A Matter of No Importance

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by bkohatl, Mar 15, 2004.

  1. bkohatl

    bkohatl Guest

    Hart Island/New York's Prison for the Dead

    In 1949, when he was 12-years-old, Bobby Driscoll won an Oscar for his roles as "Jeremiah Kincaid" in the sentimental story about a boy and his pet lamb in Disney's "So Dear To My Heart" and as "Tommy Woodry" in the RKO thriller "The Window"(Best Mystery/The Writers Guild).
    But most people, if they remember Bobby at all, remember him for dying destitute and alone of a heart attack at age 31 in an abandoned tenement at 371 East 10th Street in New York City on March 30, 1968. The irony is that an abandoned tenement in New York was also the setting for the exciting dénouement of his Oscar winning film "The Window".
    Bobby was one of the most successful actors in the history of Hollywood. Between the ages of six and sixteen, Bobby made 18 movies in nine years. Even before he won the role of "Johnny" in Disney's "Song of the South" in 1945, Bobby's acting attracted attention. Bobby appeared in the WWII story "Identity Unknown" for about 10 minutes. Leonard Maltin wrote that seven-year-old Bobby's performance was the best thing in the film even though he was listed fourth in the credits. As Fox Director Lloyd Bacon said after directing Bobby in "The Sullivans" when he was six, "Bobby was a natural, a born actor."
    Walt Disney fired Bobby when he was 16 after he developed a severe case of acne. Bobby had worked for Walt Disney for almost 10 years, since he won the audition for the role of "Johnny" in "Song of the South" in 1945. "Song of the South" was the #1 movie at the Box Office in 1946. Bobby was considered the best male child star in Hollywood in the late 1940's and early 1950's. His last movie for Disney was Peter Pan, which was a huge blockbuster. It was the #1 movie of 1953 and the second highest grossing movie at the box-office for the entire 1950's. After he was fired, Bobby's life collapsed. Everyone who knew him was stunned by how quickly Bobby went downhill. He was 16 when Walt Disney fired him because he had pimples and 17 when he injected heroin for the first time.

    Bobby Driscoll now lies buried in an unmarked pauper's grave on Hart Island in New York.

    "Some men see things as they are and ask 'Why?' I dream things that never were and ask 'Why not?'" Robert F. Kennedy

    New York's Pauper's Cemetery is run by the New York Department of Corrections: It is a Prison for the dead.

    New York's Pauper's Cemetery is called Potter's Field and is located on Hart Island in New York. Between 500,000 and a million people are buried there, no one is quite sure. Hart Island lies along Long Island Sound within yards of the millions of people who populate New York City, but the New York Department of Corrections does not allow visitors to its poor people's cemetery. Hart Island is a lonely, forlorn place, a final resting place for the abandoned, the unloved and the forgotten. Their only crime was being poor and for that the Department of Corrections has given these poor a lonely, unmourned death; a sentence which is to be served for eternity. It truly is a prison for the dead.

    A few years ago the New York newspapers had a story about a poor woman in her 80's who got on a bus to New Jersey looking for a place to die. She was terrified of being buried in Potter's Field on Hart Island. To most New Yorkers, Hart Island is seen as New York's "human garbage dump," a place for the unloved and the unwanted to be thrown away and forgotten.

    Hart Island's Pauper's Cemetery is run by the New York Department of Corrections and staffed with prison guards and prisoners. Prisoners are used to bury Hart Island's "inmates". The prisoners are ferried in to bury the unwanted dead and then taken back "home" to the Rikers Island Jail. Hart Island is now an abandoned derelict island with no permanent residents. Some effort is made to maintain the grounds, but vandals have left their mark too. Many of the buildings bear graffiti. More than that, a feeling of loneliness hangs over Hart Island like a shroud because there is no love there. And at the end of the day, everyone goes home except for the poor.

    Honoring the Dead
    In 1946, the prisoners took it upon themselves to build a monument to remember the honorable dead buried there. The prisoners erected a monument with the one word inscribed on it: Peace. It is one of the few times that anyone has ever shown love for the people buried there. But the prisoners did more than that. Against the opposition of the Department of Corrections they undertook a fund drive for the building materials and only used their own labor to complete their monument. They viewed these poor lost souls, as having finished serving their life-sentences of poverty, loneliness and unhappiness, and deserving of love and respect in death. And it was the right thing to do. Sometimes it is hard to tell the good from the bad, and sometimes it isn't.

    The New York Department of Corrections doesn't allow visitors or mourners to Hart Island except under extraordinary circumstances.
    If I could have my way, I would turn Hart Island into a park. I would run a ferry there every day and never charge anyone to go there. I would welcome all who are willing to come and visit. Having never gotten enough love during their lifetimes, the people buried there should receive all the love we have to share. And all of our love would still not be enough. Like Oliver Twist, they deserve more... They deserve paradise, because they have already been to hell.
    My opinion is irrelevant because I don't count; The Department of Corrections opinion is irrelevant because they don't care; and The State of New York is irrelevant because to them it is a question of money.
    It should be a question of love. I believe that the only people who have earned the right to decide the fate of the people buried on Hart Island are the people who loved them. Bobby deserves that much, anyone does.........everyone does.

    Bobby's family and friends want him brought back home and buried next to his Dad at the Eternal Hills Memorial Park Cemetery in Oceanside, California or next to his wife, Marilyn. Either choice is the right choice. What they want is the only thing that matters. It should be done because it is the right thing to do.

    No one should be remembered for the way they died; they should only be remembered for the way they lived.

    In 2005, The Santa Monica Museum of Art, in association with The Getty Museum, will have a retrospective of the works of Modern Artist Wallace Berman. Mr. Berman's collected works and letters are in The Smithsonian Institution. The exhibition at The Santa Monica Museum of Art will include works by his colleagues and protégés. Among the paintings exhibited will be three paintings by Bobby Driscoll. Mr. Berman was a Mentor to Bobby. Bobby also studied under Andy Warhol and was a frequent visitor to his studio, The Factory, on 47th Street in New York City. Bobby took his art as seriously as he took his acting: one of Bobby's paintings is in The Smithsonian Museum of Modern Art/Wallace Berman Collection.

    People should remember Bobby as an actor, an artist and a poet, but most of all as a friend. Bobby's friends always begin any conversation about him by talking about what a great friend he was. Bobby made friends the old fashioned way: he earned them. That is a legacy anyone could be proud of.
    Bobby Driscoll was a Straight A student. He was also a Boy Scout who played Little League. He just happened to make movies on the side. Bobby had an IQ of over 140. He was also, perhaps, the most unaffected star to ever come out of Hollywood. He had no ego and was always polite and respectful. He always tried to please the adults who populated his life. Adults thought he was an angel. Even though he won an Oscar when he was 12-years-old, he never lauded it over anyone's head. He remained very popular with the kids at The Hollywood Professional School where he was a student. When he wasn't working, he wore jeans and t-shirts. He was hardly ever recognized and seemed to prefer it that way. If you did recognize Bobby, he would gladly give you his autograph and a smile.
    Until Walt Disney fired him, there was nothing wrong with Bobby, but in five minutes his life fell apart. And it isn't so much what Walt Disney did as the way he did it. Walt Disney had a secretary fire Bobby after eight years of working at Disney and then had the crying, distraught teenager ejected from the studio escorted by a security guard. It would be hard to imagine a more cruel way to handle the situation.
    Bobby's parents were from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The family never lived in Bel Air, Malibu or Beverly Hills; they lived in a nice middle class neighborhood in West LA. His best friend from the neighborhood in which he grew up still chokes up talking about Bobby. He misses Bobby to this day. Dean Stockwell was Bobby's best friend in Hollywood. They grew up together. Dean can't even talk about Bobby without breaking down. Everyone who knew Bobby liked him. The people who knew him best loved him: that isn't a bad legacy either... If you remember Bobby at all, I think that is the right way to remember him.

    Remember Me

    Remember me with smiles and laughter;
    Because that is the way I will remember you all.
    If you can only remember me with tears,
    Then don't remember me at all.

    An Irish Poem of Remembrance

    Many Thanks,

    Brian Keith O'Hara Email: bkohatl@hotmail.com
    PO Box 6021
    Marietta, Georgia 30065

    "Silence gives consent!"

    "I am a man, nothing human is alien to me" (Terence)

    The best way to remember anyone is found in John Gunther's book "Death Be Not Proud". In his book, John Gunther wrote about the death of his son Johnny at age 17 from a brain tumor on June 30, 1947. Johnny was an extraordinary boy. Once, when he was working on a physics problem for school, he wrote Albert Einstein for help in finding the answer. Dr. Einstein was so impressed with his letter that he wrote back with the answer. Johnny's great dream was to go to Harvard.
    While at Deerfield School, Johnny starting experiencing headaches and was hospitalized. His divorced parents rushed to his side to comfort him. In his eloquent narrative, John speaks about how it was Johnny who comforted them, instead of the other way around, as people would expect. Johnny achieved his greatest dream: a few weeks before his death Johnny received an acceptance letter from Harvard University. Johnny was a man who filled "the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds of distance run."
    His example is the example we should follow. Read his book and you will understand why I am fighting for the cause for which I am fighting: Justice.

    No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main… any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. (John Donne)

    Bringing Bobby Home
    In 1968 Bobby's desperate mother, Isabelle, begged Roy Disney to help find him after he disappeared. She also contacted Merv Griffin for help. Both men applied pressure on the FBI, which eventually led to the discovery of Bobby's burial on Hart Island. The New York Department of Corrections uncooperative attitude and elementary forensics prevented Bobby's return home in 1969. Now, with DNA that is no longer an excuse.
    Now is the time to bring Bobby home to his children, family and friends.

    A web page with about 400 photos of and about Bobby Driscoll is located at:


    You will need to create a Yahoo Account and become a member of the group to see the photos.

    I am stunned when people bring up money as a reason for not having a park on Hart Island. New York has a Republican Mayor, a Republican Governor and a Republican President. Mayor Juliani spent $3,000,000.00 for Limousines in 2000 the last year records were kept. Estimates for turning Hart Island into a park run about $2,000,000.00. I figure Mayor Bloomberg can use the exercise or pay for his limousines himself. He is a billionaire.

    It is time to put some Heart back into Hart Island…

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