Monday, March 5, 2018

Leonard Bernstein and JFK - "We don't dare confront the implications."


 "We don't dare confront the implications." 

Just as JFK’s 100 birthday was celebrated in 2017, Leonard Bernstein’s 2018 centennial is being recognized and celebrated, and should reflect his feelings on JFK and his assassination.

As one of America’s premier composers and conductors, Bernstein was not only a contemporary of JFK at Harvard, but a New York City neighbor, acquaintance and personal friend who dined often together.

Among other things, Bernstein composed the music for the hit Broadway play and movie West Side Story, that featured Natalie Wood and actor Richard Beymer.

Beymer figures prominently in the recently released records under the JFK Act as someone who associated with Syliva Duran, the Mexican national who worked at the Cuban embassy in Mexico City and dealt with both Beymer and the accused assassin of President Kennedy, both of whom wanted visas to Cuba.

Image result for Leonard Bernstein West Side StoryImage result for Leonard Bernstein West Side Story

Wood and Beymer played a contemporary Romeo and Julet in the movie, and while Wood’s suspicious death is being reinvestigated today, Beymer was a subject of CIA records recently released under the JFK Act - CIA phone taps of the Cuban embassy, where he called after the assassination seeking information on Syliva Duran.

Beymer was one of the two American Gringos who reportedly attended a Twist Party hosted by Duran where Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin of the President, was said to have been encouraged to kill JFK by those from the Cuban embassy.

While Duran knew the name of the American film actor, when she was interviewed by reporters she suspected he was still alive and refused to identify him to protect him.

From the government records recently released under the JFK act, CIA wiretap documents identify Beymer. When contacted recently Beymer acknowledged being in Mexico for a film festival, and visiting the Cuban embassy in an attempt to get a visa to Cuba, but he said he doesn’t recall attending a Twist Party or meeting Oswald, though attending a Twist Party is something they would have done, being two footloose Americans below the border.

Who was Beymer’s companion? The other Gringo, Beymer said, was Bradley Pierce, then a New York City bar owner who is now a Catholic priest.

Father Bradley Pierce recalls being in Mexico City on the day of the assassination, exiting the elevator in a hotel lobby to learn that the president had been killed, but he doesn’t recall a Twist Party or meeting the accused assassin. Since they were only in Mexico a few weeks, and were there at the time of the assassination, they weren’t there when Oswald was there in late September and early October.

While Beymer said he didn’t remember Sylvia Duran, a CIA wiretap report indicates he knew her well enough to call the Cuban embassy and ask for her by name, and inquire as to how she was, indicating he knew she had been violently interrogated by Mexican police after the assassination.

There are reports that under interrogation Duran confessed to meeting Oswald outside the Cuban embassy and having an intimate relation with him. A friend of Duran said that she met Oswald at Sanborn’s restaurant, near the American embassy, where others said they saw Oswald leave the restaurant on the back of a motorcycle on the way to the Cuban embassy to try to get a visa to Cuba.

Another unsubstantiated report has Duran taking Oswald to a more fancy restaurant where they met the Cuban ambassador to Mexico, a story repeated by a doctor who treated the CIA backed Cuban refugees in Florida for Catholic Welfare, an organization supported by the CIA’s Catherwood Foundation.

While it is unlikely Duran had a sexual affair with Oswald, she most certainly did have an affair with Carlos Lechuga, the Cuban ambassador at the UN who was the key intermediary in the back channel negotiations between JFK and Castro at the time of the assassination. It is possible she also had an intimate affair with Richard Beymer, the American film actor who she tried to protect, and who may be trying to protect her.

But what are they protecting? Their infidelities? Or something more?

Beymer was the on screen lover of Natalie Wood in the contemporary adaption of Romeo and Juliet, that had a music scored by Leonard Bernstein, a personal friend and associate of President Kennedy.

In 1962 Leonard Bernstein introduced seven year old Chinese cellist Yo-Yo Ma, in a concert attended by President Kennedy. A year later JFK was dead and Bernstein was greatly affected by his murder.

As explained by the official New York Philharmonic history: the Death of the President The Philharmonic and Leonard Bernstein Respond: News of President John F. Kennedy's assassination reached the New York Philharmonic during an afternoon subscription concert led by George Szell. Following Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3, the Orchestra's manager Carlos Moseley broke the news to the audience and canceled the rest of the program. The remaining concerts that weekend replaced the overture with the funeral march from Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, Eroica, performed without applause.

On November 24, Leonard Bernstein conducted Mahler's Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, in a televised tribute to President Kennedy. Not only was it the first time the complete symphony was televised, but performing Mahler for an event of this nature was unprecedented. At the United Jewish Appeal Benefit the next day, Bernstein explained his novel decision to program this work rather than the expected Eroica or a requiem....

Since the tribute to JFK, Mahler symphonies have become part of the standard repertoire for national mourning. 

In explaining why he chose to play that hopeful music rather than a funeral durge, Bernstein quoted Kennedy as saying, “America’s leadership must be guided by learning and reason.”

“Learning and reason: precisely the two elements that were necessarily missing from the mind of anyone who could have fire that impossible bullet. Learning and reason: the motto we here tonight must continue to uphold with redoubled tenacity, and must continue, at any price, to make the basis of all our actions.”

In 1980, Bernstein was booed and hissed on stage when he said:

"We don't dare confront the implications. I think we've all agreed there was a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, and we just don't want to know the complete truth. It involves such powerful forces in what we call high places that if we do know, everything might fall apart. We don't dare confront the implications."

Everything fell apart, and now we must confront the implications.


Bernstein upon learning of JFK's murder 

1 comment:

robert said...

Bill, a great, great piece of writing. Bernstein sure summed up the assassination and this nation's continued denial response about the who, what and why of it all.