Being a self confessed Kennedy-phile, I was excited to read a book that delves into a less-than-well-known aspect of JFK’s life.
Just when you thought there was nothing left to learn about the martyred president, along comes this book, which examines the unusual friendship between these two very different men. Anyone who knows anything about President Kennedy knows that he had a very - ahem - healthy appetite for female companionship. Yet his best friend was a gay man, at a time when homosexuality was still considered a sickness.
The book examines the likelihood that Lem had more than a friendly attachment to JFK, although it makes it very clear that Jack did not return “those” feelings. Unfortunately, it appears that some of Jack’s titillating comments may have both aroused and therefore confused Lem. Jack sometimes referred to some part of his anatomy in letters to Lem.
The devotion of both men is made obvious from Pitts’ in-depth research, including letters and anecdotes from those who observed the two up close. One cannot help but wonder just how difficult being so close but so far from his love was on Lem, yet, he would not or perhaps could not walk away. For Jack’s part, it is obvious that had Lem left, it would have been very hurtful to him.
The story that emerges from Jack and Lem is one of true friendship so tightly
bound that it survived until that horrendous day in Dallas. This book also illustrates the fact that President Kennedy was so devoted to Lem that he took the chance that Lem’s sexuality might become public knowledge. Had that happened in that time, it is likely that it might have ruined Jack’s career. It is refreshing to hear of a politician who put friends before his career.
Even today, most politicians run screaming from their “friends” at the first
sign of them being controversial.
If you are fascinated by the “Camelot” years, Jack and Lem
will be an interesting addition to your reading list. It shows the famous
president in a different light and adds to his legend.