Less than 4 months after Mark David Chapman tragically shot and killed John Lennon, John Hinckley JR became the second most famous dough-faced, shaggy brown-haired lunatic stalker/Beatles enthusiast reading JD Salinger‘s Catcher In The Rye to fire a handgun with the intent to kill one of the most famous and influential figures in the world during the first half of the 1980s. For those of you kids out there who could benefit from a quick history lesson, Hinckley is the joker who unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan on March 30th of ’81 for the sole misguided purpose of wooing then-teenage actress Jodie Foster.
Hinckley was so dedicated to his obsession with Foster that he moved from Colorado to Connecticut to attend Yale University the same year that the actress enrolled. While there, John would call her and send numerous letters and poems to her campus mailbox, failing to gain her affection for obvious reasons. But if that’s not creepy enough, his affinity for the young actress initially grew out of over a dozen repeated viewings of her role as a child prostitute in the 1976 Martin Scorsese film, Taxi Driver. She was only 13-years-old at the time. In the film, Robert Dinero‘s character, Travis Bickle, plans to assassinate a senator/presidential candidate after being rejected by a woman that he’s infatuated with. Somehow, Hinckley connected these dots in a fucked up manner and convinced himself that killing the president was the way to to earn Jodie Foster‘s heart–or, if nothing else, her attention.
Also of note–not to mention, extremely pertinent to the present day’s highly publicized mass shootings and increasing debate on gun control–is that 2 major adjustments in the legal system were made as a direct result of the assassination attempt. While Reagan recovered from his injuries incurred by a ricocheted bullet being lodged in his lung, his assistant/White House Press Secretary, James Brady was struck in the head and partially, yet permanently, paralyzed. Two others were also struck. This eventually led to the signing of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1993, which requires federal background checks for anyone purchasing a firearm–Hinckley had not only been under psychiatric care, but also purchased his gun from a pawn shop using an old Texas ID and a false address, and had previously been arrested for trying to bring multiple guns and ammo onto an airplane, while stalking President Carter. When John Hinckley was acquitted, the public outrage that was generated also forced adjustments to the way that the courts operated in relation to insanity pleas.
This is all well documented. Also well documented is a letter that Hinckley wrote to Jodie Foster and left in his hotel room an hour before heading out to shoot Reagan, which explained his intentions and was later used in his prosecution. Not as widely known by the general public, however, is that Ohio art rock/post punk/new wave pioneers, DEVO actually tapped the attempted assassin for permission to adapt one of the “love” letters that he’d written to Foster into song lyrics. The track, “I Desire“–featured on the bands 5th album, Oh, No! It’s Devo (1982)–even credits Hinckley as a co-writer.
A brief post from RollingStone.com referencing the track, included the following recollection from DEVO frontman, Mark Mothersbaugh:
“[Hinckley] let us take a poem that he had written, and we used it for the lyrics and turned it into a love song. It was not the best career move you could make. We had the FBI calling up and threatening us.”
In a post on DEVO-Obsesso.com, regarding the unorthodox “collaboration,” the band also mentions that, “Warner Bros was not happy when they found out they’d have to pay Hinckley for his lyrics.”
Accompanying that quote is a copy of another letter from the infamous stalker. This time, the letter in question had been sent to KZEW, a radio station out of Dallas, TX that John Jr used to listen to when he lived in the area, and more specifically, the “Morning Zoo” DJ crew. In the contact Hinckley mentions his affiliation with “I Desire” and requests that the station play the new wave song a total of “58 times each day.”
Below is a copy of that copy of the original letter sent in November of 1982, followed by our best attempt at translating the handwriting of the crackpot gunman.
Dear Morning Zoo People,
Yes I remember KZEW. It used to be the station I listened to when I was living on McKinney St in Big D. Since you are “the official John Hinckley Jr information station” for DFW, I’ll let you in on a few secrets.
1. I like new wave music, especially Devo, since I co-wrote a song on their new album. The song is called “I Desire” and I want you to play it 58 times each day.
2. I still have fond memories of Highland Park and every once in a while I get a letter from an old high school mate. I always answer their mail.
3. I used to listen to the song “Heroes” by David Bowie when I was stalking Carter and Reagan. It always got me in a strange mood.
4. In March and April of 80, I hung out at Peaches Record store on Fitzhugh.
5. I didn’t mean to make Rocky’s Pawn Shop so notorious. I could have bought the gun anywhere.
6. Dallas is still my favorite city and I plan to live there when I get out of this hospital.