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Conspiracy Queen

by repost
by Paul Krassner

Zen Bastard
Paul Krassner Conspiracy Queen

Conspiracy Queen
JFK and Mae Brussell, and how John and Yoko saved the day.

Saturday, Nov. 22, 2003, will mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. To mark the occasion, I’d like to pay posthumous tribute to the queen of conspiracy research, Mae Brussell, particularly in view of a recent op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times by Richard M. Mosk, who was a staff member of the Warren Commission.

"This year’s decennial anniversary," he wrote, "may well be remarkable for what will be missing: myriad articles and discussions debunking the Warren Commision’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone."

Mae Brussell was the daughter of Edgar Magnin, senior rabbi at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Beverly Hills, and the granddaughter of I. Magnin, founder of the clothing-store chain. Houseguests ranged from Louis B. Mayer to Thomas Mann, Jack Warner to Albert Einstein. She attended Stanford University, majoring in philosophy, was married and divorced twice. In her 40s, she had an affair with Henry Miller.

When JFK was slain, Mae was a suburban homemaker with five children. Her seven-year-old daughter Bonnie was concerned about Lee Harvey Oswald, whom she’d seen on tv. He had a black eye and he was saying: "I didn’t do it. I haven’t killed anybody. I don’t know what this is all about." Bonnie decided to send him her teddy bear. It was all wrapped up and ready to mail when she saw Oswald murdered by Jack Ruby that Sunday morning–and then all day long, over and over again in slow-motion.

What then began as Mae’s hobby would turn into a lifetime pilgrimage. One bit of research led to another–and another and another and another.

Although the Ultimate Mystery would remain forever concealed, assassination research became her spiritual quest for truth. Conspiracy became her zen grid for perceiving political reality, drawing her deeper and deeper into a separate reality that Carlos Castaneda never dreamed of. (Castaneda was, of course, one of the three tramps arrested at the Grassy Knoll.)

Mae started a weekly radio program, Dialogue Assassination, originating at KLRB-FM in Carmel, CA, (eventually syndicating to half a dozen other stations). She purchased the Warren Commission report for $86, studying and cross-referencing the entire 26 volumes without the aid of a computer. It took her more than eight years and 27,000 typewritten pages. She was overwhelmed by the difference between the known evidence and the official conclusion that Oswald was the lone assassin.

"Lee Harvey Oswald was set up to take the fall," she said, "but the Warren Commission ignored physical evidence from the scene of the crime–bullets, weapons, clothing, wounds–and based its judgment that Oswald was just a disturbed loner on the testimony of some 30 Russian emigres in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Most of them, according to the testimony, were affiliated with anti-Communist organizations that had collaborated with the Nazis during the war."

Next she began to study the history of Nazis brought to this country after World War II in exchange for their help in defeating the new U.S. enemy, the Soviet Union. As part of the CIA’s "Project Paperclip," members of the Third Reich were granted immunity and placed in America’s hospitals, universities and the aerospace industry, further developing their techniques in propaganda, mind control and behavior modification. She observed how the patterns of murder in the U.S. were identical to those in Nazi Germany. It was as if an early Lenny Bruce bit–about how a show-business booking agency, MCA, promoted Adolf Hitler as a dictator–had actually been a satirical prognostication of the way Richard Nixon would rise to power. The parallels between the rise of Hitler and Nixon were frightening.

I first met Mae in February 1972. She was about 50, plump and energetic, wearing a long peasant dress patchworked with philosophical tidbits, knitting sweaters for her children while she breathlessly described the architecture of an invisible government. The walls were lined with 40 file cabinets containing 1600 subject folders.

Every day Mae would digest eight newspapers from around the country, supplementing that diet with items sent to her by a network of researchers and young conspiracy students known as Brussell Sprouts, plus magazines, underground papers, unpublished manuscripts, court affidavits, documents from the National Archives, FBI and CIA material obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, as well as hundreds of books on espionage and assassination. Each Sunday she would sort out the previous week’s clippings into various categories as though conducting a symphony of horror.

Mae had never been published before, so I gave her a double assignment for the Realist. One article would compare the rise of Hitler with the rise of Nixon–each resulting from a series of political assassinations. (Meanwhile, Nixon was having lunch with her father, Rabbi Magnin.) The other article would be on the function of Lee Harvey Oswald and other alleged assassins in achieving that purpose.

I stayed overnight, devouring material from Mae’s massive files. The next morning, my head was still swirling in the afterglow of a fresh conversion. Previously, my religion had been Coincidence, but now it was becoming tempered with Conspiracy. On the bus back home, I pondered the theological question Mae had posed: "How many coincidences does it take to make a plot?"

A few months later, I got a call from her. No wonder she was so excited. The attempted burglary of Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel had suddenly brought her eight and a half years of dedicated conspiracy research to an astounding climax. She recognized names, modus operandi and patterns of cover-up. She could trace linear connections leading inevitably from the assassination of JFK to the Watergate break-in, masterminded by E. Howard Hunt, who had worked for the CIA for 21 years.

Three weeks later–while Nixon was pressing for the postponement of an investigation until after the election, and the mainstream press was still referring to the incident as a "caper" and a "third-rate burglary"–Mae completed a long article for the Realist, documenting the conspiracy and delineating the players, from the burglars all the way up to FBI Dir. L. Patrick Gray, Atty. Gen. John Mitchell and President Nixon himself.

"The significance of the Watergate affair," she wrote, "is that every element essential for a political coup d’etat in the United States was assembled at the time of their arrest."

Believing that her documented article could prevent Nixon’s reelection, she delineated the details of a plot so insidious and yet so logical that the typesetter wrote "Bravo!" at the end of her manuscript. However, instead of my usual credit arrangement, the printer insisted on $5000 cash in advance before this issue could go to press. I didn’t have the money, and had no idea how I would get it, but I was filled with an inexplicable sense of confidence.

When I got home, the phone rang. It was Yoko Ono. She and John Lennon were in town, and they invited me to lunch. At that time, the administration was trying to deport Lennon, ostensibly for an old marijuana bust, but really because they were afraid he was planning to perform for protestors at the Republican National Convention that summer. I brought the galleys of Mae’s article to lunch. Her account of the government’s motivation and methodology provided a context for John and Yoko’s current harassment.

I mentioned my printer’s ultimatum, and they immediately took me to a bank and withdrew $5000 cash.

The timing was so exquisite that Coincidence and Mysticism became the same process for me.

Paul Krassner can be reached at
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