A few excerpts from the book Heartland by Mort Sahl
Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich - hard cover, 1976
from page 6
I was attending USC under the GI bill. It was a passive campus, except for the incident after the war when Helen Gahagan Douglas had come there during her race for the Senate and some of the supporters of her opponent, Richard Nixon, had spontaneously driven by in a truck, called her a "communist," and dramatized their passion by dousing her with red paint. Later, over coffee in the Student Union, one of these five activists on a campus of twenty-eight thousand told me he had been hired for this specific purpose by Murray Chotiner, who was Nixon's campaign architect and who cropped up later at the White House and would die, ostensibly of coronary thrombosis, on the sidewalk in front of Teddy Kennedy's home. We see here, for the first time, a thread of what is to become an elaborate embroidery.
from page 17
The Smothers Brothers were across the street at the Purple Onion and were the second act. One night the Smothers Brothers got laryngitis and they called me to tell me about it. I went over to do their shows. I had my shows to do and their shows. So I did fifteen minutes, then went across the street and did their show. I came back and did my show, and then I did their show, etc. At that time, North Beach was a place for a lot of conventions in San Francisco. You know, four or five drunken guys and their wives walking around with those badges that say, THE NATIONAL PAINT AND CONCRETE FOUNDATION. HOWDY, IM FRED. One night I was running back to the hungry i to do my third show and a couple of drunken guys lurched toward me, and one guy said, "Hey, kid, there's a guy at the other club using all your material."
from pages 76 & 77
Actors know about spontaneous feelings. When they have to improvise, the guys slap girls and the girls cry. And I knew all about acting classes. At one time Newman said I had to study because he had studied at the Actors Studio, and Joanne had studied with Sandy Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse. So Meisner came to Hollywood and set up a class at Twentieth Century Fox. Joanne enrolled in the class. That was reverse snobbery. You get a million and a half dollars per picture, but you go to class and you return to New York and you do plays in dirty theaters if possible. So she asked me to be her partner in class.
We enrolled in Meisner's class. It was really something. The first thing you had to do was wind watches or open doors. It's called an exercise with inanimate objects. And I worked with a lot of inanimate objects, but space does not permit my listing all those actors. Meisner threw me out of the class. He said, "You've already developed your character." It's the same as Gregory Peck playing himself or Audrey Hepburn playing herself. He said he didn't want to tamper with it because it's been successful on the stage. He said he could teach me not to verbalize as much, but he didn't want to alter it. He also threw Dennis Hopper out of the class once, because of a scene centered on a plane leaving an island with only ten seats, for which twenty passengers are competing. How do you, improvising, convince them that you have to get on? So, Dennis went over and pounded on the door and said, "I've gotta get on. I've gotta get on." And they asked why and he said, "Because I'm the pilot." He was thrown out for being facetious.
Cloris Leachman told me once that she was in the Actors Studio in New York and a guy was doing a sensory exercise of peeling a banana. And he was so intense that she literally could smell the banana. She thought it was a fantastic experience until she turned around and saw the guy behind her eating a banana, watching the same scene.
from pages 80 - 82
Kennedy came to Los Angeles to ask for the California delegation votes. I was shooting the interiors for the movie at Columbia. The night before, I had been at La Scala with Dyan Cannon, eating dinner. A car drove up, a black Ghia (Sinatra bought it with the proviso that the dealer would not sell another black one in the continental United States). Sinatra, who had vowed he'd never come into La Scala (one of his many life decisions), came inside with Dean Martin, drew up a table. "Mort, I need your help. I want you to write some material for me. I'm going to be working with Jack Kennedy and I'd really appreciate it." And I took it on with all the enthusiasm of Conrak teaching a class of illiterates. So I started writing his material along with Jack's.
At the banquet at the Beverly Hilton with Governor Brown and Senator Kennedy, where I was the emcee, I had to make sure I didn't duplicate the same jokes I had given Kennedy and Sinatra. The banquet was at 8:30, and James Darren and I were shooting a scene from the movie in which we're in a machine-gun nest in Korea and he's got a trained frog and he wants it to jump and it won't jump. We shot the scene thirty-six times. And it's getting to be 9:15. And I said, "I've got to go," And the director, Hal Bartlett, said, "It isn't right, it isn't right." And finally he said to me, "Whether the scene is right is kind of immaterial, as I happen to be on the other side; I'm a Republican."
So then I went to the dinner. It was the first time I met Kennedy, standing there with those laser-beam blue eyes, looking very quizzical. He was curious about me, my age, my political posture. Shook hands, told me he appreciated what I was doing, and asked, "Have you got any more one-liners? This looks like a rough crowd." Bobby just sat on the sidelines and waited. I suppose that even though he was emotionally as loyal as he was to his brother, he was waiting his turn. In the crevices of his mind he was a lot like Hamlet. He must have wondered why it was his lot in life to break the doors down for this guy and to cut all the corners and be an outlaw of sorts and then be rewarded by people saying, "Jack, you're great, but I can't stand that rat who works for you." There had to be a jealousywhich I thought he contained admirably.
Afterward, we went to Kennedy's plane, parked at L.A. International Airport. He was on his way to Palm Springs with Sinatra and he called me to join him on the plane. When I got aboard he asked me to sit up front. The Senator said, "Where was Paul Ziffren four years ago?" I said, "I guess with Stevenson." He said, "Of course, a logical position," and I said, "How do you arrive at a logical position?" and he said, "You just think in terms of survival." Everybody was drinking Bloody Marys. Then Kennedy put his finger to his forehead, pensively, and he said, "Tell me, why do you like Castro?" He never let his ego stand in the way of his curiosity. I told him of my admiration for Castro and that a revolutionary, I thought, appealed to all Americanswell, not quite all, for Americans view South American revolutionaries as a joke, the Russian revolutionaries as a horror, and the American revolutionaries as heroes.
Kennedy asked me about a joke I told on television about him. He was grilling me, knowing the answers, but insisting on my telling them to him literally. I had said on TV that his father had said, "I'm putting you on an allowance. You're not allowed one more cent than you need to buy a landslide." "What does that mean?" Kennedy asked, relentlessly. I told him it meant his father was rich, for one thing. "How much do you think he has?" he asked. So I made a snap decision and said, "Four hundred million." He looked at me as if I were retarded and asked if I knew how much the Rockefeller brothers were worth. "Liquid," he said, "about ten billion." Then he looked at me and said, "Now, that's money!"
from pages 85 & 86
At the second convention, 1960, Kennedy was nominated and now it fell to the convention to choose a Vice President. I was at the Biltmore Hotel, where Sam Rayburn told Johnson, "You're no son of mine if you accept second place. You have to go all the way." Johnson was visited by H. L. Hunt, which has since been documented but certainly wasn't underlined by them at the time. Bobby went downstairs reluctantly, on the orders of his father and Jack, to offer the job to Johnson. And Johnson accepted. And Rayburn walked in and said, "You're not even a man." And Johnson threw himself across the bed and was racked by sobs. Bobby kept saying to Jack, "Take Johnson: you will only lose every labor vote, every Northern city vote, every Jew and Negro in every metropolitan city." Bobby had promised the Vice Presidency to nine people that I knew of.
Bobby was uncomfortable in the whole Hollywood milieu. Jack was always curious about people in the arts and would have been a movie producer had he lived to enjoy his retirement.
from pages 87 - 90
I'll tell you about the time I met Nixon. I had gone into La Scala with Paul Newman. Nixon had just failed in his bid for the governorship of California and was sitting there with his wife and a contractor. The guy had built a stadium some miles away, which was, at the time, I think, collapsing because the concrete was diluted. So Newman said to me, "Why don't you buy him a drink? You've mocked him so much, why don't you meet him?" So I sent Nixon a note and I said I'd like to buy him a drink. He sent me back a note saying, "I'll have wine with you, if you'll join us." That's how I verified that it was really Nixon, it wasn't astigmatism. Because he couldn't just have a drink; he had to make a deal.
I went over to the table and I introduced myself and sat down. The wine steward came over and asked what Nixon had ordered to eat. Nixon said cottage cheese and meat loaf. The wine steward asked what wine he would like to go with that. Nixon said, "What would you recommend?" I thought it was a toss-up between Ripple and Thunderbird, but the guy said, "Well, Mr. Nixon, how about the Rothschild?" Nixon said, "No, we're going to have an American wine." He was very adamant.
The wine steward blanched because he saw his money going out the window. He said, "What year?" Nixon said, "This year." So the guy was really dying now. And Nixon said to him, "Why don't you bring it right up with dinner?" So, we had the wine, and when the dinner was over, he said, "Don't forget to keep a candle under my ass, and under Kennedy's too. It's good for America. You're the Will Rogers of our time." So I said, "How do I know you haven't said that to Bob Hope?" And then the check came, and I grabbed it. Women don't know about that. That's the last test of virility left. Because the frontiers are gone. Alaska's gone, and you can't outdraw people in frontier towns. That's all there is left.
I reached for the check, and Nixon reached for it too. It was a battle of wits. I finally got it. I paid with Diners Club. The captain stamped the card, and, you know, it has on it the tab, and gratuities, and tax, and FICA, and W-S, and withholding, and United Nations payments, and deficits, and devaluation of the dollar, and on the back you have to write down whether it is a deductible dinner. So, as a test of the law, I wrote that it was a business dinner and my guests were Mr. and Mrs. Richard M. Nixon. It asked, "Did you discuss specific business?" And I said, "Yes, we discussed excessive taxation and the possible overthrow of the United States Government." I later mailed that receipt in with my copy of my IRS return and wondered whether the computers would jam up at the audit center for the Internal Revenue Service in Westport, Connecticut.
Kennedy was elected by one-tenth of 1 percent of the vote, counting Texas and Cook County. And then the rewards began to be handed out. Adlai Stevenson left his law firm to become ambassador to the United Nations. William McCormick Blair left Stevenson's law firm to become ambassador to Denmark. Bill Rivkin became ambassador to Luxembourg. Willard Wirtz, same law office, became Secretary of Labor, Under-Secretary first. Newton Minow became head of the FCC. So you see, virtue is not its own reward. Everybody had to get something, although they said they were all doing it altruistically. Sinatra got to plan the Gala. They had a big dinner and show in the Armory in Washington to celebrate the victory, which I was not invited to. My manager, Milt Ebbins, was on his way to Washington with Lawford for the Gala, Ebbins carrying Frank Sinatra's golf clubs. They all went to Washington. Nobody ever said thank you to me. Before Jack became President, we were having our picture taken together, which he was going to autograph, and the photographer asked me to wave my finger in what he said was a typical Mort Sahl gesture, you know. Right, and the President refused to sign the picture. He said, "See anything wrong with this picture?" And I said, "No, what?" And he said, "Shouldn't you be listening to me?"
So the Kennedys started ruling and I started attacking them. It was reported to me by Ebbins that my detrimental humor had gotten back to the President, and his intimates had referred to me as "that bastard," and the President agreed but said, "He's a smart bastard." He always wanted to know what the enemy was thinking. America had a new optimism. People today say it was a little more than optimism, and that we don't know how the President would have worked outhe didn't live long enough. Nowadays we find that optimism is extremely tangible, now that we know what it's like to live without any.
One night he came into the Crescendo and I had just had dinner with Marilyn Monroe. She was at odds with herself and didn't know what to do. So I said, "Well, listen, you were married to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller. I think the only thing left now is to marry Adlai Stevenson." And she laughed. I came down to the club that night. Kennedy was in the audience in the back booth. And I said, "I have a bulletin. Marilyn Monroe is going to marry Adlai Stevenson. Now, Kennedy can be jealous of him twice." And I heard a fist come down on the table and a voice in New England dialect saying, "God damn it." Even though I knew Marilyn for a long time, she forgot.
It was John Huston's birthday when they were filming The Misfits with Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe in Reno, and they asked me to come up and entertain at a birthday party for Huston. And I flew up there and Huston was drunk, and he introduced me to Marilyn, whom I'd known for years. And she was drunk, and she took my hand and put it right on her breast and she said, "Don't be afraid, Mr. Sahl." And I said, "I'm not afraid." And she said, "How wrong you are. We're all afraid."
from pages 97 & 98
Jack Valenti and I once were on The Dick Cavett Show together. I first encountered Cavett, by the way, when he was a junior writer on The Tonight Show. Cavett worked in a few nightclubs, and I got him a job on The Jerry Lewis Show as a writer. (When he came to California, he was terribly alone. He was married to an actress, which is the same as being alone. The night of a Jerry Lewis premiere show, I was with Yvonne Craig, who later, after I educated her, went to work on Batman, which shows that some people are above adult education. She had these long white gloves that went over the elbow, and Cavett was so busy watching the show being screened that while eating Baked Alaska, instead of reaching for his napkin, he took her gloves and wiped his mouth.)
When Jack Valenti and I were on Cavett's show, I spoke about the CIA. During the commercial, Jack leaned over to me and said, "Mort, President Johnson's not responsible. He really doesn't know what those bastards are doing." That was the first admission I had by anyone in the government that they were doing anything. Cavett would say things to me like "I can't bring myself to believe that."
from pages 116 - 119
Arriving in New Orleans, I got into a cab and said to the cabbie, "4600 Owens Boulevard." "That's Jim Garrison's house! I'll let you off on the corner. I don't want to get shot. Somebody says there's a machine gun pointed at his door." "What do you think of this thing Garrison's got?" The driver said, "I believe those bastards in Washington are capable of anythingand a lot worse."
I walked to the door and a man emerged, all six foot seven inches of him, wearing a bathrobe. I said, "I'm Mort Sahl, and I came down here to shake your hand." Garrison said, "I hope you're available to do a lot more than that." Later, he took me into a wine cellar at the Royal Orleans Hotel and opened up the Manila envelope that was the beginning of a compilation of a four-year investigation. It contained documents on Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency involvement in the events surrounding the Kennedy assassination.
Who was involved? I recall at a press conference that Garrison spoke of "the right wing," and a reporter said, "But you've also charged the CIA and others." Garrison's reply still holds. "These are not mutually exclusive groups. Usually a conspiracy involves more than one person."
That was the first time that I knew more than I would like to know. Yet, you can't know less than you know. I wanted to work for Garrison, so I got my credentials and a desk in the D.A.'s office, took an apartment in New Orleans, and went out to do college concerts when I needed money to buy groceries and pay the rent.
Later, I went to New York and onto The Tonight Show. I met with Rudy Tellez, the producer, and said to him, "Rudy, I don't want to throw you any curves. What's verboten on this show?" I've always done that, although the networks like to characterize me as an outlaw, because it justifies capital punishment. Rudy said, "Don't mention Sarnoff. It's the only 'No.'" I said, "Even if I talk about the Warren Commission, it's OK?" "Yes, if you don't editorialize and you read it straight." So I agreed. We went on the air that night. I was on the panel and Carson said to me, "What're you doing now?" I told him I lived in New Orleans part of the time. When I mentioned that I knew Garrison, Carson started to laugh. He said, "You don't put any faith in that, do you?" And I answered, "Yes, I put every faith in it. He's the most important man in America." Carson said, "Look at what the press said and everything." I told him that the press was doctored. That they wanted to stop him. "Why do they want to stop him?" I continued. "Because he has the truth. There has been a great suppression of the truth in this case. If he's a crackpot, why not let him expose himself?" Carson said, "One week from tonight." "You've got it," I said. We went off the air. Carson's chest was swelled; he was so happy to give people their rights, piecemeal. Off the air, Carson said, "Listen, I don't want this thing to become a circus."
David Merrickhe looks like the leading man in a dirty moviehad been on the program and he said, "Yeah, we don't want to give a crackpot a lot of publicity." And Stan Irwin said, "Yeah, we don't want to give this guy a lot of mileage." I talked them all out of canceling the promised show and took off for New Orleans that night. I got Garrison and told him we'd start rehearsing. "I'll make up three-by-five index cards. I'll play Carson and you be you." ("Oh," Carson had said to me, "we'll have to have someone on from the government, to give equal time. The network is very good on equal time.")
You may recall that one of the two missing persons in the Clay Shaw trial was Gordon Novell, a former CIA agent. He was one of the equal-timers. The men who wrote the white papers against GarrisonNBC produced two of them-called the first one "The Trial of Jim Garrison." Apparently, they forgot who killed the President. The researchers were headed by Walter Sheridan, who had been a Justice Department lawyer hot after Hoffa, under Bobby Kennedy's direction. For him to have become a newsman, as Bill Stout at CBS told me, was pretty odd"Pretty odd for NBC to bring in a house detective and call him a reporter." Odd, indeed.
When Gordon Novell fled New Orleans, two girls who had rented his apartment discovered a note embedded under a panel in which Novell indicated his intention to return to the CIA, which he felt was his destiny anyway.
I started to brief Garrison for the Carson show. He asked me, "Who do you think they'll have on from the Warren Commission?" I said nobody. I said that because I was on the air in California for fifty-eight weeks talking about the Kennedy assassination and had offered the air to the Warren Commission members and counsel. Nobody took me up on it. Anybody who has read the whole Warren Report cannot defend it. So I said, "You watch and see if they don't call and say there will be nobody." I rehearsed with Garrison one whole week, and when he went on the air, I had foreseen every question Carson would ask except one. The day before air, I heard from Carson. "Who's going to debate Jim?" I asked him. "I will," he said. "I holed up one Saturday afternoon and read the Warren Report." That is interesting, because it took me twenty-seven months to read the Report.
Garrison went to New York. Ironically, the man who was thought to be a big threat to the system upped Carson's audience from nine million to fourteen millionthe highest rating he'd ever had. Garrison did the entire ninety minutes alone. Carson interrupted Garrison seventeen times in the first twenty-five minutes. Garrison produced a photograph of eleven men being caught by the Dallas Police, arrested and handcuffed, in the freight yards. And Garrison asked Carson to identify the "lone assassin." Johnny replied that his cameras could not pick up glossies. At one point Carson asked, "Jim, why would Lyndon Johnson cover this up?" Garrison said, "I don't know why, Johnny; why don't you ask him?" The audience warmed to Garrison. The next day in New Orleans, Garrison received two thousand telegrams by nine in the morning from various D.A.s around the country. People were impressed by Carson's nervous antagonism and in effect said, "Garrison must have something, judging from the way he was continually interrupted."
It became so bad that NBC sent out thousands of form letters saying that the Johnny seen on TV that night was not the Johnny we all know and lovethat he had to play the devil's advocate because that makes for a better program. When they apologized for him, Carson became furious and said that Garrison would never be on the air again and I would never be on the air again.
from pages 120 & 121
Then we subpoenaed Marina Oswald. I recall she was walking down the street with her new husband, Mr. Porter, who looked not so much like a husband as he did a Secret Service man following, or escorting, her. She got up in the Grand Jury room and looked very glassy-eyed. Garrison asked if there were something wrong. Her husband said, "Well, she was raised in Soviet Russia and that's a totalitarian country." Garrison said, "Well, if she's had a rehearsal she should be perfectly acclimated to living in the United States under this administration." (Garrison often referred to Washington as "The Fourth Reich.")
Jim Garrison was in a position to become governor of Louisiana or the next senator. He was the most influential Democrat in Louisiana, and he had political friends in other parts of the South. He blew all that. Nowadays people say that he did what he did for political aggrandizement or that he pursued the Shaw case for political ambition. The fact is that the best way in the world to advance yourself in politics is to not attack the federal government. But Jim is an honest man, and he knew no other way to express himself. At the age of fifty-three, Jim Garrison is out of a job, has less than $5,000 in the bank, an ex-wife and five kids to support, a Volkswagen his wife drives, and a lot of seven-year-old shirts from Brooks Brothers. But he has himself, unmortgaged, and that's more than I can say for some of the other people I've listed here.
from pages 122 & 123
Shaw's arrest was interesting. Garrison had a witness named Perry Russo, who said he had been at a party at David Ferry's house with Clay Shaw and Lee Harvey Oswald. Shaw on that occasion discussed how one could use a triangulation of fire to murder the President in a car caravan. Russo was the witness to this. Now, we brought Shaw in, and Garrison said to him as he approached his desk, "I charge you with conspiracy to murder John F. Kennedy."
Perspiration broke out on Shaw's upper lip. He said, "I'd like to go home and get some of my things." To Garrison, that meant hide some things. So Garrison wanted to go over and search the house. He said, "I think you'd better go downstairs and be booked and have bail set." When he went downstairs, the desk sergeant said, "Is this your name?" Shaw said, "Sure." "Any aliases?" "Clay Bertrand," Shaw said. "Bertrand" is of course derived from the Marquis de Sade, whose inclinations Shaw was more than casually acquainted with as a life style. During the trial he claimed that he never used the pseudonym Clay Bertrand as the name of the man who hired Dean Andrews to defend Oswald. The significance was that Garrison was certain that Shaw was Bertrand, whereas the "NBC White Paper" group produced a bartender who claimed to use the same name.
The D.A.'s investigators went to Shaw's apartment while he was being booked. They found a black hood, an executioner's whip, and wooden shoes, which Shaw said he used for the Mardi Grascurious, since the shoes had obviously never touched anything but a rug. So they went to trial. Shaw was acquitted because he said he didn't know Oswald, although Fred Liemans, the proprietor of a steam bath in New Orleans, said that they used to come to the baths and disappear together for hours at a time. Liemans was approached by a government agency which urged him not to continue to give state's evidence. It sounded, from his story, like the Internal Revenue Service.
from pages 146 & 147
I learned from William O. Douglas, who in turn learned it from Thomas Jefferson, that the government is to be suspected, that the less government the better, that the police do not need more power. What Warren did all the years he sat on the court with Douglas was to sense what was needed for justice's sake and then ask Douglas to document it constitutionally. Douglas struck a fine balance between the emotion of the times and the equity of all times. That was his humanity. At times I conceived of his standing in Oregon at one end of the country, Fulbright at the other end, holding up the tent for all the rest of us.
Douglas said the most dangerous thing was to be alive. He said "the alive have the most to lose," and he wasn't speaking of life in physical terms only. He came to see me in New York in 1974. It was a heavy conversation. I am going to reveal it because you are to be trusted with what's important to yourself. He came to a New York nightclub. I had sent invitations to the opening in the form of Watergate subpoenas. Douglas walked in and the nightclub captain mistook him for Casey Stengel.
I said, "Mr. Justice, I'm surprised to see you." "No," he said, "you're just surprised that anyone in the government will obey a subpoena." He told me that I must bend every effort to look into the fact that the CIA has a former telephone company executive administering its funds for a dollar a year and that one of the things he knows about is that other agencies' funds can be diverted into the CIA. We talked about other things having to do with the CIA and he said, "You've got to do it, Mort." I look up, amazed. He said, "There isn't anybody else." Now, I ask you, fellow Americans, are you worried now?
from pages 148 & 149
In Washington one time, David Brinkley, who is an old friend of mine, invited me to dinner. Bobby Kennedy was there with Ethel and Bob McNamara. My wife was Robert Kennedy's dinner partner, and McNamara was mine. We talked a lot about the TFX, the F-11, and Barry Goldwater. Evans of Evans and Novak was on one side of my wife and Kennedy was on the other. And the conversation was so innocuous that it had to be an effort. Weather was a recurrent topic, and no one ever took a position on it.
I had to leave at eleven o'clock to do a show, and my wife reported that after I left, Kennedy, who continually made pyramids of paper napkins and looked like a man really eaten around the edges, said to her, "Mort said he wrote for my brother. Is that true?" Of course, he knew it was true. Then he said, "Why was he fired from that program in Los Angeles?" Well, I was fired for discussing the assassination of his brother. And it was implicit that if he knew I had a program in California, three thousand miles away, he'd know why. And they continued to pump her for information.
Later, two personal friends of Robert Kennedy, one of whom had been his roommate in college, at the request of the Kennedy family, got in touch with Jim Garrison and attended the preliminary hearing of Clay Shaw. They said that Bobby would wait until he was in a position to be relatively assured of the Presidency and then would get deeper into the case and get the guys who killed Jack. Guys. They used the plural. Garrison said to me later he'll be dead if he wins the California primary. I don't know if Robert Kennedy would have made a choice to listen to a nightclub comedian and a Southern district attorney instead of his brain trust. He never got the opportunity to make that choice.
When I hear people talk of the Irish Mafia and the Boston dealers in pragmatism, I wonder how they found their way into Arlington cemetery. I am alive. I've had a couple of strange car accidents; my back has been broken twice. There have been several attempts made on Garrison's life, but he's intact as far as I know. And our minds are intact. But Jack and Bobby are in Arlington cemetery with the everlasting flame. Is that pragmatism?
from pages 153 - 155
So, I beg you. Join the battle for your own sake. Give our existence meaning. Lack of purpose is the worst: it's the insanity with no meaning.
I made a million dollars a year. I emceed the Academy Awards. Then I made just about nothing a year. And I ate coffee and donuts with Jim Garrison. But I felt comradeship. I felt the contribution when I opened Garrison's eyes to the fact that corruption didn't start with Jack Kennedy's murder.
It started with the Cold War gambit. With the reversing and the stripping of gears after Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Marshall Plan. Point Four. The Loyalty Oath. The Defense Department. The Central Intelligence Agency. The ringing of the Soviet Union with missiles. The beginning of a twenty-five-year drunk that ended with people hoping for a merciful Defense Department, and with Ted Kennedy as a hostage.
Jack Anderson reported in his column that Frank Sturgis, one of those burglars indicted in the McGovern headquarters break-in, was a Cuban adventurer who was idealistic about Cuba but always getting into trouble. For instance, continued Anderson, there was even a "crazy rumor" that he was involved in Dealey Plaza and the assassination of President Kennedy. No one checked with Garrison to see if any of those people had been subpoenaed by him but had been denied extradition to the Orleans Parish during the Clay Shaw trial in 1966 and 1967.
Jack Anderson reported that Ehrlichman and Colson had talked to a sound expert at the CIA who said he could erase the tapes even if they were in another building, through sophisticated equipment. His name: Gordon Novell. Why did no one in the press check the rumor that E. Howard Hunt had left the country after leaving Dealey Plaza on the day President Kennedy was killed? Why did no one check the correlation between E. Howard Hunt's sending 240 falsified State Department cables attributing the death of Diem to John Kennedy with E. Howard Hunt's trip to Chappaquiddick; E. Howard Hunt's being chief of station at the American Embassy at Mexico City when Oswald went there before Dallas; as well as the aborted plan to break into Bremer's apartment in Milwaukee to plant a diary explaining Bremer's need to shoot Wallace?
These men had worked at the CIA for twenty-five years. Is anyone naive enough to think that such men sat there like career firemen waiting for the bell to ring? What kind of house calls did they make in those twenty-five years to advance their expertise? What did Gordon Liddy mean when he said he'd do anything for Nixon? Tell him to assassinate someone, and he'd do it on any street corner. Jack Anderson repeated that Jeb Magruder told Gordon Liddy that they'd have to get rid of Anderson, which meant silence him or throw him off the track. Liddy organized the Cuban assassination team to get rid of him.
In 1971 and 1972 all avenues were cut off to me except the colleges. I must have played five hundred. All those students! All that travel! All that hair! After a show at Niagara Falls Community College, there was a reception hosted by a faculty adviser who won Godzilla on The Dating Game. They served coffee and cookiesspiked with acid. I received a call advising me my mother had had multiple strokes in L.A., and since I had just been given a car, I started driving.
I lost spatial perception first. Headlights appeared to be motorcycles converging from 180-degree angles. The road surface was magnified. I saw a whale and the white line was the tongue I was driving down. After three days, China called Garrison, who alerted the highway patrols cross-country. I called her from Albuquerque. "I'll be home soon. I just saw myself drive away." Objective detachmentgreat in critics.
I woke up with my arms at my sides going over the side in New Mexico into a canyonat fifty-five I heard my back break. I drove out of the hole and got to Winslow, Arizona, where I stopped because I thought I saw Marines in a landing rope on the side of a ship which turned out to be a freight car. Two cops grabbed me (with drawn guns) and busted me for drugs. "Hollywood. Look at the beard. Flowered shirt." No-doz on the seat for evidence. The arm of a black T-shirt sticking out of a laundry bag I mistook for China's profile, her hairline, and I conversed with it for three days. They took me to a hospital and never looked at my back, not for six hours. I remember that the doctors talked about how Jews go into medicine for money. The doctor told the police he would not verify the presence of narcotics. "Extreme fatigue." They told me I had to go to sleep. The Travelodge was across the street (twelve bucks). "You have to sleep here (the hospital) and vacate the bed at 8:00 (it's 2:00 A.M.) (Sixty-five bucks). They impounded the car. When the cops' shift ended, the doc sprung me, and I took a cab 150 miles to Phoenix.
I went into a brace for one year, the Arizona police stole my clothes, and I accused them on The Dick Cavett Show. The Commander wrote me and assured me Arizona police were as honest as any otherunquote. Three doctors diagnosed LSD in my system. I read the other day about the CIA using acid. Of course, now it's not paranoia to talk about it.
from pages 156 - 158
How many more have to die before some Americans realize murder is not a way of life? Too many have lost America because they brought her their lust, but could never love her. For one, Hugh Hefner, who is now reduced to attacking Mae Brussell, who is an assassination researcher who pursues the murders among us selflessly. What did Garfield say in Body and Soul? What are you gonna do? Kill me? Everybody dies. Hefner sent a prominent novelist to ordain her a paranoid. America's poet laureate, Don McLean, reminds us, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you." Writers? Well, Mark Harris says the greatest danger to America is people who see assassins, not assassins themselves. Twelve years ago, no less, Jean Stafford showed us a mad Marguerite Oswald. So we know we can't count on the intellectuals. Like the Hollywood Ten, they discovered a lack of interest in their country after they went to jail.
And I started the battle early. The enemy isn't political in nature. It's insanity, which I combatted through purpose. But even Kafka couldn't envision that the enemy would become apathy. I learned a little along the way: the bad times, the years in the foxholes. An introduction to the devil does not constitute equal opportunity.
We've gone from Henry Wallace to Spiro Agnew.
We've gone from Jefferson to Ford.
From Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin to Ford, Brezhnev, and Wilson.
From Paul Muni to Burt Reynolds.
From Oscar Wilde to Gore Vidal.
From purpose to anticommunism.
From love to indifference.
Darwin was wrong.
Is it too late for America? How many lies before you belong to the lies? You can't return to your own lines. They don't recognize you. You are made different by the company you keep. Nixon reminds you of what you have become. McCarthy reminds you of who you were.
I'm relaxing now from my monastic writing chores. I'm watching Merv Griffin speaking to James Whitmore, who's appearing in a one-man show: George Plimpton. Whitmore has been Truman as well as Will Rogers. He and Will, Jr., agree that Will was "not like Mort Sahl. His humor never hurt." Let sleeping Presidents lie. In fact, let living Presidents lie.
My story isn't special but it's strenuous. I took America at its word. We were right and we were wrong. We were right to pursue the murderers among us. We were in error in pleading the case for America in Beverly Hills and New York. Here reside the phrases "I can't bring myself to believe" and "I loved him so much it's too painful." Don't appeal to the intellectuals. The hope of America is the heartland.
Now you know there are murderers among us, killers of the dream. You know what they did. I know some of you don't want to get involved, but you began your involvement when you began life.
Do it for the best friend you ever had, John F. Kennedy.
Do it for yourself.
You must do it, because there is no one else.
Don't be diverted by prefab threats. Wallace is painted a lunatic, but why does he appeal? He's anti-elitest, for one thing, and he has had enough courage to examine the attempt on his life. For that matter, the populist suspicion of the federal government is maybe what stands between you and an unstated fascism now.
I tried to answer your questions. Now I have two. Is
anybody listening? Does anybody care?