The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate needs to come up with some new box-office draws, pronto, before the start of the summer tourist season.
According to a recent news report, the two-year-old Institute in Dorchester was supposed to draw 150,000 visitors a year. So far it’s averaging 62,000 annually, which includes 16,000 students, in other words, draftees.
This falling-short of projections is nothing new for the Institute. Its $78 million cost was supposed to be borne mostly by the late senator’s dear friends, almost all of whom went AWOL, along with their checkbooks, after the Liberal Lion assumed room temperature in 2009.
The feds had to dip into the Defense Department budget to cover the cost of Teddy’s white elephant.
But the Institute’s building can still be put to good use. May I suggest a new mission – as that sanctuary for illegal aliens that Mayor Marty Walsh has been promising in the city of Boston.
Hizzoner wanted to put the illegals’ hotel in City Hall, but let’s face it. Taxpaying citizens need to visit City Hall occasionally, to get copies of birth certificates, attend hearings, fight parking tickets, etc.
Why screw up a necessary, if very ugly, building? Let the illegals squat in Teddy’s shrine. What better tribute for the architect of the Immigration Reform Act of 1965, which has brought us to the place we are today?
Other upgrades to the Institute could be made as well. Outside his brother JFK’s nearby museum is the late president’s sailboat, the Victura. What about an exhibit out front of Ted’s favorite seagoing vessel, a 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont?
Is there a cafeteria inside the Institute? They’re missing a bet if the menu doesn’t include a waitress sandwich. At the gift shop, they could sell some of Teddy’s favorite fashion accessories, like a neck brace. No need to sell trousers – during the senator’s lifetime, pants were strictly optional, especially in Palm Beach.
How about a sporting-goods section in the gift shop? A perfect souvenir of your visit might be a Skakel brand golf club, autographed by cousin Michael, just before he returns to prison.
The Kennedy Institute needs more special promotions as well. Something in keeping with the, uh, legacy of its namesake. Wet tee-shirt nights. William Kennedy Smith singles’ nights. A drive-through marriage annulment window. Obviously, a liquor license a must – Chivas tastings, anyone?
Currently the Institute’s centerpiece, so to speak, is the Senate Immersion Chamber, an unfortunate name indeed. But who wants to take part in mock debates of bills?
One of Teddy’s dearest friends in the Senate was Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Byrd got his start in the Democratic party wearing a white sheet and a hood and burning crosses in the foothills of West Virginia.
The nightly Robert Byrd memorial cross-burning — might make for interesting summer evenings on the harbor. Every Fourth of July, Teddy’s nephew Joe could host a fireworks exhibit, trying this time not to burn his son Matthew with the “sparks-emitting devices,” as his handlers put it at the time.
In the original story about the cratering attendance, one expert was quoted as saying that museum visitors go to see “tangible objects.”
One of the best Ted Kennedy books is “The Senator,” by his former aide Rick Burke. During the 1980s, Burke wrote, one of his boss’ most prized possessions was his silver coke spoon.
Let’s mount Teddy’s Senate coke spoon and put it on a wall, like they do with gavels that belonged to famous judges and legislative leaders.
How about a hall of courthouse photographs – accompanying his nephews Bobby Jr. and Joe to various Cape Cod criminal hearings and trials, or his own appearance at the Palm Beach County Courthouse to testify in the rape trial of his nephew.
You could also include a wall of framed FBI reports – the one about the alleged Kennedy family orgies at the Carlyle Hotel in New York with Marilyn Monroe, and the 1961 report from Lima Peru about how he rented an entire brothel for himself, and his Embassy chauffeur.
They need guest speakers too. How about ex-Sen. John Tunney, one of Teddy’s best friends from all the way back at the law school at UVa. According to a KGB memo, Teddy sent Tunney to the Kremlin in 1983 on a mission to recruit the Soviet butchers in his campaign to topple Ronald Reagan.
That would be an interesting lecture. What did Teddy tell Tunney before he flew to the Soviet Union? Who were all those network TV executives he claimed to control?
Teddy’s Russian meddling, which has never been denied, went nowhere. And by the way, Ronald Reagan’s museum and library drew 383,000 visitors in 2014. Teddy’s brother’s museum only attracted 296,000 that same year.
And now Teddy’s institute can’t even get one-sixth as many visitors as that of his great foe Ronald Reagan.
But don’t worry. All they need to get people to the Kennedy Institute is a Happy Hour every night. Now that would be a real simulation of Ted Kennedy’s Senate.