Jada & ‘the boys’
Two hours before John Kennedy was murdered at 12:30 p.m. Central Time on Friday November 22 1963, something happened in Dallas which renders the official story that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone nut gunman as silly as arguments that the Earth is flat and astronauts never landed on the moon.
At 10:30 that morning Jada Conforto, the burlesque queen headlining Jack Ruby’s Carousel Club, was hurtling across Dallas in her bronze Cadillac convertible, in such a panic to leave town that she struck a pedestrian at an intersection less than a mile from Love Field, where JFK’s plane had earlier touched down.
The injured pedestrian later testified that Jada said she’d been in a hurry to leave.
Jack Ruby’s top stripper caused an accident while desperately trying to get out of town. It never even made the papers.
More on this in a moment.
Because this is just the first of two significant incidents involving Jada. Emphasizing how close she was to the plot to kill JFK, she was involved in a second incident whose import changes the story of the Kennedy assassination.
A young friend of Jada’s, 17-year old Beverly Oliver, worked at the club next door. The young naive Beverly spoke to authorities right after the assassination, telling them that several weeks before JFK’s murder, in the Carousel Club Ruby had introduced her, and also Jada, to Lee Harvey Oswald.
Beverly Oliver’s testimony today jibes perfectly with another bombshell in the JFK files: the document divulging Jack Ruby’s invitation to an FBI informant, just hours before JFK’s assassination, to come “watch the fireworks” with him.
But back after the JFK assassination, Beverly Oliver’s eyewitness testimony, forced to stand alone, was dismissed. She became a target of ridicule.
Stovepiping the JFK assassination
Before disappearing from Dallas Jada told two journalist friends the same thing Beverly Oliver told investigators. Jack Ruby knew Lee Harvey Oswald. Well-respected Texas journalists Bud Shrake and Gary Cartwright, both wrote about it later. But Kennedy assassination researchers somehow never found out. Beverly’s eyewitness testimony was still being ridiculed. That’s where I entered the picture.
I cover the drug trade. I knew that Jack Ruby trafficked heroin; that Jada was a drug and money courier for the Mob; and that cocaine kingpin Barry Seal knew Lee Harvey Oswald too. That’s a pretty tight circle. Jada. Ruby. Oswald. And Barry Seal.
Seal and Oswald first met at a summer camp of the Louisiana Civil Air patrol in the summer of 1955. Kennedy assassination researchers all knew about the famous picture from that camp which shows Oswald and David Ferrie. Few, if any, of them know that Barry Seal was there too.
And that’s how I first heard of Jack Ruby’s stripper Jada Conforto, and her connection to the Kennedy assassination. In the world of burlesque in the 60’s, I learned, there was Tempest, Candy Barr, Blaze Starr… and Jada. As a result, Jada spent a lifetime being connected with ‘the boys.’
The release of the JFK files re-ignited my efforts to find out more about Jada. The result was the discovery that Texas good’ ol boy journalists Bud Shrake and Gary Cartwright had written, talked about, and given interviews repeating what she’d told them about Ruby and Oswald.
Because this is not a story, ultimately, about the JFK assassination, which happened more than 50 years ago. It’s a story about the drug trade, a business which provided business opportunities to Jack Ruby, Jada Conforto, and Barry Seal, to name just a few.
This is a story about now.
It’s a small world
According to one of the newly-released JFK files, Jada knew the same people Jack Ruby did. She was a drug and money courier for major figures like Murray ‘The Hump’ Humphreys, a top Mobster in what became known as The Outfit in Chicago. And as the Jada file reveals, Ruby himself appeared deeply involved in the heroin trade.
Barry Seal, who at one time during the 1980’s had been America’s most famous drug smuggler, knew many of the same people Jada and Jack Ruby did.
While writing ‘Barry & ‘the boys’ I got a tip that Seal had set up a corporate shell company in Louisiana to launder what might easily have been hundreds of millions of dollars of drug money. Seal’s shell company was called Trinity Energy, the informant said.
Later I discovered a woman in New Orleans named Lena Wamstad who owned a corporation called Trinity Energy. Whether this was the same company Seal had incorporated turned out to be a more difficult question than one might think.
However, Lena’s corporate shell Trinity Energy company wasn’t in the oil business. It was a steak house chain.
One evening over drinks she told me about her family’s connections to Carlos Marcello’s New Orleans Mob, one of which was through an aunt who had once been a stripper for Jack Ruby in Dallas who Lena called her “Aunt Jada.”
That’s how I first heard of Jada.
“Joseph Conforto was my godfather,” she explained. “We called him ‘Uncle Junior. He and his wife Jenny raised Jada’s son. Jada was always on the road.”
Jada’s husband, Joseph Conforto, she told me, at one time owned half the nightclubs on Bourbon Street.
The story of these two women from New Orleans reveals that traditional American upward mobility exists even in organized crime.
While her Aunt Jada was a stripper, Lena became an officer in a hundred million dollar corporation.
Jada & ‘the boys’
When Jack Ruby’s top stripper caused an accident while desperately trying to get out of town, it didn’t make the papers. But something significant did happen… Charles Batchelor became the next Chief of Police in Dallas. So his lack of curiosity about an urgent matter connected to the killing of an American President helped him achieve his ambition.
Asst. Chief of Police Charlie Batchelor wrote the police report about what happened, which seems an odd assignment for a big city top cop in a minor accident. In any even, Batchelor’s reacted was studied indifference. He wrote:
“The woman driving the car gave the impression of being in show business.”
“It is unknown if this has any significance in the Oswald case.”
Jada had been working for the man who had just killed suspected JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. But to Asst Chief Charles Batchelor, this did not appear to be a particularly salient fact.
Batchelor figures in another newly-released JFK document that reeks of a conspiracy to kill Oswald in which he was a participant.
The Dallas Police, the document reveals, requested that one of Ruby’s strippers pick up his dogs and deliver them to a pet shelter after Ruby was taken into custody for killing Lee Harvey Oswald. The stripper, whose name remains redacted more than 50 years later, demurred.
The reason she gave was that one of Ruby’s dogs, a German Shepherd, had been “used for sex purposes.” It was later learned that the ASPCA had several years earlier investigated Ruby for sexually molesting one of his dogs.
The unidentified stripper isn’t done with the Dallas police yet. On the day police moved Oswald, she says, Asst. Dallas Police Chief M.W. Stevenson cleared the basement of reporters and photographers. Batchelor countermanded the order. She says, if weren’t for Charlie Batchelor, Lee Harvey Oswald would still be alive.
Snitches gonna snitch
The newly-released Jada document in the JFK files discloses another well-known character in assassination literature, Gordon Novel, with whom Jada was acquainted. While he kept an eye on New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s investigation, Novel was also snitching to the FBI about Jada.
“Garrison plans to indict Carlos Marcello for the JFK assassination,” Novel reported. “He believes Marcello is tied-up with Jack Ruby.”
Wrote Novel’s handler, “Novel stated he is not certain what evidence D.A. Garrison has on the Marcello-Ruby tie-up, but believes it is connected with Bourbon street night clubs and a Bourbon Street stripper named Jada.”
Jada in Minneapolis
“It’s a rat hole! A goddam rat hole. When I dance I kick up dust from the stage and it makes me sneeze. It’s not a fit place for a star. I got two more months on this contract then I’m going to a club in Minneapolis for a month. And then San Francisco if those bitches out there dancing topless don’t put me out of business.”
Jada made it to Minneapolis, and took a stripping gig there shortly after the assassination. We know this because the FBI continued to keep tabs on her.
While in Minneapolis Jada was busted for narcotics, suggesting either bad luck, heavy drug use, the presence of someone seeking leverage to ensure her continued silence, or all three. An informant on November 16, 1965 revealed she’d been recently busted.
When the FBI tossed Jada’s hotel room, it fleshed out what they knew about her.
She moved in pretty rarefied company. Her friends included Ernest Friedrich Haas (1921–1986). Ernst Haas was a pioneer of color photography, as well as one of the most celebrated and influential photographers of the 20th century. When a retrospective of his work was held at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, it was the first color photography exhibition there ever.
Perhaps he took pictures of Jada while she was in New York, where she spent time regularly.
None have surfaced.
And she also consorted with one of the most powerful underworld figures in the country, a top Mobster in The Outfit in Chicago.
Man with a dark side
While not as famous as Al Capone or Sam Giancana, Murray “The Hump” Humphreys was every bit their equal in his outsized influence in the Mob in Chicago.
Born in Wales, Murray Humphreys moved to Chicago while still young, and became a top hoodlum in Al Capone’s criminal underworld. At one time the FBI named him Public Enemy Number One. Gus Russo, author of “Super Mob,” a definitive chronicle of the Mob in Chicago, which is called The Outfit, credits Murray Humphreys with laying out and executing the Outfit’s business plan in the wake of Prohibition. Humphreys was friends with Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, and led the Outfit’s penetration of Hollywood’s film Industry, using unions he controlled to muscle studio chiefs at will, writes Russo.
Joe Kennedy turned to the gangster to ensure his son won the 1960 presidential election in Illinois.
One night in June, 1960, Russo reports, Tony Accardo, Murray Humphreys, and others sat down and “after a sumptuous lasagna dinner, decide[d] who would become the next president of the United States.”
His mansion in Norman Oklahoma, hidden from the highway by overgrown trees and bushes, boasted a lookout tower, a secret room to hide out in when cops came calling, an Olympic-size swimming pool and a large blue marble crypt.
“He took silver dollars and cemented them to the bottom of the pool,” said a long-time friend in Norman, who talked with reporters after he died. “He would sit and watch people dive over and over again trying to pick up the money from the bottom.”
The current owner of Humphrey’s mansion, while walking the property, recently found bones that looked too large to be from animals. “They looked big enough to be leg bones,” he told one reporter.
There have been persistent reports claim Murray “the Hump” Humphrey knew of the plot to kill JFK, telling his wife beforehand the Mob was “going to get even with Kennedy.”
‘Not a fit place for a star’
Bud Shrake’s novel and articles in TEXAS MONTHLY by Gary Cartwright as well as in books all exhibit the increasingly-rare quality of verisimilitude.
The two Texas journalists put canards to bed that have peppered the arguments of government-sponsored shills for the past 50 years.
Unfortunately, their important testimony concerning the Kennedy assassination is only becoming known now, fifty years too late to do any good.
The same thing is happening today in the drug trade, arguably the largest industry in the world. The extent to which elite interests in the U.S. control this vital business may not be known for another fifty years.
And the beat goes on.