The focus on John F. Kennedy because of the 50th anniversary of his death has a lot of attention on details of his life and the people around him more than ever—and not surprisingly, an old rumor about his sexuality has also crept into some of the coverage.
It's well known now with history that the president had many liaisons with women, and many extra-marital affairs, but few if anything has ever confirmed any male relationships. But, it got started with a particularly close relationship the president had with a male friend, Kirk LeMoyne "Lem" Billings.
Their closeness was detailed in a book, Jack and Lem, discussing the president's three decades of friendship with a gay man.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver is quoted as saying about their relationship:"President Kennedy was a completely liberated man when he was with Lem."
A close friend remarked of the two men's relationship, "it was love, and not all love has to be consummated."
An excerpt from an interview with the author David Pitts about the book:
Kenneth Hill: How would you characterize the friendship between JFK and Lem Billings?
David Pitts: The way I would characterize it is that is was a very close, deep, friendship across sexual orientation lines.
KH: How did you first learn about it?
DP: I first learned about the friendship from reading JFK books. I am such a Kennedy fan that I read most of the new JFK books that came out over the years. Lem was mentioned in some, but there was always very little information about him — usually one or two pages — and I just became curious about, well, who exactly is this guy? And that’s how this book that I wrote came about.
KH: How did you find out who he was?
DP: The first thing I did was to look at all the books again to see what had been said
H: It seems without a doubt that Lem was in love with JFK. But it’s never stated explicitly because you don’t have any record of his ever saying that.
DP: No, I think the closest … I mean, these were more sedate times, especially where homosexuality is concerned. Even in the various documents, Lem is never overt in his statements. But there was one statement from one of the documents, and I have it in front of me here, that I think is just expresses his feelings. Here’s the quote: “Jack made a big difference in my life. Because of him, I was never lonely. He may have been the reason I never got married.”
Lem's sexuality is almost asexual in some of the descriptions of him, but it was their relationship and frank discussions that led to speculation.
In one letter, JFK was concerned about Lem being called a "fairy" and how Lem didn't seem to care. "'After you call someone a fairy,’ wrote Jack, ‘and discuss it for two solid hours, and argue about whether you did or did not go down on Worthington Johnson, you don’t write a letter saying that you think that fellow is a great guy, even if it’s true, which it was.’”
In another book, writers Danforth Prince and Darwin Potter said in "Elizabeth Taylor: There is Nothing Like a Dame," that the actress had a threesome with President John F. Kennedy and actor Robert Stack. They said that a naked skinny dipping session in the president's pool turned into a steamy three-way with the president and Stack, both of whom were married at the time to other women.
"Lem" Billings died of a heart attack at 65 on May 28, 1981 and never discussed things like that he earned his own bedroom in the White House and accompanied JFK on many European tours.
He told friends, "Jack made a big difference in my life, because of him, I was never lonely. He may have been the reason I never got married." For more click here.
In Sally Bedell Smith's book "Grace & Power" Jackie Onassis told friends about Lem staying on their house on weekends since she married JFK. One source said, "Oh, him! He's always here. I think he sleeps with Jack more than Jacqueline does."
After JFK's death it seemed like a lot of the characters surrounding the tragic incident was gay. There was the gay New Orleans businessman who turned out to be a CIA operative, Clay Shaw. David Petrie and Jack Ruby were gay and accused killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, was also thought to be gay or bisexual. (See story here.)
Another series of books say that JFK's vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson was bisexual and that he may have had something to do with the assassination. Click here for more. (There's even talk that his son JFK Jr. was bisexual, but that's another story.)
The list of gay people around the president (from this book) include:
Jack Ruby an alleged homosexual. Nicknamed 'Pinkie.'
Clay Shaw, Clay Bertrand an alleged homosexual.
David Ferrie an alleged homosexual.
Mary Sherman an alleged homosexual.
Donald P. Norton - allegedly admitted homosexuality to Garrison.
Anonymous letter to Garrison:
JD Tippit - alleged Tippit was homosexual
Breck Wall - alleged as homosexual
But, anyway, it was the president's closeness to Lem that started the rumors, and how cool it was that JFK didn't seem to care.