PETER LAWFORD by James Spada


The Man Who Kept the Secrets
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 Compared with 1988's The Peter Lawford Story, a shimmering tower of sleaze by Patricia Seaton Lawford and Ted Schwarz, Spada's Lawford bio is serious and respectful. Spada (Grace, 1987, etc.) shoots for the big time at 512 pages, does heavy research and strong fact-packaging. The outstanding section of the book, the middle hundred pages, covers the ties between Jack and Bobby Kennedy and the death of Marilyn Monroe and manages to assemble that now-familiar story with verve and freshness. The subplot throughout these pages is Kennedy- supporter Frank Sinatra's tie with top Mafia boss Sam Giancana, with Sinatra, JFK, and Giancana all sleeping with Judith Campbell, and JFK enlisting Giancana to blow away Fidel Castro, and then RFK as attorney general attacking organized crime, with Giancana asking buddy Sinatra to smooth it with RFK by having RFK's brother-in-law and Sinatra Rat Pack member Lawford speak to RFK or JFK. When Lawford fails and Sinatra's power wavers in Giancana's eyes, and then JFK reneges at staying at Sinatra's massively rebuilt Palm Springs house, Sinatra exiles Lawford from the Rat Pack--forever. All this is lively and gripping and shows fresh spadework, but no new dirt. Lawford, a child actor from Britain, struck it big at 20 with an MGM contract, had his greatest hit singing and dancing in the ever-enjoyable Good News. A fantastic ladies' man, he married into the Kennedy family via Pat Kennedy, became JFK's Hollywood go- between with Monroe. He never sobered up and even had coke delivered to him by helicopter at the Betty Ford Clinic. His lack of self-confidence was apparently a gift from his mother, who told him he wasn't good enough or strong enough to survive without her. Sympathy for a poor devil, once the gayest of blades.

Pub Date: June 17th, 1991
ISBN: 0-553-07185-8
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1991


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