John Edwards' Socialite Sugar Mama Has A Crush

A close friend of Bunny Mellon, the 100-year-old heiress who funded John Edwards' mistress coverup, says of Mellon's motive, "I think her view is that he's a cute guy and he's allowed to fool around if he likes. The life she's led was all about that kind of thing." That kind of thing, apparently, being a strict code of secrecy (or "privacy") that just so happens to usually benefit powerful men.

Mellon herself tells Newsweek, "You know that John had a hard time with Elizabeth." Presumably she didn't approve of Elizabeth Edwards' memoir calling her husband to task. Her Newsweek interview this week is only the third one ever, and the first to discuss Edwards; according to the second interview, published last year in Vanity Fair and mostly concerned with Mellon's gardening, "her first and last bona fide interview appeared in The New York Times in 1969." At the time she said she and her husband Paul were "tired of reading in the press all sorts of wrong things about the way we live."

Paul himself wrote in his memoir that privacy is "the most valuable asset that money can buy." Conveniently, he spent most of the marriage cheating on her, quite openly. According to a friend, Bunny had "long since given up being upset." There is no mention of her having affairs; instead, she had warm friendships with younger men and with Jackie Kennedy, who knew a thing or two about philandering husbands, and threw herself into entertaining and gardening. (She designed the White House rose garden and the East Wing garden.)

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Her aesthetic work involved a similar form of deception passed off as good taste: the illusion of effortlessness. (Only the common folk sweat). Of course, it took a lot of work to keep up, just like the spectre of a happy marriage took a lot of money and effort. According to Vanity Fair,

Stories of the lengths to which Mellon went to achieve her sublime simplicity have become almost legendary. She would have apples boiling constantly in the kitchen to fill the house with the smell of the farm; trompe l'oeil shadows would be painted on the floor, to make it appear sun was always streaming through.

On the campaign, according to Andrew Young's tell-all memoir of Edwards, "Bunny Money" would come hidden in boxes of chocolates Mellon would first send to her friend, a North Carolina decorator. (Mellon is not accused of any illegal behavior; it's Edwards' use of the money that's under fire.) In all, $725,000 would fund payments to Young and Hunter that kept the affair and the existence of a child under wraps for awhile.

Her grandson believes that Mellon was taken in by a charismatic rake, that she's a batty old lady with a crush. Per Newsweek:

"I wish I could have 10 minutes in a room with John Edwards to explain that he's doing nothing but tarnish her legacy and really taking advantage of her," says Thomas Lloyd, her grandson, who testified before the grand jury. His view of his grandmother's relationship with Edwards? "It's a crush." The 35-year-old Lloyd, a Washington investment adviser, adds, "As I explained to the jury, imagine a very handsome man who is well liked and respected, and there are two women vying for his affections."

Is the handsome man Edwards, or is that a metaphor for Mellon herself? Unclear. But Mellon's lawyer Alex Forger, tells Newsweek: "She was not enamored of his wife and didn't want his wife to know that he was getting money." It was only natural, it seemed, for Mellon to work to keep that from her for the sake of appearances.

Still, Mellon had some rebellion against the men in her life in her yet. Despite being of the imperial class, she referred to the Bush administration as exerting an "imperial rule," and according to Young, she told Edwards that her actions would have made her Republican husband "roll over in his grave."

The Secret Keeper [Newsweek]
Related: Bunny Mellon's Secret Garden [VF]