Jumping Off the Bridge

The New York paper (specifically our friend Carol Pogash) today reports that the people who run the Golden Gate Bridge will finally for heaven’s sake, install a suicide barrier.  The average last year of about one successful and two foiled jumpers per week is apparently, at last, too many.  So good.  And about darn time.
And here’s a story about a jumper not so widely known.
Charles Rudnick introduced me to the late Nate Cohn, a wonderful old-school criminal defense lawyer in San Francisco. He was of the Mel Belli – Jake Erlich school of colorful courtroom artists, just the guy you want if you’ve done something stupid and want not to go to the gas chamber for it.
He, Nate, told us that for a time he represented Show People of America which was the guild of movie stunt people, one of whom (I’ve got the name here someplace) needed to raise money to pay off an amiable divorce. Naturally, being a stunt person, he thought of making some money with a grand, attention-getting trick and convinced himself he could jump off the Golden Gate Bridge and live, have the stunt filmed, and make money selling the movie.  Nate represented the widow in the murder case that followed.
Here is her picture, with Nate the balding guy on her left.
Nate told us the DA charged the divorcing wife because she was to be the beneficiary of the stunt, had it worked; the money to be made selling the movie of the jump was for her. The reason the trick didn’t work, in spite of careful preparation and practice, is that a Highway Patrol Officer grabbed at the performer as he jumped and threw him into an uncontrolled spin. So, you know, he was killed…. not that he wouldn’t have been anyway.  Nate got the widow off, during the inquest as I recall, by demonstrating that the ‘murder’ was really an accident.


PS.  the film of the fatal stunt may still exist, a possibility that sometimes entertains me late at night.

And PPS.  there’s a whole book of Nate’s stories — although maybe not this one, I think.  It’s called Murder He Liked and was written by Rory McGahan.  Lovely book.

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