Jewish World Review May 13, 2004 / 22 Iyar, 5764

Lloyd Grove

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The young (and snarky) JFK; Did Ford have a better idea?; more | NEW YORK — John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated four decades ago, but the JFK myth is alive and well.

Today, the Smythe autograph dealers in lower Manhattan will auction off 35 unpublicized JFK relics valued at $25,000 — from the collection of the late Henry James Jr., who befriended Kennedy when both were at Stanford University before World War II — that shed new light on JFK's barbed sarcasm and his less-than-enlightened attitudes toward women.

In a handwritten letter to his pal, Kennedy recounted — with gimlet-eyed irony but little attention to spelling and grammar — his experiences at an academic conference in Riverside, Calif.

"Arising at 5:30, I hit the road for the old Mission Inn, with my eyes a bright red, cheeks grey and nose purple, after a refreshing drive from old L.A. in the pouring rain," Kennedy scribbled in December 1940. "Entering the breakfast room, I met my fellow rapporteurs, who turned cold fishy eyes and intellectual foreheads on me. On my left sat . . . a pasty blonde who could have done with a bath — a P.H.D. from Cal. On my right, my roommate, a double for the role of Lonnie in Of Mice, who turned out to be a P.H.D in Geography. . . . There was little conversation at breakfast, a question of where I (had) gotten my P.H.D., and then sort of a horrified silence when I told them I was merely a B.S. from Harvard and auditing courses at Stanford . . .

"Luncheon was another meal full of good fellowship. Mr. Blank asked me if I had read Europe in the Spring by Clare Booth. I said yes — and said 'Not too good, very emotional, a typical womans book.' There was another instant of silence. . . . However, I would like to report that I have now won the group over, first by assiduously reading their doctors thesis, and looking wide-eyed & boyish the rest of the time. . . . I don't think it would be unfair to say that I have become the Toast of the Institute and my coronation became complete when I kissed lightly and politely, the least ugly of the P.H.D.'s, just to test the extent of my popularity."

Typical politician.

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Automobile industry gadfly Arianna Huffington suspected something was fishy when organizers of this week's pro-green "LOHAS 8 Forum Agenda" — for "lifestyles of health and sustainability" — abruptly disinvited her from giving Wednesday morning's keynote address.

Huffington, who last year spearheaded a controversial ad campaign against Detroit-built gas-guzzling SUVs, was scheduled to be paired with Ford Motor Co. executive Tim O'Brien, whose company is underwriting the Los Angeles conference to the tune of six figures.

Huffington told me: "I wonder if somebody at Ford told them to cancel me. I don't think that was one of Ford's better ideas."

O'Brien didn't return my phone call. Conference organizer Brad Warkins Tuesday acknowledged Ford's largess but said enigmatically: "It's not philanthropy. Nothing comes for free." Warkins declined to say if Ford demanded that Huffington be cancelled and said she has been invited to speak on Friday instead.

But Huffington called the new invitation "a fig leaf."

"We have been in discussions for the past four months. They have known for a long time that I have to be in New York to go on the 'Today' show for my book," titled "Fanatics and Fools."

Meanwhile, actor-environmentalist Ed Begley Jr. was scheduled to introduce Huffington and O'Brien with 8:30 a.m. "welcome remarks."

But on Tuesday, after I told Begley about the Huffington cancellation, he decided to drop out. Begley told me that when he phoned LOHAS organizers for an explanation, he couldn't get a straight answer.

"I suddenly find myself unavailable — that is my very brief comment," Begley said. "They couldn't explain to me why Arianna was disinvited, so I'm not commenting on why I'm unavailable. The truth is, I have to go to the airport to pick up my half-sister in my Toyota RAV 4. She doesn't land till 10 a.m., so now I'll have plenty of time."


GREEK TO THEM?: We couldn't resist quizzing folks at Monday's star-studded "Troy" premiere, "If you were a Greek god or goddess, who would you be?" Some answers: Sean Bean, who plays the wily Odysseus: "Probably Zeus. He seemed to be able to do whatever he wanted to do. He seemed like quite a gentleman." Garrett Hedlund, who plays Achilles' cousin Patroclus: "Poseidon." Will Smith: "I'd be Negros." Ashley Olsen: "I don't know." U2's Bono: "I am a Greek god." And a very earnest Chris Noth: "I'm only going to leave you with this, and you'll have to go look it up and do a little research. The struggle between Apollo and Dionysus is the struggle that is the most interesting." Makes you think, don't it?

MAYBE THIS KID HAS A FUTURE ON BROADWAY: The high-powered crowd at Monday night's Dramatists Guild awards dinner was riveted when Stephen Sondheim — who never, ever performs — joined Nathan Lane at the Hudson Theater for a rousing rendition of Sondheim's "Comedy Tonight" from "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."

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© 2003, Creators Syndicate