Thursday, April 14, 2016

Howard Means's "67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence"

Howard Means is the author or coauthor of many books, including Johnny Appleseed: The Man, the Myth, the American Story, the first biography of Colin Powell and Louis Freeh’s bestselling memoir My FBI.

Here Means dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, 67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence:
The great challenge here is focal points — the Kent State shootings involved a cast of thousands. Choices have to be made.

Of the four dead, I think I would linger longest on Sandy Scheuer, the most random of all the fatalities. She was funny, sweet, the classic girl-next-door, and she was doing nothing more threatening than walking between classes when a .30-06 projectile entered her neck and severed her jugular vein. Had the movie been made in the early ‘60s, Annette Funicello might have played her.

Glenn Frank, the hero of the post-shooting confrontation on the Commons, bears a strong physical likeness to Drew Carey, who enrolled in Kent State in 1975 and was twice expelled for poor grades before dropping out altogether in 1978. A serious role for Carey? Why not.

Robert Canterbury, the mission commander for the National Guard, comes across as cocksure, imperious, and grimly unimaginative. George C. Scott’s Patton might be the model here. Could Robert Downey, Jr., march his troops into a cul de sac, watch them kill four students on the way back up the hill, nearly repeat the horror at a far greater magnitude back on the Commons, and then write: “Lessons Learned: None” in his after-action report? If so, he’s the man.

For a representative student, I’ll take Ellis Berns. He was with Sandy Scheuer when she bled out. Later, he threw the jacket he was wearing, now covered with Sandy’s dried blood, at an armed Guardsman. Again going back in time, I would have him played by Leonardo DiCaprio – not the current version, but the edgy, explosive late-teenage DiCaprio of This Boy’s Life and The Basketball Diaries.

And for a closing scene, I would borrow shamelessly from Schindler’s List: all the survivors of that day I could find — now in their sixties — cresting Blanket Hill, where the killings took place, led by Dean Kahler in his wheelchair.
Learn more about the book and author at Howard Means's website.

--Marshal Zeringue