Posts Tagged ‘Sirhan Sirhan’

New Year’s Roundup … Chip and Bill’s doings for 2014

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

 

Pasadena-Colorado-Street-Bridge-Complete

* The bridge that stole my heart, the bridge that defined a people, will be a mysterious character in my debut novel. A little eye candy for now, also via the L.A. Times.

* As mentioned earlier, William J. Kelly and I are collaborating on a sequel to Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles that Penguin/The Overlook Press published in fall 2008. Our new subject is one that’s sizzling ’round the world, and centered in East Asia’s emphysemic tiger. Not long ago, Neon Tommy, the fine digital publication put out by USC, did a piece comparing L.A. and the good, ol’ People’s Republic. Bill’s in there.

* Think we’re helpless against climate change? Well, innovations like this might mean those ice caps last a bit longer. “Ford Motor Co. will debut a solar-powered plug-in hybrid at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week. The C-Max Solar Energi Concept has solar panels on its roof that can charge the vehicle’s battery. If the technology proves viable in testing this year, Ford thinks it is a way to free some rechargable vehicles from wall sockets.But there’s a catch. The solar panels on top of the C-Max can capture only enough energy to charge up the battery to about one-eighth full — good for maybe three miles of electric-powered driving — during the day. “While solar panels have been making strides in terms of efficiency, even if we put them on the hood, you still couldn’t recharge the battery enough,” said Mike Tinskey, Ford’s director of vehicle electrification and vehicle infrastructure.To make the system more useful the automaker has developed a special concentrator that acts like a magnifying glass, directing intense rays to solar panels on the vehicle’s roof, Tinskey said …” Story link

* Besides a novel and new environmental book on deck, I have a super-secret other project that I’ve completed. Shhhh. You may one day learn about it if the winds blow the right direction.

*  In my stories’ collection, The Vicodin Thieves, one of two new pieces is about my big brother Paul’s encounter with Robert Kennedy, probably a few hours before he was assassinated in the kitchen of the old Ambassador Hotel. Here’s a photograph of his hearse leaving Good Samaritan Hospital, where he died from a killer or killers’ bullets, from the L.A. Times. You can get a sense of my article about RFK and Paul from this excerpt, exclusively pulled from my award-winning little offering. Here goes …

“Suddenly he was there, inside a chic Lincoln Continental, spectacularly unprotected as he grinned at onlookers woozy at what dumb luck had plunked into their midst. The city of movie stars and rock gods had been expecting him, just not in the cool shadows outside of downtown’s Biltmore Hotel. Clearly, history had pulled a fast one. A brown-haired college student palming a metallic device when he stumbled across this scene had no intention of squandering his brush with it. With nobody cordoning him off, he edged close enough to the man-of-the-hour to read his expression.

The student’s goal was to shoot.

The whole world was gnawing its cuticles watching to see if the polarizing face in the car could reproduce Camelot within any reasonable facsimile. Of course, the mob despised him, the political left was torn over him and Wall Street and the Kremlin harbored their own sharp opinions. But, as the college kid discovered in the year of the Tet Offensive and LSD-mixed Kool-Aid, the guy behind the excitement was mortal—a floppy-haired man weary around the eyes, facing backwards in the rear seat of somebody’s chrome-and- leather luxury sedan. Robert Francis Kennedy might have wanted to take a whiz or grab a Phillipe’s French Dip nearby if not for his excursion in the filtered sunlight near Fifth Street and Grand Avenue.

RFK, an adventurer, the first to dive into frigid waters and an armchair philosopher apt to quote the ancient Greeks, was achingly aware of his vulnerability to assassins by the time he had arrived here for the 1968 California primary. Outwardly, the New York Senator and former U.S. Attorney General in his older brother’s administration ridiculed his fear of being murdered as tiny com- pared to his determination to achieve a higher good. Even so, palpable threats made him flinch, if not more fatalistic where the public could not see. “Everybody,” one insider explained, “remembered Dallas.”

But did anyone learn from it where it counted? The young man with the camera—my older brother, Paul Jacobs—was able to get within about a dozen feet of the next potential leader of the free world until, finally, a staffer shooed him away. The resulting two photographs from a borrowed Nikon Nikorrmat 35mm camera caught RFK in unscripted poses, and not just any, either. Because Paul likely took them hours before infamy doubled down in the kitchen of the sprawling, Myron Hunt-designed Ambassador Hotel, he unknowingly had on film a pair of the last privately captured photos of the second Kennedy to die on the job …”

Get while it’s hot. Chip’s latest book is a collection of his top narrative and investigative articles. May we present “The Vicodin Thieves: Biopsying L.A.’s Grifters, Gloryhounds and Goliaths” More new projects on the way.

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

http://www.rarebirdbooks.com/image/31404679046

In this stories collection 23-years-in-the-making, you’ll find 29 articles on a sumptuous basket of subjects originally published in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Los Angeles Daily News, L.A. Weekly and other publications. Hold on for the unexpected and the maddening, the heartbreaking and the mystifying. The feature, investigative and opinion pieces here by Chip Jacobs range from Tommy Koulax’s litigious, chili-cheese hamburger empire, Lockheed’s super-secret Skunk Works defense plant and the deadly, 1913-accident during construction of Pasadena’s famous Colorado Street Bridge, to the hazy, first casualty of Operation Desert Storm, chromium-6 pollution outrages, violent bus drivers and profiles of Southern California political heavyweights Richard Riordan, Danny Bakewell and Richard Alatorre, among others. Vicodon Thieves, which draws its name from a Los Angeles Times feature about pharmaceutical burglars who prey on medicine cabinets at real estate open houses, also includes expanded articles about a high-flying, smog-emissions broker who fell in with shadowy, ex-CIA and military-intelligence operatives bent to “repatriate” forgotten U.S. government aid from around the globe, and the unsolved, execution-style murder of one of suburbia’s most electrifying young mayors blocks from his childhood home. Two new stories grace this compendium, as well. One explores the prodigal life of an early, Universal Pictures director (the author’s great uncle, Nat Ross) gunned down in 1941 by a sociopathic drifter, who’d die in the San Quentin Gas Chamber for his crime. A pair of photographs of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., likely captured hours before he was assassinated in the kitchen of Los Angeles’ old Ambassador Hotel, inspires another original narrative. Few outside of the most ardent of Kennedyphiles probably realize how close RFK came to not being there the night America’s trajectory changed forever, or the cursed, Hollywood enmeshment to his final days. Published by Rare Bird Books  / Amazon.com  /  Barnes & Noble

The scar that unlocked the timing of my brother’s intersection with history, Kennedy style

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

On what would prove to be the last full day of his life, Robert Francis Kennedy saw his son drowning in the California surf. It was June 4, 1968, and the windswept Pacific Ocean was chilly, the summer sky gray. Kennedy and his family were spending primary day here on the coast with a friend, Hollywood director John Frankenheimer. By night-fall (or early morning in the pre-Internet age), America would probably know whether Kennedy or Hubert Humprhey would be the Democratic nominee in the upcoming presidential election. Richard Nixon would be the Republican challenger in a few months.

Then, electoral votes no longer mattered. Breathing did.

According to numerous accounts, a crashing breaker knocked Kennedy’s 12-year-old boy, David, off his feet and a severe undertow yanked him down, trapping him beneath the water-line. Robert Kennedy, who’d been swiming with his kids, dove under the waves to save his child. Both were scuffed up during the rescue, RFK bearing a scar and bruise close to where he parted his hair afterwards. Supposedly, David promised his father he’d return the favor when he had his chance. Frankenheimer, meanwhile, applied theatrical makeup to his guest’s forehead, because Kennedy would be speaking that night in the crowded ballroom of Mid-Wilshire’s Ambassador Hotel. He couldn’t go on stage looking as though he’d already taken a hard object off the noggin.

This account is told here, here and here, among other places.

So why am I dredging up what is now forty-three-year-old history? Because of the caldendar, actually.

This spring, I posted two candid photographs that my older brother, Paul, snapped of RFK near the Biltmore Hotel downtown. Paul then was a a 21-year-old USC senior and part-time county statistician. Robert Kennedy, 42, was a former U.S. Senator from New York, ex-U.S. Attorney General in the cabinet of his assassinated older brother, John Kennedy, and, now, leading man of the Kennedy political royalty. He was also without Secret Service protection, which, prior to his murder in the Ambassador Hotel kitchen just after midnight on June 5, was only given to presidents and not candidates.

When the photos fanned around the web, some disputed my brother’s belief that he took them on June 4, Kennedy’s last day. One former Kennedy confidante, former labor leader Paul Schrade, insisted the photos could not have been taken on that date because everybody knows RFK was in Malibu relaxing before heading off to his fateful encounter at the Ambassador. The timing issue of an amateur shutterbug’s intersection with history four decades ago was enough of an attention-getter that an L.A. Times blogger tried pinpointing it by comparing RFK’s tie in the car where Paul saw him and other pictures of RFK that day. Nothing conclusive stood out. What came across was RFK was in the backseat of a sedan, fist-pumping well-wishers with some media watching, on an excursion into downtown with aides no one can accurately identify.

Now, examine the photographs carefully. Zoom in on them, espeically this closer shot . Get a magnifying glass out. When you do, you’ll see the narrow, mishapen, maybe inch-long mark that RFK had evidently just sustained from rescuing his son against the ocean’s hard bottom. I have searched through pre-June pictures of him and never saw the blemish before. If that scar was fresh, that means my brother’s photographs really were taken when he believed they were: hours before Sirhan Sirhan assassinated the man who might’ve ended Vietnam, healed the nation’s cultural wounds and avoided Watergate.

The credit for connecting RFK’s forehead scar with the date of the mystery photos goes not to me, or Kennedy historians or anyone in his inner circle or public eye. The observation and conclusion goes to a music publisher named Dave Loughlin from North Carolina. A longtime Kennedy believer and political-watcher, he found the shots on the web and did some sleuthing. To him I say “bravo.” If there are others with thoughts and comments, please contact me. I’m so gratified that the man from North Carolina took the time to put two and two together and contacted me. It equalled the scar, a time stamp if you will, from June 4, 1968.

Life, not unexpectedly, sunk for David after that day at the beach.

” … At just after Midnight on June 5, David watched on TV as his father claimed victory in the California presidential primary election, then the 12-year-old listened in horror as the same broadcast reported the Senator’s assassination moments later. The event left an emotional scar on David. He began recreational drug use shortly thereafter. David tried to combat his addictions many times. He completed a month-long stint at St. Mary’s Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in Minneapolis just before Easter 1984. He flew down to Palm Beach, Florida on April 19, 1984 for Easter, where several members of the Kennedy family had gathered. David checked into room 107 of the Brazilian Court hotel and spent the next few days partying. At the insistence of concerned family members, staff went to check on his welfare and found David dead on the floor of his suite from an overdose of cocaine, Demerol and Mellaril on April 25, 1984. David Kennedy was interred in the family plot at Holyhood Cemetery, in Brookline, Massachusetts.”

For posterity, here’s RFK at the Ambassador before darkness fell.

The RFK photo mystery lives on

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Democratic Presidential Candidate Robert K. Kennedy in downtown L.A. shortly before he was killed. This picture is owned and copywritten by Paul Jacobs, and any use of it without express written permission is forbidden.

Why this matters.

Since posting my big brother’s heretofore-unseen photographs of Robert F. Kennedy in the “hours” before he was tragically assassinated in the kitchen of the old Ambassador Hotel last week, I’ve learned some facets about the half-life of history.

1. Even mildly dipping one’s toe into the Kennedy world can bring a cold splash of notoriety and controversy that proves we never quite got over losing two of our best and brightest, to coin a phrase from their era.

2. Presenting photographs of incredibly public people can evoke and re-ignite enormously intense emotions and private opinions about events that took place a generation ago, when the Internet was somebody’s fantasy and the Kremlin was our Al Queda. Memory is a prism.

3. Comprehension that the world has a pretty absymal learning curve when it comes to safeguarding leaders from mad-men who aim to derail the world. You’d have thought after the events of Dallas we would’ve learned that. But we didn’t. By the early 1980s, then-President Reagan had taken an assassin’s bullet and nearly died. The Pope was shot. John Lennon was killed in cold blood outside the Dakota. And so forth and so on.

A former RFK adviser, ex-union leader Paul Schrade, contacted me and Kevin Roderick at LA Observed last week, disputing my brother’s contention that the photographs were taken the afternoon preceding Kennedy’s murder. Schrade, who was one of numerous people shot and injured by Sirhan Sirhan, noted that Kennedy spent most of the day of the California primary (June 4, 1968) relaxing at the Malibu home of a Hollywood producer (one of the people behind the “Manchurian Candidate,” if you can believe it) before heading off to Los Angeles for his speech. It’d been a grueling campaign and John Kennedy’s little brother needed to catch his breath as the odds-on favorite to take on Republican Richard Nixon in the November general election. Schrade attached this clip to corroborate his point. It’s worth viewing.

Here’s a description from a book about the assassination that jibes with Schrade’s account.

“Kennedy spent the day swimming, sitting in the sun, talking to friends, playing with his children, and sleeping.  He became so relaxed that he considered not attending his own election night party, suggesting that he and his family and friends watch the primary results on television.  He wanted to invite the media to join them at (director John) Frankenheimer’s home.  Because the television networks refused to haul their equipment out to Malibu, Kennedy reluctantly decided to go into Los Angeles to await the election returns. At 7:15 PM, Senator Kennedy, accompanied by Frankenheimer and other members of the campaign staff, left Malibu and sped downtown in Frankenheimer’s Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III to the Ambassador Hotel for the election night party. At the hotel, Kennedy and several key staffers had reserved suites on the fifth floor. With the election still in doubt and Kennedy running behind, he went to his suite and remained there, hoping for the tide to turn.”

Again, Schrade was vehement that RFK was not at the Bilmore the day of his speech at the Ambassador. “This has been confirmed by the Frankenheimers and campaign manager Fred Dutton,” Schrade emailed. “There was no election rally at the Biltmore or any other location. The car in the photo is not Frankenheimer’s car.”

I’ve asked Mr. Schrade if he could elaborate and so far he hasn’t responded back. He did not volunteer before when and where he thought the candid shots were taken, and others have come up blank as well about the details. Nobody knows whose car RFK was in or the identities of those with them. Speculation it might’ve been a young John Kerry or future Colorado Gov. Timothy Wirth, who evidently both worked on the Kennedy campaign, have been generally debunked by surviving confidantes and former journalists. (I was 6 at the time.)

But I have questions and lots of them in the battle of the memories of the two Pauls.

My brother, a USC undergrad then, is sure he took those photographs of RFK just outside the Biltmore Hotel, probably looking north on Grand Avenue, VERY shortly before Sirhan Sirhan’s  reprehensible bullets flew. Paul had just wrapped up work at his part-time job at the L.A. County Dept. of Probation when he ran smack into the car-bound presidential candidate as he fist-pumped supporters, dealt with some media and conversed with aides (or in one shot, appear to fix something on a staffer’s jacket.) I re-intereviewed him after Schrade contacted me, and my brother was certain that if the photograph wasn’t snapped on the afternoon of June 4, it was the day before (and thus about 31 hours before the killing) and no later than that. Paul said in his heart that he still believes he clicked the shutter button on June 4 because he remembered being so emotionally obliterated the next morning learning about RFK’s death so close to when he captured him through his lens. It hadn’t been days, that’s for sure, no matter what the chatter today claims.

For those who believe my brother, over the passage and vicous haze of time, conflated June 1968 with April 1968, when RFK gave a well-known speech at the Bitlmore (here’s a Q&A with him following that speech.) Paul, a RFK supporter and a photo-bug, was 100 percent positive he took his picture in June!

So who was in the car? What time of day was it? Where was RFK going? Why were the media around him? Why hasn’t this cleared up? Are there secrets still out there? What is to say that after leaving Malibu, but before going to the Ambassador, RFK swung by the Biltmore? Was he there the day before? It’s not that long a distance from the Biltmore downtown to the Ambassador on Mid-Wilshire.

History changed dramatically after the events at the Ambassador far beyond the political ramifications of Nixon taking the White House. The Secret Service began providing protection to presidential candidates after this murder of a second Kennedy. Mind-boggling, preposterous and dangerous as it was not to give them security before, no one questioned it later. To read up about this after-the-fact policy, click for this NPR story. Excerpt:

“… Kennedy had several bodyguards with him, including football star Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier, as he addressed a crowd gathered to support his bid for the White House. But there were no Secret Service agents present because before 1968, their services weren’t afforded to presidential candidates … ’We only had 547 agents at that time,” (Special Agent Edwin) Donovan says. “We already had the president and the vice president and their families to protect, so that made it even a smaller number of agents to draw from.’”

So who is right here, Paul Jacobs or Paul Schrade? I’m putting my faith with my brother, but neither of us are being doctrinaire on whether it was June 3 or June 4 when the pictures were taken. Paul Jacobs just thinks it was June 4, closer to the killing, that he captured the face of the man that might’ve helped us build an America without horrid ties to Laos, Cambodia, Watergate plumbers and perpetual partisanship.

If anybody has thoughts or can answer my questions or might be able to interpret the photos better than amateur me, please contact me at chip@chipjacobs.com

Way off the enviro trail: Robert Kennedy on the campaign hustings in downtown L.A. in a heretofore unpublished photograph taken hours before he was murdered.

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

You never know in this life when you’re about to become a witness to tragic history before it occurs.

Such was the circumstance for my older brother, Paul Jacobs, who found himself face to face with American political royalty– a man who might’ve spared us from the last phase of Vietnam and the enduring cynicism of Watergate — had he not been in the kitchen of the old Ambassador Hotel roughly seven hours later on June 5, 1968 by Palestinian immigrant Sirhan Sirhan.

Senator Robert Kennedy (D-New York) was running for president of the United States and in L.A. on a campaign stop at the time. We all know how that election turned out after RFK was killed. Nixon trounced Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey 301 electoral votes to 191.

My big brother was a twenty-one-year-old USC undergrad and Robert Kennedy supporter when this picture of the fist-pumping senator and former U.S. Attorney General was taken on election day. I was six, less concerned with White House occupants and sixties culture wars than playing “Army” with my plastic soldiers whose heads my dog liked to gnaw.

Paul was working part-time then as a statistician for the Los Angeles County Probation Dept. A photo bug, he had his trusty Nikkormat 35 mm SLR with him when he went outside just west of the Biltmore Hotel around 5 P.M. and saw Robert Kennedy’s motorcade idling after Kennedy emerged from the Bilmore. Paul got close enough, maybe 15 feet away, for this poignant picture, which in a sense is disturbing considering the way his older brother, President John F. Kennedy, was shot in Dallas and the events awaiting RFK less than half a day away on Wilshire Boulevard.

At any rate, the world — which has thousands of thousands, if not millions of Kennedy photographs circulating — has never seen this candid picture nor its companion one that will run soon. Just by chance, Paul had a front row seat to history before yet another assassination, another flash of a bullet, destroyed what might’ve been.

In studying every detail of this magnificent and depressing picture, which may have been taken on sloping Grand Avenue, I still marvel at Robert Kennedy’s determined expression that seemed to say to believers, “I got your back.” I can only wonder what the man who appears to be a Secret Service agent in front of the car is hollering.

<strong>This picture is owned and copy-written by Paul G. Jacobs and any use of it in any way without express written permission is prohibited! </strong>

It’s now only seeing the light of day 42 years later.

* L.A Observed post on this photograph.