Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sorriest Assassin of Them All

This week, when Arthur Bremer was released after 35 years in prison, it barely made the news, another irony in his long, fruitless search for fame by killing someone famous.

If he is of any interest at all, Bremer signifies what happened to insane fame in the television age. Before him, assassins of public figures, from John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald, had some political motive, however twisted.

Bremer, totally apolitical, wanted only to be seen on TV. In 1972, he dogged Richard Nixon for days, but the President was well-protected by the Secret Service and Vietnam war protesters got in Bremer's way when he tried to approach him at a rally.

So he settled for white supremacist George Wallace, a former Alabama governor who had run for president as an independent in 1968, even though he, as Bremer noted in his diary, would not be "worth more than 3 minutes on network news."

But even after lowering his sights, Bremer was so inept he was almost caught after accidentally firing a gun in his hotel room and somehow managing to wedge another weapon so deep into his car that it was only recovered after he shot Wallace four times on May 15, 1972, severing his spinal cord and paralyzing him.

As police arrested him, Bremer asked, "How much do you think I'll get for my memoirs?"

What the former busboy got was a sentence of 53 years and total obscurity. He missed one accidental chance for notoriety when Nixon's dirty tricksters tried but failed to plant campaign literature for the 1972 Democratic candidate George McGovern in Bremer's apartment.

Doomed to anonymity, he nonetheless paved the way for Mark David Chapman, who killed John Lennon, and John Hinckley, who shot Ronald Reagan in 1980, as well as providing inspiration for the weird assassin, Travis Bickle, in the movie, "Taxi Driver."

Copycats got semi-famous for doing what he tried to do, and now Arthur Bremer is back out in the world once again, where nobody will know who he is.

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