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Books: An hair apparent; ROBERT DALLEK John F. Kennedy - An Unfinished Life (Penguin, pounds 9.99).


SOMEDAY I intend to write a brief monograph on the historical impact of hairstyles.

Powerful men and their charismatic cuts is bound to beaChristmas best-seller. I've even got ideas for a title: Hirsuits You, Sir; Cream Of The Crop, or Right Hair, Right Now.

There'll be a chapter on the haircut that invented rock'n'roll - that oil slick slather that crowned the crown of Tony Curtis. Elvis Presley spotted it, loved it, copied it. Soon after, he evolved into a revolutionary force in the popular music biz.

Would he have made such an impact with a mullet?

I think not.

Then there are the menwho see the folly of follicles.

Captain Jean Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise baldly went where no shampoo had gone before.

But perhaps the haircut that had the most dramatic impact on the fate of a nation was the one sprouted by John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

This organism had a life of its own, surviving the death of its host body to leap cuckoo like onto the skulls of brothers Bobby and Teddy.

Last seen, it had made a home for itself atop the Munster-like bonce of John Kerry.

Bytheend of his failed bid for Presidency, it seemed to have sucked the former Senator dry of life.

The truth is that only one man was alpha maleenough for that bristling bush of brash youth - JFK himself.

However, in John F. Kennedy - An Unfinished Life we discover that America's most dynamic President wasn't as youthful and energetic as he at first appeared.

Kennedy suffered excruciating back pain.

Thebookcontainsmanyphotographs of the President on crutches.

These images weren't published during his tenure in the White House, a period when the media was more deferential to the country's leaders.

Kennedy wasn't the first President to have a disability air brushed out of existence.

During World War II, most Americans were unaware President Roosevelt was confined to a wheelchair.

With our blanket media coverage, keeping the public in ignorance is now unthinkable.

When Blair suffered a heart murmur, it was echoed by murmurs from the prying press.

The 1960s media was also less likely to investigate scandals in the corridors of power. There was the Profumo Affair, but that involved Russian spies, call girls and the security of the British nation.

Meanwhile, in America, Kennedy was portrayed as a happily married man.

In reality he acted like a Playboy Mansion in a double breasted suit.

When it came to skirts, he never skirted the issue.

So many previous books debunked the myth of Kennedy's Camelot that it's become almost a cliche to discuss Jack's liking for the ladies.

Unlike many recent volumes, Dallek is less critical of JFK.

Admitting Kennedy wasn't the Norman Rockwell poster boy portrayed at the time, he still manages to argue persuasively that he was a highly capable, dynamic leader.

The book isn't just about JF. The rest of the Kennedy clan are never far behind.

Jack's influential father, Joe, appears more fascinating than his son. A man who also enjoyed his fill of philandering, he was the power behind the throne, Camelot's midnight origins.

Dallek is scrupulously fair in his account of Joe.

Disappointingly so. There's little on his alleged bootlegging, or Hollywood battles with Howard Hughes.

In the end we're left with a balanced, if anodyne account of the life of America's most iconic family.

Perhaps there's no need to even read the words - the book's photos tell the story just as well.

On the inside sleeve, Jack sails with Jackie. Both stare boldly into the future. Now look at that smile. Look at those boyish blue eyes.

Butmost of all - unruffled andeverready - look at that hair.


POPULAR: the classic Kennedy look and with his Jackie; HERO: Kennedy in action during World war II and later on crutches with a bad back
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Nov 21, 2004
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