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By Lawrence J. Quirk
382 pages, $24

And now for the West Coast Kennedy saga; a saga that begins with Joe Kennedy's Hollywood plunge into women, film making, women, studio management and women in the 1920s.

The fascination between the Kennedys and Hollywood stars that has endured for three generations is described by Hollywood writer and editor Lawrence J. Quirk, nephew of James R. Quirk, onetime publisher of Photoplay magazine and a Joe Kennedy confidante.

Jimmy Quirk was the one who introduced Gloria Swanson to Joe Kennedy. Gloria was the biggest star at Paramount and Joe wanted the biggest.

Joe's studio manipulations and his manipulations of Gloria and her money lasted but a few years. Joe moved on to other stars like Constance Bennett, who later stole Gloria's husband, the Marquis de la Falaise.

Joe Kennedy's greatest claim to Hollywood fame was the arrangement for the leading producers and studio heads -- "pants pressers" he called them -- to attend a Harvard Business School seminar, which made him a big man in their eyes, despite the low-brow films he produced.

Thus Joe set the precedent for son Jack to steamroll his way along the West Coast, just as Jack did on the East Coast. The only difference is the names are better known.

Apparently Jack scored better than his father did. The ones who outran Joe's hot pursuits are the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich (she preferred the young Jack), Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo.

Jack's most serious involvement was with actress Gene Tierney, quoted by Quirk as saying, "No one really broke up our relationship . . . In truth ours was a sweet but short-lived romance."

Quirk devotes several chapters to the hapless and weak Kennedy brother-in-law Peter Lawford, known for his womanizing. Generally unknown was his liking of men.

His mother's jealousy of his film success sent her to Louis B. Mayer's office to report that her son was really gay. To protect his image, Peter begged lady-love Lana Turner to persuade Mayer that he was a great bed partner.

That he was a pimp for Jack Kennedy was a shameful truth for Peter Lawford to realize. It may have been in some way responsible for his faltering career that disintegrated into a pool of alcohol and drugs and two marriages after his divorce from Patricia Kennedy.

Lawford introduced his son Chris to cocaine and Jack Kennedy to Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Enter Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn and Jack carried on their affair for eight years, during her marriages to baseball idol Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller.

Author Quirk suggests that Joe Kennedy may well have offered Marilyn a $1 million payment -- that seems to be his favorite payoff number -- for her silence about her relationship with Jack, and it is a story many Kennedy insiders believe.

He says that Marilyn was tired of being just Jack's mistress, that she secretly had aborted his baby and did not like the way she was being treated by the Kennedys.

Did she also have an affair with Bobby Kennedy? Quirk, who wrote the biography "Robert Francis Kennedy," says, "When he was trying to calm her down just before her death and keep her from blabbing to the press about she and the president, he doubtless did what he thought would 'calm her down' and Marilyn cued him in on what would calm her . . ."

Quirk, who interviewed Marilyn countless times during her career, describes her as "not a very nice person. Far from rising above her sordid beginnings, she leaned on them, dragged them in as excuses for the varieties of misconduct she indulged in during her years of fame.

"She also tended to be monstrously self-pitying and self-dramatizing and regretably hypocritical about sex. Far from being exploited for her sex appeal, she deliberately exploited it."

In contrast, he regards Angie Dickinson as a lady for not making public her relationship with Jack Kennedy.

This differs from the account Christopher Andersen gives in "Jack and Jackie: Portrait of an American Marriage" when Jack slips away from Jackie at one of his inaugural balls to drop in on a party in the same hotel given by Frank Sinatra.

Angie was one of the guests. Andersen quotes her as saying of their coupling during the party that Jack Kennedy gave her the greatest seven minutes of her life.

Quirk's sympathies are mostly with John Kennedy Jr., whose mother's full knowledge of JFK's Hollywood affairs and associates embittered her to the point that although John displayed talent for the theater and wanted to pursue an acting career, she forbade him.

The alternative Jackie gave him was disinheritance. Quirk speculates that now that John is free of Jackie's domination, even at the advanced age of 36, he might well start an acting career that could, of course, lead to Hollywood.