John Warnock Hinckley, Jr., the man who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, is out and about fulfilling his dream of being a professional musician. But good luck getting to see the man perform or bask in his lifelong compilation of words and notes. The first concert, which he has dubbed The John Hinckley Redemption Tour, is completely sold out.
The venue is not quite Carnegie Hall, but an off-off Broadway theater in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, at the Market Hotel. Still, Hinckley is on cloud nine, extolling the opportunity on Twitter with a lot of exclamation points: “Big news!! I will be performing on July 8 at the Market Hotel in Brooklyn, NY. Get your tickets while you can!”
Other folks are not as excited about Hinckley’s public appearance for profit. The Reagan Library had a few words on the subject:
“The Reagan Foundation and Institute is both saddened and concerned that John Hinckley, Jr. will … intends to pursue a music career for profit. Mr. Hinckley is the man responsible for the attempted assassination of President Reagan and the shooting of three other brave men, one who eventually died of his injuries years later. We strongly oppose his release into society where he apparently seeks to make a profit from his infamy.”
In what twisted world is Hinckley allowed unfettered freedom? Granted, Reagan is no longer in danger from this man, but who knows if a new obsession worth killing for might be on his mind?
On March 30, 1981, Hinckley achieved the fame he had so desperately desired. Just outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in DC, Hinckley shot Reagan and three other men in the presidential cavalcade to get the attention of actress Jodie Foster. James Brady, Reagan’s press secretary, was shot in the head, and the president took a bullet in his lung, just narrowly missing his heart.
Reagan, being – well – Reagan, walked himself from the limo into the hospital and later quipped to his wife Nancy, “Honey, I forgot to duck.” At the time, The New York Times reported on the would-be assassin, as Hinckley told them his actions were an “unprecedented demonstration of love” and that he and Foster were akin to “Romeo” and “Juliet.”
Nevertheless, “Romeo” stood trial the following year for his crimes and was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was then shuffled off to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, a psychiatry facility in Washington, DC, and promptly became pen pals with serial killer Ted Bundy before the latter’s execution. One might suggest that his “rehabilitation” was touch and go, as he had squirreled away a book on Jodi Foster, which cost him his unsupervised visits outside of the hospital grounds.
Hinckley was committed to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for more than 34 years but was released under certain restrictions in 2016, including close monitoring of his movements, limited travel, and allowing authorities to access his computer browsing history. In 2021, a federal judge ruled that Hinckley could be released from those restrictions in 2022. So yes, he’s out and about and sending appreciation notes via Twitter: “A big thank you to everyone who helped me get my unconditional release. What a long, strange trip it has been. Now it’s time to rock and roll.”
You Get a Pass After Shooting a President?
Hinckley was unraveling in 1979 when he bought his first gun and began a regimen of anti-depressants and abusing sedatives. He wrote his sister, “My nervous system is shot. I take heavy medication for it, which doesn’t seem to do much good.”
And does Hinckley feel remorse for a trail of carnage? Entries from his diary reveal he rarely “regretted” his 1981 shooting spree that injured President Reagan. But he felt “accomplished and satisfied” just for trying. Well, that street runs both ways. Promoters in Hamden, CT, announced they had canceled the Hinckley tour, scheduled this July, after a large number of complaints. The Chicago event was also canceled due to a “problem with the venue” – interpret that as you will.
But Brooklyn is ready to go, sold out, and excited. On Market Hotel’s homepage, the company announced the reopening by writing: “Market Hotel has reopened our doors for events, maintaining prudent safety measures in place to protect the health of our guests and our staff. All entrants must be masked and must provide proof of completed Covid vaccination.”
The Hotel folks said nothing about going through a metal detector, which seems to be the most “prudent safety measure” considering the controversial headliner and the attention he might draw. So perhaps YouTube is the best, safer place to see the new and improved Hinckley. Plus, it’s free.