JFK Campaign Official Roz Wyman: ‘This Was The Future Of Our Country’
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — In 1960, Roz Wyman was a young L.A. city councilwoman who persuaded John F. Kennedy to move his nomination acceptance speech from the L.A. Sports Arena to the Coliseum. The switch turned out to be a big success, but if it hadn’t, the consequences would have been dire, both for the Kennedy campaign and for her.
Wyman remembers struggling to get Robert F. Kennedy, the candidate’s brother and campaign manager, to make the change in venue two days before the convention speech was scheduled.
Robert F. Kennedy, smoking a cigar and sitting with his feet up on a desk, “shook his finger at me, and he said, ‘You’re very young, you’re just starting in politics, and this may be the end of your political career,'” recalled Wyman, who was co-chair of Kennedy’s California campaign.
Empty seats at the Coliseum would have painted a picture of a disinterested Democratic Party. But the stadium was full, and John F. Kennedy went on to win the presidency by a narrow margin over Richard M. Nixon.
“I was young, he was young, and I thought that this was the future of our country,” Wyman told KCAL9’s Dave Bryan on the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s death.
At another campaign event, the public scrutiny wasn’t as intense, but the egos were just as large.
Wyman organized a Kennedy campaign fundraiser in the backyard of Hollywood superstars Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. So many tickets were sold for the event that she had to persuade a Republican who lived next door to allow the campaign to take over his yard — and even blast a walkway through a wall so attendees could use both venues.
“He looked at me and he says, ‘Lady, you really lost it,'” she said. But Wyman, who a few years earlier played a key role in bringing the Dodgers to L.A. from Brooklyn, won that battle, too, and the fundraiser went forward, hole in the wall and all.
One other thing stands out about that fundraiser, Wyman says. Frank Sinatra supplied the entertainment, but the yard didn’t afford a good place for a stage. Wyman’s solution: Make the Chairman of the Board sing from the pool’s diving board.
Sinatra didn’t let Wyman forget about it.
“His whole life, when he would see me, he’d say, ‘That lady had me on a diving board at 11 o’clock in the morning!'”