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It wasn't Robert Groden's finest hour.
On this sunny day near Elm Street, Groden's more polished appearances on Oprah, Montel, and Regis were far behind him.
In a lot near the Sixth Floor Museum, Groden was duking it out with a stout woman. With the money they'd earned that day peddling JFK memorabilia strewn before them, the two pushed and shoved each other until Groden had enough. Raising his hand, he gave her a chop on the back of the neck. She fell instantly. Groden scrambled for the money, stuffing it in his pockets, but the woman still managed to grab some for herself.
As onlookers laughed, Groden hardly looked like a man of achievement--the one who in 1975 spoke to Geraldo Rivera on national TV and introduced to the public the Zapruder film, which captured the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Nor did he appear to be the serious researcher who had been a consultant to Oliver Stone on the movie JFK.
But it was indeed the Robert J. Groden, a Kennedy-assassination researcher who spends his weekends at Dealey Plaza presenting conspiracy theories to tourists and selling some of his videos, journals, and five books, which contend the theory that a lone gunman killed Kennedy is a hoax.
In the two years since Groden's fight with former business associate Diane Allen was caught on video by another assassination buff, the plaza's been a kinder, gentler place--at least on the surface.
Groden still comes on the weekends, usually setting up shop across from the museum, but while there hasn't been any similar Candid Camera moments, bad blood persists between him and Allen.
Last year, Groden filed a civil suit against Allen, claiming among other things that she stole thousands of his one-of-a-kind photos and slides relating to the JFK assassination and that that she was selling stolen books and videos which he wrote and produced. In March, a jury disagreed, finding in favor of Allen.
The case may be over, but not in Groden's mind; he still has a gripe with Allen, enough to get this soft-spoken, graying man worked up. She's a "monster bitch," he says, and that's one of his more restrained observations about his former associate's character. Allen is equally descriptive--and vicious.
This latest skirmis in the "War of the Roses" (as another merchant near the plaza calls it) began in September 1999 when, Groden claims, Allen stole thousands of dollars worth of inventory belonging to his business, New Frontier Publications. He says she also took his "world famous photographic archive" of 3,000 rare images, which he'd amassed in his 36 years of researching all things relating to JFK's death. He says he was going to use hundreds of those images in his next book, Inside the Kennedy Conspiracy.
In his civil suit against Allen, he claimed that she worked for him as an employee and nothing more. Groden accuses Allen of everything from assault to bank and mail fraud to forging his signature. And, he says, she signed on to his bank account without his knowledge and falsely named herelf as president and co-owner of his 30-year-old company. Groden also says Allen used a rubber stamp bearing his signature to write fraudulent checks in his name.
Allen denies all the accusations and says that what she calls a "business partnership" afforded her certain responsibilities. Groden and she were partners both professionally and personally, she says.
In 1996, when Groden left behind his estranged wife and four children and moved from Pennsylvania to Dallas, where he became a tour guide, he was almost penniless, Allen says. They met at Dealey Plaza, where she had been selling JFK magazines for another publisher. They soon became friends, and within months, he moved into her home.
There was a time when they worked side by side; she'd usually sell Groden's videos and magazine versions of pro-conspiracy books while he would do the talking.
But these days, about the only thing the two can agree on is that there was a conspiracy to kill JFK.
Groden says he lived with Allen merely for economic reasons, sleeping on her couch for a year.
Allen is more blunt, saying that they slept together, that he wanted her to have his baby, that on February 28, 1997, he took her to Club Dada, where he dedicated the Beatles' "Words of Love" to her and proposed. She said yes. ("I never proposed to her, never," Groden says.)
"My father bought all the books he's selling," says Allen of Garland Boles, who owns a small company specializing in modular housing. "No one would finance him," she adds, as she stands beneath a lamppost outside the famed Book Depository, while Groden stands just yards away, near the grassy knoll. "His credit is awful."
On this cloudy Sunday, Allen sold JFK newspapers and a magazine version of a book--The Killing of a President.Groden wrote the book, but Allen claims she collaborated with him to produce a magazine-length version of it. She and her father contributed $15,000 to print the magazine, she says.
Groden says he included her name on the magazine merely as a "courtesy credit" when she worked for him. "So help me God and let me be struck dead if I'm lying, she did not write a single word."
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