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From The Vault Of Art Shay: The Kennedys

By Art Shay in News on Nov 21, 2013 5:30PM

(Legendary Chicago-based photographer Art Shay has taken photos of kings, queens, celebrities and the common man in a 60-year career. This week Art reflects on one of America's political dynasties as the nation marks the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination.)

To understand the wonderful Kennedys we have to accept the shrug of the genitals verdict that they were dick-directed. Jack was; Teddy was; Bobby was; their father Joe was. Even a protégé like Bill Clinton would be dick-directed.

For years the Boston press refused to print the news that wheeler-dealer Joe—friend of the rich and mighty; dark horse presidential prospect and backstage financier—had dark dealings in the liquor storage and real estate trades. He was dorking actress Gloria Swanson on the side and even set her up in an ocean liner suite near his and wife Rose on the Kennedy’s Atlantic honeymoon as a designated fucker if needed. Joe even had an 18-year-old blonde Scandinavian au-pair as a live-in caddy at the Kennedy compound to help him on his favorite “course” (the gossip had it)- Intercourse.

They were all nominally good religious souls, generous contributors and benders of the knee, but followed St. Augustine's dictum: "Cure me of my wickedness, Oh Lord, but not just yet."

I learned this as a wide-eyed Washington staff reporter for Time and Life in 1948, the first year of Harry Truman's hegemony under Bess' unblinking, unforgiving Missouri eye.

There were certain stories we couldn't touch. No one wanted to risk losing Time Inc.'s third class mail privileges, as FDR had threatened when his wheelchair didoes were learned and on the brink of exposé. And we all knew about Eleanor's backstage cuddling and love letter correspondences with same-sex pals.

My first professional brush with JFK and his busy penis occurred at the McClurg Court studios of Chicago’s CBS affiliate for his first debate with Nixon. I was on my knees busy loading film when Kennedy asked me a simple question: "Where can a feller take a whizz around here?" I gathered he had to pee, but three Secret Service men rushed to lead him down the blue-curtained makeshift corridor to the potty. So I never got to talk to JFK, even to answer his vital question.

I would always envy the many White House photographers who serially reminisced and most of all Albert Woolson, whom I photographed at 108 when he was the last survivor of the Civil War. He told me he had been a bugler-drummer at 15 when his bugle summoned Abe Lincoln to a Ft. Totten, New Jersey breakfast of possum, which he abhorred but picked at to please Lincoln. Albert also told me his son of 85 wouldn't do the chores anymore.

published with permission.

If you need another Art Shay fix, please check out the photographer's blog, which is updated regularly. Art Shay's book, Chicago's Nelson Algren, is also available at Amazon.