15 NOVEMBER 1997, Page 63

High life

Wild stories


a Kennedy-hater par excellence, I never thought I'd see the day when I would come to the defence of 'Camelot', but then I never figured on anyone as immoral and disgusting as Seymour Hersh, journalism's answer to the Bitch of Buchenwald.

Hersh and Kitty Kelley are one of a kind, the difference being that Kelley repeats vicious gossip about living people, whereas Hersh skewers the dead. My friend Hilton Kramer, a gentleman and scholar if there ever was one, thinks Hersh is as low as one can get. I think that trying to get Hersh to act as a decent human being is like trying to make a fish walk.

Alas, vindictiveness sells. Hersh is a foul- mouthed, dirty-dealing, amoral oppor- tunist, but newspapers are falling all over themselves to review his book. This is what I find scandalous. Newspapers have been so trivialised by gossip and blinded by greed that they will treat a massive belch of viciousness as The Dark Side of Camelot in the same way they would deal with, say, The Red and the Black. (Mind you, there's far more historical truth in the latter.) Both Arthur Schlesinger and Theodore Sorensen, historians of the Kennedy presi- dency, have denounced the book, but in my opinion not as loudly as they should have. It is a collection of wild stories about bimbos running around the White House and gangsters controlling elections. A $6.5 billion contract was supposedly awarded to General Dynamics, the defence contractor, as a pay-off for political blackmail. The father of two men who broke into Judith Exner's flat (she was the moll of both JFK and Sam Giancana, a mobster) was head of security at General Dynamics.

The old canard about JFK being married to Durie Malcolm, a Palm Beach socialite, is repeated as fact. Malcolm has denied it throughout. Hersh quotes Charles Spald- ing, an old Kennedy friend, as evidence. The trouble is Chuck Spalding is a very old gentleman in whose mouth words can be put, Hersh, after all, was called 'an extor- tionist' by Henry Kissinger because of his methods in getting a story. Personally, I don't believe a word.

What I do believe is that John F. Kennedy's murderer has finally revealed himself from that grassy knoll. It is a terri- ble thing to assassinate a president, but to murder his name for ever is even worse. JFK I met very briefly twice before he was elected president. He was charisma person- ified. In 1962, I was going out with Anne Ford, whose papa owned a car company by the same name. One night, in the Carlyle hotel,• she came into the room where I was waiting looking all flushed and dishevelled. It took me a long time to coax the story from her.

She had gone into the presidential suite of the Carlyle for a drink with Kennedy. He jumped on her right off the bat and stopped only when she threatened to tell her father. I imagine Kennedy must have thought 'there goes Michigan'. He never got rough. As I said before, the poor little Greek boy is no fan, but JFK deserves bet- ter. He was a very good-looking man who fought for his country and won the highest office. His personal charisma has never been disputed. To kill him a second time is as low an act as I can think of. Hersh is a scumbag, and I apologise to rubber trees for comparing them to him.

And speaking of scumbags, I read that Thierry Roussel, the world's most success- ful gigolo, is telling friends (now there's an oxymoron for you) that the bill for guard- ing Athina Onassis is running into millions of dollars per year. Rumours of a kidnap threat to his meal-ticket have been sweep- ing Europe all week.

I'm not so sure. That there was any kid- nap threat, that is. Roussel is the playboy equivalent to Seymour Hersh. He has gone through 80 million big ones from Onassis and cannot wait another five years until Athina will get the biggest bucks in Europe. He has accused the Onassis Foun- dation — the most efficient and honest institution in Greece — of mismanage- ment. What the gigolo is trying to do is to isolate Athina from the control of the Onassis administration, which, after all, was left responsible for her by her mother. He is obviously trying to get more money out of the foundation for security expenses. Roussel has gone so far as to insinuate that the Onassis people may have had some- thing to do with the kidnap threats. It is as Maybe Prince Charles could be our manager after all we saved him.' outrageous as the rumours that Diana, Princess of Wales, was murdered for going out with an Arab.

It is a very sad day when two unscrupu- lous hustlers like Hersh and Roussel can blacken the name of people whose jock- straps they are not fit to wash.