Tagged: Essays

October 13th, 2009

Evan Freed Affidavit

1. I, Evan Phillip Freed, declare as follows:

I am an attorney at law, duly licensed to practice in this State.

During the Presidential Campaign of 1968, I was a full time college student at California State University, and was also working part-time as a photographer for Copley News Service and the Culver City Star News.  In that capacity, I was assigned to travel with and cover the Robert Kennedy Presidential campaign.

I traveled on Senator Kennedy’s plane, along with other members of the news media, through California and Oregon.  I spent time speaking to Senator Kennedy and his wife, and had no difficulty gaining excellent camera advantage to document the events taking place.

On the evening of the 1968 California primary, I was present at the Ambassador Hotel in a room directly adjacent to Senator Kennedy’s.  We had been awaiting election results.  Eventually the Senator and his staff left to go downstairs to the Embassy Room to deliver a victory speech.  I accompanied the Senator on the elevator, and entered an area of the Embassy Room set aside for press photographers.

During the Senator’s speech, a scuffle broke out where I was standing among several news photographers, and I was hit in the face with a large newsreel camera.  My camera was also broken in the scuffle, and I decided to go to a quiet area to attempt repairs.  I immediately went into the Embassy Room pantry area, arriving there about 5 minutes prior to the end of the Senator’s speech.

Nothing in the pantry area seemed unusual, however, I do recall the following.  Two men who looked very similar in appearance and clothing were moving about the pantry area.  One man was wearing lighter clothing than the other, and he was holding a drink glass in his hand.  The 2nd man was standing near the south wall of the pantry, directly across from a large metal serving table.  The men never stood together, however, they appeared to be looking at each other from time-to-time.  I did not pay particular attention to the 2nd man, although I do recall thinking that he was the other man’s brother.  I assumed that they were in the pantry to avoid the large crowd in the Embassy Room.

At one point, the man with the drink asked me how long the Senator’s speech would last, and I told him I did not know.  He also asked hotel kitchen employees in the pantry where he could get some ice for his drink, and they directed him to an ice machine next to the door leading into the Embassy Room.  The man with the drink was Sirhan Sirhan.

When the Senator entered the pantry, he was followed by a crowd of reporters and guests.  I was standing at the entrance to the pantry, and walked along the Senator’s right side until he paused near the metal serving table inside the pantry.  There appeared to be some confusion at that time with some persons telling the Senator to go back up the freight elevator, and others telling him to go into an adjacent room (I believe the California Room) where the press were waiting.  I assumed he would go to meet the press, and I took a few steps in front of him.  I was facing the Senator’s right side at that time, about 4 feet away.  It was at this time that shooting began.

I saw the 2nd man (wearing the darker clothing) who had been in the pantry with Sirhan during the speech pointing a gun in an upward angle at the Senator.  Based on the sound I heard, I believe the first shot came from this man’s gun.  In the background, about 6-8 feet from me, I could see Sirhan firing a revolver held in his right hand in the direction of the Senator.  People in the crowd were screaming and grabbing Sirhan, and I remember they were holding his arm as he was shooting.  I cannot say how many shots were fired by Sirhan or by the second gunman.

As the crowd rushed towards Sirhan, they passed by the 2nd gunman.  He was backing away, towards the east end of the pantry.  I was shoved by the surge of the crowd back against the south wall of the pantry, where I was alone next to another door that exited into the Embassy Room.

At that time, I observed the 2nd gunman running in my direction.  He was not holding a gun at that time.  Another man was running behind him in the same direction yelling at me, “Stop that guy, stop him.”  There was no one else other than the 2nd gunman that he could have been yelling at.  This took place just as I was opening the door to the Embassy Room to get some help.

As the 2nd gunman came to the door, the man pursuing him yelled to me again, “Get him, get it!”  As the 2nd gunman passed through the door, the man pursuing him tried to grab him but failed.  Both men ran into the Embassy Room.  The 2nd gunman ran directly out the east doors of the Embassy Room.  The man running after him almost fell as he came through the pantry doors, and he continued running in the same direction as the second gunman.  I never saw either of these men again.

I went back into the pantry, and soon realized I could be of little help.  I tried preventing people from entering the room, and hotel staff soon took over that task.  I then went back upstairs to the Senator’s room, speaking briefly with Milton Berle, one of the few people who had stayed behind when the Senator had gone downstairs.

I place a couple of phone calls from the room to my family to advise them that I was not injured in the shooting.  I assumed they had been watching the events on live television.  I then returned to the pantry, where I gave my name, address and phone number to an LAPD officer who had arrived at the scene.  I then left the Ambassador Hotel, eventually going home.

It was not until several weeks later that I was contacted by LAPD to give a statement.  My recollection is that over a month went by until I was asked to come to Parker Center to speak to detectives investigating the case.  I met with several LAPD detectives, and told them what I have stated above.  They asked me to look through photographs taken in the Embassy Room the night of the shooting, and to point myself out.  After doing this, I was asked whether or not the man pursuing the 2nd gunman could have been yelling, “Get an ambulance” or “Get a doctor.”  I told them that was not correct, but they insisted I had been incorrect in what I heard.  Although I have a description of the man who pursued the 2nd gunman, I was never asked to look for him in photos, or otherwise produce a drawing of him.  I made it very clear that the 2nd gunman look very much like Sirhan, except that his clothing was darker in color and coordinated.

At the end of my interview, the detectives asked me to send them all my photographs I had taken of the Senator.  They said they wanted to try to locate Sirhan in the crowds.  They promised to return the negatives to me, however, they never did, insisting they had been mixed up with all the others.

I was eventually contacted by the FBI, who interviewed me at my home.  They asked me specific questions, mainly about Sirhan.  They seemed to be avoiding asking me questions about the 2nd gunman, although I told them the same things I have stated above.

Other than a news crew sent to my home by Baxter Ward (Channel 9 News) several years later, I have never spoken to the press about these events.  I have never desired publicity in this matter, and I have no opinion as to who fired the shot or shots that killed Senator Kennedy.  My purpose in making these statements now is to help insure that a fair investigation is conducted in this case.

I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.  Executed this 13th day of May, 1992, at Los Angeles, California.



October 3rd, 2009

Frank Merritt

Mr. Merritt was a security guard at the Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968.  He was assigned to the main doors of the Embassy Room when a woman ran out of the serving pantry and yelled, “My God, we need a doctor.  Kennedy’s been killed.” Merritt stated that he drew his gun and ran into the pantry in time to see two men struggling with Sirhan.  He phoned the police and for an ambulance.  He stated that when he first entered the pantry, he observed two men and a woman walking away from him and out of the kitchen.  They seemed to be smiling.  He added that the woman was wearing a polka dot dress.

October 2nd, 2009

Charlton Heston

I auditioned for a play in West Hollywood at Thad Taylor’s Globe Theater.  Mr. Taylor built the theater to resemble the famous Globe Theatre in London to house his beloved Shakespeare productions.  I previously saw a production of Cyrano de Bergerac with DeVeren Bookwalter as Cyrano at the Globe.  He was terrific though the greatest portrayal of Cyrano I ever saw was Peter Donat’s Cyrano with the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.  Mr. Donat has spoiled me for anyone else to ever do that role.  Incredibly, the critics love Jose Ferrer as Cyrano in the film version but I just don’t get it.  Ferrer’s portrayal is wooden, humorless, sexless.  There is a line near the end of the play that haunts me.  Paraphrasing Cyrano, “I have failed at everything, even my own death.”  A fitting epitaph for my own tombstone.

The director cast me giving me two bit parts.  My first role calls to run on stage, kneel, and inform the king the queen is dead.  My second role is one of two assassins sent to dispatch the king at the end of the play.  One night the buzz backstage was Charleton Heston was in the audience.  The energy of the actors electrified as each one of us determined to give the performance of a lifetime.  I peaked through the curtains looking out at the audience.  Jesus!  Or should I say Moses.  Charleton Heston was sitting in the front row.  Mind you, this was an equity waiver theater seating a limited number of patrons with the audience close to the stage.  Now I had another worry.  As the assassin I come towards the king and swing my sword barely missing his head as he ducks under the sword.  If struck by the sword the actor will be injured and bleed all over the stage so the trick is to come close enough to look real but not so close as to shut down production.  Now my added worry, don’t hit Charleton Heston with the sword.  Don’t hit Charleton Heston with the sword I kept repeating to myself as the curtain rose on this night’s performance.

When my first scene came I rushed onto the stage to inform the king his wife had died.  I milked it for all its worth.  Kneeling in torment, I could hardly say the words.  The king kept looking at me as if to say, “Come on kid, spit it out.”  Finally I said my line.  I doubt if Shakespeare wrote the scene to include such a long pause but Shakespeare wasn’t in the audience that night, Charleton Heston was.

When the play was over I was surprised to see Charleton Heston backstage.  He made it a point to shake each actor’s hand, mine included.  As the actors changed out of their costumes and into their street clothes and departed the theater, I glanced over my shoulder on the way out and saw Charleton Heston sitting with the actor who played the king.  Together, alone, they were discussing the psychology of Richard II and how to play him.  Years later when Michael Moore sprung his unfair trap on Mr. Heston who was suffering from dementia, I wished Michael Moore could have stood next to me that night witnessing two actors, one rich and famous, the other not, sharing equal billing on the stage of life.

October 1st, 2009


I’m at a record store on Hollywood Blvd.  I see a poster of some new group, Vanity 6.  Never heard of them.  But it’s the girl in the middle of the photo that draws my attention.  Young, beautiful, mulatto, long hair, dressed in a man’s suit, staring right back at you, challenging you to say something.  “Who dat?” I wondered.  Within a month I heard a song on the radio about a “Nasty Girl.”  It was Vanity 6.  As time goes by I learn that Prince is set to film “Purple Rain” but Vanity won’t be in it.  They had a falling out and Prince banished her from his realm.  I thought too bad because what a way to launch her film career.  Shortly afterwards in the Century City Shopping Center, at the top of one of the escalators leading down to the parking level, I met Vanity.  The beautiful girl full of energy and fun was with a female friend as I said to her, “You look like Vanity.”  She said, “I am Vanity.”  As the three of us continued down the escalator I told her she should kiss and make up with Prince in order to do the film and after filming then break up with the little guy.  She thanked me for my advice and as I got to the level where my car was parked I parted company with the divine Miss V.

Much time passed and as I was walking down Avenue of the Stars a white Jaguar pulls over to the side.  The driver motions me to come over.  She asked me if I knew where 20th Century Fox was.  It was Vanity.  I reminded her we met once before at the Century City Shopping Center and I told her she should make up with Prince and do “Purple Rain.”  She remembered the conversation and told me at the time she thought I was a manager.  I gave her directions to Fox which was only a few blocks away and wished her luck on her audition.  I noticed that she was drunk.  Not exactly the state you want to be in when trying to make an impression on casting directors or producers.  I had previously seen her perform on “Soul Train” singing and acting out a song about a gorilla and knew she was drunk during the performance.  I silently wished her luck a second time.

The years flew by.  I watched as Vanity crashed and burned.  My heart went out to her.  This didn’t have to happen.  One Saturday I got a call from my buddy Karsten Kastelan, the German Simon Templar.  Karsten was staying in the guest house of Rosemary Belden, an ex-pat in Studio City.  He was having a barbeque later that day and invited me over.  As late afternoon approached I drove over the hill into the Valley.  I found Rosemary’s house and went in the side entrance as instructed.  As I emerged into the backyard a voice called out to me, “Mike, come here.”  Charles Norton, a director friend standing just inside Karsten’s guest house with a phone in his hand waved me over.  If you have every seen the “Gilligan’s Island” episode with the crazed chimpanzee running amok, he directed that episode, a classic Gilligan’s.  “This is Vanity.  Give her directions to the house.”  I took the phone and asked her where she was coming from.  Long pause.  Okay.  “Do you know where Laurel Canyon and Ventura meet?” I asked.  “Yes,” she said.  I then gave her more exact directions to the house.

As daylight turned to dusk I periodically walked out to the front of the house to meet and guide Vanity to the festivities.  On the second time I turned away from the street just as a car pulled up.  Vanity hopped out and the car sped away.  I motioned for her to follow me and we walked through the side entrance emerging into the backyard.  She was still beautiful.  Great figure.  Full of energy and adventure as on the first day I met her.  I led Vanity to Charles so she would be with someone she knew.  I left to wake up Karsten.  It was his party but he was dead drunk in his bed in a comatose state.  I pushed on him and yelled at him to get up.  Without opening his eyes he said he just needed a little bit of sleep.  Brilliant boy wonder and acerbic film critic, handsome as Thor, didn’t he understand he was supposed to get drunk at the party not before.  When I returned outside Vanity of course was the center of attention surrounded by her court of male admirers.  As everyone started to sit down at a table I moved next to her with Charles on the other side.  One of her new slaves offered to get her a plate of barbeque.  Charles offered her a glass of wine which she accepted.  I was surprised.  I had read that years of drinking and drugs damaged her kidneys and now my dream girl was on dialysis.  It sure didn’t affect her looks.  Still beautiful as ever.  Still Vanity.  Charles mentioned to her that I had met her previously.  She turned to me inquisitively.  I related the stories of Century City Shopping Center and giving her directions on Avenue of the Stars.  She said she didn’t remember.  Great.  Now in front of Charles and anyone else who was listening I was either a liar or insane.  I joked to save myself, “Or so I say.”  Vanity repeated it, “Or so he says.”  We both started laughing.  As the night went on we talked about her life and career.  “I don’t know if I’m Vanity or Denise Matthews,” she said quietly.  Interesting.

Finally, Karsten makes his appearance.  Cleaned up and still half crocked he sat down next to Vanity.  I introduced them to each other.  He was pleasantly surprised to meet the famous and equally beautiful Vanity.  They got along famously, his boyish European charm winning her over.  She smiled at him knowing he was smashed to the gills but still able to carry on an intelligent conversation.  It takes one to know one I guess.  A week later when I asked Karsten how he enjoyed flirting with Vanity he was shocked.  He had no memory of meeting her or of any of the events that night.  He said he started drinking earlier in the day and never stopped.  I informed him he was very charming and Vanity kept smiling at him.  The poster boy for Hitler youth was grateful to hear that.