Matt Behrens, surely one of the great and insistent justice advocates in the Toronto area reminds us in NOW Magazine of a very gutsy Canadian who at the height of the Vietnam War told it like it was right to Richard Nixon’s face.
Carole Addesso (nee Feraci), a Cabbagetwoner sang in the bland Ray Connif’s hit making machine in the 60s and 70s. In January of 1972 as the bombs were falling on the Vietnamese people—over 1.5 million civilians would be killed —Feraci stepped out of line at the White House dinner and held up a sign which read STOP THE KILLING.
Now this was an unpaid gig and Addesso had initially turned it down with some logic “I didn’t want to sing for a man who’s killing people. But after thinking about it, I thought I should go and say something.”
As the singers in elegant gowns filed onto the stage, Addesso pulled a handwritten banner from her dress that read “Stop the Killing.”
She then said: “Mr. President, stop the bombing of human beings, animals and vegetation. You go to church on Sunday and pray to Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ were in this room tonight, you would not dare to drop another bomb. Bless the Berrigans and Daniel Ellsberg,” Addesso added, referring to two Catholic priests then in jail for destroying draft records and the whistle-blower who leaked the Pentagon Papers, the Edward Snowden of his day.
Behrens called Addesso now living in California and she rewminisced :
“I looked at him the whole time. Nixon was sitting there with a frozen smile, and he never bloody moved a muscle.”In the audience were well known war boosters Bob Hope,Norman Vincent peale ,the fascist chralers Lindbreg and the preacher who blessed all wars Billy Graham. addesso didn’t give a damn.
After the first song, Conniff apologized to the audience, saying to Nixon, “I guess I’ll have to make sure from now on that my singers listen to your speeches. They don’t seem to know what’s going on.”
It was Conniff of course who had no clue of the moral madness going on.
As cries of “Throw the bum out” filled the room, Martha Mitchell, the wife of U.S. attorney general John Mitchell, shouted out that Addesso should be torn “limb from limb.” Conniff asked Addesso to leave, and with typical Canadian politeness, she replied, “Certainly.”
She was taken downstairs to a room where secret service personnel, White House counsel John Dean and chief of staff H.R. Haldeman were waiting for her.
“Dean and Haldeman were just freaking out, and they kept saying, ‘It’s an incident, it’s an incident! We have to be careful how we handle this,’” she laughs. Both men would soon be facing their own questioning over -illegal actions in the Watergate scandal.
“Then they started questioning me. Is there [mental] illness in the family? Did I plan to kill the president? All kinds of dumb shit. I told them, ‘You didn’t hear a word I said.’”
The interrogation eventually ended and they called her a cab, even though that went against White House protocol.
“I was very calm throughout,” Addesso says. “I knew what I wanted to say, and nothing was going to stop me. I would do whatever I could to stop the war.”
Addesso became the subject of almost daily conversation at the White House, as we know since the release of the Nixon tapes.
“For the next three months, every day when they had their Oval Office meetings I was talked about. What is she doing? Is she going to sue us? They were worried I would start an even bigger problem.”
She found herself the target of the FBI and was constantly hounded by the press. Job offers dried up, and when she faced deportation to Canada, she received calls from the era’s leading civil rights lawyers, including Mark Lane and William Kunstler of Chicago 7 fame.
Today 45 years later Addesso has no regrets.
And why should she?