January 2nd, 2007
"Want a really radical look, grrls? Duct tape a revolver to your inner thigh and carve a goddamn X in your forehead."
— Richard Metzger, 21.c, 1998
On the morning of September 5, 1975, President Gerald Ford walked out of his room at the Senator Hotel in Sacramento California to speak to the California legislature about crime. A 26-year old woman in a sort-of all red nun's outfit stepped in front of Ford and pointed a 45-colt automatic pistol.
She was immediately grabbed and restrained by the Secret Service and Ford was hustled off to safety. Weirdly, although the gun was loaded with four rounds, there were no bullets in the firing chamber. Since Fromme was a leading member of the notorious acid cult the Manson Family one could conjecture that although she failed to correctly load the gun, she may have gotten herself properly loaded. According to eyewitness accounts, upon being captured, she said, "Don't get excited. It didn't go off. It didn't go off. Can you believe it?"
The FAQ section from a Squeaky Fromme tribute site asks whether Fromme intended to kill Ford, and answers, "Fromme told the Sacramento Bee that she had purposely ejected the uppermost round in her weapon before leaving her home that morning in 1975. 'I was not determined to kill the guy, obviously, because I didn't do it.' The round was later found by investigators in her bathroom."
Other narratives have said that this was just her way of trying to get the President's attention, and that she wanted to talk to Mr. Ford about stopping nuclear power. Fromme's concern regarding nuclear power is also evidenced by a rather threatening letter to California Governor Jerry Brown, who — with typical Jerry logic — attended protests against nukes and then turned right around and allowed them to continue to be built, blaming "the establishment" all the while.
The pixie-like Fromme looked a bit like Anne Heche at her craziest (but not as hot) — and she was a frequent figure of fun during the 1970s. Her presumably botched assassination attempt somehow conflated nicely with President Ford's public image as a stumbler who fell out of Air Force One and occasionally bumped his head on the way out of that very same airplane. At the same time, her picture, taken after the assassination attempt, was on many a hipster's wall; a symbol both of the depth of alienation many people felt at that time and an evolving sense of irony within a generation that took itself way to seriously.
Obviously, Squeaky Fromme never had the kind of media juice that her intended victim (or conversation partner) had, but she is not entirely obscure. A fascinating, in-depth biography of the squeakster, written by Jess Bravin, was published in 1998 revealing — among other things — that, as a child, she performed with a dance group on The Lawrence Welk Show and at the White House.
And then there's the fan site, where you could read her thoughts on Charles Manson: "His sight and awareness is and has always been far ahead of mass consciousness, and for this he, like many KNOWN historical geniuses, is forced to suffer for what others do not understand." There, you can also learn that Fromme remains the last holdout among all the Manson girls currently in prison who still worships at the altar of Chuck. She also refuses to participate in parole hearings so long as her savior remains behind bars. You can even savor Ms. Fromme's embroidery. Hell, her colt .45 is even part of a roadside attraction exhibition dedicated to all things Jerry (Ford). All in all, it seems that she's gotten more publicity than Jerry's son Jack, whose major claims to fame was that he shook hands with a Beatle and the rumor that he was allowed to smoke weed in the White House under Secret Service protection.
Sarah Jane Moore, who tried to off President Ford a couple of weeks later, is a harder nut to crack. Very little has been written about Moore, possibly because she was far from cute and wasn't associated with a world famous psychotic hillbilly acid shaman cult leader. This attempt took place in San Francisco, where the vibe for extreme acts of terror against American power had already been ripened by the actions of the Symbionese Liberation Army, famous mostly for kidnapping and converting newspaper heiress Patty Hearst. Some reports say that Moore was an FBI agent working on the Patty Hearst case and Bay Area radicals had figured her out, just before she shot Ford. So although she remains really obscure, she does play a minor role in many conspiracy theories.
Over the next thirty days, as the flags fly at half-mast and the mainstream media doles out big wet good-vibe kisses upon the legacy of the man who pardoned the President that oversaw a serious criminal operation from the White House (not to mention that he got over 1,000,000 people unnecessarily killed in South East Asia and whose illegal bombings of Cambodia helped bring Pol Pot into power), you might spare a few thoughts for two confused chicks who tried to engage with Mr. Ford in their own weird ways.
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