April 4, 1971: I must record here a story Marlene Dietrich told me several years ago. She was a friend, in the ‘30s, of Joseph P. Kennedy, and her daughter swam with his boys on the Riviera before the war. In the autumn of 1962 she was appearing in cabaret in Washington. Bobby and Teddy came to see her, but of course the President does not attend nightclubs, and she was sad about this until she received a summons to have drinks at the White House the following Saturday at 6 p.m. She accepted, although at 7 p.m. she had to be at the Statler Hotel, where the Jewish War Veterans were holding a dinner to honor her for her wartime work to aid Jewish refugees. So at 6 she arrived at the White House and was shown by a press attache into the President’s sanctum. A bottle of German wine was cooling in an ice bucket: “The President remember that when he last dined with you in New York you said this was your favorite wine.” The attache poured her a glass and withdrew. The clock reached 6:15 before J.F.K. loped in, kissed her, poured himself some wine, took her out on the balcony and talked about Lincoln. “I hope you aren’t in a hurry,” he said. Marlene explained that, alas, 2,000 Jews were waiting to give her a plaque at 7 p.m., and it was now 6:30...”That doesn’t give us much time, does it?” said J.F.K., looking straight into her eyes. Marlene confesses that she likes powerful men and enjoys hanging their scalps on her belt. So she looked straight back and said: “No, Jack, I guess it doesn’t.” With that, he took her glass and led the way out into a corridor and then round a corner into -- the presidential bedroom. And then, in M.D.’s words: “I remembered about his bad back -- that wartime injury. I looked at him and he was already undressing. He was unwinding rolls of bandage from around his middle -- he looked like Laocoon and that snake, you know? Now, I’m an old lady, and I said to myself: I’d like to sleep with the President, sure, but I’ll be goddammed if I’m going to be on top!”

But it seems everything was OK; J.F.K. took the superior position; and it was all over sweetly and very soon. “And then he went to sleep. I looked at my watch and it was 6:50. I got dressed and shook him -- because I didn’t know my way around the place, and I couldn’t just call for a cab. I said: ‘Jack -- wake up, 2,000 Jews are waiting! For Christ’s sake get me out of here!’ So he grabbed a towel and wrapped it round his waist and took me along this corridor to an elevator. He told the elevator man to get me a car to the Statler immediately -- standing right there in his towel, without any embarrassment, as if it was an everyday event -- which in his life it probably was. Just as I was getting into the elevator, he said: ‘There’s just one thing I’d like to know.’ ‘What is it, Jack?’ I said. ‘Did you ever make it with my father?’ he asked. ‘No, Jack,’ I answered truthfully, ‘I never did.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘that’s one place I’m in first.’ Then the lift door closed and I never saw him again.’”

-- from the journals of Kenneth Tynan