JFK Files, Day Two: Vanity Fair Weighs In


Dallas County seal on the elevators inside the Texas School Book Depository

If you read yesterday’s entry you know that Monday morning after Super Bowl XLV we went to see Dealey Plaza in Dallas and were shocked to find the place was a run down mess.

I had a really good camera with me but after watching my team lose the big game I was truly traumatized and very cold and could not see pictures in the way I normally would and the images I took that afternoon are mostly so bad that I still can’t stand to look at them.

Nevertheless I wanted to tell the world about the disrepair of this historical site so I put a handful of shots together with a kind of a spooky written-in-the-middle-of-the-night commentary on our experience there and posted it to a Leica enthusiast website run by the wonderful Steve Huff.

About 30 or so comments were made, some of them supportive, some of them rightly critical of the bad photography, and some of them downright defensive of the city of Dallas.

I engaged a few people there for about the next week and that, as far as I knew, was the end of it.


Oswald’s view upon leaving the TSBD for the very last time.

Then one day months later, as a new WNBA season was rolling around (I covered the WNBA for years as both a writer and a photographer) and a new round of articles generated by me was about to hit the internets, I Googled myself to get sort of a benchmark idea of where I was online prior to adding a new season of coverage.

The first hint of trouble I got was when I saw a result come up on Google from the Dallas Observer.

So I click on the link and I don’t really see the part about Vanity Fair at first. I mean, it was THERE, I SAW it, but it didn’t register at all.

I was that blown away by the fact that there was THIS THING HERE AT ALL, that is an article and some sort of kerfuffle on the Dallas Observer, and then there was all these harsh comments I had to absorb the meaning of etc. so overwhelming was the experience that I was, I don’t know, just in shock for a moment.

When the Vanity Fair aspect (yes, I am BOLDING Vanity Fair everywhere in this article. It’s not your imagination.) finally registered that didn’t exactly hasten my comprehension of any material facts either. I mean Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, this is rarefied journalistic air in the air of my air HEAD.

Then there was this. Given how harsh the comments were on the Dallas Observer I was a little rattled at the idea that there might be more of the same at the God Almight Vanity Fair.

But, cutting to the chase, that wasn’t to be the case as the contributing editor James Wolcott was right there with me in spirit regarding the state of Dealey Plaza.

So here is what happened. The very next day after my piece appeared on Steve Huff, an editor from Vanity Fair magazine, James Wolcott, featured it on the Vanity Fair website. He used extensive quotes. (James, James, James. How many times have we been over this? Call my lawyers.) And he obviously shared my disgust with the state of disrepair at Dealey Plaza.

Did I say Vanity Fair? Okay. Here’s the link to that article. But don’t go there yet. Read on.

Well Mr. President, You Can’t Say Dallas Doesn’t Love You – James Wolcott

Immediately, like all these professional media people have each other on RSS or something, a writer for the Dallas Observer, having seen the Vanity Fair piece, wrote an article of his own MOSTLY about my piece and my assertions.

A plaque at the entrance of Dealey Plaza.

A plaque at the entrance of Dealey Plaza.

Here is a link to that. But don’t go there yet either. Read on, please. Seriously. The kicker here is not to be believed. Except… well… it’s all real and you can actually believe it.

L.A.-Based Photographer Insists “The Disrepair at Dealey Plaza is … An Insult to History”

Robert Wilonsky, the Dallas Observer reporter, was actually kind of neutral at this point on my assertions, mostly just presenting them to the good people of Dallas.

Well, lol, needless to say, the good people of Dallas hadn’t actually taken any of it very well.

But then something truly amazing happened. The powers that be in Dallas seem to have taken notice and a few months later there appeared yet another Wilonsky piece in the Dallas Observer. This time I’m going to quote the big guys since they have no trouble extensively using my words.

​Remember how offended everyone got when Los Angeles-based photographer Donald Barnat penned his dispatch from Dealey Plaza back in March? Sure you do. Wrote Barnat, who’d been here during the Super Bowl, “The place is in such a miserable state of disrepair that it amounts to a disgrace for the city of Dallas, the state of Texas, and the United States of America.” At which point everyone told him to stick it where the California sun don’t shine.

​Only, you see, Dealey Plaza is a mess — a paint-peeling, graffiti-covered, falling-apart mess.

Ah. As you can see, Wilonsky isn’t such a bad sort after all. And then comes this regarding the upcoming 50th anniversary of the assassination.

As one Dallas Fort Worth Urban Forum dweller pointed out back in March, “I’m sure all the usual conspiracy junkies will be there in force, but there will also be more national attention due to the landmark anniversary. I do think Dallas ought to show more respect for the site and finish the job of sprucing it up.”

Wilonsky writes…

That’s the plan — at a cost of around anywhere from $1 to $2 million, depending on how extensive the redo…

Here is a link to the article and yes, you now can go ahead and read that and read them all.

Dealey Plaza Needs Another Makeover

How much did my piece hasten the badly needed repairs at Dealey Plaza or at least push people there to look in earnest at the problems there from the perspective of an outsider?

I’m going to go with the humble answer here. I, of course, had nothing at all to do with any of this. 

It was all that guy from, wait for it… Vanity Fair.

But seriously, I’m in a very long term relationship (38 years) with a sane woman who doesn’t always share the Leica love, and especially when we focus too much on the actual cost of all these great cameras and lenses.

But when she got wind of all this Vanity Fair stuff and the $1 to $2 million that was going to making repairs to the site of assassination of President Kennedy, well, we don’t downplay the role of me or my cameras in any of this around here. 😉

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