Conspiracy theorists, eavesdroppers offered their views

Manhattan’s swanky Carlyle hotel reportedly oversaw a lot more than just Central Park, informants told the FBI. Manhattan’s swanky Carlyle hotel reportedly oversaw a lot more than just Central Park, informants told the FBI. (The Carlyle/ File)
By Matt Viser
Globe Staff / June 15, 2010

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

  • E-mail|
  • Print|
  • Reprints|
  • |
Text size +

WASHINGTON — The sex parties at a swanky New York hotel may have involved the three Kennedy brothers, and included Marilyn Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra.

Or, maybe not.

Among the tantalizing but far-from-verifiable nuggets in Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s FBI file is one written in July 1965 suggesting that a New York socialite has “considerable information concerning sex parties’’ that “a number of persons participated [in] at different times.’’

They were said to take place at the Carlyle, a high-class hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and Jacqueline Hammond, the ex-wife of a former US ambassador to Spain, apparently knew all about them. She died more than six years ago, as have all of the others named in the file.

Like many other documents included in the FBI’s collection, there is no verification of the claim. The agency apparently never looked into the allegation that three high-level politicians had sexual relations with at least three top entertainers (“Mr. and Mrs. Peter Lawford’’ are also listed as possible participants).

In addition to threats on Kennedy’s life that were taken seriously by the FBI, there are bizarre tales woven into more than 2,200 pages that the agency released yesterday on the late senator from Massachusetts. Some involve trusted informants with reliable records; others come via unsolicited letters and calls from around the country, based on conversations overheard in church pews or from a neighbor.

Robert Kennedy, as US attorney general, was known for his pursuit of organized crime. The Kennedys were known for attracting glamour, including Monroe memorably singing “Happy Birthday’’ to President Kennedy.

While there were few major revelations in the FBI papers, there is plenty of raw material to keep conspiracy theorists busy.

There are allegations that Ted Kennedy was a communist, and that he helped members of the Irish Republican Army gain entry into the United States. One document describes a claim from a California-based group that Kennedy was among those turned on by its members to “the use of LSD and other drugs.’’

A math teacher wrote from San Francisco to tip the federal agents off to the possibility that Kennedy had been forced into the accident on Chappaquiddick in which Mary Jo Kopechne was killed, apparently as part of a fraudulent insurance claim scheme being run by the Mafia. The tipster, whose name was redacted, stated he been scammed as part of a similar plot.

In 1969, someone mailed to Kennedy three “obscene Polaroid photographs’’ with the heads of Kennedy, his brother Robert, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, and Kopechne placed on the bodies of other people. The sender wanted $100,000.

The file also includes a copy of the Sept. 1, 1969, issue of “Nevada Report,’’ which details a visit to Las Vegas and a sighting of Ted Kennedy with “an attractive bosomy blonde, about 25 years old, and a one-time showgirl.’’

The FBI wrote that it “has no information as to the specific source of information regarding the . . . identity of the female who allegedly kept the Senator company or the individual who made the specific arrangements.’’

Another describes a Mafia plot to “attack the characters’’ of Edward and Robert Kennedy, and brother-in-law Lawford by “working with outfit associations of Frank Sinatra to arrange for their women to be placed in compromising positions.’’

In a statement yesterday that accompanied the distribution of the files, the FBI described the plot as a “convoluted rumor.’’

“The FBI did not consider the rumor solid, and no other mention of it appears in the file, suggesting that the informant did not supply any corroboration to the story,’’ the agency wrote.

One man warned that he would kill Kennedy with a crossbow. In October 1969, conservative columnist William F. Buckley Jr., at odds with Kennedy on nearly everything else, told the FBI that someone called his office to say that an assassination attempt on Kennedy was being developed in Havana, they had been told, and he should stay away from the peace movement.

In June 1968, an informant in Coral Gables, Fla., overheard a caller — perhaps the “son of late notorious Chicago hoodlum, Al Capone’’ — say into a pay phone outside the New England Oyster House, “If Edward Kennedy keeps fooling around, he was going to get it too.’’

Kennedy’s office was told of the threat, but it appears little was done to investigate.

Matt Viser can be reached at