Will the producers of the new movie “Chappaquiddick” be nominated for a Profiles in Courage award next spring?
The movie is supposed to open April 6, just before the Kennedy family hands out their annual awards, ostensibly for political bravery, in reality for political correctness above and beyond the call of duty.
So no, I don’t see a grip ‘n’ greet with Caroline and her John-John lookalike son in director John Curran’s future.
But judging by the trailer at least, this looks like a film worth seeing. Check it out, the last scene in the 2:27 preview is devastating. Teddy Kennedy is comparing himself to Biblical figures, including Moses, whom Teddy says had a temper.
Teddy’s aide replies, “Moses had a temper but he never left a girl at the bottom of the Red Sea.”
Now that’s harsh. I mean, Ted Kennedy once tried to shut this newspaper down just because I called him “Fat Boy.” The Kennedys do not play well with others.
The People magazine story about the trailer says, “Watch Ted Kennedy’s Life Get Derailed.”
That’s the way the story has always been played. It’s Ted Kennedy’s life getting derailed, not Mary Jo’s. Teddy lived to the ripe old age of 77. Mary Jo suffocated at the age of 28. But it’s Teddy’s life that got derailed.
The trailer says “Chappaquiddick” is “Based on the Untold Story.”
Actually, it’s not exactly an untold story, but most people have never heard the real story, at least not if they live around here. Teddy was the “Liberal Lion” of the Senate, that’s “Lion,” not “Lyin’.” Every sixth year, when he ran for reelection, the Globe would run endless puff pieces about how he was “turning his life around.”
If you brought up Chappaquiddick in polite company, say on Brattle Street, somebody would be sure to tut-tut: “Hasn’t that poor family suffered enough?”
Here are some facts most people don’t know about Chappaquiddick:
When he filled out the initial Edgartown police report, Teddy began “There was one passenger with me, one Mary Jo –“ After that he left a blank space, because he didn’t know her last name.
At the time of her drowning death, Mary Jo was not wearing underwear.
At one time, Mary Jo’s landlord in D.C. was Bobby Baker, a bagman for LBJ who also procured hookers for President Kennedy in the White House, including a gorgeous suspected East German spy who was deported shortly before Nov. 22, 1963.
According to a book by the grandson of the owner of the National Enquirer, in 1980 the gossip columnist for the Washington Post delivered a nailed-down story to the supermarket tabloid proving that Mary Jo was pregnant when Teddy killed her, but that the publisher finally decided against printing it.
Mary Jo’s body was hustled off the island before the medical examiner had a chance to examine it, and months later a judge in Pennsylvania refused to allow its exhumation for a proper autopsy.
The other young women who were at the cottage the night Teddy drowned Mary Jo have never spoken publicly, except for one statement on the fifth anniversary in 1974 by a woman named Rosemary Keough: “My friend Mary Jo just happened to be in the wrong car at the wrong time with the wrong people.”
From the trailer, it looks like they took at least some license with the facts, but you have to when you’re dealing with the messy sprawl of history. The trailer has Teddy’s dying father Joe, left crippled and speechless by a stroke in 1961, slapping his runt of the litter.
From all accounts, that probably didn’t happen, but it should have.
Most of the heavy lifting on the Chappaquiddick story was done by a Cape Cod writer named Leo Damore. His book, “Senatorial Privilege,” is still the definitive work. The Kennedys tried desperately to stop its publication, and after he finally got it into print, they had Damore blackballed in publishing circles.
I got to know Damore on the 25th anniversary in 1994, when I rented the death cottage for a live radio broadcast. He wanted $100 for an interview, and I paid him. The day after my show, he began calling me, desperate for the money. He was broke, stone broke. The Kennedys don’t mess around, never have.
A year later Damore was destitute, and about to be evicted from his rented cottage in Connecticut. As deputies came up the walkway with eviction papers, he pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head.
Mary Jo wasn’t the only casualty of Chappaquiddick. Leo Damore’s life got derailed pretty good, ditto Teddy’s cousin Joe Gargan, not to mention the district attorney Edmund Dinis. Too much stuff for a two-hour movie, but at least we’ll have something in April.
Hooray for Hollywood.