Monday, October 19, 2015

Sometimes Life is Neat (Dallas/JFK Version)

Howdy gents. I'm back in the Dirty Jerz after a week in Texas and a week in California (9 hotel rooms over 10 nights for you scoring at home). Sports talk radio in Texas was insufferable from Rangers and Astros fans who looked past the woeful performance of the Longhorns, Cowboys and Texans. I'm glad to be back in NJ to hear the Vinnies from Ronkokoma and Joses from Ozone Park  talk Jets and Giants football. And Mets baseball, unfortunately.

Anyway, I was in Dallas for work from Wednesday afternoon to Friday afternoon about ten days ago. The first day was spent in the massive cow town known as Fort Worth. And before you ask, yes, the town is freaking out about TCU. After a busy day of meetings there, I arrived in downtown Dallas on Thursday afternoon. I had a few drinks with a colleague, who offered to drive me to my hotel. Unfortunately, I was staying in a ginormous Hyatt downtown (as opposed to the hip "Crescent area") because good hotels were jammed up for the upcoming Red River Shootout. Earlier that day, I pulled a map up to get the lay of the land around the hotel. Usually, I do it in a "what kind of mischief can I get into tonight near the hotel?" kinda mindset, but I was just curious where the place was. When I did this, I barely registered that the hotel was very close to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, which is the building where a guy named Lee shot a guy named John a few years ago. A picture is below. The windows to the right on the top floor were where Lee did his evil deed.

So we'll fast-forward to 4:30 PM local time on Thursday. I'm riding shot-gun in my colleague's car, a few blocks from my hotel. Traffic is at a stand-still because James Franco is shooting a movie in the area. Spontaneously, fueled by two vodka tonics, I decide to get out of the car and lug my things to the Museum. I knew that it closed at 6 PM, but I thought I would sneak in an iota of culture instead of immediately finding a nearby bar to belly up to, as I'm prone to doing.

So I hop out of the car. In a navy suit. In 85 degree weather. Dragging a roller bag and a briefcase. And I start walking through some dusty street blocks. I make my way to the museum. They say it's $16 admission and I have a little over an hour until closing. I pay up, check my luggage at the baggage area, grab my audio headset and take the elevator up, mildly sweaty, slightly drunk, and ready to dive in to the event. Like many, I'm a part-time JFK conspiracy wonk.

The elevator opens and I start going through the place. It's very cool, giving context to that era of America, the Cold War, the political climate and the mood itself in Dallas that week (a sharply divided town struggling how much to support a lefty President visiting).

I saw a couple women crying as they looked at the Zapruder photos and listened to the audio broadcasts of JFK being shot. Eventually, I made my way to the legendary corner of the sixth floor. Behind glass, they left the location where Oswald fired from intact. It's eerie to look at, and a bunch of us in attendance quietly stared at it for a while.

I then decided to look out the window and immediately almost lost my shit. I saw a motorcade of 1960's convertibles, as well as men and women dressed in period-era garb and cameras everywhere. I just then realized that the James Franco movie was a JFK movie, and they were about to film the scene of JFK getting shot. And I was gonna watch it from the window next to the window Oswald shot from. About 20-30 of us crowded to the window. The actress playing Jackie was dressed exactly correctly - in pink. There below was the motorcade, ready to make the fateful left turn toward the highway.

A security person in the Museum was fervently reminding folks there was no photography allowed, and people were in varying stages of "fuck that" mode. I wasn't able to shoot much from up there, but I got a couple in as they started filming. The least bad of the bunch is below. The window I'm looking out is the one directly next to where Oswald did his sniping. You can see the black convertible (the security detail immediately behind JFK and Jackie) below.

As the filming ensued, the motorcade made the turn, and we could clearly see everything (there were some obstructing trees, but they were much smaller in 1963). All of a sudden, the sound of gunshots rang out. People screamed and dove to the ground. Policemen drew guns. The motorcade accelerated out of view. And a few dozen folks started pointing up at the sixth floor of the museum. Where I was standing. Here's what those extras looked like when they were chillaxing between takes.

It was one of the most surreal things I have experienced. I was five feet from where Oswald shot JFK, watching a movie recreate that exact scene. Of the tens of thousands of folks who visited the museum and looked out of those windows, how many saw that scene play out? And saw it play out with Daniel Desario as JFK, to boot?

I exited the museum after a few more minutes and started wandering around the building to see what was going on. I was still slightly drunk and towing luggage, but was less sweaty, for at least a couple minutes. That's how I got a lot of these rad shots! Turns out the director did a bunch of takes in the late afternoon, which may be due to the story's sci fi take on the events (find the plot summary to understand more). Here's a video I lazily shot:

I happily went to my hotel after a few minutes and didn't mind when I walked the wrong way and had to traverse a steep grassy embankment in a suit while dragging a roller to get to the hotel lobby. I ended my night by doing two hours of work and eventually bellying up to a bar to watch the Texans and Trojans choke. I felt rewarded by my spontaneous and uncharacteristic decision to chug some culture, instead of chugging some scotch (of course, I was chugging vodka while doing this).

After the fact, I found out it's actually a mini-series they're shooting, based on the Stephen King book 11/22/63: A Novel. Peruse it at your leisure if you want to dig into a story about assassination and time travel and the like.


zman said...

This is remarkably cool. Does it qualify as meta?

Marls said...

I think it qualifies as meta.

There is not enough coffee in world right now.

rob said...

yeah, this is awesome. can't believe tr shot james franco. and that book is a great read.

mr kq said...

Wow. This story just made my "table for 1" lunch very enjoyable. Usually I just read boring blogs.

Danimal said...

I think TR was shrooming. This could not have happened as he portrayed it. Good on you TR, shrooming on biz trips.

Mark said...

I've been to the Texas School Book depository before. It's a must see if you ever go to Dallas. I was around 13-14 when I went and had just see Stone's JFK so I was real into it but I was also too young to truly appreciate it so I need to go back.

rob said...

this post deserves more comments, you jerks.

what's the over/under on first weekend box office for the new star wars movie? seventy bazillion?

Squeaky said...

I'm gobsmacked at your timing TR. But the Jackass in me wants to know if anyone in the building said 'Pew, Pew, Pew' as the cars drove by? You know in the build up to the new Star Wars trailer.

zman said...

I thought the same thing but was too polite to say so.

I assume Star Wars will break the record, whatever that is. I think I've seen one of the new ones but that's it. What's the correct order to introduce them to my son? Order of release or the chronological order of the story?

Mark said...

I think order of release is the way to go but that might just because I'm old.

zman said...

I bet Sam Bradford would be more accurate if he wasn't cockeyed.

Shlara said...

TR, this is a very cool story.
And Marls, YOU"RE ALIVE!!

rob said...

19 points for marcus (on 7-19 shooting - baby steps) in his third pro game for the sydney kings. progress.

Dave said...

holy shit! i immediately thought of that stephen king book when i read this, but your story ended up sucking ass . . . i thought you went through a time warp! i was very disappointed that it was only a movie shoot.

sisca laura said...