The year 2013 will see many a reminder that it has been fifty years since the murder of America’s 35th president, John F. Kennedy. Yet many a would-be entrepreneur continues to try and cash in on the country’s fascination with the man and with his murder. Sadly, JFK’s memory continues to do a brisk business and there is little sign of that changing as we move forward. Here are just a few of the ways that corporate America has profited on the JFK murder-
JFL Murder in Film
One of the leading business ventures regarding the president’s murder was 1991’s epic film JFK, directed by Oliver Stone. Despite harrowing reviews and much mainstream media disdain, Stone managed to snag two Oscar’s as well as over $200 million at the worldwide box office. That total is over $330 million in today’s dollars. Not bad considering his budget for the movie was in the $40 million range. The criticism of the film centered on the Stone contention that the J. Edgar Hoover created “lone gunman theory” was demonstrably wrong. The film weaves a convincing tale that such an undertaking would require many diverse hands all coordinated and synchronized to achieve the final goal.
JFK Murder Books
Books, of course, have abounded since the murder back in November of 1963 with all seemingly to choose a side and present their evidence. Such books continue to be read as the public’s fascination with President Kennedy never seems to wane. Weighing in of late are two authors who, seemingly, could not be more unlike.
The first is journalist and commentator Bill O’Reilly who has published his book entitled Killing Kennedy. Like his previous Killing Lincoln, readers have flocked to buy the book despite flaws and somewhat harsh reviews. O’Reilly, according to reviews, tends to play a bit fast and loose with some facts and the book is considered by many to be no more than a confirming of the Warren Report and the lone gunman theory. O’Reilly and most of the public don’t seem bothered by his suggested lack of serious scholarship. Killing Kennedy is pushing the two million mark in sales, matching his previous Lincoln effort which received similar scathing reviews. At around thirty dollars hardcover, perhaps his “Killing” books may become a serious business franchise for himself.
The other author with a JFK book out at the moment is the legendary Stephen King with his book that is entitled, simply, 11/22/63. King, like O’Reilly and others sticks to the Oswald being the lone killer theory. In his book, a schoolteacher discovers a time portal at a local diner and travels back in an attempt to prevent Oswald from shooting the president. With over 350 million books sold to date, King looks to further capitalize and the book has received solid reviews and has won multiple awards.
JFK Murder Memorabilia
As memorabilia continues to be the cottage industry of small business, sales of any items having to do with the murder of Kennedy blossoms and there seem to be new products being introduced every year.
- The New York Times has introduced a 50th Anniversary coin and stamp collectible set that seems to be enjoying rather brisk sales despite the $299.99 price tag.
- An anniversary with the 1964 Kennedy half dollar coin is also available for a mere $159.
- The JFK library in Massachusetts continues to sell t-shirts, coffee mugs, business card holders and cuff links.
- A 1963 Kennedy family Christmas card is available through online auctions for $94.50, while a 1962 photo of Marilyn Monroe in an elevator can be yours for just $24.99.
- The city of Dallas, it seems wanted in on the 50th anniversary so they decided to destroy Oswald’s home in January of 2013. While this may not seem like much in the way of sales, try booking a hotel in the immediate area during this event…
- Speaking of Oswald, his coffin was auctioned off in 2010. The original pine box became available for auction after October of 1981 since his body was exhumed to test the look-alike theory. Once it was confirmed that is was indeed Oswald, he was placed in a new coffin and reburied in Texas. There were 36 total bidders for the old coffin with the winning bid at $87,468.
- This same auction house sold the first draft of Oswald’s death certificate for $49,374 and a chunk of Kennedy’s limo seat went for a cool $19,036.
- Numerous photo slides are also available on eBay from $199.00 and up.
- Want to buy Oswald’s baby crib? It’s available for $6,000. A signed letter from him to his wife can also be had for $1,000.
- Jack Ruby, who emerged from the crowd at the Dallas police station to gun down Oswald, hasn’t been left out of the JFK memorabilia business either. The fedora hat he was wearing when he shot and killed Oswald was sold at auction for $53,775.
- Finally, President Kennedy signed the front page of the Dallas Morning News that he was reading on the morning of November 22, 1963. That was recently sold for a $39,000.
JFK Murder Video Games
Last but not least, there is a video game out there that is entitled JFK Reloadedand it has generated plenty of publicity for developer Traffic Games. It too clings to the lone gunman theory and it gives the players an opportunity to recreate “The Shot Heard Round the World” with Oswald’s ancient rifle in the Texas Book Depository. The player gains points for matching the path of the bullets that Oswald supposedly fired and the game is packed with gore and violence. This title was originally released on November 22, 2004 and it has been met with ample criticism since its inception.
There seems to be no lack of buyers, bidders, and enthusiasts for JFK memorabilia and the morbid fascination that consumers have for this topic ensures that this will be a strong cash-cow empire for decades to come. For better or worse, there will always be entrepreneurs ready to meet those demands.
I am reminded of the final words of the Wicked Witch of the West:
“What a world…what a world…”