Roxanne Roberts's front-page article "Alsop's Fabled Georgetown" [Aug. 2] perpetuates its share of fables. She writes that when President Kennedy called at Joe Alsop's house on the evening following his inauguration, "he perhaps -- according to several memoirs of the time -- [enjoyed] a brief liaison with one of the young women present that night." And later she cites "rumors, reported in some accounts of the era, that Alsop and perhaps others opened their homes for presidential assignations." Perhaps?
I write as one who knew Joe Alsop reasonably well, had the more-than-occasional benefit of his personal reminiscences and wrote a book about him. The insinuations are novel to me; and I wonder what "memoirs" and "accounts" lend credence to this shady picture of Joe playing Pandar to John F. Kennedy's Troilus. Rumors of this kind cry out for documentation, but I would suggest that no such documentation will be found, for the simple reason that no such pandering occurred.
It is notoriously difficult to prove historical negatives, but it happens that I have a clear recollection of what Joe Alsop told me about the events of that evening. He said that as the new president was descending the front steps of his house, at the end of the visit, he noticed a beautiful woman in tears, apparently weeping as she watched him depart because she would no longer be able to consort with him. I am certain that, given Joe's delight in naughty tales, he would have added, if it were fact, that the new president and the woman in question had slipped off somewhere for a quickie. I know of no evidence of any kind that he ever lent his house (where, let us recall, his wife, stepson and stepdaughter were living at the time) for "assignations." The suggestion is outrageous.
I challenge Roberts and other mythologizers of the life of Joe Alsop to produce probative evidence of Joe's role as Pandar. Journalism is journalism; but those of us in the trade (as Joe liked to call it) surely owe some obligation to avoid salacious rumors and to distinguish fact from fiction.
-- Edwin M. Yoder Jr.