Chuck Pick has been Hollywood’s go-to parking valet for decades. Most recently his company handled the exclusive Vanity Fair Oscars party. In his time he’s interacted with not only film personalities, but also presidents, including JFK.
Pick recounts that when working an early 1960s Hollywood event at which the Kennedys and Marilyn Monroe were present, Secret Service men told him: “You have eyes but you can’t see, you have ears but you can’t hear and you have a mouth but you can’t speak. You’re going to see a lot of things, but you have to keep quiet.”
That party was held at the home of JFK’s British-born brother in law, Peter Lawford, according to James Spada’s 1991 Lawford biography, “The Man Who Kept the Secrets.”
On November 22, 1963, Pick was working as a personal assistant to Lawford, who was doing a show with Jimmy Durante at the Harrah’s resort in Lake Tahoe, Calif.
Pick and Lawford were up until dawn that night and had just got to bed when a Harrah’s representative woke them with the news that JFK had been shot in Dallas. Lawford, who was reportedly instrumental in arranging JFK’s presidential “affairs” such as his alleged liaisons with Marilyn Monroe, immediately prepared to travel home to Los Angeles on Harrah’s private plane, which had been made available to them.
As Pick told Spada, it was when they were frantically packing to leave that they heard Walter Cronkite’s tearful announcement that Kennedy was dead. Lawford collapsed on to the kitchen floor, beyond consolation, vomiting between sobs.
The assassination was the beginning of a downward spiral for Lawford, who, already estranged from JFK’s sister Pat, descended into drink, drugs and a series of brief marriages. He died at age 61 in 1984.
Pick told Spada that he later mustered up the courage to ask Lawford what “had really happened” in Dallas.
“You’ll never know the truth of what happened in Dallas,” Lawford replied. “You’ll never know the truth.” Pick pushed further to no avail. “I interpreted it as meaning that he knew what happened and few other people ever would.”
Spada also quotes Paul Wurtzel, a Lawford friend who was the assistant director on the films “Dear Phoebe” and “The Thin Man.” Wurtzel had become “a student” of the assassination, and asked Lawford to answer a single question: “Did Oswald kill Kennedy or was it higher up?”
“It was higher up,” Lawford answered.
“I let it drop,” Wurtzel told Spada, “and I never asked him what he meant. I’m sure he wouldn’t have said anything more to me. He still had kids and the family.”
The National Archives responds to the wishes of the public.
That’s the good news from yesterday’s forum at the Archives building in Washington, D.C. In her lengthy and detailed statement, Martha Murphy, de facto chief of the JFK Assassination Records Collection, laid out the Archives’ plan for the release of thousands of pages of assassination-related records by October 2017.
In the past, JFK Facts has taken Archivist David Ferreiro and his staff to task for their passive position on the continuing stonewalling of the CIA, which retains more than 1,100 assassination-related records and has insisted on redactions of hundreds of thousands of other documents.
Now the Archives is taking a more proactive role. In her remarks at the forum, JFK archivist Martha Murphy made clear that the Archives is proceeding on the assumption that the CIA and other agencies will release all of their JFK records and remove all of redactions on JFK records, as mandated by law, in October 2017, unless specifically ordered by the White House. Under the terms of the JFK Records Act, federal agencies can only continue to postpone release of documents with the approval of the White House. By default the records will become public.
This is the appropriate public stance for the Archives to take because that is what the JFK Records Act requires. That’s rather different than the public position the Archives took two years ago. At a public forum in August 2013, Archives general counsel Gary Stern gratuitously told citizens demanding the enforcement of the JFK Records Act that there was no “conspiracy” to keep records out of public view. Stern also regurgitated the CIA’s absurd talking point that it didn’t have “the time or resources” to declassify JFK records.
JFK Facts pointed out that the agency somehow found the time and resources to declassify its records about the Katyn Forest massacre in Poland in 1941, a tragic and historically important event to be sure but one in which, unlike the tragedy of Dallas, no Americans lost their lives.
When the National Declassification Center’s blog asked for public suggestions for what records should receive priority when it came to declassification, the largest number of comments by far came from people urging the release of JFK records. The public’s overwhelming preference was ignored in favored of the CIA’s prerogatives.
When I expressed some bitterness about this state of affairs, well-placed Washington friends assured me the Archives was doing all that it could behind the scenes, that Ferreiro and Stern favored full disclosure, and that public criticism would accomplish nothing. I’m willing to believe that. I know Stern personally favors full disclosure, and I trust Ferreiro does too. All of that is beside the point.
The National Archives does not work for the CIA. The National Archives works for the American people and the JFK Records Act, passed in 1992, is clear: all government records must be “immediately” reviewed and released. For the CIA to say, two decades after the passage of that law, that it lacks the “time and resources” to come clean about the murder of a sitting president was not only extraordinarily revealing about the agency’s everyday contempt for the memory of President Kennedy. It was — and is — an evasion of the law.
The National Archives deserves credit for putting the CIA (and other) agencies on notice that it expects compliance with the law by October 2017. This doesn’t mean the CIA cannot and will not seek postponement of some records. If there is no public attention to the issue, I think they probably will.
British historian John Simkin adds important detail to the story of Ben Bradlee and CIA Counterintelligence Chief James Angleton after the assassination of President Kennedy.
I find Simkin to be a credible and knowledgeable writer. If he has made any mistakes, please let me know via email.
The first reports were reassuring.
But a Boston police official does not rule out a connection, according to the Dorchester News, which reported: …
“We do this in a peaceful and orderly way,” said Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee at President Obama’s inauguration. “There is no mob, no coup, no insurrection. This is a moment when millions stop and watch.”