Every year around this time President John F. Kennedy's legacy begins to circulate in the media because he was shot and killed on November 22, 1963. And this year marks the 50th anniversary of his death. Most of what's been printed or filmed has made the rounds so many times it's ingrained in the heads of almost every American who is over thirty years old. But this next article about the Lincoln Continental Limousine in which Kennedy was killed has a few interesting facts I'd never read before.
I knew it had become a tourist attraction at the The Henry Ford museum in Michigan, but I didn't know that the car we're seeing now is virtually nothing like the car in Kennedy's motorcade. It was originally midnight blue and now it's black. The headlights were altered and look nothing like the original headlights in Kennedy's Lincoln. It's not even a convertible anymore, and hasn't been for a long time.
And there's a reason for this. After the shooting in Dallas, the Lincoln limo was flown back to D.C. and housed in a Secret Service garage where it underwent extensive examinations. At the time, no one knew what to do with it, so pragmatism overtook the historical significance of the car and this was the ultimate result:
But the federal government of the United States of America did not have another presidential limousine. Developing one could again take years. Macabre as it may be, it was faster to just rebuild the one they already had.
The '61 Continental survived, but underwent massive changes.
Secret Service agents shipped the car back to Hess & Eisenhardt in Cincinnati, where engineers encased its body in armor and titanium plating and added the permanent, bulletproof roof. The gas tank was filled with a plastic foam that minimized the risk of explosion if bullets were fired into the tank. Bulletproof windows five layers thick were installed.
And after all the massive alterations the Lincoln returned to D.C. in the spring of 1964 with its original color, midnight blue, and President Johnson, Kennedy's successor, freaked out and ordered it painted black because of the macabre images he thought it might provoke. So it was repainted, returned to the white house garage, and went into service for the next sixteen years.
The Continental would spend the remainder of its years in the background. It traveled with Johnson to Vietnam, with Nixon to China, with Ford to the Soviet Union. It made its final foreign trip with President Carter in May 1977, carrying him around London and Newcastle for an economic summit.
Retirement awaited upon its return, and the car was given back to Ford, from which the federal government had leased the car for $500 a year.
One of the aspects of the entire Kennedy shooting that has always impressed me was the way Jackie Kennedy seemed to know that even in her most desperate moment she had a duty to preserve history and to let the people see what had happened so no one would ever forget. I can't believe she refused to remove her blood-stained suit by accident the day Kennedy was shot. She wasn't a stupid woman and she knew that one day those photos of her standing in that blood-stained suit would become a huge part of American history. Unfortunately, they didn't discuss what should happen to the Lincoln with Jackie Kennedy, and a car that never should have been altered or tampered with because of its historical significance was completely ruined.
You can read more here. There are many more details and probably a lot of facts you didn't know. You can also see a photo of the limo as its been altered and is now in display in Michigan. The photo above is public domain and that's the original limo.
James Franco Gay Interest
When I posted about a novel I'm reading written by James Franco earlier this week, I had no idea he was so fascinated with gay men. But this next article talks about how Franco seems curious about gay men and thinks of them as his heroes, and I have noticed a few gay scenes in his new novel that tend to be painfully accurate, but not always flattering to gay men. That's hard to explain, so I'm not going to even try.
Franco has played several gay characters in films. As far as I know, Franco is straight and as they say an actor should be able to play any part. I fully agree with that, however, it doesn't always work that way if you're openly gay in Hollywood and you want to play a straight lead in a film. But that's the way it works, and straight male actors often get to play the parts of gay men without the hint of a double standard or the fact that it's fucking cheesy to do. (Sorry for the short rant; it might happen again.)
In any event, straight actor, Franco, has directed two new films with gay characters, in all his straightness. I don't know if those characters are being played by gay actors, but it wouldn't surprise me if they aren't. The world is run by straight white men; they call the shots, especially in Hollywood.
Interior. Leather. Bar. is a 'docufiction' film that attempts to recreate the 40 minutes of deleted sexually explicit footage from the 1980 film Cruising while Sal tells the story of the last day in the life of the late gay actor Sal Mineo.
Any gay man, me included, can relate to what's between the lines in that sentence. And Franco says this in reference to the gay roles he takes:
'In Milk, the point is to show one of the great fighters for equal rights for the gay community, so I was happy to do that. With characters like Allen Ginsberg [in Howl], my love for him started with his work when I was a teenager. So his sexuality is secondary to me. It’s an important aspect of who he was and his character, but it wasn’t like, “Yes, I want to play another gay role,” it was more, “Yes, I’d love to play another one of my heroes.”'
I'm sure there are openly gay actors who would love to play the life story of John F. Kennedy because he was their hero. But I doubt that would happen.
As a side note, Allen Ginsberg was a regular here in New Hope, PA, as mentioned in this article.
At the Terrapin we had many interesting customers, from locals like James Michener, Rachel Welch, Peter Hurkos, Gerald Heard, Hal Just, Harry Smith, Allen Ginsberg. and a large crowd of new people..
In any event, I like Franco, and I'm enjoying his book. I think his intentions are good and I'll probably enjoy his movies. But there is something in all this that falls under the old bullshit saying that I've mentioned before here on the blog by journalist Linda Ellerbee: "And so it goes..."
You can read more here about why James Franco is so enamored by gay men.