TABLE OF CONTENTS STORY IDEA?| INFO@CIGARCITYMAGAZINE.COM
FALL 2013 24 14
LISA M. FIGUEREDO
EDITOR-N-CHIEF & FOUNDER OF CIGAR CITY MAGAZINE
SCOTT M. DEITCHE
CONTRIBUTING WRITER LIBATION LOUNGE AND THE BIGGEST HIT: THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION
CONTRIBUTING WRITER POUR DECISIONS
CONTRIBUTING WRITER JOHN F. KENNEDY: A PRESIDENT, A KID AND HIS CAMERA
CONTRIBUTING WRITER A TREASURE IN OUR MIDST: THE GREAT CIRCUS PHOTOGRAPHS OF FREDERICK W. GLASIER
ART & PHOTOGRAPHY CONTRIBUTORS
USF DEPARTMENT OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS TONY ZAPPONE
FOR THE PHOTO’S SUPPLIED FOR THE ARTICLE JOHN F. KENNEDY: A PRESIDENT, A KID AND HIS CAMERA
ON THE COVER
KENNEDY AT PODIUM AT FT. HOMER HESTERLY ARMORY IN TAMPA
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A President, A Kid and His Camera
A Treasure in Our Midst:
The Biggest Hit: The Kennedy Assassination
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The Libation Lounge
Pour Discissions Around Town Weird U.S.
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The Libation Lounge
Mob Hangout and Cocktail Lounge
Some restaurants eschew their former infamy as a mob hangout, while others just tolerate the occasional mob buff that comes around looking for faint glimmers of the sordid history. Gaetano’s is one of those rare places that celebrates its role as a former mob hangout. But Gaetano’s was more than a hangout. It was the headquarters of the Denver Mafia and their monarchy, the Smaldone family. I had the opportunity to visit Gaetano’s this past summer. Gaetano’s has an old school feel with a decidedly modern touch. You can get gluten free pasta, while sipping a cocktail at the original bar. You sit underneath the upstairs rooms where the Smaldone and their crime family compatriots ran high stakes card games, and eat dinner above the basement where Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis played craps, around the corner from an entrance to one of the tunnels than Punt E Mes One of the more unique vermouths that I’ve been frequently using lately is the venerable Punt e Mes, a staple Italian spirit (made in Milano) that is both bitter and sweet, with a uniquely herbal tonic quality to the flavor. It’s useful as a substitute for the usual sweet vermouth in a variety of cocktails, as well as an aperitif all on its own. From the Branca website:
Mito 1 oz Punt e Mes 1 oz Bitter Tonic or Soda Water 1 orange peel 1 handful ice
Fill a flat short tumbler with ice. Then pour 1 oz Bitter and 1 oz Punt e Mes. Add Tonic or Soda Water to taste and stir gently. Garnish with orange peel.
by Scott M. Deitche
ran under the North Denver ‘hood where Prohibition era gangsters transported barrels of booze. Gaetano’s is also one of the top go-to places in Denver for cutting edge cocktails. Though they recently changed their cocktail menu for the fall, this past summer they had a menu full of interesting and tasty libations, all nicknames of infamous gangsters. I started with the Breeze, nickname of Chicago Outfit hitman Frank Calabrese Sr. The Breeze is concoction of Rittenhouse rye, lemon juice, orgeat syrup (key ingredient of the previous column’s tiki drinks), and orange bitters. It was surprisingly light, a perfect start to a late July night. Next up was a barrel-aged Gaetano’s cocktail, their take on a Negroni. It was Caprock gin (an organic distiller in North Fork Valley, Colorado), Aperol, and sweet vermouth. From there I tried a California gin, St. George, in a twist on an Old Fashioned. Both drinks showcased the botanical gins while balancing nicely with the other ingredients. I finished it off with the Sony Red, named after Bonnano capo Alphonse “Sonny Red” Indelicato, who was whacked in 1981, dramatized in the movie Donnie Brasco. The Sonny Red was bold and dynamic and not for the faint of heart. Chianti, Plantation 5 rum, Lillet rose liqueur, St. Germain, lavender rose syrup, and bitters. Gaetano’s is a must visit for mob buffs and cocktail enthusiasts. It’s located at 3760 Tejon St in the Highland neighborhood of Denver.
by Mark DeNote
Saint Petersburg Becomes Craft Beer Destination In the thirsty times leading up to 2013, seeking out handcrafted, local beer in Saint Petersburg led folks to Gulfport’s shoreline and Peg’s Cantina. The cantina stood alone, and the small, venerable brewpub was arguably located on the outskirts of Saint Petersburg proper in another city. While Peg’s held the light for all to see when it came to craft beer in Saint Petersburg, the fire of fermentation was about to blaze forth a new generation of breweries. Fast forward to this summer of 2013, four breweries are looking to join Florida’s Class of 2013, and Saint Petersburg will trade in its old craft beer desolation for status as a craft beer destination. Here are some of the local breweries looking to light up the greater Saint Petersburg area with their brews: Cycle Brewing Son of Peg’s Cantina’s namesake, brewer Doug Dozark made a name for himself with several of his Florida Weisses, heavily fruited, tart Berliner Weisses as well as his barrel-aged beers like Rare D.O.S. (bourbon barrel aged Doug’s Original Stout) and RareR D.O.S. (rum barrel aged Doug’s Original Stout) at Peg’s. Now he has set out on his own to take the world by storm and run his own small brewery in at 534 Central Avenue in downtown Saint Petersburg while still keeping the Cantina in beer. Doug will be brewing on a 7-barrel brewing system at his new place and will brew both at Cycle and at Peg’s Cantina for their G.O.O.D. brand (Gulfport Original On Draft). Cycle opened its doors in August of 2013, and hopes to be brewing on premise by October. Cycle also runs a tasting room out of the storefront brewery, with 16 different taps and growlers available to go.
Green Bench Brewing Company Construction started on this production brewery and tasting room in March of 2013 at 1133 Baum Avenue North. Green Bench Brewing Company, named for the iconic green benches that used to line the streets of Saint Petersburg, plans to open in fall of 2013. According to pictures and Facebook posts, the brewery brewed its first batches in late August of 2013, and plans to open in mid to late September. The brewery plans to distribute its beers shortly after opening, and seeks to help put Saint Petersburg on the craft beer map as well as ensure the city’s status as a craft beer destination. The brewery has a 15-barrel production-style brew-
house and aggressive expansion plans. Head Brewer Khris Johnson, a veteran of both Cigar City Brewing and Southern Brewing and Winemaking, will oversee all aspects of beer production. Green Bench also plans to showcase a sour program shortly after opening in addition to a unique line of Belgian beers.
Saint Petersburg Brewing Company Saint Petersburg Brewing Company has begun construction on their brewery at 544 First Avenue North in Saint Petersburg. This brewery, run by brewer Tom Williams will operate a 10-barrel brewing system and with the help of tanks purchased from Big Storm Brewing in Odessa, will begin operations on equipment with a history. The Saint Petersburg Brewing Company may sound familiar- they have been contract brewing their Saint Pete Wheat in order to get bottles to market before the brewery opens, as well as pouring draft beers like Saint Pete Wheat and Pinellas Pale Ale at festivals around Tampa Bay. When asked recently about opening plans, the owners said they would like to be open around November 2013.
Three Daughters Brewing Company Three Daughters Brewing Company has also begun construction on their 18,000 square-foot facility, located at 222 22nd Avenue in Saint Petersburg. This brewery is owned by Mike Harting, co-owner of BellaBrava of Saint Petersburg, and has begun making festival rounds starting with the 97X Craft Beer Experience at the Mahaffey Theater. Their first announced flagship beer will be Beach Blonde Ale.
With the addition of so many craft breweries, the sleepy little ‘Burg will have to relinquish its claim to a lack of beer. Why so many craft breweries? Saint Petersburg Brewing’s owner put it best in a recent interview with the Tampa Tribune: “People are just thirsty to have something that’s uniquely theirs.” Locals have had Tampa beer, Tarpon Springs beer, alongside Gulfport beer, and now they stand ready and thirsty for the rise of Saint Petersburg beer.
Mark is a craft beer enthusiast and traveler who enjoys sojourning at local pubs and haunts of brew culture. He lives with his family in Hernando County, Florida and frequents the Great City of Tampa and beyond in search of craft beer, beer enthusiasts, and the next pint. Questions for Mark? Email him at TampaAles@gmail.com 12
The HBO show Boardwalk Empire is leaving the Atlantic City boardwalk and headed to Tampa. Season 4 of the popular show has a major storyline that takes place in Tampa in 1924. In the first Tampa episode, “Acres of Diamonds”, Nucky takes the train from New Jersey down to the fictional Royal Palm Hotel, where he’s greeted by a bootlegger friend, Bill McCoy (last seen in Season 1), bearing coconut water. And they are looking out over an azure sea, which is decidedly not Tampa Bay. Nucky also strikes up a friendship with Sally Wheet (played by Patricia Arquette), the owner of a speakeasy with a stuffed alligator over the bar. While Wheet, McCoy, and a local racketeer named Tucker are fictional, the story does bring in some factual touches, weaving the Tampa underworld of speakeasies and brothels, rum running from the Caribbean, and the Florida land boom. Temple Terrace even gets a shout out from an eager land seller. If Nucky Thompson (in real life, Nucky Johnson) were to
have really come to Tampa in 1924, he would have rubbed shoulders with Charlie Wall, who was then at the height of his power, overseeing his clubs the El Dorado and the Lincoln Club. Bolita was king then, employing over 1200 bolita sellers and runners. Like the show alludes to, brothels were also in existence, from Ybor City to downtown Tampa. Charlie Wall reportedly oversaw many of them. The Mafia, who at that time was led by Ignazio Italiano and his right-hand man Joe Vaglicia, were not yet a formidable presence, though they would send representatives to two major national underworld meetings just a few years later, in 1928. With the Tampa story arc on Boardwalk Empire, the Ybor setting of Live By Night, the recent bestselling novel by Dennis Lehane (who incidentally is a consulting producer on Boardwalk Empire), and rumors of Ben Affleck looking to film Live By Night locally, the Tampa underworld of the 1920s is having its moment in the pop culture spotlight.
You can check out Boardwalk Empire on Sunday Night’s on HBO.
John F. Kennedy:
An excerpt from the book titled
A President, A Kid and His Camera By Tony Zappone
President Kennedy breaking away to shake hands with the crowd at Al Lopez field with Sam Gibbons to his right.
Fifty years ago, young people longed to get a glimpse of President Kennedy in person and even dreamed of shaking his hand. Both came true for me 50 years ago this month. President John F. Kennedy came to Tampa November 18, 1963 to spend five hours among our people, to make a few speeches, and cruise through Tampa streets to get a good feel of our City in what was his second longest continuous exposure to the public, his appearance in Berlin earlier in that summer being the longest. It was to be his final major visit to an American city. People of all political persuasions loved President Kennedy and young people were his biggest fans. My mother was quite smitten with him as a young Senator from Massachusetts and candidate for president. She spoke about him often. He was elected chief executive in one of the closest contests in the history of our country, by barely a hundred-thousand popular votes nationwide, on November 8, 1960. 14
I remember so well my mother, who was ill at the time, being so excited about his being the next President. She passed away five days after his election. It was a tragic loss for me and in my 13-year-old mind, the best way I could preserve the connection with my mom was to latch on to the guy she liked for president. I was very fond of him myself so it wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t difficult. So enamored with the charismatic and widely admired chief executive, I would run home from school more than two miles every Wednesday to watch his regularly televised 3:30 p.m. press conference held in the old State Department auditorium. I was totally unfamiliar with most of the issues he discussed but, like many young people of the time, I just liked watching him and listening to his Boston accent. There was this lady reporter, a bit eccentric, who heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d always call on if things got dull and she would ask some bizarre question and he would give a like response and the whole press corps would crack up. That part
itself was worth the tiring run home each week. In 1962, I began taking sports photos at my school, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Academy. The coach there, Jerome Sierra, had connections at the Tampa Tribune and introduced me to the new sports editor, Tom McEwen. McEwen agreed to use some of my good photos and it wasn’t long before he was assigning me to shoot photos of sporting events at other schools–and even some professional events. From sports to news, I became a free-lance fixture at The Tribune so in November of 1963 when I found out President Kennedy was coming to town I knew I just had to meet him–no matter what. The announcement came about five days before his visit, apparently for security reasons. I found out that press credentials for the Presidential appearances were being issued by Jim Metcalf of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. I danced down Lafayette Street (now Kennedy Blvd.) to the Chamber offices. Metcalf explained that if I was to get credentials I’d have to be representing a legitimate media source. The Tribune already had their own people for the assignment. I quickly sprang back to my school, Jefferson High (the old one, on Highland Avenue just off Columbus Drive and Tampa Street) and sought letters stating I would be representing the yearbook and school paper, the Jeffersonian. I figured that would work. Alexine Allen, Jeffersonian advisor, and Ethyl Schilling, chairman of the English Department and yearbook sponsor, were happy to write the letters–if only to get rid of me for a day. Back at the Chamber, my heart pounded as I handed Metcalf the letters. He looked them over, shook his head in reluctance but finally caved in and gave me my “all areas” pass to wear around my neck. I accepted it as a professional, bounded out the door, and danced around town for an hour. I didn’t care that people might think I’d gone mad. It was a highlight of my life–just getting that pass. For the best part of the last fifty years I have pondered on just what words I could use to convey the excitement, the thrill, and the exhilaration if seeing John F. Kennedy for the first time. Just the thought that I would soon be in his presence sent chills up my spine. More than that, I have wanted to find the right words to tell the many generations that followed, whose members would never know firsthand the Kennedy phenomenon, just what it felt like. I have always been for lack of words in communicating the fire that burned for Kennedy in the hearts of so many Americans who were just happy he was the President, no matter what he did, no matter what party he belonged to. Yes, he had detractors and some of those were passionate. Their means of communicating what was in some cases hatred for JFK was limited in 1963. There was no Email, no Facebook. They had to settle for word of mouth, threatening letters and, eventually, gunfire. Most who disliked the President did so because of his politics or policies but liked him as a person. I
cared not one bit what his politics were. At my age at the time, I saw no connection between them and me. I was on cloud nine, waiting for the following Monday to come around. All I had to do was plan for that day; figure out how I was going to get around through the traffic and the crowds with the biggest consideration being that I had no car. Gary Williams, a longtime school buddy who did have wheels, offered to shuttle me that day. We mapped out a strategy that included him taking me to each venue on the President’s itinerary, letting me out to wait for the President, take photos that I needed, and me returning to the car for a quick trip in advance of Kennedy’s next stop. The plan worked beautifully.
President Kennedy at Al Lopez field.
November 18, 1963 was a great morning with a crisp chill, absolutely perfect for a visit by the nation’s top banana. I sprung from bed with the energy of a nuclear power plant and was ready to go in no time. I don’t think I even had breakfast; unusual for me, food was the least of my priorities that day. My hunger, if there was any, never registered. Gary picked me up at my home in Palmetto Beach, not far south of Ybor City, and we were off to MacDill Air Force Base where JFK was set to arrive at around 11:24 a.m. We zipped through the base’s Bayshore gate and were pointed in the direction of Hangar One where the press was being assembled. I found a place for Gary to park and he knew to remain with his car in that same spot until I returned. Not long after our arrival, the press people were asked to board buses for a ride to the spot on the tarmac where Air Force One would land. There we were shown a flatbed truck that we could stand on that would give us the best vantage point to photograph the landing and arrival ceremonies. My system was bubbling over with eagerness. I knew that within a short time I would see my hero–the man I watched FALL ISSUE
President Kennedy emerges from Air Force One upon arrival.
each week on television–the President who appeared almost nightly on the evening news. He would be before me in the flesh. It seemed others were equally excited but I was too busy keeping control of my own self to be concerned with those around me. I didn’t have a watch so I kept looking around at those of others’. I could see Air Force One was within minutes of landing and suddenly it appeared in the sky. The Big Man was inside. The huge aircraft came thundering from the sky onto the runway and taxied to our area within a hundred or so feet of where I was standing. The second it came to a halt, steps where wheeled up to its door, which immediately opened. The jet noise was still winding down when suddenly a herd of national press people emerged and made a beeline for the flatbed I was on. They came with a vengeance and tried to edge me out of my place. They just took over the place but I fought for my vantage point and refused to budge–and I won. It wasn’t but a minute or two later that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, in all his splendor, emerged from the Presidential aircraft. Seeing him for the first time, I had to pinch myself to make certain the moment was real. I was not at all disappointed, matter of fact he was more than I had imagined. Superman could have flown overhead at that moment and I wouldn’t have noticed. Kennedy was flanked by military and political dignitaries including U.S. Senator George Smathers, who was an usher in 16
his wedding and U.S. Representatives Sam Gibbons and Claude Pepper (D-Miami). They paused at attention while the Star Spangle Banner was played, followed by the traditional “Hail to the Chief.” Kennedy shook hands, as many as he could, and walked a few feet to formally review the colors. Once past the flags, he disappeared to the other side of the military formation and out of my sight. “This is not good,” I thought to myself. “I’m here and he’s there–I’ve got to get there.” I had no idea what the President was doing but I bolted from the flat bed about six feet down to the tarmac and darted past the military formations to find out what was going on. I arrived just in time to photograph Kennedy shaking the hands of school children who had come to the base to see his arrival. The President was famous for breaking away to shake hands, particularly if they were being extended by a group of young people. The first hand he shook was that of Rosemary Weekley, an eight year old pupil at the Academy of the Holy Names and daughter of Robert and Rose Weekley. The Weekleys just happened to be friends of mine, part owners of Tampa Photo Supply, the place where I bought all my cameras, film and other equipment. They had sold me the film I was using that day. I didn’t arrive in time to catch Rosemary and the President but an Associated Press photographer did and the photo was transmitted throughout the country within an hour. After briefly greeting the crowds of school children and military families that came to see his arrival, JFK walked to an awaiting limousine that would whisk him to the base officer’s club for lunch and meetings with military staff.
James H. Couey Jr, host and President of the Tampa Tribune introduces the President.
While he was waiting for his limo to move, I ran towards him to shake his hand and to photograph him. He looked stunned by my swift movement–I slowed down. When he realized I was friendly he relaxed a bit. He was kind enough to wave as I took his photo, with base commander Paul D. Adams sitting next to him. Then I walked up to him and shook his hand, welcoming him to Tampa.
Kennedy at Al Lopez with Tampa Mayor Nick C. Nuccio to the right of the President.
The Secret Service man sitting in the front seat was not happy with my exchange with the President and ordered the limo to move out and so it did, quite rapidly. My time with the President lasted less than ten seconds but it was truly worth it. My buddy from television station WTVT, Tim Moran, got the whole thing on film but he was standing behind the President unfortunately. Tim later became an attorney and recently retired from his Tampa law practice. Kennedy spent about forty minutes on base, talking to military people and getting briefed on current operations. Then he was taken by limousine to an awaiting helicopter to be lifted to the former Al Lopez Field (demolished years ago to make way for Raymond James Stadium). Three helicopters proceeded to the ball park, two of them bearing the President, accompanying local leaders and Tampa’s representatives in Washington plus the Secret Service and two of them decoys sent along for security reasons. If anybody wanted to target the President’s helicopter they would have to guess the one he was in. To show you how times have changed, today’s President has five decoys. An enthusiastic, cheering crowd greeted the President’s party as it emerged from the helicopter about 200 feet from the staging area at Al Lopez Field. The occasion was the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the first commercial air flight in the nation, which took place between Tampa and St. Petersburg in 1914 piloted by Tony Jannus, also a posthumous honoree. Among the politicos present on stage with the President was then Tampa Mayor Nick Nuccio, the iconic political leader in Hillsborough County who spoke somewhat broken English. You could easily understand him but his dialect was different.
There were some who wanted to keep Nuccio away from Kennedy because of this but the President wouldn’t have it. JFK kept asking for “Mr. Nick” and wanted him nearby at all time. “Where’s Mr. Nick,” Kennedy would repeat. It was at Al Lopez that I took one of my favorite photos and one that has been used so often in books and newspapers over the last half century. I was focusing in to take a close-up of JFK as he sat on the platform waiting to speak to the crowd. Suddenly he began to laugh at something one of the other speakers said and I quickly snapped. I didn’t know exactly what my exposure was, what the speed was–didn’t know much of anything at the time–but it turned out to be the best picture of the day. Nine months later, I presented copies of the photos I took that day to the President’s brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy at his Department of Justice office. My favorite photo was his as well, although I could tell the sadness in his eyes when he looked over my work. In 1963, there was no digital photography and cameras weren’t so automatic as they are today, requiring lots of technical skill on the part of the photographer if he wanted to get it right. I have to admit it was an accident but I did get it right in the case of the close-up. The photograph was used in the creation of a historical marker placed in downtown Tampa at Franklin Street and Kennedy Boulevard marking the spot Kennedy’s limousine turned north to proceed through what was then the city’s main retail business district. The historical plaque was set to be dedicated on November 22, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination.
A 16 year-old Tony Zappone presenting Robert Kennedy with copies of photos.
Over four decades later, a dear friend of mine and president of the cigar tobacco supply giant Oliva Tobacco Company, John E. Oliva, would be an accomplished Photoshop buff and generously offer to put my aged photos into better shape by removing scratches, spots and making other technical improvements. John once even took time from his administrative duties to work over some of my photos I needed quickly. Having him come into my life was a pure stroke of luck. FALL ISSUE
The President’s motorcade passes Twiggs and Franklin Street in downtown Tampa.
It struck me that the Al Lopez Field event had been concocted to give Kennedy something to do while thousands of people gawked in amazement that the chief executive of our entire nation took time to visit our southern City and spend unprecedented Presidential time here. In his usual inimitable Kennedy style, he read from a prepared speech about the commercial air flight the event was supposed to commemorate. Once the festivities were complete, the President broke away and began shaking some of the hands of hundreds who challenged the fencing and leaned over to get his attention. This seemed to always be his favorite time at any occasion. Secret Service personnel were not amused with the challenges presented at the field when spectators began to lean so far over they came close to falling onto JFK. However, they did manage some mild form of decorum that precluded a disaster. The President took time to speak briefly with Roland Manteiga, editor of Ybor’s La Gaceta tri-lingual newspaper, whom Congressman Sam Gibbons had introduced him to. In addition to exchanging the usual courtesies, Kennedy gave Manteiga assurances of his continued firm dealings with Fidel Castro, whose Cuba was then the subject of a Kennedy-imposed trade embargo placed after the Cuban Missile Crisis. That trade embargo is still in effect fifty years later. From there, JFK was whisked to the main limousine for what would be a nearly eight mile ride, the long way, to Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory. Since the presidential party was exempt from stopping at red lights it took just over 20 minutes for the motor18
cade to proceed south on Dale Mabry to Grand Central Avenue (now Kennedy Blvd.), merging into Lafayette Street (also now Kennedy Blvd.) at the University of Tampa and on to downtown’s Franklin Street where it turned left and proceeded north. I had arrived downtown about 15 minutes before the motorcade would pass through in order to find the best spot to make my photographs. There was heavy shade on Franklin Street because the buildings on both sides blocked the early afternoon sun. I knew the only hope for getting a decent photo was to catch the President’s car as it passed through an intersection where the sun would be shining through unobstructed. I decided to place myself at the Zack Street intersection and take one photo with a 200mm telephoto lens as the motorcade passed through Twiggs, then quickly switch cameras to get a second shot as it went by me at Zack. As I waited for the motorcade, I took some photos of the people waiting eagerly for a look at their hero. Kennedy at that time was as much a celebrity as he was President. He was charming, appealing to women, had a great sense of humor and a perfect television presence. He was a star and the people were waiting to see that star. There were foot police on each side of the street for crowd control. In 1963, the crowds were mannerly and remained where they were supposed to for the most part. Occasionally a motorcycle officer would ride by just to assert a greater presence and to be sure the way was completely clear for the President.
Suddenly I began hearing sirens in the distance though I couldn’t tell just how far. Then it seemed like they were getting closer and closer at a pretty rapid clip. Three good-sized blocks away I could see police cars, motorcycle patrolmen and automobiles rounding the corner at Layfayette and heading in my direction. I knew the President had to be very close behind. What surprised me was the speed. Somehow, in my naiveté, I had presumed the car bearing Kennedy would be going slow so everybody could get a good look at him. That wasn’t the case. Once again, my heart began pumping because I quickly realized that I had only ONE chance to get a good shot of the motorcade coming through the chosen intersection. If I didn’t hit the button at exactly the right moment, all bets would be off. The newspaper editors would be peeved at me and probably never trust me again. Finally, I could see what looked like a limousine that the President would be in. It was coming fast. I steadied my camera at the intersection and when I saw his car I hit the shutter button. Without any thinking, I grabbed my other camera, pointed it in front of me and took a second picture. At that point I had absolutely no idea what I had gotten. At the same time, a motorcycle patrolman brushed my arms and elbows in a seeming effort to get me off to the side. I had already gotten the picture but I was stunned by being grazed by the cycle. I quickly recovered and was not injured–just a bit shaken. I couldn’t believe someone would do that. Forty-three years later that officer, Russell Groover, looked me up seeking a copy of the motorcade photo for the cover of a book he wrote on his Tampa police career. Sure enough, he was on the right side of the photo and was headed directly for me. He told me that during a briefing that morning the officers were ordered to mow anybody down who was on the street along the motorcade route when the President went by. It was only because he had seen me often around the police station and knew of my harmlessness that he let me get by with a scratch. I thanked him for sparing my life and gave him the photo to use free of charge. The first picture turned out perfect. The President was standing on the right side of the car, Gibbons was sitting on the left. You could see the crowds, the police, even the bank building in the background that decades later would become the current headquarters of the Tampa Police Department. In the second photo, taken directly in front of me with another camera and a normal lens and which came out slightly blurred, showed the back of the President’s head as he was sitting and waving at the people line on the opposite (east) side of the street. The limousine used in the Tampa motorcade was the same one he would be riding at the time of his assassination in Dallas, Texas four days later. What I didn’t realize until more than 40 years had passed that it was practically a miracle I had gotten a usable motorcade picture at all. In addition to the technical challenges I faced,
President Kennedy waving from limo with Gen. Paul D. Adams after arrival at MacDill Air Force Base.
Kennedy had been sitting in his car for most of the long trip and only decided to stand intermittently while he was in the downtown area. Had he been sitting as he crossed Twiggs Street he would have been totally blocked by a Secret Service agent in the front seat and glare from the windshield. I would have gotten NOTHING! Thanks for standing for me, Mr. President. Once I had the two pictures in camera I raced back to a spot in the next block on Tampa Street where Gary was waiting to speed us off to Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory. By the time we got through the traffic and he dropped me off, the President had already arrived. He was still behind the stage, though, so I was there when he came out into the public. It was supposed to be the annual meeting of the Florida Chamber of Commerce but I learned it was scheduled hastily and the audience was composed mostly of members of the public who wanted to see the President. At one point I had my camera zeroed in on Kennedy as he sat waiting to speak. I was ready to snap a photo when he suddenly reached down to tie his shoe. WOW, what a great photo this would be and I instinctively hit the shutter button and lit the stage with a quick flash–alerting the President he’d been had. He stopped what he was doing, starred me right in the eyes, and gave me the meanest look anybody had ever attempted. He was mad. I was embarrassed and ashamed. Further, I didn’t know if he was going to have me thrown in prison or executed on the spot. The moment passed but there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by since that I haven’t remembered that look and realized how few people get the undivided attention of the President of the United States for five or ten seconds in such a pissed off way. I was soon approached by JFK’s press secretary, Pierre Salinger, who very kindly asked me not to publish the photo. FALL ISSUE
President Kennedy placing notes in his pocket. Notice his right shoe has become untied.
He never told me why but I was scared after the President’s facial rebuke and promised to keep the photo to myself. Over the years, I learned that his shoelaces often came loose because the severe pain in his back from war injuries precluded him from bending over long enough to tie them properly. I have continued to honor the promise. As I was set to leave the huge armory hall, I thought it would be a good thing to take an overall picture of the crowd and the President as he spoke. There were steps in the northeast corner of the room so I headed in that direction. I climbed up halfway, got my camera focused and aimed where I wanted, and heard footsteps coming rapidly from above. I snapped a photo very quickly, just one, and moved on down to the main floor. It was a police officer and he was pointing for me to continue back to ground level. Following Kennedy’s talk to those assembled, mostly about the economy, deficits, inflation–all the same things presidents talk about today–he departed in his limo with then Florida Gov. Farris Bryant, Gibbons and Smathers for the old International Inn where he was to talk to the United Steelworkers local union about labor matters. His party entered onto Gray Street, then to Armenia and south to Grand Central. They proceeded west about four or five miles to the next venue.
The International Inn, at that time on the southwest corner of Westshore Boulevard and Grand Central Avenue, was packed with people there for one purpose only–to see President Kennedy. It didn’t appear that the Secret Service had planned for the President to be mobbed as he moved through the hallways and to be touched, poked, goosed and moved about as he was. The chief executive took it gracefully, likely used to being subjected to such close encounters from time to time. Inside the room, hundreds of invited guests and labor executives sat to listen to what the President had to say. Most, however, didn’t hear his words for concentrating on the accent, the mannerisms and the style he had become so famous for. Prior to his talk, Ybor City Alcalde Marcelo Maseda presented Kennedy, an avid cigar smoker, with a box of premium cigars handmade in Ybor. The President looked especially pleased with the gift. Maseda had brought his young daughter, Marlene, along to give JFK a Latin doll for daughter Caroline. Marlene, now Marlene Maseda Lee, recently retired after a 35-year career with Delta Airlines. The talk before the labor union was the last stop on the President’s schedule before returning to MacDill and Air Force One for his return trip to Washington. His limousine headed east on Grand Central for Dale Mabry where his entourage would go right and south all the way to the air base. Once there they took the shortest route, straight across the expansive tarmac and on to final ceremonies before his right-on-time departure, 4:25p.m. There were no microphones and the President had no final words. However, he insisted that all the motorcycle patrolmen who had assisted with the motorcades that day line up
Marcelo Maseda and daughter Marlene making presentations to President Kennedy at International Inn.
All photoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s for this article courtesy Tony Zoppone
Sam Gibbons introduces Roland Manteiga to President Kennedy.
so he could shake their hands and thank each one of them personally. Tampa Police Chief J. P. Mullin and Hillsborough County Sheriff Ed Blackburn stood proudly off to the side as Kennedy edged along the line of officers and greeted each one. A few of the lawmen became so nervous they forgot their names. JFK seemed to understand and gave them time to gather their thoughts. The meeting with the motorcycle officers was pleasant and appreciated by all. From there, the President headed straight to his airplane, waved enthusiastically when he got to the top of the steps and boarded. That very same second, the engines started. His pilots didn’t waste a second. I felt a sense of sadness as his jet went airborne and disappeared into the sky. I would never see him again. The man I grabbed onto after the death of my mother was now gone also. Over the years, I’ve felt great frustration in not being able to convey the feeling of having someone like Kennedy as head of our country. He was intelligent, witty, sensitive, poetic, classy, humorous, royal yet very quick to apologize for mistakes–and he made a few. Exactly one week to the hour that I shook his hand, I was 22
watching his funeral on television with millions of others. The world had stopped for four entire days. Humanity was numbed. We had all lost our very best friend. Nobody knew what the next step would be but somehow we got through it. John F. Kennedy left a mark on America that will not soon fade away, if ever. He sparked a mindset of courage, sacrifice and excellence in so many areas of American life–a mindset that survives today as part of his legacy. Like many others, I still miss the man and I’m saddened that so many people who came before and after him were never afforded a personal dose of the greatness he apportioned to those he touched with his ideas and his wit, and who were influenced by his ideals of equality and openness. The most we can do now is develop and demonstrate our own style of the greatness within us, aspiring to do the very best we can at all we do, and keeping in mind the final words President Kennedy spoke so eloquently and simply in his 1961 inaugural address: “… with a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
Read more details about the authorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s experience with President Kennedy with text and photos in his new book: John F. Kennedy: A President, A Kid and His Camera available in bookstores soon or now by going to www.jfktampa.com.
Barnum & Bailey Big Top Interior, circa 1906
A Treasure in Our Midst: The Great Circus Photographs of Frederick W. Glasier By Peter Kayafas
All photographs, except where otherwise noted, are by Frederick W. Glasier and are copyright © The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the Eakins Press Foundation.
The cultural treasure left to us by American photographer Frederick W. Glasier (18661950) provides a rare and privileged view of what the circus looked liked during its heyday at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Glasier’s photographic oeuvre also provides us with a remarkable example of what it is that truly makes a great photographer, and reveals to us how certain institutions can play an essential role in preserving such important work for future audiences. Glasier’s intimate approach to his subjects and his technical ingenuity with the medium distinguish him from other photographers who chose the circus as their subject. These qualities enable Glasier to transcend his obvious role as a documentarian of the circus and find his place (albeit posthumously) in the canon of great photographers.
Advertising Flyer for “Glasier’s Circus Day” Lantern Slide Lecture, circa 1925
Though many of the details of Glasier’s life remain unknown, certain historical facts have become available to us through civic records in Brockton, Massachusetts (where Glasier lived and maintained a photographic studio for much of his life), through the scholarship of individuals who have studied the archive at the Ringling Museum, and through the evidence in the pictures themselves. We know, for instance, that in addition to making photographs, Glasier created lantern-slides of his photographs of circus life, Native Americans, and the natural environs of the Berkshire Mountains in Western Massachusetts. These images informed lectures that he personally prepared, delivered, and advertised in the course of his extensive travels. In one such advertisement for his lecture entitled “Glasier’s Circus Days,” Glasier trumpets the hyperbolic, alliterative language of the circus intended to attract the crowds: “Glasier’s Circus 26
Day, Bigger than the Biggest Better than the Best.” He was keenly aware that photography could be used as a powerful tool through which rich cultural experience and detail could be communicated. It is also clear, by looking at circus advertising of the period, that Glasier sold the rights to use his photographs to the circus companies that employed his subjects (he copyrighted his photographs as early as 1899). Reproductions of his photographs, with corresponding picture credits and copyright notices, are to be found in various catalogues, “route books,” and advertisements for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows, Joe Miller’s 101 Ranch Show, and the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus (he was the official photographer for all three outfits at various times in his career). Credits are also to be found in promotional materials for the Brockton Fair, which was a source for some
The Marvells, 1903
of his best action pictures. In addition, he produced postcards and souvenir booklets that he sold for a modest profit. We don’t have much by way of photographic evidence on this point, but he likely used his studio the way many of his contemporaries did: to turn a profit on typical small-town events like weddings and graduations. Perhaps the most interesting evidence of his commercial intent exists in the form of “crop marks,” drawn on selected negatives in opaque ink (and therefore white on the prints) indicating where a print should be trimmed. In each case, these crop marks narrow the print area to efficiently showcase the subject’s special talent, so that the image could be autographed, and in turn sold to a fan. But it is the extraneous information outside the marks which holds unique interest to scholars of history and provides fascinating details about the time in which the subjects lived.
To understand how extraordinary Glasier’s technique was for his day, it is useful to consider the materials (and their limitations) that he had at his disposal at the end of the 19th century. In Glasier’s time, glass (not plastic) was used as the substrate for photographic negatives. Cameras were essentially big boxes perched atop a tripod for field use, and the majority of pictures required exposures too long to capture motion. Like many great photographers, Glasier’s talent lies partly in his ability to solve key technical challenges. His retrofitting of the Thorton-Pickard, focal-plane shutter to make exposures as fast as 1/3,000th of a second is why he succeeded in making so many thrilling photographs of the performers in action. This also sets Glasier’s work apart from his contemporaries, whose pictures consisted mostly of posed action and still portraits. The implementation of the high-speed shutter allowed for photographs like the FALL ISSUE
Maude Banvard, The Catch, Brockton Fair, Massachusetts, 1907
spectacular Maude Banvard, The Catch, Brockton Fair, Massachusetts, 1907, but it also made for some particular problems on the back lot. In a letter to the Ringling Museum from 1956, Glasier’s wife recounts the story of the shutter’s effect on a skittish horse: “Fred told of photographing a nervous circus horse with it. The noise of the shutter frightened the horse and in the excitement the horse knocked the camera from the tripod and stepped on it. Incidently [sic], Fred had a battery of three 8x10 cameras.” As previously mentioned, Glasier had no qualms about altering negatives (a pre-Photoshop means of image manipulation) to enhance certain elements of pictures or eliminate others that he deemed distracting. Glasier’s hand, quite literally, is manifest in many of his images. In addition to the crop marks, he has
Loie Fuller, Glorine, Butterfly Dancer, 1902
occasionally painted over large sections of some negatives and prints with opaque ink, as with Loie Fuller, Glorine, Butterfly Dancer, 1902. Note the large monochromatic black background surrounding Fuller’s billowing skirts. In the foreground are the skylight and gravel surfacing the roof of a building, indicating that where Glasier has used opaque ink on a print (and re-photographed it to make this subsequent print) one would have seen the details of the town in the background, which Glasier clearly thought would have undermined the poetry and elegance of the solo rooftop act. Looking at the negatives with a magnifying lens, one can also find examples of Glasier’s in-painting to enhance details that were lost to over- or underexposure of the negatives (filling in a tight-rope wire here, or smoothing the features of a subject’s face there).
Gertrude Dewar, Mademoiselle Omega, Brockton Fair, Massachusetts, 1908
The underexposed nature of this negative of Gertrude Dewar obscured much of the cable on which she is balancing, and Glasier subsequently altered the negative to enhance its appearance in the print. There are more than 1,700 glass-plate negatives in the collections of the Ringling Museum; they are extremely fragile and bear the markings of the degradation of time. For many decades, people in a position to preserve them were unaware of their existence or their value. That these negatives survived at all is miraculous. We have the experts at the Ringling Museum to thank for our current access to Glasierâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life work: without their excellent custodianship of the negatives and their commitment to preservation and public access, Glasierâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s legacy would have been diluted throughout private collections and impossible to appreciate as a substantial body of work.
Annette Kellerman, circa 1907
The archive at the Ringling Museum also contains numerous examples of photographs Glasier made of the performers in his studio. In such cases, we sometimes see the hand-painted backgrounds that Glasier likely custom made for the occasion (as with the photograph of Annette Kellerman). The fact that the performers took time away from the circus lot to make an appearance at Glasierâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s photographic studio is further indication of the special relationship he had with his subjects, for not only was he able to photograph them practicing behind the scenes of the big top, but he also brought them home for a more intimate and controlled setting. Glasier was a friend to the circus, especially the men and women who brought it to life. When we look at his portraits, we are aware of an emotional willingness to be photographed on the part of his subjects.
Kimball Twins, Iron Jaw, circa 1920s
They seem to open themselves up to his camera–he has clearly gained their trust–as if some part of them is aware that they are sitting for the eye of posterity as much as they are for Glasier. Even the clowns–perhaps the most elaborately and self-consciously costumed members of the troupe–seem to be unmasked. The power of Glasier’s portraits comes from his ability to depict the genre of a particular act–clown, contortionist, aerialist, acrobat, strongwoman, equestrienne–while simultaneously revealing the unique personality behind the façade. We see the actors in character, but also unveiled, their humanity revealed. Glasier was acutely present but unobtrusive–he managed to convey his intimacy with his subjects but not stand in our way, so that we have the illusion ourselves of being in the presence of his subjects. We become the beneficiaries of his relationships. The power of Glasier’s personality cannot be underestimated. It was his charisma (if not his manner of dress and showman’s character) that allowed him to be accepted as part of the circus rather than be perceived as an
Mademoiselle Scheel with Lions, circa 1905
outsider. He photographed the circus for most of his life and came to know personally many of his subjects. Paying close attention to the settings of his pictures, the exclusiveness of his access becomes a common underlying theme. We notice, for instance, that there are seldom other people present (unless they are other members of the circus straying into the picture). Glasier is getting a private show–photographing his subjects practicing their routines in an empty lot, unoccupied big top, or caged wagon with Mademoiselle Scheel and her lions–there are no bars protecting Glasier from his subject! Glasier maintained a life-long interest in the dignity and plight of Native Americans. His sensitive portraits of them exist in stark contrast to other famous photographs from the period, like those of Edward Curtis, for instance, that are romanticized fetishes of the very culture that marginalized the Native Americans. Glasier identified with the these individuals much the way he did with the circus performers, and he was similarly
© Gerald Beals
Edith Siegrist, Iron Jaw, circa 1906
Chief Iron Tail, circa 1914
accepted into their inner sanctum. He was adopted into the Massasoit tribe as a blood brother and maintained strong ties to the men and women who were relegated to making a living acting out their life-stories in wild west shows–a marginally better alternative to life on the reservation. Most of us have experienced the circus as members of the audience–the façade intact–our urge to be a deeper part of its dynamic life, to see behind the scenes, left unsatisfied. Through Glasier’s photographs, some of the secret has been revealed. We can treasure his experience as our own and know something of the mystery of the circus as a result. We can be delighted by the spectacle and still feel like we are seeing something special that would not have been available to us from our bleacher seat in the big top. Without Glasier’s photographs, the circus would be a less interesting enigma, and our vital connection to the people that were its life’s blood would be lost.
Portrait of Frederick W. Glasier
One definition of a great photograph is that the basic facts of what has been photographed are easily agreed upon, but the story–what the photograph is about–has been liberated by the photographer, in order that it may serve as a vessel for our interpretation. This allows a particular photograph to have different meaning to different people, and for that meaning to change over time, while still revealing the specifics of the subject. Glasier has done this over and over again–showing us what the circus looked like, but allowing us to feel like we are a part of it in our own way. His photographs are a direct line to a time long past, an institution displaced from the pinnacle of entertainment by new technologies, and a group of people who, through Glasier’s lens, stand before us to share their stories in perpetuity. The Frederick W. Glasier Archive at the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida is, indeed, a treasure in our midst.
The Biggest Hit This year marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It’s also been about 50 years since the first echoes of conspiracy began circling around the killing. With the release of the Warren Commission report in September of 1964, charges of cover-ups and withholding information about the case began in earnest. To this day, the JFK Assassination is one of the most debated events of the 20th century, spawning hundreds of books, thousands of articles, and a number of movies and television shows. Through the years, there has been a vast array of suspects behind the murder, from Oswald acting alone, to the KGB, to Fidel Castro, to Lyndon B. Johnson
By Scott Dietche
himself. One group, however, shows up probably more than any other, the Mafia. And not the Mafia as a whole, but rather a trifecta of gangsters who not only had dealings with the Kennedys, but also a deep and intricate web of relationships in the intelligence community, the anti-Castro activist community, and the Mafia, specifically Carlos Marcello, Sam Giancana, and Santo Trafficante Jr. Much has been written about Carlos Marcello’s links to the assassination, from his admission to a fellow inmate at Texarkana prison in 1985 that he was involved in the assassination, to his criminal relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald’s uncle Dutz Murret, a regular fixture in the New Orleans underworld and a surrogate father to Oswald.
President John F. Kennedy
Carlos Marcello, Santo Trafficante Jr. and Frank Ragano, left to right, were among a group of mobsters and attorneys who dined at La Stella Restaurant in New York after appearing before a grand jury in the 1970s.
Sam Giancana is also a prominent figure in many of the Mafia-did-it theories. It’s even alleged that Giancana boasted that Outfit underlings Richard Cain and Charles Nicoletti “were actual gunmen for the hit, being placed on opposite ends off the Dallas Book Depository.” But what of the Tampa underworld connection? Santo Trafficante Jr’s name was first linked to assassination theories because of a comment he made to a wealthy Cuban exile, Jose Aleman in 1963. Trafficante met with Jose Aleman at the Scott Bryan Hotel and Apartments on Miami Beach to discuss a real estate venture. The conversation turned to politics. Aleman later relayed that Santo was particularly angered at the way the Kennedys were treating Jimmy Hoffa. It was during this line of conversation that Trafficante uttered a statement that became the focal point for his possible involvement in the assassination. Aleman wondered if Kennedy would get re-elected and Trafficante replied, 'No, Jose, he is going to be hit’. Santo, for his part, later said, “One thing I know for definite is I didn't tell him Kennedy was going to get hit, or that he interpreted it that way. That is not right and that is not the truth. That is all I can say.” Perhaps the best known tie between Trafficante and the assassination is his confession to his long-time lawyer Frank Ragano that Santo and Carlos Marcello were behind the assassination. Marcello’s alleged involvement has been detailed in a number of books prior to Ragano’s 1992 Mob Lawyer.
Shortly before his death in 1987, Trafficante was driving with Ragano when he told Frank, in Sicilian, "Carlos screwed up. We shouldn't have killed John. We should have killed Bobby.” There were a lot of questions about Ragano’s story, specifically related to the dates when it occurred. Ragano’s family said that Frank believed Santo and was deeply troubled after hearing the mob boss’ confession. Another overheard conversation, though this one is even more suspect, came shortly after the release of Oliver Stone’s movie JFK. An inmate in Texas old authorities that in early 1963 he
was at the Italian Club in Ybor, where he heard a conversation between Santo Trafficante, Jr., Cowboy Frank Ippolito, and Frank Ragano. Supposedly the men were discussing a payment of $200,000 that the Tampa mob paid two unidentified gunmen to kill Kennedy. This parallels the recent ESPN story concerning an overheard conversation between Frank Ragano, Carlos Marcello, and Trafficante discussing how they were going to fix the 1973 Battle of the Sexes match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. Both of the conversations occurred decades prior, Ragano never mentioned them in his tell-all book Mob Lawyer. Santo himself was questioned by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which was convened to take a fresh look at the JFK assassinations, as well as Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr’s killings. On Monday, November 14, 1977, Trafficante appeared before the Committee. He initially tried to plead the Fifth, but was given immunity and started answering the Committee’s questions. Among other statements of note to the Committee, Trafficante admitted involvement with the CIA plots against Castro, detailed the meetings between him, Robert Maheu, Sam Giancana, and Johnny Roselli and other crime figures (though in a ‘legitimate business’ capacity); his involvement in the casinos in Cuba; and his meetings with anti-Castro activities. But he was more circumspect with regards to admitting involvement in any illegal activity and his relationship with one of the key figures in the assassination, Jack Ruby.
Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald on November 24, 1963. That is a fact, no conspiracy theory needed. But Ruby’s past and his connections with organized crime and Cuba bring his actions out of the patriotic, distraught lone gunmen camp and into the conspiracy world. Ruby’s connections to organized crime date back to his childhood on the streets of Chicago. After moving to Dallas in 1947, Ruby managed a number of nightclubs. He also became associated with a host of local and national underworld figures from New Orleans to Chicago, including the Dallas mob boss Joe Civello. Ruby was also involved in clandestine activities in Cuba, running guns to the Castro regime. He also met with Trafficante four years before killing Oswald. In 1959, after Castro took over Cuba, he detained Trafficante at the Triscornia Detention Center. A British journalist, who was also in Triscornia at the time, saw Ruby, who he knew as an American gangster, visit Trafficante. Hudson gave this account shortly after Oswald was killed, recognizing the stout Ruby as the visitor to Triscornia. Gerry Hemming, a former US marine 34
Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald
and mercenary who had joined Castro’s forces against Batista before switching sides and becoming involved with anti-Castro activities, saw Trafficante at Triscornia, and had intimate knowledge of Ruby’s activities dealing with Castro’s army. He also confirmed that Ruby was in Cuba during Trafficante’s incarceration. There are records showing that Ruby did visit Cuba, in the company of Lewis McWillie, an employee of Santo’s at the Deauville casino in Havana. McWillie was also a childhood friend of Ruby, who also shared deep ties to the Chicago Outfit and the Dallas underworld. In fact in the late 1960s, McWillie was personally selected by mobster Johnny Roselli to look after Frank Sinatra’s Cal-Neva Lodge at Lake Tahoe. Ruby arrived in Cuba on August 8, 1959 and stayed until September 11th. The Warren Commission later found that the exact dates of Ruby’s trip were unclear. The House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded vaguely “Ruby made at least three trips to Cuba in August and September of 1959.” But why was Ruby visiting Trafficante? The prevailing theory was that Ruby was working on getting Santo released from Trisornia. Trafficante was later released as a result of a likely payoff to Castro. One last note on Ruby. His legal representation after he shot Oswald was Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Mel Belli, who later represented Frank Ragano in a libel suit against Time magazine. Trafficante reportedly told Ragano, “Whatever you do, don’t ask him about Jack Ruby. Don’t get involved. It’s none of your business.” In addition to Santo’s deep ties to Carlos Marcello and association with jack Ruby, there were a number of other interesting connections between Trafficante, assassination suspects, and the murky CIA-Mafia anti-Castro groups that were flourishing in South Florida in the early 1960s. Lorne Hall was an employee of Trafficante at the Sans Souci in Havana. He was also detained with Santo in Triscornia in 1959. His name surfaces in several theories about right wing and antiCastro plots to kill Kennedy. Hall told an interviewer in 1977,
during the House Select Committee on Assassinations hearings, “Hey man. Right as it stands now, there’s only two of us left alive- that’s me and Santo Trafficante. And as far as I’m concerned we’re both going to stay alive, because I ain’t gonna say shit.” One of Lewis McWillie’s bodyguards, Russell D. Matthews, also worked for Trafficante at the Hotel Deauville. Matthews was also well-connected to the Dallas underworld and knew both Ruby and Trafficante. Matthews was suspected by some in the Dallas Police Department of involvement in the assassination. Memorably portrayed by Joe Pesci in JFK, David Ferrie was an enigmatic figure who ‘appears’ in many of the assassination theories relating to both the CIA and the Mafia. Ferrie’s activities ranged from assisting Carlos Marcello with legal work during Marcello’s deportation hearings, to running training camps for Cuban exiles with Eladio DelValle, another Cuban associate of Trafficante who worked with Santo in Cuba. Del Valle was an official in Batista regime. But most intriguingly, Oswald served under David Ferrie in the Civil Air Patrol in the 1950s.
John Martino was a low level mob associate who worked for a time at the Deauville and was associated with not only Trafficante, but Lewis McWillie and later, Watergate burglar and Trafficante associate Frank Sturgis. Maritno was one of the men tasked with smuggling Trafficante’s money out of Cuba after Castro took over. Martino became involved in anti-Castro groups in Miami in the mid 1960s, and admitted on his deathbed that he knew in advance about the assassination of Kennedy. He named two of the gunmen: Herminio Diaz Garcia, a bodyguard for Trafficante in Cuba, and Virgilio Gonzalez, associate of Watergate burglar Frank Sturgis.
David Yaras was a Chicago Outfit associate who knew Jack Ruby going back to Ruby’s time in Chicago. Yaras also reportedly helped pave the way for Ruby to get in on the nightclub business in Dallas after Ruby’s arrival there. Yaras relocated to Miami, where he set up shop at Teamsters Local 320, an occasional headquarters for Trafficante, who was often seen together with Yaras. One assassination theory actually has David Yaras as one of the gunmen, along with Johnny Roselli.
The CIA recruited Johnny Roselli, along with Sam Giancana and Trafficante, in 1961 to help with assassination attempts against Castro. The Chicago gangster became intimately involved with a number of CIA-backed organizations in South 36
Florida. On November 21, 1963, CIA pilot Tosh Plumee stated that he was sent to pick up Roselli in Tampa, and fly him to Texas, after picking up some additional men in New Orleans. The pilot said that Roselli told him they were there to abort the assassination attempt on Kennedy. Roselli was also the catalyst for the disclosure of the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro. In August of 1976, Roselli’s dismembered body was found in a drum floating in Biscayne Bay. A month later the Washington Post published a story where they printed a quote that Roselli gave reporter Jack Anderson stating that “When Oswald was picked up, the underworld conspirators feared he would crack and disclose information that might lead to them. This almost certainly would have brought a massive US crackdown on the Mafia. So Jack Ruby was ordered to eliminate Oswald."
Why would the Mafia want to see Kennedy killed? There are certainly overlaps with the Mafia-did-theory to the byzantine world of the CIA plots against Castro, many of which utilized both Mafia and Cuban organized crime figures. The motives behind the Cuban theories relate to Kennedy’s mishandling of the Bay of Pigs invasion and the support for an escalation of actions against Castro. But the main motive that lies behind the general “Mafia-did-it” theory is that the mob were trying to get Bobby Kennedy off their back for his crusade against organized crime. There is some evidence to back that up. According to researcher David Scheim, ”By 1967, the field time spent by the Justice Department’s organized crime section had declined by 48 percent, the time before grand juries by 72 percent, and the number of District Court briefs from that section by 83 percent.” Though by the early 70s, following the passage of the RICO act, the Justice Department and the FBI ratcheted up their crusade against organized crime, and the modern era of mob-busting began. So, did the Tampa mob play a part in the Kennedy assassination? There is an intriguing array of connections between the local underworld and a variety of characters that figure in to a number of the conspiracy theories behind the assassination. G. Robert Blakey, author of the RICO statue and the Chief Council on the House Select Committee on Assassinations, believed that there is significant circumstantial evidence that not only were the Mafia involved in the assassination, but that Trafficante played a role in the conspiracy. In short, we’ll never know for sure if the mob was involved in the Kennedy assassination, and that’s part of what drives the continued fascination with the topic. Though most of the players in the Mafia conspiracy theory are gone, the mystery and tantalizing pieces of evidence continue to intrigue researchers. And if he Mafia really did kill the President, it would certainly be the biggest organized crime hit in history.
Gibsonton, Home of the Freaks By Mark Moran & Mark Sceurman
In Hillsborough County on highway 41 just ten miles south of Tampa, sits Gibsonton, once known as the strangest town in America. Called “Gibtown” by its nearly 8000 residents, it has always been the retirement or wintering home of traveling show folks. During the Depression, carnival and circus folks wintered in this part of Florida, with many of them parking their trailers in the off-season near the Alafia River. This was in the days of the big tenin-one sideshows that featured live human oddities like the Bearded Lady, or Inferno the Fire Eater, and famous Grace McDaniels the Mule Faced Woman. Today, side-shows are rarely found on carnival midways which are now dominated mainly by amusement rides, game and food joints. Gibtown became the retirement or home-base for a variety of show folks where next door neighbors were Priscilla the Monkey Girl, the Alligator Man, the Lobster family, or Dotty the Fat Lady. In other places these strange people would have met with some degree of social rejection, but in Gibtown they were treated as average people bonded by the nomadic lifestyle of the traveling show. In 1949, the famous Al Tomaini, an eight and a halffoot tall giant with a 22-inch shoe size retired from the road and settled in Gibsonton. The Giant and his twofoot tall wife, Jeanie, billed as “The Half-Girl,” started 38
a trailer park and fishing camp that has become legendary among Tampa Bay fishermen as the “Giant’s Camp.” Al and Jeanie Tomaini were known as the World’s Strangest Couple.” For many years, Al Tomaini served as Gibtown’s Police and Fire Chief. It’s a safe bet that Al Tomaini probably held two world’s records as the tallest police chief and the tallest fire chief. The Giant continued operating his fish camp until his death in 1962. In its glory days, Gibtown had the only Post Office in the country with a special low counter for midgets. The local fruit stand was operated by the famed Hilton Siamese twins and down at the Showman’s Lounge the late Melvin Burkhart livened up the bar crowd by hammering six inch spikes up his nose. Melvin was known on the road as a multi-talented oddity billed as the “Human Blockhead” and the “Rubber Faced Man.” Gibtown was the only place in the country with special zoning laws that allowed residents to keep anything from elephants and monkeys to a dismantled Ferris wheel on their property. Every Spring the town’s population would drop by more than half, as the carnies pulled out to work the fairs and festivals.
In November 1992, Gibtown was hit with negative publicity when the Lobster Boy was murdered. The victim was Grady Stiles, a.k.a. “The Lobster Boy,” a fourth generation descendant in his family lineage to be born with deformed hands that looked like claws and legs that resembled flippers. Two of his four children inherited the strange genetic defect but were never exhibited on the sideshow stage. Grady Stiles was married three times to two women, he drank too much, and was frequently accused of abusing his family. When his oldest daughter announced that she was getting married, Stiles shot and killed her finance. He was found guilty of murder, but the court did not send him to prison stating that the state could not accommodate for his physical needs. Instead the famed Lobster Boy spent 15 years on probation. Then, in November 1992, following years of abuse, his wife, Mary Teresa, asked their son-in-law to help her escape from her abusive husband. The solution came with three shots in Stile’s head as he sat watching T.V. in his trailer. The son-in-law was found guilty of murdering the Lobster Boy and handed a life term in prison. Mary Stiles was sentenced to 12 years but continues to maintain that she was only doing what was
necessary to protect her family. The case left a heavy dent in Gibtown’s reputation that is still talked about today. Gibsonton is not the same as it was during the days of the big shows. Most of the famous freaks have died, but a few of their descendents still live Gibtown. Driving through on highway 41 it looks like any other place, with a grocery store, gas station, library, and even a tattoo shop. But if you take the time to drive through the neighborhood the evidence is still there in the form of rusty parts to an amusement ride, a concession trailer, or perhaps an exotic animal here and there. The Giant is long gone, the Lobster Boy was killed, Jeanie the HalfGirl died at age 82 in 1999, and you’ll never hear the Fat Lady sing again. However, there is a strange nostalgia to Gibtown, especially if you like cotton candy, amusement rides, and weird exhibits, because this was home to those midway nomads who brought that kind of fun to fairs and festivals across America.
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