The story, too vague to be quite believable, not sufficiently fanciful to be cut from whole cloth, has for 15 years been whispered to the curious who go to seek the grave of Lee Harvey Oswald and come away wondering "Who's Nick Beef?"
That's the name on the gravestone that abuts Oswald's in a quiet corner of Shannon Rose Hill Cemetery in Fort Worth. Word was that it was the stage name of a comedian who bought the plot years back. It was said that he'd imagined it as a way for visitors to get around the cemetery's self-imposed prohibition on disclosing the location of Oswald's grave. Just ask, "Where's the Beef?"
Turns out, the story isn't too far off.
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Over the weekend, The New York Times identified "Mr. Beef, 56," as Patric Abedin a New York-based "writer and 'nonperforming performance artist' with a penchant for the morbid."
He'd grown up in Fort Worth. As a 6-year-old, he'd gotten lost in the crowd at Carswell Air Force Base on November 21, 1963, swept up on the shoulders of a military police officer just in time to see President John F. Kennedy pass by a couple of feet away. Years later, living in Arlington, he would accompany his mother on occasional visits to the Oswald grave. He was 18 when he read in a newspaper that the plot next to Oswald's had never been purchased, then went to the cemetery and put down $17.50, making good on his promise to make 16 monthly payments of $10 to pay it off.
He moved to New York, worked in TV and sketch comedy, got married and had kids, and occasionally using the byline Nick Beef, which he and a friend had though was funny as teenagers, on freelance humor writing. His mother died in 1996, which brought him back to Texas and back to Rose Hill, where he decided to engrave the Nick Beef headstone.
Take the story with as many grains of salt as you need. This is, after all, a man who's spun a mystery that's befuddled conspiracy theorists and casual Oswald enthusiasts for more than a decade. Can you really take Abedin's word about glimpsing the president from the MPO's shoulders, or being the first to report news of his assassination to his elementary school classmates? There's no way to be sure. The tale of the headstone, on the other hand, is legit: He still has the receipt.