What prompted Bill Garnet, a man with a long career in the entertaining world of reality TV, to take on the daunting controversy of JFK assassination?
“A gaping hole in the story,” he said in a recent telephone interview “What happened in Trauma Room One?”
Actually Garnet, the Los Angeles-based producer of “The Parkland Doctors,” a forthcoming documentary about the seven doctors who tried to save President Kennedy’s life, has long been a student of the JFK case. As an undergraduate at the University of Miami he wrote his thesis the events of November 22, 1963.
But Garnet’s 30-year career as a TV producer and director took him in different direction.
He made mini-documentaries for ABC Sports. He produced 18 episodes of “Battle of the Network Stars.” He syndicated a string of Olympic documentaries (“The Road to Los Angles,” “The Road to Calgary”). And he made concert films of artists ranging from Julio Iglesias to Kool and the Gang to the Oak Ridge Boys.
He only returned to this passion for the JFK story via a circuitous route.
“My wife’s mother worked as business manager for an ob-yyn in Orange County,” he recalled. “Six or seven years ago she introduced us to Dr. Lawrence Klein. In 1963, Dr. Klein was a third year medical student working at Parkland Hospital. He was one of the first two doctors to push JFK into Trauma Room One.”
As Garnet listened to Dr. Klein tell the story that he had long chosen to keep to himself, Garnet found a subject that he felt he had to put on film: What happened in the 22 minutes when seven doctors, thrown together by tragedy and happenstance, tried to save the life of the president of the United States?
It was a central moment in JFK story, yet it has received curiously cursory treatment in the vast literature of the assassination. The 2013 motion picture, Parkland, was a slick Hollywood feature with some A-list talent, that did not attempt to depict the medical realities of JFK’s wounds In the 1990s, another doctor present, Charles Crenshaw wrote a book called Trauma Room One, but that was only man’s account.
With Dr. Klein’s help, Garnet brought together the seven doctors who were the closest to President Kennedy in the last moments of his life. Three were medical students at the time. One was a first year resident, another was a fifth year resident. One was a surgeon and professor at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. The last was the chief of medicine at Parkland Hospital.
One of them, Dr. Robert McClelland, has previously spoken about his experience on November 22, 1963 on camera. The others have not.
It would be hard to find more qualified witnesses. All seven men went on to distinguished careers in medicine. One of them, Dr. Donald Seldin, the chief of medicine at Parkland, holds the William Buchanan Chair in Internal Medicine at the University of Texas system. Under Dr. Seldin’s direction, UT Southwestern Medical School has produced eleven Nobel laureates in medicine. Dr. Eugene Braunwald, the faculty dean at Harvard Medical School, has said Dr. Seldin is “one of the most impactful figures in the history of modern medicine.” Anyone who attempts to impugn Dr. Seldin’s credibility on the JFK story will only expose his or her prejudices.
What the film reveals
“I shot them as a group,” Garnet said, “They started talking about what happened that day, comparing memories and feelings and their reluctance to talk about it.”
“That’s the first 50 minutes of the film,” he went on. “The last 34 minutes is them discussing the autopsy photographs, the findings of the Warren Commission and the HSCA (House Select Committee on Assassinations), and all the discrepancies between them.”
Spoiler alert: “They all thought the wound in the neck was an entry wound,” Garnet said. “They all saw the hole in the back of the head. They’re debunking the autopsy done in Bethesda.”
For historical perspective, Garnet also interviewed Robert Tannenbaum, the former number two investigator with HSCA.
“This is not a conspiracy theory,” Garnet explained. “It’s a factual representation of what they saw and did. The autopsy pictures are wrong and they form the basis of the Warren Commission’s report. So the Warren Commission is wrong. This film opens the question again: Now, all these many years later, why do we not know what happened?
Garnet says he hopes “The Parkland Doctors” will be ready for theatrical release “some time later this year.”
In the next two week, you can contribute to the making of “The Parkland Doctors” via the crowd-funding site, Indiegogo. I did, and will do so again. Here’s why. How often to you get to contribute to a high-quality JFK assassination investigation involving the most credible witnesses interviewed by a documentarian with the highest professional standards? Not very often. Now is your chance.