Kennedy-clan bio recounts affairs with Hollywood stars

By Emily Heil

Marlene Dietrich, the German-born film star and singer.
Marlene Dietrich, the German-born film star and singer.

Another book about the larger-than-life Kennedy clan?

The latest in the genre is a bio of Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy, the second-eldest sister of the famous family who married into British aristocracy and died at 28 in a plane crash.

The most sizzling tidbits in Paula Byrne's Kick: The True Story of JFK's Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth, though, aren't about its subject - the confident, charming Kick - but her father, Joe Kennedy, the famously unfaithful patriarch.

In Byrne's account, a young Kick befriended the daughters of two Hollywood starlets with whom her father had affairs: Gloria Swanson and Marlene Dietrich.

In the late 1920s, Joe Kennedy was carrying on an open-secret affair with Swanson: "Joe ... began to live a bifurcated life, between his wife and large brood of handsome children and the glamorous movie star, the ultimate trophy mistress," Byrne writes.

Soon, though, the two worlds merged. Swanson sent her daughter, "Little Gloria," to a Halloween party at the Kennedy home in New York, and later, both mother and daughter visited the Kennedys at Hyannis Port in Massachusetts.

"Kick was intrigued to meet the daughter of the world's most famous movie star ... she liked her new friend."

Years later, Kick also met 13-year-old Maria Sieber, Dietrich's daughter, when the two families were holidaying at the famous Hotel du Cap in the south of France.

Sieber recalled spending time with the Kennedy children but stopped visiting them once their parents began an affair. "I didn't want any one of his family to feel uncomfortable," she said, according to Byrne.

Byrne portrays Joe Kennedy as not just a philanderer, but a bit of a lech who made inappropriate overtures to his daughter's teenage friends.

"Some of them refused to watch movies in the basement cinema because he would touch them and pinch them," she writes.

- Washington Post

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