What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

"What's the frequency, Kenneth? is your Benzedrine, uh-huh" - REM

So what does Time Travel, a hit song and the nightly news all have in common? It's the frequency, the frequency Kenneth…

On a crisp October evening in 1989, veteran CBS news man Dan Rather was strolling along Park Avenue on route to his apartment, when he was accosted by two individuals. The two men attacked Rather from behind, and when he tried to walk away, he was punched and knocked to the ground. The attackers then chased Rather into a building and kicked him several times in the back. While Rather retreated into the fetal position, and was pummeled by the two men, they repeatedly yelled a seemingly nonsensical question at Rather.

"WHAT'S THE FREQUENCY, KENNETH!" over and over was this phrase repeated. Was Rather the victim of mistaken identity? If so, why would a "frequency" be of any use to a common mugger? And no money was taken?

The incident was widely reported in the national press, and Rathers public statement clearly showed his puzzlement over the whole "frequency" issue, "I got mugged. Who understands these things? I didn't and I don't now. I didn't make a lot of it at the time and it doesn't now. I wish I knew who did it and why, but I have no idea."

Later when Rather returned to his position hosting the national nightly news, he appeared clearly battered and bruised from his encounter with these two men. A Police report was filed, detailing the event and describing the two attackers, and nothing more was done. Soon the case became nothing more than a surreal hiccup in the life of a public figure, and it was closed.

Meanwhile in the year 2265 William Tager is born. Tager is born into poverty, and grows up to be nothing more than a petty criminal, who spends most of his adult life in and out of prison. In Tager's future, the Earth is run by an oppressive one world government, which has been experimenting with Time Travel for around 150 years. These experiments in time have met with varying degrees of success, but no human has yet traveled through time. Until that is, William Tager…

Future Vice-President Kenneth Burrows, offers Tager, who is a convicted felon, a full pardon if he "volunteers" to become the first human to travel in time, and upon his safe return to the future he would be a free man. Tager, of course quickly agrees to this deal and arrangements are made to move forward with the experiment.

On the day Tager is scheduled to be sent back through time, Vice-President Burrows visits him to explain about a transmitter that has been implanted into Tagers brain. The transmitter is a safety measure, which was implanted to ensure that Tager would return to his own time. Life in the past could become quite attractive to Tager, compared to his future life and imprisonment. The transmitter is set to barrage Tagers brain with messages and noise, should he decide to not return and report on his mission. The transmitter would only be removed from his brain upon his safe return to the future. I should add here that future Vice-President Kenneth Burrows just happens to look exactly like, yep you guessed it, Dan Rather…

William Tager arrived in New York City on September 1st, 1986 and was scheduled to spend 14 days examining the past before returning to the future. Things did not go according to plan, as Tager was arrested a few days into his stay, for putting coins into expired parking meters. Tager spend 30 days in jail and missed his window for a safe return to the future. Soon after the voices started, and then sleep became elusive, the constant noise was slowly driving him insane! If only he could find the correct frequency of the transmission and shut it down…

In 1994 NBC employee Campbell Montgomery was working on the NBC morning show "TODAY", when he was accosted and killed by William Tager. Montgomery was shot to death by Tager, as he attempted to enter the NBC studios. Tager was trying to get in contact with someone who might be able to identify the frequency and put an end to the voices that had haunted him for so many years.

As the tragic death of Campbell Montgomery spilled onto televisions screens throughout the nation, Montgomery's killer was also broadcast, and it was then that Dan Rather came forward with a startling revelation.

The Daily News reported this...

"It took ten years, but finally we find out about the bizarre attack on CBS Newsman Dan Rather on Park Avenue.

Rather says he now knows who mugged him and muttered the notorious line, "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" back in 1986.

He tells the Daily News he's learned who it is from a psychiatrist who examined the suspect after the fatal shooting of an NBC technician outside the Today show studios in 1994. That psychiatrist, says Rather, says there's no question it was the same man--49-year old William Tager. "

And Associated Press reported this…

"The mystery may be solved: Dan Rather has identified the man he says beat him up on the street in 1986 while demanding to know 'Kenneth,what is the frequency?' The CBS anchorman said his assailant was William Tager, now in prison for killing an NBC stagehand outside the Today show in 1994. Tager was convinced the media had him under surveillance and were beaming hostile messages to him, and he demanded that Rather tell him the frequency being used, according to a forensic psychiatrist who examined Tager after the NBC shooting. Rather was told by the psychiatrist, Dr. Park Dietz, that Tager was almost certainly his attacker. The anchorman identified Tager from pictures supplied by the New York Daily News. 'There's no doubt in my mind that this is the person,' Rather said."

So where does this strange incident end?

Well, William Tager is now behind bars for life, and the voices in his head, now have transformed into an automated message that replays itself every 20 minutes. As for Dan Rather, his story changed slightly from 1989 to 1994, as his original Police report describes two attackers, which now seems to have become one, William Tager.

The incident has also become a part of pop culture and was somehow incorporated into Terry Gilliam's Classic Sci-Fi film 12 Monkey's, intentionally or not? I don't know. Also the Rock Band REM had a hit back in 1994 with a track entitled "What's the frequency, Kenneth?", and they even got Dan Rather to perform the song with them, while guesting on the David Letterman show.

What a tale…

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