Saturday, November 23, 2013

Remembering Jack Ruby -- and Ruby

If you're of a certain age and remember that long Sunday, you know this dance of death by heart. The anxious hubbub of straight-arrow reporters in dark suits and white shirts, jostling with notebooks and cameras, craning their necks and thrusting microphones at the first glimpse of Lee Harvey Oswald. He appears ridiculously frail for someone who -- allegedly, we would say today, but 1963 is a different time -- murdered the President of the United States just 48 hours ago. He is handcuffed to one policeman, surrounded by others and on the way to a waiting car that will take Oswald across town to a more secure cell.

Oswald won't make it.

Out of the corner of the frame, there emerges, as inevitable as the grave, Jack Ruby. Scuttling out of obscurity and gate-crashing into history, he squeezes off a single round from his .38-caliber revolver. Oswald screams. The police lunge. Someone wrestles the revolver from Ruby's hand. But it's too late.

Back in 1991, I visited Dallas for the Los Angeles Times to do a free-lance story on the making of Ruby, a speculative drama -- produced to ride on the coattails of Oliver Stone's JFK -- about Jack Ruby (played by Danny Aiello) and his possible motives for killing Lee Harvey Oswald two days after the JFK assassination. Looking back, I have to assume that the real Jack Ruby didn't have to make his way through nearly as many security people as I did in '91 when he entered the police headquarters basement on Nov. 24, 1963.

You can read my Los Angeles Times story here, and my review of Ruby here. Here is the original trailer:

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