This is a re-post. I was with President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in the ambulance after he was shot. I was on the grassy knoll when the shot was fired. I got that man arrested, yet there was no mention of him in the press. See the story below under ***This is that Story ***
I thought I’d talk a little about Jack Kennedy.
A short history of why and how I knew the Kennedys.
I was working in Hollywood at age 3 as Little Ricky in I Love Lucy. I started getting writing credits on the show almost every time I was on. I had a good insight, everyone thought. I was asked to help make Groucho Mark’s new show, You Bet Your Life, funnier. I met Groucho, who apologized for his foul mood caused by the news that his daughter had been denied entrance into their local beach club because she was Jewish. So I told Groucho to tell the press and we worked on two jokes because I said when you tell someone they’re doing something wrong, it’s good to use a joke so the medicine goes down easier. Groucho told the Press about his daughter’s plight, and added “Maybe she can go in up to her waist since she’s only half Jewish.” And he closed the meeting with, “I wouldn’t want to join a club that would have someone like me as a member.” It worked, and clubs country-wide became integrated.
News spread through Hollywood about me. Edward R. Murrow’s News Show was under fire during the McCarthy hearings. The News Show was threatened if they reported unfavorably about the political witch hunt. I was brought in to weigh in on what the show should do, and I thought aloud; “Don’t you have a responsibility to report the truth?” It was a simple answer to a difficult question. Someone there said I had writing skills, so I was asked to help the other writers and Mr. Murrow write what he told the American people about the Nazi tactics the government was using to derail careers in the name of Democracy.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy became the 35th President in Jan.1961. He was killed November 22, 1963. In that short time, he became one of this countries greatest Presidents.
In the fall of 1960, the Kennedys, who were opposed to Sen. McCarthy and his lying tactics, heard about me and they hired me to help Jack write his Inaugural Address. I suppose I was credited with what Murrow said on TV. (The Kennedy house looked a lot like the house in the old TV show, Bonanza. I pointed out the similarity, so Joe said he had had the house built for his large family and it was inspired by the Bonanza house.)
I want to point out that Joseph Kennedy Sr. was NOT a bootlegger. He was an importer who imported lots of different things from Europe. When Prohibition became law there was a loophole that didn’t include imported liquor, so Joe already had the connections to the European liquor exporters. Joe used all his savings and sold everything but his house, and gambled it all on imported booze. He was right, his plan worked and the Kennedys went from well off to filthy rich. I still read that Jack’s father was a bootlegger, though, and that bothers me. Everything he did was perfectly legal, and anyone who calls Joe a bootlegger is just jealous. Sour grapes.
Joe, Jack’s father sat next to Jack, who was at the head of the dining room table, and then an empty chair, then me. By this time I was eight years old. I could hear them wonder aloud how old I was, because I was about 4’11,” but I was under strict orders not to tell. If I ever messed up I was tortured, so I didn’t mess up often.
Joe and Jack had a small pile of notes and papers and Joe was saying things like, “You’ve got to say something about (this or that)” They had told me to speak up when I had something to add. I didn’t remember anything about the previous Inauguration, (I was four) , I never saw one on TV, so I had no idea how to help.
Bobby wandered in and introduced himself, listened in for a while, rubbed the back of his neck, turned slowly on his heel and walked back out. They’d been working on the speech for a week. I was the fifth writer they had tried, and all they had was a 5” pile of notes.
I put my head down on the table. It was night, I was abducted at night to work, because I went to 3rd grade at my local NJ public school during the day. I lived on 2 hours of sleep, even back then. I’d been listening, though, and when there was a break in their conversation, I helped to put the notes together in a way that made sense. I wanted him to say the things in the notes, but in a way that was good for his speaking cadence. I don’t think I had learned cursive yet, so Joseph Kennedy, Sr. wrote everything down. Jack had a chuckle about him sitting at the head of the table and his father was his secretary. A little more than half way down the notes I said, “And about here, I’d like to hear you say, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.’” I’m not trying to upstage President Kennedy, but I think that line and the speech in general, is what cemented our mutual admiration and friendship. I think of that phrase often. I think it’s more appropriate today than it was back then, and I encourage everyone to consider it.
I was called in for other consults, family functions and holidays throughout Jack’s Presidency. The Kennedy’s were a great family and I try to emulate them.
***This is that Story ***
In November 1963 I was around when Jack’s secretary went over his daily itinerary. (I had turned 11 in August) When she said Dallas, I got a vision of chaos. I told Jack something bad would happen. He laughed and said, “It’s nothing,” he talked about the trip, “So see, there’ll be no chaos.” The next day when his itinerary was read to him I saw the back of his head blow up, so I had to be more emphatic.
Jack’s solution was to take me on Air Force One with him because he had something to discuss. When we got on the plane, which is lovely by the way, someone told me to go upstairs. I explained Jack wanted to talk to me but I was shooed away by Security. What I didn’t know was some of his secret service men were in on the plan to kill him, and it was the thing he wanted to talk to me about that was the main reason for the shooting. I suppose if the secret service person had let me stay I would have been killed too, or it might have saved Jack. (I don’t like to play the what if/ if only game.)
Like I say elsewhere in this blog I was on the grassy knoll when I saw John Alexander and his rifle. I alerted the local police, but they were instructed to allow Alexander to stay.
I watched as the motorcade headed up to the knoll and I heard a shot from Alexanders gun. I immediately told the cop and asked him to feel Alexander’s gun because it should still be hot. When I felt that was under control I ran to find the quickest way down to where they had taken the Kennedy’s car. I jumped the 20 feet down and landed right in the middle of everything. Jack was being put on a gurney to be taken to the hospital. I started to get in with him because I could see Jacky was being taken elsewhere and no other Kennedy people were around. Someone said, “Oh, she’s okay. That’s his daughter, I’ve seen them together a lot.” So, without correcting him, I hopped into the back of the ambulance. Someone told me I couldn’t talk during the ride. I sat on the floor and put my hand on Jack’s ankle so he would know I was there.
Jack insisted he felt fine. His brain was exposed and was around his head on the gurney. It looked hopeless.
When we got to the hospital the attendants left us and I told Jack what his head looked like because he wanted to sit up.
He asked if I thought he would live and I said, “I don’t see how.”
He asked about Jackie and I said she was fine and I was sure she’d be around as soon as it was safe. He asked what happened. He told me to thank Jackie for him and to tell his family he loves them.
He said how weird it was that he was dying and he felt fine. He said he wasn’t worried, though, he said, “I told Lyndon about you, so if he was ever he was in trouble to ask you. You don’t mind, do you? Lyndon’s a good man, a lot of people don’t like him, but I do. You would help him even if you don’t like him?”
My head was swimming; I was trying to place Lyndon, and finally it clicked Johnson, and that he would be President when Jack died.
“Of course,” was all I could manage to get out.
“I wonder why this happened? Did you see anything in your dream about why I was killed?”
I shook my head, no.
“Maybe it was about what I wanted to talk to you about? Where were you during the flight? I looked for you.”
“Upstairs.” I answered.
“There’s an upstairs? I thought you might be hiding because of your premonition. You saw this? This is what you saw?”
“I wish I’d listened to you. I always listen to you. I do, you know. I should have listened. But everything will be alright, my family, this country because we have you. I want you to advise every President until you’re old enough to be President. I wish I could live long enough to see that.” He smiled at me. He perked up with a thought. “You were right you know? About the moon; that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
He had me there, my mind was all over the place, I couldn’t think past the immediacy of the ordeal: and my memory about the science stuff had been erased. Then, as if someone heard the shift in the conversation, it was suddenly urgent to get Jack inside the hospital.
I was shoved out of the ambulance. I was asked to wait outside. I sat down on a bench and Jackie came in and sat next to me. She said she was glad I was there, and asked how he looked. I said, “Not good.” I explained about how his head and brain looked, even so, when she went in she was horrified by the sight. They said some good-byes and a priest arrived to give Last Rites and they sent Jackie out of the room. I told her it was alright to stay when Last Rites are administered; but she cried and said she couldn’t bear it.