Soul Power

 

Soul Power

Period Drama, Two Hours

by Bijan C Bayne

LOGLINE: The night Dr. King is assassinated, a young city councilman negotiates against the clock with the mayor, police department, a TV station and James Brown, to broadcast Brown’s concert the next day as a means keeping the peace

TAG LINE: Can James Brown Save Boston?

It’s early April, 1968, and James Brown is coming to play the Boston Garden on Good Friday. Soul Brother Number One is at the peak of his powers, and the teenagers love him. They even listen to him- more than they do their own parents. It’s the hottest ticket in Roxbury, it’s all radio deejays talk about. On the eve of the show, as kids are copping new outfits, and scheming how to get or scalp tickets, Dr. King is assassinated. Unrest grips most Eastern cities. Boston grieves. But what about the show? And what about the streets? Boston’s Roxbury section had burning and looting two years earlier when police forcibly removed Black mothers from a protest in a housing department building. Distrust between Boston’s Black population and law enforcement was high.

A Black city councilperson named Tommie Atkins hatches an idea. Problem is he can’t make it happen alone. What if the show goes on, but is televised live, as a means of maybe keeping the peace? Ticket holding teens can still enjoy James, and tv viewers could be encouraged to stay inside. To pull this off, Atkins will need a tv station, and James’ approval. In Soul Power, as troubled teens wonder what will become of their city, and parents worry about their childrens’ safety, show or no show, for the first time, moviegoers will go behind the scenes at WGBH Boston, as Atkins negotiates with the public tv affiliate for air time, and tries to convince Brown, who had prepared for an arena show, to perform live before cameras. In addition, Brown has a contract to use video of the Boston Garden concert for an upcoming tv special for summer 1968. Atkins also has to win over Mayor Kevin White (who never heard of Brown). The mayor has to coordinate with his police department, because Garden security will have to be tight as a drum. What if 13,000 kids show up, leave the show excited, and still riot?

In Soul Power, unsure teens try to find a way to get to the Garden and avoid violence. The lead singer of a high school girls’ soul group, scheduled to open for Brown, challenges her worried mother and father. A boy panics as he tries to locate his date, who is to meet him at the show. The police have to keep Boston safe, and so do WILD’s disc jockeys. TV news broadcasts reports of unrest in 110 U.S. cities. The worst of the damage and death is in Washington, D.C., whose activists are begging James Brown to come calm local youth. In Philly, the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76’ers both hold team votes to decide whether to play the Eastern Finals the day after the assassination. For a generation, King had represented hope, the way only Brown does when King is dead.

Who really holds the cards- the mayor, the performer, the tv station or the fans?

And the principal parties struggle, minute by minute, to make it all work for James, the city, and the tv station. Soul Power tells us that when widespread violence is imminent, only certain heroes can broker the peace.

A true story that reveals an era.

CENTRAL CHARACTERS

James Brown, 35, Soul Brother No. 1, “Mr. Dynamite”, packs theaters and arenas from Coast to Coast, backed by a celebrated horn section, a taskmaster of a bandleader, an inspiration to everyone from youth to Viet Nam troops. He is at the height of his artistic & cultural powers when King is assassinated, and often sings about social ills, or staying in school.

Tommie Atkins, 29, Indiana U’s first Black president of the student body. Midwesterner. Master’s in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard, Harvard Law. Elected to Boston City Council in 1967. Chief negotiator between James Brown and Mayor White.

Mayor Kevin White, 40. Boston mayor for a year, elected same time as Atkins. Defeated Southie segregationist Louise Day Hicks in ’67 mayoral race. Married, raised in Jamaica Plain. Former Secretary of the Commonwealth of Mass. Actually lost to Hicks, who was a national media figure, in the ’67 primary. Has never heard of James Brown. Williams College, BC Law, young, vigorous, Democrat, Irish, defeated Ed Brooke for Commonwealth Secretary position. Popular in the city’s Italian and Black wards.

Hartford Gunn, Jr. 42. CEO of WGBH, oldest public tv station in U.S. Introduced children’s educational tv in U.S. Later became first president of PBS. Innovative Harvard Biz School grad.  Is pressuring Congress to fund a national network for educational and juvenile tv. Always trying to fundraise and pursue grants, partnerships. Born in a suburb of NYC.

Connie Haines, 17, high school senior. Church choir soprano at St. Mark’s in Roxbury, leader & founder of girl group the Satinettes at Jeremiah Burke High School. Huge, closely knit fam. Father is a butcher in a Blue Hill Ave deli, mom teaches school. Listens to rock, opera, gospel, but loves contemporary music. With what little free time she has, Connie dates Paul Merritt. The Satinettes are scheduled to open for James Brown  on Good Friday, April 5, 1968, their big break.

Paul Merritt, 18, high schooler about to graduate in June. Runs track, member of male social club The Exquisites. Free-spirited but not a follower. Average, disinterested student, has a much younger brother named Jonathan. Has been harrassed by Boston Police. Father retired Pullman Porter (the future Malcolm X was a sandwich boy on his train for about a month), mom is a housewife who attended nursing school. Has purchased concert tickets.

Walter “Buddy” Lowe, 40, popular deejay on WILD Radio 1090, respected in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan as much for his colorful patter as his community involvement. Blessed with a quick mind and great advertising connections. The coolest cat in town, trying to calm his young listeners on the most potentially volatile night in city history.

CONTACT: Bijan C. Bayne bijanc@hotmail.com

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR- Oil Slick: How A Presidential Assassination Saved The U.S. Stock Market

“This is as bizarre a saga as I’ve ever read… it’s so original.  It’s comedy and drama…”- Wil Haygood, Author of the newspaper article which was adapted as the movie The Butler, and award winning biographer of Sammy Davis, Jr., Rev. Adam Clayton Powell & Sugar Ray Robinson

” …this is such a fab story that falls under the category ‘you can not make this —- up!'”- Glenn Marcus, PBS filmmaker & Emmy nominee

“Great story!”- Brad Snyder, law professor, and author of A Well Paid Slave, the biography of Curt Flood

I’m Bijan C. Bayne, the author of Oil Slick, the story of the greatest con artist in history, Anthony De Angelis. The topic is a swindle, news of which broke on Nov. 19, 1963, and had JFK not been assassinated, would have caused a U.S. stock market crash (and ruined American Express, among other companies). Tino De Angelis, then 48, in an effort to corner the salad oil futures market, scammed brokerage houses and banks out of $175 million (about $ 2 billion in 2020 money). He owed one firm $46.5 million, so a judge set his bail at $46.5 million, the highest in U.S. history. Tino had no lavish belongings or assets, no car or home in his name, paid his staff $20,000 a year in 1963, and had previously conned programs such as the government’s Food For Peace program, which was headed by Senator Walter Mondale. He was the Michaelangelo of swindlers.

The book examines how it was the greed of the lenders and brokers, which made them so susceptible to Tino. When the market dropped before Kennedy was murdered, an astute young investor named Warren Buffet purchased five percent of the depleted American Express Company, which paved the way for his eventual billionaire status and market expertise. Such was the gravity of the salad oil deception, that many brokers and traders assumed the bold letters “BULLETIN” or “NEWS FLASH” on their teletype machines the afternoon of Friday. November 22, 1963, augured news that brokerage houses had declared bankruptcy as an emergency measure. Of course, they learned the president had been shot.
In 1964, TIME magazine said that Tino made “Ponzi look like a piker”. The offices of Tino’s company Allied, were housed in a Bayonne building where Ponzi once had offices. Tino was Jimmy Hoffa’s cell neighbor at Lewisburg State Prison for seven years. He founded the prison’s first NAACP chapter. He established the first Toastmasters chapter inside a U.S. federal prison. He lost 70 pounds, and became the institution’s handball champion two years running (at the time of his arrest he was 5’3″, 250 with heart trouble). He started a penitentiary branch of the Kiwanis Club. Upon his release, Tino became a public speaker regarding prison conditions. By 1975 he has masterminded yet another scam- this one involving midwestern beef and pork.
The book will chronicle De Angelis’ development as a swindler from his boyhood, his quirks such as philanthropy to cycling teams, the impact on Wall Street then and now, and how the murder of a president afforded the NYSE time to right the ship. I will also detail how the scandal, which involved empty or water filled tanks which lenders assumed were filled with tons of salad or soybean oil, and thus loaned money against the supply- is essentially just a scaled version of small time street cons concerning fake “pimps” taking money from marks after leading them to abandoned buildings the marks assumed were bordellos. Oil Sick is a wild ride, a ticking time bomb of a scandal that was on the verge of triggering a stock market crash- until JFK was killed.
Bijan C. Bayne 202-577-6967 bijanc@hotmail.com
Twitter @bijancbayne
Oil Slick is also being developed as a screenplay

OIL SLICK: Notes From A Screenplay (and upcoming book)

SUPER

The word scam derives from the French “escamote”, which was a magician’s ball. When the mark watched the magician shift the hidden ball, his “escamoteur”, or accomplice would “escamoter”- or steal away with the mark’s purse. Think about that the next time someone tells you to “keep your eye on the ball”

ANTHONY DE ANGELIS is 48, roly poly, wears ill-fitting suits purchased off the rack- a man looking to be overlooked. A mastermind with a whiny voice, who is never far away from his heart medicine.

INT- ALLIED OFFICES- DAY

(Tino makes a persuasive phone call from his office for Haupt Company to trade for him on the New York Stock Exchange. After the call, he takes most of his STAFF of 22, to steak dinner in a FINE MANHATTAN RESTAURANT

TINO

You all know I hate fancy restaurants, ’cause when I’m in them I’m always tryin’ to impress a buyer. But all of you know the best thing about Allied isn’t this joint- it’s you guys”

(the Allied staffers toast, stand, and applaud a choked up Tino- as DINERS’ heads turn in their direction)

TINO

Tino is giving you all $1,000 bonuses

(the group erupts in applause, infused with some teary eyes)

EXT- MANHATTAN STREET- DAY

(Tino’s ALLIED STAFFERS on shopping sprees, some of the women in groups of two or three, in Tiffany’s, Macy’s, Van Cleef & Arpel’s, Bergdorf Godman’s, Saks Fifth Avenue. STORE CLERKS and CABBIES pack their boxes either in YELLOW TAXIS, or the trunks of Tino’s employee’s CADILLACS. A MALE SALES CLERK brings Tino’s ‘social hostess’. LILLIAN PASCARELLI five pearl gray silk ties. She nods her approval.

INT- DOCTORS OFFICE- DAY

(Tino undergoes his annual physical, dressed in sleeveless undershirt and enormous, striped boxers and socks. MALE PHYSICIAN, early fifties clings to clipboard

PHYSICIAN

It’s important you try to avoid fried foods.

(Tino drops his head)

Try to avoid highly stressful situations. For your age, your heart is alarmingly weak. You think you can cut your schedule, and lose maybe thirty pounds?

TINO

Don’t see how. I have a big trader with me, and I got a bunch of new opportunities overseas. Everybody’s depending on Tino.

DOCTOR

If you don’t make some major changes, you’ll be dead within a year

NEW YORK CITY- MONTAGE

(LILLIAN PASCARELLI, dripping in mink, entertains the WIVES OF FOREIGN BUYERS- Polish, Egyptian, Spanish, in lavish New York hotel SUITED AND PENTHOUSES with panoramic views, posh nightclubs like the Copacabana, Broadway plays, and live tv show audiences. Tino escorts THEIR HUSBANDS to BAYONNE to see the REFINERY TANKS, and HIS OFFICE to sign contracts for tens of millions of dollars)

INT- ALLIED OFFICES

Tino meets with an AGRICULTURE OFFICIAL from the Spanish government in his office, and the buyer explains to Tino why Spain rejected 14,000 tons of fish oil, cottonseed oil and coconut oil they were shipped instead of salad oil, and 13,000 tons the official says was contaminated. Tino fumes, threatens to tell the FBI that his deal was sabotaged by the Spanish Catholic society Opus Dei, who he says is biased toward a rival commodities company in Chicago. He dials the FBI in front of the client, though the phone is really answered by Tino’s cousin who sold the contract. Tino barks conspiracy theories into the phone, before kicking the Spaniard out of his office.

INT- NEW YORK CITY BANK- DAY

(At a MANHATTAN BANK, ALLIED MESSENGER picks up a cashier’s check for $1 million, and delivers it to officials at an Allied lender called Bunge. In exchange, he gets Allied oil receipts back. At BUNGE, a guy named JAMES CATERINA in their financial department. When the check is handed off to Caterina for depositing, he leaves his office and meets up with the messenger in the men’s to give the check right back to him. Tino has an inside man! The messenger races back to the issuing BANK and cancels the check)

EXT- PHONE BOOTH- EVENING

(A guy named TAYLOR, rugged early thirties, who identifies himself as an Allied night shift employee, calls American Express, telling their warehouse department they’ve fallen victim to a hoax. He demands $5,000 from AmEx, and says Allied’s Bayonne tanks have a concealed device below the sampling hole inspectors use, which can be dropped by a weight to the level where there is either a thin layer of salad oil coating water, or all water. CUT TO AMERICAN EXPRESS’ CEO, who is skeptical of these claims, especially because of the bribe, but orders a surprise inspection of Bayonne)

EXT- CONSTABLE HOOK TANK YARDS, BAYONNE, N.J- DAY

The inspections at Bayonne, BANK OFFICIALS, ALLIED STAFF in tow, Tino’s COUSIN LOUIS who handles the AmEx account, Tino following. Tino boasts he singlehandedly helped all the AmEx Warehouse department branch managers “…meet those crazy sales quotas they had, and then some!”. When the group reaches a partially full or empty tank, an unseen employee uses underground valves to transfer “oil” into that tank from another. At the end of the inspections, the AmEx reps tell Tino they will send their collected samples to Allied’s chief chemist. Handshakes all around. Tino and Louis bid the reps goodbye.

INT- AMERICAN EXPRESS WAREHOUSING- DAY

(Tino visits American Express with Lillian, she bearing a bouquet of flowers for their RECEPTIONIST. Tino tells Lillian he’ll meet with a manager by himself. Tino is accompanied by a SECRETARY to an office, where she assures him the chief warehousing manager will soon be in. “Yeah, I know,” Tino winks, “Guys got a tv in somebody’s office watchin’ the World Series”
The secretary says, “I’m sure he’ll be back when the commercials come on”, and exits. Tino pokes around the office, checks around the door once. On the desk he sees a pad of blank warehouse receipts. He places the pad in his inside breast pocket.

INT- ALLIED- DAY

A New York Stock Exchange Authority investigator surprises Tino with an office visit, demanding to see his books. Tino tells the investigator why he declared bankruptcy “The Department of Agriculture had everybody thinking foreign grain sales would be up the rest of the year. You saw the reports! This is how our business runs. The government spooked everybody last week when those damned senators blocked the wheat sale to Russia. These clowns have no idea what they’re doing. Guy like me, no lobbyist, no political contacts- where does that leave me?! Nobody can cover these margins. Chicago screwed me again.” Tino leaves the investigator in an accounting office with the ledgers. Tino walks to a storage room, and turns the thermostat down from 70 degrees to 64.
On the Exchange floor, Tino’s brokers wait for the afternoon buy order phone calls. The phones sit silent, the Allied brokers shake their heads. On the big board, futures prices drop. An Allied broker curses. “The wife and I already spent the Christmas bonus we won’t be getting now. Trip to Miami. Jesus!”

Tino’s office, Tino, Joe Lomuscio, and cousin Louis. Joe tells Tino “Heaven is a place where the police are Brits, the chefs are Italian, the car mechanics are German, the prostitutes are French, and the bankers are Swiss. You gotta disappear some cash. How much can you get your hands on?”

TINO

Jeez Joe I dunno- half a mil?

JOE

Move it

INT- NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE HEADQUARTERS- DAY

LEGEND- 11:15 A.M.- TUESDAY NOVEMBER 19

JOHN WYDEN, 56, the New York Stock Exchange specialist handling all the sell orders in American Express stock stands by A BANK OF YELLOW TELEPHONES on the trading floor, holding a black “limit order book”.
Phones ring at a panicked pace, as Wyden answers call after call after call of sell orders of AmEx because of Tino’s scam. He pops Certs breath mints like peanuts.

INT- OVAL OFFICE- DAY

9:31 a.m. Wednesday, November 20, 1963

President Kennedy’ secretary EVELYN LINCOLN’s phone RINGS

SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY DOUGLAS DILLION (O.S.):

The president please

MISS LINCOLN

Connecting

SECRETARY DILLON

Mr. President

PRESIDENT KENNEDY

Doug, how’d the wheat hearing go?

SECRETARY DILLON (O.S.)

An honest mess. The senators don’t understand this could add $300 million in foreign exports. The only way Russia can afford it, is to sell gold on the London bullion market. We pick up a pretty good share of that. But the farm states are the most anti-Communist.

INT- OVAL OFFICE

President Kennedy’s WALL CALENDAR has the word “TEXAS” marked across NOVEMBER 21-23

PRESIDENT KENNEDY

Can we sell it as a one shot operation, a benefit to farmers who have surpluses?

SECRETARY DILLON

That’s what Hubert is pushing.

PRESIDENT KENNEDY

Well keep pushing.

SECRETARY DILLON

We’ll do our best. Leaving for Japan at midnight

PRESIDENT KENNEDY

Yes- you’re off to Japan- and I’ve got to go to Texas.

​DILLON LAUGHTER O.C.

PRESIDENT KENNEDY

God I wish we could change places!

INT- HAUPT & CO. BROKERAGE HOUSE- EVENING

6:30 in the evening in late November 1963, managing partner Mort Kamerman of Haupt & Co. leaving the office for the day, dons topcoat. Passes a conference room, sees a group of subordinates working late – talking excitedly. Kamerman ducks into the room. A Haupt man is on the phone with Tino. Commodities man tells Kamerman “He’s on the phone with our biggest customer.” Tino (V.O.- shouting) “You’re putting me out of business and yourself out of business too” A Haupt partner is on another phone trying to find someone who would buy huge quantities of soybean oil in a hurry. Still others are rifling worriedly through the firm’s books, crunching numbers. Kamerman sits down, hangs his coat, then his jacket over a chair. CUT TO- next morning, Kamerman surrounded by staffers, all looking sleepless. The commodities manager tells him Haupt is insolvent – obligated for some $18.6 million of debts incurred by De Angelis, who told them he is bankrupt.

10) SUPER- FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 1963-

Wall Street brokerage houses in panic, clerks and runners scurrying on floor, traders yelling into furied, brief phone calls. American Express plummeting. Bank of America way down. Rumors that more brokerage houses will be suspended from the floor, traders on phones telling their clients how to react- fast. Buzzing that the Securities And Exchange Commission might get involved. Tino, Lillian Pascarelli, and cousin Louis huddled by his desk in Tino’s Bronx home. New radio is playing. At Merrill, Lynch’s office, a young research trainee leans against his company newswire, a bulky teletype machine. The machine spits out the letters “F”- “L”- “A”, “S”, “H”. Its bell rings four times. The trainee perks up, as do his young co-workers. “I bet another brokerage house went bankrupt in this salad oil mess” he says, they all nod. They crowd the machine. Deliberately, it spells out, letter by letter, the words: “UPI REPORTS KENNEDY SERIOUSLY WOUNDED. PERHAPS FATALLY BY ASSASSIN WHO SHOT AT HIS MOTORCADE IN DALLAS”

​In the De Angelis home, New York news radio has a bulletin about the supposed shooting. Lillian rushes to turn on the floor model tv. The three of them watch the tv bulletin, until Tino leaves the room, pads to the bathroom, and takes his heart pills from the medicine cabinet, gulps two, and washes them down. He waddles to his closet. Every suit hanging there is gray. Every necktie on his shelf is pearl gray. Tino rifles through the suit jackets in frustration. Throws his arms up in resignation as more assassination updates are heard from the tv in the next room. Tino turns away. Lillian is standing a few feet behind him, a black suit draped over her forearms, and a black necktie across a shoulder.

EXT- NEW YORK CITY-DAY

Footage of New Yorkers on Manhattan streets, shocked by news of the assassination, some crying, some gathered by stores that have tv’s in their display windows, other by car radio’s or listening to pedestrians’ transistor radio. Footage of an NBC reporter asking people within a crowd on the street their reaction to the news, including a white teen and a Negro schoolgirl, who says, on the verge of tears, clearly in shock, “I just don’t know what to do”. Back at the Exchange, the clock shows 2:07 p.m., when a PA system announcer states that trading has been suspended for the day, and because it is a Friday, the week.

Jersey US Attorney’s office, U.S. Attorney DAVID SATZ, late thirties, meeting with two even younger assistant AG’s. Photo of President Kennedy, and degrees from Harvard and Penn on his wooden office wall. One of the assistant attorneys general says to Satz: “I don’t get it. This little putz in gray glasses, gray suits, gray ties- hell- even the tanks are gray- why is he hiding money? He lives with his mother-in-law. He drives an old car. Why is he so greedy?”

SATZ

Because he can get away with it. He’s been addicted to fraud since he was twenty. The bigger the con, the bigger his high.

OTHER ASSISTANT AG

So nothing will stop him?

SATZ

Arrests haven’t. Money hasn’t. Fear of getting caught hasn’t. His only challenge is his previous scams.

AG NUMBER ONE

How do you get to a person like that?

SATZ

I’m going for contempt

Assistant AG’s look at each other cluelessly

SATZ

De Angelis filed for bankruptcy- but he’s got a bundle stashed in Swiss banks.

INT- OUR LADY OF VICTORY CHURCH- NEW YORK CITY FINANCIAL DISTRICT- SAME DAY

INT- CONFESSIONAL BOOTH

Tino folded inside booth kneeling. A couple beats. SNIFFLING SOUND. Tino is composed, silent. SOBBING NOISE. It is coming from the other side of the booth.

TINO

Father

PRIEST: (struggling through sadness)

Yes

TINO

I- don’t know how to say this because I’m not sure what it is

PRIEST

None of us knows the Lord’s mysterious way. We can pray for the pre-, the president’s family and for our nation.

TINO

I, it…

PRIEST

Hail Mary, moth-

TINO

​This is gonna sound- I have to say it. The mystery of life, death- something has been going on. It’s been going on for a long time, and I could’ve done something to stop it- a long time ago. For a long time, there was nothing I could do. Now, because of something that is horrible for- millions of people, I’ve been given a small chance. Time. I’ve been, the country has been given a little time.

PRIEST

This hateful act, we all feel some share of the blame

TINO

Most people will never know, but I have to figure out why I’ve been saved from causing the stock market to crash. It’s still a mystery, but some time was bought.

Tino walks out of the booth.

EXT- NYSE HEADQUARTERS- NEXT DAY- FLAG OVERHEAD FLIES AT HALF STAFF

INT- NYSE HEADQUARTERS- DAY

Exchange president KENNETH FUNSTON, his officers, Haupt management, a bunch of attorneys powwow- how to make Haupt’s clients whole, how to avoid an ocean of lawsuits the coming Tuesday when the Market opens, how much is owned national and foreign banks? The Exchange holds a vote- it will take from its own reserves to reimburse Haupt account holders. Haupt will be permanently suspended from trading. FUNSTON tells them all to go home to their families, but call him if they need anything or think of anything new- and that they can all only hope that the European banks, especially London’s, will accept the solution their creditors will be restored when Tino’s probably hidden millions are discovered. “But they don’t have to”, says Funston.

NEW YORK CITY- Christmas week 1963. Department stores decorated, marionettes in Macy’s windows, watched by pedestrians and children. Caroling music. Inside a midtown hotel, Tino holds a press conference. He blames the government for his recent frenzied buying of futures contracts, which he says caused “…the carrying charges of which were enormous and resulted in irreparable injury to the company.”. A reporter asks if Tino was trying to juice the market with the frantic purchasing, and he says the Department Of Agriculture gave everyone the indication that European sales would be brisk in 1964.

TINO

I do right by my people. With fifty of my boys, at least, I was engaged in seeing that they were settled in a solid way in New Jersey communities.
(Amid a cacophony of questions and flashing camera bulbs, a perspiring Tino closes the presser

TINO

Merry Christmas everybody

TINO AT A COURT hearing with Lillian. U.S. attorneys’ table piled with hotels bills, phone bills, bank deposit slips, flight information, pay phone records, bank statements, photos, tax returns and American Express receipts. On easels, large photographs of the Bayonne tanks, and diagrams of the secret oil transfer valves.

TINO

I wanted to do one thing in life – make a success. Even as a little kid, I partook very little of the gay life. The nuns at Cardinal Hayes told me and my parents I’d never be anything.

Stephen King & Norman Mailer Convinced Me Oswald Acted Alone: Lone Nuts Are Tough To Swallow

 

 
Stephen King and The New RFK Assassination “Evidence”: Why Lone Nuts Are Tough To Swallow
 

by Bijan C. Bayne

President Kennedy, whose mother lived into her nineties, and sister Eunice to be 88, would have been 95 years old May 29. The recent Secret Service scandal, recalls memories of agents partying hard into the Fort Worth night on the eve of JFK’s assassination:

http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/Secret-Service-also-Partied-before-Kennedy-Assassination-148338385.html

This examination of the past and present behavior of those charged with protecting the lives of our presidents, comes on the heels of Stephen King’s bestseller 11/22/63, a novel in which time travel is interwoven with the JFK assassination. As conspiracy theories rank, the assassination of RFK has never been one about which Americans have asked a stream of questions. It was never the subject for a Congressional subcommittee, as Sirhan Sirhan isn’t exact central casting’s idea of a hired hit man. Dr. Martin Schorr, a psychologist for the defense in Sirhan’s murder trial, testified that his subject was a paranoiac schizophrenic. Whether or not Sirhan’s lawyer can prove he participated in a conspiracy, it is interesting to observe that after several years devoted to researching 11/22/63, suspense master King concludes (don’t read any further if you’re still waiting to read the novel) that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. In that belief, King joins the late Norman Mailer, who arrived at the same conclusion after writing the 828 page historical novel Oswald’s Tale in 1995. What led two of America’s most successful purveyors of fiction, whose living depends on character development, to decide Oswald was not a pawn of the New Orleans Cosa Nostra, the CIA, pro-Castro Cubans, the KGB, or any combination thereof? Upon careful character examination, both scribes determined that Oswald’s motives were more personal than political.

The Scales of History

Why do so many of us need to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was part of a plot? In 1967, based on years of tireless research, historian William Manchester published the controversial bestseller The Death of a President– a minute-by-minute account of the actions and movements of hundreds of individuals associated with JFK, Oswald, and Jack Ruby from hours before the assassination, through the funeral that stopped America. Like Mailer and King decades later, Manchester had to “live with Oswald” for a few years, to collect material for his 710 page opus. Manchester syposized our national need to find the nefarious wizard behind the Oswald curtain:

 

“If you put the murder of the president of the United States at one end of the scale, and you put that waif Oswald on the other end, it just doesn’t balance,” he said. “And you want to put something on Oswald’s side to make it balance. A conspiracy would do that beautifully. Unfortunately, there is no evidence whatever of that.”
Before he placed Oswald under the microscope, Norman Mailer penned a 1979 bestseller about Utah mass murderer Gary Gilmore, The Executioner’s Song. That work followed in the footsteps of the original novel of crime non-fiction, Truman Capote’s masterful In Cold Blood (1966). Mailer based his thesis that Oswald acted alone, on the alleged assassin’s loyalty “to himself and his own ideas”, coupled with his delusional sense that he had the “makings of a great leader.” Mailer also expressed serious doubts that anyone would select Oswald as a contract killer. In 11/22/63, King travels through time for 849 pages, beginning in late 1950’s Maine. Like Manchester and Mailer, he visited Dallas to familiarize himself with Oswald’s haunts and tracks. Many things have changed since the Dallas of Manchester’s time- Dealey Plaza, the assassination site, is no longer the city’s downtown center. Traffic doesn’t even travel in the direction of the fateful parade route. But one thing has not changed, and all three authors learned it. Oswald killed JFK because of some deep rooted personality issues that transcended either’s political preferences. Lee Harvey Oswald was, in 1960’s parlance a “shmuck” (some men over 35 would use the term “punk”, kids of our generation would label him a loser).
Not every novelist who chased the elusive Oswald, came away with the belief he was a lone nut. In 1988’s Libra, Dom DeLillo went the conspiarcy route, based on his sense of the history of the era. James Ellroy cited Libra as the inspiration for his own American Tabloid, in which the JFK assassination is but one in a series of historical events. Both authors also preferred the tangled web as a fictional device. Historian Manchester, and tale weavers Mailer and King, followed Occam’s razor http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam’s_razor, which states that the least complex hypothesis is the most likely. For decades I disagreed. After reading 11/22/63, I’m sold.

It didn’t take 800 pages for Stephen King to convince me that Oswald was a violent man in failed marriage. I already suspected his main fault with capitalism was that it wasn’t working in his favor. Anecdotal evidence that he admired JFK, begs the question, why would Oswald like Kennedy? Kennedy was everything Oswald was not, a charsimatic war hero at the top of the world. Kennedy’s wife was encouraged to speak foreign languages in public and abroad, Oswald forbade his Russian wife Marina from learning English. The most compelling aspect of King’s historical portrait of Oswald deals with his subject’s sense of himself. Oswald’s achilles heel was his feeling that he was smarter than his fellow Marines, wife, co-workers, and employment supervisors. The autodidact who left school after eight grade, and apparently taught himself conversational (some accounts say fluent) Russian, was stuck in a series of dead end jobs. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. A 24-year old man eeking out a living ordering and checking textbooks, can become frustrated when he has little outlet for his study of Marxist-Leninism. For a veteran who has lived in Japan and the then-Soviet Union, and attended dinner parties where his command of the Russian language, and musings on geopolitics, amused educated guests of every stripe from a Quaker activist to a White Russian petroleum geologist, stock boy work alongside black men with high school and business school diplomas, and even more military experience, could not have been fulfilling. Self taught types often feel such menial labor is beneath them. Had Oswald been born black instead of white in 1939, his disenchantment with society may have led him to join the Nation of Islam, where he would have laid fault for his lack of status, on “white devils”. In such an organization, his bitterness could have been manipulated, as it was in the case of the Muslims who assassinated Malcolm X. As it was, Oswald tired of his wife asking why he couldn’t earn enough income for them to afford better housing for their growing little family, and the modern household appliances the other dinner party guests considered standard. After all, they could have stayed in Minsk if it all they were going to do was scrape by. This was one subject of their many domestic disputes. That didn’t make the Oswald’s unique among young couples.

There are some indisputable facts about Oswald. His palm and fingerprints were found on a discarded high powered rifle left in a workroom six stories above the Kennedy motorcade route. The same weapon was traced, after the JFK assassination, to the attempted murder of extreme right wing Major General Edwin Walker in Dallas the previous April- a crime local police had no leads on until the day the president was killed. In another instance, Marina Oswald had to lock Lee in a closet to prevent him from going into town to kill 1960 GOP presidential candidate Richard Nixon. Walker, Nixon and JFK have nothing in common politically. While stationed in the USSR, Oswald aslo attempted suicide in a hotel bathtub. The man who learned to speak Russian, but never learned to drive an car to make life easier for his wife and babies in spacious Fort Worth and Dallas, never fit in. Oswald also had an archetypal domineering mother, and a more successful big brother, often a volatile combination. In the workplace, he was antisocial, surly, and distracted by his plots to kill figures such as Nixon and Kennedy. His most notable accomplishment from working in a special effects photo lab, was learning to make fake I.D. badges, and teaching Marina to take a backyard picture of himself holding what became the Kennedy murder weapon. No organized crime figure, Cuban exile, or intelligence officer would have hired Oswald to put a hit on a U.S. president. Even his getaway was unprofessional, featuring city buses and taxicabs, shooting an inquisitive police patrolman in cold blood, and ducking into a downtown movie theatre without paying for a ticket. If Oswald was an innocent pawn, why did he kill Patrolman J.D. Tippit? It was an act of cowardice, similar to shooting JFK from a hidden perch.

The intent here is not to paint Lee Oswald as some Olbermanesque “Worst Person Ever”, on the level of a Hitler or Gaddafi. He lacked both the charisma and swagger to govern millions. And questions do linger regarding the assassination of JFK, I am still uncertain why so many motorcade spectators and law enforcement officials immediately sprinted toward the railroad yard behind the Texas School Book Depository immediately after shots rang out. Did the acoustics of Dealey Plaza play tricks with sound and echo? Did eyewitnesses mistake rail car smoke for gunsmoke? And having visited the Book Depository, now the site of The Sixth Floor Museum, and peered onto the intersection of Houston and Elm where Camelot ended (or began), I wonder why the sniper waited until the presidential limousine was a little forward and to the right in his sights, and did not fire when the Lincoln convertible was slowly approaching the corner. Perhaps Oswald could not bring himself to shoot the president face on. Why did Oswald insist he was a patsy if he acted alone? He lied- the evidence is on the murder weapon, and in his actions after the shooting. Why did Jack Ruby shoot Oswald? There was more than one self-important, violent soul in Dallas, whose elevator didn’t go all the way to the top. A few of Kennedy’s advisors told him to avoid the city where only a month eariler, a man spat upon U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, and a woman struck Stevenson with a protest sign. But obligation to mend Democratic party divisions in a key campaign state, and fate combined to bring the young president into the path of a sniper. We have made too much of Lee Harvey Oswald’s handing out “Fair Play For Cuba” leaflets in downtown New Orleans, his underworld cousin “Dutz” Murret, a bookie for the Marcello crime syndicate, and his brief pronouncements of innocence and against “police brutality”, and too little of his hatred. In an effort to balance the scales of history, we have not sufficiently weighed his inflated sense of self, which evens the JFK equation once and for all.

Advance Praise For ‘BLACKOUT’

“Brilliant fiction debut. A fascinating page turner that demands to be read in one sitting.”
-Kyle Keiderling, author of 5 books including, Olympic Collision: The Story of Mary Decker and Zola Budd

“…absolutely awesome”- Dr. Jeffrey Guterman, Author, Mastering The Art Of Solution-Focused Counseling

“Bijan Bayne is a superb writer, but this time around it appears as if he’s about to take us on a mind-numbing journey. Blackout looks fascinating”.- Scott Russell, Author, Joey -An Extraordinary Life & A Dream Fulfilled , and author of the forthcoming novel Prophet’s End

Excerpt From My Upcoming Novel “BLACKOUT”

FROM CHAPTER ONE:

When Jeppsen coordinates his missions, he tries to think like the director of counterintelligence, so his reports will meet with sanction. “The Gray Ghost” is a Yale man, where he had founded the literary publication Furioso, and befriended e.e. Cummings and Ezra Pound. Jeppsen had heard that in the 1950’s, the chief had led missions that were successful removing documents from foreign embassies, so he could see why getting Kilgallen’s notes was so important. The old guys say “The Gray Ghost” was so expert at opening targets’ mail, he called himself “The Postmaster”. He had dirt on some of Washington’s most powerful people, and through the press, those in New York and Hollywood. He was in charge of the company’s work with both the FBI and the Mafia. A few years back, he had lived to brief Dulles about his “fishing expeditions”, news from monitored hotel rooms in Washington, secret photographs, gossip at ritzy dinner parties. Jeppsen knows how to convince the old man he was on the right track.

ALSO FROM CHAPTER ONE:

…Kilgallen was only four years older than JFK, and had known of him for decades before his murder. In the 1940’s, Jack Kennedy worked as correspondent for the Chicago Herald-American, a Hearst newspaper in the same chain as her New York Journal-American, and even wrote for the Journal in 1945 at the end of the war (as Lieutenant John F. Kennedy). She viewed him as not just another politician like, say Harry Truman or FDR, but a man who wrote books and appreciated culture. Dorothy never thought Kennedy was perfect. In 1962, she implied that actress Marilyn Monroe was having an affair with a highly placed government official, meaning JFK. But she didn’t judge men that way.

Dorothy is not alone on the What’s My Line panel in her admiration of Kennedy. Like Dorothy, host John Daly is Irish. Boston-born, he is a product of the Tilton School, an institution similar to the Choate of JFK’s youth.

Arlene Francis is also a Bostonian. Dorothy is envious that Arlene, an actress of Armenian origin married to playwright Martin Gabel, was considered the glamorous panelist. As for humorist Bennet Cerf, head of Random House Books, Kennedy’s quick wit distinguished him from other national leaders. Kennedy had embodied the style, class, and show business aura shared by the stars of What’s My Line. He was one of their own. So was his fashionable, Manhattan raised wife Jackie. With their love of the arts, and their youthful appearances, the Kennedy’s were good for America. That goodness died in Dallas.

Cerf finds Kilgallen’s interest in the assassination more professional than political, because Dorothy had been a Hearst newspaperwoman, which made her a rather conservative Catholic. He feels her adulterous lifestyle in conflict with that. But his only real objection about Dorothy, is that the private dressing room conversation of the panelists found its way into her column. Once, John Daly learned newsman Mike Wallace was scheduled to be the mystery guest. Daly had publicly criticized Wallace when the former interviewed mobster Mickey Cohen, and ABC made Daly retract his comments. Daly threatened to skip hosting that week, but Wallace cancelled. Dorothy wrote about it in The Voice of Broadway. Things like that fostered distrust between her and her co-panelists. So they watched what they said, and even did, in her presence. Daly didn’t speak to Dorothy, except on the stage, for six months after the Wallace incident.

The Kennedy’s were a cottage industry for entertainers and publishers. Their images graced the covers of magazines, record albums, coloring books, the family was satirized in plays and on tv skits, and their faces, and news of them, from their touch football games to their sailing, sold comic books, postcards, movie magazines, toys, games and paintings. Retailers stocked as much First Family paraphernalia as they could order and keep on shelves. Beauty salons were deluged with requests for Jackie hairdos. Women purchased pillbox hats and monochrome suits. Men, following the tousled president’s lead, discarded their custom for wearing hats. For Dorothy, the pursuit of the truth in the Kennedy murder investigation was combination of personal commitment and the scoop of the century. When legal minds such as Mark Lane and Jim Garrison agreed with her the Warren Report seemed like a whitewash, it only spurred her on. It amused Jeppsen that she even enlisted her bumbling, boozing husband Dick Kollmar.

The Kilgallen’s live between Madison and Park, in a building with a first floor façade in Georgian stone, its upper four floors also brick- with three parallel windows facing East 68th. Dorothy works and sleeps in a room on the fifth floor she calls “the Cloop.” It is her sanctuary, and she does not permit anyone else to be around her there. It has chartreuse carpeting, flowered wallpaper, and embroidered organdie curtains tied back with taffeta bows.

From the Lennox Hill command center across the street, Jeppsen and Reid observed that late one night, with the lights on in the brownstone town house at 45 East 68th, Kollmar positioned himself, broomstick in hand, leaning out of one of their fifth-floor corner windows. Kilgallen went outside to East 68th Street…

FROM CHAPTER TWO:

Jeppsen graduated sixth in his class. His first salary was a little over $5,000 a year in 1961. He moved to an apartment at 1500 Arlington Boulevard outside of Washington. A trainee had a couple options after graduation. One could go to Jungle Warfare School in the Panama Canal Zone, or directly to one’s first station, which for most of them, at least stateside, was for the Directorate of Plans, in temporary World War Two buildings on Ohio Drive near the Potomac River. In no hurry to join his colleagues in “covert collections”, writing reports all day at a desk, Jeppsen enrolled in the jungle school. It didn’t matter that most of what he learned there, would be of no use in the field. In his room, as he stared at the covers of his briefing materials, his mind traveled back to being dropped from a plane in the middle of a Panamanian jungle with little more than a knife. The jungle was quite real, this was no “farm”. The object was to find one’s way out. Calling on his sense of direction, his memory of the flight above the terrain, sounds of animals, and eventually, a stream, Jeppsen made it out on a sweltering morning after a night he had tried, without much luck, to sleep as far from water, mosquitoes, and trees (couldn’t see the monkeys and snakes) as possible. Days earlier, he listened to accounts of men who never found their way out, who had to be found. Jeppsen had put those out of his mind as soon as he heard them. They came up again after he was safe, but over cold beers, they sounded more interesting.
In 1961, in those old buildings on Ohio Drive, new agents attended more classes. The work conditions were horrible. On the walls in the back of the classrooms, signs read “Pause For The Planes”, because there was no use talking when the jets to and from nearby National Airport flew by. That wasn’t all. At his desk, Jeppsen could see the ground underneath the floor, which had chafed apart in places. They had all seen the artist’s rendering of the headquarters being built out in Langley, Virginia, secreted in the woods. No one was happier to start working there than Jeppsen, not even the old OSS guys. Since almost all them were veterans, they were used to barracks and spartan surroundings. And they lived in lovely Washington homes, or worked in interesting foreign stations.

But in those meager buildings, Jeppsen and his colleagues had sat riveted, as details of the Bay of Pigs invasion were shared by instructors. A shiver shot up his neck with the memory of their first hearing that troops had landed in Cuba, and the class broke out in applause. Later that week, they heard the worst, and were promised an analytical evaluation of the action by a “Baron”.

Excerpt From Bijan C. Bayne’s Upcoming Novel “Blackout”

FROM CHAPTER ONE:

For the termination, the Technical Services Staff of the CIA, run by Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, can recommend any number of drugs which could be discreetly and fatally slipped into the food or drink of a target. Jeppsen made a note to himself to acquire a recommendation, complete with pro’s, con’s, time of effect, and suggested means of administering. Though the notes were more important than anything, it is more difficult to stage a suicide than a murder. Because of that, Jeppsen needed a patsy, a probable suspect close to the target. That person would have to be followed, photographed, their routine movements reported, by a radio team alternating shifts. That team would help decide, based on the patsy’s routine, when and how to carry out the operation. Murder and magic shared diversion in common.

Jeppsen could work with a cut-out, a contractor, usually ex-FBI, former CIA or both, who specialized in carrying out the company’s domestic sabotage and liquidations. The most skilled of these highly paid men often gather at the home of the head of a contract company, at his Sleepy Hollow, Virginia home, to watch Notre Dame football games on Saturdays, and enjoy barbecues and clambakes. Jeppsen had heard several of them were Catholics, and old FBI buddies. The company calls their work “extraordinary rendition”. Jeppsen hated to use a cut-out for Operation Blackout, because that clique padded their expenses to support their split-level suburban homes, and their colorful Corvettes or Mustangs. He was just as good as they were. He’d have to think about the disadvantages. One immediately comes to mind. They would tell him how to do his job. Oh, and this is a national security matter. They would know too much.

FROM CHAPTER TWO:

Howard Rothberg picked her up one night in mid-August, after what he understood, from Dorothy, was “some kind of meeting.” She was toting a heavy sheath of papers inside the cover of the LIFE magazine issue that featured Lee Harvey Oswald on the cover, hefting the Mannlicher-Carcano with which he was alleged to have shot the President. Howard relieved her of the package as they left his car and headed toward a restaurant. “What are all these papers?” Howard asked.

She said matter-of-factly: “Oh, it’s just the Warren Commission Report.” That’s Dorothy. For her, the fantastic is routine, and the routine- the shows, the stars, the renown- would be fantastic to most anyone else.

FROM CHAPTER FOUR:

Kennedy inherited that pile of cinders. Initially Kennedy, a former employee of the Office of Naval Intelligence, was enraptured by the CIA, its impressive gadgets, code names and romantic secrecy. Kennedy was a fan of Ian Fleming’s 007 novels, it was his readership that catapulted the thrillers to best seller status in the States. The Bay of Pigs fiasco of 1961, and the faulty intelligence the CIA had provided him regarding its chances of success in overthrowing Castro, soured him on Dulles’ shop. He came to wish he had appointed his brother Bobby to a CIA post rather than as Attorney General, and confided to a staffer he would like to “splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” After The Bay of Pigs debacle, Kennedy fired Dulles, his Deputy Director Richard Bissell, and their cohort Charles Cabell. Air Force General Charles Cabell was a Dallas native, grandson of a Confederate general. His brother Earle was mayor of Dallas.

On June 28, 1961, Kennedy issued National Security Act Memoranda 55 and 57, placing CIA covert military authority back under the auspices of the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs. Finally, he drastically cut the agency’s budgets in both 1962 and 1963. Had he lived to serve out a second term, their funding would have been cut by 20 percent next year. What America did not know, was before Dulles was dismissed, he planned Operation Northwoods, in which innocent citizens would be shot on U.S. streets, planes hijacked, boats carrying Cuban refugees sunk, and bombs exploded from New York City to Miami, all to set pretense for a preemptive nuclear strike on the Soviet Union in late 1963. Dulles was gone by late 1963, and Kennedy was dead. The day of his murder, CIA Director John McCone visited Bobby Kennedy in McLean, Va. Bobby asked him if the agency had killed his brother.

John Kennedy had known Allen Dulles since 1954. When the freshman senator was in Palm Beach recovering from back surgery, his neighbors Charles and Jayne Wrightsman were hosting Dulles in their swank Spanish style estate. Wrightsman is an oil man, his wife a former swimsuit model 26 years his junior. Jayne is an art collector, who supervised Jackie Kennedy’s renovation of the White House. But as president, Kennedy came to view Dulles and his brother, the former Secretary of State, as men whom time had passed by, and whose views on U.S policy in Asia and Africa actually fed into Russian hands. Kennedy had first visited Vietnam as a congressman in 1951, had learned from diplomats and other French expatriates how scholarly and well respected former Boston student Ho Chi Minh was, and was told the French would never win there, nor would Minh concede. On the Senate floor in 1954, the year Kennedy first met Dulles, he called President Eisenhower’s support of the French war a poor use of money, “dangerously futile and self-destructive.” In late November of 1961, Dulles was fired, and presented with the National Security Medal by JFK at a ceremony in the company’s glossy new headquarters. Dulles had invited the heads of G.E., Ford, DuPont, Coca-Cola, G.M., Chase Manhattan, U.S. Steel, Standard Oil, IBM, CBS, and Time-Life to the proceedings.

Kennedy asked his confidant Arthur Schlesinger, Jr to put together a report about how to best re-organize the CIA. Schlesinger confirmed to Kennedy he was the man for the job, having worked for the OSS, and consulted the CIA. Schlesinger was still attending the same Washington dinner parties as CIA men Cord Meyer and Richard Helms.

The CIA ran a front known as the Congress for Cultural Freedom. Through generous company funding, this operation helped shape American opinion and taste. Funding went to arts projects, literary and political magazines like Encounter and Paris Review, and other humanities endeavors. It was through this shadow venture that Arthur Schlesinger, George Plimpton, Mark Rothko, Mary McCarthy, Robert Lowell, Isaiah Berlin and others came to influence our culture. Now the president was asking Schlesinger’s advice on dismantling the CIA. The scholar recommended the agency report all plans to a Joint Intelligence Board made up of White House and State Department staff. He also wrote the CIA should be split into two organizations, one covert, the other responsible for collection and analysis. Hearing this, Bobby Kennedy, told his brother they should hold off on such drastic changes until Dulles’ successor could be named.

“Blackout” Novel Excerpt by Bijan C. Bayne

FROM CHAPTER ONE:

The men had nicknamed him “The Gray Ghost”. He began the meeting without prelude or pretense. “Our mission is two-fold. Acquisition of potentially damaging information, and termination of its source. Each of your folders contains background information pertinent to your role. To execute this assignment, you may enlist, pending our approval and clearance, any individuals you deem fit or an asset. Approval of said individuals as contacts will be based upon our analysis of their profiles, which you will submit as contact reports.”

FROM CHAPTER TWO:

Crawford nodded once more. She had been in Dallas for an American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages convention on November 22, 1963. Kennedy’s people had invited her to hear him speak at the Trade Mart- a speech he never made. They also invited Dick Nixon. JFK’s 1960 opponent, like Crawford, lived in New York. He was a partner in Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie, Alexander, & Mitchell, where Nixon’s friend Donald Kendall, president of Pepsi, was a client. Like Crawford, Nixon stayed at the Baker Hotel in Dallas.

FROM CHAPTER FOUR:

After the CIA helped overthrow President Arbenz of Guatemala in 1954, who had won 65 percent of his nation’s vote, Ike wanted to fire Dulles. But their relationship changed when Eisenhower began to see how the country’s economy and intelligence systems were connected. At Burning Tree Country Club in Bethesda, the president played golf with the leaders of Coca-Cola, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, and Young & Rubicom, a big Madison Avenue concern. The more he was around these men, the more he appreciated that the U.S. business interests abroad were dependent on stable foreign governments, international trade, valuable information these executives brought from their travels, and public confidence about their industries. To preserve these enterprises, he needed Dulles.