Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nick Beef: let the crazy 50th anniversary JFK assassination stories begin

With the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination just around the corner, we will all need to gear up for an onslaught of related – however tangentially -  stories.

What are Marina Oswald’s daughters up to?

Are any of the Secret Service agents still alive?

Where did Jackie’s pink pillbox hat end up?

There will be NO END to the specials, the special editions, the strolls down memory lane... (I can already hear Chris Matthews and Tom Brokaw droning on.)

Not that I won’t immediately succumb to reading and watching all this “news.”

But I predict that it will be overwhelming, over the top, and over much, as every tiny little bit of trivia is dredged up and examined.

An early entry into the WHAT? sweepstakes has got to be an article I saw a week or so ago on the Huffington Post, which answered – for one and for all – a question that I suspect nSUB-LAND-articleLarge-v4o one other than the most fanatical of Kennedy fanatics has ever asked:

What’s with the Nick Beef headstone market next to the grave of Lee Harvey Oswald?

Well, it seems like The New York Times wanted to get a jump on Assassination-palooza, and sussed out the story for us. (Why focus on boring stuff like sequestration, or Egypt, when there’s news like this that’s fit to print?)

So if you have been asking ‘where’s the (Nick) Beef'?’, now you know:

Patric Abedin, a writer and “nonperforming performance artist,” uses the persona “Nick Beef.” He says he has a penchant for the morbid, creating photographic haikus with tombstones in Calvary Cemetery in Queens. (Source: NY Times.)

But before he began “creating photographic haikus with tombstones” in the Queens, he was a kid growing up in Dallas, Texas. A kid who, as a six year old son of an airman, was at the Air Force Base when Jack and Jackie landed in Fort Worth the night of November 21, 1963.

Fast forward a few years, and Abedin was something of a “non-performing performance artist” prodigy, whose mother would regularly swing by the cemetery where Oswald was buried:

“She’d get out and look at Oswald’s grave,” he recalls, “and tell me, ‘Never forget that you got to see Kennedy the night before he died.’ ”

The years passed. When he was 18, he read a newspaper article’s passing mention that the grave beside Oswald’s had never been purchased. He went to Rose Hill, where a caretaker in a glorified garden shed thumbed through some cards and said, “Yep, that’s available.”

The young man put $17.50 down, and promised to make 16 monthly payments of $10.

Fast forward one more bit, and Abedin decided, on a lark, to dub himself Nick Beef, while a friend adopted the handle “Hash Brown.”

Fast forward once again, and, in 1996, Abedin – now a humor writer who sometimes used Nick Beef as his byline - plunked down a heftier fee – close to $1K – to purchase and install the Nick Beef gravestone marker that sits next to that of Lee Harvey Oswald. The cemetery official – wisely assuming the name was a joke – initially refused to take the order for the Nick Beef marker. But, fortunately, Abedin happened to have a credit card in the name of Nick Beef, so…

And now the truth is revealed, quieting – perhaps only for a bit – the assassination buffs and conspiracy theorists who have been trying to crack the Nick Beef code:

With the gravestone planted, rumors and speculation took root. It was said that since the cemetery refuses to provide directions to Oswald’s grave — at the family’s request, a spokeswoman for the cemetery said — two reporters had bought the plot so that the curious could ask instead for Nick Beef. It was also said that Nick Beef was a New York stand-up comic who used references to the grave in his act. Assassination buffs swapped theories on the Internet.

And now that truth is out.

And it’s not, according to Abedin, a laughing matter.

Yes, [Abedin] admits again, he has a penchant for the morbid. But this does not mean that he bought the plot next to Oswald’s as a joke, or a piece of installation art, or anything of the kind. It’s personal. It’s about change. The fragility of life. Something.

Look, the Kennedy assassination – or the assassination of any elected official, for that matter – is really not funny. And trust me when I say that I grieved the way that only a 13 year old Irish Catholic girl from Massachusetts could grieve when JFK was killed.

And yet, with all the sentimental clap-trap about the Kennedy family, the obsessional interest – all these years on – in everything to do with JFK’s death, and the complete and utter onslaught of rehash that will start rolling out in the next couple of months as the momentous anniversary nears, it’s kind of bracing that someone’s managed to extract a bit of humor out of it all.

Good we got it in before the real onslaught begins.

HOOPLA is a-comin’. Big time.

You heard it here.

No comments: