Monday, April 11, 2011

JFK, RFK and cable TV

Not much going on with Ghostkeeper 2, two of the producers who are interested were not able to do much last week as one was sick in bed and the other had to wait for his connection to return from Europe.

Since all I'm doing now is sending out proposals and making contacts for everything from possible crew members to CGI effects that we  hope to use. 

So last week I watched The Kennedys all the way through. As you know, maybe some don't, that the 8-part $30 million series had some problems along the way. For one, History Channel, who originated it, decided at the last minute to pull the series due to "pressure from certain sources" as well as "it did not meet our mandate of history programs", to several other excuses including pressure from Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver.

This also happened with a series on Reagan as well several years ago.

No doubt one of the issues was that a Conservative, Joel Surnow, produced the Kennedy series. Being a die-hard liberal myself, and a Kennedy supporter, I wanted to see for myself.

It had me at the first episode.

It is probably one of the most interesting historical dramas ever made for television. It handled every aspect of the family, the father and sons and wives and their strengths and weaknesses. It's Shakespearean in it's scope, what a family!

And it addresses what a Republican friend of mine always resorts to "he slept with Marilyn" as her reason that Kennedy's name should never be brought up in public or compared to George Bush or any Republican who would never be unfaithful.

They were an incredible family, and had it all, money, tragedy, infidelity, drugs, association with mobsters. You name it, it's all there.

And the irony is that the producers actually make JFK and RFK heroic in their battles with the military establishment and in one episode, their stubborn determination to get a black student into a university in Mississippi over the anger of a racist governor. It led to riots but ultimately ended when JFK sent in the National Guard.

In short, what Surnow created is a brilliant history lesson about a time in America. JFK's speeches in the series reminded me of how inspiring he could be. And I identified with his back pain, having gone through that myself and put on a diet of pain-killers. It's not fun.

And the Cuban crisis brought back another memory. I don't think anyone who wasn't alive in 1961 could feel how we felt. JFK had issued a final threat to use military action should Russian ships go to Cuba with nuclear weapons. Over that week-end I went to sleep fearing that there would be nuclear war. And nuclear war isn't the same as a nuclear power plant releasing radiation.

Nuclear war wipes out everything.

Now we laugh about it, but that week-end, the world really almost ended.

But I have another association with the Kennedys. I worked for one.

In 1968 I jumped on a bus in Detroit to Indianapolis to work for RFK, Bobby. I was one of hundreds of volunteers whose job it was was to register voters. I got the inner city, mostly African American and this skinny white kid with a sportcoat and tie marched in.

It wasn't long before I realized how much African Americans loved RFK, I was greeted at the doors suspiciously at first but when I told them my job, they were more than happy to cooperate. I got coffee or water and sometimes cake and even a meal. Since I really had never experienced inner cities that much, since we don't have them in Canada, it changed my life forever.

And I even got to meet him as he arrived for a speech on a street somewhere in the inner city where  people crowded to listen to him. I shook his hand for a brief second and felt that I had  helped change history in my own little way.

A few months later, he was shot to death at the Ambassador Hotel. They sent me a letter, thanking me for my participation in Indianapolis and somewhere along my travels I lost it.

Moving on....

(Thurs: Update)


  1. It sounds like a great series and I'm really looking forward to it coming to DVD.
    There's a saying, which comes from poker of course, 'you gotta know when to fold, know when to hold 'em' and there's a lot of poker players who look to JFK and say that he must have been a helluva poker player with regards to the Cuban missile crisis.
    I wonder when it was featured in the series whether they showed the Khruschev side of things who was equal to Kennedy. He made JFK remove US missiles in Turkey as part of the deal and JFK agreed as long as it wasn't publicised.
    There were rumblings that the only reason Khruschev put the missiles in Cuba was to get rid of the ones in Turkey - he (Khruschev) would holiday on a Black Sea resort and would beckon to Turkey, so it is said, and vow to have the missiles removed.

  2. Story was only JFK's side, a few scenes with Khruschev visiting, but budget even at $30 million kept the camera on the Kennedys, 8-part with a 2hr opener. Ted isn't even mentioned but one couldn't include every Kennedy. There's 2 scenes with Sinatra, one short scene with Peter Lawford and that's it.