Paul Schrade was a UAW official, working on Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign on the night that RFK was shot at the Ambassador Hotel. Schrade was among the others wounded in the pantry that night and was struck by a bullet to the head. At a gathering of Kennedy aides Thursday night at the Los Angeles Press Club, Schrade offered his take on “Bobby,” Emilio Estevez’s upcoming Oscar hopeful that follows the lives of a fictional set of characters at the Ambassador in the 24 hours leading up to the tragic event.
“I think it should be seen,” Schrade said. “I tried to get a copy of the script and I talked to Martin Sheen about this. I wanted to check it for accuracy and to see that it was properly portraying Robert Kennedy. It does a very good job.” But he stopped short of endorsing the movie. “Most of the film is about people in the hotel and it is kind of a cultural history of the 1960s. I have been asked to endorse it but I will not. I do not want to be involved in the endorsement of a commercial film.”
Afterward, Schrade recounted the night to journalists. Kennedy had been only several feet away before Schrade was struck, and it was several days later, when he became conscious again, that he learned that RFK had been assassinated. In fact, Schrade said he only recently learned that, in the chaos of the pantry, someone had put a hat over his head because they thought he was dead. It is believed that Kennedy saw Schrade get shot, because as Kennedy lay dying on the kitchen floor, journalists quoted him as saying, “Is Paul all right?”
Most of the panel, however, was about RFK and his legacy. Along with Schrade were Ed Guthman, the veteran journalist who once served as Kennedy’s press secretary; Rick Tuttle, the former Los Angeles city controller and organizer of the ’68 campaign; and journalist Dan Blackburn, who covered Kennedy throughout the 1960s.
There was much talk about RFK’s anti-war stance and push for human rights, as well as a consensus that he would have been elected president had he lived. Guthman remembered: “He couldn’t see something that needed to be done and not do anything about it. It didn’t matter whether it was Brooklyn or South Africa.”
Schrade is working on a documentary about RFK’s 1966 trip to South Africa, where he went on the invitation of an anti-apartheid, white students’ union despite the South African government’s dismay. On Nov. 20, Schrade will be attending the groundbreaking of the new schools being built at the Ambassador site and is working with Kennedy’s son, Max, on making sure that the school district gives the new facilities enough attention and resources. “This is one of the poorest areas of the country, around the Ambassador and Wilshire,” he said.