Monday, February 18, 2013


On Wednesday, November 20, Peter got a call from President Kennedy. During the conversation, Jack delightedly told Peter that Jackie had agreed to accompany him on a political fence-mending trip to Texas. She rarely made such trips, but this was a particularly important one, with the next presidential election less than a year away, and Jack knew that his wifes presence at his side would help make it a success. He had pleaded with her to come, and she had finally agreed. Isnt that great, Peter?the President said. We leave tomorrow morning.
After Peters show the following night, he and [his companion Chuck] Pick threw a little get-together with some peoplethat lasted until four in the morning. Peter didnt have a girl stay over that night; instead he sat up with Chuck until seven A.M. Friday and talked about Jack Kennedy.

The sun was coming up,Pick remembered, and Peter was telling me stories about the President. We just sat around talking, and Peter spoke about how much
he loved Jack and how overwhelmed he would get sometimes just thinking that his brother-in-law was the President of the United States. I was really touched by how much Peter loved the man. He was so excited that he was going to be at the White House for Christmas.

Chuck and Peter finally went to bed at seven in the morning. About three hours later, Pick heard the doorbell buzz. I thought, Wheres the maid?’ Then I figured she must have forgotten her key and it was her buzzing.He got up, opened
the door to let the maid in, and groggily turned around to go back to bed. But then he realized that it wasnt the maid at the door but a man in a suit and tie he recognized
as one of the vice presidents at Harrahs. You have to wake up Mr. Lawford,the man said.

I cant wake up Mr. Lawford,Chuck snapped. What is it you want?”
Pick and the man from Harrahs argued back and forth a few times about disturbing Peter until, finally, the man said, The President was just shot.

What do you mean?
The President has been shot. Youd better wake up Mr. Lawford.
Chuck went into Peters bedroom. He was lying there. He was a very heavy sleeper, and normally, when I woke him, Id have to shake him and yell, Cmon, Peter, wake up!But this time I just kind of stood over him and put my hand on his shoulder and he opened his eyes and it was almost like he knew. He looked at me and I said,
Peter, the Presidents been shot.
Peter cried, Oh my God!and leaped out of his bed. There wasnt a second of disbelief,Pick recalled. Just Oh my God!and up. I ran out of the room and the guy from Harrahs was standing there. I said, We gotta go to Los Angeles immediately.
The man said, Mr. Harrahs plane is at your disposal. Whatever you need.
Peter came out of the bedroom and said, Chuck, weve gotta leave now.”
It seemed to Pick that the phone was ringing constantly, that everything was happening very fast. We put the TV on and heard that the President had been shot
in a motorcade in Dallas, but there was nothing about how badly hed been hurt. Peter started making phone calls. He called Mrs. Lawford and Rose Kennedy, but the lines were busy and he couldnt get through. Reporters started gathering outside, and the police came and blocked off the house.

Peter rushed from room to room, trying to make telephone calls, stopping
only long enough to listen to a few minutes of television news. But there was none; the
commentators knew nothing of what was happening at Parkland Memorial Hospital,
where the President had been rushed. Peter finally got through to Pat and then to
Rose, but they too were in the dark about Jacks condition.

Peter had just said once again to Chuck, We gotta get going,when the words from the television set caught his attention: Here is a bulletin from CBS News.He turned to the screen and saw Walter Cronkite, looking stricken, make the announcement: President Kennedy died at one P.M. Central Time in Dallas.

Peter got up,Chuck recalled, “went into the kitchen, and threw up all over the floor. Just threw up, everywhere. Then he fell apart. He was lying on the floor, sobbing — he was crying so hard I didnt know what to do. I never witnessed anything like that in my life. I never saw a man break down the way he broke down. It was a terrible thing to watch. It scared me. I went over to him and he said, Leave me alone.

I was just a kid. I didnt know what was happening. I started crying, as much because of what I was seeing happen to Peter as because the President was dead. But I had to be okay because he was so bad. One of us had to be strong and keep it together, and I was it. I was the only person he could really hold on to.

Within an hour, Chuck and Peter were on the way to the airport. Later, Chuck didnt remember getting dressed. I dont even think we brought our luggage. We just left. Peter didnt want to go through the crowd out front, but the police escorted us through it and took us to Tahoe airport and we took Bill Harrahs plane. There was a lot of crying and sobbing on that plane.

When they arrived at Santa Monica Airport, a helicopter awaited them. We got out of the plane and ran to the helicopter and Milt Ebbins was there. It was just a three-person helicopter — there was only room for Peter, the pilot, and Milt. I said,
Peter, Ill take a cab home. Ill be okay.
He said, No, no, I cant leave you like this.’ I said, Just go.Peter asked me if Id call him when I got home. I said I would. And then they took off. I took a cab home and I called the house and told someone that if Peter needed me Id be available.

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