Fwd: Frame 312--Art of the Cover-Up
'Frame 312': Art of the cover-up
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 26, 2003 12:00 AMThere are few things Americans love better than a conspiracy theory.JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Watergate, alien abductions - where would cable television and Hollywood be without these supposed cover-ups. Or Broadway and the nation's bookstores, for that matter?Dozens of films, TV miniseries and plays and thousands of books deal with one cover-up or another. Scottsdale author Dean Vesic, whose tome on the Kennedy assassination, Nov. 22, 1963: The Day America Changed Forever, comes out next spring, estimates that "95 percent of all Americans believe they're being lied to about something."Seem hard to believe? Go to Google.com and type in "conspiracy theories." Just a click away are more than 350,000 Web pages guaranteed to titillate your paranoia. Narrow the search to "Kennedy conspiracy theories," and you'll get something of a break. Only 34,400 pages.Vesic is right. Lives are spent worrying about this stuff.One of those worriers is Lynette, the main character in Keith Reddin's new play, Frame 312, which Actors Theatre is staging at the Herberger Theater Center in advance of its New York premi�re and just in time for the 40th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.She knows something about Kennedy's death. As her family gathers to celebrate her birthday more than three decades after the assassination, she debates whether she should tell the world.Lynette is a former assistant editor at Life magazine. In the days immediately after the president's death, she was an unwilling witness at the first screening of the infamous Abraham Zapruder film, a strip of celluloid that allegedly proved the existence of a second assassin.Time-Life, the magazine's parent company, purchased exclusive rights to the film on the morning after the assassination. When the government demanded that the company turn over the original negative, the publishers complied, appointing Lynette to take the film to Washington.Up to this point, Reddin's play is a slice of reality. There was an assistant. She did deliver the Zapruder film to the government. From there, Reddin's artistic license takes charge. Lynette delivers a copy of the film, not the original.That leaves Frame 312 in her possession, the snip of film that seems to show a second bullet striking Kennedy and located a frame ahead of the more famous Frame 313, which shows the president's head exploding. It also leaves a lot of other frames, some of which were edited out of the "official" version of the Zapruder clip when it was released by the Warren Commission.If there was a second assassin, as many believe after viewing the Zapruder footage, who was it? Did the killer(s) work for big business, the Mafia, a rogue military clique or a drug cabal? Will the perpetuators, who believe they've gotten away with murder, let Lynette tell what she knows? Will the government, guilty of altering the truth, stand idly by?Reddin is no stranger to cover-ups, conspiracies and paranoia. He has written works on the Bay of Pigs invasion, missile personnel during the Cold World and California's vicious Senate race between Richard Nixon and Helen Gahagen Douglas in 1950.Reddin says he was inspired to write Frame 312 after meeting the former assistant who had carried the Zapruder film to Washington in her handbag and personally delivered it to J. Edgar Hoover."She told me how, on the morning after Kennedy's death, she, a Time-Life editor and a ballistic expert ran the film over and over, analyzing its contents," he says. "She was horrified. At that time, the American public hadn't been exposed to violence like that, especially the sight of a president being killed in plain view. It was something she could never forget."Yet, she tried, Reddin says. She left the magazine, married, had kids and settled into life in the suburbs."It think it finally got to her," he says. "She had kept her involvement secret for so long, out of a fear that somebody might think she knew something and a desire to not get involved in the whole conspiracy mess. But she didn't want to carry the burden any longer. 'I'm so glad you asked me,' she said."Try though she might, Frame 312's Lynette cannot escape that bit of film. It haunts her."It was important for the country to move on," says Matthew Wiener, the play's director, "and the Warren Commission (in concluding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing Kennedy) gave the people a simple answer so they wouldn't have to keep asking questions."But Lynette can't get on with her life. She knows the truth."And, in truth, the implications of the Zapruder film haunt the woman who was Reddin's inspiration."She watched that film over and over, knowing what was coming, unable to do anything about it," Reddin says. "It's the same thing that haunts every American who sees it - to know that the unspeakable is about to happen and also to know that you can't stop history."Vesic, like the Time-Life employee, has viewed the Zapruder film many times."Every time, I get this sickening feeling in my gut," he says. "It's such a horrible image, but it wasn't the only one. Those dark blood stains on Jackie's pink suit. Lee Harvey Oswald grimacing in pain when he was gunned down a few days later. Young John-John at the funeral. They just tear your heart out."It was the beginning of a change in the way Americans viewed their nation, their history and themselves, Vesic says. In his book, he contends that it also was the birth of a media mind-set that believed that any event, no matter how horrific or gory, was suitable material for the evening news."Without the Kennedy assassination, would we have had the Challenger exploding every few minutes, or the repeated views of dead bodies lying outside some Israeli restaurant? I don't think so," he says. "When you've seen the president's head explode, what is there left that can shock you?"Conspiracies, government cover-ups and the like weren't new in 1963. Numerous films of the '50s suggested the government was actively lying about UFOs. A year before the Kennedy assassination, The Manchurian Candidate depicted Chinese Communists conspiring to assassinate a U.S. presidential candidate. After JFK's murder, the film was withdrawn from public view for years."Up until the Kennedy assassination, Americans didn't take those movies seriously," Vesic says. "After the assassination, they begin to believe that, yes, the government probably was lying to them. Now, it's to the point where you can't pick up the morning paper without reading about some new lie or conspiracy. It's gotten way out of hand."Why are conspiracy theories so popular?"It's because it's hard for us to believe that we don't have control over the things in our lives," Reddin says. "It's easier to believe that it's because pertinent information is being withheld from us."Adds Wiener, "I think our government does not have a good history over the last 40 years of being truthful with the American public. Vietnam, Watergate, Clinton, weapons of mass destruction. . . . If we haven't been told the truth about one thing, how can we believe we're being told the truth about another?"Reddin, Vesic and Wiener agree on one thing. After Nov. 22, 1963, the American public became more cynical."Can you think of a TV show, a movie or a book about government agents in which at least some portion of the government isn't revealed to be corrupt or amoral?" Vesic says. "I've been watching Steven Spielberg's series about alien abductions (Taken, which won this year's Emmy for best miniseries), and I'm a great fan of The X-Files and The West Wing."Even if only a fraction of what those shows say about government is true, it's enough to chill the blood."
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)
Thanks to Loren Coleman for the URL
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