Whose Roy Cohn Was He?

DATELINE: Ethel’s Killer

 Master of Slime.

You may be aghast at the idea that Roy Cohn managed to be so powerful and so hidden in the open. He was adviser to Joe McCarthy, Ronald Reagan, and his final resulting horror, Donald Trump.

His philosophy borders on evil incarnate: he claimed to hate hypocrisy and was the biggest hypocrite around. Now, the man who put together the shocking Studio 54 documentary turns his research on Cohn. The result is unnerving and frightful. Roy Cohn, claims the movie, was dangerous, like a caged animal: open the cage at your own risk.

Most people may know Cohn from Angels in America,the play and movie in which he is depicted as haunted by Ethel Rosenberg whom he assiduously worked to have executed as a Russian spy. Today, Donald Trump lamented that he could find no lawyer like Roy Cohn to defend him against impeachment.

Yet, the lessons of Roy Cohn now are shaping America. And Cohn died of AIDS in 1986, Words like evil, Machavellian, ruthless, despicable, permeate the film, and he had a tendency to become infatuated with tall Nordic blond men (the last of these was Trump). The Army-McCarthy hearings were an attempt to impress his companion, David Schein.

He made big money by getting John Gotti, crime boss, off from a murder charge—and became the mob mouthpiece. Trump, with his own crime connections, took to Cohn like a duck to water.

Among his strongest defenders are convicted political trickster Roger Stone, a long-time friend, Barbara Walters whom Cohn said he wanted to marry, and Donald Trump, his protégé. When he needed character witnesses, all these people came to his aid.

When he was dying of AIDS, denying it emphatically to Mike Wallace in an interview, Ronald Reagan pulled strings to put him in an experimental drug program.

Cohn was reprehensible, and this biography doesn’t help his reputation or those guilty by association.



Gore Vidal & William F. Buckley Go at It Forever

DATELINE: TV at Its Worst



Best of Enemies may be one of the most striking and tragic of all documentaries. In it the two people we most admired in the 1960s devolved into caricatures of themselves.

Now collected forever, their 1968 debates on ABC TV during the Democratic and Republican conventions set the tone for media fracas that are now nightly irritations on Fox and CNN.

The two men were denizens of snobbery, elitist representatives of politics and entertainment who became emblems of clashing cultures in a divided America.

Their witty and amusing opening debates quickly became nastier and ended with slander and mockery. Neither man ever recovered from their encounters and fed off a lifelong hatred for the other that now extends into eternity.

Vidal famously called Buckley a “crypto-Nazi,” though many incorrectly recall terms like neo-Nazi. Buckley promised to punch his counterpointing enemy as a “fag” who was “smashed.”

It was live TV and beyond censorship while TV executives watched it in unabashed shock. Delayed tape followed not long after—and fireworks became the massage of Marshall McLuhan’s medium. Yet, the first time this happened it was between the coolest of intellectuals and gentlemen.

Buckley and Vidal were two of the most dissimilar peas in a pod you could find: it was more like matter and anti-matter. Their lives combusted as a result of these short encounters.

The documentary runs the gamut from hilarity to morose despondency over America’s crushing problems. The two combatants seem to have given birth to a political monstrum horrendum in 1968 on live television. This film may provide you with numbing insight, or devastating disgust.

You need to see it.