the object of a statewide manhunt by New York State troopers and other law officers, to be tracked down in the mountains and arrested and brought home in shackles and most of it reported on TV and in the local papers, John Reddy Heart's face reproduced in the media daily for weeks: sixteen years old, good-looking even though battered and bleeding, stubborn, mysterious in his refusal to speak, his eyes heavy-lidded with secrets. Nor did we most cherish the drama of his trials in the fall, and yet more publicity, lurid screaming headlines: SUBURBAN TEEN TRIED IN SHOOTING DEATH OF MOTHER'S LOVER16-YEAR-OLD TRIED AS AN ADULT, D.A. CALLS "VICIOUS MURDERER"in Time, Newsweek, Life. And footage on network TV. (Even in English and European papers, we were told, there were articles, with accompanying photographs, of John Reddy Heart.) Nor did we most cherish the giddy weeks of "The Ballad of John Reddy Heart," by the rock band Made in USA, which was number one on the charts within a week of its release.
John Reddy, you had our hearts.
John Reddy, we would've died for you.
John Reddy, John Reddy Heart.
Words you couldn't actually hear clearly, the amplified guitars, drums and general screeching were so loud. ("The Ballad of John Reddy Heart" sold more than any other single recordthis was before tapes and CDsin the history of Willowsville and vicinity. Though the music was kind of crude, you'd have to acknowledge, and Made in USA might be characterized as early, unintentional grunge. And we all resented the way, in the ballad, "John Reddy Heart" was portrayed. For he just wasn't the John Reddy any of us knew, our classmate.)
More distorting yet, and luridly sensational, was the CBS TV film in two parts The Loves of the White Dahlia, a docudrama supposedly based on the private life of Mrs. Dahlia Heart, John Reddy's motherthe most controversial female to ever reside in the affluent suburb of Willowsville, New York, in its century and a half of history. But this film, in our mayor's incensed words "a libel upon our village as upon the Heart family," wasn't aired until several years later, when we were all away at college, and the Hearts themselves long departed.
No, it's a quieter time we cherish. Those of us who knew John Reddy well. As Trish Elders would say, "He's someone you feel. Though he enters you through the eyes, he's someone you feel." This time when John Reddy, on probation, was living alone on Water Street, devoted to finishing his senior year of high school after twelve months' incarceration at Tomahawk Island Youth Camp (in the Niagara River) where he'd "maxed out" (as we'd learned to say casually) for getting into fights, failing to rack up a single day off for good behavior. The fights hadn't been John Reddy's fault, we were sure. He'd had to protect himself against other inmates, bigger, older guys, and guards, too; not just his physical self but his honor "as a man." So John Reddy's basketball teammates Dougie Siefried and Bo Bozer told us, incensed"Because you know John Reddy, he's not gonna take any shit from anybody. John Reddy's the kind of guy you'd have to kill to make give in."
It was thrilling to hear Willowsville boys talk like this. The boys we'd gone to school with all our lives. Alluding to matters girls weren't supposed to know, though we could guess (we believed we could guess) what they were, sort of" Forbidden acts," as Verrie Myers said gravely. Dougie and Bo were a year younger than John Reddy, in our class at school, but, speaking of John Reddy, they took on the elusive qualities of someone older, deeper into masculine experience. [See all together]