Richard Nixon's best friend was a sharp dressing and charming Cuban-American businessman named Bebe Rebozo. Rebozo lived alone for much of his life in a well-decorated Key Biscayne home (Nixon eventually moved next door), once worked as a flight attendant, enjoyed show tunes, and after an early marriage that was, according to gossip, never consummated, finally married his lawyer's secretary later in life. It's actually sort of crazy that gay rumors about the pair haven't emerged until now.
But, now, former UPI reporter Don Fulsom is coming out with a new book, Nixon's Darkest Secrets: The Inside Story of America's Most Troubled President. So what was one of "Nixon's darkest secrets?" Apparently that there's circumstantial evidence he had a long-term gay affair with Rebozo. Sounds like a big, sparkly, rainbow-tinted secret to us, but Rebozo was suspected of having Mafia ties.
Rebozo owned Key Biscayne Bank. When it opened in 1964, Nixon, who had been introduced to Rebozo by the businessman's old high school classmate and Florida senator George Smathers, not only was the banks first depositor but held a gold shovel in a ceremonial groundbreaking. Of course, the bank is alleged to have been used to launder money for Mafiasos.
However, Rebozo's mafia connections and friendship with Nixon are nothing new. The apparent gay affair between the two is. Nixon spent much of his free time while president by Rebozo's side. He often visited Key Biscayne, that was when Rebozo wasn't flying up to Camp David.
Observers noticed their intimacy became most apparent when they were drunk. An aide recalled them playing a game called King of the Pool at Key Biscayne: 'It was late at night, the two men had been drinking. Nixon mounted a rubber raft in the pool while Rebozo tried to turn it over. Then, laughing and shouting, they'd change places.'
The President's closest colleagues complained at the way Rebozo monopolised Nixon's time. General Alexander Haig, his last chief of staff, is said to have imitated Rebozo's 'limp wrist' manner and joked that Rebozo and Nixon were lovers.
Though, Fulsom doesn't appear to have any smoking gun proving the affair.
While another Nixon biographer tells the Mail that Rebozo himself may had been gay, there's no evidence that he was intimate with the president.
A Life magazine cover story about Rebozo during Nixon's president says that at one point Rebozo was well known for making the scene with beautiful women in Miami. Then again, the same profile details Rebozo's impeccable sense of dress, his love of white suits (with lightened loafters to match?), the fact that he often picked out Nixon's clothing, and the pair's shared love of show tunes.
This isn't the first affair Nixon has been accused of. The National Enquirer once reported that the former president carried on an affair with a Chinese cocktail waitress named Marianna Liu. Rebozo was with Nixon when he first met her.
The two can also be heard checking up in a conversation from the infamous Nixon tapes.
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Rebozo tells Nixon of the response he's gotten in Miami to the president announcement of more bombings in Vietnam. Nixon, with a chuckle, asks Rebozo if any of the callers Rebozo had received had been women. Rebozo says one had called, but he wasn't sure who she was. Nixon retorts she must have gotten his number from a bathroom wall.
Nixon was known for making homophobic comments during his term in office, but in another excerpt from the Nixon tapes he once told his chief of staff, "I do not mind the homosexuality. I understand it."
So, how much did he really understand homosexuality? From personal experience perhaps? Or did the painfully socially awkward Quaker just happen to have a closeted best friend who got a little too touchy feely when he got drunk?