Of course, much of it was fake. Unknown to the voting public, their fit young president was, in fact, crippled with back pain from Addison’s disease, taking industrial quantities of drugs to get by. Equally concealed were his serial infidelities, affairs with women ranging from 19-year-old interns to Marilyn Monroe — a record of womanizing inside the White House that makes Clinton look like a Boy Scout.
Yet none of this seems to diminish the legend. For JFK, the first president of the TV age who understood and exploited the medium, remains a celebrity. He is the hero of a story that has everything: sex, lies and 8mm film, gossip, intrigue and lust — all set against a background of war and peace.
And all that is combined with something perhaps as powerful as sex: hope. Despite everything, the Kennedy brand still stands for idealism, for the ambition of a moon landing and the call to public service enshrined in the Peace Corps.
Celebrity and hope: It is a powerful, quintessentially American combination. Fifty years ago, the man who embodied it was gunned down, but the myth lives on. Not even a magic bullet can destroy that.