In Mimi Alford’s 2012 book “Once Upon A Secret”, the inside flap jacket, as well as pages 3-5, not to mention press interviews she has given, gives the distinct and quite erroneous impression that Mimi’s original last name—Beardsley— was heretofore unknown, although acknowledging that she was mentioned in Robert Dallek’s 2003 masterpiece “JFK: An Unfinished Life”, wherein historian Dallek quotes from Barbara Gamarekian’s 1964 JFK Library oral history, then recently released. Gamarekian was the one who claimed not to remember Mimi’s last name at that time, not Dallek. For her part, Alford states on page 5 of her book: “Dallek’s mention of an UNNAMED “White House intern” lit a fire at the New York Daily News (emphasis added).”
However, Dallek’s book, a #1 national best seller, not only DOES indeed note Mimi’s then-last name of Beardsley, on page 476 and the index on page 813, but she is PICTURED in Dallek’s book with a caption “Mimi Beardsley, intern in the White House”, in the second set of unpaginated photographs between pages 502 and 503 (with the photo acknowledgement going to CNN) [all references are to the 2004 Trade Paperback edition-YOU WOULD THINK SOMEONE AT RANDOM HOUSE WOULD HAVE NOTED THE MASS PAPERBACK/KINDLE/ONLINE UPDATE]! In fact, Alford’s book purposely OMITS the relevant Dallek passage (s) in question: on page 4 of her own book (quoting word for word from pages 475-476 of Dallek’s work), she quotes a verbatim passage from the historian’s seminal work that began on page 475 with “Kennedy’s womanizing” and ended on page 476 with “she couldn’t type.” Alford’s use of Dallek’s quote intentionally omits her name! For his part, Dallek wrote: “…and MIMI BEARDSLEY, a “tall, slender, beautiful: nineteen-year-old college sophomore and White House intern… (emphasis added). Again, not only does Alford intentionally omit this specific identification of her, which could not have been an accident, she says Dallek referred to her as an “unnamed” White House intern (page 5 of her book) and makes great play of the fact that Gamarekian, as previously mentioned, could not remember her last name back in 1964…but she could and did later on, as Dallek interviewed Gamarekian on 4/19/2001 (see page 779 of Dallek’s book, Notes section)!
But the point is: Dallek DID mention her last name—on three different pages, including a captioned photograph. Remember, it is Alford who purposely omits the mention of her name “Mimi Beardsley” from an otherwise word-for-word verbatim quote from Dallek—what was the motive for that omission? Yes, we know she became Mimi Fahnestock (page 6) and, later, Mimi Alford (page 9), but she was “found out” as Mimi Beardsley eleven years before publication of her own book (2001 Gamarekian interview with Dallek; 9 full years before via Dallek’s published book). In addition, any good investigative reporter worth his or her own salt could find out a woman’s current last name with the starting point of having the woman’s maiden name. Nevertheless, Dallek HAD that information, publicized it, and Alford makes great stock out of the erroneous “fact” that her then-last name was not known when Dallek’s huge best seller came out.
And, if that wasn’t enough, Alford mentions being contacted by and politely turning down the author Sally Bedell Smith (page 6): “She honored my request. My secret was safe.” However, like Dallek, Smith ALSO mentioned her in her own massive New York Times best-selling book from 2004 entitled “Grace & Power: The Private World Of The Kennedy White House”, with as yet ANOTHER captioned photo, as well (photo: unpaginated first photo between pages 290 and 291), as well as with credit on NINE formal pages (287, 330, 334-335, 382-383, 385, 416, and the index on page 584), not to mention sourcing a MARION BEARDSLEY FAHNESTOCK interview on the following “Source Notes” pages: 537 and 561!
What does that say about one’s credibility? You decide. Those are the facts. Depending on your love or hate for the book, spin them any way you want.
Yes, I have actually read the entire book now; every word. Verdict: it is good if you like this type of sordid tale; well written, as well. Again, my misgivings go to the credibility factor as outlined above.