Sunday, June 08, 2008

Remembering RFK

My lifelong friend Victoria Pynchon recently reminded me in her blog of a short but poignant phone conversation we had in the early morning hours of June 5, 1968, when we were both teenagers. It was the day Bobby Kennedy was shot. Vickie, like so many other Americans, could not believe that yet another Kennedy brother had been gunned down. In 2002, before The Ambassador Hotel was razed so a public school could be built in its place, the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists sponsored a "Crime in the City" media tour of famous crime scenes. The site of the Kennedy shooting was on the route. So, on the morning of Saturday, November 9, I boarded a tour bus in Hollywood with fellow SPJ members. Linda Deutsch, longtime special correspondent for The Associated Press, led the tour to some of Los Angeles's more notorious crime scenes. We stopped outside the site where Las Vegas mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was murdered in a drive-by shooting in the palatial Beverly Hills home of his mistress, Virginia Hill. We also went to the spot where the Hillside Strangler dumped the body of his first victim and to the Brentwood home of Nicole Brown Simpson, who was stabbed to death along with Ron Goldman in her townhouse courtyard. One of the last stops along the route -- and the reason I took the tour -- was the landmark Ambassador Hotel, located on 20 acres on Wilshire Boulevard. The hotel had long been shuttered and was in disrepair, but we were allowed inside to tour the premises. We walked through the large canopied entrance, and then climbed the stairs to the Embassy Room ballroom where RFK had given his victory speech to supporters just after midnight and immediately following his Democratic presidential primary win. We stood in front of the podium where RFK had stood. It was a somber moment. We then walked through the main kitchen to the pantry and the scene of the crime -- the same route Kennedy had walked just before he was hit by an assassin's bullets. Back in 1968, in the early morning hours following the shooting, as I sat with my mother and twin sister Cordelia in front of our black-and-white TV and watched the shooting scene play over and over, a nation mourned. Remembering that day 40 years ago was best said in the lyrics, in part, by singer Dion about more-than significant American leaders murdered in their prime -- Abraham, Martin and John: Has anybody here seen my old friend Bobby, Can you tell me where he's gone? I thought I saw him walkin' up over the hill With Abraham, Martin and John Didn't you love the things they stood for? Didn't they try to find some good for you and me?

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