Oliver Stone's JFK
Through the Looking Glass:
In the early 1970s, Beverly Oliver came forward to claim she was the "Babushka Lady" -- the woman seen in numerous films and photographs of the assassination, apparently filming the motorcade. Since that time she has made many other claims related to not only the John F. Kennedy assassination, but the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., as well. While some researchers accept her story, many remain skeptical.
Blink and you'll miss her . . .
From Nightmare in Dallas,
by Beverly Oliver with Coke Buchanan:
"Do you know who Oliver Stone is?" asked Gary Shaw when he telephoned her.
"No," Beverly said, without a second thought.
"Have you seen Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Talk Radio or Wall Street?" Surely, he thought, she has heard of his movies.
"No. I don't go to movies." Beverly was only being honest. Going to the movies was not a luxury; it just didn't happen unless it was something special for Pebbles. Any movies showing on television took a back seat to the news and weather or the Cowboys. The TV was usually tuned to CNN for background noise and weather flashes. During tornado season she always kept an ear out for those ominous little beeps alerting people to severe conditions.
For a moment, Gary thought he would be swimming upstream in trying to convince Beverly to be agreeable about meeting with Stone. The ghost of George always haunted Beverly when the subject to the assassination came up. She was very guarded about speaking with people. With the exception of Nigel [Turner]'s film [The Men Who Killed Kennedy], she had always shunned publicity. She was afraid of it. Her silence and anonymity the past twenty-seven years kept her alive, she insisted. Gary understood her reluctance and was hesitant in proceeding further.
"He's filming a movie about John F. Kennedy and I just thought you might be interested in meeting with him, he's going to be in Dallas this week "
"Well, Gary; let me think about it," Beverly replied, not knowing what to do. She had recently learned that Nigel Turner was trying to swing a deal to air The Men Who Killed Kennedy in the States. This was contrary to what he had told her, but it was something that was probably inevitable. She did not like the idea of losing her privacy; but was beginning to feel that the truth was bigger than she was. As her friend advised, it was important to become visible, but Oliver Stone visible?
Beverly let the idea float around for a few days, mulling over how public she wanted to be. She was happy and secure living reclusively in Ranger and did not want to be hampered by obscene or threatening phone calls. Beverly had become a serious and popular evangelist with her husband Charles. She was knee-deep in rabbits, and was struggling with her Lupus. What were the risks? Whatever happened to Jada?
Finally, Beverly decided to commit to meeting with Stone and take it from there. Who knows? Perhaps the opportunity would be refreshing, but more importantly; she felt that if someone of Oliver Stone's stature had committed his talents to publicly expose the truth, she would do what she could. She wondered how the American version would be different from the British one. Beverly called Gary to arrange everything, and then started to plan what she should wear.
Charles and Beverly drove to Dallas and met Gary and his wife Karen for dinner at the West End. Afterwards, they walked over to the JFK Assassination Information Center in the Marketplace. Beverly was dressed in a black skirt, black satin shell, fuchsia blazer, and four-inch spike high heels adorned with a big pink bow. Black looked good on Beverly with her light-golden blond hair.
Walking toward the Center they passed a man dressed in a sleek black leather jacket, black pants, and sporting a bright red shirt. Beverly did a double-take as she passed him, only to find him looking back at her.
Gary introduced the Massegees [Beverly Oliver's married name is Massegee] to his partner and co-director at the Center, Larry Howard, his wife, Daryl, and Larry Ray Harris, the Center's Director of Research. For some reason, Larry looked familiar to Beverly.
Both Beverly and Charles were glad to learn that the assassination had become so public. Books were one thing, but an exhibit and bookstore dedicated to November 22, was something else. They were glad people like Gary and the two Larrys were dedicated to pursuing the truth behind the President's murder, but wondered why they had selected a mall like the West End Marketplace of all places. It was later explained to them about the difficulties they had trying to fmd anyone who would rent to them. Someone was still pulling strings.
The center was filled with photographs: Jack Ruby, Lee Oswald, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy. It was difficult, but Beverly was able to block it all out. She still didn't want to face her memories of the event -- not yet anyway. Larry Harris was thrilled to meet Beverly; her historical status had preceded her. He had a "million" questions, but understood they should wait until the proper time. Beverly took a rain check on his invitation for a tour through the JFK exhibit. So they left to go meet the director.
The Stoneleigh Hotel's charm lies in part to its location in the breezeway of Turtle Creek, close to Downtown, but far from its hustle and bustle. Many new old timers who frequented Dallas thought the Stoneleigh was a well-kept secret. And thanks to the Mansion on Turtle Creek and The Crescent Court Hotel, who filtered off many of the Stoneleigh's original guests, there was usually always room.
It was late January, but still standing inside the hotel, trimmed in dusty mauve and custard-cream ornaments, twinkling all the way from the elegantly-carpeted floor to the high ceiling, was a towering Christmas tree. Just the right touch, Beverly thought, for meeting new friends.
Everyone ventured into the bar. At a table tucked in the far right corner of the room was Oliver Stone, Alex Ho, Jeff Flach, Joe Reidy and a few others.
Beverly noticed that Stone was wearing a bright red shirt, a sleek black leather jacket, and the same boyish grin she saw when he passed by her at the Marketplace earlier. Gary introduced Beverly to everyone, but it was Stone who spoke up. Raising his eyebrows in curious salutation he asked, "Have you seen any of my movies?"
"No, have you seen any of mine?" Beverly quipped in her odd sense of humor. Only Beverly knew she was serious.
Stone "broke up." He didn't quite get it.
Beverly couldn't put her finger on it, but she instantly admired Stone and they enjoyed immediate rapport. During the course of conversation, she felt like they had been friends forever. Influenced by Stone's kindred spirit and his sensitivity to everything she said, Beverly trusted him immediately and would have done anything to help with his movie.
The next day Beverly made up her mind that she was going full speed ahead with Stone's offer. The night before had been inspiring and refreshing. She wanted to become a part of it all. Everyone was so kind and enthused about the project that lay ahead of them. A magical spontaneity flowed through Beverly. It was more than being a part of Hollywood. It was being a part in the remaking of history: However, there was an unusual apprehensiveness that they were treading into an area of history that was still dangerous.
Who is more prepared to portray the "Babushka Lady" than me, Beverly thought. Why not? After all, once an entertainer, always an entertainer. Beverly convinced herself that she should audition for her own part under one of the old aliases, June Massey. It wouldn't hurt. Besides, Beverly could use the money. There was never enough money to keep up with the family's hospital bills.
Chris Nicolou stood about five-feet tall in heels. She was an explosive, spunky, what you see is what you get petite gal, and responsible for directing the casting in Dallas. She received June Massey's request and arranged for her to audition at her studio along with four other girls. When June Massey walked in however, Chris immediately recognized Beverly as the luminary she was, and quickly introduced herself. Beverly was a little disappointed that she couldn't do the reading anonymously.
Looking around the studio, the reality of what Beverly was attempting slapped her in the face, but did not shake her unbending confidence. Under the circumstances, everything went smoothly, considering that Beverly was recovering from pneumonia and wasn't able to perform at her best. Chris did not want Beverly to leave with high expectations, so she mentioned that Mr. Stone might have already hired a "star" to play her in the movie. Beverly felt complimented that her role was important enough to merit that type of status, but curious as to why, and who? If he had already made up his mind to use someone else, then why go to the trouble to have others audition?
Regardless of their intentions, Beverly left a portfolio of her career for Chris to give to Stone. It presented an overview of her talents and accomplishments, and contained a tape recording of her singing. The thought of someone beating Beverly out of playing herself was bizarre. How can someone be more you than yourself? How can someone absorb your life by reading a script and do a better job? When Beverly left she felt that her chances were nil. However, she was going to pursue the part.
Chris called Beverly back to the Stoneleigh to read for Stone and a couple of other people. The hallway on the fourth floor where the readings were taking place was a mad house, crowded with wanna-be's and sure-to-be's. Hopefuls were busy glossing over scripts, mumbling to themselves, fretting, smiling, fuming, crying. People were pacing, walking up and down, up and down, standing up, sitting down, standing up.
Once again the irony of auditioning for a role built about herself was awkward, yet, while Beverly gave it her best, she did not feel the part was hers and knew Stone wasn't going to lead her on. After her reading, Stone was non-committal about her part, but eager to have Beverly on the set. "Would you like to work for me as a Technical Consultant?" he asked. Beverly agreed immediately and assumed that his request meant a "no" to her chance to play Beverly Oliver. Stone walked Beverly down to meet his production manager, Clayton Townsend, and explained to him his desire to hire her as a technical advisor. Mr. Townsend was agreeable and Camelot Productions had the "Babushka Lady" on the payroll.
Soon after the cattle call was over and the initial hysteria left town, Beverly wrote Stone a letter explaining how nervous she was at her audition but how prepared she was to play herself. Stone wrote her back in a short sincere letter explaining that her role had been given to a "star." He convinced her that for realism and authenticity, it would be better if a younger person played her part. He also reminded Beverly that he was just as nervous as she was.
Stone introduced Beverly to Lolita Davidovich who was given the part of playing the Babushka Lady and Beverly couldn't have been more pleased. He asked Beverly to spend a few days filling Lolita in on her life, and how to act like herself. How does one teach someone to be you? "How are you going to make this petite Canadian red head look and sound like a big blond Texan?" Beverly asked with raised eyebrows.
Stone cocked his head, looked Beverly squarely in the eye, and grinned. "That's your job."
Beverly liked Lolita a lot; she was bubbly; easy going, and like two silly teenagers, they sat cross-legged on the bed swapping stories about growing up: little girl stories, big girl stories. Stories with laughter, heartache, pain,joy and horror.
Before filming started, Lolita made a quick trip back to California, and when she returned, she brought Pebbles an entire gift bag full of creative art presents and a copy of her latest movie Blaze. Beverly felt honored that someone spent quality time thinking about what a child with special needs might want. She remembered how excited Jack Ruby became when he bought presents for children he didn't know.
During rehearsal week, two weeks before filming, Stone was standing behind the pergola on the north side of Dealey Plaza and motioned Beverly to join him. Standing next to Stone was an ordinary-looking man who was paying no particular attention to anything, but absorbing everything. He was clean, unshaven, decked in old faded blue jeans, a polo shirt, sunshades, and a gimmie cap. Pasted across his face was a cunning, half smile-half grin.
"Beverly, this is Kevin," Stone said, smiling.
Beverly did a double-take. "As in Costner?"
"Yep, that's me." Kevin said, just like any old redneck from Ranger. Beverly once again felt at home. Costner exhibited a casualness that put her at ease. Beverly wasn't used to meeting so many people outside of revivals, and it was comforting that both Stone and Costner were people she could relate to.
Kevin Costner was playing the lead role in JFK as New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. His success in many recent movies should have made his face familiar. But under the circumstances, Beverly thought he looked just like any old redneck from Ranger, albeit a good-looking redneck. Introducing people to Kevin must have been a "kick" for Stone. Watching and judging people's reactions, especially women. Beverly must have been a "hoot. "
"Beverly, come join us, we're going up to the sixth floor," Stone said, thinking she would be happy to tag along, as everyone took night up the stairs of what once was the Texas School Book Depository. But she wasn't.
"No, I just can't. I feel uncomfortable." Beverly folded her arms in refusal. She had no specific logic for not going -- she simply was not emotionally prepared. Bob Hayes, the Director of the sixth floor Museum, overheard their conversation and walked over. He was introduced to Beverly and invited her personally as his guest, but the look in Beverly's eyes was steadfast. She wasn't going anywhere.
"Listen, I'm sorry Mr. Hayes. I don't feel like going. I haven't even been through the JFK Center exhibit, and they are my friends," she said pointing over to Larry Howard. Beverly took a seat on the porch as everyone scuttled off. It wasn't long, however, before Larry came back and told Beverly that Kevin wanted her to come up. That did it. Beverly really wanted to be included and it was this last invitation that turned the tide.
Beverly followed Larry; taking the elevator to the sixth floor where she was greeted by Kevin who gave her a hug for coming up. Everyone was deeply engrossed in the exhibit as they wound their way through the labyrinth of photo and film presentations, following President Kennedy and his wife and their fateful trip to Dallas that November.
Beverly avoided looking at any of the exhibits, but over her left shoulder, she saw it -- the boxes, arranged in neat stacks as to block the view of anyone accidentally intruding in the middle of an assassination. She saw the window behind it. The cold corner. The hard solid brick. The perch.
Beverly walked over to the window, her eyes fixed on Stone, who was standing by a window looking out over the Plaza . . . the kill zone.
Strangely, Beverly didn't sense any morbid or unusual vibrations near the window. No squeamish thoughts But then again, Beverly never thought the President was shot from there. She had seen it differently. Someone might have been firing from there, but she was convinced that the shooter . . . never mind.
Everyone was still engrossed with the exhibits, trying to get a better sense of the history behind the movie. Why was the President coming to Texas? What was the weather like that day? What was the scene like at Love Field? What route did the motorcade take? What were the initial reactions to the gunfire? How did local law enforcement respond -- Parkland Hospital, The Texas Theatre, Dallas Police Station, Lee Harvey Oswald, one rifle, three bullets? No matter how long everyone stared at the photographs, it was unbelievable that the truth about the assassination was so completely different from how it was portrayed that dark afternoon in Dallas. Beverly had had enough. She turned away from the window and waited reverently by the elevator.
A lot of people wanted to visit the JFK Center to see the other side of the story, the conspiracy and the cover-up, so Beverly's van was commissioned to shuttle them on the three-block excursion. Larry grabbed the keys from Beverly and scooted behind the wheel; Kevin jumped in the front seat. Beverly, Lolita, Kevin's bodyguard, and Roy Hargraves slipped in the back seat along with Ellen McElduff, who played Jean Hill. Hargraves was another technical consultant, hired for his insight into the Cuba crisis.
As they pulled up to the Marketplace, Beverly handed Kevin a Sharpie felt-tip and girlishly asked him to autograph her sun visor. "Larry, take a picture of this because no one is going to believe that Kevin Costner actually signed my visor."
"Everyone get out, cuz I'm going to write something mushy," Kevin demanded humorously.
When Beverly saw that Kevin had written a "letter" on her visor she said, "Kevin, I wanted Oliver Stone to sign that visor, too."
Kevin snickered, "There's a little space there in the corner. It doesn't take much space to write Oliver Stone."
Once upstairs at the Assassination Center, Kevin dragged Beverly reluctantly to the back to see the exhibit, in case he might have any questions she could answer. Beverly had visited Dealey Plaza just three times since 1963. Seeing it again in large blown-up photographs taken that day was sobering. Kevin wanted to know all about it, how she got there, how the crowd reacted, what did she hear, see? And what she was thinking at the exact moment the . . .
Beverly paced her breathing. It was difficult masking her emotions, but she had become good at it. She was excited at being part of something so interesting -- but those pictures.
Kevin walked her away from the assassination photographs and pointed to a picture of gangster Frank Nitty and FBI legend Elliot Ness. "I got to kill that gangster, Nitty," Kevin remarked proudly, referring to his role as Ness in the remaking of The Untouchables. Beverly felt that Kevin was sincerely disgusted with what had happened to America. How organized crime had muscled its way into everything; taking what it wanted, when it wanted it. Was the Kennedy murder the same thing? Kevin was a patriot she thought. God, country and apple pie. Apple pie . . . that's Kevin.
Standing in front of a huge police photo of Jack Ruby in handcuffs and jail whites, Kevin asked what kind of person Ruby was. What was he like? How did he act around her? Around others? What about the time he introduced her to Oswald? Why did he shoot him? What about this Ferrie character? Was she ever scared? What does she think happened to her film?
Beverly gave Kevin a short tutorial about Jack and answered his questions. Beverly thought differently than many people about the "Why" part. She believed that Ruby's mission was to rescue Oswald and whisk him away to Redbird Airport where David Ferrie was waiting. Ruby wasn't expecting the army of reporters he saw in the basement and instead of taking him out of there, he just "took him out."
"Jack had the tip of his right index finger bitten off in a fight, or so he told me," Beverly added. "Someone was trying to convince me that the reason Jack held the gun the way he did, using his middle finger as the trigger finger, was because his entire index finger had been bitten off -- from the knuckle down. Ha! I know why Jack held the gun that way. It was an assassin's grip. His index finger was pointed straight along side the barrel, like the old gunslingers. It was a fast way to point the bullet at whoever you were shooting. I should know, Jack taught me how to fire a gun."
Out of professional courtesy, Beverly kept calling Kevin, "Mr. Costner," which began to drive him nuts.
"Beverly, please. Don't call me Mr. Costner."
"What should I call you -- Kevin?"
"No, I'd rather you call me -- Darling."
Beverly lightened up. Kevin's little strategy worked.
Beverly missed the first day of filming as the cameras broke the silence of history and set the JFK grassfire which is still burning. The first scene filmed was the episode of Lee Bowers in the railroad watchtower back in the parking lot behind the fence. Bowers observed three unauthorized cars cruising the secured parking lot; he saw two men suspiciously pacing back and forth behind the fence right before the motorcade arrived. He saw them step up to the fence; some commotion, a puff of smoke, pandemonium, policemen; he saw three "hobos" get into a train car. Stone, armed with his walkie-talkie, made sure everything and everybody was in place: Bowers, the strange cars, the hobos, the policemen, the witnesses, the shooters. There was an indefinable feeling of anticipation as Stone mentally moved toward the moment that the celluloid would slip through the 70 mm spindles to record the first scene of an epic movie. More than a year's worth of study, planning, writing, rewriting, backfires, roadblocks, progress, was now coming to fruition.
Stone called Larry Howard up to the director's perch in the tower. "Larry, I wanted you to be here and look through the camera as we start to roll this film. We're making history."
Technical Consultant was a big word [sic] for Beverly's responsibility, she thought. She was to make herself available at all times in case Stone or someone needed a quick answer or verification on the accuracy of something. There were no guidelines for her to follow; no persons to report to; no expectations other then to stay close and away from the camera's line of fire.
Dealey Plaza was alive with action, and full of yesterday. The City of Dallas granted Camelot Productions the exclusive use of Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor of the School Book Depository; so everything was vintage 1963. The Texas School Book Depository even bore a 1963 facelift, all except the Hertz sign. The trees lining Elm Street were trimmed to their original height; vintage lamp posts were placed in position; the Stemmons Freeway sign seen in Zapruder's film was reconstructed, everything was all too hauntingly familiar. At the close of her first day watching the production, Beverly became keenly aware that there was no way on earth she could have relived the assassination, playing herself in front of a camera. No way.
Beverly lingered behind the short brick wall in front of the Depository waiting for the motorcade to crank up. She had been readying herself for weeks to be able to watch the scene, repeating to herself that it was only Hollywood. For twenty-some-odd years Beverly avoided the Plaza, taking every way she could around it. But there she was in a realistic remake of her worst nightmare, November 22, 1963.
Suddenly, the sound of the motorcycles roared awake, trumpeting the start of what was going to become the most realistic, comprehensive recreation of the motorcade to ever be staged. Beverly could hear the powerful engines revving-up over on Main Street, waiting for the signal to begin the procession. The loud noise filled the Plaza and everyone within earshot with surreal anticipation. Chris looked over at Beverly. She sensed something was wrong. "Beverly, are you sure you're going to be all right?" Chris asked, affected by the swelling of Beverly's sorrow and again realizing that the pain would always be there for her.
"Sure," Beverly answered bravely, thinking she would be.
When the motorcycles made the 90 degree turn onto Houston Street, Beverly felt queasy. As the caravan moved closer, she could see the waving hands, hear the crowd cheering. She looked up at the sixth floor window of the School Book Depository and saw a rifle barrel; she glanced over toward the picket fence, knowing what was . . . waiting. When the procession made the wide fateful turn onto Elm Street, things worsened -- Beverly bolted for her van. All the heartache, anger, and sadness, knotted in her stomach and churned in a sickening feeling. When the gunshots popped, she lost it. Nothing could have desensitized Beverly; or the other witnesses, for the remaking of the Dealey Plaza scene. Nothing. Henceforth, someone always made sure Beverly was notified before the filming of the head-shot sequence began. She could not bring herself to stand there and watch it. The exploding mechanism employed in the scene was too real, Larry told her. Too real!
After a few days of filming in Dealey Plaza, Beverly finally mustered enough fortitude to leave her secure area behind the short wall and walk back behind the picket fence. She was drawn to the area, not knowing why or what to expect when she walked right smack into the middle of one of her other nightmares. There, dressed in the dark blue uniform of a Dallas Policeman, was Richard Rutowski, playing the assassin behind the fence. He had a rifle. She had the memories.
Oliver Stone was honored by the Film Director's Guild as "Director of the Year" at a special affair in Dallas where they presented a screening of his movie, Born on the Fourth of July. After seeing the movie, a touching story about personal tragedy resulting from the Vietnam war, Beverly knew she made the right decision to accept Stone's request. To Beverly, the movie proclaimed that, not only was Stone successful in maximizing the impact of his subject matter, more importantly, he was sensitive to the anguish suffered through historical tragedy. A lot of questions crossed her mind about the war in Vietnam. History wasn't stagnant; it was perpetual, something to study and learn from. Beverly wasn't trying to be philosophical about her reasoning; she was releasing her pent-up patriotism. Larry Howard had told her Kennedy wanted to pull out of the war and had already initiated a plan of withdrawal. That was one of the reasons he met his fate in Dealey Plaza. When they pulled the trigger on the President, it took the lives of 58,000 men. What a horrible thought.
Afterwards, at a cocktail party at the Adolphus Hotel, Beverly was speaking with Jane Sumner of the Dallas Morning News, bringing her up-to-date on Beverly's flight from the Dallas night club scene. Nearby, Stone was approached by a snide young woman who questioned his dedication to realism. "If you're such a realist," she accused Stone, "Why are you filming the motorcade scene while the trees and grass are still green?"
Stone raised his eyebrows. He knew there was a reason; after all, no one told him to spray the grass brown or remove the leaves. "Beverly." Stone motioned her over. "Why are we filming the Dealey Plaza scene with green trees and green grass?"
"Well, first of all, the trees in Dealey Plaza are live oaks and green all year long. Secondly, that particular November, Dallas had not yet had a frost and the grass was still a bit green. Sometimes we don't get a frost until late December."
Beverly commented further that even though people were wearing all-weather coats that morning, it was not cold; it was windy and it had been raining throughout the morning. Stone was satisfied and glad there was a reason.(1)
Rain was falling lightly in Dealey Plaza while Kevin was filming a scene on the triple railroad overpass that spanned the three streets funneling through Dealey Plaza. In the movie, Jim Garrison was trying to get a feel for the area where Kennedy was shot. He wanted to talk to witnesses and see for himself the proximity of the witnesses to the kill zone. What could they have seen? What was impossible to see? Garrison wanted to see the series of turns the motorcade had to make; how close the limousine was to the School Book Depository and the picket fence area. From the vantage point on the overpass he had an excellent panorama of Dealey Plaza. A visual which he would use over and over as he listened intently to people share their story.
In this scene, Garrison was standing on the overpass with witness Sam Holland, portrayed by James Harrell, and his assistant, Lou Ivon, played by Jay Sanders. Holland remarks in his slow-but-deliberate Texas manner, "I made it very clear to the Warren people that one of those (shots) came from behind the picket fence. I heard the report and saw the smoke come from about six or eight feet above the ground, right out from under those trees. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind. . . ."
While Kevin was busy filming, Beverly, Larry, and Cindy were playing with Lily Costner on the railway tracks behind the shoot. Larry and Beverly got into a discussion about who was behind the fence. Larry told Beverly about how a young man from Midland, Texas who had approached Larry Harris with information that his father had acted on orders from Naval Intelligence to "end a threat to National Security." He asked if the center would help prove that his father "didn't" kill President Kennedy. His father's name was Roscoe White.
Larry pointed to the area where Lee Bowers saw the two men he described and where Ed Hoffman saw someone fire a rifle and afterwards toss it to an accomplice. When police investigated the area, they found evidence that someone had been pacing for quite some time, leaving a pile of cigarette butts. They also found mud on the bumper of a car parked close to the fence as if someone had stepped on it to look over the fence.
Beverly was enthralled with everything Larry was telling her. She had heard bits and pieces about the man from Midland while she was on the set, but still hadn't tried to string it all together.
"Well, what did you find out about the boy's father?" Beverly inquired.
"A lot and not enough." Larry hesitated. It would take the rest of the evening to explain in detail everything about the case he was still working on. "To make a long story short, we know from his father's diary, which his son had read before it was secretly taken by the FBI: that he was in the same US Marine outfit as Oswald; he was classified as an expert marksman; and was supposedly working on orders from Naval Intelligence. There were two other assassins; one named Saul, another named Lebanon -- his code name was Mandarin -- he was employed by the Dallas Police Department, and for a short time his wife worked for Jack Ruby . . ."
It then dawned on Beverly who Larry was talking about. He was talking about Geneva White's husband, Roscoe. Beverly had been approached on a couple of occasions about Roscoe once by Larry Howard and Gary Shaw when she was in the hospital recovering from surgery. She was under medication and vaguely remembered meeting Larry or what she might have said. But the fact of the matter is, she knew Roscoe White only as "Geneva's husband." She did not know Roscoe. Larry's mention of the name Mandarin got Beverly's attention. She told Larry it was a name she had heard used in Jack's club the week all those strange men were in town. She distinctly remembered the word because she thought they were talking about Mandarin Duck, something she almost ordered while dining out with a friend several days before. Beverly wondered why all of a sudden everyone was interested in Mandarin Duck.
Standing near the train tracks with an overview of the area behind the fence, Beverly cringed. She had seen Roscoe near the fence soon after the shots were fired. And, he saw her. Maybe that's why she never heard from the police.
Larry also told her that a young military man standing in front of the fence [alleged eyewitness Gordon Arnold] heard a bullet whiz past his ear. He claimed that a policeman had grabbed a roll of film the young man had taken of the assassination and walked off with it. Beverly remembered the young man from The Men Who Killed Kennedy. [Webmaster's note: Arnold first told his story in 1978; there is no evidence he was in Dealey Plaza at the time of the assassination, and photographs do not show him where he claimed he was standing.] She wondered if he was the man she had seen up by the fence before the shooting and if that's how the FBI might had learned of her film. If Roscoe was in on it, and he knew she had taken a movie film, he could have directed them to her. But then, that implicated the FBI. But that was fair game, because the agent who took the film [Regis Kennedy, according to Oliver] was known to have a questionable relationship with Carlos Marcello. Beverly did what she didn't want to do. She became involved in trying to figure out the entire mess.
Larry told her that they found among Roscoe's possessions a film canister matching the right description, and written on a piece of tape stuck to it was the word [sic] "military man." It was the correct vintage, but when they had it developed, it was spoiled.
Larry wanted to learn what Beverly knew about Roscoe and was sorry that his visit with Beverly in the hospital turned out to be a dead-end. Now, it was beginning to make sense. Beverly's identification of Roscoe by the fence tied up one huge loose end -- he was in the area. Not a block away, not fifty-feet away, but right there.
Lily became bored, so Larry invited Beverly and Cindy to walk over to visit the JFK Center at the West End. Beverly baited the hook by telling Lily about all the arcade games and how much fun she could have.
Lily's eyes lit up, "OK, OK, let's go."
Larry and Cindy took the elevator up to the Center while Beverly and Lily walked down the stairs to "tilt" for some arcade action. A "zillion" quarters later, Beverly was afraid that Cindy might be getting concerned about Lily's being gone so long. After all, Beverly was sure they weren't in the habit of letting her race off with people they hardly knew; so she and Lily started up the stairs.
On the way out of the arcade, Beverly bought Lily a white puppy puppet which Lily named, Lolly-pup. Being an accomplished ventriloquist, Beverly was able to make Lolly-pup come alive for Lily. Lolly-pup "gabbed" all the way up to the third floor. Lily listened intently as Lolly-pup told her all about armadillos. Beverly had a soft spot for little girls, and Lily stole her heart.
The rain had stopped and it was time to go back to the Plaza and check on "Dad." Leaving the Center, Lily was holding tight to Beverly with one hand and to Lolly-pup with the other.
"You are the prettiest movie star I've ever seen." Lily shared with Beverly as she looked upwards to her new friend.
"Oh, Lily. I'm not a movie star." Beverly said, feeling a rush of joy.
"Well, what are you?"
"I'm just a Mommy."
"Well, you are the prettiest Mommy I've ever seen!"
Beverly looked over at Cindy and felt that without a doubt, she must be the exception.
Kevin wanted to meet Jack Shaw, Roscoe White's pastor, to whom Roscoe gave a deathbed confession that he had killed people on both foreign and domestic soil for his country, thus lending credence to the diary that he was a military assassin. Jack Shaw was teaching Sunday School at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and interestingly, Pebbles's physician, Dr. Billy Arrant, was in Jack's class.
Beverly called Dr. Arrant to get Shaw's number. She then called Reverend Shaw, asking if he'd meet her and Larry Howard at the JFK Center to drive over to the hotel for dinner with Kevin Costner. He agreed. Costner's wife Cindy and daughter Lily were there when they arrived but they didn't join in for dinner.
Kevin asked Reverend Shaw more questions about Roscoe than he cared to answer. How did Roscoe die? What about his covert activities? Shaw seemed of the subjects being discussed. Larry listened intently for new information about Roscoe.
Throughout the attempted discussion, it was hard for Beverly to keep her attention at the dinner table. She did not like discussing Roscoe White. There was something sinister about the man that frightened her. Instead, she focused on watching Cindy playing with her child. Beverly was developing a growing admiration for Cindy Costner that grew beyond the fact she was Kevin's wife. She admired Cindy for her simplicity. Cindy glowed on the outside from a rich spirit radiating inside. Beverly wondered how hard it would be married to a mega-star like Kevin. How does Cindy maintain her own identity and self-worth and carry the responsibility of rearing three gorgeous children in a normal environment? Beverly was impressed with Cindy's success. Cindy was truly -- a mega-mom. Soon, the conversation took a turn and Kevin started talking about his family.
"How did you meet Cindy?" Beverly asked Kevin.
"She was Snow White at Disneyland." Kevin gleamed.
"How did you get up enough nerve to ask Snow White out for a date?"
"Easy," Kevin smiled, "I was her Prince Charming."
Beverly thought of the irony of Kevin and Cindy's relationship. Every woman would think that Cindy is the luckiest woman in the world to be married to Kevin. Beverly felt just the opposite. Isn't Kevin blessed to have found and married a person so spiritually rich and beautiful as Cindy?
To make her commute to the set a little easier Beverly stayed downtown at the Plaza of the Americas Hotel. The morning after her dinner at the Costners, and before she had a chance to wake, Beverly's telephone rang.
"You've already been told once to keep your mouth shut. Why won't you listen?" The caller demanded in a deep whispery voice. "You might want to know that Larry Howard, the man you're placing your confidence in, is with the CIA . . ."
"Who is this?" Beverly asked, thinking perhaps it was a joke. "Who is this?"
She hung up when they wouldn't answer her. She thought they would call back and explain the ruse, but when they didn't, she called down to the hotel operator. She told Beverly she hadn't placed any outside calls to her room. The call came from inside the hotel. Beverly still thought one of the boys was pranking with her and decided not to let it bother her, until the next day when she heard that Oliver Stone also had received a threat, which included the same comment about Larry Howard and threatened to throw Oliver out of the fourth floor of the hotel. (Someone didn't want the movie to be produced.)
"The idea of Larry being a CIA agent is preposterous," Beverly thought. "Or is it?" Beverly was too new at this game, where things seemed to be different than what they really were. Who were the good guys? The bad guys? Never being one to sit around, Beverly approached Larry with the accusation.
"Beverly," Larry said. "If I was with the CIA or FBI or anybody who feared what you might have to say, I'd have gotten rid of you long ago. Be serious."
Beverly buried her thoughts and hoped she wouldn't get anymore calls.
The day was over and so was Beverly's job with Camelot Productions. Clayton had told her earlier that since her part was finished she wasn't needed on the set any longer. Everyone was standing outside the bar area in the hallway saying their "goodnights," Beverly was saying her "goodbyes." Beverly stuffed her melancholy inside and left to go back up to her room when she passed Stone and Alex coming out of the elevator. Beverly sadly said goodbye and thanks, holding back some of her emotions. It wasn't easy.
"What do you mean good-bye? Where are you going?" Stone asked, quite perplexed.
"Clayton told me you didn't need me anymore."
"Wait here for a minute, I want to check on something." Stone said. Beverly didn't know what he was up to, but wasn't going to argue. Stone darted off.
Ten minutes later, Chris came down and approached Beverly, "Mr. Townsend asked if there is a possibility for you to stay on a few more days?" Of course she could. (She was hoping they'd ask.)
Beverly was offered the small part of a cocktail waitress in the Carousel Club scene and excitedly accepted the offer. If Jack only knew that, finally, I would be working at the Carousel. Stone asked her to work with the three strippers, teaching them how dancers worked the stage back in 1963. She agreed, as long as she wasn't given any screen credit. She could see a Baptist preacher's wife getting credit for choreographing the "strippers." Stone laughingly agreed.
The week before filming the club scenes, Beverly worked strenuously with the girls, developing their skills in the art of striptease. Most of the girls didn't know the old art of stripping. After doing a little research for her new job as a choreographer at a local gentleman's club, the Cabaret Royal, Beverly learned that 1990s girls do two routines very well: with clothes on/with clothes off. The bump and grind had become passe. They became more proficient in dancing and acrobatics instead of mastering the tease in shedding their clothes little by little. A peek here, a peek there. They'd learn.
As a personal tribute to her missing friend, Jada, Beverly wanted desperately to help a young dancer named Carolina McCullough capture Jada's essence. Beverly became sentimental as she told Caroline about Jada and how she controlled an audience. The only film of Jada was a poor quality, low budget film titled, Mondo Exotica, about a young girl deciding to travel to the big city, and eventually becoming an exotic dancer. But for Beverly, that wasn't enough. Beverly wanted Caroline's performance to be her own nibute to Jada. She wanted Caroline to become Jada incarnate: the sizzle, the animalism, the magnetism, growling, panting.
Somehow, Jada's disappearance was harder for Beverly to understand than the President's death. Did she just get in the way? Was she dead or somewhere hiding? Why doesn't anyone know where she is?
The night before the actual filming of the Carousel Club scene, Beverly and Caroline were working hard on old fashion bump and grind routines to, of all things, a song called "Tequila." It was tough. They worked long into the early morning then decided to give the dance a tryout on the runways. The new Jada took stage, the music cranked up, the crew woke up. They loved it. For that short little moment, caught in the twilight of make-believe, in all her radiant glory, a little known legend came back to life.
Morning came early; especially for Beverly: She hated mornings to begin with but after only three hours sleep, you can imagine. However, once awake she was ready to get on with the big day.
The club set was buzzing. Movie extras, dressed for a 1960s cocktail party, were making small talk to clutter the background with laughter, whispers, secrets and invitations. Beverly thought if Jack Ruby were looking down, he'd be proud of the way Camelot had chosen to portray his club, the Carousel. It was finally a joint with class. Just what Jack always wanted. Maybe it was easier to make a place look "classy." It would have been impossible to recreate the Carousel that Jack had personalized.
Beverly was on the run trying to get her girls ready; not to mention that waitress they hired. Here . . . there, that way, this way, up-down. Stone was exercising his walkie-talkie privileges by calling for Beverly again and again. Then he had the audacity to ask why she wasn't in wardrobe. Men! She thought.
No sooner was Beverly in wardrobe than she was paged again. This must be important, pulling me out of wardrobe. Something must be wrong. They were filming the scene where Beverly is confronted by the two FBI agents who take her film. She still needed to get dressed but she wasn't about to keep the director waiting.
Rushing frantically to the set where they were filming, Beverly started thinking about the FBI and how she really believed that they were going to return her film to her. How did they know I had it? What did they do with it?
Stone was standing in the hallway pointing to Lolita. "Beverly, is this the color of the makeup kit you had that night?"
"Oliver," Beverly began, controlling her temper. "There are only three people who know what color my makeup kit was: Regis Kennedy, his sidekick and me. Yes, white. That's the color it was. And please don't ask me why I'm not in costume!"
Beverly was never one to be late. Years of working on the stage, whether at the Colony Club, the Chateaubriand, or one of countless churches, Beverly was always ready to go. But that day, she had too many distractions. It'll take me five minutes to finish my hair; five minutes to get on my . . . whoa! Beverly was suddenly airborne. Her right shoe hit something slick pummeling her down the stairs, landing on her knees. She was in pain. There was no one in wardrobe to help her so she managed to get up and struggle back to her van to get the dress and shoes she selected for her waitress scene. There was no way for her to hobble back to wardrobe to have her dress "approved." What's the sense anyway? Beverly was part of the 60s, she knew what kind of clothes waitresses wore. Besides, there wasn't anyone there she reminded herself.
Luckily, Stone was standing in front of the Honey Wagons. Still wanting to follow protocol Beverly asked, "Oliver, you're the boss, can't you approve this wardrobe?" They were short of time and Beverly knew her outfit was a good choice. There shouldn't be anything for him to worry about. But that's what a perfectionist like Stone does.
"OK," he quipped. "But hurry up!"
Beverly hurried, aching knee and all, got dressed and was back on the set, taking a seat on a bar stool just in time for Joe Reidy to yell, "Action!" It was Beverly's turn. She picked up a tray of drinks and headed over to serve them to Ruby and his friends who were sitting at a table directly in front of the stage ramp. Ruby was engaged in light conversation with David Ferrie and Lee Harvey Oswald, when Beverly Oliver walked up and was introduced to the two men. "Beverly, I'd like you to meet my friend Lee Oswald. He's with the CIA" (Beverly already knew David Ferrie), Ruby said as he pulled out a chair for Beverly. Smiling as bright as a neon light, Beverly joined in the smoky talk of a typical evening. Beverly, the waitress, set the drinks around the table and when she gave Beverly Oliver a shot of Tequila, she flashed back to herself twenty-eight years earlier. Actress Lolita was a mirror image. Beverly serving Beverly. She couldn't look at Lolita anymore. 1991-1963. Joe Pesci and Gary Oldman broke character. They blew their lines.
"Stone. That's nothing but a mind blower!" Pesci chortled. They did another take. Another and another.
Between takes, Darla, Camelot's set nurse, kept Beverly's swelling knee packed with ice. Otherwise, Beverly would have missed something she had worked so hard to be a part of. She was extremely grateful to Darla. More than she could express.
The hard work paid off. Caroline was Jada . . . beautiful, gone Jada. For one day, the Carousel Club was back. Anthony was behind the bar, Jack was Jack, talking that talk. The club was alive with mischief and the sound of clinking glasses, racy conversations and half-naked girls.
(Months later, all but ten seconds of Jada and all of the waitresses would end up as celluloid clips curled in forgotten frames in the editing room. That's Hollywood!) (2)
Back to Cameos
You may wish to see:
Who's Who in the Jim Garrison Case
Jim Garrison's New Orleans Photo Gallery
Articles and resources on Jim Garrison's New Orleans conspiracy investigation,
including the Clay Shaw trial transcript
Articles and resources on the JFK assassination
Dave Reitzes home page
1. Beverly Oliver with Coke Buchanan, Nightmare in Dallas (Lancaster, Penn.: Starburst, 1994), pp. 233-45. Thanks to Linda Johnson.
2. Beverly Oliver with Coke Buchanan, Nightmare in Dallas (Lancaster, Penn.: Starburst, 1994), pp. 249-57. Thanks to Linda Johnson.
Who's Who in the Jim Garrison Case
Jim Garrison's New Orleans Photo Gallery
Articles and resources on Jim Garrison's New Orleans conspiracy investigation,
including the Clay Shaw trial transcript
Articles and resources on the JFK assassination
Dave Reitzes home page