Saturday, April 07, 2018

Her name was Mary Jo Kopechne

My more vivid memories of that summer are the astronauts. I was 11, and it felt like the whole world had just changed with the moon landing.

1968 had been a scary year to be a kid. Dr. King and Bobby had been assassinated. Riots in the streets. Vietnam raged on every night on the news. But 1969! The astronauts and the moon landing! Yea!

Chappaquiddick seemed like a storyline from one of my mom's soaps. The Edge of Night, The Secret Storm and As the World Turns. A group of people met at a beach house for a reunion to celebrate and remember their time working on late Brother Bobby's campaign. Senator Ted Kennedy took one of the girls to the ferry. His car went off a bridge. She died, he lived. It was sad, but oh! The astronauts! The Cubs had a legendary team that summer, too.* The Beatles were singing "Yellow Submarine."

Then I heard my dad tell a joke. He and my mom had another couple over, and after he thought I was asleep, he stood in the hallway outside my door and shared a knee slapper with that ended like this:
"But Ted, what if I get pregnant?" "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

The next day I confronted my father. I told him I didn't think it was nice to make fun of the dead girl. He said he didn't think it was nice of little girls to listen to adult conversations. I wanted to point out that he had the adult conversation in front of my bedroom door, but didn't. I could tell I was pushing my father's buttons. It's not too much of a stretch, though, to say that joke aroused my nascent feminism. It wasn't right to make fun of that dead girl.

"That dead girl" is why I recommend the movie Chappaquiddick. Mary Jo Kopechne is played by Kate Mara. She has lines, she has motivation, she is a real character in the story of her death. There is nothing that implies that she and Kennedy had a sexual relationship, just as there is no evidence that points to that. She was not a party girl. She was not a groupie. She is treated with the dignity she deserves. Has always deserved.

I believe Ted Kennedy panicked in the water that night. It certainly wasn't heroic, but I understand it. People forget that, in 1964, he was trapped in a wrecked plane and was hospitalized for months afterward. Being in physical peril like that again could have triggered a powerful impulse to flee.

What I've never understood is the cowardly way he behaved in the hours and days afterward. This movie doesn't white wash any of that. I do, however, believe that he spent the rest of his life in public service, trying to make up for it. That counts for something with me. Whether that evens the ledger is up to God.

The Kennedy storyline here isn't new, though. It's her. It's Mary Jo Kopechne. She's the story here. She's why you should shell out your hard earned dollars to see this movie. Because all these years later, she finally gets a moment of attention.

The real May Jo Kopechne. RIP, gallant lady.

*Though they suffered a legendary fold, too. Ever hear of the 1969 Mets?

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Nights on Broadway (1975)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) It's estimated that there are more than 200 separate streets called "Broadway" in the United States. Does your town have a Broadway? Yes, Chicago has its own Broadway. The cool(er) kids live there.

2) Think of the last time you celebrated well into the night. What street were you on? South State Street. I was still home by midnight.

3) The Bee Gees blame it all on those songs that go straight to the heart. What love song always makes you go, "aw ...?" This song completely breaks my heart because I lived it. And it makes me wonder, why hasn't Vanessa Williams had more hits?


4) Even though their sound depended on tight harmonies, all three Bee Gees were heavy smokers, which is not good for the throat. What habit do you have that wish you could break? My laziness.

5) In addition to the three Gibbs who sang this song, there was a fourth brother, Andy, who also had hit records. But did you know the Gibbs' had a sister, Lesley? Your turn: share some trivia that's rattling around in your head. All bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs.

6) "Nights on Broadway" was recorded in Miami. When you think of Florida, what comes to mind? Family. My dear friends, Reg and Henry, are in Key West. My aunt is in Port Charlotte. My cousin is in Tampa.

7) In 1975, when this song was popular, Sony introduced the Betamax and JVC gave us the VCR. Sam admits she was glad to see VCRs go because she never could program hers. What about you? Do you adapt easily to new technology? Well enough to get by in this millennium. I'm good on my smartphone and decent with social media (though I still don't know how to use The Cloud). I adore my DVR. I'm not comfortable with Alexa or Siri, though.

8) The Bee Gees' greatest success came two years later, in 1977, with the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever. Have you ever seen the John Travolta movie? Yes. My favorite line: "He hits my hair."


9) Random question -- Your mail carrier is very attractive, and flirts with you each day when dropping off the mail. Would you a) ignore it or b) let the carrier know, firmly but politely, that you're not interested or c) complain to your local post office or d) subscribe to more magazines and order more stuff to guarantee that the mail carrier comes every day? Now we're talking about someone I'm attracted to, right? Well then a combination of A and D. I'd enjoy it, but I'd be too shy and embarrassed to let on.

April Challenge -- Day 7

Learn more

What tattoos you have, and their special meaning.
Well, this is an easy one. I don't have any tattoos.

If you're interested in seeing the April Challenge prompts and joining in, click here.