On Nov. 16, 1961, President John F. Kennedy came to University of Washington and delivered a major foreign policy speech during the university's centennial convocation.
Kennedy, Senator Warren Magnuson, and Washington Governor Albert Rosellini rode in an open convertible from Boeing Field through crowds of thousands on Fourth Avenue and eventually to the Olympic Hotel.
After his speech at UW's Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Kennedy returned to the Olympic.
More than three decades after his visit, Seymour M. Hersh, who wrote the book "The Dark Side of Camelot" interviewed former Secret Service agent Larry Newman, who told of a local sheriff bringing two prostitutes to Kennedy's suite -- and warning that if they ever spoke of the incident they would go to a state mental hospital.
More than 30 years later, word got out that a secret meeting was held with President Kennedy during this stay at The Olympic Hotel. At the time, this was known to only a few individuals. While researching his 1997 book, The Dark Side of Camelot, Seymour M. Hersh interviewed former Secret Service agent Larry Newman, who spilled the beans.
Newman joined the Secret Service in 1960, and his first major assignment on presidential detail was to provide security during Kennedy's trip to Seattle. The Seattle Police Department was most cooperative, and one entire floor of The Olympic Hotel was sealed off, as requested by the Secret Service.
Soon after Kennedy returned from his speech at the University, Newman heard a "commotion up at the elevator." A local sheriff "had come out of the elevator with two hookers and was bringing them down toward the presidential suite." Dave Powers, Kennedy's aide, came out of the suite, thanked the sheriff for bringing the women up, and took them inside.
Before leaving, the sheriff warned the women that if word ever got out about their liaison, he'd make sure that they would both go to Steilacoom -- a state mental hospital -- where they would never get out. Newman was shocked that the sheriff said this, let alone that everyone on security detail considered this kind of "meeting" with the president as commonplace. One of the policemen asked Newman if this happened all the time, to which he could only reply, "Well, we travel during the day. This only happens at night."
Later that evening, Newman went on a security check around the floor. At least six police officers were supposed to be guarding the fire escapes, but he found the posts unmanned. He later found policemen in a fire-escape well, which -- because the hotel is U-shaped -- had a view of a room near the presidential suite. The gauze curtains were drawn, but not the heavy blinds. Inside, two women on the White House staff were having a three-way sexual encounter with Kennedy's close aide and friend, Kenneth O'Donnell. The officers were passing around a pair of binoculars, but Newman told them to return to their posts.
The next morning President Kennedy departed shortly after 8 a.m. At 8:54 a.m. his plane took off from Boeing Field. Thus ended his 21-hour stay in Seattle.
Sources: The Seattle Times, November 12, 1961, pp. 1, 18; Ibid., November 16, 1961, p. A, 5; Ibid., November 17, 1961, p. 2; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 17, 1961, pp. 6, 10; The New York Times, November 17, 1961, pp. 1, 17; Chronicle of the 20th Century ed. by Clifton Daniel (Mount Kisco, NY: Chronicle Publications, 1987), 864, 865, 869-872; Seymour M. Hersh, The Dark Side of Camelot (New York: Little Brown and Company, 1997), pp. 226-228. Note: This essay was expanded by Alan J. Stein on December 27, 2005.
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