Saturday, August 14, 2021

Ryan Murphy's American Love Story: John Kennedy Jr & Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy

Ryan Murphy has dipped his toes into nearly every genre—exploring Old Hollywood feuds, high school glee clubs, and all the horror stories with his signature flourish. As it turns out, there’s a lot more where that came from. Two new American Story spinoff series—American Sports Story and American Love Story are coming, alongside a Studio 54-themed installment of American Crime Story, FX and 20th Television announced Friday. The first season of American Sports Story will be about the podcast Gladiator: Aaron Hernandez and Football Inc and will chart the rise and fall of NFL star Aaron Hernandez. The season will further explore "the connections of the disparate strands of his identity, his family, his career, his suicide, and their legacy in sports and American culture," according to a press release.

American Love Story, as the title suggests, will center around love. Specifically, the true love stories that captured the world's attention. Season 1 will be the dramatization of JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette’s romance, the courtship and marriage of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. "What started out as a beautiful union for the young couple, widely regarded as American royalty, began to fray under the stress of the relentless microscope and navel gaze of tabloid media," reads a plot description. "The pressures of their careers and rumored family discord ended with their tragic deaths when his private plane crashed into the ocean on a hazy summer night off the coast of Massachusetts." The real-life whirlwind romance, of course, rocked Manhattan in the ‘90s: JFK Jr.–the only son of the former President and Jackie O—was America’s most eligible bachelor. Bessette was a fashion PR executive with impeccable style of her own. But rumors of impassioned fights and an occasional bump of cocaine always haunted them until their tragic deaths during a plane crash in 1999. Bessette’s life has never been told on screen in a major way—though she was a major focus in Carole Radziwill’s book What Remains and was credited as the inspiration for Rosamund Pike’s performance in Gone Girl. It feels like someone was going to tell this story eventually, so why not Murphy? Source:

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Widespread Panic, Unattainable Women, Shedding light on Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy

In June 2021, Knopf released James Ellroy's Widespread Panic, the latest novel in the 73-year-old author’s oeuvre. That includes the L.A. Quartet, which spans 1946 to 1958 in Los Angeles and incorporates The Black Dahlia—his breakout book in 1987—and L.A. Confidential; the Underworld U.S.A. trilogy, which starts with American Tabloid and covers the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr.; and the Second L.A. Quartet, set during World War II, beginning with 2014’s Perfidia. Ellroy “will watch any crummy film noir on TV just to see shots of L.A. as it really looked in 1951—the architecture, the clothes, everything else,” he says. “I live in the past. My life is freeze-framed at the time of my mother’s death, which was 1958.” In Widespread Panic, a sort of follow-up to Shakedown, Ellroy again returns to that time, spinning a fictionalized story about the real-life Fred Otash, a former L.A. police officer who became a private investigator and “the head strong-armed goon for Confidential magazine,” a celebrity scandal rag that he helped fill with gossip. There is a brief glance at 2020, though: Otash, stuck in purgatory for 28 years since his death in 1992, has been offered a way out by telling all. “There’s Heaven for the good folks, Hell for the beastfully baaaaaad,” Otash explains. “There’s Purgatory for guys like me—caustic cads that capitalized on a sicko system and caused catastrophe.... Baby, it’s time to confess.” In the novel, Otash is driven to help and love unattainable women (mainly actress Lois Nettleton). Ellroy thought Fred Otash to be good company but not trustworthy. Otash is “just ripped in half by his desire to do good and his desire to roll around in the dirt of the human condition,” says Ellroy, who describes the novel as “satire, parody, a big riff on this male figure at midcentury. It’s my fondest book.” Source:

The Untold Story of Carolyn Bessette (working title) will be published in Spring 2023: A sensitive, sophisticated act of reclaiming the narrative of a woman both ordinary and extraordinary, whose legacy has heretofore been determined by authors and journalists dead set on casting her in an unflattering light as a villain. Media accounts—and even historical treatments today—have usually portrayed Bessette as an ice queen, a vapid fashion insider, a child of WASP privilege, and a fame-hungry accessory to her husband. Yet the Carolyn that comes alive in these pages is a warm, vivacious daughter of a middle-class Italian-American family; a magnetic, caring friend; an ambitious go-getter; and a camera-shy woman with a history of trauma, who had complicated feelings about the public life that her relationship required of her. The Untold Story of Carolyn Bessette will open readers’ eyes to the many sides of Bessette without shying away from the thornier aspects of her character and story. It will couch its observations and revelations in the care and empathy due any human being, while also invoking the glamor and possibility of the 90s in New York. This biography will also be a “Kennedy book” that breaks new ground. 

(A Weirdland Exclusive) A relative of Carolyn Bessette explains about the separation rumors between John Kennedy Jr & Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and other issues:  There was nothing to reconcile. As I dig into this, I can say with absolute certainty that most of this is fabricated bullshit. Any reconciliation that happened was a basic step back from the public eye as they started a family. That's where things were going. Carolyn spent her formative years in Greenwich and Boston. Quite possible that she occasionally enjoyed cocaine [in CK]. However, she was really intelligent and probably was around it [the drug scene] but not partaking in it. She did not have a habit. I graduated from UConn one month prior to the crash. I met JFK Jr in New York. He was really down to earth. And they were great together. I respect your positive angle on a tough situation. I trust you and appreciate everything you're doing. I find your level of detail to be value-worthy. For all of the fluff, we are very much a New England family. Very pragmatic, sensible, loyal and not about our airs. Carolyn and I had very similar personalities. She was always confident in her skin. Always. She was very Connecticut and she got annoyed with intrusions. She just wanted to say f-off when the p-squad was in their face. She always had to tambour her temper in order to be gracious. And she did a good job.

As for Mike Bergin: That has no truth to it. Mr. Bergin's dad was a police officer in Naugatuck, Connecticut, at the time when my dad was a detective on the statewide narcotics team. Our families knew each other. We all hung out after Thanksgiving in Watertown,  Connecticut at a bar in 1996. (Circa 2005) I literally ran into Bergin at Maggie McFly's in Middlebury, Connecticut and made him admit his lie publicly which is why I tried to connect you with my best friend, my boarding and college roommate at Gunnery and the University of Connecticut. He (my best friend) witnessed it (Bergin's admission). All of my college buddies were drivers for both funerals. All of our Tahoes were donated by a bunch of dealerships because of my dad being a cop. Governor Rowland sent a state police escort to the NY State line and then Governor Pataki sent another escort. There are so many layers to this. We are a French family that resided on America Street in Waterbury. All Italian. Have you watched Ken Burns' documentary The War? If you want to do the family and Carolyn and Lauren and do it right, you have to understand our history. I'm proud of it. But, we came from dirt poor beginnings. I met Ken Burns once. He's a dork.... You should watch it. You'd understand us a little more. I grew up with Corado "Babe" Ciarlo's niece in Waterbury, who lived at 1032 North Main Street. "Babe" was a typical Italian from Waterbury. A great guy. I grew up in a melting pot. Irish, Scotch, Italian, Jewish, Slav, African. There's nothing better than living in Connecticut.  

One of the four cities featured in The War is Waterbury, Connecticut. We were super poor. My grandfather was electrocuted. He was killed on the job working as a foreman for Connecticut Light & Power when my dad was 16 and Carolyn's father was 26. William Bessette had graduated from the University of Connecticut and was a civil engineer. My dad is incredibly intelligent, he turned down West Point and became a cop. He was under cover (infiltrated the Hells Angels). I think the bigger story and narrative is that Carolyn and Lauren were more accomplished than most of the Kennedys. We don't like to compare but they were killing it. Look at Lauren: 34 and a phenomenon at Morgan Stanley. Was Carolyn's apex John? She had her own path. Carolyn was very 'fuck you'. She just did not want people in her face all the time and John had a different approach. 
Carolyn and I were very similar. Extremely perceptive of a room and the people in it. She was socially intelligent and also shy. She was smart and would lie back and observe. I laugh now but we wrote letters to each other. The laugh is that it was the time before email. I didn't keep the letters. 

A big tragedy in this unfortunate situation is that Lauren is overlooked. She was an amazing woman. I'll ask (another relative who was closer to the girls) about her dating another Kennedy (Bobby Shriver), however it seems highly unlikely. She was dating a cohort at Morgan Stanley at the time of her death. I believe he was Asian.
About that flight: I was in Rhode Island when they crashed. It was the most hazy I've ever seen and I have been on boats all of my life. A Carolyn and Lauren's book is paramount. Lauren and Carolyn and Lisa were very sweet. We are very stoic. I don't think anyone read Bergin's filth. I'm very angry. He is such a leach. I'm mad. It's just not true (Bergin's book The Other Man).

Lauren Bessette, Carolyn's sister, was remembered in an ecumenical memorial service at 7 p.m., July 24, 1999, in her hometown of Greenwich, Connecticut. The candlelight service at Christ Church, an Episcopal church, was led by an Episcopal priest and the pastor of a non-denominational church. 
Lauren Bessette was remembered as a woman "always there for her friends" and "one who searched for challenges." Lauren was eulogized by her uncle, Jack Messina, who conjured a picture of his niece "playing miniature golf in the back yard in her pajamas and high heels." Previously, John Kennedy Jr and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy’s memorial had been conducted on July 22, 1999, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Little Italy, New York. "We believe that our children are with us in spirit each and every moment, and that is what helps sustain us," wrote Ann and Richard Freeman, the mother and stepfather of Carolyn and Lauren, in a statement issued Wednesday. "The Freeman family is very thankful for the tremendous support we have received from all over the world." Source:

In NYC, Monicka HanssenTeele got to know his colleagues, including PR co-worker Carolyn Bessette, the woman who later became the wife of John F Kennedy Jr., also known as John-John and JFK Jr. Monicka HanssenTeele: "Carolyn and I became friends and shared an apartment. When she was to become a show director in the company, she appointed me as her successor. Then she came home and said, 'Tomorrow you will personally go to Calvin Klein's job interview'. John was very fond of paddling (kayaking), and they said they wanted to visit the north of Norway. The trip was planned and they were supposed to come the year after the accident." Monicka had witnessed her friend Carolyn developing a love affair with JFK Jr. In the United States, the Kennedy family was the closest to a royal family and Monicka saw how Carolyn's life was turned upside down. She was hunted by paparazzi as she moved outdoors, becoming the cover of magazines and newspapers. That meant that Carolyn had to give up her job, which gave Monicka the chance to try herself as a PR after having worked three years as a celebrity stylist in Calvin Klein.

Model Carolyn Murphy: “Calvin Klein was also a big supporter in my career, and it was Carolyn Bessette who initiated that relationship. A standout pinch-me moment in my career was when I was introduced to Calvin Klein, via Carolyn Bessette, who worked for him at the time; I’d met her on the street when she was casting for CK. From that moment I worshipped her and her style.” Sciascia Gambaccini: "I think Carolyn gave Calvin a lot of inspiration in terms of her personal style," says Gambaccini, the fashion director of Marie Claire, who previously worked at Calvin Klein. "I am sure [Carolyn] intrigued Calvin a lot and inspired a lot of his campaigns, with the way she looked. A healthy, beautiful American, that is what Calvin likes most in a woman."

Steve Gillon on what Sasha Chermayeff said to him about being part of William Cohan’s book "Four Friends": “Sasha forwarded to me an email she sent to her entire class at Andover criticizing Cohan for the way he depicted her, John and Carolyn. I did not know that he repeated the old canard that Carolyn was responsible for them taking off late on Friday evening. I have the FBI report that establishes the timeline for that night. According to witnesses, Carolyn pulled just as John was preparing the plane for take-off. She could be blamed for lots of things, but not that!” Gillon discussing Richard Blow's book: “Blow made the mistake of being the first out of the gate. John’s death was still raw. Blow’s book is actually quite good and very complimentary toward John. People at George did not like Blow to begin with. They found him arrogant and pretentious. He was always dismissive of Rosemarie Terenzio and others who did not share his academic pedigree. He was not close to John. [...] I did not attend any birthday parties after his mom [Jackie Kennedy] died. They used to be much bigger affairs in her apartment. After she died John made the dinners more intimate. I was not among his closest friends who would’ve been invited to those events. The Radziwills attended, and so did Santina [Goodman]. They always celebrated their birthdays together. Christiane Amanpour. Robert Littell. Maybe Sasha [Chermayeff]. Some of the Andover guys.” 

Barbara Vaughn about John Kennedy Jr: "I was instant friends when we met as I had grown up with two of his best friends-Billy Way, Andover roommate, and Robbie Littell, [John Jr.] Brown roommate. I was also friends with Christina Haag, Daryl Hannah, Julie Baker and Carolyn. John and I met on a rafting trip in Maine late September 1989. Julie Baker contracted Lyme disease, which went undiagnosed for many many years, and in addition to becoming sick for the following eight years, she lost much of her long-term memory. Really tragic.” Historian Steve Gillon: “John said he did not want to do to his wife what his father did to his mother. Also, I interviewed Julie Baker and she was adamant that her relationship with John was not sexual. Sasha and every other friend I interviewed said John was not having an affair. I spent many hours with Sasha and she never suggested that John and Julie Baker had a sexual relationship.” 

Barbara Vaughn didn't know exactly if Billy Way was the person who had introduced John Kennedy Jr to Carolyn Bessette: “I don’t know if Billy did, but it wouldn’t surprise me. He introduced Julie Baker and John. [...] Carolyn tried to be the gatekeeper with many of John’s friends, and even his sister [Caroline Kennedy]. John was in touch with whomever he wanted to be and got together when Carolyn was seeing her fashion friends. John and Billy Noonan had a falling out sometime before John’s death, so neither he nor Carolyn were hanging out. And I’m sure John wasn’t interested in all of Carolyn’s gang... I was at one of his birthdays and dinners with our mutual friends. Carolyn would always give me a hug and a “Hi sweetie!” when our paths crossed at events. We had traveled together and hung out one-on-one prior to their marriage. She even fixed me up with a friend of theirs. [...] Finding my calendars from 1989-1996 has been illuminating. About Julie, she and John met in 1990, and she was at John’s 30th b-day bash despite the fact that Christina was his date. Then on Halloween 1991, I went with John and Julie to a crazy party where both my date and John dressed as “David”, the Michelangelo sculpture. I never realized that Julie and Carolyn had any overlap in 1994. Here’s an even stranger thing: John was seeing Daryl behind Christina‘s back in the fall of 1989. I have photos of John and Daryl at a good friend’s Xmas party in 1992, and more pictures of her and John in Shelter Island, summer of 1994. Julie was a trusted friend and confidant who he chose to talk to. She told me they did not have sex [at the Stanhope Hotel], because John wanted a clear head and conscience while trying to figure out what to do about his marriage. John told me that Julie didn’t measure up in the intellectual category, so there was a limitation on their relationship, but he really loved her - which was evidenced by the longevity of their relationship, on or off the main stage.“

Barbara Vaughn was close to Robert Littell, Rosemarie Terenzio, Julie Baker, Christina Haag, the late Billy Way, and Mary Richardson; she also knew RFK Jr for 30 years, as well as Kerry, Rory, and Max Kennedy. She also met Jackie Kennedy at John’s 30th birthday bash. Barbara also had dinner with Clint Hill, Jackie’s Secret Service agent with JFK, and his partner/co-author of “The Kennedy Detail”, Lisa McCubbin. Barbara commenting about the rumors of if she had started dating John after his breakup with Daryl Hannah and before dating Carolyn Bessette: “Absolutely not! That misinformation is a perfect example of why you can’t believe everything you read. I was not dating John in 1994-5; he was dating Carolyn, and we had all gone diving together in Honduras the year before. Some friends were weirdly possessive of John, and competitive about their relationship. Carolyn grabbed the gold ring, and won, so jealousy [was] not that surprising. And a wife can try to edge out friends... I had heard that John vehemently did not want to be unfaithful as he wanted a clear head in figuring out how to proceed with Carolyn. It’s all hearsay. Carolyn was very warm and generous with me until the point where she felt uncomfortable, and I know exactly when, where, and why that happened, and I don’t fault her for her feelings.” 

Barbara explained why Carolyn had cut her off, but not Julie Baker who had a close relationship with John: “Carolyn was not threatened by Julie - John must have explained why he and Julie were never serious, why he never would have married her. Carolyn didn’t know Julie to my knowledge, but she knew me, knew John liked me and respected me, and I was one of John’s “Ivy League” pals. She was very insecure with academic and intellectual topics - even games he liked to play - and would not join in. She would sit on John’s lap trying to distract him. This is difficult for me to say, but I think I was more of a credible threat in her eyes. John was extremely well-read and super-knowledgeable about history. He was much smarter than most people realized and had a very good sense of humor, which requires intelligence. I thought Carolyn was very smart and clever, but not well-read, and was just a bit out of her depth in the cultural literacy arena.“

Barbara Vaughn on John and Caroline Kennedy’s relationship: “There was a period where they were a bit estranged. Caroline knew that Carolyn was driving a wedge between John and certain groups of friends, and she called some to ask if they’d seen him. She was disappointed to learn that many had not. John called Carolyn’s abrupt cutting me off “a tempest in a teapot”, and said she’d get over it. Carolyn never reached out to me as she had in the past, but she was actually very warm when I’d run into her. “Hi sweetie!” she’d say as she would give me a hug hello.“

Interview with Blaine Applegate (a friend of Carolyn Bessette since college): “She wasn't blown away by John. Carolyn was casual when she spoke about John to her friends. She was more genuinely interested in others than she was of herself. I mean, not uncommon to see her, you know, roll out of bed and go to the dining hall in sweats and, you know, messed-up hair and no makeup. I mean, that was the Carolyn we knew, and that's the Carolyn that we'll all remember is just this regular gal who was an unassuming beauty. She would not have sacrificed her heart for a guy who wasn't gonna also give his heart to her. She was genuine. She wasn't a gold digger. She was just a normal person who wanted to have a relationship, a one-on-one relationship with somebody who would treat her with respect.”

Her care in avoiding the incessant media attention made some characterize Carolyn Bessette Kennedy as a reluctant hermit, holed up in the couple's TriBeCa loft, and she herself had pointed out that the invasion was close to total -- and sometimes genuinely threatening. "I thought it was kind of a joke at first," she told an editor at WWD. "I'd pick up the phone at work and there would be this guy calling from the National Enquirer, asking the most absurd questions: `Why did you beat up John in the park yesterday?' But then it just got bizarre. I realized that a lot of the photographers really didn't like me. They wanted me to do something wrong -- so they could photograph it. And when I fell in the street one day outside the apartment, these four or five guys just went crazy. Nobody helped me up. They just kept snapping." Carolyn had prided herself on not being an uptown girl. When she first came to New York, she moved to the East Village. "I used to step over drunks and crack dealers to get to my apartment," she remembered. "Everybody at Calvin thought I was crazy, but I couldn't imagine coming to New York and living anywhere else. Even with all the weirdness, I felt comfortable and I had fun."

Twenty-two years after the death of Carolyn Bessette and husband John F. Kennedy Jr., social media users celebrate Carolyn's signature spirit: "I think she would be amused and delighted," a friend says. Carolyn's influence lives on as a new generation celebrates her life in a variety of popular Instagrams such as Carolyn Iconic and CBK's Closet, which focus not only her unique fashions but her independent spirit. "A new generation has discovered her," says RoseMarie Terenzio, a close friend of both John and Carolyn. "Her style is not just about fashion but also the way she carried herself and her quiet confidence and her relatability... and I think that comes through. As private as she was, I think she would be amused and delighted and proud that her influence lives on." When financial analyst Mary Taylor, 23, wanted to learn more about Carolyn a few years ago, she says, "there weren't a lot of resources online. Definitely no Instagrams. So I thought if there aren't any accounts commemorating her style and her legacy, why don't I just do it?" Taylor's tribute page, created in 2018, quickly took off. 

Taylor makes it a point to also include stories and anecdotes beyond the wardrobe. "She was mysterious," she says of Carolyn, who worked as a Calvin Klein publicist before her death. "She had a big personality, was very creative and, by all accounts, a very loyal friend. More than being a super cool person fashion wise, she was a goodhearted person and I wanted to honor her legacy. A lot of people still care." George Carr, brother of Calvin Klein's onetime creative director Zack Carr, is a huge fan of all the social media accounts that celebrate her life. "Carolyn was the American and contemporary version of Audrey Hepburn," says Carr. "Zack was enchanted by her. She was his muse, the inspiration for thousands of his sketches. She had an all-American beauty. Not a model. Not an aristocrat. Not a celebrity. It was never contrived. Calvin [Klein] saw it immediately and so did Zack [Carr]." Source:

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

The Portrait of a Lady: Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy

"Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy was wild and vivid in a cautious and pale world, always burning a little more brightly than anyone around her. Her husband was beguiled by the dazzle she left in her wake. She made people into happier, bolder versions of themselves. She made her husband into a better man. Henry James wrote a story about a young girl named Isabel Archer in The Portrait Of A Lady (1881); a girl as brave as she was beautiful, as pure of heart as she was unafraid to love. He was writing about Carolyn, more than a century before she was here." —Carole Radziwill (July, 2019)

The Portrait of a Lady is the story of a spirited young American woman, Isabel Archer, who, "affronting her destiny," finds it overwhelming. She inherits a large amount of money and subsequently becomes the victim of Machiavellian scheming by two American expatriates. Like many of James's novels, it is set in Europe, mostly England and Italy. Generally regarded as the masterpiece of James's early period, this novel reflects James's continuing interest in the differences between the New World and the Old, often to the detriment of the former. It also treats in a profound way the themes of personal freedom, responsibility, and betrayal. The Portrait of a Lady has received critical acclaim since its first publication in The Atlantic Monthly, and it remains the most popular of James's longer fictions. More recent criticism has been levelled by feminists. In particular, Isabel's final return to Osmond has fascinated critics, who have debated whether James sufficiently justifies this seemingly paradoxical rejection of freedom. One interpretation is that Isabel feels as honour-bound to the promise she has made to stepdaughter Pansy as she does to her marriage to Osmond, and that she believes the scene her "unacceptable" trip to England will create with Osmond will leave her in a more justifiable position to abandon her dreadful marriage. The extensive revisions James made for the 1908 New York Edition generally have been accepted as improvements. The revision of the final scene between Isabel and Goodwood has been especially applauded. As Edward Wagenknecht noted, James "makes it as clear that Isabel has been roused as never before in her life, roused in the true sense perhaps for the first time in her life." James's verbal magic allowed him to both obey and evade the restrictive conventions of his day for the treatment of sexuality in literature. Source:

"Ralph Touchett wandered away a little, with his usual slouching gait, his hands in his pockets and his little terrier at his heels. His face was turned toward the house, but his eyes were bent musingly on the lawn; so that he had been an object of observation to a person who had just made her appearance in the ample doorway for some moments before he perceived her. His attention was called to her by the conduct of his dog, who had suddenly darted forward with a little volley of shrill barks, in which the note of welcome, however, was more sensible than that of defiance. The person in question was a young lady, who seemed immediately to interpret the greeting of the small beast. He advanced with great rapidity and stood at her feet, looking up and barking hard; whereupon, without hesitation, she stooped and caught him in her hands, holding him face to face while he continued his quick chatter. His master now had had time to see that tall girl in a black dress, who at first sight looked pretty. She was bareheaded, as if she were staying in the house—a fact which conveyed perplexity to the son of its master, conscious of that immunity from visitors which had for some time been rendered necessary by the latter’s ill-health. Meantime the two other gentlemen had also taken note of the new-comer. “Dear me, who’s that strange woman?” Mr. Touchett had asked. “Perhaps it’s Mrs. Touchett’s niece—the independent young lady,” Lord Warburton suggested. “I think she must be, from the way she handles the dog.” The collie, too, had now allowed his attention to be diverted, and he trotted toward the young lady in the doorway, slowly setting his tail in motion as he went. The girl spoke to Ralph, smiling, while she still held up the terrier. “Is this your little dog, sir?” “He was mine a moment ago; but you’ve suddenly acquired a remarkable air of property in him.” “Couldn’t we share him?” asked the girl. “He’s such a perfect little darling.” Ralph looked at her a moment; she was unexpectedly pretty. 

“You may have him altogether,” he then replied. She was looking at everything, with an eye that denoted clear perception—at her companion, at the two dogs, at the two gentlemen under the trees, at the beautiful scene that surrounded her. “I’ve never seen anything so lovely as this place. I’ve been all over the house; it’s too enchanting.” And then, “Oh you adorable creature!” she suddenly cried, stooping down and picking up the small dog again. She remained standing where they had met, making no offer to advance or to speak to Mr. Touchett, and while she lingered so near the threshold, slim and charming, her interlocutor wondered if she expected the old man to come and pay her his respects. American girls were used to a great deal of deference, and it had been intimated that this one had a high spirit. Indeed Ralph could see that in her face. “Won’t you come and make acquaintance with my father?” he ventured to ask. “He’s old and infirm—he doesn’t leave his chair.” “Ah, poor man, I’m very sorry!” the girl exclaimed, immediately moving forward. “I got the impression from your mother that he was rather intensely active.” Ralph Touchett was silent a moment. “She hasn’t seen him for a year.” 

“Well, he has a lovely place to sit. Come along, little hound.” 
They had come by this time to where old Mr. Touchett was sitting, and he slowly got up from his chair to introduce himself. “My mother has arrived,” said Ralph, “and this is Miss Archer.” Mrs. Touchett, Ralph's mother, was separated from her husband, residing in Florence while Ralph stays at Gardencourt. “I'll be showing her four European countries—I shall leave her the choice of two of them—and in giving her the opportunity of perfecting herself in French, which she already knows very well.” Ralph frowned a little. “That sounds rather dry—even allowing her the choice of two of the countries.” “If it’s dry,” said his mother with a laugh, “you can leave Isabel alone to water it! She is as good as a summer rain, any day.” “Do you mean she’s a gifted being?” “I don’t know whether she’s a gifted being, but she’s a clever girl—with a strong will and a high temper. She has no idea of being bored.” “I can imagine that,” said Ralph; and then he added abruptly: “How do you two get on?” “Do you mean by that that I’m a bore? I don’t think she finds me one. Some girls might, I know; but Isabel’s too clever for that. I think I greatly amuse her. We get on because I understand her, I know the sort of girl she is. She’s very frank, and I’m very frank: we know just what to expect of each other.” “Ah, dear mother,” Ralph exclaimed, “one always knows what to expect of you! You’ve never surprised me but once, and that’s today “Do you think her so very pretty?” “Very pretty indeed; but I don’t insist upon that. It’s her general air of being some one in particular that strikes me. Who is this rare creature, and what is she? Where did you find her, and how did you make her acquaintance?” Ralph had listened attentively to this judicious report, by which his interest in the subject of it was not impaired. “Ah, if she’s a genius,” he said, “we must find out her special line. Is it by chance for flirting?” “I don’t think so. You may suspect that at first, but you’ll be wrong. You won’t, I think, in any way, be easily right about her.” His mother shook her head. “Lord Warburton won’t understand her. He needn’t try.” “He’s very intelligent,” said Ralph; “but it’s right he should be puzzled once in a while.” “Isabel will enjoy puzzling a lord,” Mrs. Touchett remarked. Her son frowned a little. “What does she know about lords?” “Nothing at all: that will puzzle him all the more.” Ralph greeted these words with a laugh and looked out of the window.she was better worth looking at than most works of art. She was undeniably spare, and ponderably light, and proveably tall; when people had wished to distinguish her from the other two Miss Archers they had always called her the willowy one. Her hair, which had been an object of envy to many women; her light grey eyes, a little too firm in her graver moments, had an enchanting range of concession.

She had an unquenchable desire to think well of herself. She had a theory that it was only under this provision life was worth living; that one should be one of the best, should be conscious of a fine organisation (she couldn’t help knowing her organisation was fine), should move in a realm of light, of natural wisdom, of happy impulse, of inspiration gracefully chronic. It was almost as unnecessary to cultivate doubt of one’s self as to cultivate doubt of one’s best friend: one should try to be one’s own best friend and to give one’s self, in this manner, distinguished company. The girl had a certain nobleness of imagination which rendered her a good many services and played her a great many tricks. She spent half her time in thinking of beauty and bravery and magnanimity; she had a fixed determination to regard the world as a place of brightness, of free expansion, of irresistible action: she held it must be detestable to be afraid or ashamed.

She strolled again under the great oaks whose shadows were long upon the acres of turf. At the end of a few minutes she found herself near a rustic bench, which, a moment after she had looked at it, struck her as an object recognised. It was not simply that she had seen it before, nor even that she had sat upon it; it was that on this spot something important had happened to her—that the place had an air of association. Then she remembered that she had been sitting there, six years before, when a servant brought her from the house the letter in which Caspar Goodwood informed her that he had followed her to Europe; and that when she had read the letter she looked up to hear Lord Warburton announcing that he should like to marry her. It was indeed an historical, an interesting, bench; she stood and looked at it as if it might have something to say to her. She wouldn’t sit down on it now—she felt rather afraid of it. She only stood before it, and while she stood the past came back to her in one of those rushing waves of emotion by which persons of sensibility are visited at odd hours. The effect of this agitation was a sudden sense of being very tired, under the influence of which she overcame her scruples and sank into the rustic seat. Her attitude had a singular absence of purpose; her hands, hanging at her sides, lost themselves in the folds of her black dress; her eyes gazed vaguely before her. “You don’t know where to turn. Turn straight to me. I want to persuade you to trust me,” Goodwood repeated. And then he paused with his shining eyes. “Why should you go back—why should you go through that ghastly form?” “To get away from you!” she answered. But this expressed only a little of what she felt. The rest was that she had never been loved before. She had believed it, but this was different; this was the hot wind of the desert, at the approach of which the others dropped dead, like mere sweet airs of the garden. It wrapped her about; it lifted her off her feet, while the very taste of it, as of something potent, acrid and strange, forced open her set teeth. “The world’s very small,” she said at random; she had an immense desire to appear to resist. She said it at random, to hear herself say something; but it was not what she meant. The world, in truth, had never seemed so large; it seemed to open out, all round her, to take the form of a mighty sea, where she floated in fathomless waters. —The Portrait Of A Lady (1881) by Henry James

John F. Kennedy, Jr: The Death Of An American Prince Documentary ( - This Friday, July 16, 2021, will mark the 22nd Anniversary of the tragedy Kennedy-Bessette. Episode 11 of the “Fatal Voyage: The Death of JFK Jr.” podcast discusses how John F. Kennedy Jr.’s radio was a “digit off the proper frequency” during his final flight on July 16, 1999. This surprising detail reveals that JFK Jr. wasn’t able to communicate with air traffic control after leaving from Essex County Airport, New Jersey, in his Piper Saratoga. “I don’t know whether that was due to the impact or whether it was truly he just didn’t have the proper frequency tuned in,” says Jeff Guzzetti, a member of the National Transport Safety Board investigative team that compiled the report about JFK Jr.’s final flight. “I documented that in the report. 'From the moment the plane left here at Essex, it was all over,' McLaren explains. “They never heard from him. The investigation found out, and the director of the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] told me, that in their assessment of the equipment they felt that the frequency button for the radio, he didn’t have it on the right degree. He wasn’t able to communicate.” Source: 

Thirty years after his Oscar-winning political thriller 'JFK,' Oliver Stone discusses why he’s returning to the subject with documentary 'JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass,' which premieres in Cannes. Stone has amassed enough material to return to the the subject with the documentary JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass. The film, which is being sold by Altitude, will make its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

-Hollywood Reporter: Why did you decide to revisit this subject?

-Oliver Stone: We started this about two to three years ago. And there were a hell of a lot of details that were put out [because of the JFK Records Act], and they were not reported on. There’s a memory hole about Kennedy. And I think, before I quit the scene, I would like to reveal what I know about the case. I can’t put everything I know into this documentary. 

But I can assemble a lot of the facts that came out after the movie [1991’s JFK] as well as reaffirm some of the facts in that movie because it was attacked on a broad scale. It’s very important for my conscience for the people who care to have this exist. That’s what motivated the documentary. We got the documents out. Not all. Trump was about to release them in 2017. And 12 hours before, he backed off. There’s a lot of documentation that hasn’t been released, and that’s in addition to the Secret Service, which fucked up unusually on that day and [later] destroyed everything. It’s very important to this younger generation because the country seems to be adrift. We’ve lost a sense of what we are as a country, and there’s been a tremendous amount of racial division. You have to equate this to 1963. There was a motive to kill Kennedy. He was changing things too much. He was a reformer. He was going to break up the CIA into a thousand pieces. Kennedy was pulling out of Vietnam and was looking for detente with Russia, making peace with Cuba. These things were denied by many historians. Not all the serious historians are really looking [now] at the documentation. And there’s plenty of it. We are going to release a four-hour version of [the documentary] as well.

-Did you feel a certain amount of freedom in doing this documentary now that Jackie Kennedy is no longer alive and may have objected to the assassination footage?

-Oliver Stone: No. We never heard from Jackie on this issue. She wrote me a beautiful letter on Platoon. She loved Platoon and thought it was a major piece of work, like an American institution. And she asked me to come visit her and [to reach out] if I ever wanted to write a book. She was working in one of the publishing houses. I think JFK shocked the family. I know that Teddy Kennedy didn’t want to see it. Robert was dead. But according to his son, the moment JFK was killed, Robert called up the CIA and said, “Did you do it?” They knew that the Russians had not assassinated Kennedy. And then they basically hinted very strongly that it was a right-wing movement in the United States that got him killed. And Robert had no power after Lyndon Johnson took over. Johnson cut his balls off.

-And did you ever talk to John F. Kennedy Jr. after the film?

-Oliver Stone: I met with John and worked with him on George magazine. I wrote a couple of articles. And then I had dinner with him one night in New York, and he was a very nice, charming young man. I saw him at the time as a bit scared of this whole thing because he didn’t have political power. And for him to come out there as a potential presidential candidate and say something [about his father’s assassination] would have been [problematic]. But he had suspicions. Why else would he ask me to dinner and ask me what I thought and this and that. I saw him as a Hamlet. Hamlet feels that something’s wrong, but he can’t act. Source:

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Dinner in America (I wanna be your boyfriend)

Simon (Kyle Gallner – ‘Ghosts of War’) and Patty (Emily Skeggs – ‘Love You To Death’) don’t really fit in, because no one is making any effort to listen or connect with them. Pyromaniac Simon, who lives every day like it’s the last one, doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him. He’s always ready to fight whomever looks at him the wrong way. That kind of attitude often gets him into trouble. Socially awkward Patty is a quiet young woman who gets made fun of for her appearance by strangers. Her parents are overprotective, so when she finally gets to be alone in her bedroom, she rocks out to music as some sort of escapism. Adam Rehmeier fine-tunes his vision to perfection with interesting wide shots, quick editing, witty and foul-mouthed dialogue, and a sick soundtrack. His screenplay is one of the strongest I’ve seen all year. ‘Dinner In America‘ could easily be compared to films such as ‘Napoleon Dynamite‘, ‘Superstar‘ and ‘PEN15‘, but it goes so much deeper, by exploring an underlying layer of drama and romance.

Kyle Gallner is mostly to thank for that. What a powerhouse! It’s baffling how he’s not a bigger name – the man can act. He brings emotion, heart, facial expressions, attitude, confidence to his performance and makes it all look so easy. Skeggs is just as good, if not better. The Tony-nominated actor takes it up several notches while showing a sense of vulnerability and poise. Gallner and Skeggs’s chemistry is believable and off the charts. Source:

Dinner in America (I wanna be your boyfriend) video.

Kyle Gallner as Lou Reed in "CBGB" (2013) 

Born in the New York City punk explosion of the 1970s, the music of the influential band the Cramps was built on guttural yells, dissonant electric guitar clangs and a not-insignificant amount of LSD. While the Cramps were regulars at the iconic Manhattan venue CBGB, their most famous show was held in Napa, California alongside the San Francisco-based band the Mutants – and played, for free, to an audience of psychiatric patients at the Napa State Hospital. Featuring archival footage of the Cramps’ 1978 performance captured by the San Francisco-based production company Target Video, the short documentary We Were There to Be There recalls how the unique gig generated a chaotic and joyful musical moment – for band members and audience alike. From the Cramps’ performance at the film’s centre, the US directors Mike Plante and Jason Willis craft a broader exploration of San Francisco’s explosive 1970s art scene, as well as the lasting negative impact of US government efforts to defund and privatise mental healthcare over the past several decades. Source:

Saturday, July 03, 2021

50th Anniversary of Jim Morrison's death

Audio book poems read by Jim Morrison.

The sister of Doors singer Jim Morrison said their father, a decorated flag officer in the U.S. Navy, offered to resign as his son became a counterculture icon. George Stephen Morrison served from 1938 until 1975, retiring as a rear admiral with 15 career decorations, including honors for valor and merit. He fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. In a recent interview with the Del Mar Times, Anne Morrison Chewning recalled that her older brother had been known for misbehavior long before he found fame with the Doors. “Jim was loads of fun,” she said. “He would do pranks and silly things, and he would get us into trouble on the Navy base.” Even though the first song Morrison wrote was a collaboration with his pianist father, Anne said that George Morrison “just didn’t understand Jim’s poetry, and he was clearly not into rock ‘n’ roll.” At one point, the officer wrote a letter to his son, telling him to “to give up any idea of singing or any connection with a music group because of what I consider to be a complete lack of talent in this direction.”

Anne – who compiled an upcoming book of Morrison's writings – added: “I only heard this later, but my dad offered to resign from the Navy if what Jim was doing was upsetting to the Navy – and my dad loved the Navy! It was really special to him, and he didn’t want anything to upset the apple cart with the Navy. But, in the end, he didn’t have to resign.” Both of Morrison’s parents outlived him by decades, and although they were estranged at certain times, Anne said the singer told people they were dead in order to protect them from his world. On the subject of the Doors song “The End,” which refers to a character killing his father and sleeping with his mother, Anne noted that "people would whisper to me: ‘Are your parents upset about ‘The End?’ And I’d say: ‘Not in the least. The lyrics are just a Greek myth.’ Jim did it in a new way, and I loved the drama of it.”

On his record label biography distributed in 1967, Jim Morrison listed his parents as dead. "He just didn't want to be involved in dad's life," Chewning observes today. "And he knew dad probably wouldn't approve of some of the things he was writing and singing about - and his behavior and his life. He was just totally the opposite of my dad. So, I think he just decided to separate." Chewning moved back to California with her husband and infant son shortly after discovering that her brother was a rock star. Hearing that the Doors were due to fly into Los Angeles, she decided to surprise Morrison at the airport. "We went and met him - my husband and my little son. Jim looked at me and said, 'You don't happen to be my sister, do you?'" It was the start of a joyful reunion for the Morrison siblings. Chewning dropped in on a Doors session, where Morrison gave a sweet mid-song shoutout to her baby boy.  Source:

They also visited the home Morrison shared with his girlfriend, Pamela Courson, and cooked them a Thanksgiving meal. "We'd see him, but not often," Chewning admits. "We were all in our 20s, I was pregnant. People were just busy in their own lives. You didn't know that soon it would be the last time. There just wasn't an urgency, which was the sad thing. I didn't ever see him perform. I wish I had." When Jim Morrison died on July 3, 1971, at the age of only 27, he left behind a formidable library of notebooks and loose-leaf. One scrap bore the heading "Plan for Book," followed by a short outline for how to organize his original works. He never lived to finish the project, but now, 50 years after his death, his family has fulfilled his creative wish. Chewning, who wrote the prologue for “The Collected Works,” is the co-executor of her late brother’s personal estate. She devoted years to compiling and guiding this comprehensive new book, which includes a foreword by novelist Tom Robbins and an introduction by Frank Lisciandro, Morrison’s close friend and collaborator.

“I knew several Jims,” Lisciandro writes in his introduction. “The shy loner who was my classmate at the UCLA School of Film; the rock performer who was always raising the stakes on what was culturally acceptable; the lyricist, poet and writer who surprised me with notebook pages of complex poems and gifts of self-published books ...” In one of his notebooks from the trial, Morrison wrote: “The joy of performing has ended. Joy of films is pleasure of writing.” Those sentiments are shared by former Doors guitarist Robby Krieger. His memoir, “Set the Night on Fire,” is due for publication this fall by Little, Brown and Company. The Morrison men were never able to put aside their differences - in life, at least. "It's too bad," says Anne Morrison Chewning. "Pam called my dad after Jim had died and said they had talked about Jim reconnecting. It had only been five years or six years. That's really not very long in terms of most lives." 

“There’s so many young people who just see him as a rock star,” Chewning explains. “I want to dispel the ‘Lizard King’ and all those things that you hear. We wanted the reader to see the complete Jim, to see that he was a full writer in multiple areas, thinking in lots of different directions.” Agreeing that the trial made Morrison realize he needed a reset and led him to seek solace in Paris, Chewning says the trip was “kind of what he needed.” “He actually said, ‘Maybe I was ready to be done,’” she shares. “He was quite drunk and who knows what he was saying. But he said himself, ‘Maybe I wanted this to happen, so I could be done for a while.’ Later, reflecting on his conviction, he admitted, “Miami blew my confidence, but really I blew it on purpose.” For Chewning, going through her late older brother’s writings was bittersweet. She was amazed at the vast sum of writings he completed at such a young age. But it’s what Morrison envisioned for his future that touched Chewning the most. But there were glimmers of hope, as he also wrote about his “desire for family” and wished for “a chance to write my Paradise Lost?” “Doesn’t that break your heart?” Chewning asks, adding that she’d never heard him speak about wanting a family of his own, but that he was always “very sweet with children.” Source:

Friday, June 25, 2021

John Newman’s "JFK and Vietnam" (Updated)

John F. Kennedy was very disappointed by the advice he got on the Bay of Pigs invasion and the use of atomic weapons against Laos. Naval Chief Arleigh Burke retired in August of 1961. Shortly after, Kennedy let it be known that the Army’s Lyman Lemnitzer would not retain his position as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. One reason for this is that Lemnitzer made it clear in the summer of 1961 that he thought America should directly intervene in Vietnam. Chief of the Vietnam MACV, Lt. General Lionel McGarr, also thought intervention would be the smart choice. At around this time, JFK decided he needed to talk to General Maxwell Taylor for the purposes of first, being his personal military advisor, and later, to replace Lemnitzer. In May of 1961, Kennedy decided to send Lyndon B. Johnson to Saigon on a goodwill tour. He made it clear that he wanted no one to suggest to Diem that American ground troops could or should enter the theater. Prior to Johnson’s arrival, the Joint Chiefs sent a message to McGarr saying that Diem should be encouraged to request troops from LBJ. And Johnson did suggest this to Diem. At this point, Diem politely declined. Instead, he asked for funding to increase the South Vietnamese army, the ARVN.

Kennedy agreed to the increased funding for the ARVN. But he refused the military request for 16,000 combat troops. Yet in October, Diem did request American combat troops. Right after this, Deputy Defense Secretary U. Alexis Johnson also suggested the insertion of combat troops. Kennedy was so upset by these requests that he planted a story in the New York Times saying the Pentagon was not advising him to send in combat troops. Clearly, Kennedy did not like this crescendo towards direct intervention. Yet that October—after Kennedy sent Taylor, Rostow, and Lansdale to Vietnam—they returned with a recommendation to insert several thousand troops under the guise of flood control. Kennedy was shocked by this request, so much so that he recalled each copy of the report. He did not want it to get into the press. When JFK got John Kenneth Galbraith’s memo, he compared it to the official report. In the meantime, certain senior White House officials—perhaps Robert Kennedy—began leaking to the press that the president was opposed to sending combat troops into Vietnam. Kennedy rejected combat troops, allowed for no mutual defense treaty, and did not provide any commitment to save Saigon from communism. He did allow for more American intelligence advisors, military trainers, and equipment. But as both Newman and Galbraith’s son Jamie have noted, the written result of this meeting, NSAM 111, marked a dividing line, one which Kennedy never crossed: Americans could not fight the war for Saigon. It also triggered the beginning of Kennedy’s plan to begin to get out of Indochina. 

Robert McNamara attended the first of what would be called “SecDef” meetings in Hawaii on December 16, 1961. What is remarkable about all this is that, even after Kennedy issued his warning about his policy, there were still requests to escalate. Air Force Chief Curtis LeMay said atomic weapons were needed. The military put together something called the Joint Strategic Survey Council, which recommended direct American intervention. Another such recommendation followed in January of 1962 by the Joint Chiefs. This one said if America did not go to war in Vietnam, the dominos could fall all the way to Australia and New Zealand. With the hawks swirling around him, Kennedy decided to use Galbraith and his report to counter them. By early in 1962, Galbraith had filed three back-channel cables to Kennedy. All of them frowning derisively on further American involvement in Indochina. Galbraith had pointedly written Kennedy that if the USA increased its support for Diem, “there is consequent danger we shall replace the French as the colonial force in the area and bleed as the French did.” 

In early April, Galbraith met with Kennedy at his retreat in Glen Ora, Virginia. Kennedy had him write still another memorandum discouraging American involvement: 'We have a growing military commitment. This could expand step-by-step into a major, long-drawn out indecisive military involvement. We should resist all steps which commit American troops to combat action and impress upon all concerned the importance of keeping American forces out of actual combat commitment.' As Newman and others have noted in discussing Galbraith’s proposal, Kennedy made a significant comment about it. He said that he wanted the State Department to be prepared to ”seize upon any favorable moment to reduce our commitment, recognizing that the moment might yet be some time away.” That comment was recorded in a memorandum of April 6, 1962. He then had Galbraith make a personal visit to McNamara. The ambassador later reported to Kennedy that he had a long discussion with the Defense Secretary and said that they ended up being in basic agreement on most matters. 

We know that McNamara got the message, because his deputy Roswell Gilpatric said, “McNamara indicated to me that this was part of a plan the President asked him to develop to unwind the whole thing." And, as we shall see, McNamara conveyed that request to Gen. Paul Harkins at the SecDef conference of May 1962. There is an important key that John Newman now sketches in. It’s important, because it fulfilled the request Kennedy made to “seize upon any favorable moment to reduce our commitment.” As the author learned from Don Blascak, in Saigon there was a deception being perpetrated. Max Taylor appointed Harkins to lead the entire Vietnam military operation, this included intelligence gathering. Harkins made Air Force Col. James Winterbottom his chief of intelligence for MACV. This allowed Winterbottom to control the intelligence coming into CINPAC—the entire Pacific command—since that was led by another Air Force officer, General Patterson. From CINPAC it went to the Joint Chiefs and McNamara. Harkins and Winterbottom did not know about the April 1962 Galbraith/McNamara meeting. Nor did they know what Kennedy had told representatives of the State Department about seizing on a moment to reduce our commitment. So, in February of 1962, at the third SecDef conference, Harkins said that things were improving in Vietnam, based upon new equipment supplied by the Pentagon. He could say this since Winterbottom was rigging the figures. The author makes clear that this deception was deliberately aimed at McNamara, since Harkins and Winterbottom thought that the illusion of progress would keep the American commitment going. But there was one agency that actually was telling the truth about how badly the war was proceeding. 

This was the US Army Pacific Command or USAR-PAC. 
In May, 1962, at the Fifth SecDef meeting, McNamara was presented with another rosy picture conjured up with phony figures. By now, Winterbottom was counting civilians as dead Viet Cong. Meanwhile, the communists were finding it easier to recruit, because of Diem’s increasingly corrupt and despotic rule. After the presentation was over, McNamara met with Harkins and a couple of his assistants behind closed doors. He now passed on Kennedy’s orders about beginning to reduce the American commitment, because the Pentagon could not actually fight the war for Diem. To show how set Kennedy was on getting out, and how unaware Harkins was he was aiding him, Newman devotes another chapter to Laos. Under the cover of the June 1962 cease fire and the July settlement, the Pathet Lao and Hanoi got what they wanted: infiltration routes into Vietnam. American advisors gradually left, but Hanoi’s did not. Harkins attempted to keep the enemy advantage a secret by recalling a report on it. But the information did get to Roger Hilsman of the State Department. At the July 23, 1962, SecDef meeting, Harkins continued his faux good news. He told McNamara that the training of and transfer to the ARVN, and the phase out of the major US operational support activities were, per the secretary’s request, on schedule. At this meeting, McNamara announced a three-year deadline for withdrawal of all American forces, which matches the 1965 termination date that Kennedy would endorse the next year. Joseph Mendenhall, a State Department advisor on Vietnam and Laos, admitted that, in reality, Saigon was losing the war. He blamed it on Diem and his brother Nhu. He said the status of the war would not improve unless there was a change in leadership. There were people in the State Department who shared this accurate view. The author concludes that, by March of 1963, Kennedy understood an intelligence charade was being enacted. One of the most important ARRB disclosures—if not the most important one—was the full record of the 8th SecDef Conference. This was held in Hawaii on May 6, 1963. Harkins was still insisting Saigon was winning. McNamara now requested the withdrawal schedules he had asked for many months prior. The secretary also said that he would ask for a thousand man withdrawal by the end of the year. It was understood this would be a part of a complete withdrawal by 1965. 

The author references a famous quote from the book Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye. In that volume, Ken O’Donnell and Dave Powers describe the aftermath of a meeting that Kennedy had with Senator Mike Mansfield on Vietnam: "
After Mansfield left the office, the president said to me, “In 1965, I’ll become one of the most unpopular presidents in history. I’ll be damned everywhere as a communist appeaser. But I don’t care. If I tried to pull out completely now from Vietnam, we would have another Joe McCarthy scare on our hands, but I can do it after I’m reelected. So we had better make damned sure that I am reelected.” This is a revelatory comment. As Newman, Jim Douglass, and Gordon Goldstein have noted, Kennedy told several friends and acquaintances he was getting out of Vietnam. But this particular quote is important, because it delineates his conscious effort to design that withdrawal around the 1964 campaign, which is why the end date was 1965. In 1963, few could fail to see that things were not as Harkins and Winterbottom said they were. The strategic hamlet program, started by Diem and McGarr, was not working. Kennedy decided to switch ambassadors. As Jim Douglass has pointed out, Kennedy wanted to appoint his longtime friend Edmund Gullion as ambassador. Rusk objected to this and they then agreed on Henry Cabot Lodge. As Douglass points out, this was a mistake.

What I believe occurred was that Lodge and CIA officer Lucien Conein, acted in league with a cabal in the State Department—Mike Forrestal, Averill Harriman, and Roger Hilsman—in order to enable an overthrow, stop Kennedy from neutralizing it, and then the two Americans in Saigon made sure the coup plotters polished off the Nhu brothers. I also believe that Lodge and Conein moved to get rid of the CIA station chief in Saigon, John Richardson, in order to make their scheming easier to accomplish. All of this is why the president had recalled Lodge to Washington at the time of his death, in order to terminate him. While all this intrigue was going on behind the scenes, Kennedy had sent Taylor and McNamara to Saigon, not to write a report, but to present him with his report. In his book, Death of a Generation, Howard Jones writes that the Taylor/McNamara report was actually written before the plane ride over to Saigon. Newman says it was written while the mission was in progress. The chief author was Prouty’s boss General Victor Krulak who, although he is listed as a trip passenger, was really back in Washington. It was through this back channel that Kennedy meant to make the report his fulcrum for withdrawal. This is why an early sentence reads as follows: “The military campaign has made great progress and continues to progress.” What then follows is that training of the ARVN should be completed by the end of 1965 and it “should be possible to withdraw the bulk of US personnel by that time.” 

The author shows that even at this late date, the fall of 1963, there was resistance to Kennedy’s plan. William Sullivan of the State Department insisted that the ’65 withdrawal date was too optimistic, so that part was taken out. Kennedy was alerted to this upon the return from Saigon. At a private meeting with Taylor and McNamara, he ordered it put back in. Others, like the Bundy brothers and Chester Cooper of the CIA, also objected. Kennedy overrode them. There was one more tactic the opponents of withdrawal used: they began to rewrite intelligence reports from the battlefield. They now admitted Saigon was losing. In the face of all this evidence of Kennedy’s determination, it surprises me that Deb Galentine who, quite frankly I never heard of, said that Kennedy was a hard-core Cold Warrior. My eyebrows jumped up a couple of feet when I read this for the simple reason that it is pure and provable bunk. Were all these people wrong? Senator Wayne Morse, Senator Mike Mansfield, General James Gavin, Marine Corps Commander David Shoup, Journalist Charles Bartlett, Prime Minister of Canada, Lester Pearson, National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, Chair of the JCS Max Taylor, Assistant Press Secretary Malcolm Kilduff, State Department assistant Mike Forrestal, Congressman Tip O’Neill, Assistant Secretary of State Roger HIlsman, Assistant Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric, Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith, Journalist Larry Newman, White House assistants Ken O’Donnell and Dave Powers, Commanding General of North Vietnam Vo Nguyen Giap, etc. Galentine makes no attempt at all to explain Kennedy’s 12 refusals—as explicated by Goldstein and Newman—to send in combat troops during 1961–62.

Finally, the reason that Kennedy was reluctant to make NSAM 263 public—and to include the Taylor/McNamara Report as part of it—had nothing to do with his exit strategy. It had everything to do with the 1964 election. The problem for JFK was the political impact of a Hanoi takeover before the election—in the middle of a withdrawal. Kennedy was clear about this in conversations with Mansfield, Bartlett and O’Neill. The evidence is overwhelming. The only way to reverse a withdrawal from Vietnam was by doing so over Kennedy’s dead body. It was Max Taylor who decided on the OPLAN 34 operations against North Vietnam. He approved a design for these naval provocations in September, without showing it to McNamara. So Kennedy never saw it. It was not shown to McNamara until the November 20th Honolulu meeting. Taylor had only cleared it with the Pentagon and these were not hit-and-run operations. They clearly needed much American support. Also, at this meeting, the intelligence reports had been rewritten and the true war conditions were apparent. Therefore, Taylor also tried to reduce the withdrawal plan by having it made up of individuals instead of the whole units that JFK wanted. 

When McGeorge Bundy returned from this meeting, Johnson was in the White House. His NSAM 273, written for Kennedy, was altered by the new president. Johnson’s revised version allowed expanded operations into Laos and Cambodia. The withdrawal plan was more or less neutralized and it granted the vision of OPLAN 34 that Taylor wanted: using American assets, not just Saigon’s. Therefore, coastal raids were allowed with American speedboats and some personnel, accompanied by American destroyers fitted with high tech radar and communications gear. The American aspect is what Johnson altered in these coastline operations, as the South Vietnam navy could not have performed these any time soon. These essentially American patrols/provocations led to the Tonkin Gulf incident in August, which—misrepresented by the White House—was used for a declaration of war by the USA. The author ends his book here before NSAM 288 of March 1964, which mapped out a large—over 90 target air— campaign against Hanoi. (Fredrik Logevall, Choosing War) Something Kennedy would not countenance in three years, Johnson had done in three months. LBJ used 288 as a retaliation list for what he considered an attack on Americans on the high seas at Tonkin Gulf. As Newman noted, since LBJ was getting the genuine intel reports, he understood that our side was losing. And this is what he used to confront McNamara and turn him around on the issue. These conversations occurred in February and March of 1964. In the first one, the president said he always thought it was "foolish for you to make any statements about withdrawing. I thought it was bad psychologically. But you and the president thought otherwise, and I just sat silent." He then added that he could not understand how America could withdraw from a war it was losing. (James Blight, Virtual JFK

In the March conversation, LBJ now wanted McNamara to revise his announcement of withdrawal to say that Americans were not coming home, even though the training of the ARVN was completed. What Johnson was doing was the first swipe at creating the myth that he was not breaking with Kennedy—even though he knew he was. In a later call with McNamara in 1965, Johnson reveals that what is left of the Kennedy war cabinet understands what he is up to, which is “to put the Vietnam War on Kennedy’s tomb.” LBJ’s fabrication—that there was no breakage—was then picked up by NY Times reporters David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan and utilized in their best-selling books The Best and the Brightest and A Bright Shining Lie. By 1967, it was clear that McNamara was going through a severe mental crisis. (Tom Wells, The War Within) Johnson thought McNamara was going to have a nervous breakdown. According to his secretary, he would break out into rages about the uselessness of the bombing; and then he would end up crying into the curtains on his office window. Johnson retired him in late November of 1967. Newman’s relationship with McNamara eventually revealed the reasons for the secretary’s tears and, also, the motive behind his order to begin a classified study of the war called The Pentagon Papers—which he kept secret from Johnson. (Vietnam: The Early Decisions, edited by Lloyd C. Gardner and Ted Gittinger) In those debriefs, McNamara said he and Kennedy had agreed that America could train the ARVN, advise them, and give them equipment. And that was it. When the training mission was completed, America would leave, even if the South Vietnamese forces were in a losing situation: "I believed we had done all the training we could and whether the South Vietnamese were qualified or not to turn back the North Vietnamese, I was certain that if they weren’t it wasn’t for lack of our training. More training wouldn’t strengthen them; therefore we should get out. The President agreed." Source: