Thursday, August 31, 2017

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part CXXV

Text and Illustrations by ©Bob Schulenberg

June, 1968. We saw the footage of the chaos at the Ambassador Hotel after Bobby Kennedy was shot.  It was on television as it was happening.  He lay there with a calm but strangely ambiguous expression on his face.

It was as if he was contemplating something; possibly he was comparing this to Dallas and the assassination of his brother those few years earlier.

Recently we've learned that he never believed The Warren Commission and its solution to the President's murder.  

He knew that JFK had many virulent enemies within his own government and now, lying on the floor at the Ambassador, it wa s his time and was as if he were piecing together all the pieces.

Years after this, close associates said that if he'd gained the presidency, he had planned to reopen an investigation into his brother's murder.

So much had changed since November, 1963 in Dallas.  The Vietnam War was expanding, protests and demonstrations were in almost every part of the country!

And the next day, amplifying the sadness, were the simple headlines announcing something that everyone already knew.  He was dead and the dreams of many died with him!  

Martin Luther King
had been murdered just two months earlier and Bobby Kennedy, learning of his death just before appearing before a crowd while campaigning in Indianapolis, Indiana, had given an extemporaneous speech eulogizing King and urging the audience to tame "the savageness of man."

Nevertheless, there were riots in many cities. And now, he too was gone.

In the middle of all of this, Amy Vane and I walked into the Metro Media studio to be interviewed by Alan Burke.

About trendy Underground Movies ...
During the session I was tensely waiting for a kill shot from Burke as people had told me he was tough!
We finally got to the final moments and Burke looked intensely at me and asked:

"Would you ever make a pornographic film?"

(Was this IT ?)

I said "No" and he said, "Why?"  And I looked straight at him and said, "because I'd rather do it than film it!"

And he laughed and the show was over!

Afterwards, he thanked us for coming and could not have been kinder.  I guess his shock-jock personality was only for the show!
Leaving the studio, Amy and I walked up Third Avenue to dinner at Oscar's Salt of the Sea Restaurant in the building in which Barbra Streisand had found her first walkup apartment.

Strangely enough, for all the time I'd spent in Barbra's apartment, I'd never eaten at Oscar's!

We celebrated.
© New York Public Library
I had met Anne Rieger through my artists' rep Pema Browne and she immediately became "Annie."  We quickly became fast friends.  She worked as an art director in an advertising agency and had a very easy and continuous sense of humor.  In such a grim time, it was comforting to have things to laugh about.
We went to dinner at La Boufferie where I told her about our television experience. And, of course, we talked about all the political stuff.

A group of wild radicals led by Abbie Hoffman, a young man I'd frequently heard on WBAI-FM, had formed an action group calling themselves "The Yippies!"
As I worked all night on deadlines, I had the companionship of Hoffman and his merry band of political mischief makers talking with Bob Fass on his show, Radio Unnameable. During the day and in public, I was beginning to feel like an undercover agent!

There was such a schism in society as a whole.  Politically divisive phrases like The Silent Majority would soon be quoted to indicate pro-Vietnam War Patriotism.

People didn't realize that the phrase was from the 19th Century, the Civil War, and was a euphemism for the dead — "the Silent Majority of the dead" ... "He has passed over to join the silent majority" ... and similarly euphemistic terms.
But there was still some surface gaiety in some areas and one of the prime places was Central Park and the chic open air restaurant that had appeared around the Bethesda Fountain.  I met my friend "Howdy" Hoffding there for lunch.  I needed a break!
The park was full of young people!

Drifting toward us was the musky scent of patchouli incense mingled with the sound of small tinkling bells.  And from somewhere deeper in the park we could hear bongo drums.

Someone at a nearby table referred to the fountain as the Beth-Sheba Fountain!  I wasn't sure if they were kidding or just confused.
It was all a magical mix and an anachronism in the middle of the city of Manhattan, business capital of the world, the hub of Capitalism!

And yet ... this youthful spring joy and vibrancy had little to do with that!  
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