Wednesday, December 4, 2013

JFK memorial

The most interesting part of a coffee table book on The Day Kennedy Died, by the editors of Life magazine, which I guess still exists in some form, is an inserted reproduction of the memorial issue of Life from the week after the event. True, I could have browsed through this any time at the library, but the point is, I didn't.

The ads! Cigarettes, land yachts, equally ungainly home appliances (did portable dishwashers ever work right?), a full page ad from The Phone Company urging readers to call long distance, which might seem unnecessary from a more recent viewpoint, but in those days they needed a big ad to get customers, because in those days long distance phone calls cost the earth.

Other news: A list of Christmas events nationwide reveals that the sing-along Messiah had already been invented, right here in San Francisco. A tskish article by Teddy White on the background to the rise in Black militancy is filled with sweeping generalizations and phrases like "the Negro leaders." The leaders in question are mostly city councilmembers; MLK is mentioned but not discussed, and Malcolm X does not exist.

On the assassination itself: This is the issue with a four-page spread that first published excerpts from the Zapruder film. What I had not known is that nowhere does the caption say who took the photos, or under what circumstances, or even that they're movie frames rather than conventional still pictures. And not only did the editors delete the frame showing the second shot, that hit JFK in the head, they also deleted it from the description. In this version there's only the one that got him in the neck, and though the caption mentions "blood flowing from the President's head," it says that Jackie "cradles him in her arms" and then inexplicably "scrambles out of her seat and crawls onto the trunk of the car in a pathetic search for help" instead of for the real reason, which is that she was instinctively trying to retrieve a piece of his skull. A useful reminder of how confused early reports of all sudden tragedies are.

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