Marilyn Sitzman and Me

On the set of "JFK"

Dealey Plaza, downtown Dallas



After I found out I was playing Marilyn Sitzman, I called my mom's best friend, Mary Ferrell (more about her in another photo's comments) and asked for Ms. Sitzman's phone number. Mary, who knew everyone ever connected with the assassination, immediately gave me the number and told me to have a great time on location (no worries about that, Mary!).


So, not knowing what to expect, I called Ms. Sitzman and held my breath as the phone rang. Would she think I was a pest and hang up on me? Would she think I was a nut (I knew that many people associated with the assassination encountered nuts all of the time)? I was terrified and started to hang up the phone when she answered. After we made our introductions, Ms. Sitzman realized I wasn't a crazy, and we had a friendly chat about her old boss, Abraham Zapruder, his infamous film, and how the events of November 22, 1963 shaped her life.


She said that she wasn't very curious to see the motorcade that day, but she went because Mr. Zapruder asked her to go along with him. When he found the perfect place to capture the action (a 3'-high pedestal along the grassy knoll), he asked Ms. Sitzman to stand behind him and hold onto his shoulders because he had vertigo and was afraid that he would get dizzy. Ever the dutiful secretary, she did so and watched in horror as Kennedy was assassinated before her eyes.


I asked her where she thought the shots came from, and she adamently insisted that they came from the School Book Depository. Ms. Sitzman said that she could see behind the fence where a second shooter supposedly stood, and she never saw anyone there.


By this time, I was interested to meet Ms. Sitzman in person, so I invited her to the set. I was very happy when she agreed to meet me the next day between scenes. I told her I'd be standing at her spot on the pedestal all day, and she could find me there.


The next day, she did find me. Luckily, it was lunchtime and shooting had stopped for awhile, so I showed Ms. Sitzman around the set, and she admired just how much everything looked as it did in 1963. We walked over to the pedestal that gained her (and Zapruder) lifelong notorioty that that had been my home for almost two weeks now. We sat there and talked.


I asked her what she and Mr. Zapruder did when they realized what they were witnessing. She said that they got off the pedestal and ran away from the gunshot noise into the vestibule of the Art Deco curved walkway behind them. They waited, terrified, until they felt they were safe, then they went back to their office.


Ms. Sitzman and I spent the lunch hour chatting, but when the cast and crew came back to the set, she decided it was time to leave. We gave each other a hug, and I gratefully thanked her for meeting me, then she stood up from that pedestal and walked off the set. I never spoke to her again and found out that she died of cancer a couple of years later.



  • JennRation Design 6y

    You are stunning!
  • postpanglossian 6y

    Wow, thanks for sharing the story, Lynne!
  • John 6y

    What an interesting experience.
  • gina's view 6y

    What a great story! You should have been Jackie-O!!
  • Marc Evans 6y

    What a fantastic series Lynne. The photos, your commentary, all exceptionally well done.

    November 22, 1963 was my ninth birthday and I can vividly recall many of the events from that day...

    Hearing that the president had been shot as I walked down the hallway of my elementary school...

    Coming home from school and finding my babysitter sitting on front of the television crying...

    My single mother coming home from work with my present (the Mouse Trap Game, which was brand new in 1963) and telling me that she wished it could have been a happier day...

    As you might imagine I was always interested in the assassination and while not near as obsessive as some, have read much of the material.

    I also vividly remember when Bobby was killed and had a strangely similar experience as you describe walking through the basement of City Hall when I went to work at The Ambassador Hotel and walked through the main kitchen pantry for the first time and had the hair stand up in the back of my neck, only to realize later that I had been walking in Bobby's last footsteps.

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful archive.
  • Lynne's Lens 6y

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    Clearlight -- You're the one with the fascinating story. What a sad birthday that must have been for you (and your mom, too). My friend, Anna, who was in "JFK" with me shares your illustrious birthday, and I've always found it sad that her special day is overshadowed every year by those infamous events of 1963. You two can never escape it.

    I'm also happily surprised that you had a similar odd experience at The Ambassador. I don't often tell my story because I know that some people will think I'm nuts, but it's what happened, and I have no explanation for it. Maybe we just sensed some kind of residual energy in those spots, I don't know. I'm interested that you worked at that grand hotel to begin with -- I always wanted but never got to go there and was very sad when that beautiful building came down.
  • Stephanie D. 6y

    That's such an interesting story, Lynne. How neat that you got to meet her like that.
  • Aunt Beverly 6y

    Such a wonderful story.
  • eugenio vazquez 4y

    Congratulations, Lynne!
    It's a wonderful photo and a great story.
    May I have your permission to post this photo at my blog?:
    I'm a spanish screenwriter and novelist and the title of my blog is an homage to the man who captured this historical moment with his super8 camera. I would like to write a post on Marilyn Sitzman's contribution to such a crucial episode.
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