Teddy Hagiography

Ken AshfordIn PassingLeave a Comment

Last night was literally the first evening in months where I had no rehearsals, no performances, no auditions, no theatre-related meetings, etc.  In other words, it was the first evening in months where I could veg in front of the TV.

Man, what a bleak oasis.

With nothing to grab my interest, I gravitated to the news channels, where there was, not surprisingly, an endless parade of bobbleheads talking about Ted Kennedy.

I like Kennedy, but I don't like bobbleheads.  Some of it was a little over the top.  Keith Olbermann, for example, openly mused that Teddy might be the "greatest" Kennedy of them all.  (He wasn't; Bobby was.  Had Bobby lived, the country and the world would be a much better place today — you wouldn't even recognize it.  I'm convinced of that.)

CNN, however, ran an HBO documentary called "Teddy: In His Own Words".  It was just a series of news clips and interviews, arranged chronologically, from and about Ted Kennedy.  No narration.  It was interesting and informative.  I didn't know, for example, that President Nixon had ordered surveillance of Kennedy in order to get the goods on him (this came from a Nixon tape).  He wanted Kennedy's secret service protection to include informatives who would tip the White House if Kennedy was doing something immoral.

Nixon was such a skank.

But PBS aired a re-run of The American Experience.  The subject matter was The Kennedys.  It made sense — after all, Ted Kennedy didn't just die yesterday; the Kennedy dynasty died.


There they are.  Joe, Rose, and their nine kids.  With Teddy's death (coming on the heals of Eunice's death a few weeks ago), they're all gone now.

The American Experience: The Kennedys is a fascinating documentary, and if they replay it in the next few days, I highly recommend it.

The last chapter of the documentary is called "The Ninth Child", and it focuses on Teddy.  Even though I had seen the documentary before, I was struck by one particular comment from an RFK advisor.  He noted the incredible pressure that was placed on Teddy after Bobby was killed.  I'm paraphrasing, but he said something like this:

Imagine what it is like to be a person where if you don't become President of the United States, you are considered a failure.  And on top of that, you're the patriarch to 16 kids whose fathers have fallen at the hands of assassins.  I can't even begin to comprehend what that must have been like.  The personal strain and pressure and self-doubt….

That was where Teddy found himself in 1969.

It doesn't excuse the alcoholism and reckless behavior, but it certainly makes it logical.