Being There

Since the public seems ready to accept Oliver Stone's quirky version of November 22 events as history, we figured there was no one better to discuss assassination theory with than the man who actually played John F. Kennedy in the movie JFK. Not credible enough for you? OK, he also played JFK in Ruby.

First, of course, the usual disclaimer: he's not actually an assassinated president; he just plays one on film.

uss Vandeveerdonk, a Dallas copier-machine salesman and sometime actor, says he abhors the "morbid" schemes to piggyback onto the publicity of the assassination's 30th anniversary. Still, he wasn't hard to track down: he sent out a press release announcing his availability to discuss assassination-related events. He says he was incensed by initial reports that as part of the dedication of the site as a national landmark, the city had planned to invite the Kennedy family to a ribbon-cutting -- something Vandeveerdonk finds tasteless. "It [the dedication] should be done quietly," the man-who-would-be-Kennedy says. "It's where someone died, for Chrissake

-- a president!"
True. But the part of the press release that got our attention was: "Of particular interest is the haunting feelings he experienced when it was the "first take" and he made the actual turn into Dealey Plaza..."

What self-respecting journalist facing the assassination's 30th anniversary wouldn't bite? Howard Stern, Channels 4 and 5, and Japanese television certainly did. Vandeveerdonk, however, turned the Stern show down. "I was afraid they just wanted to do something funny with it," he explains.

Japanese television, we have to admit, has already grabbed the best line on the Vandeveerdonk story, branding him "the only man to walk in Kennedy's footsteps the day of the assassination." (Actually, there were two JFK stunt doubles in the film, but why spoil it for the Japanese?)

But we've got the real scoop: Vandeveerdonk, who patiently sat through more than 200 takes of the ill-fated motorcade -- takes that included all the most popular shooting scenarios -- is willing to make a call on the assassination theories.

Like the press release says, "...1960s dressed actors cheering, the rifle in the window, the grassy knoll, and the pillbox hat..." Short of a paranormal hookup with JFK, it doesn't get better than this for a conspiracy buff.

So, take it from the man who was there. About the "rifleman on the knoll: theory -- never happened. The conjecture that a second gunman fired from the building across the street form the Depository? No way.

or the man who's relived the moment more times than the Secret Service agents guarding the president, it's simple. "After going through it so many times," Vandeveerdonk says, "I believe it's the one gunman. Oswald wanting to get in the limelight. I don't think it was anything else.


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