Monday, January 20, 2014

The Sorrowful Saga of Jack Ruby's Pants, Now At Auction

by Stephen J. Gertz

Snap your suspenders auction attenders, Jack Ruby's pants are for sale.

A pair of trousers personally owned and worn by the man who fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald, assassin of JFK, is being offered by Nate D. Sanders Auctions in its sale ending January 30th at 5PM Pacific. The opening bid is $5,000.

Ruby was not wearing this pair of pants when he shot Oswald. But he may have worn them during courtroom appearances. Or, he may have had them on when he heard news of the President's assassination while placing an ad at the Dallas Morning News office. Perhaps they were hanging in his closet at the moment JFK was shot. Maybe he was wearing them while Tammy True, his "No. 1 girl," performed her striptease act at Ruby's Carousel Club. Secrets abound in the pockets, which, alas, are sans historical lint. If only pants could talk. But these pants, apparently, are under a gag order and forbidden to split their seams; 100% worsted wool lips as well as fly are zippered.

We do know, however, that someone wrote Ruby's name on the outer lining to one of the pockets. It wasn't Ruby; the handwriting is not his. Perhaps his mother wrote his name there before sending him  to summer camp. It was probably Earl, Jack Ruby's brother, who inked Jack's name on the pocket. He provided a notarized letter of authenticity to accompany the pants so you know they're the real Ruby. We do not know, however, and will likely never know whether Jack Ruby slipped his right or left leg in first when putting them on, whether he put his shoes on before or after donning them, nor where he positioned his privates within his pants, to the left or to the right? History will remain a beggar.

You may be asking yourself, as I am, why bother writing about a historical artifact of dubious historical value that has nothing to do with books? We've written about Ernest Hemingway's typewriter. We've written about Herman Melville's travel desk. We've even written about Hart Crane's sombrero, which is probably not Hart Crane's sombrero.

We feel it our duty. I am, after, all, the man who slept in Lee Harvey Oswald's coffin. But if someone feels that a pair of Jack Ruby's pants has collectible value who am I to judge? Yet caveat emptor: it'll take a moment of madness to fill these pants with a backstory worthy of their purchase.

Book inserted to lend relevance to post.

How 'bout this one: Jack Ruby, né Jacob Rubenstein, was wearing these pants when he slipped my uncle, Elmer Gertz (1906-2000), his appeal attorney (who was Clarence Darrow's protegé in youth, and got Ruby's sentence reduced from death to life), a two-page note in Judge Holland's Dallas courtroom on September 9, 1965 highlighting his hopelessness and paranoid delusions about an anti-Semitic, neo-Final Solution conspiracy being played out where he was incarcerated:

"Elmer, you must believe me, that I am not imagining crazy thoughts etc. This is all so hopeless, that they have everything in the bag and there isn't any chance or hope for me. These hearings are just to stall for time. What chance do I have, when I know at this time that they are killing our people now in this very building. You must believe me, as to  what is happening, they are torturing people right here. Why should I constantly repeat all these things over and over"

Jack Ruby's Crazy Pants. That's how you sell this footnote of historical haberdashery. The tag covers the whole spectrum of the man, who had a  history of mental illness in his family, a violent temper, poor impulse control, and a dog named Sheba he was nuts about. Ruby's roommate, George Senator, told the Warren Commission that Jack would often refer to Sheba as his "wife." He took her everywhere and catered to her every whim. She was waiting in the car for him while he sent a money order from the Western Union office adjacent to the Dallas police station garage where he observed a crowd and went in. He did her bidding; he had no choice. He was a slave to Sheba. She wore the pants in the marriage.

On January 3, 1967, Jack Ruby, sentenced to life, died after throwing a pulmonary embolism secondary to lung cancer. He passed in Parkland Hospital, where JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald were pronounced dead.

He was buried next to his parents but not in these pants.

Nor in the Ruby slippers.

Pants images courtesy of Nate D. Sanders Auctions, with our thanks.

Image of Ruby note to Elmer Gertz courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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