Tuesday, August 2, 2011



Note:   The Blairs completed the epic, Silent Victory, then Survive! in rapid succession.  Soon, they were immersed in researching newly released papers, a portion of the Kennedy Library collection.  This installment is about that effort and the radical point of view their research led them toward.  -  DP


Clay -  With Watergate, we had the idea of the Kennedy book.    The origin of that [book] was actually Watergate hearings.  Do you recall Sam Ervin? 
We were looking at that, day after day.  I don’t know.   Somehow, to see the onion being peeled away from Nixon inspired the idea, gave us the idea of…  what was Kennedy really like?   You could begin to see the real Nixon there in Watergate, as you may recall.

Q  -   Throughout this period, there was still a real active effort to uncover the plot, and that’s been ongoing for quite awhile, Garrison’s investigation and so on.  

Clay -  Yes, continuously, all during this period.  

In that, however, we had never stopped thinking about him.  I had done special issues on him and studying the assassination and was convinced that Oswald was acting alone and was just a nut.  And so, we never got into the assassination, the conspiracy theories, and such.  
It was what Kennedy was really like.   [The book we worked on] …was a direct outgrowth of Watergate.    

And so we made a deal with that guy at Berkeley (Publishing)… and went in the fall to the Kennedy Library, which was in a warehouse in Waltham, MA, a suburb of Boston. Literally, in a warehouse.   The Kennedy Museum Archives hadn’t (yet) been built.  There was a huge fight going on (over the location for the library) and it wasn’t a sure thing. 

Anyway, we went there, and by sheer coincidence, the librarians or archivists at Kennedy Library had decided to release thousands of documents, letters and so on about his childhood and his youthful years, up to about …1948-49.  He served two  terms in the House before he went to the Senate and elsewhere.

Q -  So you were really on a shopping trip to see what was available?

Clay -  That’s right, exactly right. 

We didn’t know what we were going to do.  And then, this thing fell in our lap, and we said, well we’re going to do this.  You’ve got to use this stuff, its wonderful.   We were able to figure out who his best friends were, who his girlfriends were - real girlfriends - everything.  

Joan -  We could keep a chronology of his life. We were soon able to figure out that these big gaps in the chronology was when he had been in the hospital someplace.

Clay -  Yeah.  It was very carefully concealed.

Joan -   Very carefully.   They had gone through and had taken out anything that could tell of something like that.

Q -  We had talked off tape about this past fall being the 30th anniversary of the assassination, and the rededication of the Archives and the Museum.   And how the information has just come out pinpointing his physical difficulties due to Addison’s disease.  

Clay -  Addison’s.  Right.

Q -  And so you had had all of the symptoms and problems, but no way really to approach those gaps because that stuff wasn’t released until last year, as I understand it.

Joan -   No. We knew all about that. 

Clay -  We knew, but they weren’t released. 
We found out who his doctors were.

Joan – His endocrinologist. 

Clay -  From these documents.  This woman at a clinic.  You could figure a lot of things, and we did.  We found all the friends, the girlfriends.  These were real friends, not one night stands.

Q -   I was amazed.  When you talk about JFK being a womanizer – that barely begins to scratch the surface.   It was the kind of activity that he had, apparently, from about high school on, much of it with full knowledge of friends, and family, too.

Joan  - Oh yes, his father was a womanizer.

 Clay -  A strange bunch of people.   Dysfunctional family.   God! 

Anyhow, we were the beneficiary of that release.  From it we were able to divine who his friends were, who the doctors were.  This and that.  We went further and interviewed the people from PT-109 and found that was a bunch of bullshit.  We kept finding that his health was terribly bad, had no idea of the depth of it. His war record was faked and hoked-up.  He never really did write “While England Slept”… He knew almost nothing of economics.  Everything that had been said about him was a lie. 

 Q-  That must have come as somewhat of a shock?

Clay -  It was.

Joan  - We all were shocked.

Clay -  We kept on going and going.  Then, I think we interviewed every politician in Boston that ever knew him, all over the state, and girlfriends, and everybody we could think of.  Hundreds of people.  

Q -  What amazes me is how, in the personal interviews that you do, they open up, most of them.  A few seem to hedge, but most of them seem pretty forthright as to …

Clay – It comes down to skill of interviewing.

Q -  Also, what comes through in this book is , you’re taking some of the interviews and you split up.  And when you write about the interviews you interject yourself as the first-person.   You’re interviewing, and the phone rings, and it happens to be so-and-so.   Which makes it a more credible account.  
What was the reception like with that book?     

Clay  -   It made a big splash.   But it didn’t sell a lot, because…I’ll tell you why.  We had a terrific review in the New York Times.

Joan -  And it said that this was the first really objective look at Jack Kennedy’s life.

Clay -  But, what happened was, about this time Judith Exner came forward and I think published her book.   She was the go-between between the Chicago mobsters and the White House, about the attempt to kill Castro.   Remember Jack Kennedy -  or Bobby or somebody - wanted to get this thing going where they were going to get the mob to hit Castro?  She was the go-between.  Exner was a friend of Frank Sinatra and all that crowd, knew the mob, and met Kennedy in Las Vegas.  Anyhow, they had a torrid affair, one of many.   

She was dying of cancer and was publishing this book, about the same time ours hit. And our book got lost – got mixed up in this Exner-type thing.  In some quarters it was praised a lot, but it didn’t sell, I think because people thought it was the same type of thing. 
Q – Hers was probably juicier being a first-hand account?

Clay – It certainly was that!   But it tarnished our book, really.    And the whole outcome was quite unexpected.  We did okay, and I think you’ll find it in any of the Kennedy books being written.   They all start out that our book … they are indebted.  Because it was the seminal book in the sense of turning the image of Jack Kennedy. 

Q -  How do you think his image in history will be seen?   Has this made any difference?   Or is it still lost among all the other things about him?

Clay -  Oh no.   People who are writing about Kennedy now all use that book as a starting point, because we take him right up to the Senate, and I believe its completely changed the image of Kennedy. 
Q -  Tell me about this key love affair he had which resulted, possibly, in a son?  With Inga Arvod? 
What’s your final verdict on that?   Today, you could probably check the DNA.  He was born in ‘47.  Was he Kennedy’s son?

Clay -  How do you get Kennedy’s DNA, though?   That’s a problem.   Hair?  Cause I think he’s interested, anxious to establish his…a mixed up kid. 

Q -  If anything has a real wallop in this book…he fooled around…had girlfriends, and the possibility of having a son.  And he was not married at the time.   

Clay -  No.

Joan -  That affair stopped before he got married until after he was elected.   I don’t think so.  I don’t have the foggiest idea. 

Q -  Any facial resemblance?

Clay -   Yes.  

Joan  - I didn’t see him.    

(Tape cassette #2)

Q -  (Asks Clay / Joan to read a paragraph from the book in the conclusion of The Search for JFK.)   
 Joan reads aloud…
    “Finally, there is this question:  Do these omissions and distortions matter? We believe that they constitute overwhelming evidence that shrewd manipulation of the media can make a man president of the United States.  We think that matters.  Indeed, that it says something important about the quality of our democracy.   Journalists can, and should, be condemned for careless and sentimental mythmaking, and for living on handouts from public relations machines, to the neglect of original research and questioning.  But there is a more difficult problem here, too, and that is, that the American people seem all too glad to be given comic strip heroes to believe in, and woefully unwilling to consider human complexities in the very human beings they want to lead them.  We think that matters a great deal.”

Q -  That’s still going on today.

Clay -  Yes, it is.  Nothing has changed.   From Watergate to the Iran Contra Affair, to the Whitewater Scandal.  Same thing.  We’ll find out later… when Hillary writes her book.
  (turns to Joan)  So, then what happened? 

Joan - Then what did we write?

Clay -  This book was a Literary Guild Book.

Q -    A Literary Guild Book means they are endorsing it for the readership? 

Clay -  They market it through the Literary Guild, put it in their catalog, announcements, and all that.


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