News & Politics

Bobby Kennedy in the Village


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October 8, 1964, Vol. IX, No. 51

Bobby in the Village: ‘Mommy, He Touched Me’

By Jack Newfield

Robert F. Kennedy evoked Beatlemania, laughter, and tears during a tour of Greenwich Village Friday night. The Democratic-Liberal Senate candidate quoted Dante and Shaw, summoned the memory of his brother, reluctantly ate a pizza, flashed a wry wit, and avoided civil rights and MacDougal Street during his 90-minute pilgrimage.

Looking surprisingly fragile, Robert Kennedy arrived in front of the West Side Savings Bank on Sixth Avenue shortly after 8 p.m. and climbed on top of a blue station wagon to address a crowd of about 1000. In his second sentence he invoked the memory of John Fitzgerald Kennedy when he said, “I look back now to when we were campaigning in 1960 and the nation was faced with another major decision…” Clutching the microphone in his right hand and gesturing with his left like a child choosing odds and evens, Kennedy spoke for 15 minutes. He paced constantly in a wide arc so that he could face the crowd that surrounded him.

The lines that got the best response he would repeat during his two other Village talks: one about his son Bobby filling out a form in school where he listed as his father’s occupation as “unemployed,” and a quote from Barry Goldwater that began, “Everyone thinks I’m simple…”

…But nothing he said struck the nerve that can ignite an adult crowd. John Kennedy’s addresses during the autumn of 1960 were like music from the pen of Duke Ellington; Friday night Bobby lacked even the beat of rock ‘n’ roll.

…”Any questions?” the candidate abruptly asked.

“Where’s Canarsie?” challenged a non-believer.

“Somewhere over there,” smiled Kennedy, pointing in the general direction of the Village Gate.

…Then Kennedy said he had to move on, and the crowd suddenly surged forward. Children and women struggled desperately to touch his sleeve and shake his hand. And for six minutes Robert Kennedy smiled shyly, shook hands, signed autographs, and watched the hysteria.

“Mommy, he touched me,” a 10-year-old screamed shrilly.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956. Go here to see this article as it originally appeared in print.]


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