Session 3

Some people will do almost anything for love - even break the law. In this session we'll read an article about a man who robbed a bank to pay for an operation for his lover. John Wojtowicz was the subject of the 1975 film Dog Day Afternoon - find out about his story and a new documentary being made.

በዚህ ክፍል ያሉ ክፍለ ጊዜያት

ክፍለጊዜያት 3 ነጥብ።

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

Have you robbed a bank for love?

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever done for love?

Have you ever done something special for the person you love? Maybe you bought your loved one an expensive gift, organised a spectacular party or took them on a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Or perhaps you've robbed a bank...

Here’s an article about a man who did rob a bank for love. A documentary has been made about this amazing-but-true story. It happened in the 1970s in New York. You can see Manhattan – where the bank robbery took place – in this photo.

ፅሁፉን ያንብቡና ቀጣዩን ክንውን ይሞክሩ

While you’re reading, try to answer this question: Why do Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren, the documentary makers, think this story makes a good documentary?

The man who robbed a bank for love

John Wojtowicz was the man who tried to rob a New York bank for his lover in the 1970s.

On 22 August 1972, Wojtowicz and two accomplices, Salvatore Naturale and Bobby Westenberg, attempted to hold up a branch of the Chase Manhattan bank in Brooklyn – but the raid went wrong right from the start. Westenberg, one of the would-be robbers, said he couldn’t go through with it and walked out, and a member of the bank’s staff managed to turn on the alarm. Police surrounded the bank and the eight members of staff were taken hostage by Wojtowicz and the other remaining bank robber.

Why did he do this? Wojtowicz revealed his motivation for committing the crime as an audience of around 2,000 people gathered at the bank – a crowd that included television crews, the FBI and emergency services. After two hours of negotiation with the police, Wojtowicz gave his reasons for attempting to rob the bank: he wanted money to pay for his partner Ernest Aron’s gender reassignment surgery. Wojtowicz admitted publicly that he was homosexual as he negotiated his terms: “I want them to deliver my wife here from King’s County hospital. His name is Ernest Aron. It’s a guy. I’m gay.” His ‘wife’ was Aron – they were married in 1971 in a public ceremony.

The siege at the bank lasted for 14 hours. Eventually, the bandits were promised a flight abroad, but when they got to the airport Naturale was shot and Wojtowicz was arrested.

The almost unbelievable events inspired a feature film, Dog Day Afternoon, which starred Al Pacino. The film captured the public interest in the story. Although Wojtowicz was in prison at the time of its release, he was still able to make money from his story and he used this to pay for Aron’s sex-change operation.

And now in 2015, New York filmmakers Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren have made a new documentary about Wojtowicz’s story. By now he actually called himself The Dog, after the film Dog Day Afternoon, saying “No one would ever rob a bank to give a guy a sex-change operation, that’s why they made a movie about it.”

Berg and Keraudren tracked down Wojtowicz in 2002 and found him to be a compelling subject for a documentary. Talking about the eccentric, Berg said, “He never really talks about regrets. He’s someone who owns what he’s done.” Keraudren thinks New Yorker Wojtowicz makes an interesting subject for a film being “He’s a character […] He came from an era where the city was so different that it was an environment that would… the only environment that would allow people like him to exist. And it was just like a blast from the past.”

Wojtowicz died from cancer in 2006, refusing treatment. But his larger-than-life story still has something to tell us today and get us to ask the question: Have you ever done something crazy for love?

This article is based on an original BBC News story and BBC World Service Newshour report.

So, why do Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren, the documentary makers, think this story makes a good documentary? They thought it was an interesting story!

To do

The story of the man who robbed a bank for love is certainly an interesting one. Has there been another story like it? Who knows?

How much can you remember from the article? Try this quiz to find out.

Dog Day questions

6 Questions

How much can you remember about John Wojtowicz, The Dog? Choose the best answer for each question.

እንኳን ደስ ያለዎ ሙከራውን አጠናቀዋል
Excellent! Great job! መጥፎ እድል ነጥብ አስመዝግበዋል :
x / y

End of Session 3

What a story! We hope you haven't robbed a bank or stolen anything for love! Did you find the story interesting? Why don't you tell us about it on Facebook?

Join us in Session 4 where you'll hear three people talk about falling in love. You'll also have a chance to share your love stories!

Session Vocabulary

  • spectacular
    amazing to look at; impressive

    once-in-a-lifetime
    very rare; doesn't happen often

    Manhattan
    an island neighbourhood in New York

    accomplices
    people who help someone to commit a crime

    hold up
    to steal from somewhere using the threat of violence

    branch
    an individual office of a business organisation, such as a bank

    raid
    a quick attack, usually by a small group of people

    would-be
    describes someone trying to become a type of person such as a robber

    motivation
    reason for doing something

    committing a crime
    breaking the law; doing something illegal

    FBI
    Federal Bureau of Investigation - a US national police force

    gender reassignment
    the process of changing your sex, from male to female or the reverse

    homosexual
    attracted to people of the same sex

    gay
    attracted to people of the same sex

    siege
    when an armed force surrounds something, for example a building, with the intention of taking control of it

    bandits
    armed thieves

    documentary
    a film or television programme giving facts about something

    compelling
    very interesting

    eccentric
    someone who behaves in a strange way

    blast from the past
    something that reminds you clearly of an earlier time