Sunday, March 31, 2013

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JFK and John Connally

JFK and Texas’ John Connally shared a fateful day and fragile past

By ALAN PEPPARD  Staff Writer
Published: 30 March 2013 11:24 PM

Nov. 9, 1962

Dictabelt recording of Oval Office phone call from President John F. Kennedy to John Connally on the morning after Connally was elected governor of Texas:

JFK: “What about Dallas?”

Connally: “Dallas? I lost the hell out of it. I lost it by 21,000 votes.”

JFK: “What did we lose Dallas by, do you remember? In ’60?”

Connally: “Yes sir, you lost [by] over 60,000 votes.”

JFK: “60,000 votes? Hell, I got uh… you know, they’re up there talking to me about, remember having that Federal Building down there and all the rest of that stuff. I don’t know why we do anything for Dallas.”

Connally: “I’m telling you, they just murdered all of us. But, we’re gonna change that now.”

Like reverse images of each other, John F. Kennedy and John Connally rode through the streets of Dallas, conversing little as they waved to the crowds and approached the climax of their mutual drama.

Just three months apart in age and both blessed with movie-star good looks, the two possessed unquenchable ambition that had led them from open conflict to a correct, if not warm, alliance after Connally’s patron, Lyndon Johnson, joined the 1960 ticket as Kennedy’s running mate.

The bullets that passed through Kennedy and Connally in Dealey Plaza did not consecrate the fragile coalition in blood. Instead, they shattered it in such a way that the pieces could never be reassembled. While Kennedy was canonized as a martyr, Connally recovered from his massive wounds. Following the horror of Dallas, he traveled a serpentine path that eventually led him into the inner sanctum of JFK’s great nemesis, Richard Nixon. Connally died in 1993.

Had Kennedy shared Nixon’s penchant for enemies lists or his brother Bobby Kennedy’s love of a grudge, John Connally would have been one of the first knights cast out of Camelot — banished after the 1960 Democratic Convention. Instead, the tall and charismatic Texan — a man Jackie Kennedy called too pretty to be handsome — was given one of the top jobs in the Pentagon and parlayed it right into the Texas Governor’s Mansion.

With a recorded Oval Office phone call from Kennedy to a just-elected Gov. Connally, we have the audiblesignature of JFK as the cool realist who quickly assesses that this foe-turned-friend may hold the keys to Texas’ 25 wavering electoral votes in his 1964 re-election campaign.

On the phone with Connally, the president was genial yet analytical as both men dissected the Texas win. Clearly proud, Connally boasted about the strength of his victory — “I carried 205 out of 254 counties” — and Kennedy probed, particularly interested in Dallas and whether Connally received the endorsements of its two newspapers.

The new governor’s surefooted election raised his standing with the Kennedy White House as a political force in Texas. For the next year, Connally would be the focus of an Oval Office lobbying campaign to bring JFK to Texas and shore up uncertain support in a state that Lyndon Johnson could not guarantee for Kennedy’s re-election bid in 1964.

Back in 1960, even with the powerful LBJ on the ticket, JFK won Texas by a threadbare 46,233 votes. (In 1964, running without Kennedy, President Lyndon Johnson carried Texas by more than 700,000 votes.)

In November 1962, however, LBJ was a gelded, depressed and irascible vice president. His protégé Connally was on the rise, influential with Texas oil money and popular with moderates and Republicans, who were not naturally disposed to the Northeastern Kennedy. Most of the boilerplate narrative that JFK came to Texas to mend political fences was written after the assassination.

Fate would place Kennedy and Connally so physically close together that minutes after the assassination, as doctors closed the bullet wound in the governor’s chest, they searched in vain for a wound that would explain the copious blood and soft tissue coating his head.

And then came the epiphany — the red ooze was not Connally’s, it was Kennedy’s.

In the eyes of history, John Connally is eternally linked to John F. Kennedy through the blood they spilled together in Dealey Plaza.

Personal tragedy

In the summer of 1960, 43-year-old John Connally arrived in Los Angeles for the Democratic National Convention at a crossroads. As executive director of Lyndon Johnson’s campaign for president, he was shackled to a vacillating candidate more preoccupied with the consequences of losing the nomination than with the glories of winning it.

Sorrow without solace had visited Connally and his wife, Nellie, the previous summer when their eldest child, a 16-year-old daughter, Kathleen, known as K.K., died a mystifying death from a shotgun blast, just six weeks after eloping with her boyfriend, Bobby Hale. The young man’s explanation was that she was depressed and holding the gun to her head when he leaped for it and it went off.

A post-mortem revealed that K.K. was pregnant.

“Most of her head was blown off,” said the sheriff who called the shocked Connally to break the news.

The 18-year-old Hale was cleared following a less-than-satisfying investigation.

Living in Fort Worth, Connally had spent the previous decade as personal attorney for a man who, if not the wealthiest in America, was close — the rough-hewn, low-profile Fort Worth oilman Sid Richardson.

Through the 1950s, as Richardson’s smooth, articulate representative, Connally sat on the board of the New York Central Railroad, kept a suite at Washington, D.C.’s Mayflower Hotel and had his hand in all Richardson’s businesses, from California’s Del Mar racetrack to uranium mines in Colorado and Oregon.

But five months after K.K. Connally’s death, Sid Richardson was also dead, leaving Connally largely as a consigliere without portfolio.

By the summer of 1960, working again for his political mentor Lyndon Johnson, Connally had but one mission: to block the supremely organized, lavishly financed Kennedy campaign from seizing the presidential nomination.

Getting a late start, Johnson railed against Kennedy’s youth and inexperience and privately derided the younger man as “Sonny Boy,” but he gained no traction. The only hope lay in proving JFK was unfit for office.

Connally the slugger

The Johnson camp was aware of one of John F. Kennedy’s most closely guarded secrets: The dashing Massachusetts senator, so famous for his vigor, suffered from Addison’s disease and might die without constant maintenance doses of cortisone.

Even a small infection could turn fatal, as it almost had when Kennedy’s back was operated on in 1954 and the incision site refused to heal.

Word of the infection had quickly reached Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson.

“I find it hard to believe, but they tell me young Kennedy is near death,” LBJ said to aide Horace Busby. “They tell me he’ll be dead in a matter of a few weeks.”

But despite receiving the last rites of the church, Kennedy recovered and returned to the Senate. By 1960, Johnson had learned that Addison’s had been the culprit. Connally believed that the time had come to use the information.

“Connally was a political heavyweight who was quick and deadly when it came to one-on-one slugging,” the late Texas Sen. John Tower recalled in his 1991 memoir.

A week before the opening of the convention, Connally and fellow Texan India Edwards, co-chairman of the Citizens for Johnson committee, called a news conference to announce Kennedy’s Addison’s disease.

Connally had planned to make the charge himself, but Edwards, a veteran of Harry Truman’s 1948 presidential campaign and a woman 22 years Connally’s senior, held him back.

“My career was nearing an end whereas John was a young man just starting up,” she remembered in her memoir. “If I had known then that he would become a Democrat for Nixon in 1972 and later a Republican, I am sure I would not have done anything to further his career.”

So with Connally by her side, Edwards told the press she was disgusted with Kennedy’s “muscle flexing” and added that reputable doctors with a Boston hospital informed her that Kennedy would be dead without regular medication.

An indignant Bobby Kennedy, JFK’s campaign manager, replied that his brother did not have “an ailment described classically as Addison’s disease. Any statement to the contrary is malicious and false.”

Regardless of the veracity of the allegation, it did nothing to slow the Kennedy momentum. What it did do was enrage the Kennedy camp.

In his 1965 oral history for the JFK Library, JFK’s press secretary Pierre Salinger said, “The India Edwards-John Connally press conference [was] about as low a blow as you will ever want to find in American politics.”

In a Texas hotel room the night before the assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy told her husband, “I just can’t stand Governor Connally.”

Years later, Edwards would recall, “[People] felt that I had made it sound as if Kennedy had syphilis.”


More than a half-century later, it’s hard to see why the charge of Addison’s disease was more egregious than two months earlier when Kennedy partisan Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. labeled JFK’s then-challenger Hubert Humphrey a draft dodger during the crucial West Virginia primary.

A fixture of Jackie and Jack Kennedy’s inner social circle, the dissolute, disappointed son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt hoped to be named secretary of the Navy.

Of the many epithets applied to him, lazy was the most common.

“We had assigned a fellow named Bob Dunn to Franklin for the full campaign,” Kennedy aide John Seigenthaler recalled in his oral history for the JFK Library. “He had the responsibility to keep Franklin off his butt and on the campaign trail.”

When Kennedy won the 1960 nomination on the first ballot in Los Angeles, he left his ninth-floor suite and came down the back stairs to Lyndon Johnson’s seventh-floor suite to offer him the vice presidency.

The shock to Kennedy’s liberal supporters and the conservative oil crowd backing Johnson came when the Senate majority leader, perhaps the second-most-powerful man in Washington, accepted the powerless VP spot.

“We had succeeded in finding a combination that the conservatives and the liberals equally disliked,” Connally later wrote.

“The reaction from some of our close friends was very painful,” Lady Bird Johnson would remember in a 1996 oral history interview for the LBJ Library. “I think John Connally got in his car with Nellie and started driving immediately back to Texas.”

Johnson’s candidacy had been backed by oil-rich, communist-fearing Southerners whom Connally had scared for months with the specter of the liberal, Northeastern Kennedy. In the time that it took LBJ to accept the No. 2 slot, Connally had to tack and tell angry Johnson donors that their enemy wasn’t Kennedy, it was his Republican challenger, the conservative Vice President Richard Nixon.

And then he had to look cautiously over his shoulder at Kennedy’s inner circle, ruthless Boston Irish Catholic political operators who were still fuming that the Texans had publicly labeled their man as diseased.

Surprise appointment

Following JFK’s general election victory on Nov. 8, 1960, FDR Jr.’s appointment as secretary of the Navy was such a certainty that Kennedy had leaked it to The New York Times, even though he promised his new secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, complete autonomy to choose his people.

Roosevelt was very anxious to obtain the position of secretary of the Navy,” McNamara said in his 1964 oral history for the JFK Library. But McNamara absolutely refused, invoking Kennedy’s pledge not to interfere in Pentagon appointments.

After his own talent search, McNamara phoned the new president in Palm Beach, Fla., to say that he had found the perfect candidate for secretary of the Navy — an able Texan named John Connally.

Politically naïve by his own admission, McNamara would later say, “I didn’t really realize [the] extent to which at one time there may have been considerable friction between him and President Kennedy.”

Amused rather than annoyed, JFK agreed to the appointment. “In a humorous vein, the full extent of which I didn’t realize until later, [he] said that he wanted me to discuss it with two of his associates who were at hand,” McNamara recalled.

Kennedy passed the phone to let McNamara break the news to his elated houseguests, Vice President-elect Lyndon Johnson and Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, both political godfathers to Connally.

Reluctant host

His 11 months as head of the Navy were followed by a successful run for governor and fresh attention from JFK, who began to lobby for a presidential visit to Texas.

“I had, frankly, been elected by the people that President Kennedy needed the most,” Connally would later testify to a congressional subcommittee, “by the moderates and the conservatives of the state.”

Connally was not eager to begin his term by throwing his arm around Jack Kennedy in front of a home crowd.

But Kennedy persisted. Pressure for a full swing through Texas climaxed after a June 1963 presidential motorcade in downtown El Paso. Connally entered a suite at the Cortez Hotel with the president, Lyndon Johnson and JFK’s tough-guy appointments secretary, Kenny O’Donnell.

“Well, Lyndon, are we ever going to get this trip to Texas worked out?” the president asked.

“The governor is here, Mr. President, let’s find out,” LBJ answered.

“I knew at that point my string had run out,” Connally recalled. “I knew we were going to have a trip to Texas.”

Resisting JFK’s idea for a series of fundraisers, Connally mapped out nonpartisan visits to San Antonio, Houston, Fort Worth and Dallas, followed by one fundraiser in Austin.

On Oct. 4, 1963, the Texas governor was welcomed into the Oval Office, where he explained his plan to JFK. Sitting on a white sofa in front of the fireplace, he looked at the president gently moving in his rocking chair and suggested that the presence of Mrs. Kennedy would make the trip look less political.

“I agree with you,” the president said noncommittally. He would invite her once she returned from overseas, where she had gone to lift her spirits following the recent death of the couple’s 2-day-old son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy.

On the same day that Connally outlined his plan in the Oval Office, Jackie Kennedy quietly boarded a 325-foot yacht in Athens accompanied by FDR Jr. and his wife, Suzanne.

Welcoming the American first lady aboard was the yacht’s owner, Aristotle Onassis, the future husband of Jacqueline Kennedy.

A Boston Globe editorial promptly cried out, “Does this sort of behavior seem fitting for a woman in mourning?” Ohio Congressman Oliver Bolton publicly chastised both Mrs. Kennedy and Roosevelt for accepting the “lavish hospitality” of the shady shipping tycoon.

Returning to Washington amid the bad publicity, Jacqueline Kennedy agreed to accompany her husband to Texas.

A month before departing for Texas, both Kennedys escorted their friends, journalist Ben Bradlee and his wife, Tony, to the White House theater for a screening of the new James Bond film, From Russia With Love. As the foursome walked from the family quarters to the East Wing, JFK lamented the idea of Lyndon Johnson getting the Democratic presidential nomination in ’68.

“Well, then who?” the first lady asked.

According to Bradlee’s account, JFK shot back, “It was going to be Franklin, until you and Onassis fixed that.”

Welcome mats

While the Lone Star hospitality was not nearly so lavish as life onboard the Onassis yacht, Nellie and John Connally had gone to some lengths to impress the Kennedys.

Before departing the Governor’s Mansion to join the Kennedys for the two-day tour, Nellie asked that the entry rug be cleaned before the Nov. 22 reception for the president, who would be flying in from Dallas.

Jack Kennedy would not live to see the rug in the Governor’s Mansion. But it was not Nellie and John Connally’s last opportunity to entertain a president at home. On a later occasion, the couple readied their Picosa Ranch in South Texas for a visit from a different commander-in-chief.

Planes of some of Texas’ most prominent citizens were packed alongside the private Connally runway, 800 yards away from the ranch house. Hovering above the scene was the presidential helicopter, which scattered the reddish brown Santa Gertrudis cattle through the tall coastal Bermuda.

Among the guests looking skyward as the chopper descended were Dallas oilman Bunker Hunt, maverick Dallas financiers John Murchison and Clint Murchison Jr., Fort Worth publisher Amon Carter Jr. and Sid Richardson’s nephew and heir apparent, Perry Bass.

Smiling as he ducked out the door of the big green aircraft was President Richard Nixon, accompanied by his wife, Pat.

“I’m sorry we scared your cattle,” Nixon said as he shook hands with Connally, the Democratic Party star who was about to jump ship to become not just a Republican but one of the closest advisers to the infamously insular Nixon.

Another face in that small ranch crowd was a Houston lawyer who could not have known that in less than two years, he would force Nixon from office — future Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski.

The moneyed, powerful guests discussed their common antipathy for Nixon’s upcoming election opponent, George McGovern. Amid the din, no one heard the bell that was already tolling for the Nixon presidency. His sullen minions were frantically trying to conceal the White House connection to a recent Washington burglary.

A year after the ranch party, the first domino of scandal fell when Nixon’s pugnacious vice president, Spiro Agnew, was charged with accepting cash bribes and resigned his office. With Nixon’s presidency becoming more precarious each day, he had to appoint not just a new VP, but his possible successor.

The isolated president sat at Camp David and examined his list of four names. No. 4 was his eventual choice, Gerald Ford.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, a Democrat who had worked hand-in-hand with President Kennedy, warned that the Senate would not confirm someone who would be a strong 1976 GOP presidential nominee. That ruled out Nixon’s No. 3 choice, Ronald Reagan, and his No. 2, Nelson Rockefeller.

“With all of the problems I was having with Watergate, I could not become embroiled in a massive partisan slugging match over the selection of the new vice president,” Nixon later wrote.

After some quiet checking, Nixon learned to his dismay that Congress would also never confirm his No. 1 choice.

The name at the very top of Richard Nixon’s list was John Connally.

A note on sources

In reporting for this narrative, Alan Peppard consulted with several resource centers and published sources, including:
Presidential Recordings Program, Miller Center, University of Virginia
U.S. Elections Atlas
In History’s Shadow, John Connally and Mickey Herskowitz, 1993
Archive, The Dallas Morning News
The Lone Star: The Life of John Connally, James Reston Jr., 1989
Oral History Program, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Oral History Program, LBJ Presidential Library
Consequences, John G. Tower, 1991
Pulling No Punches, India Edwards, 1977
The Death of a President, William Manchester, 1967
History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Vol. 5: The McNamara Ascendancy, Alfred Goldberg, Steven L. Rearden, Doris M. Condit, 2006
Witness Testimony, House Select Committee on Assassinations, Report 1979
Nemesis, Peter Evans, 2004
Conversations with Kennedy, Benjamin C. Bradlee, 1975
The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, 1978

Friday, March 29, 2013

"Ride the Tiger" - Sam and Frank, Jack and Judy

"Ride the Tiger" new Theater Production
Sam and Frank, JFK and Judy Now on Stage

Jordan Lage plays Sam and Paul Anthony Stewart plays Frank. 
(T. Charles Erickson / March 29, 2013)

By FRANK RIZZO, frizzo@courant.comThe Hartford Courant
8:42 a.m. EDTMarch 29, 2013

When William Mastrosimone was working on the script for the 1992 mini-series "Sinatra," the singer told him a startling tale that involved Joseph Kennedy Sr., JFK, Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana and Judith Exner, Sinatra's girlfriend who was also mistress to both Kennedy and Giancana.

It was a tale of power, sex, murder, intrigue and hubris, the stuff of Greek tragedy, not to mention political and mob legend.

That story was the starting point for a new play, "Ride the Tiger," now in previews, and opening Wednesday, April 3, at New Haven'sLong Wharf Theatre.

An earlier version of the work titled "Dirty Business" premiered in Florida in 2008. But Mastrosimone, (off-Broadway's "Extremities," "The Woolgatherer," and "Shivaree" which premiered at Long Wharf in 1983) says this new version steps away from docudrama and refocuses on the psyches of the high-profile characters.

The Long Wharf production stars John Cunningham as the senior Kennedy, Douglas Sills as JFK, Peter Anthony Stewart as Sinatra, Christina Bennett Lind as Exner, and Jordan Lage as Giancana. Artistic director Gordon Edelstein stages the show.

Over a diner breakfast near the meatpacking district where the theater is located, the Trenton, N. J.-born Mastrosimone, 65, talked about gaining Sinatra's trust and his own efforts to fill in the details of the story of how the singer put the Kennedys in contact with Giancana, how the Mafia's efforts in Chicago helped get Kennedy elected, how the Kennedys — once in office — betrayed that favor, and what happened after.

Short, stout and balding Mastrosimone looks like someone who could easily travel in the shadowy circles of power and intrigue, a no-nonsense sideman who would make you feel comfortable sharing a confidence, counsel or a drink.

"I found Sinatra at a time in his life when he was very willing to tell the story," he says sotto voce.

"This was a man who was 77 and he wanted to get things off his chest," says the writer. "Basically Frank was saying that Sam Giancana had the motive, the means and the opportunity to do this."

"This" meaning the 1963 assassination of the president.

Mob Ties

The play takes place from 1960 during the presidential campaign through 1962, and presents a motive that allows the audience to project to Dallas in 1963 and imagine that Kennedy's assassin did not act alone.

The connections among the CIA, JFK and the mob is not breaking news. Members of the Giancana family have already recounted their version of the time in "Double Cross: The Explosive, Inside Story of the Mobster Who Controlled America," a 1992 book by Giancana's brother Chuck Giancana and Chuck's son Sam. Giancana's daughter Antoinette also wrote about political and mob ties in the 2005 book "JFK and Sam: The Connection Between the Giancana and the Kennedy Assassinations."

Mastrosimone is working as a dramatist, using information from Sinatra's personal perspective to imagine the behind-the-scenes power plays.

Does he believe that the well-established mob connections led to Kennedy's assassination?

"Yeah," says Mastrosimone.

It started, he says, in 1960 with the senior Kennedy — who made money in the booze business during and after g Prohibition — asking the entertainer, who was a pal to JFK, to lunch.

"Joe said to Frank, 'You know some very unsavory people in Chicago.' He never said, 'Mafia.' Joe asked Frank to go to Chicago to ask Giancana, who was an organized crime figure there, to swing the union vote Jack's way in the election."

"Sinatra went to Giancana and asked him for this personal 'favor' which was the coin of the realm in that world. The assumption was in the end Kennedy would get the labor vote and the mob would have someone in the White House."

But once elected, Kennedy's brother Robert became attorney general and launched a campaign against the Mafia by jailing, indicting and deporting mobsters all around the country.

"It was a precaution against anyone saying the Mafia got the president elected," says Mastrosimone, "and it worked."

All About Hubris

"What do you call someone who asks a favor like that and then tries to screw the Mafia?" says Mastrosimone. "Are they idiots? The Kennedys are not idiots. It's about hubris."

"Ride the Tiger" characterizes JFK as being "undisciplined, out-of-control and an adrenaline freak," says the playwright. In the play's first scene Joe Kennedy, a formidable planner who envisions a 100-year dynasty for his sons and their offspring, warns his son about his problem.

"The Kennedys cut Frank out, too," says Mastrosimone, "and that infuriated Sam who felt like he looked like a fool in front of his people — and foolish means weak and that means there's danger to his own life from his own people.

"Sam said to Frank: 'Joe knows who I am but his kids think I'm the Boy Scouts. They don't appreciate that I am a powerful man.' The last thing he said to Frank was, 'We're going to show those two brothers how the Boy Scouts keep score."

JFK was killed in 1963; his brother Robert in 1968, though Mastrosimone says the mob link to RFK's assassination is not strong. Giancana's relationship with the CIA — he was involved since the late '50s in plots to kill Cuba's Fidel Castro — has fueled a conspiracy theory about the presidential assassination.

That theory was bolstered beginning in January, 1975, when a senate committee was created, headed by U.S. Sen. Frank Church, a Democrat from Idaho, to investigate CIA and Mafia ties.

Prior to testifying, Giancana was killed June 19, 1975, in his Chicago home, from gun shots to the back of his head and in the mouth — the latter seen as a warning against talking.

Mastrosimone believes that Giancana knew his killer because the table was set for two and sausages and peppers were simmering on the stove. The writer is not sure whether the murder was a mob hit or done by the CIA.

Mastrosimone remembers a telling transcript of a wiretap at a restaurant where Giancana and another mobster were meeting. When the other mobster, who was just indicted, asked him what to do, Sam pointed to a stuffed marlin hanging on the wall. 'You see that fish up there? The only way it got caught was when it opened its [expletive] mouth.'

Power of Beauty

And as for party girl Exner who linked Kennedy and Giancana?

Compared to the other characters, "she looks like an ant next to giants," he says. "But her power was that of the Geisha Girl — the power of beauty, being subservient and possessing the ability to stop a man in his tracks with a glance. She understood that powerful men don't want powerful mistresses. They want malleable people.

"But there are things that she wants. She believes that Jack loves her and she has a future. She believes she can be First Lady, though she never says that. Still, she fights for that in her own way."

Exner wrote her own memoir in 1977 entitled, "My Story."

"I don't buy her version at all," says Mastrosimone. "It's laughable. I think she wrote that book after Sam was murdered to tell the Mafia, 'Look, I have a chance to spill the beans and I'm not going to do it. In fact, I'm going to entertain you with all this [b.s.] and lie and you will see you have nothing to fear from me.' I believe she was truly fearful for her life." Exner died in 1999 at the age of 65. Joseph Kennedy suffered a stroke in 1961 and died in 1969, living long enough to see two sons assassinated. Sinatra died in 1998 at the age of 82.

Though Mastrosimone thought Exner's version was a protective concoction he believes the behind-the-scenes story Sinatra told him for two reasons.

"When we talked about JFK his eyes welled up. He was still smarting from the betrayal 25 years later. But there was an even greater reason why I believed him. The story he told made him look bad. That tough Sinatra of popular propaganda is not in this play. In this play he gets pushed around. He's humiliated. So why would he tell this story? Because he wanted the truth to be told."

Does Mastrosimone have any fear of retribution for telling this story?

"It would look good on my resume if I ended up like Johnny Roselli in a 50-gallon drum filled with cement," he says with a small smile of the mobster known as "Handsome Johnny," a friend of Sinatra's who was called twice to Church's committee. "But the mentality of the mob has changed. They would be proud of this."

And finally, the meaning of the title of the play?

Mastrosimone says it came from Kennedy's inaugural address in which he warned countries who were gravitating toward Communism.

"Once you are riding the tiger," says Mastrosimone, paraphrasing Kennedy, "the problem comes in the dismounting."

RIDE THE TIGER runs through April 21 on Long Wharf's main stage, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven. Tickets are $42 to $72. Information: 203-787-4282 and

'Ride the Tiger' at Long Wharf

Joe Meyers
Published 2:06 pm, Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The history and mythology of John F. Kennedy that has fascinated Americans for more than a half-century is the inspiration for the new play at Long Wharf Theatre, "Ride the Tiger," by William Mastrosimone.

The play is about one of the most gossiped-about aspects of the Kennedy story -- his friendship with Frank Sinatra and his sexual relationship with Judith Exner, a woman Kennedy shared with mob boss Sam Giancana.

Some say the tangled web of politics, show business and organized crime played a role in Kennedy's assassination less than three years after he became president, so "Ride the Tiger" will be of special interest to the conspiracy theorists going into overdrive as we approach Nov. 22, 2013 -- the 50th anniversary of the terrible events in Dallas.

New York actor and teacher Jordan Lage is playing the role of Giancana in the play that starts preview sin New Haven on Wednesday, March 27.

In a phone interview last week, Lage said he was thrilled that director Gordon Edelstein had chosen him to be part of this much-anticipated production.

"It's one of those roles you only get every few years, so I feel very lucky. There aren't a lot of roles as juicy as this," Lage said of playing Giancana.

"That whole era is just so interesting -- the fiction that has been created out of it, and this is a fiction," the actor stressed of Mastrosimone's take on what happened between the four major characters in the lead up to the 1960 election and then the months after that.

The mix of the real and the mythological might remind some theatergoers of the Oliver Stone film, "J.F.K," Lage said.

"You do have to regard it as a made-up story, but there is also that element of could this have been what happened?," the performer noted of the many fictionalized takes on Kennedy and his tragic end over the past 50 years (including, most recently, the very popular Stephen King novel "11/22/63").

Lage said there has been much talk of the real Sinatra at rehearsals for the play because Mastrosimone interviewed the star extensively when he wrote a TV miniseries on the performer's life.

Apparently, Sinatra told the writer some things off the record that might have found their way into "Ride the Tiger."

"Some of it seems too unbelievable to be true," Lage said, adding with a laugh, "But what could be more unbelievable than what is going on in Washington now?"

The actor has done some research into the gangster he plays, but has focused on bringing the Giancana of the script to life rather than create a facsimile of the real man.

Lage was stymied in his attempt to find out what Giancana himself sounded like because there is so little footage of the gangster available.

"I watched the footage of him (at one of the Senate organized crime hearings) but he only gave monosyllabic answers, so I can't really go for `authenticity,' " the actor said.

Giancana was a Chicago mobster and Lage is well versed in Chicago accents from his long association with David Mamet, both as a student and then as an actor in his plays. (At the urging of Mamet, Lage and a few of his fellow actors founded the Atlantic Theater Company in the Chelsea section of Manhattan.)

"David (and his friends) grew up in the 1950s so I'm not even sure if Giancana would have sounded anything like that since he came from a much earlier era," he said.

The fascination with the Kennedy era has intensfied with the popularity of the "Mad Men" TV series, which has depicted the lifestyles of the men and the women of the early 1960s in loving detail.

"Every generation seems to have its own nostalgia interests. In the 1970s there were so many things about the 20s -- `The Sting,' `The Great Gatsby.' I think now we've moved up a few decades to `Mad Men' and the Kennedys," Lage said.; 203-330-6332; or

Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven. Wednesday, March 27-April 21. $52-$42. 203-787-4282,


RFK Desk Diary for 1963 Missing

Rfk Diaries Shed Light On An Era

April 03, 1994|By Boston Globe.

WASHINGTON — Less than three months after President John F. Kennedy's assassination, the Johnson administration was asking Robert F. Kennedy to review the funeral bills, according to documents released for the first time Friday by the John F. Kennedy Library and the National Archives.

"I tried to pass this on to Sarge," wrote Robert Kennedy's secretary, Angie Novello, referring to Kennedy's brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, after the White House requested a meeting on the funeral expenses. "But they referred it back to us. Couldn't someone else do this?"
….The records do not include Kennedy's desk diaries for 1963 or for periods in 1962, including a 13-day stretch beginning the day before Marilyn Monroe died on Aug. 4. Steven Tilley, head of the Kennedy collection at the National Archives, said his agency has requested those documents from the Kennedy Library in Boston. But library officials said they are not available.

"We've never seen the desk diaries for 1963 or for the gaps in 1962," said Will Johnson, the chief archivist at the Kennedy Library. "We've asked the Kennedy family for them, but no one really seemed to know if they existed."

I have been told by other researchers that some materials that had not been made available by the presidential library, the Kennedy Presidential Library, up here -- and I know that you were there yesterday and that you doubtless know more about those than I do, and so, I'm just going to give a written summary of oral histories, but there were some gaps in the Robert Kennedy material, including his desk diaries -- the year 1963 was missing -- telephone messages for '62 and '63 are missing but resume in '64, and logs of Robert Kennedy telephone conversations. I have a feeling you know much more about this than I do.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Pseudo Debate

History Will Not Absolve

Orwellian Control, Public Denial,
and the Murder   of President Kennedy

E. Martin Schotz 

The Pseudo-Debate

All of this brings us to the real cover-up over all these years, which was not “Oswald” per se but rather “the debate over Oswald.” In this process we see the CIA following the principles of intelligence agency assassination and cover-up as outlined by Isaac Don Levine, an associate of Allen Dulles, in his analysis of the assassination of Leon Trotsky by the Soviet Union’s NKVD. As Levine revealed, the classic manner by which an intelligence agency attempts to cover itself is by the use of confusion and mystery. The public is allowed to think anything it wants, but is not allowed to know, because the case is shrouded in supposed uncertainty and confusion. This was and is the big lie, that virtually no one is sure who really killed President Kennedy or why.

Of course over the years the terms of the “debate” have been shifted as the public has learned more and more about the case. Thus initially the phony debate was organized around the question of whether the Warren Report was accurate or not. In other words, the public was supposed to debate whether there was or wasn’t a conspiracy. As this position was gradually eroded and it became evident that more and more of the public did not believe in the lone assassin theory, another aspect of the debate was developed.

The first fallback position of the government was to acknowledge that perhaps or more than likely there was a conspiracy, but if there was, the chief suspects were Fidel Castro, the KGB, or the Mafia. And while these theories were pushed, it was argued that the Warren Commission, acting in haste, had perhaps erred in missing an assassin here or there. But all this was framed as honest error.

In order to bolster the government’s credibility, the government always needed some writers who would argue that the Warren Report in fact had been true, that Oswald was the lone assassin after all. Thus the “debate” was broadened and complicated, but the honor of the members of the Warren Commission was never conceded by the government. It is important to understand that for the purposes of the government it was not necessary that anyone actually be convinced that these defenders of the Warren Report were correct. It was only necessary that people believe that their writings were debatable, i.e., that there was some substance to their arguments that Oswald was the lone assassin. If that point could be debated, then the government was safe, because the criminal conspiracy of the government of the United States to shield the assassins after the fact was obscured.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

11/22/63 Origin of "Fear and Loathing"

“The fear and loathing that’s on me after today’s murder…What happened today is more meaningful than the entire contents of the little magazines for the past 20 years…and the next 20, if we get that far.”   

        Hunter S. Thompson - 11/22/63 [1] See: The Origin of "Fear and Loathing.”

In a letter to his friend, (Pulitzer Prize winning novelist) William Kennedy, Thompson uses the term, "Fear and Loathing" for the first time on the Day John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas


Entering the Era of the Shitrain & The Death of Hope

November, 22, 1963
Woody Creek

I am tired enough to sleep here in this chair, but I have to be in town at 8:30 when Western Union opens so what the hell. Besides, I am afraid to sleep for fear of what I might learn when I wake up. There is no human being within 500 miles to whom I can communicate anything - much less the fear and loathing that is on me after today's murder. God knows I might go mad for lack of talk. I have become like a psychotic Sphinx - I want to kill because I can't talk.

I suppose you will say the rotten murder has no meaning for a true writer of fiction, and that the "real artist" in the "little magazines" are above such temporal things. I wish I could agree, but in fact I think what happened today is far more meaningful than the entire contents of the "little magazines" for the past 20 years. And the next 20, if we get that far.

We now enter the era of the shitrain, President Johnson and the hardening of the arteries. Neither your children nor mine will ever be able to grasp what Gatsby was after. No more of that. You misunderstand it of course, peeling back the first and most obvious layer. Take your "realism" to the garbage dump. Or the "little magazines." They are like a man who goes into a phone booth to pull his pod. Nada, nada.

The killing has put me in a state of shock. The rage is trebled. I was not prepared at this time for the death of hope, but here it is. Ignore it at your peril. I have written Semonin, that cheap book-store Marxist, that he had better tell his boys to buy bullets. And forget the dialectic. This is the end of reason, the dirtiest hour in our time. I mean to come down from the hills and enter the fray. Tomorrow a cabled job request to "The Reporter." Failing that, the "Observer." Beyond that, God knows, but it will have to be something. From now until the 1964 elections every man with balls should be on the firing line. The vote will be the most critical in the history of man. No matter what, today is the end of an era. No more fair play. From now on it is dirty pool and judo in the clinches. The savage nuts have shattered the great myth of American decency. They can count me in - I feel ready for a dirty game.

Fiction is dead. Mailer is an antique curiosity. The stakes are now too high and the time too short. What, O what, does Eudora Welty have to say? Fuck that crowd. The only hope now is to swing hard with the right hand, while hanging on to sanity with the left. Politics will become a cockfight and reason will go by the boards. There will have to be somebody to carry the flag.

My concept of the new novel would have fit this situation, but now I see no hope for getting it done, if indeed, any publishing houses survive the Nazis scramble that is sure to come. How could we have known, or even guessed? I think we have come to that point.
Send word if you still exist - HST

(From "The Proud Highway: Saga Of A Desperate Southern Gentlemen")




Sunday, March 24, 2013

More Missing Church Depositions?

Missing Church Committee Depositions

This document lists Church Committee depositions which are referenced in the following two Committee reports, but are not in the 53 boxes of currently-released Committee records:

Interim Report (Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders)

Schweiker-Hart Report (Book V: The Investigation of the Assassination of President John F. KennedyL Performance of the Intelligence Agencies)

Where page numbers of references are given, this is for the first such reference. In many cases, the deposition in question is cited more than once.

Interim Report

Depositions related to Patrice Lumumba assassination plots:

“Joseph Scheider” (alias for Sidney Gottlieb, CIA Special Assistant to DDP for Scientific Matters), 10/7/75 (p. 21)

“Joseph Scheider,” 10/9/75 (p. 21)

Michael Mulroney (senior CIA officer in Directorate of Plans), 6/9/75 (p. 38)

Michael Mulroney, 9/9/75 (p. 38) – Note: this is possibly a typo and refers to 6/9/75

Michael Mulroney, 9/11/75 (p. 38)

Douglas Dillon (Undersecretary of State), 9/2/75 (p. 53)

Depositions related to Fidel Castro assassination plots:

Case Officer, 8/4/75 (p. 73)

Duty Officer, 8/11/75 (p. 73)

Case Officer 1, 8/11/75 (p. 86) – Note: even though the Interim Report refers to a “Case Officer 1”  on 8/11/75 and a “Case Officer 2” on 8/11/75, and even though the released records have case officer depositions on each of these days, the released 8/11/75 (Weatherby, FNU) is NOT Case Officer 1.  It is a brief  reappearance of Case Officer 2, and Case Officer 1’s deposition is not present in the released files.

(Desmond Fitzgerald’s) “Assistant,” 9/18/75 (p. 88)

Sheffield Edwards (Director of the CIA Officer of Security), Rockefeller Commission testimony, 4/9/75 (p. 96)

George McManus (Helms’ Special Assistant for Cuba), 7/22/75 (p. 101)

McGeorge Bundy (White House advisor), 7/11/75 (p. 119)

“Official” (in CIA Western Hemisphere Division), 9/18/75 (p. 150)

John McCone (CIA Director), 6/6/75 (p. 164)

Depositions related to Rafael Trujillo assassination plots:

Henry Dearborn (Dominican Republic Deputy-Chief-of-Mission), 7/29/75 (p. 199)

Didier (CIA Station Officer), 7/8/75 (p. 199)

Depositions related to Ngo Dinh Diem assassination plots:

William Colby (CIA Director), 6/20/75 (p. 221).  Note: This deposition is referenced in Howard Jones’ Death of a Generation (Oxford University Press, 2003).  See Chapter 16 footnotes 25, 26, and 29.

Depositions related to Rene Schneider assassination plots:

Richard Helms (CIA Director), 7/15/75 (p. 228)

Henry Kissinger (Secretary of State), 8/12/75 (p. 228)

William Colby (CIA Director), 7/14/75 (p. 229)

Thomas Karamessines (CIA Deputy Director for Plans), 8/6/75 (p. 232)

Chief, Chili Task Force, 7/31/75 (p. 233)

William Broe (CIA Division Chief), 8/4/75 (p. 235)

Philpott (DIA Deputy Director), 8/5/75 (p. 236)

Robert Roth (Army Colonel), 8/14/75 (p. 236)

Robert Roth, 10/7/75 (p. 236)

Donald Bennett (DIA Director), 8/5/75 (p. 237)

Daniel Graham (DIA Director), 8/5/75 (p. 237)

Chile Chief of Station (“Felix”), 8/1/75 (p. 239)

U.S. Military Attache, 8/4/75 (p. 240)

Sarno (CIA agent), 7/29/75 (p. 244)

Alexander Haig, 8/15/75 (p. 247)

Depositons related to other matters:

Gordon, 9/16/75 (p. 333) – CIA employee who testified about a written order to destroy toxin

Schweiker-Hart Report

Chief, JM/WAVE CIA Station, 5/16/75 (p. 11)

Chief, JMWAVE, 5/6/76 (p. 14) – Note: this is possibly a typo and refers to 5/16/75

Intelligence Officer, 5/10/64 [sic] (p. 13)

Thomas Karamessines (Deputy to CIA’s Helms), 4/18/76 (p. 25)

Supervisor, 4/27/76 (p. 35) – Note: p. 35 refers to Supervisor I and Supervisor II both testifying on 4/27/76. The released records include on Supervisor transcript, unidentified as to whether it is Supervisor I or Supervisor II. The other, whichever it is, is not in the rel

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Missing SSCIA Docs?

From: Steven D. Tilly
JFK Liaison
Textual Reference Division

April 17, 1995

Charles Battaglia
Staff Director
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
211 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Mr. Battaglia:

It has come to my attention that certain transcripts of testimony given before the Select Committee To Study Governmental Operations With Respect To Intelligence Activities may not be among the records transferred to the National Archives for inclusion in the JFK Collection. I discussed this matter with Ms. Judy Hodgson on April 13, and she suggested that I inform you in writing about this matter.

Early last week, I received a phone call from a researcher who has spent considerable time reviewing the Church Committee records. The researcher informed me that he had been reviewing again Book V of the Committee’s final report which is entitled “The Investigation Of The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy: Performance of Intelligence Agencies.” The researcher directed me to page 42 of the report where testimony by the “FBI supervisor,” dated April 8, 1976, was referenced in footnote 113. The researcher stated that he did not remember seeing this transcript during his research and asked if I could locate it.

Due to the intense interest in the Church Committee records, I had a member of my staff create a folder title list for the records so we would have a finding aid for the records. A finding aid was needed since we have not received the data disk for these records. I instructed the individual making the list to be as precise as possible in describing each folder and to specifically list each transcript of testimony by name of witness and date. I am enclosing a copy of this list for your information.

In response to the researcher’s inquiry, I learned that the testimony of the “FBI supervisor” was not among the records in our custody. I began to read other footnotes in the report and realized that other transcripts of testimony were referenced that I had not seen on our list. I decided to review every footnote in the report and compiled of (sic a) list of transcripts of testimony, summaries of interviews, and affidavits described in the footnotes that are not among our holdings. I have also enclosed a copy of this list for your use. I call your attention to the fact that most of these transcripts are dated in 1976. A review of our folder title list shows that most of the transcripts in the records in our custody are dated in 1975. It goes without saying that the individuals who gave this testimony, whether identified by name or title, are very significant persons in the history of the assassination. 


While compiling this list, I remembered other testimony that was supposedly taken from the Church Committee but not among these records. One researcher has informed me that John Rosselli testified before the Committee on June 24, 1975, and April 23, 1976. The only transcripts we have for Rosselli are September 22, and September 23, 1975. Another researcher has informed me that Evelyn Lincoln, President Kennedy’s secretary, testified or was interviewed by the Committee staff. We have been unable to locate any documents relating to this issue.

I am also enclosing a copy of a document created by the Committee staff, apparently around the middle of August 1975, entitled “Assassination Testimony File.” This document was located by the individual who compiled the folder title list. I have compared this document with the folder title list and highlighted in yellow the transcripts that we located while compiling the folder title list. While this document only lists testimony taken early in the Committee’s history, there still appears to be significant documents from 1975 that are also not in our holdings. I realize that some of these individuals may have testified about other events under investigation by the Committee. However, some of the documents listed are clearly assassination related, such as Rosselli’s testimony of June 24, 1975, and Richard Helm’s testimony of June 13, 1975


Ms. Hodgson informed me that the records of the Church Committee are stored in the National Archives Building in downtown Washington, D.C. If you decide to search the Committee’s records again for these documents, I would be pleased to assist your staff in conducting that search if that would facilitate this matter. I will also be pleased to arrange assistance from the staff of our Center for Legislative Archives if you wish.

Please contact me on (301) 713-6620 if you wish to discuss this matter. As I informed Ms. Hodgson, I have informed the Assassinations Records Review Board about this issue.


JFK Liaisoin
Textual Reference Division


Cc: Dr. David Marwell
Executive Director
Assassinations Records Review Board. 

(Includes some interviews and summaries)

1. FBI Supervisor, 4/8/76 (Footnote 113, page 42)
2. Chief, SAS/CI, 5/10/76 (Footnote 32, page 17)
3. Western Hemisphere Division Desk Officer, 5/7/76 (Footnote 12, page 25)
4. Thomas Karamessines, 4/18/76 (Footnote 13, page 25)
5. Amlash Case Officer, 2/11/76 (Footnote 31, page 17)
6. Executive Officer, 4/22/76 (Footnote 32, page 17)
7. Section Chief, 5/11/76 (Footnote 7, page 11)
8. Chief JMWAVE, 5/6/76 and/or 5/16/76 (Footnote) 8, page 11, and footnote 19, page 14)
9. Intelligence Officer, 5/10/76 (Footnote 13, page 13)
10. Richard Helms, 6/13/75 (Footnote 33, page 18)
11. CIA Liaison Officer, 5/7/76 (Footnote 52, page 30)
12. Staff Interview of CIA Analyst, 3/15/76 (Footnote 62, page 31)
13. Staff Interview of William C. Sullivan, 4/21/76 (Footnote 70, page 34)
14. Alex Rosen, 4/30/76 (Footnote 76, page 35)
15. FBI Supervisor I, 4/27/76 (Footnote 78, page 35)
16. FBI Supervisor II, 2/27/76 (Footnote 78, page 35)
17. FBI Supervisor III, 4/29/76 (Footnote 78, page 35)
18. General Investigative Division Supervisor, 3/31/76 (Footnote 80, page 36 and footnote 27, pg 81)
19. Soviet Section Supervisor, 4/23/76 (Footnote 86, page 36)
20. Former Section Chief, 5/11/76 (Footnote 89, page 37) This may be the same person as item #7.
21. Supervisor, 5/5/76 (Footnote 90, page 37)
22. Mexico City Legat, 2/4/76 (Footnote 100, page 40)
23. FBI Special Agent, 12/5/76 (Footnote 34, page 52)
24. SAC, 12/20/76 (Footnote 36, page 52)
25. Staff Interview of FBI Inspector, 3/20/76 (Footnote 54, page 56)
26. Staff Discussion with Ambassador John Sherman Cooper, 5/24/76 (Footnote 120, page 67)
27. James Angleton, 2/6/76 (Footnote 134, page 69)
28. James J. Rowley, 2/13/76 (Footnote 21, page 80)
29. FBI Agent I, 5/3/76 (Footnote 44, page 83)
30. FBI Agent II, 4/13/76 (Footnote 44, page 83)
31. Washington Lawyer, 3/17/76 (Footnote 45, page 83)
32. Supervisor, 3/31/76 (Footnote 53, page 85) This may be the same person as item #18.
33. Client No. 1, 4/23/76 (Footnote 55, page 85)
34. Client No. 2, 4/28/76 (Footnote 55, page 85)
35. James Hosty, 12/12/75 (Footnote 6, page 87)
36. Staff summary with former FBI Headquarters Supervisor, 1/16/76 (Footnote 15, page 89)
37. FBI Headquarters Supervisor, 3/15/76 (Footnote 15, page 89) This may be the same individual as item #36.
38. James Hosty, 12/13/75 (Footnote 17, page 89)
39. INS Inspector, 12/19/75 (Footnote 1, page 95)
40. J. Gordon Shanklin, 12/19/75 (Footnote 1, page 95)
41. Affidavits of various FBI personnel, pages 96-97