Queens Gal Remembers JFK Assassination

Queens Gal Remembers JFK Assassination

On Friday, November 22nd, 1963, disbelief coursed through my body, as did shock, confusion, and a deep well of sorrow. I was a kid who, until this moment, knew nothing scarier than Abbott and Costello meets Frankenstein or the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz, whose freakishly-painted flesh made my own skin crawl.

I was of a generation raised by parents whose wartime experiences were still fresh, and who now craved better lives for their children. Entering an era of peace and prosperity, we were raised on Madison Avenue icons like Tony the Tiger and Elsie the Cow. Salisbury Steak TV Dinners were our go-to meal and Saturday matinees included a cartoon and a double feature. Jerry Lewis and Doris Day films were the best and all day long, AM radio played songs like, “Shake, Rattle and Roll” and Continue reading

And I Quote–Again

Fourth in a Very Infrequent Series:

I’ve packed my bags, I’ve watered the plants, and I’ve asked a friend to check my mail. Henry has made his way to his country estate (aka, my friend, Trisha’s house which boasts a BIG BACKYARD), where he’s sure to have a nice respite from Oliver and his tail-chasing antics.

As for Oliver, he will be attended to by his guardian (aka, my son’s girlfriend).

So, you know what this means. Yep, my son and I are headed out for a spell.

After all, it’s not everyday my youngest graduates from college. And, since she was able to score some tickets to the graduation ceremony—which, if you ask me, were about as hard to get as tickets to see Justin Bieber in concert (not that I’m in the market to see Bieber, mind you)—I figured the least we can do is show up.

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So, while I’m away, I thought I’d leave you with some pithy quotes to mull over (along with some cute shots of Oliver and Henry!).  And yes. There will be a test when I return! 😉

From the World of TV:

“Growing old is not a leper colony where an unfortunate few are sent to die. It is a precious gift given only to some lucky human beings.” — Dick Van Dyke, in his autobiography.

“It’s good to have an open mind, but not so much that your brains fall out.”

–The second wife, Nicolette, to the first wife, Barbara, in the finale of the HBO series, Big Love.

From Scandal–the enthralling series that lives up to its namehere’s a snippet of dialogue about whether to move the injured President Fitzpatrick Grant to Camp David.

First Lady Melly Grant:  Moving him to Camp David will make him look weak.

Chief of Staff Cyrus Beene:  He’s unconscious. He is weak.

“Mary is who you wish you were, Rhoda is who you probably are and Phyllis is who you’re afraid you’ll become.” -Valerie Harper, reflecting on beloved characters from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.IMG_1646

From Seinfeld, Part 2 of “The Trip,” in which Kramer relocates to LA, to pursue a career in acting.

Kramer: Things are going pretty well for me here. I met a girl.

Jerry:  Kramer, she was murdered!

Kramer: Yeah, but I wasn’t looking for a long-term relationship. I was on TV.

George:  As a suspect in a serial killing.

Kramer: Okay, yeah. You guys have to put a negative spin on everything.

From the World of Blogging (Because sometimes bloggers say the darndest things.)

IMG_1602“Regardless of what brings you to a blank page, remember to write from your heart and with passion. Write with integrity. Write honestly. Write with reckless abandonment. Write without expectation. Write with conviction, and sincerity. Write originally. Write what you know and then some. Write with spice. Write with love. Write from your heart. Write with discipline. Write for one reader. Write without filters. Write to a lost lover. Write with all of your senses. Write as if you were dying. Write as if you are making love for the first time. Write as if you are staring down the barrel of a gun. Write without doubt. Write without an editor on your shoulder. Write as if there is a camera on your shoulder. Write without compromise. Write what you feel.” – Brenda Moguez, Passionate Pursuits.

“We could have Pop-Tarts and cupcakes every day. We’d eat so many that our little babies would have sprinkles for dimples and icing for hair.” –  Thoughts Appear

“It is bad enough losing your voice but don’t get stuck wearing an anger muzzle.” From Paws to Talk

“I can have a father from the mafia, but not live myself, dismembered in some bipolar underworld.  I can be a sane, whole, and liberated lesbian.” – Kathryn,  Reinventing the Event Horizon

“Fly, fly on my butterfly.

My prayer is that

The spider’s web

Never intersects your flight.

Fly, fly on my butterfly.

I wish you sweet daffodils and golden buttercups

For endless days of flight.”

–Carl D’Agostino, I Know I Made You Smile

“He was so startled and overwhelmed by the feeling, my eyes filled with tears too.  And from that moment on, a powerful new identity took over my sweet, funny, loving husband.  He was now Daddy.”Lisa W. Rosenberg’s tribute to her husband on Father’s Day

And One More, which will give you food for thought:

“What kind of peace do we seek, enforced in the world by American weapons of war? Let us reexamine our attitude toward the Soviet Union, to realize the extent of the gulf between us. And, if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future and we are all mortal.“  — President John F. Kennedy

So, how about you? Heard anything in the blogosphere or on TV that bears repeating?

Mrs. Kennedy and Mr. Hill

There are certain moments in your life that are forever seared on your psyche. Like September 11th. Even now, you can see these recollections clearly, recalling the emotions you were feeling at the time.

For my generation, such a memory will always be JFK in Dallas on November 22, 1963, played over and over again in a loop that starts out the same, but just once, you wish the ending could turn out differently.

I was in grade school that day, having spent the three years prior in a family that revered all things Kennedy. Growing up in a Roman Catholic family, albeit Latino, not Irish, we felt as if the Kennedy’s were our kindred spirits. Caroline was about my age and I loved watching her and John-John play in the Oval Office, hiding under their father’s desk, smiling coyly for the camera.  And, my family could be entertained for hours, gathered around the Hi-Fi, listening to Vaughn Meader’s The First Family, a best-selling comedy album that parodied the Kennedy Family, yet was retired by most and taken off the market after the assassination.

I recently had the opportunity to attend an author event for the newly-released memoir, Mrs. Kennedy and Me.  The book, written by Clint Hill, one of two Secret Service agents assigned to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s detail, as well as award-winning journalist, Lisa McCubbin, chronicles the four years Mr. Hill spent with Mrs. Kennedy, beginning just before President Kennedy’s inauguration.

Looking around at the 100 or so people in attendance, I could tell I wasn’t the only one in the room who remembered where they were when JFK was assassinated.  As Mr. Hill spoke, we hung on every word. We were children again, reliving the memories of our youth, gathered around someone even closer to the events than the proximity we claimed as eyewitnesses to the events that unfolded on TV.

Here’s some of what I learned during his hour-long, captivating talk:

Prior to protecting Mrs. Kennedy, Mr. Hill was assigned to President Eisenhower. He expected that his next assignment would be protecting President Kennedy, and was profoundly disappointed when he learned he’d be assigned to the First Lady.

Clint Hill shares his stories of his years with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

He spent the holidays leading up to the inauguration of 1961, in Palm Beach, Florida with the Kennedy family and planned to return to Washington, in time for the inauguration. However, the president elect asked Mr. Hill to stay behind with Caroline, who was just three at the time, too young to attend her father’s inauguration. Mr. Hill had no choice but to watch it on TV, and though he tried to explain to Caroline what was going on, she wasn’t interested, preferring instead to play with her paper dolls.

During an unofficial trip to Greece with the First Lady, JFK made it clear that under no circumstances was Mrs. Kennedy to cross paths with Aristotle Onassis. Apparently, the president didn’t want any photographs of the two of them to end up in the press, as Onassis was having some trouble with the US government at the time.

During a vacation, in early 1963, Mr. Hill was working round the clock. When he finally got a chance to return to his hotel room for much-needed sleep, Mrs. Kennedy called him and asked him to return because her sister’s husband, Prince Radziwill, wanted to go on a 50-mile hike. Mr. Hill had to delay his nap and go along, despite not having the appropriate clothing for hiking in, and only his dress shoes to wear.

In the summer of 1963, Mrs. Kennedy gave birth five weeks early to a boy, Patrick. He had to be put in an incubator, and died soon after. In order to help her recover from the loss, that October, Mrs. Kennedy joined her sister, Lee and some close friends for a stay in Greece aboard a private yacht belonging to, you guessed it, Onassis. This time, they did meet.

Mrs. Kennedy returned from the trip ready to help her husband with his re-election campaign. On the morning of the assassination, they breakfasted in Ft. Worth. Then, got ready for the motorcade in Dallas.  You know what happened there.

Through the course of the evening, Mr. Hill shared his stories and anecdotes with candor and love for Mrs. Kennedy. As he got closer to talking about THE date, you could feel the pulses in the room quicken. Nobody said a word. We listened intently, barely blinking, and soon I was overcome with a sense of dread and overwhelming sorrow.

Secret Service agent Clint Hill climbs onto the back of the President’s limo.

Mr. Hill described in great detail the events as he recalled them. How he was the only secret service agent whose vantage point allowed him to see the president slump over after the first shot. How he jumped out of the car he was in and climbed onto the back of the limo the Kennedy’s were riding in. How he could immediately see the gravity of the injury and how his only thought was to use his body to shield the Kennedy’s from further harm. How Mrs. Kennedy had blood on her gloves and suit. How the shots rang out, one after another. He didn’t even notice that the Texas governor had also been hit.

Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin during the book signing.

That, when they arranged for a coffin to transport the president back to Washington, no one anticipated it would be too wide to fit through the door of Air Force One. So the handles had to be removed.  How, he had little time to sleep during the ensuing days, and how he still agonizes over the guilt of not being able to do more.

And how he never returned to Dallas until 1991 when he entered the Texas School Book Depository building for the first time and was able to see how easy it was for a lone gunman to shoot to kill.

And when he finished speaking, a woman in the audience, with tears welling in her eyes,  much like the rest of us, stood up and asked,

“Mr. Hill, did you realize that the whole country shut down for those four days?”

He paused for a moment, trying to compose himself. Then said, “No, I didn’t know.”

In that moment, not a sound was heard. Just one collective memory and one shared sorrow. As if we were all in it together. And, maybe, we were.

And I Quote: On Tributes & Loss

Among my collection of quotes are a few that pay tribute to some of the people who have had special meaning for me. People who have touched my life–and, perhaps, yours, as well–and who have contributed significantly through their art and passion.

We embraced them, we were inspired by them. Their lights flickered on this earth for a brief moment in time, giving us strength, joy and love, through their music, their writings, their creativity and their vibrant spirits. These are people I admire, who enriched our lives, and who are now no longer with us.

Nobody could do scat like Ella, the "First Lady of Song."

Each persevered through life, sometimes at great odds, sometimes facing challenges and incomprehensible tragedy on the world stage. We witnessed one, as a little boy, salute his father for the last time; another lose her life in a fiery crash. One had a voice like melted honey, and made a new form of jazz all her own, though no matter how great her gift, she still had to enter through the backdoor to some of the clubs where she would perform. Two couldn’t cope with their incredible talent for writing poetry and prose, and the state of their mental health made it impossible for them to go on. And, one will always remind me of my parents, and how they’d play his records on the Hi-Fi, over and over.

And, though they’re all gone, they always will be here, in our hearts and minds, still bringing us joy, every time we pick up a book, play one of their songs, and remember their inner grace and beauty. These quotes are eloquent, expressive remembrances, and worthy of the subject being revered:

On Frank Sinatra:

“But it was the deep blueness of Frank’s voice that affected me the most, and while his music became synonymous with black tie, good life, the best booze, women sophistication, his blues voice was always the sound of hard luck and men late at night with the last $10 in their pockets trying to figure a way out. On behalf of all New Jersey, Frank, I want to say, ‘Hail brother, you sang out our soul.’”  – Bruce Springsteen

 

On Ella Fitzgerald:

Where (Billie) Holiday and Frank Sinatra lived out the dramas they sang about, Miss Fitzgerald, viewing them from afar, seemed to understand and forgive all. Her apparent equanimity and her clear pronunciation, which transcended race, ethnicity, class and age, made her a voice of profound reassurance and hope. – Stephen Holden, New York Times 1996

On Sylvia Plath:

“You were transfigured

So slender and new and naked

A nodding spray of wet lilac

You shook, you sobbed with joy, you were ocean depth

Brimming with God.”

–      Ted Hughes’ poem to Sylvia Plath (to whom he was married), from Birthday Letters

Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Anne Sexton.

On Anne Sexton:

“Suddenly my childhood nightmare had a name and a date. It was reality—not just some wolf under the bed…

“…I looked for a plain box but there was none. This room was full of Cadillac’s, each model padded like a baby’s bassinet, swathed in silks and satins, each displayed on its own pedestal and with its own price tag discreetly tucked under the bedding. Astonishingly beautiful with their wood of burnished mahogany, the caskets aroused in me the first sadness to rise above the shock of disbelief: my mother’s body would lie, cold and final, here.”

– Both quotes are from Linda Gray Sexton, on learning of her mother’s death, in her heartfelt, beautifully-written memoir, Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton

On John F. Kennedy, Jr.:

“His moral compass directed him to an honorable, charitable life. He kept his bearings despite the tragedies he experienced. It is profoundly sad that he is gone. His heart was as big as his mind, and with the deaths of John, Carolyn and Lauren Bessette, our optimism died a little, too. God bless you in heaven. – Glamour magazine, October 1999

On Diana, the People’s Princess: (Check out my post comparing myself to her: The Princess and the Gal from Queens)

“I stand before you today the representative of a family in grief, in a country in mourning, before a world in shock. We are all united not only in our desire to pay our respects to Diana but in our need to do so.” – From eulogy delivered by Earl Charles Spencer, Diana’s brother September 1997

And one more–

On Charles Dickens: (For those of you who missed my interview, 200-Year-Old Man Gives Dickens of an Interview)

“His death, in many ways, also marked the end of the Victorian age, although Queen Victoria would rule for many years to come. For when readers look back on that era today, it is not England’s queen that they recall. It is Pip, encountering a mysterious convict in the marshes of East Anglia. It is David Copperfield fleeing his evil stepfather, and Nicholas Nickleby discovering the horrors of a Yorkshire boarding school. It is Nell dying, and Nancy being murdered, and Miss Havisham endlessly living on, perpetually dressed for her wedding day. And it is Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim, the Aged Parent and the Infant Phenomenon, the Artful Dodger, the dipsomaniacal Sairey Gamp, the obsessive Bradley Headstone, the hapless Miss Flite, and all of the other more than 2,000 men, women, and children that Charles Dickens created to touch our hearts and to ‘brighten, brighten, brighten’ our days.” – Biography Magazine, March 2000

So, tell me, who has made a difference in your life, through their art or other contribution? And, would you pick any of these?