John F. Kennedy takes a swim
In this video segment, Bill Beebe explains how he made the image of JFK. Included in PPAGLA 75th Photo Exhibit on the Queen Mary are over 20 minutes of video interviews with retired Los Angeles photographers. The exhibit runs to the end of May. Credit: David Fernandez/PPAGLA
Aug. 19, 1962: To cap off a 33-hour visit to Los Angeles, President Kennedy takes an impromptu dip at the beach in Santa Monica as throngs of admirers try to get close.
Kennedy was staying at the Santa Monica home of his brother-in-law actor Peter Lawford for his L.A. visit. At about 5 p.m., JFK emerged for a quick dip in the ocean.
The crowd of 300 followed.
As The Times reported, “Sunbathers were overwhelmed when Mr. Kennedy strode out of the canvas-draped fence … in blue boxer swim trunks.”
Scores of people followed him into the water — some were fully clothed, such as Los Angeles Times photographer Bill Beebe, who was dressed in a suit — and frolicked happily with the president for 20 minutes. Beebe stood in waist-deep water to snap pictures.
Recently Beebe shared some additional information on this image:
Less than an hour after I took that pix, Pierre Salinger, Kennedy’s chief information clerk, phoned The Times and tried to get the photo killed. Of course, he got nowhere with that request.
While the photo did not win the Pulitzer, which the paper had submitted for consideration, it won many other awards, including the American Airlines 1962 News Photo of the Year, which hangs on our dining room wall.
Some months later, a longtime friend, with his friend in tow, stopped by for a visit. His friend saw that plaque on the wall, in which the photo of Kennedy in the water returning from his swim is included.
In the photo is a woman pictured clinging to Kennedy’s left arm, The friend of my friend said: “My god. That’s my sister. She was visiting here from Canada.”
Bill Beebe was one of several retired photojournalists interviewed earlier this year for the Press Photographers Assn. of Greater Los Angeles 75th Anniversary photo exhibit. In a video segment below, Bill Beebe is interviewed about his Jack Kennedy photo.
Having spent nearly 20 years as a newspaper photographer, I cringed when Beebe reveals, in this video, that he accidentally opened the camera back before the film was completely re-wound. But the image was not ruined.
The image above is from a scan of the original negative at the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA.
Note: This image was originally posted last Sept. 10, but with all the new information, it deserved to be reposted.
May 13, 2011, 4:34 pm
I remember this well as was working that summer at the Jonathan Club at the beach only a short distance south of Lawford's home. We were raking the sand & saw a large number of people run up there but assumed it was a rescue by a life guard – didn't know until the next day when saw photos like this in the L.A. Times that it had been the President swimming in the ocean!
May 15, 2011, 2:43 pm
What a terrific photo! Almost like being there :-)
May 19, 2011, 12:40 am
[…] Jack Kennedy takes a swim – Framework – Photos and Video – Visual Storytelling fro…. […]
January 8, 2012, 4:27 pm
My mother is the lady in the polka-dot "bikini" and my 12 year old brother is just to her right. Her name is Eva Ban and she just turned 92 this year. At the time she was hounded about "knowing Jack" since they looked at each other with such familiarity. The Times did a story after, with her family, and clearing any rumors about her being a possible "girlfriend". She lives in Oakland, Ca., and be reached thru me, at my e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 26, 2012, 12:59 am
I was 12 years old and helping my Uncle who ran the Sorrento Beach Grill. I was in the water with the President and body surfing around the Secret Service agents. I was very close to him in the water. An indelible memory. I am so happy to see this photo. I've told my kids about that day. I was hoping I'd see myself in the photo! I wonder if any other images that were taken that afternoon survived and are available?
June 20, 2013, 5:14 pm
So I have this picture hanging in a hallway at my moms house, so when I saw it online I just had to make known that the woman which JFK is “locking eyes” with is my grandmother Eva Ban with my uncle Nathan hanging on her arm roughly shoulder height right behind her! So there you have it… Two more identities brought forth in this amazing photograph!!!
November 18, 2013, 8:23 am
A window to a happier time. A time when this country was filled with excitement, wonder and endless opportunities. It's unfortunate that country no longer exists.
November 19, 2013, 7:35 am
My father brought us to the beach that day because he had heard that JFK was staying at Lawford's house. I was 10. We saw the president sitting on the porch, on the other side of the cyclone fence surrounding the property. My father did not allow us to linger, out of deference to the president's privacy. We were just allowed a peak in our casual walk by the property.
February 28, 2014, 12:19 pm
Mr Beebe, you are a genius. So much going on in this frame although lets be honest the subject never took a bad one!
Does anyone know how I can get hold of a copy of this photo?
Thank you for the image it is truly memorable.
November 23, 2014, 6:59 pm
Wow a really unique picture.
The people really seemed to love him.
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