by Paula Bosse
The WFAA Telefilm Collection — part of the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, housed at the Hamon Library at Southern Methodist University — is an incredible assemblage of film footage shot by WFAA cameramen, a significant portion of which was never included in Channel 8’s televised news stories; a lot of it is silent, filmed mostly as B-roll material. It’s a fascinating historical treasure trove of local and national (and international) events filmed between 1960 and 1978. Jeremy Spracklen — the collection’s Moving Image Curator — and his assistant, Scott Martin, regularly post entertaining short clips from this vast resource to social media.
Which brings us to the clip posted yesterday — Dec. 6, 2017 — which featured footage of a 1960 parade held in downtown Dallas at Christmastime, with shots of festively decorated Main Street and Elm Street, including nice views of the old Palace Theater. Watch it here on Vimeo.
The clip was posted last night on the Jones Collection’s Facebook page — before I watched it, I read the comment by Bert Harris: “Did you notice Jack Ruby combing his hair right toward the end of the clip?? Wild!!“
Yes, at the very end of the short clip you see Jack Ruby (!) standing in a crowd of people in front of the W. A. Green department store combing his hair and adjusting his famous fedora. It’s very short, but it’s unmistakably Jack Ruby. You never know who’s going to pop up in these snippets of everyday life in Dallas, captured decades ago by WFAA cameramen! So now SMU has a few frames of what has just become historic film footage — footage which has probably been unseen for 57 years — there’s a good chance this never even aired and was merely B-roll footage. I never imagined it would be an exciting event to watch Jack Ruby comb his hair.
I contacted curator Jeremy Spracklen at SMU, and he was pretty excited about the discovery. He even cut a brand new clip this afternoon, isolating the Ruby footage and slowing it down considerably. It’s COOL. Here it is:
Below are some screen captures. I’ve had to lighten them a bit — click pictures to see larger images. Ruby and a friend are in the center of the first frames, then as the clip ends, he’s in the lower left corner.
Who is the guy with Ruby, and what is he holding in his hand? UPDATE: My first thought was that it might be Ruby’s roommate George Senator (from all accounts a good-natured guy who was perpetually out of work and out of cash — Ruby often helped him out, including inviting him to stay for a while at his apartment in early 1962). I didn’t really think he looked like the scarce few photos of him I’d found, but others in the comments below seem to think it might be him. He’s holding a Minox “spy” camera, which was an expensive tiny camera which had been sold for years in several stores in Dallas (and which was offered used in classified ads in The News in 1960 for $75 — about $125 today). By the man’s look of utter fascination with it, it appears that it probably belonged to Ruby. The man can be seen looking through it in the longer clip at the :50 mark. (See one of the first Minox ads found in a Dallas paper — sold by Linz Jewelers in 1951 — here, and in the year of this footage, in 1960, in a Neiman-Marcus ad, here, priced at $139.50, about $1,200 today.)
Sources & Notes
The clip is compiled from WFAA news footage shot on November 26, 1960; it is from the WFAA Newsfilm Collection, held at the Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University. The original clip (1:22) showing a holiday parade in downtown Dallas can be watched on Vimeo here; the slowed-down clip showing only the Jack Ruby footage can be watched on Vimeo here.
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.
Ruby was standing outside the W. A. Green department store at 1616 Elm Street, which was next door to the Wilson Building; the Palace Theater was directly across the street.
In addition to the musical performers mentioned above, other celebrities appearing in the parade footage that day were actresses/sexpots Sheree North and Lynne Forrester, who were appearing in Clare Boothe Luce’s play “The Women” at Casa Manana (:34), and orchestra leader Freddy Martin, who was appearing at the Statler’s Empire Room (:45). According to the Times Herald article, one celeb who was also there that day was recent Olympian Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali), fresh from his gold-medal performance at the Olympics. Though wearing his U.S. Olympic team jacket, the 18-year-old future-legend somehow went unnoticed in the crowd who were apparently quite wrapped up in the musical offerings that day.
Here is a photo of George Senator, possibly the man standing next to Ruby. This photo was taken on Nov. 24, 1963 at the Dallas Police Station; it is from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, UTA — more info is here (I have cropped and flipped this detail). Another photo of Senator from the same night can be seen on the Portal to Texas History, here.
And these two Associated Press photos were taken on March 9, 1964, showing Senator at the Jack Ruby trial.
I’ve mentioned the WFAA Newsfilm Collection several times — it is an amazing collection of WFAA-Channel 8’s archival news footage, out-takes, and B-roll material. Curator Jeremy Spracklen has been uploading bite-size segments to Twitter and Facebook — it’s a lot of cool stuff you’re probably not going to be able to find anywhere else. They’re very entertaining. Follow them on social media!
All images are larger when clicked.
Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.