Madame Ngo…

WIDOW OF SOUTH VIETNAMESE PRESIDENT DINH DIEM NGO

Madame Ngo

1963

She stabbed her finger at the surrounding press corps in the lobby of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and hissed, “It was your President Kennedy and his CIA,” accusing them of assassinating her husband. Madame Ngo’s beautiful young daughter sat beside her, watching,, listening apprehensively as her volatile mother denounced the United States, John Kennedy, the CIA, everything American she thought has to do with the Vietnam war. Sun glasses concealed “Occidentalized” eye surgery, rumored to be the real reason for her Los Angeles visit.

Her presence attracted worldwide press, notorious for bad manners. It turned into a circus. Some American journalists became as rude as their European counterparts. By the time Madame Ngo and her daughter left the hotel, it was absolute bedlam. News coverage itself became the story. A reporter from a major newspaper wrote, “…the press was so unruly a TV cameraman actually threw himself in front of Madame Ngo’s limousine, shouting obscenities, as they drove up the driveway to a friend’s home.”

I was at the edge of the driveway that hot afternoon, a 32 pound sound camera on my shoulder and 15 pound battery pack at my side. I focused on Madame Ngo and her daughter in the back of the limo as it pulled up.

Freddie Dietrich tried to move to my side but slipped on ice plant and fell. As he started to go over the embankment he grabbed desperately for something to save him. Me. Suddenly I was doing splits, one leg trapped between the front and rear wheels of the slow moving Cadillac inundated by press. No one paid any attention to my predicament. I shouted through the open window at the granite-faced man in the front seat. He just stared at me. I was weighted down with the heavy camera gear and could not get up. I started shouting obscenities to keep the limousine from rolling over my leg.

It reluctantly came to a stop and I struggled to my feet. I was black and blue from my ankles to my hips, but it gave a hungry female reporter a lousy story about an incident she never witnessed.

Twenty days after Madame Ngo’s Los Angeles visit, John Kennedy was assassinated. Shortly after, her daughter was killed driving in Paris traffic.

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