Saturday, July 05, 2008

JFK and his gay best friend of 30 Years

Kenneth Hill writes:
John F. Kennedy is one of the most studied and written-about presidents of the 20th century. Aside from the remaining mysteries surrounding his assassination, there is little that is unknown about the life of the thirty-fifth president of the United States. Or so we thought. A book I recently devoured while on vacation sheds new light on JFK, a rainbow-colored light, you might say, which surprises most people who learn of it because it illuminates a story about a beloved president that has heretofore never been told. It's been hidden from history, or at least overlooked by every biography ever written about JFK.

In 'Jack and Lem,' published by Avalon, writer David Pitts sets about uncovering the story of Jack Kennedy and his closest and dearest friend in the world for 30 years, Lem Billings -- a gay man. The two met while at prep school in the 1930s and from that point on were inseparable until the day Jack Kennedy was killed. David Pitts and I talked recently. Here's what he had to say.

Kenneth Hill: How would you characterize the friendship between JFK and Lem Billings?

David Pitts: The way I would characterize it is that is was a very close, deep, friendship across sexual orientation lines.

Kenneth Hill: How did you first learn about it?

David Pitts: I first learned about the friendship from reading JFK books. I am such a Kennedy fan that I read most of the new JFK books that came out over the years. Lem was mentioned in some, but there was always very little information about him -- usually one or two pages -- and I just became curious about, well, who exactly is this guy? And that's how this book that I wrote came about.