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A tale of two scandals: Political affairs in the sixties

By in Culture
Marilyn singing Happy birthday to JFK in 1962. | Supplied by flickr / Damanpreet Singh

Every Valentine’s Day, we are bombarded with pink hearts, romantic movies and cute couples celebrating their relationships. 

This is all fine and dandy for some people, but for some others who have experienced one too many heartbreaks — or none at all, can’t forget about our perpetually single ladies out there — this holiday is disenchanting, to say the least. 

If you’re a bit sick of all the romantic shit and kind of pessimistic about love, here are some scandalous affairs for you to enjoy along with Walmart’s discounted chocolates. 

From Russia, with love

Though Canada is known for being the sweet, innocent cousin from up North, those of us who actually live here know that this is far from the truth. As a very outspoken man once said, “corruption’s such an old song that we can sing along in harmony.”

Canada’s first political sex scandal was an affair, and it involved several ministers in John Diefenbaker’s cabinet. This was the event of the decade and what prompted Peter Newman, a Canadian journalist, to dub the Diefenbaker years as “one long champagne bash.” 

The scandal revolved around Gerda Munsinger, who was known to be an East German sex worker in Ottawa. Pierre Sévigny, the associate minister of national defence, was among the cabinet ministers that she was in an affair with. Oh, and get this — Munsinger was an alleged Soviet spy. 

Married to Corrine Kernan in 1946, Sévigny became popular because of his connections with Munsinger. Their relationship even went as far as Sévigny signing her Canadian citizenship applications. Munsinger had him under her perfectly manicured thumb. 

However, the honeymoon didn’t last. Do they ever? The RCMP informed Diefenbaker about the affair and later insisted Sévigny to end it. He complied and Munsinger left for Germany in 1961 — three years after their affair began. Poor Sévigny must’ve been heartbroken that his German — or possibly Russian? — lover had to say goodbye.

Sévigny resigned from his position in 1963, but his connections with Munsinger were revealed in March 1966 in the House of Commons. 

This was all kept from the public until Diefenbaker called out former Minister of Justice Lucien Cardin about failing to prosecute a Vancouver postal worker convicted of identity theft for the Russian authorities. 

Cardin rebutted by bringing up Munsinger, saying that Diefenbaker should check himself before speaking. Listen, I don’t know about you but can you imagine being in the room when someone calls out the prime minister of our country like that? I’d be on the floor. 

Fast forward, the news blew up, but no charges were laid. In fact, the inquiry said that Sévigny’s connections with Munsinger “might have exposed him to blackmail or undue pressure, and that not even his fine family background or outstanding war record could ensure he would not be subject to and yield to such pressure.”

This was almost like a movie plot where the spy tries to run away from her past but it keeps catching up to her. Except, you know, she fell in love and had no choice but to leave because her past is too dangerous and will follow her for eternity. Classic.

The saddest part though? In the midst of all the controversies on Sévigny, his wife, Corrine, remained loyal and married to him.

The  famous love conspiracy

Okay, so everyone has heard about Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy’s love affair in the ‘60s. Who doesn’t know about these two? The most desired woman and the most powerful man, it almost seems inevitable, don’t you think?

On May 19, 1962, 10 days before the president’s birthday, a fundraiser was held at the Madison Square Garden. Monroe was one of the guests for the event. She came out onto the stage wearing her famous nude­-coloured dress full of shimmering rhinestones. It was a breathless moment for the audience, looking at Monroe with awe as the dress gave an impression of her glowing and naked. 

Monroe then sang her famous sultry rendition of “Happy Birthday” to celebrate Kennedy’s special day. This performance stoked the fire on the rumours of an affair between the two. A journalist even described it as “making love to the president in the direct view of forty million Americans.” 

Can you imagine how into someone you have to be for the entire country to realize you’ve been banging just from you singing the birthday song?

After what happened, all that JFK had to say was that he could retire after being sung “Happy Birthday” in “such a sweet, wholesome way.” Okay, John. 

Although there was evidence of their strong acquaintance before, it was Monroe’s performance that solidified the rumoured affair. In fact, the only other time recorded of their meeting was two months before the event of the season at Bing Crosby’s home in Palm Springs, California. 

The story goes that Kennedy had a bad back and Monroe called up one of her close friends, Ralph Roberts, for advice on massaging. Turns out people have been using massages as an excuse to smash for years, apparently. 

According to Roberts, that night in March was the only time that she had an affair with JFK. Later on, another close friend of Monroe, Susan Strasberg, said in an unpublished memoir that the affair gave Monroe an addictive rush. 

“It was okay to sleep with a charismatic president,” Strasberg said. “Marilyn loved the secrecy and the drama of it, but Kennedy was not the kind of man she wanted to spend her life with, and she made that very clear.”

And that was all there was to it.

J.C. Balicanta Narag/ Copy Editor

Photo: Supplied by flickr / Damanpreet Singh

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