Our post last Wednesday on a newly published photo of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, unguarded in Los Angeles in 1968, certainly spurred some chatter in the ranks of ex-RFK loyalists and journalists. And raised a question about one aspect of the story attached to the photograph.
In the post I asked if anyone could identify the aide in the car and the one standing to the left (who looks a little like John Kerry and, as one reader suggested, former Colorado senator Tim Wirth.) Former RFK adviser Frank Mankiewicz doesn't recognize them, nor does ex-correspondent Dan Blackburn — who traveled with the Kennedy campaign — or our own columnist Bill Boyarsky, who worked for AP at the time and who interviewed RFK's security guy for his book on California political legend Jess Unruh. Boyarsky asked political commentator Sherry Bebitch Jeffe and her husband, strategist Doug Jeffe, who both worked on the RFK campaign. None knew the two men. Paul Schrade, who was a labor union staffer in the RFK entourage, emailed that they must have been local helpers and were not part of the Senator's main campaign group.
Schrade also raised a factual issue about the story behind the photo.
The picture was taken by Paul Jacobs, a USC student at the time who remembers snapping the photo outside the Biltmore Hotel on election day afternoon, just hours before Kennedy (and Schrade) were shot at the Ambassador Hotel. Schrade says that time frame is impossible. Kennedy, he says, spent all of election day at the Malibu home of director John Frankenheimer, then was driven straight to the Ambassador. "This has been confirmed by the Frankenheimers and campaign manager Fred Dutton," Schrade emails. "There was no election rally at the Biltmore or any other location. The car in the photo is not Frankenheimer's car."
Historical accounts agree about RFK spending June 4, 1968 in Malibu. Jacobs is apparently just as adamant that he took the photo that day. So who knows. But we are talking about 43 years ago, and the natural haze around memories that old could be even thicker given the refracting influence of a national tragedy. It's still a pretty cool photo even if it was taken another day.
* A clue?: Kennedy did give a speech at the Biltmore that April 19, according to an L.A. Times story dug out of Proquest by our contributing author Bob Timmermann.