originally published August 29, 2014
“If you’re going to do something, do it right.”
So sayeth the big book of unspoken laws – the same book that also condemns hack writers who open articles with unattributed clichés, tagged with stupid quotation marks that indicate that the words have been spoken, though in this case only within the writer’s mind. Hey, sometimes I’m lazy. But at least I’m honest about it.
Sometimes – and this pops up most frequently when an occasion forces me to try dancing without a sufficient dosage of alcohol to abuse my bloodstream – I’m downright incompetent. That’s not a crime; we all take a stumbling stroll through the courtyard of fuckuptitude now and then. The key is not to be incompetent when it really counts. Like when you’re meeting your in-laws. Or performing a recital. Or trying to kill somebody.
That’s a big one. Screw up an assassination attempt and you’ll be plopped into history’s laughing bin , filed under ‘G’ for Gut-Bustingly Idiotic. These five would-be snuffers of life weren’t out for notoriety, and the failure of their mission, though it opened them up for mockery galore, did little to sway whatever kooky inspiration had fuelled them past the checkpoint of legality into the realm of the fiercely wicked. But at that point, who cared?
Get your pointing finger ready and cue up your next laugh. These folks have earned it.
When a white man fatally shot the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. in April of 1968, it stuck a searing needle into race relations. But King had been targeted before – in this instance by a black woman in September of 1958 – and the end result was actually more encouraging than divisive. Izola Curry’s beef with the Reverend was not so much issues-based as it was wacko-nutjob-based. She met Dr. King at a Harlem book signing, and proceeded to jab a steel letter opener into his chest.
To say the act of removing the letter opener was a delicate process would be a humungous understatement. The tip of the blade was pressed against Dr. King’s aorta – even a sneeze could have caused a rupture that would have killed him in seconds. A rib-spreader was needed to ensure the weapon was removed with the utmost care.
The happy ending of this tale is that Curry was locked up, Dr. King was able to publicly reassert his commitment to non-violence, and the trauma demonstrated true racial cooperation: both the pair of police officers who responded to the call and the pair of surgeons who operated on Dr. King were split – one black and one white. A horror with an optimistic tint.
Notable both for her deep immersion in Charles Manson’s fruitcake family in California as well as for having the nickname ‘Squeaky’, Lynette Fromme’s big moment in the spotlight came when she drew a pistol on President Gerald Ford in September, 1975. She was purportedly looking to meet the president and make her case for the preservation of the California redwoods, but for whatever reason she felt her point would be more eloquently stated with a .45 semi-automatic pistol in her hand.
There were four rounds loaded in the handgun, but nothing in the chamber. No bullet was fired, but Squeaky still landed in prison for life for her idiotic attempt at free speech. The real show was during the trial though – Squeaky wouldn’t cooperate with her own defense team, and she even hurled an apple at US Attorney Dwayne Keyes when he lobbied for a severe punishment for the defendant. The apple bounced off his head, knocking his glasses off.
Too bad that trial wasn’t televised.
Only seventeen days after Squeaky Fromme brought a pistol to a presidential outing, Sara Jane Moore did the same thing. Toting a .38 caliber revolver that she’d purchased just that day, Moore opted to take out her rage in a more direct manner. There was a bullet in her chamber.
About 40 feet away from where the president was standing, Moore raised her arm and fired a shot. Fortunately, the sights at that distance were about six inches off the target and her ignorance meant that the bullet did nothing more than ricochet off a nearby hotel entrance, slightly wounding a bystander. She tried to take a second shot but a US Marine named Oliver Sipple, who happened to be in the area, tackled her to the ground.
Sara Jane Moore served 32 years of a life sentence before getting released. She claims she wasn’t nuts – just overwhelmed by her radical political commitment. At least she expressed some modicum of regret.
If ever a handbook is printed on how not to carry out a murder, Samuel Byck’s photo will appear on the front cover. Byck wanted to dispatch Richard Nixon from our planet in February of 1974, and he had the foresight to take a very 9/11 approach to the job. But where the 2001 attackers possessed a heap of ill-conceived religious fervor, Byck only had a big ol’ pile of stinking stupid.
He stormed onto a Delta Airlines DC-9 at Baltimore/Washington International Airport after shooting a police officer to get there. Then he demanded the pilots take off so that he could steer the plane into the White House. When they refused, Byck shot them. He next ordered a random passenger to fly the plane. This didn’t work out, as the pre-flight safety recap doesn’t often include instructions on piloting the aircraft. The situation came to a close with the plane never leaving the gate, as police stormed onto the jet, prompting Byck to give up and shoot himself in the head.
I’d like to propose the phrase “he totally Bycked it” for when someone screws up an assassination so magnificently.
One guy who absolutely Bycked it was Francisco Martin Duran, who really hated President Bill Clinton. Rather than plot out some elaborate scheme to lure Clinton to the middle of Wembley Stadium and blow him up with a stolen drone’s missiles (hooray for this past season of 24!), Francisco’s plan was to wander up to the fence overlooking the White House’s north lawn and open fire with a semi-automatic rifle. A kid nearby had commented that one of the men way in the distance kind of looked like it might be Clinton – that was good enough for Francisco.
Unfortunately for him, he missed. Also, he missed some stranger – Clinton was inside watching football at the time. In court, Francisco claimed he was trying to save the planet from an alien mist, connected via umbilical cord to a secret alien in the Colorado mountains. Alas, 60 witnesses for the prosecution, all claiming that Francisco hated Clinton and the government as a whole, meant that his weird insanity defense didn’t work. Francisco will be serving time in a federal institution until 2029.
Sometimes fame just ain’t worth it.