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By John Rolls (Reporter)
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America Undone

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Bruce Bawer /

At the moment John F. Kennedy was shot, I was sitting at the bar of Jilly Rizzo’s famous watering hole in New York, sharing an early-afternoon bourbon and water with Jilly himself and, of course, Sinatra, whose eyes had been glued to the TV for several minutes as he waited for CBS to interrupt As the World Turns.“C’mon, c’mon!” he growled impatiently, “that car should be heading into Dealey Plaza any second now. And then – bada-bing!”

“That’ll teach him to double-cross Momo,” said Jilly, using an affectionate nickname for mob boss Sam Giancana.

“And to cut off contact with me,” added Frank, “after I got the boys to rig the Chicago vote for him!”

“Toddlin’ town,” Jilly grunted, wiping down the bar with a rag.

OK, OK, so I wasn’t really with Ol’ Blue Eyes that day. I was in my second-grade classroom in Queens. At around two in the afternoon our teacher, Mrs. Gibbons, rolled in a blond-wood TV set the size of a large refrigerator so we could spend the last hour of the schoolday watching some program on what was then called educational TV. The show had been on for only a few minutes when it was interrupted by a news bulletin.

Mrs. Gibbons, a hefty, white-haired woman in a flower-print dress – the Old-Fashioned Schoolteacher from Central Casting – promptly turned her back on us and stared at the tube, transfixed, ignoring us completely until she finally, perfunctorily, after what felt like a very long time, said we could go home.

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