Bonnie & Clyde

You can see me in the photo at the left kneeling by a headstone in a forlorn, weed-infested graveyard in a bad part of Dallas, Texas.  The remains below that headstone are none other than those of Clyde Barrow, the male half of the notorious duo who ravaged the the southern states in the late 1920s/ early 1930s, and who were made famous to our generation by the hit movie Bonnie & Clyde, starring Faye Dunaway  and Warren Beatty.  In real life, just as in the movie, Bonnie and Clyde drove into an ambush in rural Louisiana where they met their ends in a hail of bullets on May 23, 1934.

How I came to be in this dreary place on a rainy day started with a story my dad told MD and me on our last trip to visit the folks in Michigan.  I can’t remember now how it came up, but he started telling us about the time he saw the remains of Adam “Eddie” Richetti, the sidekick of Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd in a funeral home in Bolivar, Missouri.  My father grew up on a farm near a little town called Halfway, which is ‘halfway’ between Bolivar and Buffalo.  For the folks in Halfway, Bolivar was the closest ‘big’ town where everyone went to shop.  At that time, Halfway was basically a wide spot in the road.

In June 1933 ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd and Adam Richetti (shown at right) stopped off to get their stolen car fixed at Bitzer Chevrolet where Richetti’s brother, Joe, worked as a mechanic.  As they were cooling their heels there, the Polk County Sheriff who lived in Bolivar, William Killingsworth, wandered in.  My dad didn’t know if he just happened in or if he had heard the gangsters might be there.  I suspect the former since he didn’t come in with guns drawn.  Floyd and Richetti took him captive at gun point, took Joe’s car and lit out for Kansas City.  Along the way they ditched Joe’s car, stole another vehicle, switched their hostages (they had collected another along the way) over, and kept on traveling.  Before they reached Kansas City, they let Killingsworth and the other hostage go by the side of the road, and drove off.  They reached Kansas City, and there was where the story went murky.

At the same time Floyd and Richetti were driving to Kansas City, unknown to them, an escaped fugitive was on his way there as well.  Federal agents had captured Frank Nash, an escapee from a federal prison, in a store in MD’s home town Hot Springs, Arkansas.  The agents drove him from Hot Springs to Fort Smith, Arkansas where he was passed off to other agents who took him aboard a train bound for Kansas City.  Upon arrival there, other agents arrived to transport him to the jail.  As they were getting out of the car, they were fired upon by men who jumped out of a green Plymouth parked nearby.   Nash and several of the lawmen were killed in the gun battle.

These murders took place right outside of Union Station in Kansas City and came to be known as the Kansas City Massacre.  Prior to this event, federal agents were unarmed.  As happens so often after many such tragic events, legislators stampede into making laws that are sometimes not well thought out.  In this case they decided to pass a law authorizing federal agents to carry arms, and, in the process, made J. Edgar Hoover, who then commanded a national police force of armed agents, the most powerful man in the country.

With virtually no evidence on hand, the feds put it out that Floyd and Richetti were behind the Kansas City Massacre.  By the time this announcement came out, the two were shacked up in Buffalo, NY with a couple of molls.  When they got wind that they were the suspects, they grabbed their girls and took off for Oklahoma.  On the way their car broke down in Ohio.  While there, local lawmen captured Richetti, but Floyd escaped only to be gunned down a couple of days later.

Richetti was convicted of aiding and abetting an escape and was sentenced to two years in the federal pen.  But, more seriously, he was also convicted of murder by the State of Missouri for his alleged part in the Kansas City Massacre.  Although there was virtually no evidence linking either Floyd or Richetti to the event, Richetti was sentenced to the gallows.  Instead of hanging, however, he got the dubious honor of becoming the first person to be executed in the new gas chamber at the Missouri State Penitentiary.  After he was gassed, his body was sent to his brother in Bolivar and Richetti was finally laid to rest in a cemetery in Bolivar.  During the viewing at the Boliver funeral home, my dad was one of the many people who lined up to see Richetti.

After my dad told me this story, I did a little online searching to see what I could find about Richetti and Floyd, and during my search, I came across information about other famous gangsters of the time.  I discovered that both Bonnie and Clyde were laid to rest in Dallas, Texas after they were gunned down in Louisiana.  I knew I was going to be in Dallas for our oldest grandchild’s grandparent’s day at school, so I decided to track down the final resting places of the infamous duo.

I discovered Bonnie had been laid to rest in a cemetery quite close to our son’s and DIL’s house.  Bonnie Parker now resides in the Crown Hill Memorial Park, which is at the intersection of a couple of busy Dallas streets.  MD and I set out on a gloomy, rainy day underneath a sullen sky to find her.  With our never-travel-without-it GPS device, it was easy to find the cemetery, but took some time to find Bonnie’s grave.

The Crown Hill Memorial Park is a nicely kept cemetery and is large – at least if you’re looking stone by stone on a chilly rainy day for one in particular.  After about 45 minutes of searching, we found Bonnie’s headstone tucked in behind a hedge.  In the photo below, her stone is about halfway down the left side of the long hedge in the Sunset Garden section of the graveyard.

Bonnie graveyard

Bonnie’s mother was most surely responsible for the wording on Bonnie’s headstone and is buried next to Bonnie.  In fact, it was Bonnie’s mother’s stone I found first because it stands up a little more than Bonnie’s and wasn’t covered with dirt.

Bonnie and mama

When I finally did find Bonnie’s marker, I had to sweep the dirt off of it in order to take the photo.  As dirty as it was, it’s a wonder I was able to find it.  As you can see from the inscription on the headstone, to her mother, Bonnie wasn’t the vicious outlaw she was in reality, but was Mamma’s little girl.  Which, I suppose, is as it should be.

Bonnie's grave

I wonder how many of the people Bonnie terrorized, robbed and maybe even killed would share the sentiments her mother put on her stone?

After visiting Bonnie’s grave, we fired up the GPS and headed for Clyde’s final resting place.  Our trip took us to a pretty dicey part of Dallas.  I don’t know what it was like in Clyde’s day (probably not much different, I would imagine), but today his cemetery is in a neighborhood of falling down homes and jacked up house trailers all in various states of disrepair.  The area is being encroached on all sides by various industrial operations.

The Western Heights Cemetery, Clyde’s place of interment, is as rundown as the area in which it exists.  It was the perfect cemetery to roam through on a gray, chilly day.  As you can see from the photo below, the graveyard is overgrown with knee high weeds and looks like the perfect setting for some kind of Halloween horror movie.  We had to pull the car off of a busy street onto a muddy, rutted road with a chain across the entry way.  It was a new chain, which begs the question: what happened to the old one?

Clyde graveyard

Although the Western Heights Cemetery is much smaller than the Crown Hill Memorial Park, it took longer to find the grave we were searching for because of the overgrowth of weeds.  We finally found it near the edge of the graveyard overlooking the busy street we had come from.

As you can see from the headstone Clyde is buried next to his brother Marvin, aka ‘Buck,’ who was gunned down by lawmen about a year before Clyde.

Clyde grave

Due to the overcast day, it was difficult – even with a flash – to get good contrast on the photo of the headstone (which, like Bonnie’s, was also covered with dirt and had to be swept clean).  The sentiment – Gone but not forgotten – isn’t nearly as from the heart as is the one on Bonnie’s stone.

The Western Hills Cemetery must be the final resting place of the entire Barrow clan because there were at least a half dozen Barrow stones all in the same area.

What had never occurred to me until I found these graves and subtracted dates is how young these two people were. Bonnie wasn’t quite 24 and Clyde had just turned 25.  Because of the movie and their legend and larger-than-life status, it’s hard to believe that basically they were just kids.  Mean kids, no doubt, but still, just kids.  I guess much like with people who get involved with gangs today, those who chose gangsterism as a career in the early part of the 20th century didn’t need to worry about saving for their pensions either.

The Drs. Eades & Julia…and radio

I have to confess.  I lied to you.  I said the next post would be part II of the Meat Eater or Vegetarian series and here I am sticking another one in in between.  But I at least have a good reason for this interloper post: it is time sensitive.

Due to other commitments tomorrow and Monday (see below for the Monday commitment) I more than likely won’t be able to get the promised post up before Tuesday.  I was working away on it this afternoon (actually alternating between writing the post and dealing with comments) when my bride came in and whined for me to go to a movie I didn’t really want to see.  But, being the dutiful and obliging spouse that I am, I went.  And I was glad I did.

MD just finished the book Julie & Julia and was hot to see the movie.  I hadn’t read the book, and don’t plan on it, so I was lukewarm at best on the idea.  But I’m glad I relented because the movie is one of the best I’ve seen in a long while.  MD and I related to it on a number of levels.  We written books and have been through all the publisher snafus that Julia experienced.  We know what it’s like to have a cooking show.  And we’ve been through the blogging experience.  But, unlike the heroine of the blog and book, we’ve actually met Julia.

In the summer of 2000, a couple of friends of ours who own Al Forno, a famous restaurant in Providence, RI, arranged for MD and me to be a part of a huge fundraiser for the Providence Public Library.  It got worked out in such a way that MD and I attended as – get this – celebrity chefs.  Chefs? I still don’t know how it happened because our cooking show hadn’t even been conceived of at that time and we had just published The Protein Power LifePlan a few months earlier.  But there we were as celebrity chefs with – get this, too – Emeril Lagasse, Jacques Pepin, and Julia Child.  And, as they say, that’s not all.  We were there with Billy Joel as well.  Yep, Billie, Emeril, Jacques, Julia, MD and me – the celebs brought out to raise money for the Providence Public Library.  It was kind of surreal.

When I was introduced to Julia, I told her I was delighted to meet her and that my wife and I lived in her home town.  I knew she lived in Santa Barbara, and MD and I had been living there for about a year at the time – if you could call it living there.  We actually lived primarily in Incline Village, Nevada and Santa Fe, New Mexico, but we did spent a fair amount of time in Santa Barbara, where we lived aboard a sailboat in the marina when we were in town.  So, I was more or less honest when I said we lived in Santa Barbara.

Julia Child was a big woman.  And I don’t mean fat, I mean big.  She’s well over six feet tall and is imposing even stooped a bit as she was then at age almost 90.  As we shook hands she replied to my remark about living in her home town in her wonderful, warble-y, quivery voice, “Which home town? Santa Barbara or Cambridge, Massachusetts?”  And she moved when she spoke just as Meryl Streep portrays her in the movie.

Until that moment, I hadn’t realize she lived anywhere but Santa Barbara, but it just so happened that MD and I had just purchased a condo in Cambridge a few months before.  Our eldest son, wife and first grandchild were moving to the Boston area for a year while our son clerked with a federal judge.  We bought the condo and they rented it from us.  So, I answered her that we lived both places.  Which, of course, was a stretch since we lived part time on a boat in one and owned a rental condo in the other, but, hey, I was among real celebrities so I had to act the part.

In the years between that first meeting and her death, we saw her a dozen or so times around Santa Barbara.  She frequented a lot of the same restaurants we did and was a regular at the farmer’s market.  But other than the time we chatted a bit at the Providence Library shindig, neither MD nor I ever spoke with her again.  We would say hello if we passed one another, but that’s it.  I’m sure she didn’t have a clue we had met before.  Having had the interaction with her that we did, made the movie a little more poignant for us.  I now wish we had made the effort to get to know her while we had the chance.

Julia had to deal with her publisher and with promoting her various books.  And we do too.  One of the things authors agree to when they sign a publishing contract is to make themselves available for various publicity events.  MD and I have done the book tour routine (which is miserable), appeared on countless TV shows and radio shows, and shown up for innumerable book signings.   None of these PR events are particularly fun, but the most loathsome PR event of all takes place this coming Monday.  It is the dreaded radio satellite tour.

There is a certain type of PR agent that books these kinds of things, which involve scheduling numerous radio shows one right after the other with military precision.  The shows start on drive time radio on the East Coast and move west with the sun.

We will start at 6:50 AM Eastern, which is 3:50 AM our time, and be on the radio pretty much non-stop throughout the day.  A number of you have asked in the comments if we are going to be appearing anywhere.  Right now, this is all that is scheduled.  I’ve posted the schedule below so that if we’re on a station in your neck of the woods, you’ll be able to listen should you chose to.

It will be a grueling day for us, but somehow we’ll manage to keep our good cheer through it all.  A thousand cups of coffee will help.  Hope you get to listen in to part of it.

MAM pg 1