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Dallas History

New Film Footage of Jack Ruby Surfaces

In WFAA's archives, b-roll from a holiday parade in 1960 captures a rare candid moment of the nightlife kingpin and Oswald killer
By Peter Simek |

In the huge cache off WFAA archive footage that was recently donated to Southern Methodist University’s G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, a few incredible seconds from a holiday parade in 1960 capture Jack Ruby combing his hair and fixing his hat, while a friend ogles over what is, presumably, a fancy new “spy” camera.

It is an innocuous, forgettable little moment, but one that feels extraordinary given the rarity of film footage from the time that features figures who loomed large in the story of the JFK Assassination.

The clip was posted online Jeremy Spracklen, the collection’s curator, who continues to release segments taken from the WFAA archive of footage shot in Dallas between 1960 and 1978. When commenter Burt Harris watched the 1:22 minute clip, he spotted Ruby at the tail end.

Flashback Dallas’s Paula Bosse takes it from there, posting some slowed-down footage that focuses-in on Ruby and adding context:

According to coverage of the event in the Dallas Times Herald (“Mile of Dimes Parade Lures Great and Small,” Nov. 27, 1960), the parade was the “Mile of Dimes” parade sponsored by the Dallas Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Salvation Army. It took place on Saturday, Nov. 26, 1960. In addition to the parade, there was a “show” staged on Elm and Ervay which had bands performing on the back of a flatbed truck. Two of the acts performing that day were the Joe Johnson combo and singer Jewel Brown — both of whom were mainstays in Ruby’s clubs: at the time of the parade, Johnson’s band was booked into a long run at the Vegas Club/Club Vegas in Oak Lawn, and Brown was appearing seven nights a week (!) at the Sovereign Club on Commerce Street (which Ruby would later rename “the Carousel Club” around March, 1961). So that explains why he was there, nonchalantly combing his hair on the street as his “employees” perform in front of him.

Footage of the musical performers begins at the 1:00 mark in the longer clip. Houston-born Jewel Brown can be seen at 1:07. She was pretty much a smash in Dallas, getting loads of good press; she later hit it big appearing with Louis Armstrong in Las Vegas — you can watch a fantastic clip of her singing here. Read a March, 1967 interview with her in which she discusses her working relationship with Ruby here.

The clip shows Ruby standing with a friend, who some careful viewers believe is George Senator, Ruby’s then-roommate. Bosse believes Senator is holding a Minox “spy” camera, a very small and expensive new product that was being advertised at the time in the Dallas Morning News and sold in a number of local stores. Based on Senator’s expression, it appears that Ruby is showing off the little gadget. And so, in a few seconds of film, a story rises to the surface: Ruby strolls down to Elm Street to watch his performers play on the back of a flatbed truck as part of a holiday parade. He meets up with his roommate, and Ruby shows off his newest little toy. I love the nonchalance captured in the clip, Ruby clearly proud of the gadget and his behind-the-scenes roll in the well-attended spectacle, but not showing it in his face. He combs his slick back hair and fidgets with his hat. The big man, always in control. The extra irony, given the history of conspiracy surrounding the assassination, is that his toy is a “spy” camera.

Here’s the clip:

[d-embed]wfaa_1960_12_25_Palace from Jeremy Spracklen on Vimeo.



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