Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A JFK Paper Trail

From early 1993 to late 1997, I worked as a street vendor in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas where President John Fitzgerald Kennedy got his brains blown out. Today is November 22, 2006. This is the 43rd anniversary of that tragic event. Today I am posting an article from The Dallas Morning News. This article is about the street vendors that work in Dealey Plaza.

Since I worked there myself for years, I now add a couple of supplements to the article:
1) Bob Goodman’s real name is Casey Jack Thornburg. He is a pathological liar.
2) The one who refused to give his name is Ronald Dee Rice. He too is a pathological liar; so much so that Ron makes Bob look like an angel.
3) Greg Jaynes is a cunt-farted asshole.
4) Bob Groden is a back stabbing bitch.
5) “James” who wants his last name withheld shall have his wish granted even though I know it.
6) The storm drain in the picture did not have a view of Kennedy until after the fatal head-shot.
7) No license or permit is required to vend in Dealey Plaza. This is because Dealey Plaza is a city park. The Dallas City Ordinates state in Section 50-150:
…The director may not issue a license to authorize the sale or distribution of services or goods on:
(1) property under the control of the park and recreation board;

This is re-enforced by Section 50-156 which states :
(b) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the person selling, distributing, or offering for sale services or goods:
(8) is selling, distributing, or offering for sale only printed matter that is not commercial printed matter, including, but not limited to, newspapers and magazines, and the selling, distributing, or offering for sale is not being conducted from machines or other structures that occupy public property;
So now: A JFK Paper Trail
At Dealey Plaza, sellers turn assassination rags into niches.
11:55 PM CST on Tuesday, November 21, 2006
By DAVID FLICK / The Dallas Morning News

At the scene of one of the nation's most famous crimes, suspicion reigns.

"It's a sort of no-man's land, and no one's in charge out here. We keep a watch on each other," said Bob Goodman, who sells assassination-related newspapers at Dealey Plaza. "There are certain unwritten rules, and there's a sort of self-policing."

Mr. Goodman is the most veteran of a handful of regulars who work Dealey Plaza daily, rain or shine, in August or January. His paper, JFK Views – The True Story, explores the possibilities of a conspiracy in the death of President John F. Kennedy, who was shot as his motorcade passed through the plaza 43 years ago Wednesday.

Sometimes, Mr. Goodman has few competitors. Sometimes, there are more than a dozen.
Each is an independent operator who purchases copies of the publications from a distributor and then sells them for a profit.

Operating on the edge of legality and official tolerance, each seller considers the others colleagues whom he knows by name and chats with during slow hours. But each is also a rival, whose misconduct could potentially make life harder for everyone.

According to the unwritten rules, Mr. Goodman said, you don't bad-mouth other sellers, you don't cut in when another seller is approaching a tourist, you don't wear advertising and you don't show up drunk.

Mr. Goodman is also a distributor, who can enforce the rules by refusing to sell newspapers to the offender. Most sellers can only use peer pressure.
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With 15 years, Bob Goodman (center) is the most veteran among assassination-related newspaper sellers at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Most sellers don't have a vendor's license, so they sell papers for "donations."

With 15 years, Bob Goodman (center) is the most veteran among assassination-related newspaper sellers at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Most sellers don't have a vendor's license, so they sell papers for "donations."

There are also written rules, the city ordinances: The sellers must stick to the public sidewalks and cannot offer to conduct tours for money, which would constitute illegal solicitation. Many sellers sidestep the latter rule by accepting tips at the end of an ostensibly free tour.

Taking 'donations'

By law, they can't sell their newspapers without a vendor's license, which few, if any, have. So the money paid by tourists is a "donation," not a purchase. But the difference between the two is thin and virtually impossible to enforce.

"Quite frankly, we'd have to be there to hear the transaction," said Lt. Midge Boyle, watch commander of the Dallas Police Department's Central Business District office.

Police try to keep order by frequent visits to the area. Most sellers would know better than to move off the sidewalk or to name a price when a police officer is near, Lt. Boyle said.

"These guys know the rules, and they know how not to get caught," she said.

Lt. Boyle said police seldom receive complaints from tourists about the sellers' behavior. Most of the complaints, she said, come from other sellers.

Some are people with regular employment, looking to make more money or to tide them over until they get a better job. A significant number, perhaps half, are homeless. Some are college students on a summer lark. Some say they sell the papers because they are still fascinated by the JFK saga.

All believe that the truth is still out there.

"I think the mob shot him," said Sherman Hopkins, a former ironworker who sells copies of JFK Views – The True Story. "The Kennedys always tried to dismiss the mob, and so the Mafia got him."

George Thompson, who has been selling the assassination newspapers since losing a job a few months ago at Quiznos, thinks Kennedy's death had more to do with foreign policy.

"He made a lot of people unhappy. He was involved in Cuba," Mr. Thompson said.

Almost none of the sellers said they believed the Warren Commission conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or that the president and Texas Gov. John Connally, seated in front of Kennedy in the limousine, were shot with a single bullet from Oswald's gun.

Another theory

One seller, who asked that his name be withheld, said he suspects – in order – the directors of the CIA and the FBI, the head of the New Orleans mafia, a Dallas billionaire and a president of the United States.

"I think Allen Dulles picked Dallas to be the target city, J. Edgar Hoover picked Oswald to be the fall guy, Carlos Marcello hired the real gunman, H.L. Hunt financed it, and LBJ covered the whole thing up," he said. "The reason was the Vietnam War."

Veteran sellers, however, said it can hurt business to let personal conspiracy theories get in the way of a sale.
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Proving that conspiracy still intrigues, Mike Jones (left) gave Dan Merchant an impromptu tour in Dealey Plaza, explaining some of the theories behind the JFK assassination, including one about a shooter firing from a nearby storm drain.
Proving that conspiracy still intrigues, Mike Jones (left) gave Dan Merchant an impromptu tour in Dealey Plaza, explaining some of the theories behind the JFK assassination, including one about a shooter firing from a nearby storm drain.

"You don't want to push your own ideas too hard," said James, who has worked the plaza for 13 years and declined to give his last name. "Everybody's got their own theory on what happened. You don't want to anger a potential customer."

He also declined to discuss his own theories, other than noting that the driver of the presidential limousine, Bill Greer, behaved strangely in the moments during and after the gunfire.

"It was odd that he didn't speed up when he heard the first shots; and if you look at the pictures, he's looking back at the president," Mr. Greer said.

Many sellers refused to be interviewed. In one case, a seller turned and ran away when a reporter approached.

Few would discuss their reasons for declining to talk, although many hinted at a distrust of the city's traditional institutions – a definition that takes in The Dallas Morning News, its parent company, Belo Corp., and The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, a private institution that is considered the city's unofficial official JFK museum.

One seller declined an interview by explaining, "Anything you write is going to have to be approved by Belo, and before they approve it, they're going to send it down The Sixth Floor Museum to see it first."

(For the record, neither happened).

Some sellers said they feel looked down upon by the city's mainstream institutions.

That feeling may not be paranoia. For years, some officials have complained in private that the sellers lend a tacky, carnival atmosphere to a solemn historic site, that some of the sellers are overly aggressive and that others pass off as fact stories that even most conspiracy theorists dismiss as absurd.

But few people in an official capacity would go on the record.

A spokeswoman for the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau said she knew of no comments from tourists – either positive or negative – about the vendors. A spokeswoman for DowntownDallas, the private organization promoting the Central Business District, declined to comment, noting that Dealey Plaza, because it is on the west side of Houston Street, is technically outside downtown.

Deborah Marine, a spokeswoman for The Sixth Floor Museum, declined to comment.

"They're over there, and we're over here, and that's really all I can say," she said.
The sellers, in their defense, said they provide benefits to the city.

Their presence on a sometimes-deserted plaza deters crime, they said. Some said they often protect tourists even more directly, by warning them out of the way of Elm Street traffic. Others said there is an economic benefit – noting that some homeless people have made enough money by selling the newspapers to move from shelters into apartments.

Most of all, the sellers said, they provide a needed service.

"People come here from other states and other countries and there's nobody to show them anything. People get here and they don't know what they're looking for," said Ken M. Holmes Jr., who organizes professional JFK tours.

Mr. Holmes also sells bundles of the JFK Assassination Historical Journal at $1.25 a copy to the street sellers. The sellers typically charge the tourists $5 a copy and keep the profit.

Movie spurs industry

Though assassination-related fliers and newspapers have been hawked on the plaza since the 1960s, the 1991 Oliver Stone movie JFK seemed to turn the practice into a local cottage industry.

Among the first of the new breed was Mr. Goodman, who said he has been selling assassination newspapers off and on for 15 years. One of the biggest benefits of the job, he said, is that he enjoys meeting tourists.

And those tourists sometimes carry famous names.

Mr. Goodman said he once saw former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev on Dealey Plaza. Another time, he said, he talked briefly to Mr. Connally, since deceased.

"I went up to him, and I said, 'Is there anything you can tell me that would help me figure out what happened here?' And he said, 'The bullet that hit Kennedy was not the bullet that hit me,' " Mr. Goodman recalled.

Virtually alone among the vendors, Mr. Goodman insists that he believes the conclusions of the Warren Commission were basically correct (a fellow vendor, overhearing the conversation, burst out laughing at the comment).

Still, Mr. Goodman said, not everything adds up.

"Did you know Abraham Zapruder was born in Russia?" he said, referring to the Dallas dress merchant who famously captured the assassination on film.

"The only guy who happens to be standing at the exact spot where he can get a perfect picture of the shooting – and he was born in Russia. Now what do you think that means?

"I think it's strange."



Although the assassination-related papers being sold at Dealey Plaza change constantly, these are the three that currently predominate.

J.F.K. Assassination
Historical Journal

Author: Greg Jaynes, independent JFK researcher
Description: full-color cover, newsprint, 24 pages
Content: Large photos of assassination figures and events; reprints of police statements by witnesses.
Who did it? "There are so many theories and versions of theories that it would require a complete book about nothing else to describe them all."
Isn't it interesting that ... : "A test in 1997 proved that a shooter firing from the storm drain near the foot of the steps leading up to the grassy knoll could have escaped by crawling through the drain pipe."

JFK Views – The True Story
Author: Bob Goodman, vendor, distributor
Description: black and white, newsprint, 16 pages
Content: Large photos of assassination scenes and events; quotes from the Warren Commission reports.
Who did it? "The [Warren] Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone murdered President Kennedy and also wounded Gov. John B. Connally of Texas."
Isn't it interesting that ... : "One of the first police radio responses was to get someone up on the triple underpass and to check out the rail yards."

JFK: The Case for Conspiracy
Author: Robert J. Groden, consultant to the House Select Committee on Assassinations
Description: full color, glossy, 48 pages
Content: Detailed analysis of events and subsequent investigations; graphic autopsy photos.
Who did it? "There is one theory that stands out from all the rest as perhaps the most plausible: From the beginning, the assassination had the earmarks of an intelligence and/or military operation."
Isn't it interesting that ... : "Since November of 1963, there have been more than 400 deaths of witnesses ... Many questionable deaths were never investigated. Deaths that screamed for autopsies were left unexamined."


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