Tag Archives: assassination

The last gun store in San Francisco is closing doors for good

The only gun store in San Francisco is shuttering for good, saying it can no longer operate in the city’s political climate of increased gun control regulations and vocal opposition to its business.

“It’s with tremendous sadness and regret that I have to announce we are closing our shop,” High Bridge Arms manager Steve Alcairo announced in a Facebook post on Sept. 11. “It has been a long and difficult ride, but a great pleasure to be your last San Francisco gun shop.”

Alcairo said the breaking point came this summer when a local politician proposed a law that would require High Bridge Arms to video record every gun sale and submit a weekly report of ammunition sales to the police. If passed, the law would join several local gun control ordinances on the books in a city still scarred by the 1993 murder of eight in a downtown high-rise and the 1978 assassination of Mayor George Moscone and gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

“I’m not doing that to our customers. Enough is enough,” Alcairo said. “Buying a gun is a constitutionally protected right. Our customers shouldn’t be treated like they’re doing something wrong.”

The announcement prompted an outpouring of sympathy and anger online from gun enthusiasts _ and a steady stream of customers eager to take advantage of going-out-of-business prices.

The new rifles lining the store’s walls are quickly dwindling, and the handguns in the glass cases are going fast. So are T-shirts that boast in English and Chinese that High Bridge is “The Last San Francisco Gun Store.”

For years, the High Bridge Arms weathered mounting restrictions imposed by local lawmakers and voters, who passed a handgun ban in 2005 that a judge later struck down. The gun store increasingly stood out in the gentrifying Bernal Heights neighborhood of hot restaurants, trendy bars and a chic marijuana dispensary, while weathering organized campaigns calling for its closure.

High Bridge will close Oct. 31, Alcairo said.

Supervisor Mark Farrell said he introduced the latest bill to help police combat violent crime in the city. “Anything that makes San Francisco safer, I support,” he said.

Farrell said the bill hasn’t been voted on, and he doesn’t understand why the store is closing now. He said it was “comical” that the High Bridge is blaming its closure on a proposed law still months away from taking effect.

Alcairo said news coverage of the bill’s introduction in July slowed sales considerably because customers wrongly believed their purchases would be recorded and turned over to police. He said he had to lay off three clerks and that sales slumped throughout the summer. The store’s summer slump comes amid an overall gun sales surge in the state, according to California Department of Justice statistics.

The California DOJ reported 931,000 guns sold last year_ three times the number sold in 2004 and the second highest annual number since the department began keeping sales records in 1991.

In the end, Alcairo said, he and the High Bridge Arms owner tired of the continued opposition and mountains of paperwork required by the San Francisco Police Department, state Department of Justice and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Alcairo grew up near the store and says he is angry and disappointed with San Francisco.

“This is the city that defended gay marriage and fights for unpopular causes like medical marijuana,” he said. “Where’s my support?”

Champion pistol shooter Bob Chow opened the store in 1952, four years after competing for the United States in the summer Olympics in London. Chow sold the store to Andy Takahashi in 1988. Chow died in 2003. Takahashi, who also owns the building that houses the store, declined to comment.

Alcairo said the owner shouldn’t have a problem attracting another type of business in economically booming San Francisco.

The quirky city fixture attracted gun enthusiasts from around the world, many posing in photos with Alcairo and his pistol-packing clerks. Alcairo said professional athletes would visit the store when playing in San Francisco for the novelty of buying a weapon _ and a T-shirt _ from the city’s last gun store.

“High Bridge has always taken care of me,” said Chris Cheng, a San Francisco resident who calls it “my home store.” Cheng won a $100,000 cash prize and a professional marksman contract after winning the History Channel’s “Top Shot” competition.

“It’s always been a challenge for the store to do business in San Francisco,” Cheng said.

Edwin Booth play cycle seeks to redeem the name of America’s greatest actor

Edwin Booth is arguably the most acclaimed, most beloved and most talented American actor to ever strut the boards, a tragedian who was a pioneer of naturalistic acting. Yet today that reputation is buried beneath the weight of his brother’s name: John Wilkes Booth.

It’s in part to pull Edwin out from under his brother’s shadow that local theater artist Angela Iannone began writing a series of plays featuring him at work: the Edwin Booth Cycle. But her four plays — the latest of which, The Seeds of Banquo, will soon make its world premiere in Milwaukee thanks to Theater RED — are more than just a PR campaign. They’re an opportunity to examine a time long past but not truly so different from our own, through the life of a man who examined and embodied it better than any other creative artist in the period.

“The history of America in the 19th century,” Iannone says, “is the history of the Booth family.”

Edwin was born into a clan that became one of the earliest theatrical families in America. In addition to himself and his brother John, Edwin’s father Junius Brutus Booth and elder brother Junius “June” Jr. were both actors, and his sister Asia married the actor John Sleeper Clarke. But Edwin towered over them all. “There was Edwin Booth and there was everyone else,” Iannone says. “He was that much better.”

Edwin had already become America’s most beloved actor by the time John assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in 1865 as part of an attempted coup. His brother’s crime nearly derailed Edwin’s career — he went into seclusion for eight months, only leaving his hotel room at night. But after that time, he wrote a public letter asking his audiences to permit him to return to the stage, as acting was the only gift he possessed and it was the only career he believed he could pursue. They did. His first show was a production of Hamlet, and when he walked on stage, Edwin received a 5-minute standing ovation.

Iannone says that in contrast to our modern era, where John’s name is legendary and Edwin’s is secondary, 19th-century audiences truly separated Edwin from his brother’s acts. “During that time period, America was not as fascinated either with evil or with murderers as they are now,” she says. No one had any interest in figuring out why evil people like John acted the way they did, she says, and because Edwin had a strict rule that John’s name never be mentioned in his presence, he never expounded upon it himself.

It’s a rule Iannone has tried to follow in her four plays about Edwin. Only one, This Prison Where I Live, explicitly deals with John’s ghost haunting Edwin — for Edwin truly believed his brother, along with his father and his first, beloved wife, were always with him as he went about his life. Her first, The Edwin Booth Company Presents…, features John but takes place in the 1850s, before the war; her third, Irving & Booth in Othello, is set long after the assassination. 

The Seeds of Banquo gets slightly closer, but only obliquely. Like all four of Iannone’s Booth plays, it depicts Edwin (John Glowacki) in rehearsal for a Shakespeare play — in this case, Macbeth, a meditation on the nature of evil that Edwin would have been uniquely suited for exploring. “Who better to be dealing with that kind of question than the older brother of the man who brought down a government?” Iannone asks.

All of Iannone’s plays share a devotion to presenting Edwin’s circumstances as they actually occurred, aided by Iannone’s access to the Hampden-Booth Theatre Library, the preeminent research library for 19th-century American theater and home to Edwin’s correspondence and promptbooks. Many playwrights would simply take the setting and write the rest themselves, but Iannone says she wants to stick with portraying things as they happened whenever possible. “The truth is so much more interesting and it’s also so much more strange,” she says.

For The Seeds of Banquo, Iannone will be following Edwin’s actual directorial notes for his 1870 production of Macbeth, and the set and technical elements will follow those same specifications. She’s also included alongside Edwin actual members of his cast — Lawrence Barrett (Cory Jefferson Hagen), second only to Edwin on stage; Elizabeth Crocker Bowers (Marcee Doherty-Elst), an acclaimed actress brought out of semi-retirement to play Lady Macbeth; and the young ingenue Minna Gale (Sasha Katharine Sigel). Shoehorned in is comic actor Owen Fawcett (Bryan Quinn), a contemporary who fortuitously was in a melodrama up the street in 1870 and could be easily inserted into the mix.

This particular production of Macbeth happened to coincide with the first pregnancy of Edwin’s second wife, which Iannone says she’s taken as an opportunity for Edwin to ponder questions of inheritance — critical ones both for him as an actor and for him as the brother of an assassin.

Iannone’s decision to produce the play here is a fortuitous one for several reasons, the greatest of which is that she’d had no anticipation of ever staging one of her Booth plays in Milwaukee, due to their period costuming needs, historical context and elevated language and motifs. The Edwin Booth Company Presents… was conceived and produced as a project for UW-Whitewater, while her other two plays have had readings and workshops in Milwaukee and at Door Shakespeare but were ultimately picked up for full stagings by Titan Theatre Company in New York City, with This Prison Where I Live produced in 2014 and plans to stage Irving & Booth in Othello in progress.

“There is not another theater in town who has a mission to explore plays with those particular parameters,” she says. “I’m not trying to be snarky on that. But Theater RED has a mission for exploring literary and intellectual content, positive roles for women and supporting local playwrights. Not only is that my only door in, that was my only interest.”

But Iannone was steered toward Theater RED after seeing their production of A Lady in Waiting, a Maid Marian-centric adaptation of the Robin Hood legend, decided to work with them on Banquo


Theater RED will produce the world premiere of The Seeds of Banquo Aug. 13 to 23 at Soulstice Theatre, 3770 S. Pennsylvania Ave., St. Francis. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at
theaterred.com. A portion of all sales will be donated to the Players Foundation for Theatre Education in New York City.

Lessons of Lincoln’s death unlearned

One hundred and fifty years ago this month, a stunning series of events altered the course of American history.

On April 9, 1865, Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate army to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. The surrender ended four years of a bloody civil war that took the lives of 750,000 Americans.

Five days later, on Good Friday, April 14, racist fanatic John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theater in Washington. Lincoln, who was shot in the head, never regained consciousness and died the next morning in a rooming house across the street from the theater.

Booth had spent months gathering accomplices and plotting to murder the president. The final straw for him was the defeat of the Confederacy and the president’s plan to extend the vote to former slaves. Booth was also a narcissist, convinced he could avenge the South and become a hero — a modern day Brutus who had slain America’s Caesar.

A well-known actor, Booth was able to walk into Ford’s Theater and carry out his crime without hindrance. During his flight through Maryland, Booth was dismayed when he learned of the revulsion that his murder elicited in both the North and South. On April 26, the federal manhunt closed in and he was cornered in a barn in Virginia. Booth was shot in the neck and spent three hours dying. His last words were: “Useless, useless.”

Booth and his Confederate cohorts had feared Lincoln’s retaliation toward the defeated South. Like so many other things, they misjudged the character of the man. Just days before the surrender, when Grant asked Lincoln about what terms to impose on the rebels, Lincoln had said: “Let ’em up easy.”

Lincoln’s magnanimity was also apparent in his second inaugural address the month before: “With malice toward none, with charity for all … let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds … to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

The public had seen Lincoln as an awkward and untested man when he became president. He was immediately confronted with the secession of Southern states, which were determined to maintain and expand slavery, and the Confederates’ defiant shelling of Fort Sumter. Lincoln wrestled with unrelenting problems of military logistics, political maneuvering and personal tragedy over the next four years. You can see the growing devastation of our civil war written on his face in photos taken from 1861 to 1865.

Lincoln weathered many controversies (the military draft, emancipation, suspension of habeas corpus) but grew in stature as he led the Union to victory. His slaying on a Good Friday burnished his image as a beloved martyr, and he is now revered for broadening a war to preserve the union into a war to free millions of slaves.

We’ll never know if post-Civil War America and race relations would have had a smoother time under Lincoln’s second term. Some question whether we ever achieved his dream of “a new birth of freedom.” Confederate partisans continue to defend their spurious “cause” on the Internet today.

The events of April 1865 offer a sobering perspective on racism, inflexibility and extremism. Amid escalating political invective and casual calls for secession in our own time, we would do well to heed that lesson.

Hundreds mark 50 years since Malcolm X’s assassination

Activists, actors and politicians gathered on Feb. 20 in New York City to honor civil rights leader Malcolm X with a ceremony at the Harlem site where he was killed 50 years ago.

About 300 people gathered to hear remarks from one of Malcolm X’s six daughters, Ilyasah Shabazz, as well as elected officials. The ceremony was held at the Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center, formerly known as the Audubon Ballroom.

A blue light shone onto the floor in the exact spot where he was killed. A mural with images of Malcolm X adorned a wall.

“He was just a young man who gave all that he possibly could,” Shabazz said after a moment of silence marking the time of her father’s death.

Malcolm X, whose full name was El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, was 39 when he was shot in the theater on Feb. 21, 1965, as he was preparing to address several hundred followers.

By the time he died, the Muslim leader had moderated his militant message of black separatism and pride but was still very much a passionate advocate of black unity, self-respect and self-reliance. Three members of the Nation of Islam were convicted of murder in his death. He had repudiated the Nation of Islam less than a year earlier.

In an interview with The Associated Press on the eve of the anniversary observance, Shabazz said she was pleased that the site is now a place for people to get a sense of empowerment.

“One of the great things about Malcolm is that he redefined the civil rights movement to include a human rights agenda,” Shabazz said. “So while we are focusing on integrating schools, integrating housing and all these other things, Malcolm said that we demand our human rights ‘by any means necessary.’ And that means … that we have to address these problems. That we have to identify them, and absolutely discuss them.”

Social and political activist Ron Daniels delivered the keynote address, calling Malcolm X a man of honesty and integrity. He ended his speech with chants of “Long Live Malcolm X!” as people stood and clapped.

The ceremony concluded with a reading by actor Delroy Lindo of a eulogy for Malcolm X that was written by the late actor and activist Ossie Davis.

JFK portrayals brought challenge for screen actors

A wide range of actors have played President John F. Kennedy in the movies and on TV, starting even before his assassination 50 years ago. Some memorable portrayals:


• Cliff Robertson, “PT 109,” 1963.

Released while Kennedy was still in office, the film starred Robertson depicting Kennedy as a Navy lieutenant in command of Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109 during World War II. JFK selected Robertson after viewing his screen test; first lady Jackie Kennedy’s choice for the role was Warren Beatty. “It’s a whopping adventure story of courage and action,” said Robertson in the trailer.

• Brett Stimely, “Watchman,” 2009; “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” 2011; “Kill the Dictator,” 2013; “Parkland,” 2013.

Stimely, who has played Kennedy more than anyone, recalled meeting JFK’s niece and sister-in-law, Rory and Ethel Kennedy at the 2012 Sundance HBO party for their documentary “Ethel.” He said, “Ethel thanked me for doing a great job portraying Jack. I was nervous at first — playing the ‘most important man in the world’ has its responsibilities. But hearing that made it all worthwhile.”

• Bruce Greenwood, “Thirteen Days,” 2000.

Playing Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis, Greenwood said he wanted to reflect what might have been JFK’s state of mind “and the moment of clarity he had that (Soviet leader Nikita) Khrushchev was as human and terrified of the potential consequences as was Kennedy.” Paraphrasing William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming,” the actor said, “yet things did not fall apart/ the center held / anarchy and chaos / undone in an hour of reflection / that we are one / and each other’s keeper.”

• James Marsden, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” 2013.

Marsden prepared for the role by listening to podcasts of JFK’s speeches, and yet getting the Kennedy accent right was “virtually impossible,” the actor told Conan O’Brien. “It was a daunting thing stepping into those shoes,” he said. After 11 weeks in theaters, the film had made more than $138 million worldwide.


• William Devane, “The Missiles of October” (ABC movie), 1974.

Devane bore a striking resemblance to the president in the television docudrama, which chronicled the Kennedy administration’s handling of the Cuban missile crisis. It was loosely based on Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s book “Thirteen Days.” The first TV movie about the Kennedys after JFK’s assassination was watched by more than 25.4 million viewers when it first aired.

• James Franciscus, “Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy” (ABC movie), 1981.

Known for his roles in television series such as “Mr. Novak” and “Longstreet,” Franciscus starred as JFK in this TV movie focusing on the life of the first lady, who was played by “Charlie’s Angels” star Jaclyn Smith. Airing the same year as the final season of “Charlie’s Angels,” the movie drew nearly 45 million viewers.

• Martin Sheen, “Kennedy” (NBC miniseries), 1983.

Before playing fictional President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet on “The West Wing,” Sheen starred in the five-hour miniseries chronicling JFK’s presidency. It aired just two days before the 20th anniversary of the president’s assassination. Kelsey Grammar also appeared in the miniseries, which had 18.5 million viewers across three airings.

• Stephen Collins, “A Woman Named Jackie” (NBC miniseries), 1991.

While recreating Kennedy’s inaugural address for this Emmy-winning miniseries, Collins recalled seeing a man around 70 who had stopped to watch the filming. “He took off his hat and stared in my direction as if he were seeing a ghost,” said Collins. “He stayed still, like a soldier at attention, until I finished. It seemed to be as meaningful for him as it was for me.  Connecting with my impromptu audience of one was the most satisfying moment of the shoot.”

• Patrick Dempsey, “J.F.K.: Reckless Youth” (ABC movie), 1993.

Before saving lives as Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepard on “Grey’s Anatomy,” Dempsey wooed 10.8 million viewers as young Kennedy. The movie looked at JFK’s childhood years, his young adulthood and his nomination for Congress. 

• William Peterson, “The Rat Pack” (HBO movie), 1998.

A dashing Peterson embodied JFK in the film focusing on the famous entertainers’ circle, offering a glimpse into JFK and Frank Sinatra’s wavering friendship. Ray Liotta starred as Sinatra, Joe Mantegna as Dean Martin, Don Cheadle as Sammy Davis, Jr., Angus Macfadyen as Peter Lawford and Bobby Slayton as Joey Bishop.

• Tim Matheson, “Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis” (CBS miniseries), 2000.

Playing JFK in the two-part miniseries, which attracted 10 million viewers, was an honor, said Matheson, but also a challenge to find the real person beneath the glamour. “So it was trying to find those human moments beneath all of the monumental things that he said and did. He was movie star-like, and Jackie was sophisticated and educated. They represented a new page in American history.”

• Greg Kinnear, “The Kennedys” (Reelz miniseries), 2011.

When the four-time Emmy-winning “The Kennedys” made its world premiere on REELZ, it brought in record viewership for the cable network, reaching 17.5 million viewers in its first month. Katie Holmes played Jackie Kennedy.

• Rob Lowe, “Killing Kennedy” (National Geographic Channel miniseries), aired Nov. 10, 2013.

While researching JFK for the role, Lowe, a father of two, said he was moved by a recording of Kennedy giving dictation when he’s interrupted by John, Jr. “Their conversation together was priceless,” said Lowe.

Marked forever by the 1960s

The 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination brings back many memories. It reminds me how growing up in the 1960s was as traumatic as it was exhilarating.

I was 5 years old in 1960, when JFK was elected. I still remember the ditty that we kids from proud Democratic and Catholic families sang at the time: “Kennedy, Kennedy, he’s our man! Nixon belongs in the garbage can!”

I was 15 when the dramatic decade ended in 1970. Richard Nixon was president. His invasion of Cambodia in April of that year expanded the Vietnam War and led to the shooting of student protesters by National Guardsmen at Kent State in Ohio.

Those years were a kaleidoscope of wild events. From the Cuban missile crisis to Beatlemania to civil rights protests, it was all brought up close and personal through TV and AM radio. 

I remember being scared out of my mind at age 7 in 1962 when I walked down the hall in my house to use the bathroom. I was sure that once I was in there alone that bad guy Castro, who my parents were talking about in alarmed whispers, was going to get me.

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was in my third-grade class at St. Mary’s when the principal came on the PA system to announce that President Kennedy had been killed. It was disturbing to see the teachers so distraught. We were marched to church to pray for the president. Then the buses came to take us home.

What followed were three days in front of the TV watching the national tragedy. I remember how sad everyone was. It seemed like everyone in my family and everything on TV moved in slow motion. The only thing that’s come close since were the days after 9/11, when we were all in a state of shock. 

It was about the time of Kennedy’s assassination that the Beatles invaded the United States, bringing us all a blessed distraction. I screamed along with everyone else, and all the kids on my block started garage bands. I recently listened to my Beatles records again and found, to my delight, that I haven’t forgotten a word.

By age 12, I had to think hard about the civil rights and anti-war protests. My working-class dad used racial slurs. My mom wasn’t a lot better, but she sometimes said, “Elmer!” in a chiding tone to curb his tongue. I knew it was wrong and I remember thinking how dumb it was to hate people you didn’t know and to call them names. I was a fat girl and I knew how hurtful name-calling was. It may seem like a shallow analogy, but it was the beginning of empathy.

Civil rights marches and our napalm attacks in Vietnam spurred my critical thinking. The parish priest grew impatient with my questions and demanded  that I “believe and obey!” Then Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis and Bobby Kennedy was murdered on his way to the presidency. WBBM had just started 24/7 news radio, and I listened on my transistor for days.

What doesn’t crush you makes you stronger. What I gleaned from the 1960s was a profound cynicism tempered by the necessity for questioning authority. I always question authority and urge others to do the same. This one’s for President Kennedy and all the children of the ’60s who grew up too fast.

Neo-Nazi convicted in case involving gay Chicagoan

Jurors in Chicago convicted an avowed neo-Nazi of encouraging violence against the gay foreman of a jury in a 2004 trial of a white supremacist.

William A. White, 33, could face up to 10 years in prison when sentenced. The one-time jury foreman who White was accused of targeting sat on a spectators’ bench in the courtroom, leaned forward and cried after the guilty verdict was read. White, a burly native of Roanoke, Va., turned to his attorneys and shook his head in disappointment.

During a trial that lasted three days, prosecutors told jurors that White threatened the foreman by posting the man’s name, photograph, address, cell phone number, sexual orientation and even his cat’s name on his neo-Nazi website. Defense attorneys argued it was protected free speech.

“It is critical to our system of justice that jurors and judges alike must be free to perform their duties without living in fear,” Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said in a statement after the verdict.

A sentencing hearing hasn’t been set. White is serving a 2 1/2 year prison sentence in a separate case in Virginia on a 2009 conviction for using his website, e-mail and telephone to harass strangers.

Prosecutors conceded that White did not explicitly call for attacks on the foreman in the 2008 posting. But they argued that, given White’s history of advocating violence, simply listing the personal information amounted to a clear call for fellow neo-Nazis to seek vengeance.

“The whole context has to be considered,” trial prosecutor William Hogan told reporters. “(White) argued for people to be killed, lynched, shot and beaten.”

White’s website, which has since been shut down, regularly attacked nonwhites, Jews and gays. The site, overthrow.com, drew national attention in 2008 when it featured an article about a possible assassination of then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

During his trial, White’s attorneys noted that their client never directly threatened the former juror and, however offensive his views, the postings were constitutionally protected.

The jury on which the foreman served convicted white supremacist Matthew Hale for soliciting the murder of a federal judge in 2004. Four years later, White wrote about the foreman in a posting entitled “The Juror Who Convicted Matt Hale.”

Judge Lynn Adelman, who presided over the trial, initially dismissed the indictment against White, but an appeals court in June reinstated the charge. Appellate judges said the website post didn’t necessarily deserve First Amendment protection, though they indicated it was crucial to determine whether White intended for one of his readers to harm the juror.