Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Joking with Vincent Bugliosi

When legendary prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi telephonically appeared on The Bryan Styble Program on KIRO a couple of weeks ago, I had but a single hour to cover the most written-about investigation of all time. (That historical fact accounts for why his massive new JFK assassination book Reclaiming History is heftier than most dictionaries.)

Thus, I wasn’t about to end our discussion with a joke, especially a certain elaborate, airtime-consuming one, however proud I am that it's original and many listeners have praised it as clever. This was even though that often-contentious hour might indeed have benefited from a concluding moment of levity, since various skeptical radioactive callers had vigorously and even angrily disputed Bugliosi's powerfully-argued thesis that Oswald not only did it, but acted alone.

Bugliosi remained on hold through the ensuing top-of-the-hour KIRO news break, to record what in the radio biz is known as a promo liner: “Hi, I’m Vince Bugliosi...and when I’m in Seattle, I get radioactive with Bryan Styble on KIRO!" But before his graciously doing so, I hoped to get a laugh out of the man who was able to get the death penalty for Charles Manson.

One of the central attributes of Reclaiming History is that it at least cites every one of the more than a hundred various conspiracy theories which have been posited in the JFK case since the 60s, and then systematically refutes many of the better-known ones. But nowhere in the tome's 1600 pages is there consideration of a particular theory I conceived in a mischievous moment a decade ago, and have been relating to my audiences every November ever since...and which just happens to be the only all-inclusive scenario yet proposed:

You figure Castro had ample reason to engineer JFK’s assassination as payback for the numerous failed CIA attempts on his own life, so it's easy to imagine the Cuban dictator dispatching a hit team to Dealey Plaza. Likewise, Khrushchev was still sore over the Missile Crisis, so the KGB has a crack assassin at the scene with his own spotter. And it was common knowledge that old Hoover bitterly resented the young President, so there's a couple of FBI snipers also waiting that Friday afternoon. The Kennedy brothers had been leaning on the Mafia for years, ergo a Sicilian team on-scene. And LBJ had clear motive to get his boss out of the way, so Johnson's people in Austin sent some rogue Texas Rangers upstate to Dallas. And her husband's relentless philandering had finally driven Jackie to murder, so with the help of the Radziwills she hooked up with a mysterious European hit man. By noon, dozens more would-be assassins had arrived, each in the secret employ of one of a hundred-odd vengeful figures the President had once wronged, each waiting for that familiar head to appear in the cross-hairs. Even kindly old Abe Zapruder had hired a trusted buddy who's good with a rifle, to ensure the home movie he'd be filming would be worth a fortune.

So they’d all converged on Dealey Plaza, many jostling for elbow room on the crowded Grassy Knoll (“Hey, we've been here since dawn—find your own damned knoll!”). Then the motorcade rolls by at 12:29 and just as every gunman steadies his barrel, Oswald opens fire from six stories up, squeezes off three shots and two hit their marks…as all the other guys think, “Nice...we can just go home now!”

On the other end of the line in Los Angeles, Bugliosi more than chuckled upon hearing my punchline…and then after a second or so of silence, laughed again even more boisterously. And then asked, “Mind if I steal it?”

So just maybe the forthcoming trade-paper version of Reclaiming History will include—with attribution, I trust—my little joke about that enormous atrocity.

A podcast of the Bugliosi appearance on The Bryan Styble Program will soon be available for download on the KIRO website.

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