New Orleans played a big part in the life of Lee Harvey Oswald. He was born there in 1939, moved away at the age of six, moved back at the age of fifteen, and stayed there for two years before joining the Marines. He defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 and came back to the United States in 1962, living in Ft. Worth-Dallas. Oswald went back to New Orleans for five months in 1963.
He became politically active and started a one-man chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. He printed up pro-Castro leaflets and handed them out on street corners. Oswald also tried to infiltrate an anti-Castro group which ended up in a scuffle on a street corner when they discovered him distributing his literature. This got Oswald on the radio where he engaged in debates on Marxism and Communism. So it’s not surprising that any investigation into the assassination would start in New Orleans.
In 1961, Jim Garrison was elected District Attorney of New Orleans. He was 41 years old, 6’6” tall, extremely good-looking, and had a charismatic and flamboyant personality. His first mission cracked down on vice in the French quarter (raiding gay bars) which generated a lot of positive headlines. It didn’t take long for the city of New Orleans to fall in love with the “Jolly Green Giant.”
Two days after the JFK assassination, Garrison’s office got a tip from a local drunk and former felon, Jack Martin, about a possible New Orleans connection. Martin had a long-standing grudge against David Ferrie, a former Eastern Airlines pilot who had since lost his job because of homosexual advances on an underage teenager. Martin thought that Lee Harvey Oswald’s rifle looked similar to the one that Ferrie owned years earlier and that Ferrie had mentioned a short story about a presidential assassination. Martin watched the television coverage of the assassination and heard that Oswald had been a member of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) when he was a teenager in New Orleans. Martin also knew that Ferrie had been in CAP and this was enough to send him to the telephone.
Ferrie was questioned by the FBI and the Secret Service and he denied knowing Oswald or having any connection to the assassination. That weekend, he had driven to Houston and had gone ice skating in Galveston with some friends. His whereabouts were quickly verified and he was released.
There was another New Orleans connection. Dean Andrews was a short, overweight lawyer who was in the hospital that weekend being treated for pneumonia. He had a high fever and was heavily sedated. On Saturday, November 23, he claimed to have received a call from Eugene Davis, a bar owner in the French Quarter who had previously sent Andrews clients from the gay community. He supposedly told Davis, while still woozy from medication, that he could be famous if he was Oswald’s defence attorney. It wasn’t long before Andrews phoned his secretary and told her that he had just received a phone call to represent Oswald. When she asked him who had hired him, Andrews just said ‘Bertrand.’
On Sunday, November 24, Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. That let Andrews off the hook with his crazy story, but it also allowed him to add more details. He started telling people that Oswald had visited his office on at least three occasions in the past seeking legal advice and that he was always accompanied by up to five homosexuals. He then told the FBI and Secret Service that Bertrand’s full name was Clay Bertrand, that he was also gay, and that he might have accompanied Oswald on his visits.
FBI and Secret Service agents spent ten days looking for Bertrand with no success. Andrews then backed away from his allegations and told the FBI that the call from Bertrand was a “figment of his imagination.” But he stuck to his original story about Oswald visiting his office. In July, 1964, Andrews testified before the Warren Commission and repeated all of his stories—this time with a differing physical description of Bertrand. The Warren Report spent one paragraph discussing his allegations and noted that he “was able to locate no records of any of Oswald’s alleged visits” and that his secretary “had no recollection of Oswald being there.”
In late 1966, Jim Garrison was on a flight with Louisiana Senator Russell Long who convinced him that the Warren Commission Report was fiction. This rekindled his interest and Garrison ordered the 26 volumes of the Warren Commission evidence. He decided to revisit the New Orleans connections and his first step was to have dinner with Dean Andrews. Unfortunately, his recollections were hazier than ever and he refused to be pinned down on the identity of Bertrand.
Garrison then went back to Jack Martin, who was only too happy to talk. During the night of the assassination, Martin had been pistol-whipped by his boss, the gumshoe Guy Banister. Now Martin was claiming that he was beaten because he had made an off-hand comment about seeing Lee Harvey Oswald, David Ferrie, and some Cubans in Banister’s office in the summer of 1963.
The inclusion of David Ferrie made Garrison believe that his ice-skating trip to Galveston the weekend of the assassination was perhaps something much bigger—might Ferrie have been Oswald’s get-away pilot who would fly him to safety? Once again, Ferrie was brought in for questioning and he denied everything.
It didn’t take long for Garrison to figure out Clay Bertrand’s identity. His Assistant District Attorney had scribbled a note on a copy of the Warren Report next to the paragraph on Dean Andrews. He asked himself: who was gay, lived in the French Quarter and had the first name Clay? Perhaps it was the New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw. Garrison saw the note and knew instantly that Shaw had to be Bertrand. After all, they were both homosexuals, both spoke Spanish and both had the same first name. Garrison believed that gay people, when using a pseudonym, always keep the same first name.
So just who was Clay Shaw? He served in World War II as aide-de-camp for General Charles Thrasher and was responsible for stockpiling supplies for the Normandy invasion. Shaw was a major at discharge in 1946 and received decorations from three different nations, including the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, and Le Croix de Guerre. After the war, he returned to New Orleans and created the Center for International Trade in 1948 and became its managing director. In 1963, he oversaw the creation of a new Trade Mart building on Canal Street. Shaw retired in 1965 and the City of New Orleans awarded him its international Order of Merit medal.
He also authored a number of published plays and one, Submerged, was performed across the country. Shaw also restored properties in the French Quarter, and several magazines, including House & Garden, featured his work. One of his most important renovations was the 1821 residence of naturalist John James Audubon. Shaw was named one of the “most important men in New Orleans” in the March 1967 issue of New Orleans’ Town and Country Magazine.
Shaw stood out in New Orleans—he was 6’4” tall, 225 lbs, with a shock of white hair. He had been interviewed on television hundreds of times and was very well known. He was also active in the New Orleans social scene (he was friends with Tennessee Williams) but only those closest to him knew he was gay. He was called the “unlikeliest villain since Oscar Wilde.”
Once Garrison figured out that Shaw was Bertrand, he invited Andrews for another dinner to corroborate his thesis but Andrews refused to play along. Garrison wouldn’t let up and Andrews decided to test him. Andrews noted, “He [wanted] to shuck me like a corn, pluck me like a chicken, stew me like an oyster. I wanted to see if this cat was kosher.” He invented a fictitious Cuban acquaintance of Oswald, Manuel Garcia Gonzales, and soon enough Garrison was announcing that this person was a triggerman in the JFK assassination.
The media picked up the story. Ramparts ran a long article on the Garrison investigation in June, 1967, which noted “A third individual expected to figure prominently in the Garrison inquiry is Manuel Garcia Gonzales. The New Orleans D.A. has come into possession of a photograph taken at Dealey Plaza just before the assassination which shows several Latin men behind the low picket fence at the top of the famed grassy knoll….and Garrison thinks Gonzales is one of the men in the photograph. Gonzales has disappeared and has probably fled the country.” Ramparts also ran caricatures of the major players in the case, including Gonzales, but they had to admit that “his exact features are unknown.”
Andrews had all the proof he needed that Jim Garrison was dangerous.
At this point, Garrison started to think that the Kennedy assassination was some sort of homosexual plot. He met journalist Hugh Aynesworth at his home in January, 1967, and told him a remarkable story:
Shaw was brought in for questioning and he denied knowing Oswald, Ferrie, and Bertrand.
After the initial story about Garrison’s investigation broke in the New Orleans State-Item on February 17, Ferrie called the newspaper and said that “he was being persecuted by the DA’s office” and that “he was afraid of arrest.” He also told reporter David Snyder that he was physically sick. Snyder went to meet him at his apartment and noted that “his steps were feeble as we climbed the steps to the second floor” and he complained of headaches.
Ferrie said there was nothing to Garrison’s allegations and “said he would like to file a suit that allow him to subpoena Garrison and expose the harassment he was going through.” He also wanted to sue Jack Martin who had supplied Garrison with a list of names in connection with the assassination. Snyder asked Ferrie “if he thought the Garrison investigation was a phony,” and Ferrie replied, “Why certainly, how could it be anything else?” Snyder reported that Ferrie “wanted me to arrange a lie detector test for him in case he was hauled in.”
Ferrie was found dead in his apartment on February 22nd. The coroner determined he died of natural causes from a berry aneurysm which is a congenital defect. Garrison claimed that it was suicide—and that Ferrie had overdosed on Proloid, his thyroid medication. He convinced a lot of conspiracy nuts, but the coroner knew better, because there was also some scar tissue that indicated that Ferrie had suffered from an earlier bleed. The toxicology results also came back negative.
Two days after Ferrie’s death, Garrison told ABC News that he had solved the case, that arrests would be made, that he knew everybody who was involved, and that the assassination had been planned in New Orleans.
Then a 25-year-old insurance trainee in Baton Rouge, Perry Russo, called a local newspaper to say that he knew Ferrie and had heard him talk about how easy it would be to assassinate a president. He also claimed that Ferrie had said “we” will get Kennedy. He did not mention a plot, nor did he mention Oswald or Shaw. Garrison sent one of his attorneys, Andrew Sciambra, to interview Russo and he hit pay dirt. Russo now claimed that Oswald had been Ferrie’s roommate but that he remembered him having a beard. He also thought he had once seen Shaw with Ferrie at a service station.
Russo also remembered seeing Clay Shaw at the Nashville Street Wharf when he went to see JFK speak in May of 1962. Sciambra’s memo notes that Russo “remembers this guy because he was apparently a queer. It seems that instead of looking at JFK speak, SHAW kept turning around and looking at all the young boys in the crowd. He said that SHAW eventually struck up a conversation with a young kid not too far from him. It was perfectly obvious to him that SHAW stared at his penis several times. He said that SHAW eventually left with a friend. He said that SHAW had on dark pants that day which fit very tightly and was the kind of pants that a lot of queers in the French quarter wear.”
This description did not fit Clay Shaw, who was a very conservative dresser and who wasn’t known for hanging out with young boys. He was way too much of a gentleman to act in an inappropriate way in public.
Russo was brought to New Orleans and administered Sodium Pentothal (a so-called truth serum) and questioned by Dr. Nicholas Chetta, the New Orleans coroner, on February 27th. He was questioned by Assistant District Attorney Andrew Sciambra who “asked him if he could remember any of the details about CLAY BERTRAND being up in FERRIE'S apartment.” A few days later, Russo was then put under hypnosis in sessions with Dr. Fatter, a New Orleans family physician. During the interview, Fatter was quite suggestive:
It is Dr. Fatter and not Perry Russo who first uses the name ‘Clay’ and the word ‘assassinating.’ Surely this a textbook case of creating a memory—a party at Ferrie’s apartment where Clay Bertrand (Shaw) and Lee Harvey Oswald are all discussing killing Kennedy.
Garrison was almost there. He needed Russo to identify Shaw as Bertrand. So he had Russo walk up to Shaw’s house in the guise of selling insurance, and Russo was able to identify Shaw as being Clay Bertrand. Garrison now had his case and on the following day, March 1, 1967, Claw Shaw was arrested for conspiring with David Ferrie and Lee Harvey Oswald to kill JFK.
He was brought in for more questioning, and Russo looked through a one-way mirror and identified him as Bertrand. Garrison searched Shaw’s home and released to the press a list of some of the contents including a black gown, hood, cape, chains and five whips. Shaw said these were Mardi Gras costumes—it would have been hard for him to admit publicly he was into S&M—but in any event, he was outed as a homosexual. Newsweek noted that “Garrison’s decision to concentrate on homosexuals, a relatively vulnerable group, tended to produce a line-up of alleged conspirators that much of the public found difficult to take seriously.”
Paul Hoch wrote in one his Echoes of Conspiracy newsletters that “Garrison apparently failed to weigh the likelihood of a secret but social and non-conspiratorial relationship between Shaw and Ferrie. By refusing to do so—and targeting someone who would not come out of the closet in his own defense—I think Garrison crossed over the line into objectively homophobic persecution.”
A few days after Shaw’s arrest, investigators visited Mrs. Lawrence Fischer, a friend of Shaw’s. She told author James Kirkwood what happened:
Garrison told Richard Billings of Life magazine that “I’m now convinced it was a sadist plot” and that he had read the Marquis de Sade and knew that sadists escalate from whipping to killing. In mid-March, Garrison flew to Las Vegas to meet with reporter Jim Phelan of the Saturday Evening Post. They had known each other for years and Garrison wanted to spell out the specifics of the plot.
Garrison told Newsweek that he “had proof that Shaw, Ferrie and Oswald were conspirators, but was still looking for a ‘gay boy’ who resembled Oswald and actually fired the fatal shots.” Merriman Smith, the UPI reporter who first reported that JFK had been shot, wrote to the FBI saying that Garrison claimed that some “high-status fags” had been involved in the assassination. And Robert Northshield, Executive-Producer of the Huntley-Brinkley Report on NBC, contacted the FBI and informed them that “at the preliminary hearing Shaw was to be portrayed as a “sadist” and “masochist” who made the plans for the assassination because he wanted to destroy the “world’s most handsome man.”
Muckraker Jack Anderson, partner of syndicated columnist Drew Pearson, also spent some time talking to Garrison. According to Pearson’s March 24, 1967, diary entry, Garrison told Anderson, “The CIA definitely had a plot to assassinate Castro and had approached Clay Shaw, a reputable, wealthy homosexual businessman, as a man who could execute the plot. Shaw was part of a homosexual ring, including Ferrie and Ruby in Dallas.” At this point, Garrison thought the plot was to assassinate Castro but “when Oswald was refused his visa to Cuba, the conspirators then turned around and decided to assassinate Kennedy. They used Oswald as the patsy. He was the only non-homo member of the ring. They figured he was so mentally disturbed, and so at odds with the world, that he could be used as the fall guy.”
Shaw’s arrest reverberated around the globe. In Rome, a small Communist Party-owned newspaper, Paese Sera, ran a story on March 4 claiming that Clay Shaw was involved in unsavoury activities while serving on the Board of the Centro Mondiale Commerciale (CMC). Paese Sera alleged that the CMC was a “creature of the CIA…set up as a cover for the transfer to Italy of CIA-FBI funds for illegal political-espionage activities.” Shaw was indeed on the Board of the CMC from 1958-1962, but there was nothing evil about the organization. Its goal was to simply take advantage of the new European Common Market and make Rome an important trading hub.
The story then appeared in Pravda (the official newspapers of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union), L’Unita (the newspaper of the Italian Communist Party), L’Humanite (the newspaper of the French Communist Party), and then in Le Devoir in Canada, which ran the Pravda article in the March 8, 1967, edition, and then ran a larger article on March 16 written by their New York correspondent Louis Wiznitzer. He mentioned the items confiscated from Shaw’s apartment and commented that he was a “Marquis de Sade.” He also alluded to Shaw’s homosexuality, writing, “Finally, another detail that doesn’t lack for a certain spiciness: in his youth Clay Shaw published a story from which John Ford took his film, Men without Women.”
Clark Blaise’s article, “Neo-Fascism and the Kennedy Assassins” in the Sept-Oct, 1967, issue of Canadian Dimension referenced the articles in Le Devoir and noted that they have a “breezy disregard for documentation.” Blaise “expected to see the story spelled out that afternoon in the Montreal Star, or at least to see a solid article or two appear in the liberal journals. Nothing more ever appeared.” He was also disappointed that the New York Times never mentioned any of the details about the activities of the CMC and felt “it was useless” to write the CBC and NBC.
Ramparts ran “The Garrison Commission” in the January, 1968, issue which referenced Paese Sera and Le Devoir as its sources on Clay Shaw and the CMC.
Author Max Holland wrote a number of articles suggesting that the Paese Sera story was planted by the KGB. The Mitrokhin Archive is a collection of notes made secretly by KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin documenting the activities of the Soviet Union around the globe. His subsequent book co-authored with Christopher Andrew claimed that “In April 1961 the KGB succeeded in planting on the pro-Soviet Italian daily Paese Sera a story suggesting that the CIA was involved in the failed putsch mounted by four French generals to disrupt de Gaulle’s attempts to negotiate a peace with the FLN which would lead to Algerian independence.” Holland also found a note in the archive that “In 1967, Department A of the First Chief Directorate conducted a series of disinformation operations…One such emplacement in New York was through Paese Sera.” Sure enough, an article in the National Guardian, the same left-wing newspaper that published Mark Lane’s screed back in 1963, discussed Shaw’s arrest on March 19th.
This technique was corroborated by a senior KGB officer, Sergey Kondrashev, who told Tennent Bagley, Deputy Chief of the Soviet Bloc Division in CIA counterintelligence, that “the most obvious route toward the broad Western public was, of course, newspapers, and magazines—planting articles in cooperative papers (of the many Kondrashev remembers Paese Sera in Italy….”
By mid-March, 1967, Garrison had received copies of the article, quite possibly sent to him by Ralph Schoenman, who was Bertrand Russell’s personal secretary. We know this from the diary of Richard Billings, a senior editor at Life magazine, who was a confidante of Garrison’s. His entry for March 22 reads, “Story about Shaw and CIA appears in Humanite [sic], probably March 8…[Garrison] has copy date-lined Rome, March 7th, from la press Italien [sic]”
Jim Phelan wrote in the Saturday Evening Post that, after the Paese Sera article, Garrison’s switchboard “blazed like a pinball machine gone mad.” He now had a direct link from Shaw to the CIA. In addition, the plethora of left-wing conspiracy buffs who had flocked to New Orleans convinced Garrison to move away from a homosexual thrill killing and to talk about something much bigger. Over time, Garrison’s conspiracy included “Minutemen, CIA agents, oil millionaires, Dallas policemen, munitions exporters, ‘the Dallas Establishment,’ reactionaries, White Russians, and certain elements of the invisible Nazi substructure.” But the heart of Garrison’s thinking was some sort of massive CIA-planned assassination plot, although even that was somewhat malleable.
For instance, Garrison called Warren Hinckle, editor of Ramparts, in January of 1968 and told him, “This is risky, but I have little choice. It is imperative that I get this information to you now. Important new information has surfaced. Those Texas oilmen do not appear to be involved in President Kennedy’s murder in the way we first thought. It was the Military-Industrial Complex that put up the money for the assassination—but as far as we can tell, the conspiracy was limited to the aerospace wing. I’ve got the names of three companies and their employees who were involved in setting up the President’s murder. Do you have a pencil?”
Veteran reporter James Phelan penned an apt limerick:
Cried Big Jim, the world owes me praise.
And I’ll get it, come one of these days.
Earl Warren, the dunce.
Solved the killing just once.
But I solved it seventeen ways!
One of the strangest episodes of the Garrison affair concerned an entry in Clay Shaw’s address book. A researcher noticed the entry “Lee Odom, P.O. Box 19106, Dallas, Tex” and found that the ‘19106’ matched an entry in Lee Harvey Oswald’s notebook. Was this the elusive proof that Oswald and Shaw were indeed connected?
Shaw’s lawyers said the entry was from 1966 and referred to a Dallas businessman with whom Shaw had discussed a business relationship. Further, the Dallas PO Box number 19106 was only assigned to Odom in 1965, well after Oswald had written his notation. And the notation in Oswald’s book was preceded by two Cyrillic Ds, which is not Russian for P (ost) O (ffice).
Sylvia Meager, one of the critics, thought this was all silly. She knew that the Cyrillic Ds in Oswald’s notebook did not refer to a post office box and that the notation was written when Oswald was in the Soviet Union. She sent a registered letter to Garrison spelling out her reasons why this was all nonsense. Garrison then called her in New York, and he told her he had received her letter but “that he had also decoded from other notations in the same LHO notebook the phone numbers for (1) Clay Shaw (2) the local FBI office (3) the local CIA office. The press had blacked this out, in Garrison’s opinion because the CIA had put the pressure on.”
Garrison went even further. He told Playboy magazine that “Our investigators have broken a code Oswald used and found Ruby’s private unlisted telephone number, as of 1963, written in Oswald’s notebook. The same coded number found in the address book of another prominent figure in this case.”
Here is how Garrison linked Oswald’s notation to Jack Ruby’s unlisted phone number. Garrison said, “Oswald invariably uses the dial of the telephone as conversion machinery to convert letters into numbers and back again. He systematically adds the number values resulting in a sum which can later be broken down into the real exchange listing.” So, the letters ‘PO’ become the number 13, and Garrison claimed the only telephone exchange in Dallas which the number 13 converts to is WHitehall. If you then unscramble the number in Oswald’s notebook, 19106, it then becomes 16901. And if you subtract 1300 (which was a standard coding number in Oswald’s notebook) from that you get 1-5601. Ruby’s number was WHitehall 1-5601.
How had Garrison decoded the local CIA office? Edward Jay Epstein, who was working in Garrison’s office when the entries were discovered, explained. “Using an entirely different system of decipherment—multiplying the number by 10, rearranging the digits, subtracting 1700, and remultiplying—Garrison managed to convert the number 1147, which appeared in Oswald’s book, to 522-8874, the CIA phone number.”
David Lifton told a similar story in a June, 1968, story in Open City, an L.A. underground newspaper:
At this point, several of the ‘buffs’ realized that Garrison had nothing. But several remained firm in their belief that he must have ‘something.’ As David Lifton put it, “Rally around the plot, boys. It’s not much of a plot, but it’s the only plot we’ve got.”
Garrison would never let go of this nonsense. He repeated the story of Oswald’s notebook in his book, On the Trail of the Assassins, published in 1988, still insisting that the Cyrillic Ds were ‘PO.’ He ridiculed the innocent explanation of why Lee Odom’s PO Box was in Shaw’s address book saying, “Once again the people of this country were being asked to swallow a cannon ball, no matter how well lubricated.”
The case eventually went to trial in 1969 and there were some bizarre moments. One witness, Vernon Bundy, a 29-year-old heroin addict, testified that he saw Shaw give Oswald a wad of cash at a seawall on Lake Pontchartrain while he was shooting up heroin; a postman remembered delivering mail addressed to Clay Bertrand to Clay Shaw’s address but also recalled delivering mail to an assortment of fictitious names; and Charles Spiesel, an accountant, claimed he went to a party with Ferrie and overheard a conversation about killing Kennedy. Unfortunately, he was forced to admit on cross-examination that he had fingerprinted his own daughter when she went to university and once again when she came home to ensure she was the same person. He further claimed he had been hypnotized 50-60 times, against his will, by the New York City Police Department.
Garrison wrote that after hearing Spiesel’s testimony he “was swept by a feeling of nausea. I realized that the clandestine operation of the opposition was so cynical, so sophisticated, and, at the same time, so subtle, that destroying an old-fashioned state jury trial was very much like shooting a fish in a barrel with a shotgun.”
Dean Andrews actually testified for Clay Shaw:
And, Dean Andrews finally identified Clay Bertrand:
Andrews went further, admitting the request to represent Lee Harvey Oswald was a figment of his imagination:
And when Perry Russo took the stand, he was forced to admit under cross-examination that the conversations he overheard in Ferrie’s apartment might have just been a “bull session.” He further conceded there really wasn’t much of a conspiracy:
After the party where they supposedly discussed the assassination, Russo couldn’t remember how he had gotten home.
A large part of the trial had nothing to do with Shaw but with Garrison’s attempt to discredit the Warren Report. The Zapruder film was shown ten times in court, one time in frame-by-frame action. One reporter wrote in his notebook, “Now playing—Criminal Court building—the Zapruder Film! Continuous showings—in glorious technicolor (Bring the kiddies).” James Kirkwood, author of American Grotesque, wrote that “If we thought the state’s case against the Warren Report would make more sense than the case against Clay Shaw—other than a seriousness to convict—we were mistaken.”
After just 54 minutes of deliberation the jury found Clay Shaw not guilty.
The next day, the New Orleans States-Item ran a front-page editorial calling for Garrison’s resignation, and the Times-Picayune did the same a day later. The American Bar Association asked for an investigation into the DA’s office and asked the Louisiana Bar Association to consider disciplinary action. The New York Times said the prosecution of Shaw was “one of the most disgraceful chapters in the history of American jurisprudence.” Aaron Kohn, director of the New Orleans Metropolitan Commission, noted that there had been “22 criminal allegations…against Mr. Garrison and his staff in the course of [his] investigation” and these included “attempts to intimidate and bribe witnesses, inciting such felonies as perjury and conspiracy to commit battery…and public bribery.”
Forty-eight hours later, Jim Garrison charged Shaw with two counts of perjury for his statements that he had never met Oswald or Ferrie. The charges carried a 20-year jail term. In January, 1971, Clay Shaw took Garrison to court to try and stop the perjury charges and ultimately won a permanent injunction against further prosecution. Judge Christenberry wrote that the “pending prosecution was brought in bad faith and that such bad faith constitutes irreparable injury which is great and immediate.” Garrison appealed all the way to the Supreme Court and lost. Clay Shaw then filed a $5 million-dollar damage suit but the case was dropped after he died of cancer at the age of 61 in August, 1974.
In 1986, Paul Hoch noted in one of his newsletters the “vulnerability of Clay Shaw due to his apparently irrelevant CIA links and homosexuality.” Jim Garrison replied that “Mr. Hoch should go straight to the bathroom and wash his mouth with soap.” He added that “Throughout our trial, in everything I have ever written and in every public statement I have ever made—I never once made any reference to Clay Shaw’s alleged homosexuality. What sort of human being is Mr. Hoch that he is impelled to so gratuitously make such a reference in a newsletter which he widely distributes to the public? For all his faults and virtues, Shaw is dead and unable to defend himself from that kind of off the wall canard. No matter how virtuously Hoch might couch it, a smear is still a smear.”
Hoch replied, “I will let you decide if my reference was gratuitous. Out here, referring to someone’s homosexuality stopped being a canard years ago; at least, it’s not as serious as charging someone with conspiring to kill JFK.”
Of course, Garrison was wrong. He couldn’t keep his mouth shut about the supposed homosexual thrill killing before the trial. In addition, at the trial his prosecutors repeatedly asked witnesses about Clay Shaw’s ‘tight pants,’ a clear euphemism for homosexuality.
By the end of the trial, the ‘buffs’ had largely deserted Garrison, with the exception of Mark Lane. Vincent Salandria never made the trip to New Orleans but remained a staunch supporter, noting that “given the ability of government to bribe, threaten, cajole or kill potential witnesses, jurors, staff members, the judge, what had to have been done would have been done to defeat Garrison. I think Jim knew that. Jim fatalistically went in and took his beating.”
In May of 2005, my partner Andrew and I went to New Orleans for the Jazz & Heritage Festival. We took a walking tour of the gay sites in New Orleans and one of our first stops was Shaw’s house at 1313 Dauphine Street, where there was a plaque: