At a folk concert in Washington Square I was approached by a Yippie who wanted to sell me the latest issue of The Yipster Times for a quarter. A glance at the headline and cover photos convinced me it was worth the price.
What I found there has since been published in an excellent book by A.J. Weberman and Michael Canfield called Coup d'état in America. Convincing photographic evidence tends to establish that Watergate burglars E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis were in the immediate vicinity of Dealy Plaza in Dallas the day John Kennedy was shot. That possibility brought to mind something I had almost managed to happily forget.
A decade earlier in New Orleans I had discussed, among other things, the idea of assassinating President Kennedy with a man who in many unsettling respects bore a resemblance to the members of the Watergate break-in team. As I was to say to Weberman in a letter two years later, this man was "a Plumbers type of guy."
Although he even looked something like pictures of E. Howard Hunt, his bald head diminished any direct physical similarity to that now-famous spy. More a matter of style than anything else seemed pertinent then. Also relevant were links between the C.I.A. and organized crime that were coming to light in the wake of the Watergate revelations. For the man I spoke to used to let on that he was somehow associated with New Orleans mobster Carlos Marcello.
Already I had been suspecting tie-ins between Watergate and the JFK murder because both crimes seemed connected to the Southern Rim or Cowboy faction of the American Establishment -- the so-called military-industrial complex. I had, however, been bending over backwards not to jump to conclusions. Something about those photos of that man The Yipster Times argued was Edward Howard Hunt made such restraint harder. What, exactly, it might be continued to elude me.
Something else occurred that same summer that wore at my ability to keep believing this is the least conspiratorial of all possible worlds. Again, it was nagging rather than sensational.
After I wrote an article published in Atlanta's underground paper, The Great Speckled Bird, titled "Did the Plumbers Plug JFK, Too?" -- I got two unusual phone calls.
First was a male voice imitating the sounds of a speeded-up tape recorder or a gibberish-talking cartoon character. Ten years earlier a Quarterite named Roger Lovin and I used to address one another in the Bourbon House with noises identical to those I was now hearing on the other end of the line, as an inside joke intended to freak out strangers.
This time I simply replied with a word or two of bewilderment, and the caller hung up.
Within seconds, the phone rang again. Now a male voice -- not Roger's -- said very clearly, "Kerry, do you know who this is?" When I answered in the negative, he said, "Good!" And hung up.
Enough similarity existed between that voice on the phone and the voice of the man I had talked to all those years earlier about assassinating John F. Kennedy, that I became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of keeping my suspicions to myself much longer.
I nevertheless persisted in my silence for more than another year. That was more than a little uncharacteristic of me, to consciously nurture something without talking or at least writing of it. But, while I was no longer as worried about going paranoid as in years past, I remained concerned that others would think me paranoid.
Then, too, there was another thing. This suspect of mine more than once had claimed a connection with the Mafia. Even if he was innocent of assassination, were I to accused him in public, he might have what he considered a good motive for getting me killed. Until I was certain of his guilt, I didn't want to open my mouth.
Meanwhile, I continued to think about the phone calls. Was the caller trying to determine indirectly whether or not I'd spoken recently with Roger Lovin? Could Roger have known something that I happened to guess in my Bird article?
As a matter of fact it was not so long before that Roger Lovin had called me, making an appointment to come by the house while he was in town for a visit. On the day of his expected arrival, I went out for brief interval with the woman I was living with. We returned to find all her jewelry missing, and Roger never showed up. I recalled that when I had known him in New Orleans, the same year Kennedy was assassinated, his principal reputation was that of a talented con artist.
I shrugged. That wasn't much to go on.
Soon there was enough information in the news about assassination plots involving organized crime to draw my attention in that direction.
In February of 1975, I had begun making cramped, secretive notes about the mysterious bald-headed man I had known in New Orleans. For the first time since the assassination, the Establishment was expressing suspicions of conspiracy, pushing for a Congressional probe of the events in Dallas. Only recently I had been called by CBS. and someone from Reader's Digest was even attempting to contact me. Expecting that before long I would be called before a Congressional committee to testify, I didn't want to divulge anything sensational until I could speak under oath.
Instead, I prepared -- quietly. As soon as my notes were completed to the point where they told a coherent, if abbreviated, story -- I began discreetly searching for a politically radical attorney. Employed part-time as a student assistant and distrustful of the Establishment because of their dishonesty in the past about the assassination issue, I wanted a lawyer who was an idealist because, neither financially nor politically, could I afford any other kind. If my information was relevant, and I believed now that it probably was, doing anything useful with it was still going for a long shot.
On the other hand, I was less worried than ever about seeming paranoid. If one thing had been made perfectly clear, it was that in the United States of America, suspicions of conspiracy were no longer regarded as symptoms of mental illness.