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Vince Palamara: author of four books + MAJOR DVD
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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Fact-Checking Mimi Alford

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.

11 Responses to FACT-CHECKING MIMI ALFORD
Greg Parker says:
February 14, 2012 at 8:02 pm (Edit)
Vince, you say “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”. Given that Dallek could have easily tracked her down to request an interview, I can’t fathom your decision to laud him and his book.

It is what a good historian should have done.

Instead, his decision to publish as fact, that which Barbara Gamarekian clearly only delineated as second or third hand gossip, is all the more unconscionable.

Reply
Kirk Stricker says:
February 14, 2012 at 8:26 pm (Edit)
Hello Vince, I love your work and support you enthusiastically. I’ve not read Ms. Alford’s book and have no interest in nor intention of reading it. I think her motives and veracity ought to come under close scrutiny. However, I have a 2003 edition of Robt. Dallek’s book, “An Unfinished Life”, and in my edition the photo you mentioned is not present, the quote you cited beginning on pg. 475 and continuing to 476 mentions a “tall, slender, beautiful, etc.” but does not mention her by name, and the index on pg. 813 goes from an entry for “Bay of Pigs” to “Beck,Dave” and has no citation for “Beardsley” of any kind. I’m confused. Help. Thank you.

Reply
vincepalamara says:
February 14, 2012 at 8:30 pm (Edit)
oh! ok: I have the 2004 Trade Paperback edition. Still predates Alford by many a year. Thanks for that clarification!

Reply
vincepalamara says:
February 14, 2012 at 8:51 pm (Edit)
also: if you go to the Amazon site, pull up Dallek’s book, then search “Look Inside”, you will see the Beardsley references. To put it another way: if we can somehow let Alford off the hook for her ignorance regarding the changes from the hardcover to the trade paperback (and, now, kindle) made the next year, as well as even the 2004 Smith book, it is VERY hard to give a huge publishing company like Random House the benefit of the doubt. Fact checking is crucial, especially with such a controversial subject sure to be (as it is) a massive best-seller reaching the public and influencing people

vincepalamara says:
February 14, 2012 at 8:57 pm (Edit)
(and Sally Bedell Smith’s book is ALSO a Random House venture!)

vincepalamara says:
February 14, 2012 at 8:27 pm (Edit)
VMP [from our Facebook posts/ comments/ replies]-Fair enough; I respect your opinion/ perspective. That said, I am amazed that Alford would pull such a stunt and that no one discovered the ruse until now (my blog). Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised LOL
Greg- “Any thoughts on why she did it?”
VMP- Yes: to make her story more of an “exclusive” and worth publishing.The fact that Gamarekian’s oral history, dated 1964, was sealed until 2003 adds to her credibility. Coupled with the “Fiddle” and “Faddle” ‘affairs’, it seems that there is merit to Alford’s story, albeit NOT the gorey details; they remain and always will be unconfirmed.
Greg- “Exactly”
VMP-(this is all separate from the MERITS of having actually written a book in the first place). JFK had affairs; big deal. Old news. Real or imagined, he allegedly had affairs with Exner(?), Monroe (?), Fiddle, Faddle, etc. Presidents Harding, FDR, Ike, and Clinton also had affairs. I think JFK getting his head blown off “squares his …account”, so to speak. Why the need to further sully his memory is the real question—perhaps to vanquish the enthusiasm for the upcoming 50th anniversary a la Posner, Bugliosi, and Thomas (not-to-be-confused-with-Richard) Reeves before her?
Greg-”Gamarekian’s oral history – as I understand it – was not sealed in entirety – only that part dealing with Mimi – and then only at Gamarekian’s own request. If I have that right, I assume she made that request due to having misgivings about passing on unsubstantiated gossip.”

Reply
Dan Armstrong says:
February 14, 2012 at 10:31 pm (Edit)
Great post, Vince! Also, the 5/13/2003 website The Smoking Guns “smoked” her out years before her book: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/jfk-had-intern-too

Reply
vincepalamara says:
February 14, 2012 at 10:41 pm (Edit)
Thanks! While we can “forgive” Alford somewhat for not knowing about the trade paperback update with Dallek, this 2003 website has been there for almost 9 years and, most damning of all, on the very same publishing house as her book, Sally Bedell Smith, the author she claims she did not cooperate with, sources an interview withAlford (Beardsley-Fahnestock), has a captioned photo of her, and devotes quite a few pages to her. Like Dallek’s book, Smith’s 2004 work was a major best-seller. Random House needed to perform better fact-checking

Reply
Tracie Donato says:
February 14, 2012 at 10:52 pm (Edit)
Excellnt information! You are on more solid ground with the Bedell Smith book than Dallek’s, although someone should have informed Mimi that Dallek’s book mentioned her in the paperback edition-it’s on my kindle and, as you said, on the Amazon website. Random House seems guilty of trying to make her book more of an exclusive than it really is.

Reply
Kirk Stricker says:
February 15, 2012 at 12:00 am (Edit)
Excellent work, as usual, Vince. Thank you for the swift clarification and update. While still reeling a bit from this most recent chapter in the ongoing second assassination of JFK (this time his memory and image), I am grateful that the work you’ve done to expose Mimi Alford’s distortion of facts now stands on solid ground. Thanks again.

Reply
vincepalamara says:
February 15, 2012 at 12:47 pm (Edit)
Thanks! And another thing: Mimi Alford notes on page 4 that she refused to buy any JFK books, merely being satisifed to read snippets of books at bookstores to see if they talked about her, yet she twice quotes, verbatim, from Ted Sorenson’s 2009 book “Counselor”, as well as a Washingtonian magazine article about Pierre Salinger, not to mention other bits and bobs from other Kennedy-worthy items, betraying a knowledge of details she shouldn’t, especially if she really sought to, by and large, avoid Kennedy books as she stated (and that, of course, doesn’t include Dallek’s updated paperback or Smith’s 2004 work that quotes FROM AN INTERVIEW she gave!)

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