the uncovered information that JFK had allegedly wanted to do away with Cuba’s Fidel Castro and planned bizarre ways of doing this. Some of this involved bacteria swimsuits and explosives that were hidden in seashells. It was well known that Castro had a fondness for skin diving, hence the plot, all revealed in the JFK Files.
Castro was not the only leader on the Kennedy hit list, but the others are not made known, merely alluded to by code names. The ways of getting rid of these other men have not been detailed, but one would suspect that following the Castro plan, any spectacular methods would have been possible.
There are tales of furtive meetings late at night with the CIA or with criminal elements – hardly the kind of stuff that makes for magical tales. Sometimes the meetings were rowdy or drunken, or both. What knight in shining armor would allow himself to participate in such behavior?
The Files and reports elsewhere tell of the unraveling of the knight at times like these and during arguments with Jackie.
Speculation like dancing in the dark
But it is the plotting to kill off leaders that are the most alarming revelation. Did any of this, or the criminal character element, have anything to do with the assassination?
No one is saying, but it is possible. What was discussed in the tiny hours of the morning that could have led to such an event? What staffers, if any, at the White House would have privy to such occasions?
Security at the House would have known, but there are no reports. One can only speculate, but even that is like dancing in the dark.
This is all not to say, of course, that the good times did not roll at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. They sure did, and there are witnesses aplenty to those. However, what Hersh has gained from the Files casts a long shadow over the laughs and revelry.
Kennedy is quoted as thus: “If I don’t have sex on a daily basis, I get terrible headaches. I can’t get to sleep unless I’ve had a lay.” This delicate prose was told to author Clare Booth Luce and has appeared in a number of articles in newspapers and magazines.
Combine this with smoking dope and skinny-dipping with interns, among others, at the House, and you have the makings of an early version of an enthralling post that would definitely have gone viral.
It was known that staffers appointed for such tasks would clear up after a night of debauchery and protect anyone (especially Jackie) from finding out about the events of the night before. There was a ring of protection for Kennedy at the House that was like Fort Knox. An intern had apparently said.
Kennedy and Jackie – a marriage of convenience?
Some of the well-known women that Kennedy was alleged to have had affairs with include Marilyn Monroe and Angie Dickinson. The list, however, is a long one and likely not to be complete in any report. The fact that the marriage with Jackie had endured for 10 years was probably due to the fact that she had affairs of her own. It could then be considered a marriage of convenience, although they would probably not have classified it as such.
So, Camelot is the myth, the reality, and the legacy. John F Kennedy Jnr, who was killed in an airplane crash in 1999, was apparently very realistic about the strengths and failings of his father’s presidency. The most erudite biography on John F. Kennedy Jnr by Steven M Gillon entitled The Reluctant Prince clarifies this.
Also, regarding the book’s title, it is very apparent that he really wanted nothing to do with the Camelot legacy.
Different times, different eras, different mindsets. But yet another tragedy that followed the Kennedy clan around like a millstone around the neck.
There was one giant red flag nobody could do anything about.
Destiny. A reckless, awful deliverance that stalked both Kennedy Snr and Kennedy Jnr.
Kennedy Senior was a reckless man. That’s now a given. Kennedy Jr., equally so. He shouldn’t have flown that night. Ignoring the warnings, he climbed aboard the aircraft and took off. Zooming away to destiny. Flying past the flags, now tattered and torn, but still waving goodbye, always waving goodbye.