Saturday, November 18, 2006

Me, "Bobby" & Ira G.

Yesterday's article in the LA Times Calendar Section by Sandy Banks, They Never Needed to Reimagine 'Bobby', brought that era, the era of the assassinations, back. In it, Ms. Banks catches up with the other victims of the shooting the night Robert F. Kennedy was killed, those who were collateral damage in Sirhan Sirhan's shooting spree. That their recollections in some cases differ greatly from the depiction in Emilio Estevez's new movie is the gist of Ms. Banks' article:,0,4263649.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Among those mentioned as having been shot in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel that night, however, was one Ira Goldstein, then 19, or so it says, who caught a bullet in his left buttocks.
No one who lived those days of assassination from '63 to '68 ever quite puts it completely behind them. (Except perhaps maybe Ira.) But as one of those people, the reason I'm not a conspiracy buff, for all my 'paranoid' predispositions, I believe has to do with the real 'untold' story behind Ira, or of Ira's behind.

The Ira Goldstein story is elided in Ms. Banks retelling of events that night. It always has been in every L.A. Times version. (See? Catch a hint of my naturally conspiratorial bent?) In fact, Mr. Goldstein is characterized in Ms. Banks article today as living in welcome obscurity with no wish to relive those memories. But, given the age we live in, where security issues are all the rage, the 'real' story is something of a cautionary tale. A comic note in a tragic text. And may go some ways toward explaining why Ira isn't keen on dredging up the details.

That's because Ira Goldstein got shot in the ass in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel, June 5th, 1968, playing sidekick to a valley high school kid playing boy reporter. A 17 year-old classmate of mine named Jeff... what was Jeff's name again, Kent, Kemp… Brent! (Speak, Memory!)

As I remember him, Jeff was a 'character', one of those socially-awkward late adolescents (no 'hippy', Jeff was more a London Fog raincoated Sinatra-manque) whose rebellion took the shape of a passion for premature acceptance as an 'adult'. He was hellbent to be taken seriously.

In love with ham radio, in 11th Grade he printed up business cards and, wielding them, a flashy tape recorder and a big professional-looking padded mike, he and Ira chased around town crashing their way into events. (In fact, Jeff might have even gone so far as to put a panel on his car's door identifying it, too, as part of his "news" operation. To not denigrate it, they did manage to feed some stories to the wire services and local radio.)

I'd love to learn what ever became of him. What I do know, however, is in the myriad official reports, the hundreds of deadly earnest articles on RFK's murder, amid speculations of additional gunmen, impossible bullet angles, police conspiracies, links to JFK's assassination, Ira is always identified, when they bother to do so, portentously, as "19, an employee of the Continental News Service." (See, e.g.,"DAY OF MOURNING" American Experience, PBS, primary sources:

Never, ever have I seen it mentioned that Ira and Jeff were two underage valley kids who'd managed to weasel their way into the kitchen of the Ambassador with homemade credentials.

Sirhan Sirhan was not the only guy that night who had no business being there. But Jeff's bonafides were never susbsequently looked into and Ira, having been shot in the ass, has always, far as I am aware, been allowed to glide over the matter. But a paid employee of a legitimate news service? Give my jealous, 17 year-old ego a break.

So one should hardly carp over poetic license being taken with events in Mr. Estevez's 'Bobby'. Here's wishing him well with his new film. Among their many acts of good will toward the planet, he and his father, Martin Sheen, endorsed the Heritage Tree Preservation Act in 2002 which banned the cutting of Heritage trees, trees alive in the year California became a state (1850), on non-federally owned forestlands. Heritage trees can be over 16 feet in diameter, are resistant to forest fires because of their size, and provide crucial habitat for numerous endangered and threatened species. Unfortunately the act did NOT pass.

For the absolutely most inspiring read about California's ancient Sequoias, I recommend Richard Preston's "Climbing Redwoods" articles in the New Yorker which are to be found collected in The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring due out in April, 2007.


M. D. Vaden of Oregon said...

You wrote:

"For the absolutely most inspiring read about California's ancient Sequoias, I recommend Richard Preston's "Climbing Redwoods" articles in the New Yorker which are to be found collected in The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring due out in April, 2007."

I'm surprised I have not dropped a comment here before, as I make available a redwood page in most blogs found where redwoods or The Wild Trees is mentioned.

Here is page of info, with albums of Atlas Tree, Lost Monarch and others:

Atlas Grove and Grove of Titans redwoods in north California

Since the book was a tad bit stingy on photos, I put together that page to give people who read the book a better visual glimpse. Or anybody who like redwoods.



Anonymous said...; You saved my day again.