Friday, September 26, 2014

Secret Service has some 'Splaining to do...

By Jim Heffernan
The White House, Washington D. C.
The recent news that a man jumped the fence at the White House and scampered all the way to the main door of the executive mansion has become a major embarrassment to the Secret Service. As well it might.

It turns out that the suspect had had two recent encounters with law enforcement authorities, one in which it was discovered in a traffic stop that he had several guns in his vehicle along with a map of the White House, and another, just a few days before he jumped the fence, when he was questioned near the White House because he was on foot carrying a hatchet. In both cases he was not detained.

My, my. Who’d think you could get anywhere near the White House carrying a hatchet without some kind of repercussion. Certainly not I after an experience I had near the White House almost 30 years ago.

Our family had taken a vacation trip to Washington in about 1986 to see the sights. Our son and daughter were in their erly teens. Unfortunately, our young son was ill with a severe eye infection, which put a damper on our sightseeing.

But one night, after dark, when we were back in the hotel, our son needing rest, I wanted to see Washington by night. So I took my daughter for a ride around downtown Washington while my wife stayed back in the hotel looking after our son.

The night-time drive was a very worthwhile thing to do – floodlights galore on all of the monuments, the Capitol dome – but, of course, I wasn’t used to driving in that city. As we circled the White House on the roadway nearest the south lawn, I reached what I thought was an intersection that would lead to the street where our hotel was located.

Instead, it was a small intersection that led to the White House grounds, blocked off with concrete barriers, and guarded by uniformed police officers.

Too late to alter course, I turned into it, and came to an immediate abrupt stop, realizing I had made a mistake. The two guards quickly and ominously approached the car, hands on holstered side arms, and threateningly ordered me to back away. Which, of course, I did.

I would guess that well-guarded roadway to be about a block from the White House itself, apparently guarded 24-7 way back in 1986. So now in 2014 you can hang around there carrying a hatchet and then later jump the fence and make it through the North Portico doors?

As Desi Arnaz would put it, the Secret Service has got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.

Just in case you missed the story... read THIS updated story.

Monday, September 15, 2014


By Jim Heffernan

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the premiere of the movie “Gone With the Wind.” It also marks the 75th anniversary of my birth, which isn’t getting nearly as much hoopla as the movie’s anniversary.

Truth be told (and this is a fact you could check) the filming of Gone With the Wind almost coincides with my own gestation period. The filming began in December 1938 with the shooting of the scenes involving the burning of Atlanta (they were actually burning the old King Kong movie set) and proceeded through most of 1939. It had its premiere in Atlanta in December of that year, some two months after I was born.

As part of the great celebration of this Diamond Anniversary (never mind that the 60th anniversary of anything is also called diamond), the movie is being reissued on the big screen Sept. 28. It will be shown in the Twin Cities and I will be there.

I first saw GWTW (let’s call it that from now on) at Duluth’s Granada Theater when I was in junior high. It had been reissued, probably for the 15th anniversary of its premiere.

In today’s parlance, I was blown away by it. I don’t know where you’d end up being blown away by a wind that’s gone, but let’s just say it made a big impression on me. Greatest movie I’d ever seen, and even at that tender age I’d seen many. I joke that I spent half my childhood watching double features at the old Lyceum Theater.

Nothing I’d ever seen, though, compared to GWTW. In the intervening years I went to it every time it was reissued. It came back to theaters for years before it was ever shown on television. Then I watched it on television a few times. I would hazard a guess I have seen GWTW about 12 times. Since the movie is four hours long (three hours, 45 minutes plus a 15-minute intermission), I suppose I’ve spent 48 hours of my 75 years watching that movie.

And now I look forward to spending four more hours – again in a theater on the big screen in blazing Technicolor with the sweeping sound of composer Max Steiner’s awe-inspiring score and the stellar performances of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh and the rest. I can hardly wait.

This could be the last time for me on the big screen, though. If they put it into theaters at its century anniversary, I’ll be long gone… you could say gone with the wind. By then, frankly, my dear, I won’t give a damn.

Still, if there is a heaven… Oh, I won’t think about that now. I’ll think about it tomorrow. After all, tomorrow IS another day. (Cue music.)