Wednesday, June 6, 2012

RFK anniversary items

From The New Yorker


Posted by Jon Michaud

Forty-four years ago today,Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after Kennedy delivered his California Democratic Primary victory speech. In a mournful Comment published the following week, Roger Angell invoked the earlier assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.:

Getting used to it is what we all do well now. Each morning since the death of Robert Kennedy, we have awakened to the familiar knowledge that some terrible piece of news, some new jolt of the intolerable, awaits us just beyond the borders of sleep…. Like an invalid, we are each day less shocked to find that we are ill, each day more absorbed with our symptoms. We have, after all, been here before—after Dallas, after Memphis—and the morning terror no longer quite surprises us. We are sustained by habit, and headshake of “No, no” has become the invisible nod of recognition…. The irreversible is no longer strange to us; it is the commonplace of our time.

The fate of the Ambassador Hotel—and, in particular of its famed Coffee Shop, designed by Paul R. Williams—was the subject of a 2005 Annals of L.A. piece by Dana Goodyear. The hotel, which opened in 1921, hosted three Academy Awards ceremonies. After a long decline, it was closed in 1989 and then “eminent domained” by the L.A. Unified School District, which planned to build a new school on the site. Goodyear described the controversy stirred by those plans:

A coalition of community groups, led by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, wanted a brand-new school as quickly as possible, with nothing spent on preservation which could be going toward textbooks and classrooms. Ambassador nostalgists wanted to hang on to the site of their honeymoons and their senior proms. The Los Angeles Conservancy … advocated “adaptive reuse” of the building, and hoped to reform the city’s image as a “throwaway metropolis.” … The Kennedy family wanted the assassination site destroyed, and invoked R.F.K.’s commitment to the disadvantaged as a reason not to spend money on conservation. And Lawrence Teeter, the lawyer representing Sirhan, who claims that his client was a hypnotized pawn in a C.I.A. plot, maintained that demolishing the assassination site would be tantamount to the destruction of evidence.

The hotel was finally razed in 2006, making way for the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, which opened in 2010. A number of the Ambassador’s most famous elements, including the Coffee Shop (now a teacher’s lounge), the Cocoanut Grove night club (now a theatre), and the Embassy Ballroom, where Kennedy gave his victory speech (now a library), have been incorporated into the new building. The Los Angeles Times has a slide show featuring pictures of both the hotel and the new school.

And from WJLA-TV 9 in Washington, D.C. 
Man Who Arrested Sirhan talks to ABC7

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