Friday, June 18, 2010

Jack Ruby's FBI file (the greatest hits)



I wanted to document the presentation on Jack Ruby's FBI file that I gave last night at the Missouri History Museum.

This piece was written to be read aloud knowing I would be following David Clewell reading from the first two parts of his poem Jack Ruby's America, which we are scoring. So you aught to go read
Jack Ruby Orders the Chicken Salad: November 21, 1963” and "The Chicago Cowboy," before reading my excerpts from the FBI file. Or you can listen to the poet read them himself, from the recording that will form the basis of our score.

Now, to my bit:

So, thanks to Clewell’s poem, I got into Jack Ruby. I went and found online from the Mary Ferrell Foundation a copy of Ruby’s FBI file. A lot of it connects right up with Clewell’s poem.

Clewell read the opening part of his poem, “Jack Ruby Orders the Chicken Salad: November 21, 1963.” Ruby really did order a lot of chicken salad sandwiches. One of his favorite sandwich spots was Phil’s Delicatessen, 3531 Oak Lawn in Dallas, as we know from Ruby’s FBI file. The FBI paid a visit to Phil’s on December 1, 1963, just 10 days after Ruby’s visit that Clewell imagines in his poem you just heard. The agents' visit to Phil’s was reported and filed, dutifully, and I would like to read from the agents’ report. If I might borrow a phrase from Clewell’s poem, I would like to call this report “Jack Ruby orders the corned beef, with black cherry soda, celery tonic and extra pickles”. I will quote verbatim, using the all caps style that seems to be standard for the FBI.

EMPLOYEES WHO SOLD SANDWICHES AT PHIL-S DELICATESSES, THREE FIVE THREE ONE OAK LAWN, DALLAS, RECALL THAT JACK RUBY SOMETIME BETWEEN EIGHT AND TEN P. M. NIGHT OF NOV. TWENTYTWO, SIXTYTHREE, PURCHASED EIGHT CORNED BEEF SANDWICHES WITH MUSTARD, TEN COLD DRINKS, EIGHT BLACK CHERRY AND TWO CELERY TONIC, ONE HALF LOAF BREAD, THREE CUPS BUTTER, AND EXTRA PICKLES, STATING THAT DISCJOCKEYS AT RADIO STATION KLIF, DALLAS, WERE WORKING LATE AND THAT HE WOULD TAKE THESE SANDWICHES TO THEM.

MENTION WAS MADE OF THE ASSASSINATION OF THE PRESIDENT, BUT HIS COMMENT, WAS THAT IT WAS A TERRIBLE THING.

HE MENTIONED THAT THEY WERE CLOSED AT KLIF BUT THAT HE WAS SURE HE COULD GET IN WITH THE SANDWICHES. RUBY MENTIONED THAT HIS CLUB, CAROUSEL, WAS CLOSED FOR THREE NIGHTS, BEGINNING THAT NIGHT. WHEN ASKED WHY, HE STATED THERE WERE OTHER THINGS IMPORTANT BESIDES MONEY. HE MADE PHONE CALL AND WAS OVERHEARD TO SAY SOMETHING TO THE EFFECT THAT HE WOULD TRY TO QUOTE SLIP BACK UNQUOTE TO THE CLUB LATER.

HE WAS WEARING SOFT GRAY FELT HAT WHICH HE ALWAYS WEARS. TOTAL BILL WAS NINE DOLLARS FIFTY CENTS PLUS AND HE PAID FOR IT WITH A TWENTY DOLLAR BILL. HE GAVE THE COUNTERMAN WHO PREPARED SANDWICHES A BUSINESS CARD WHICH HE STATED WOULD ENTITLE HIM TO FREE ADMISSION EITHER AT THE CUB VEGAS OR THE CAROUSEL. HE DID NOT ORDER ANYTHING FOR HIMSELF AT THE DELICATESSEN. THE COUNTERMAN CARRIED THE SANDWICHES OUT AND PUT THEM IN A FOUR-DOOR WHITE AUTOMOBILE.


We hear quite a bit about this Oldsmobile in Clewell's poem, and the dogs he left in it, which is why we are doing a dog and car wash in August as part of our Year of Ruby.
Clewell gives us Jack Ruby as a Jewish man, as what we might call a tough Jew, in a tough business: He owned a burlesque club in Dallas, of all places, in the 1950s and early 60s. The FBI took a look into this burlesque club business of Jack’s, as you might expect.

Also on December 1, 1963, which seemed to have been a busy day for the FBI in more than one field office, two agents caught up with one Robert McEwan at a Club Galazie in Newport, Kentucky, where McEwan must have been working that night. McEwan is referred to somewhat unfortunately by the agents as a “song and dance man” who worked under the stage name Bobby O-Day. At the time, McEwan was living out of a hotel in Cincinnati, but using a cousin in Michigan for his permanent address, which sort of suggests the kind of seedy circuit Ruby’s Carousel club was on.

Over the Christmas holidays of 1962-1963, McEwan did a stand at the Carousel Club. It amounted to a little less than a month. The agents record that McEwan “saw Ruby daily during that period but did not become particularly friendly with Ruby,” which gives us a nice, inside look at how Ruby handled his male talent. We learn from McEwan that Ruby was proud of his people and defended their honor. We also learn that Jack could get a little rowdy at the New Year’s Eve motel party, if there were fireworks at the party. I’ll read from this report, which I’d like to think of under the title: “My people have suffered enough”.


DURING THE PERIOD OF ONE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS, NINETEEN SIXTY TWO UNTIL TWO WEEKS IN JANUARY, NINETEEN SIXTYTHREE, MC EWAN APPEARED AS AN ENTERTAINER AT THE CAROUSEL NIGHT CLUB, DALLAS, TEXAS. HE THEN BECAME ACQUAINTED WITH JACK RUBY WHO MANAGED THE CLUB AND SAW RUBY DAILY DURING THAT PERIOD BUT DID NOT BECOME PARTICULARLY FRIENDLY WITH RUBY. RUBY LIVED IN A SINGLE ROOM BEHIND THE CLUB IN WHICH ROOM HE KEPT TWO DOGS. THE ROOM HAVING A VERY UNTIDY APPEARANCE.

MC EWAN-S ACT WENT WELL AT THE CAROUSEL FOR ABOUT ONE AND ONE HALF WEEKS AT THIS TIME MC EWAN TOLD TWO OR THREE JOKES WHICH HE CHARACTERIZES AS QUOTE INOFFENSIVE END QUOTE RELATIVE TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE. RUBY CONFRONTED MC EWAN IMMEDIATELY UPON TERMINATION OF MC EWAN-S ACT. RUBY WAS EXCITED AND TOOK OFFENSE AT THE JOKES SAYING QUOTE MY PEOPLE HAVE SUFFERED ENOUGH UNQUOTE. MC EWAN HAD BEEN TELLING JOKES REFERRING TO OTHER NATIONALITIES AND RACIAL GROUPS TO WHICH RUBY HAD TAKEN NO EXCEPTION. MC EWAN SAID RUBY WAS EASILY EXCITED AND SEEMED TO HIM TO BE ERRATIC AND NERVOUS.

ON NEW YEARS EVE NINETEEN SIXTY TWO DASH SIXTY THREE, MC EWAN RECALLS HE WAS AT A NEW YEARS EVE PARTY AT A MOTEL, NAME NOT NOW RECALLABLE, WHERE HE AND OTHER ENTERTAINERS WERE STAYING IN DALLAS. RUBY WAS ALSO THERE. HE RECALLS RUBY THROWING FIRE CRACKERS AND QUOTE CHERRY BOMBS UNQUOTE FIREWORKS IN THE SWIMMING POOL, BUT THIS ACTIVITY WAS NOT OUT OF KEEPING WITH THE GENERAL ACTIVITIES OF THOSE AT THE PARTY.

I’d like to end with a St. Louis connection. This report from the Ruby FBI file shows Ruby in a very human light. It suggests why Clewell’s research led him ultimately to portray Jack Ruby as a sympathetic character, which is unexpected for an assassin who criminally brought to an abrupt and violent end perhaps the most important investigation in modern American history: the investigation into who killed John F. Kennedy, and if it was indeed Lee Harvey Oswald, why did he do it and did he have any help.

This report was made on November 25th, 1963 just a few days after Kennedy was killed – and the day after Ruby shot Oswald dead on live TV. Special Agent Thomas H. Bresson paid a visit on that date to one Robert Kirkwood, then living at 1277 Bryden Road in Columbus, Ohio. Kirkwood, who could neither read nor write, asked for the FBI interview. When we hear the report on that interview from the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI field office in Cincinatti, I think we get a sense for why Kirkwood wanted to testify. He doesn’t have the goods on Ruby, doesn’t really even have any dirt. He is volunteering as a character witness, in effect. And his story starts right here in St. Louis:


KIRKWOOD EXPLAINED HE LEFT HOME ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, IN NINETEEN FIFTYNINE, HITCHHIKED TO VENICE, TEXAS TO VISIT GIRL. KIRKWOOD ARRIVED IN DALLAS SEVERAL DAYS LATER WITHOUT FUNDS AND STAYED AT YMCA WHERE HE MET JACK RUBY IN THE WEIGHT-LIFTING ROOM. RUBY LEARNED KIRKWOOD WAS WITHOUT FUNDS AND GAVE HIM A JOB AS CLEANING MAN AT THE VEGAS CLUB, DALLAS, AND FURNISHED HIM ROOM AT HIS RESIDENCE. KIRKWOOD STATED THERE WERE THREE BEDROOMS AT THIS RESIDENCE, LOCATION NOT RECALLED, RUBY SLEEPING IN ONE BEDROOM, KIRKWOOD ANOTHER AND AN UNIDENTIFIED MAN IN THE THIRD ROOM. KIRKWOOD STATED HE NEVER MET THIRD INDIVIDUAL AND COULD NOT RECALL HIS NAME.

KIRKWOOD DID NOT KNOW ANY ASSOCIATES OF RUBY, OTHER THAN EMPLOYEES WHOSE NAMES HE COULD NOT RECALL WHO WORKED AT THE VEGAS CLUB. HE DESCRIBED RUBY AS A NICE PERSON WITH A VERY HOT TEMPER. HE NEVER HEARD RUBY ENGAGE IN POLITICAL DISCUSSION AND DESCRIBED HIM AS A LOYAL AMERICAN.

 

2 comments:

Tony Renner said...

can't read this new, larger, typeface.... go back, sir, go back....

Confluence City said...

The new template on blogger unfortunately reads and transfers formatting from Word when you cut and paste. Very distracting.