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May 26, 1998

Beverly Oliver ("The Babushka Lady") Interview

by Gary James

In the sixteenth Century there lived a famous French prophet known as Michel De Nostredame or Neostriatums as popular culture has come to know him. Neostriatums, through his quatrains, predicted the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, four centuries before it happened!! "The ancient work will be accomplished, from the roof (The Texas School Book Depository) evil ruin shall fall on the great man (J.F.K.). Being dead they will accuse an innocent (Lee Harvey Oswald) of the deed. The guilty one hidden in the misty woods (The Grassy Knoll)."

Beverly Oliver, known as the "Babushka Lady" was in Dealy Plaza on November 22, 1963. She was an eyewitness to the assassination of President Kennedy. Beverly Oliver believes the fatal head shot to the President was delivered from behind the picket fence on the Grassy Knoll and not the Texas School Book Depository. Filming the President's motorcade that day, Beverly's film was later confiscated and has yet to be returned.

And, there's more.

Beverly was a singer in 1963 and worked in a club next door to the Carousel Club, Jack Ruby's club. Jack Ruby introduced Beverly Oliver to Lee Harvey Oswald, just weeks before the Kennedy assassination.

Nightmare In Dallas (Starburst Publishers, P.O. Box 4123, Lancaster Pennsylvania 17604) is the story of what happens when a citizen of the United States of America steps forward to tell her story.

It is Beverly Oliver's story.

Q: I was trying to imagine what it must be like to be Beverly Oliver. Having witnessed one of the greatest tragedies of the Twentieth Century, when you're asked to tell what you saw, and you tell, and are told "No, you didn't see that," isn't that terribly frustrating?
A: Well, it is very frustrating, but the most frustrating is that the American public was so gullible for so long. Now they're not nearly as gullible as they were back in the 60's because we're post Watergate, post Iran-Contra, and other problems, and we know our government is less than truthful with us.

Q: Dan Rather has said at C.B.S. that they still consider the J.F.K. Assassination an open case and will always examine new information as it's made available. By ignoring the eyewitness testimony of people like yourself, Jean Hill, Ed Hoffman, is Dan Rather saying what you observed isn't important and doesn't count?
A: I don't know if a lot of people know about Dan Rather and what happened, right after the assassination. The Zapruder film was viewed by a handful of people, and Dan Rather was the only person of the press allowed to view that footage. He came out and told the rest of the people that President Kennedy's head went violently forward. Anyone who has viewed the Zapruder film knows that the President's head did not go violently forward. From that point on, his career (Dan Rather's career) skyrocketed.

Q: You're saying because of that statement....
A: He lied. He was part of the cover-up, and he accepted the promises.

Q: In all fairness to Dan Rather, he details the watching of that film in his book The Camera Never Blinks. He writes, "Having seen the film once, I had to describe it in detail, live on television, while millions watched. Given the circumstances, I would like to think my description was good. Regrettably, it was not without error, in terms of what was unsaid about the movement of the President's head. I described the forward motion of his head. I failed to mention the violent, backward reaction. This was, as some assassination buffs now argue, a major omission. But certainly not deliberate. At the risk of sounding too defensive, I challenge anyone to watch for the first time a twenty-two second film of devastating impact, run several blocks, then describe what they had seen in its entirety without notes. Perhaps someone can do better than I did that day. I only know that I did it as well and as I honestly as I could under the conditions." What would you say to that?
A: Well, I have not seen that book nor has anybody else I've talked to in the conspiratorial research groups because he has been asked to review the film again and refuses to.

Q: Of late you mean?
A: Yes. Then, on the thirteenth anniversary I very stupidly agreed to do an interview with Dan Rather. They said they were trying to set the record straight with me, Jean Hill, and Ed Hoffman. I believed him (Danny Glover, Dan Rather's producer) like an idiot. I said to him, "Glover, I hope you are telling the truth and that you're not going to be assassinating the witnesses like a lot of people have done in the past." He said, "Oh no, we're here to set the record straight." They got up on national television and called me a liar and a hoax, of which I am not. Not another person in the world has ever claimed to be me. (Laughs). Why am I a liar and a hoax?

Q: We'll talk about what other people have said about you in just a minute. But first, tell me about The Colony Club. You were a singer there?
A: Yes. It was a burlesque club, but I was a singer. It was separated by a parking lot from Jack Ruby's Carousel Club, which was also a burlesque club, but it was rather sleazy. The Colony Club was a very high class club where people brought their wives. It was a very nice club.

Q: Did you have a band back you?
A: Yes. I had Joe Carcia's Orchestra.

Q: What kind of material were you singing?
A: I did blues and pop, and some of the current stuff. Whatever I felt like singing.

Q: How long were you singing at The Colony Club?
A: Till I married my first husband in 1966. Four and a half, five years.

Q: How well did you know Jack Ruby?
A: Very well.

Q: What kind of a guy was he? Was he loud, boisterous?
A: At times.

Q: Was he a fair guy? Was he a good boss?
A: At times. He was never really my boss. I worked for him but only after hours. I was never actually under his employ. If Jack was alive today, he'd be diagnosed as one of two things, either multiple personality or schizophrenic.

Q: What would you do at The Carousel Club.
A: I'd host his after hour parties, mix drinks, sit around and visit, that kind of thing.

Q: Were there a lot of prominent people in the club. Politicians? Policemen?
A: Oh, yeah. But, they were in all the clubs. A lot of people have made a big deal of them being in The Carousel Club, but that's not really fair because they were in all the clubs. Particularly the policemen. They were sort of touted to come into the club with free coffee and free cokes and free bar pizza and that kind of thing. They provided free security. They stood around the back door, watched the show, and drank coffee. It wasn't just Jack's club they were in all the time.

Q: Describe the Carousel Club.
A: It was rather sleazy.

Q: So that would explain why Jack Ruby couldn't get feature dancers into his club. The agents said his club didn't meet the high standards that most features worked in.
A: That's true. Jack was always a man in search of class. He thought that things brought you class and that the people you knew gave you class. He didn't know and he never learned before he died that class was not something you bought.

Q: You write, "Jack thought his club looked classy and woe be to anyone who disagreed." So, if you said anything bad about the club, you were in for it.
A: Yeah. If someone really wanted to get on the worst side of Jack, all they needed to do was tell him he needed to make his club look like The Theater Lounge or The Colony Club. He was in total competition with the Weinstein Brothers, as far as even trying to steal us away from them

Q: The Weinstein Brothers Owned The Colony Club?
A: Abe Weinstein owned The Colony Club, and Barney Weinstein owned The Theater Lounge.

Q: Where was The Theater Lounge?
A: It was behind The Colony Club on Jackson Street.

Q: I know The Carousel Club is no longer standing, but how about The Colony Club?
A: No.

Q: Those would've been two landmark buildings.
A: I think they've done everything they can to change up that area on purpose.

Q: The reason being?
A: Dallas doesn't want to remember November 22, 1963.

Q: How about David Ferrie? Did you know him? He's almost become a caricature, especially as portrayed in the J.F.K. firm.
A: Well, the movie J.F.K. really doesn't do Ferrie justice. I mean, there's no way to do him justice. He was the strangest looking, strangest acting person I've ever met in my life. By strange, I don't mean dumb or stupid. He was a very, very intelligent person but just very eccentric and eclectic sort of. I don't know how to explain David. He was just weird. I wouldn't have considered him a friend. He was there enough at the Club that I would've called him an acquaintance. In other words, I sat down at the table with him more than once.

Q: Were you a supporter of the President?
A: Oh yes.

Q: How is it you chose that particular spot to stand in, in Dealy Plaza?
A: Because I had a brand new movie camera, and I wanted to make sure I could get some good pictures of Kennedy. I had been to a party the night before and taken a cab from Ft. Worth over there that morning. My car was already in a parking garage. I started walking up Commerce and looking down the side streets to see if I could get a place close to the curb. It was just absolutely packed. There was no way to even get up close enough to see him, let alone take film of him. I kept walking and walking. It led me down ten blocks to what was called Dealy Plaza, the grassy place. People ask, "How did you know which way the parade route was going?" Well, I could guess by where the people standing and thought, "This is gonna be the best place to get pictures." Unfortunately, it was the assassination place. I started filming as soon as the motorcade turned onto Elm Street.

Q: When the first shot was fired, did you flinch? Did you shake the camera?
A: Well, the only way I remember all of that was under hypnosis. I went under hypnosis just to see if I could hear how many shots and if I could see or hear anything in peripheral conversation that maybe I was consciously blocking. There wasn't anything there, but I was able to count the shots, and I heard five shots distinctively under hypnosis.

Q: You never stopped filming?
A: No.

Q: Did you realize at any time that the President had been shot?
A: No. I never knew that he had been shot until the fatal shot. There was definitely a different sound. There was a Bang, Bang, Bang and then a B-Boom. The Bang, bang, bang sounded like the little things that people now throw on the sidewalk, and they pop. I was not consciously aware that he had been shot or that those were shots, until the big B-Boom sound happened. Then I saw the whole back of his head come off, and the blood flying everywhere. Then I just went into a state of shock. Everybody else is on the ground, and I'm still standing there with my camera in my hand, like an idiot.

Q: Did you see a puff of smoke come up from behind the picket fence at The Grassy Knoll?
A: I'm real careful when I start to describe that because there's always a lot of criticism about it. When people say puff, I don't know what they mean. But, there was smoke behind the picket fence. At the time, it never entered by mind that it was gun smoke. I thought there was a car back there that had started up. It never entered my mind that it was gun smoke.

Q: Did people start running up to the Grassy Knoll and pointing it out to the police?
A: People started running up the hill. Even people from the Book Depository were running down to the Grassy Knoll. Some people say they were just running down to where he was shot. I said no, he was shot in the street, not up at The Grassy Knoll where everybody was running.

Q: After the shots had been fired, what did you do next?
A: I walked across the street to The Grassy Knoll where everybody was gathering. I saw those people that kind of looked official, that were taking people and talking to them. I thought, "They're gonna want to talk to me in a minute," and I stood there, and no one approached me. I made eye contact with two of the Dallas policemen that I knew from the club. I knew that one in particular had recognized me and knew where to find me. I wanted to get to my car to the radio, so I could hear what happened to the President. So, I left, unapprehended at all and went to my car. I had an old car, and the radio wouldn't work in downtown. So I didn't hear that the President had actually died until I got the car out on 75, which as then was called North Central Expressway.

Q: Then, two men came to see you at the club the next day?
A: No. I didn't go to work Friday night. I didn't go to work Saturday night, and of course I didn't go to work Sunday night, after what Jack did to Oswald. Finally, Monday night, with a lot of help from my mother, I was able to go back to work. I got to work at my normal time, 7:45, which was my normal time of arrival, and there were two men waiting on the landing of the stairs. I wasn't concerned because a lot of times people would wait there for the rest of their party to catch up with them. As I got to the landing, the taller of the two men stepped forward. He had F.B.I. identification. He said he was the F.B.I. He said, "We understand you were taking pictures when the President was killed." I said, "Yes sir, I was." He said, "Have you had it developed yet?" I said, "No sir, I haven't." He said, "Where's the film?" I said, "In my camera." He said, "Where is your camera?" I said, "In my make-up kit here." He said, "Well, we want to take that film and develop it and look at it for evidence, and we'll get it back to you in a few days." That was November 25, 1963, and nobody's seen the film since.

Q: Do you believe those men were in fact from the F.B.I.?
A: Well, one of them definitely was 'cause I was able to pick him out of a mug book.

Q: And the other one?
A: I didn't pay attention to the other one because he didn't say anything, other than ma'am. He never approached me. He never made any of the conversation. He was just standing there.

Q: You still can't get the film back?
A: No.

Q: What's the explanation behind that?
A: When you write, they either say the film that was taken by Miss Oliver is not in our possession at this time, that's from the F.B.I., or the film taken by Miss Oliver was not retained by this office, and that's from the Treasury Department.

Q: What happened to the F.B.I. agent who took possession of your film?
A: Supposedly, and I don't know the whole story so I'm repeating what researchers have told me, that he died just a few weeks before he was to appear before the House Select Committee to give testimony about the film.

Q: Have you ever read this book Case Closed by Gerald Posner?
A: I don't read the books.

Q: Do you know you're in that book?
A: Oh yes, I know that I'm in that book. Does it not sound like he ever interviewed me?

Q: Well, I don't know if he did or not.
A: No, he didn't, but he makes it sound like he did.

Q: Can I read what he said about you because I want your reaction?
A: Sure.

Q: "The Babushka Lady was never identified after the assassination. Some now doubt that Oliver was ever in Dealy Plaza. Her story has changed numerous times. She claimed to have used a camera that did not exist in 1963. Before the assassination she met both Jack Ruby and Lee Oswald, and Ruby introduced his friend as Lee Oswald of the C.I.A." What would you say to Mr. Posner?
A: Well, first of all I would like for him to tell me how my story has ever changed. It has never changed. I never said that I used a Super Eight camera. That came from a man named Gary Shaw in a book that he wrote called The Cover-Up. I might have said to him, and this was 1970, Super Eight meaning eight millimeter. All I know is that it was a prototype camera that a man I was dating who worked for Eastman Kodak, by the name of Lawrence Taylor Ronco, Jr., gave me as a present the September before the President was killed in November, a brand new camera, a magazine load, and I had to send these little envelopes to Rochester to be developed. That's all I know about the camera, and it was a Yashika. When this came out about the camera, I called Yashika in New York and spoke to John Storch. I don't know what his position was. He was very excited to do research on the camera. Posner is right; that camera was not available to the general public in 1963, but it does not mean that I could not have had a prototype camera of it. I'm not saying it was Super Eight. I don't know what it was. He also made a statement, and I have it in writing, in talking to his supervisors and people of that time, that they felt like probably if I had used the word Super Eight in that interview, it's like people going today to get something Xeroxed. After they came out, they just became the nomenclature for any kind of an eight millimeter camera.

Q: How about the introduction of Lee Oswald by Jack Ruby to you? Lee Oswald of the C.I.A. He said that?
A: He did. He said this is my friend Lee Oswald. He's with the C.I.A.

Q: Can you positively say that was Lee Oswald?
A: I can positively say it was the same man that Jack Ruby killed in the basement of the police station the following Sunday, November 24. It was positively that same man. Now, if that was Lee Harvey Oswald, then yes, that's him.

Q: Why do we have all these reports that Lee Oswald didn't go out to nightclubs?
A: Well, I don't know because I wasn't the only one who saw him there. There have been several people who have tried to tell people he was in the club. Everyone of them is called a liar or made out to be a drunk. They can't make me out to be a drunk. I was seventeen years old. I didn't drink and still don't drink. What are they gonna do to me? Try to attack my integrity. That's all they can do.

Q: Posner goes on to write "Beverly Oliver claimed that Jada (a dancer at Ruby's club) introduced her to Ruby and Oswald over drinks at The Carousel. However, within 2 weeks of the assassination Jada told the F.B.I. that she had never seen Oswald and that she knew of no Ruby Oswald association." Comment?
A: The only thing I can tell you about that is that it happened exactly the way I say that it happened. In an article that Gary Cartwright wrote for The Texas Monthly about the Roscoe White (the Dallas police officer) connection to the assassination of President Kennedy, there was a little insert and he's talking about a guy named Bud Shrape who dates Ann Richardson, our former governor of Texas. So, these are not crackpots. These are serious people. He and Bud Shrape are roommates and lived at this apartment. He said he didn't believe in the conspiracy theory before and always believed Oswald did it alone. But then, he became educated. The story was retracting what he had printed back in 75. He said you remember when the girls at The Carousel used to come out and hang around our pool and that real good looking one Jada was around a couple of days after the assassination. She said she was sitting at a table, and Jack Ruby brought Oswald over. They sat down. He introduced him to her and that Beverly Oliver had come over and sat down and had a drink with them and was introduced to him too. That is printed in The Texas Monthly.

Q: Beverly, any regrets?
A: I'll tell you, there are two things in my lifetime I would change if I could. One of them would be I would not have been on The Grassy Knoll, November 22, 1963. The second thing is I would never have opened by mouth.

Editor's note: Gary James files his interviews from Syracuse, NY.

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