Actor President Shot Because of Acting
40 years ago, I was eating a hotdog and watching Woody woodpecker, and my entire world crashed.
Forty years ago today, President Ronald Reagan walked out of an enclosed passageway of the Washington Hilton after giving a speech to labor union leaders. He stopped, waved his hand to the crowd standing 15 feet away, and was shot by would-be assassin John Hinkley Jr.
Just two months into his administration, Reagan and First Lady Nancy made the rounds of their new home city. On March 21st, they visited Ford Theater, the infamous venue of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. That enclosed walkway mentioned in the opening paragraph? It was built following the assassination of JFK. The Reagans surely canceled a visit to Union Station lest the ghost of James Garfield mocks him a third time.
We haven’t gotten to the crazy stuff.
Speaking of crazy, Hinkley would be found not guilty by reason of insanity because he actually thought Jody Foster, the actress, would fall for him if he managed to pull off assassinating the president. Where did he get this idea?
From Hollywood, obviously. He watched Taxi Driver, starring Foster. The triumphant scene is Robert DeNiro's character murdering a Senator or something. I have yet to see the movie. Anyway, Hinkley thought Foster was as crazy as him.
Three hundred sixty-eight miles to the west, however, a five-year-old boy in a rural town just outside Cleveland, Ohio, was watching Woody Woodpecker and eating his hotdog when some man in a suit interrupted his fun to say that the president had been shot.
The young boy flipped out.
That boy was me.
One of my first memories was the election of 1980 and being super upset that Jimmy Carter lost. Having Reagan shot mere months later only added to my view that the entire world was crashing to an end. Throw on top of that; some prisoner had escaped jail somewhere around that time. For the rest of the day, I sat looking out the back window like a guard dog, waiting to see when the prisoner, who had obviously shot the president, would arrive and take all the hotdogs.
Reagan would survive and lead a revolution against the greatest self-formed government in the world's history by basically saying rich people can do it better. If Reagan were alive today, he could wander into numerous buildings all over DC that they slapped his name onto. He is a top ten president in past DPPR, so we will see where he lands this time.
Finally, there are two interesting tidbits in this entire thing.
First, two union workers from Cleveland, Ohio, were the ones to take down Hinkley.
The other is how Alexander Haig, then-Secretary of State, basically took over as acting president. Vice President Bush was in Texas at the time, and when Reagan was shot, Haig called him to tell him to come back to DC. Haig then had a press conference where he told everyone he was in control when everyone knew constitutionally he wasn't. My brother, Michael, and I always loved ole Alexander Haig. He ran for president in 1988. I guess people never wanted him to be in control.
Four presidents have been assassinated – Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and JFK. Two were wounded, Teddy Roosevelt and Reagan.
Let’s hope we don’t have our cartoons and hot dog-eating interrupted anytime soon.