Chapter 27.

[Texas Hotel, Fort Worth, Texas—6:20 am (CST) Nov. 21-22, 1963]

©2024 By Legs McNeil

Photo By: Marina Oswald

Chief James Rowley: Mr. Kirkwood is the proprietor of a nightclub called “The Cellar Coffee House,” 10th and Main Streets, Fort Worth, Texas. Mr. Mackie acts as manager of this club. Mr. Mackie stated that he was working in his capacity as manager of the nightclub on the night of November 21, and the morning hours of November 22, 1963.

The club is open from 6 pm until approximately 5 or 6 a.m., depending upon the condition of business. He stated that shortly after the Presidential Party arrived at Fort Worth, he had a telephone call from a member of the press corps who told him that some members of the Presidential Party wished to come to “The Cellar.”

Robert MacNeil [Reporter/Right Place – Right time]: It was chilly, dark and drizzling at 6 a.m. I checked out of my room, leaving my bag outside my door for the White House luggage people to pick up and went to the press room. The Chamber of Commerce had laid on a breakfast of Coffee, orange juice and rolls.

Most of the reporters and White House staffers were talking about the night they had spent, first at the Fort Worth Press Club, then at some grimy nightclub [The Cellar] where things got pretty wild.

Pat Kirkwood [Owner of the Cellar]: All policemen, all reporters, all pretty girls, all musicians, all doctors, all lawyers, and all our personal friends [came] in free and [got] free drinks forever.

Proud to be a Truther [Akron Beacon Journal Oct. 1, 2014]: The Secret Service’s own investigation showed that “10 special agents of the Secret Service stopped at ‘The Cellar’ in the early morning hours of November 22, 1963. The Cellar’s manager told investigators that until at least 4:30 or 5:00am, numerous White House guests [including ‘Secret Service personnel’] were brought over to” meet him, and “introduced as a member of the White House party or press. He then escorted them to tables.”

Chief James Rowley [Chief of the U.S. Secret Service]: I might say this– the agents on duty throughout that day had no opportunity to eat. When they arrived at Fort Worth, they were informed that there was a buffet to be served at the Fort Worth Club. This is what I ascertained in personal interviews. Upon going over there, they learned there was no buffet, and some of them stayed for a drink.

Three, I think, had one scotch, and others had two or three beers. They were in and out–from the time they arrived, I would say roughly around 12:30, until the place closed at 2 o’clock.

Now, after that some of them went to the Cellar. This is a place that does not serve alcoholic beverages.

Rob Johnson [Did Beatniks kill John F. Kennedy? Journal of Beat Studies, 2013]: Now, while technically The Cellar couldn’t serve alcohol, it was well known that it did, in neon-green drinks spiked with Everclear, a pure grain alcohol. Pat Kirkwood, the owner of The Cellar, managed to convince a host of investigators and policemen following the assassination that he served no drinks to the agents that night, but he later admitted, “Those guys were bombed…”

Bob Schiffer [CBS Reporter]: I went to the club when I got off at two a.m. The Cellar was an all-night San Francisco-style coffee house down the street and some of the visiting reporters had heard about it and wanted to see it. So we all went over there and some of the agents came along. The place didn’t have a liquor license, but they did serve liquor to friends—usually grain alcohol.

Drew Person [Vanity Fair, Oct 17, 2014]:  Obviously men who have been drinking until nearly three a.m. are in no condition to be trigger-alert or in the best physical shape to protect anyone.

Pat Kirkwood [Owner of the Cellar]: About 3:30, these Secret Service men were sitting around giggling about how the firemen were guarding the president over at the Hotel Texas… [They] were drinking pure Everclear.

Hip In The Heart of Texas [tk]: Jack Ruby visited the Fort Worth Cellar to scout waitresses he wanted to hire as strippers at his Carousel Club in Dallas.

Proud to be a Truther [Akron Beacon Journal Oct. 1, 2014]: Kirkwood added that several strippers who worked for Jack Ruby had come to the club and indicated that Ruby might have sent them over on purpose.

Pat Kirkwood [Owner of The Cellar]: The sexy young women who plied the Secret Service agents with complimentary beer, wine and hard liquor in the early morning hours of November 22, were strippers from Jack Ruby’s Carousel Club.

Joe Nick Patoski [Texas Monthly, April 2000]: [Pat Kirkwood recalled] Jack Ruby as “a Jewish wannabe hoodlum and speed freak who was like all the other joint owners from here to Casablanca” and “a pest who came to the Cellar on Saturday nights after his own place closed to hire away my waitresses.”

Bob Schiffer [CBS Reporter]: [I described the allure of the club as being] the fact that the Cellar’s waitresses wore only underwear.

Tammi True [a.k.a. Nancy Myers]: I went to the Cellar sometimes because the Cellar was open all night… That is where the Secret men go.

Proud to be a Truther [Akron Beacon Journal Oct. 1, 2014]: Tammi True, who waitressed at the Cellar and later danced at the Skyliner Ballroom on Jacksboro Highway and at Ruby’s Carousel Club, once was arrested for being a vagrant with no visible means of support. She showed up at her court appearance waving her tax return, which, she said, showed that she had more visible means of support than the judge.

Tammi True [The Wild and Wayward Tales of Tammi True]: Other girls said I was the dirtiest thing they’d ever seen, I could dance, but I could do it tongue-in-cheek. I learned a long time ago that I was little and cute, and I could get away with stuff other people couldn’t.”

Arvel Stricklin [Musician/Film: You Must be Weird]: I know I saw a lot of guys in suits. And the party went on until 6 a.m.

Bob Schiffer [Just In]: It seemed a good idea at the time and must have been quite an evening. I remember that we stayed long enough for some of the Easterners to see their first Fort Worth sunrise.

Richard Reeves [Profile of Power]: President Kennedy was awakened by a tapping on the door of the master bedroom by his valet George Thomas.

“It’s raining,” George said.

Looking out the window, Kennedy was surprised by the size of the crowd already gathering eight stories below. He crossed over to his wife’s room to get a better look.

“Isn’t that terrific?” he asked her.

Special Agent Clint Hill: At 8:15 in the morning. President Kennedy was to go downstairs and across the street to make a speech to a gathering in a parking lot. I remained on the floor during the period the President was gone.

Special Agent Roy Kellerman: The President, accompanied by the Vice President Johnson, and a few congressional leaders walked out the front door, across this street which was a parking lot, and a few minutes his speech was made to the gathering there. There was a light drizzle at the time

Jim Bishop [The Day Kennedy Died]: The roar of the crowd broke against the red brick of the Hotel Texas and, up on the eight floor, the face of Mrs. Kennedy could be seen for a moment, looking down.

William Manchester: [The Death of a President]: [The President] pointed to her eighth-floor window, “Mrs. Kennedy is organizing herself,” he said, smiling. “It takes her a little longer, but, of course, she looks better than we do when she does it.” 

Special Agent Roy Kellerman: From there we returned to the hotel and he attended a breakfast given by the chamber of commerce and a citizens group of Fort Worth.

Julian Read [JFK’s Final Hours In Texas]: It was time to begin, and the dignitaries entered the room to hearty applause. First to enter was President Kennedy, followed by Vice President Johnson and Mrs. Johnson, then Governor Connally and Mrs. Connally, and after them, Senator Ralph Yarborough. But no Jackie Kennedy.

Mrs. Johnson’s assistant, the famed humorist Liz Carpenter, was standing beside me against the wall in the back of the ballroom.

“Do you think she is going to show?” Liz asked.

“Are you kidding?” I replied, “She will make her own grand entrance.”

Special Agent Clint Hill: I received word from Special Agent Duncan that the President requested Mrs. Kennedy to come to the mezzanine, where a breakfast was being held in his honor, and where he was about to speak.

Jim Bishop [The Day Kennedy Died]: It was 9:22 when Clint Hill advised Mrs. Kennedy that she was expected downstairs. She hesitated over two pairs of white gloves, selected one, and left with him. Of all the First Ladies, this one was the most naturally beautiful, the most romantic, and the most dedicated patron of the arts. She had poise, presence, and a smile that reduced statesmen and commoners to the absurd and speechless.

When the elevator stopped at the mezzanine, and a door opened on the back side of the elevator, Mrs. Kennedy said, “Aren’t we leaving?”

Mr. Hill shook his head. “No,” he said, “You’re going to a breakfast.”

Raymond Buck: “And now, ladies and gentlemen, an event I know you’ve been waiting for…”

Jim Bishop [The Day Kennedy Died]: Clint Hill nodded to Mrs. Kennedy. She was a vision of pink confusion as she stepped out into the glare of the klieg lights. The men stood on their chairs to whistle with their fingers between their teeth.

Alex Litter * [Witness/Businessman]: A couple of thousands of Texans jumpin’ up and down, hooten’ and hollern’! The lights of the TV cameras were blindin! It was a real show!

*Name changed by request

William Manchester [The Death of a President]: … for a moment she was really frightened– she had never been through anything like this alone; she felt sure she would stumble. Then she saw her husband smiling at her. He seemed far away, but he was beckoning reassuringly, standing there steadfast as she moved toward him through the strange valley of clamor, her hand outstretched, her eyes on his. Their hands touched. The tumult subsided.

President Kennedy: “Ladies and gentlemen, two years ago I said that– I introduced myself in Paris by saying I was the man who had accompanied Mrs. Kennedy to Paris– and I’m getting somewhat that same sensation as I’m traveling around Texas– nobody wonders what Lyndon and I wear…”

Alex Litter: Raymond Buck, President of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce was shower’n Kennedy with all this cowboy gear, and then he pulled out a Stetson Open Rode Cowboy hat, and everyone in the room started eggen’ Kennedy to put it on.

But he wouldn’t. He had such great hair, I guess he didn’t want to hide it.

President Kennedy: I’ll put it on in the White House on Monday. If you come up there, you’ll have a chance to see it then.”

Special Agent Roy Kellerman: From the breakfast, the President returned to his suite because there was time left before his departure for Dallas.

Ken O’Donnell [Assistant to the President]: When the Kennedy’s came back upstairs to their suite to rest for an hour before starting the short plane trip to Dallas, I went there to talk to the President. I found them both in a cheerful mood after the warm reception that they had been given at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Jackie was saying, “I’ll go anywhere with you this year.”

The President, laughing, said to her, “How about California in the next two weeks?”

She said, “Fine, I’ll be there.”

He turned to me and said, “Did you hear that?”

I was grinning like an ape.

William Manchester [The Death of a President]: This was the first time the First Lady had seen Ken O’Donnell beam. Startled, she burst into laughter. The President chuckled, and Ken grinned openly.

Ken O’Donnell: I thought it was a big loss when Jackie was unable to travel in the 1960 campaign because she was pregnant with young John– back in Massachusetts in 1958 when her husband was running for reelection as Senator, she was great on the road. I remember one night in Chicopee when Larry O’Brian and I took her to a rally at the parish hall of a French Catholic church—and nobody showed up at the rally.

Jackie saved the night with an idea of her own. She walked over to the rectory, rang the doorbell, introduced herself in French to the Pastor, and sat with him for a half hour, conversing in French and drinking tea. The next Sunday at every mass, the priest practically ordered everybody in the parish to vote for Kennedy.

Jim Bishop [The Day Kennedy Died]: Mrs. Kennedy– without saying a word– was a vote getter. So there was nothing on the Texas trip that could lift the spirits of the President more than those four words, “Fine, I’ll be there.” He was proud of his wife, of her obvious “class” as the President called it, and he was not averse, in private, to comparing her with other “dames.” His heart’s desire was to show her off to the nation, but to protect her from the buffeting of sweaty crowds and the hearty backslapping of politicians.

Special Agent Roy Kellerman: It was up there in the neighborhood of 10 o’clock in the morning that Special Agent Lawson called me from Dallas asking me to verify whether the [bubble] top should be put on– should remain on the President’s car or should be taken off due to the change of weather. It had been raining slightly in Dallas at that time. I said, “One moment and I will check with you one way or the other.”

As I said earlier, the weather was clearing in Fort Worth; it was going to be a nice day. I asked Mr. Kenneth O’Donnell, who is President Kennedy’s appointment secretary: “Mr. O’Donnell,” I said, “the weather; it is slightly raining in Dallas, predictions of clearing up. Do you desire to have the bubbletop on the President’s car or do you, or would you desire to have it removed for this parade over to the Trade Mart?”

His instructions to me were, “If the weather is clear and it is not raining, have that bubbletop off,” and that is exactly what I relayed to Mr. Lawson.

Lawrence O’Brien [Assistant to the President]: I went downstairs ahead of the President and Mrs. Kennedy, and the Secret Service were determining whether or not they would have the top up or down on the car, because there was still an occasional drop of rain. However, a few minutes elapsed, and it appeared the weather would stay good for the drive to the airport…

It was certainly [the President’s] preference. He had always expressed a view that in our democracy a President should, whenever possible, be exposed to the people. And I think, also, he felt the people should be exposed to him. He always wanted to have the closest possible contact with people. And in that context his preference certainly at all times was an open car.

Ken O’Donnell: The President made a phone call to Uvalde, Texas to talk to John Nance Gardner– because Lyndon Johnson reminded him that today was Garner’s ninety-fifth birthday.

William Manchester [The Death of a President]: In the fatigue of last night and the haste of this morning neither Kennedy had noticed that they were surrounded by a priceless art exhibition. On the walls and the tables were a Monet, a Picasso, a Van Gogh, a Prendergast, and twelve other celebrated oil paintings, watercolors and bronzes. A catalogue, which had also been overlooked, disclosed that the exhibit was in their honor.

“Isn’t this sweet, Jack?” she said as he hung up with Uvalde. “They’ve just stripped their whole museum of all their treasures to brighten this dingy hotel suite.”

The President knew it had been for her, and taking the catalogue he said, “Let’s see who did it?”

There were several names at the end. The first was Mrs. Lee Johnson III.

“Why don’t we call her?” he suggested. “She must be in the phone book…”

Thus Ruth Carter Johnson, the wife of a Fort Worth newspaper executive, became the surprised recipient of John Kennedy’s phone call. She was home nursing a sick daughter. She had watched the President’s ballroom breakfast on WBAP-TV, and when she heard the President’s voice, she was speechless.

Ruth Carter Johnson [Dallas Patron of the Arts]: I nearly fell through the telephone.

William Manchester [The Death of a President]: [The President] apologized for not phoning earlier, explaining that they had not reached the hotel until midnight. Then Mrs. Kennedy came on. To Mrs. Johnson, she sounded thrilled and vivacious.

“They’re going to have a dreadful time getting me out of here with all these wonderful works of art,” she said. “We’re both touched—thank you so much.”

But O’Donnell had a far less agreeable surprise for the President…

Ken O’Donnell: I had in my hand a copy of the Dallas News, with its black-bordered anti-Kennedy tirade, but hesitated to show it to the President because I was reluctant to dampen his cheerful mood.

“Welcome Mr. Kennedy to Dallas” [Dallas News, Nov.22nd, 1963]: “WHY do you say we have built “a wall of freedom” around Cuba when there is no freedom in Cuba today? Because of your policy, thousands of Cubans have been imprisoned, are starving and being persecuted—with thousands already murdered and thousands more awaiting execution and, in addition, the entire population of almost 7,000,000 Cubans are living in slavery.

WHY have you approved the sale of wheat and corn to our enemies when you know the Communist soldiers ‘Travel on their stomachs’ just as ours do? Communist soldiers are daily wounding and/or killing American soldiers in South Viet Nam.

WHY have you urged greater aid, comfort, recognition and understanding to Yugoslavia, Poland, Hungary, and other Communist countries, while turning your back on the pleas of Hungarian, East German, Cuban and other anti-Communist freedom fighters?

WHY has Gus Hall, head of the U.S. Communist Party, praised almost every one of your policies and announced that the party will endorse and support your re-election in 1964?

WHY have you ordered your brother Bobby, the Attorney General, to go soft on Communism, fellow-travelers, and the ultra-leftists in America, while permitting him to persecute loyal Americans who criticize you, your administration and your leadership?

WHY have you scraped the Monroe Doctrine in favor of the ‘Spirit of Moscow?’  

Why, why, why?

Anthony Bergen: Trying to calm Jackie down, the President joked, “Oh, we’re heading into nut country today.”

Ken O’Donnell: [The President] said that if anybody really wanted to shoot the President of the United States, it was not a very difficult job–all one had to do was get a high building some day with a telescopic rifle, and there was nothing anybody could do to defend against such an attempt on the President’s life ….

His view was that a demented person who was willing to sacrifice his own life could take the President’s life. And that if it were to happen, I think his general view was it would happen in a crowded situation …

I think he felt that was a risk which one assuming the office of the Presidency of the United States inherited. It didn’t disturb him at all …

The conversation took place in his room, with Mrs. Kennedy and myself, perhaps a half hour before he left the Hotel Texas to depart for Carswell Air Force Base.



Tomorrow Is Canceled: The Uncensored Narrative Oral History of the JFK Assassination

©2024 By Legs McNeil