erik lundegaard

JFK: Helpless

JFK laughing

“That's funny ... but it's not Noel Coward funny.”

After finishing David Thomson's new book on the Warner Bros. (much recommended), I've been having fun with Frank Langella's 2012 memoir, “Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women as I Knew Them,” in which each short chapter is a famous person and he describes his encounter(s) with them. It's like candy. Lee Strasberg is a dick, Yul Brynner is imperious (and a dick), Rita Hayworth is touching (and touched), Dolores Del Rio remains untouched. This is from his “John F. Kennedy” chapter, whom he met unexpectedly at a friend's house as he was just starting out. It makes me long for a real president. But then, almost everything does these days:

As the afternoon progressed our napkins would grow increasingly damp with tears of laughter as Noel Coward reached into his bottomless hamper of stories, jokes, one-liners, and character assassinations. And the sight of my President pounding on the table with one hand and holding the other out, palm up, to Coward, begging him to wait while he caught his breath, has never left my memory. To see the leader of the free world so hopelessly convulsed with laughter, wiping his eyes continuously, and to watch his wife genuinely delighted to see him so happy, made a profound impression on me. How glorious it must have been for him. Not a single subject of importance discussed all afternoon. No current affairs, political views, or social commentary. ...

We all trouped out to the lawn to say our good-byes, and before boarding the helicopter the President said to me: “What do you think, Frank? Should I keep my day job?”

JFK also asked Langella, then in his early 20s, if he was going to attempt to make a living as an actor. Imagine if he could've seen what happened: Langella not only would do just that, but he would wind up playing JFK's 1960 presidential rival in the 2008 movie “Frost/Nixon.” “You see, Mr. President, you'll get assassinated next year, Nixon will win in '68, then he'll discredit himself with the cover-up of a burglarly at Democratic National Headquarters, all of which was inspired in part by his political fear of your brother. No, not Bobby. Teddy. Bobby will be assassinated in June '68, paving the way for Nixon.”

Yeah, it really did go south about the time I was born, didn't it?

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Posted at 02:07 PM on Sat. Sep 02, 2017 in category Books  

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