A TWIST ON THE PALM SPRINGS TRYST
It was JFK’s sister Pat who was instrumental in getting Marilyn to Crosby’s that weekend. Originally the plan was for the Lawfords and Marilyn to meet JFK at Frank Sinatra’s home. At Bobby’s insistence, because of Frank’s mob ties, (Sam Giancana had stayed at his home) the location was changed at the last minute. Frank was furious and took off to Bermuda to blow off steam. Marilyn feared Frank begrudged her continued closeness to the Kennedy family while he was on the outs. Maybe he secretly harbored resentment that she was the reason he was being pushed away. At any rate, Marilyn wasn’t sure she wanted to attend. In New York, just about six weeks earlier (the Fell party), she had let Jack know that she was playing for keeps now. There would be no conquest, no sneaking around, and any “relationship” had to have a future. JFK had backed off and both knew nothing was ever likely to happen.
But Pat knew that her husband Peter had oversold his pathetic pitch for MM to “spend some time alone with the Prez.” He had built up the idea in Marilyn’s mind that JFK was more interested in her than he obviously was. Pat knew Marilyn may never believe how Jack was with women unless she saw him in action. After JFK’s last discussion with Marilyn, and with the way Frank was behaving, JFK never expected Marilyn would attend. So he invited a couple of White House secretaries on the trip. The famed duo known to history as Fiddle and Faddle came with JFK to Palm Springs.
Pat idolized her older brother but she had to dispel these notions Marilyn had of a possible future with Jack. She knew her brother and knew the secretaries would be there. She persuaded Marilyn to meet her at Crosby’s and arranged for Peter to get her there. Peter, nor anyone else, would ever tell Sinatra that it was Lawford and Frank’s friend/partner Jimmy Van Heusen that would arrange for the location to be changed to the secure and very private Crosby home. When Marilyn arrived the president was surprised. He wondered if this was a positive sign. Then, sensing an opportunity, JFK sent the secretaries to the press parties at the surrounding hotels.
Marilyn, the Lawfords, JFK and a few other guests enjoyed an afternoon by the pool. After dinner inside, Jack invited Marilyn back to his quarters. Marilyn glanced at Pat looking for signs of approval. Pat just shrugged as if to say, “It’s up to you.” Curiosity got the best of Marilyn as she retired to the president’s private room. Once in the room Marilyn saw Jack grimace in pain as he sat down. Determined to make the president’s back feel better, she offered a massage.
Marilyn’s expertise in anatomy took many forms, but one of them was a near therapists knowledge of muscles, movement and massage. She impressed the president but still had to verify what she was talking about with a call to her masseur. After the call things were progressing. Jack said that for him to be truly comfortable they should go back out to the pool.
Giggling, hand in hand they rushed out to the pool. Jack dispatched his Secret Service detail and had them watch the large yard from another building on the property. Fortunately the pool area was empty. Inside the home, the drapes had been drawn along all the windows, so no one could see from inside the main house. It had been a warm day but now the temperature had started to cool. Marilyn dipped a toe into the pool to see if the water was still warm, then she slipped off her robe. The presidents back must indeed have felt better because when Marilyn looked at him, he too was already naked. The presidential flag proudly waved over the compound at full staff. After a shared smile and brief moment of mutual appreciation, they jumped into the water together. Marilyn wrapped her arms around the president’s neck and rested them on his shoulders, then said, “I’m so glad you changed your mind.” Jack realized immediately there had been a misunderstanding and he tried to jokingly let her know that this may be a one time thing. When she asked about what to expect in the future, he broke her heart with a joke that she wasn’t “first lady material.”
The Secret Service had the home locked down and the agents on the outer perimeter were just following normal procedure when they let the returning Fiddle and Faddle into the compound. Just when Marilyn thought the situation in the pool couldn’t get much worse, the secretaries (or Twittle and Twattle as Marilyn called them) bound onto the patio like new born deer, and with fake surprise exclaimed, “What’s going on here?” As they giggled, Marilyn got out of the pool, wrapped her robe around her shoulders, clenched it in front, and with as much dignity as she could muster, walked past them and said, “He’s all yours girls.” Once in the house and fearing a complete collapse she quickly moved to Pat’s room and knocked on the door.
Marilyn knew Pat would be there for her, she always was. And she knew Pat would be alone. Peter and Pat didn’t share a bedroom at home and rarely spent the evening together when traveling. Peter was undoubtedly at the press parties, or wherever the action was, and wouldn’t return until morning. Pat opened the door and almost immediately Marilyn broke down in her arms. Pat held her as she cried, feeling guilty for her part in whatever just happened. She had never thought it would go so far. Marilyn kept sobbing, “I’m such a fool. I should have listened to you.”
Pat and Marilyn were very close friends. They enjoyed a unique and special relationship. One evening about a year and half earlier, it was fall of 1960 around the time of the election and also just before Arthur Miller walked out, the Lawfords and Frank Sinatra visited Marilyn in New York to cheer her up. They had all just returned from Hawaii and they heard Marilyn was having a tough time. Just like the evening Marilyn first met Pat in 1958, Peter was eager to leave. Like last time he left, but this time Frank stayed and the remaining three shared a lovely evening together. It was a crisp autumn night with a beautiful moon and a crystal clear sky. It was a great night to view the city lights from the air. Frank’s plane was on standby and he persuaded the woman to take a midnight flight on what he called El Dago. Sinatra knew the ladies would enjoy the view.
Something surprisingly intense happened that night. Marilyn developed deep romantic feelings for Pat, but she never even imagined that anything could ever happen between them, even though she was sure that Pat felt the same way.
This night was shortly after filming The Misfits, and we’ve seen the troubles Marilyn had a few months later and how her personal problems were tearing her apart. So much so, that in early 1961 she was eventually hospitalized. There was a long stretch of many months that Marilyn didn’t see Pat. In June of 1961, Marilyn would reunite with the Lawfords when they all met Frank in Vegas for Dean Martin’s birthday. Pat was pregnant with her fourth child and wasn’t sure how to tell Marilyn because she knew how badly Marilyn wanted a baby of her own. When Marilyn first met Pat she was pregnant and seeing her now brought up that fond memory. She was overjoyed and jumped with excitement when she saw that Pat was pregnant. She put her hands on Pat’s belly. Pat told her it seemed like the baby jumped with joy as well. Pat was so slim that Marilyn couldn’t believe how far along she was, and with her hands still on Pat’s belly, said, “Oh my, she must be no bigger than a robin’s egg.”
Pat asked Marilyn to be baby Robin’s godmother but Marilyn declined, fearing her presence would cause a media frenzy that would take attention away from the special day. Pat had met Marilyn after a Gary Cooper party, so Cooper’s wife and Pat’s friend Rocky, seemed like a good sentimental second choice. Marilyn and Pat grew closer and closer. They talked so often on the phone they began to share confidences that they told no one else. In person they would exchange even more intimate secrets. Marilyn would tell Pat of her past encounters with women and Pat always seemed interested in learning more. Marilyn told her of an affair with Natasha, her old drama coach. She told Pat that Natasha was too much like a man. She acted like a husband, always barking orders and giving directions. But there was one thing Natasha did well. In Natasha’s own words, she “held the cure” for what Marilyn needed when she was tense and needed to relax. MM and Pat shared a laugh when Marilyn exclaimed, that “Unfortunately the same mouth that held the cure also had to tell the world about it!”
There was always a sexual undercurrent to Pat and Marilyn’s relationship. But nothing ever really happened. Society stigmatized same sex relationships with scorn, ridicule and contempt. It was the early sixties, homosexuality was still considered a mental illness, Pat was Catholic and a Kennedy, AND the presidents sister, and she was CATHOLIC. But still there was something there. Stolen glances, flirting smiles, lingering touches and warm embraces. But there was a line and it was never crossed, until…
In a Crosby bedroom, Pat held Marilyn until she realized Marilyn was wet and she was shivering. Pat got a towel. She slipped the damp robe off Marilyn’s shoulders and let it drop to the floor. Marilyn shivered now for a different reason as Pat rubbed the towel over her nude body. Pat took Marilyn by the hand, led her to the bed and had her sit on the edge. Marilyn sat naked in front of her as Pat helped Marilyn dry her hair. Marilyn wept, continuing to say, “I’m such a fool.” Pat sat next to her friend on the bed and held her until she stopped crying. Once again Marilyn softly said, “I’m such a fool” but this time added, “Who could ever love me?” Pat put her hand on Marilyn’s face and gently turned her head. Then lightly resting her forehead on Marilyn’s, she looked her in the eyes and said, “I have always loved you and I will always love you.” With that Pat rises and again stands in front of Marilyn. She begins to unbutton her blouse. Moist lips part, then come together. No more words are necessary.
Human scissors cut the bonds of thousands of years of sexual repression. In the morning, the two women awoke entwined in a loving embrace. It was then that Pat uttered a mere four words that contained a sentiment Marilyn had waited a lifetime to hear. Pat smiled and whispered to Marilyn, “You’re a Kennedy now.”
Marilyn was elated. She finally belonged. She loved and was loved back. She was wanted, appreciated, and valued. Marilyn knew they could never have an open, public, love affair. Was this night a one time thing? A shared intimacy that could never be repeated? It didn’t matter as long as Pat was in her life. She had finally formed a deep and meaningful bond with another human being, and it meant the world her.