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The Blue Angel and JFK: One Night in Camelot

This story has three protagonists: Marlene Dietrich, the famous German artist and protagonist of the movie The Blue Angel, the ex-American President John F. Kennedy (“Jack”), and Kenneth Tynan, one of the most notable English theater critics of the second half of the 20th century. The details of it are described in the book “Kenneth Tynan’s diaries”.

Marlene Dietrich had become friends with Kenneth Tynan after he described his bisexual nature by saying, in a comment about her: “Her sex has no preferences.” To which Dietrich replied: “There are so many people trying to guess me and only he understood me”. On one occasion, Dietrich told Tynan about her relationship with President Kennedy.

In the decade of the 30s, Dietrich was a friend of Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of the president. Dietrich’s daughter used to be a swimming partner of the sons of Joseph Kennedy, including John F. Kennedy, who would later become President of the United States. In the fall of 1962, Dietrich was acting in a Washington, D.C. night club.

Bob and Ted Kennedy, Joseph’s children, went to see her perform. The president, of course, did not usually go to night clubs. His absence saddened Marlene Dietrich until she received an invitation to the White House to have a drink with the President the following Saturday at 6 o’clock in the afternoon.

That same day, at 7 pm, Dietrich had to be at the Hotel Statler in Washington, D.C., now called Capitol Hilton, to receive a tribute from the Jewish Veterans of World War II for her help to the Jewish refugees during that war. Despite the scheduling conflict that this represented, Dietrich decided to accept Kennedy’s invitation and arrived at the White House at 6 o’clock in the afternoon.

As soon as she arrived, Dietrich was led by the president’s aide-de-camp to her room where a bottle of German white wine awaited her. “The President recalled that when he dined with you in New York, you told him that this was your favorite wine,” the aide-de-camp told her. Then he poured her a glass of wine and discreetly retired.

At 6.15 o’clock Kennedy appeared. The president gave her a kiss on the cheek, took her to the balcony of the room and started talking about Lincoln. “I hope you’re not in a hurry,” the President told him. “Actually, I am,” said the German actress. Then she explained that 2,000 Jewish war veterans were waiting for her at 7:00 in the afternoon to pay her homage.

“Then we do not have much time,” Kennedy said, looking her in the eye. Dietrich told Tynan that she loves the company of powerful men and to hang their scalp in her hunting belt. “No, Jack, I guess not,” Dietrich told him. Kennedy took her glass and led her through a corridor into the presidential bedroom. Then Marlene Dietrich tells:

“I remembered his back problems – a war wound.” She looked at him and Kennedy was already undressing. Rolls of bandage were being taken from his torso. “Now I am an old woman but at that moment I said to myself: I would like to sleep with the President but for nothing in the world I want to be on top of him.”

Apparently, things went well and, a few moments later, Kennedy fell asleep. “Then,” said Marlene Dietrich, “I looked at my watch and it was 6.50 in the afternoon. I got dressed and shook him while saying: Jack, wake up! There are 2,000 people waiting for me. For God’s sake, get me out of here! Then Kennedy took a towel, put it around his waist as his only dress and took me to an elevator. Kennedy told the elevator operator to ask for a car to take me immediately to the Hotel Statler. Meanwhile, Kennedy was standing with just a towel around his waist as if it were the most natural thing in the world. As I entered the elevator he said: ‘There is only one thing I would like to know: Have you ever slept with my father’? “I then answered: No, Jack, I never did.” ‘Well,’ he told me, ‘this is the only time I got there first.’ The elevator door closed and I never saw him again,” concluded Marlene Dietrich.

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Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

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