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'Bonnie and Clyde' Revisited


"Are we going down now?" he said.

"I think so," Fred Dutton said. "We'll wait just a minute and we'll go."


He leaned back. "Where did you go today?" he said.

"Out to Orange County."

He smiled. "That's the place," he said.

"It's beautiful." he was told. "I met a woman there who was starting out with a small business of her own. Her and the husband. He works because the business isn't making enough just yet. You know what kind of small business they opened?"

"What kind?"

"A gun shop. How do you like it? A gun shop. This whole place out here is crazy."

He made a face when he heard the word gun. It was the face he always made when somebody told him something that was so bad he didn't want to hear it. The eyes shut tight, the lips parted and the teeth gritted. He made that face when somebody would tell him their son had just been killed in Vietnam. Or when some desperate amateur would talk to him about his brother's death.

". . . There weren't many movies in India when they killed Gandhi . . ."

Fred Dutton nodded to him a few minutes later and Bobby Kennedy, holding the cigar, walked out of the room and went downstairs to the ballroom. After his speech, he was shot in the kitchen behind the ballroom. He was shot with long-nosed bullets from a .22 Iver Johnson eight-shot pistol. The pistol had a black barrel. The pistol originally had been bought in the summer of 1965 by a 72-year-old man who lived far from Watts, but was afraid that the Negroes were going to run through the streets and come and get him and his family. The pistol had been passed along over the years until it came into the hand of the killer standing in the kitchen. It was one of 2.5 million handarms registered in the State of California, and if there are 2.5 million registered, then there must be another 3 million unregistered. So on any given day in California, you could raise 5,500,000 people for a gunfight. Just with handguns. Rifles and shotguns? They're like knives and forks in a house.

So now, after a few months of standing on the side and watching all these other things, I sit in the Cross Bay movie house and The Endless Summer dissolves and, right away, these family snapshots come on, with the sound of a camera shutter clicking each time a new one appears. It is the start of Bonnie and Clyde. I take the pen out and lean in the aisle so the light from the candy counter shines on the yellow legal pad. I begin to watch the picture.

What I think is the trouble shows up right away. The girl is lovely. The guy is good looking. I mean, if you're a woman, he must be a helluva looking guy.

But out in the streets it never works out this way. Take the girl. Well, the only girls I ever knew who carried guns and stepped out on heists were bull daggers. I knew a broad from Ridgewood named JoAnne and she rode motorcycles and she went on a payroll heist and when the judge gave her two-and-a-half to five in the women's prison at Bedford Hills, she said she wanted to whisper "Thanks."

Now look at the man. He's playing a killer and he's handsome. This doesn't go. I mean, what the hell is this all about? You want to see a real killer, then you should have been around to see Lee Harvey Oswald. He was a miserable looking son of a bitch with blackheads on the sides of his nose and dirty sweat showing on the top of his chest, where he had the collar of his plaid sports shirt opened. The Dallas police brought him out of an office into a jammed hallway so they could take him to the bathroom and everybody got a good look at him. Richard Speck fits here too. He killed eight nurses in Chicago. He had slimy hair and acne all over his face. He stayed in flophouses that had no baths and he put cologne over his sweatdirt-streaked body so nobody would smell him. James Earl Ray is a guy with a prison face. Sirhan Sirhan has grainy skin and greasy hair. When they got him up on the metal table in the kitchen, his eyes were bugged out and rolling around. When somebody got at him and gave him a good choke, his tongue flopped out of his mouth and the teeth around it looked rotten.

Now the Mafia has some good-looking killers. But the Mafia is different. They do straight political executions. When they shoot somebody, the people who knew the victim throw a block party. They don't bother you. The thing that cuts into your sleep is an acne-faced creep coming out of the woodwork and pulling the trigger at somebody who is good. On the plane coming back from the funeral in Washington, John Seigenthaler, who was in the Justice Department when a Kennedy ran it, kept shaking his head and saying, "All the people we went after, major criminals, and in the end the ones we should have been worried about were little sick creatures running around waiting to shoot a President."

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