The Story Behind the Photos

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My first glimpse of a Kennedy was when JFK was running for President and I was riding with my parents on the Southeast Expressway (before it went underground) and going in the opposite direction of JFK as he was heading for a rally at Boston Garden (original one) just before the 1960 election.  I saw him for a split second so as I think back I am thinking he was in an open car.  I just remember seeing him.

When I started at the Record American November 22, 1966, three years after JFK’s assassination the Editor Sam Bornstein was a big fan and friend of the Kennedys having covered JFK when he ran for various State Offices before his election for President.  The Kennedys were gold in Boston in those days.

I first saw Teddy when I was sent to cover a “tea” at Teddy’s home on lower Beacon Hill and that was when I got my first look at this beautiful woman Joan Kennedy as she played host to the many guests, which included several people from my paper including Sam Cohen the forever sports editor of the newspaper.  Sam Cohen covered Jack Dempsey at a press conference during his hay day and tells the story of at a press conference Dempsey made an anti-Semitic remark and Cohen walked out.

In the late 60s I got to cover Jackie a couple of times once when we got word she was walking around on Newbury Street and I was sent to “find” her. I spotted her going into a shoe store and got photos through the window of her trying on shoes (no negatives).

On July 19, 1969 around 10:am the wires, AP and UPI broke a story about Ted Kennedy and the incident on Martha’s Vineyard.  The story when it first broke was vague and since Sam Bornstein the Editor and Harold “Hap” Kern the Publisher were friendly with the Kennedys I think they were hoping it would go away.

On the City Desk on Saturday days was Ed Corsetti, the best crime reporter Boston has ever known.  Since he was on the desk Sam Bornstein told him when he finished up at 4:pm he should take a ride to the Compound in Hyannis and see what was going on.  All day Hap Kern would call and Sam would update him with very little information as they still did not believe it was what it was.

On Saturdays we always waited for the Sunday Globe to come out as I am sure they did on our paper. The difference was we needed the Sunday Globe to do our story.  We practically had nothing and I bet we rewrote all of the Globe stories.  They had the name of the bridge (Dike Bridge) aerials of the pond and tons of detail.  We got croaked but only that one day.

Corsetti left with a thin windbreaker I lent him and I did not see it again till September when I finally got sent down to be the lab technician for Kevin Cole our top photographer.

Remember July 19 or 20th 1969 was the day “the first man on the moon” landed.  Instead of all the papers concentrating on that Ted Kennedy got a share of many a Page One.

I took two trips to Martha’s Vineyard and one trip to Wilkes Barre, Penn., during our extensive coverage of the incident but I was mostly the lab technician processing Kevin’s film and transmitting it back to the paper.

When Joe Kennedy Senior was dying I was sent on the stake out to the Compound with Record American photographer Leo Tierney and we just did a Kennedy watch around the Compound and Airport.

I did go to Hyannis Airport where I got photos of Ted arriving (those were the days you could get onto the tarmac) and got him getting off the plane and heading for transportation to take him to the Compound.

I was also there when Jackie and her kids arrived and it was a hectic few minutes as all of us rushed to get the shots.  I was actually very close as they walked towards me and only managed a couple of open shots of her and the kids.  I covered Joe’s funeral also.

Through the years I covered Ted at many events but the first time I saw Bobby in person was in 1968 at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in South Boston.  In those days the parade was huge and a big news event.  The fact that Bobby was running for President made it even bigger.

My assignment was to cover the actual parade not worrying about Bobby as there were at least two other photographers at the paper assigned to the Kennedys.  I was walking around looking for different feature photos and ended up being invited into a home and I was shooting overalls out the window when all of a sudden there were both Bobby and Teddy beneath me.

I shot a couple of shots of the two of them and ran downstairs when the Kennedys were working the crowd and all of a sudden this woman reaches out and hugs Bobby.  I owned the paper that day with those two shots.

The next time I would have a Kennedy story was in June of that year.  I was living at home in Revere on the morning Bobby was shot in California (June 5, 1968) when I received at call around 5:30am from the overnight editor of the Record American, Ed O’Connell who told me Bobby had been shot and I needed to get to Hyannis as Rose went to Mass every morning at (the sign says Xavier Church have to check).

I got there just as she arrived and shot 5 frames (before motor drives) or so as she went into the church.  I followed her in and saw her doing “the stations of the cross” but did not shoot anything as I felt that was a private matter for her.

I waited outside and shot her getting into the car with my 35mm camera then leaned into the window with my 2 ¼ camera with a flash and shot a photo of her with her hands clasped and not even knowing I was there.  I cannot find that negative.

I was assigned to stay there in Hyannis and some how a neighbor of the Kennedys let us use their backyard that backed up to the Compound as a command center.  All the locals and networks set up and I remember Cardinal Richard Cushing in all is splendor coming down and having a press conference as he was trying to comfort the Kennedys at the Compound.  At one point when I was climbing up on a fence which separated the yards I saw Rose outside in a driveway bouncing a ball against a garage door and catching it.  This went on for a few minutes when someone yelled at me, probably Rose and I got down from the fence.  I took some photos but cannot find the negatives.

The Sunday following the assassination I was called late in the day to get right over to the Cathedral Church of the Holy Cross on Washington Street in the South End to cover a memorial mass for Bobby led by Cardinal Cushing.

The next big encounter photographically I had with a Kennedy was when Teddy led a pro-busing rally on Boston’s City Hall Plaza the day before the first day of busing in 1974.  There were a lot of speakers and Teddy had attended several busing meetings before that and when he spoke he was heckled and heckled with signs against busing and Teddy and finally left the podium.

He was followed by several angry protestors and was led by police and his own people back to his office at the JFK building.  It was a scary moment and at least one of the huge plate glass windows got busted as pushing and shoving followed Ted back into the building.

In 1977 I was sent with Wayne Woodlief our political reporter from the Herald American (our name after we bought the Herald and combined the Record American and the Herald) with Teddy and many of the Kennedy children on their yearly camping trip in the western part of Massachusetts including a trip to 6 Flags in Agawam.

We then went to the Berkshires and camped out at a lake.  Teddy was great with the kids riding the rides at the park and cooking at the barbeque.  He was very friendly and talkative.  I reminded him about the rally at City Hall Plaza and he told me a story about one time he was at an event in Quincy during the busing controversy and when he and his aides came out from the event his door handles were covered with feces.  They guessed it was the Boston anti-busing group.

Sometime in the late 70s or early 80s I was sent on the hunt for Caroline Kennedy who was going to school in Cambridge and I got a shot of her and a male friend walking down Cambridge Street near Inman Square.

In August of 1979 when rumor was out that Rose’s health was failing I was sent down to the Compound to get photos of Rose as we had heard she walked around the Kennedy docks with their dogs everyday.  I got shots of Rose and Ethel with the dogs which the paper used that night.

When Bobby’s son David died in 1984 I was sent to Washington to cover the story with Martha Bradlee, now Martha Raddatz, ABC Correspondent and we worked the story from the edge of their estate “Hickory Hill, in nearby McLean Virginia, where we got glimpses of various Kennedy children showing up at the home.

I covered Rose Kennedy’s death and Michael Kennedy’s death and the last time I saw Teddy was after he was released from the MGH after he was first diagnosed with his brain tumor as his car turned off Storrow Drive by the sign “If You Lived Here You Would Be Home Now,” to head to the Cape. He waved to those well wishers who were watching from the car, or maybe he was waving to me!