In a second-floor room of the Hotel Lawrence, which stands in the shadow of Dealey Plaza and the former Texas School Book Depository, they gathered last weekend to buy their books and espouse their theories. Poring over a table of books laid out by Andy Winiarczyk--whose Last Hurrah Bookshop in Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, specializes in thick tomes and hand-stapled pamphlets devoted to all things dead Kennedy--they spoke of the two Lee Harvey Oswalds, of altered Zapruder films, of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of Cuban connections and mob ties. "You know who really killed Kennedy?" offered one shopper, among the dozens in Dallas last week to attend the Committee for an Open Archives conference, one of two JFK assassination-related panels taking place on and around November 22. "The Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, which makes a fortune off people coming to see where Kennedy was executed," was his reply, as logical as any other theory offered during the confab of archivists and researchers who arrive here faster than a single bullet every time their so-called Holy Week rolls around.
The COPA convention was a skull fragment of the Kennedy panels that took place a decade ago; there was no one as familiar or famous as Norman Mailer, who spoke in 1993 at the Assassination Symposium on John F. Kennedy (ASK), no Beverly Oliver-Massagee (The Babushka Lady), no trade show where sniper know-it-alls offered passers-by the chance to test out a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle like the one Oswald used. (Sorry--the rifle the alleged Oswald allegedly used, according to the 26 volumes of damned lies known as the Warren Omission Report. My mistake. Don't shoot, heh heh.) There were, instead, about 100 people--middle-aged men in tweed jackets and college-prof beards, fathers and sons (and one daughter), curious couples--gathered in the jury room at the George Allen courts building, where speakers discoursed on such subjects as acoustical evidence proving the existence of a fifth shot and the alteration of the infamous Zapruder film. The latter discussion was a bit frustrating as the video projector didn't work. Goddamn that Castro!
Over the last decade, interest in the Kennedy killing has dwindled for numerous reasons: After September 11, 2001, many theorists have turned their attention to conspiracies involving what the FBI and CIA knew about the terrorists and why they failed to act, and, Winiarczyk says, "when it became 2000, the crime of the century turned into the crime of last century." That doesn't stop the theorists from theorizing, though no one was able to answer my very straightforward question: C'mon, already, who killed JFK? "You get four of us in a room, you'll get five theories," Winiarczyk said. Nice shot, my friend. --Robert Wilonsky
"As a Dallas native, I never have quite figured out why conventioneers want to come to this city," wrote Dallas Morning News staffer Henry Tatum in a recent column about the city's Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Well, if you ignore the forest of signs advertising "live nude girls"--and thanks, by the way, to all the strip-club owners for making it clear we're not talking about dead nude girls--Tatum has a point. What is it that draws conventioneers to Dallas?
Nearly 25 years ago, Saturday Night Live served up a sketch about the Sodom Chamber of Commerce trying to revamp its image for the tourist trade. Traditionalists on the chamber urged that the city remember its roots: When you think Sodom, you think sodomy. It's what put the town on the map. Stay with the tried and true.
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Full Frontal thinks that's good advice as the city and county discuss plans to dress up downtown. (See Jim Schutze's column.) So the county wants to renovate the plaza outside the old red courthouse and Records Building, including moving--or rather, hiding--the Kennedy memorial? Good plan. People who want a dose of Kennedy can go to Arlington National Cemetery or Massachusetts.
This is the Land of Lee, Oliver Stone's favorite film location, Mecca to the conspiracy-minded--the city of hate, dang it. Theme parks tend to do well here, too, so why not combine the two and turn the county plaza into a real tourist draw, Dallas' answer to sodomy for Sodomites: the Land of Os, a veritable Three (or Five) Shots Over Dealey. It'll make your head explode with fun.
Throw in a few live nude girls and a Dallas Cowboys souvenir shop, and the conventioneers will beat a path to our door.