Monday, December 9, 2013

Yet Another Bonnie & Clyde Movie-- But How Historically Accurate, & Does It Matter??

I've been asked what I think of the new Bonnie & Clyde TV movie. To my educated Bonnie & Clyde mind-- a real mishmosh of fantasy, 1/2 truth, some truth, mixing of truths and wishful thinking. "However"-- as so little is known of the famous duo's personal interaction behind known Bonnie & Clyde historical events, it seems the screenwriters here have taken full advantage of those unknowns. As such, Bonnie is portrayed as the young mastermind of her own star-filled dreams-- as transferred to seeking fame within a crime duo instead of as a rejected Hollywood wannabe and dancer. BTW-- in real life, according to her sister Billie-- Bonnie aspired to being a singer on Broadway.

Now was the real Bonnie Parker as conniving and aggressive as her TV counterpart?? Despite some wanting to believe she was the ultimate sweetheart-- eyewitness accounts had her cursing like a sailor, being threatening, drinking to excess, resorting to powerful pain-killing drugs (after being seriously injured at Wellington), and without much doubt-- having fired weapons at the law on a number of occasions. That said-- perhaps her portrayal here isn't that far from the truth. Now whether the real Bonnie ever had an inkling to settle for fame as a criminal within a gang responsible for at least 12 killings, rather than as a performer-- I don't believe can be discerned based on what is known of the real lady.

Certainly, Bonnie (who was known to be quite intelligent)-- knew that once she and the boys were sought for murder-- most any aspirations she had of a legitimate career in show business were through. So this movie hits on an aspect of Bonnie rarely considered. Bonnie "was" though-- surely stubborn, and loyal to her man to the end. And in this version sexually promiscuous, just as rumored after her death. However, in having dealt with Bonnie & Clyde sexual rumors for years now-- my feeling is, when someone shows me concrete evidence to back claims which eclipse the dealings of a normal sexually active young couple-- I'll consider it. Until then-- objectively, claims of nymphomania in Bonnie and homosexuality in Clyde seem unfounded. However years later, Dr. James Wade revealed that when killed-- both Bonnie & Clyde had had gonorrhea.  So "go figure" the possibilities.

Some may be surprised to hear me say, that despite my being a Bonnie & Clyde purist-- and despite my choosing not to even
attempt a count of historical inaccuracies this new Bonnie & Clyde film presents-- I must admit to liking this fantasized version to a certain degree, for the "entertainment" it is.  I must say a truly different twist on Bonnie & Clyde-- much fun but historically inept.  The casting for the most part is strong.  Both the Clyde and Bonnie actors (as they "were" mostly known at the time)-- are terrific. And I especially like the Emma Parker, Cumie Barrow and Henry Barrow portrayals. I will say though, in knowing L. J. "Boots" Hinton as I do-- I wouldn't want to be in the room, when someone tells him his father Ted is seen coming on to Bonnie in asking for a kiss. But in all fairness, there are rumors concerning Ted's attraction to Bonnie-- some of which Ted caused himself. But that too you see-- is one of this history's many unknowns.

The conspicuous absence of W. D. Jones, materially changed a number of B&C occurrences.
The mixed up way events were combined and placed out of order, is surely perplexing to those of us who know the correct order of things.  For example, I didn't know Frank Hamer was hot on their trail at Dexter, Iowa and made the fatal shot which felled Buck months before the Eastham breakout.  Now "that's" some creative combining of characters and events!!   Nothing like pressing so much wrong into so little space.  I do give the writers credit for knowing of Bonnie's use of Amytal. If they had only added Morphine to the mix, they would've had a much different Bonnie prior to Eastham.  BTW-- Clyde was thought to have an effective "6th sense" which kept them out of trouble. It was Bonnie who had premonitions, as she did concerning the deaths of Billie's children.   

And no matter the B&C version-- it must be really hard to find an actress who looks roughly like Bonnie and is the same size. The Clyde Barrow portrayal here seems right, as Clyde was 5' 6". Bonnie on the other hand, was a diminutive woman-- just under 5 feet tall, and weighing in at 100 lbs or less. The Blanche Barrow character seems about right here-- as the real Blanche was 5' 1" and about 90 lbs when captured. She and Bonnie were known to be able wear each others clothes.

Now does it matter, to have an historically accurate Bonnie & Clyde movie at some point??  "Of course" it does.  To quote James Taylor, but expanded to include truth in Bonnie & Clyde History-- "That's why I'm here".  However-- can movie makers overcome the pressures of $$, with all it's greed-driven baggage and perceived need for sensationalism to produce a greater return on investment-- and instead, satisfy those of us who care about history??  Apparently not.  But "Hey movie makers!!!-- you know what"??  The real story of Bonnie & Clyde, is far more interesting than the fictionalized versions you wheel out there for a quick buck.  Concerning an ultimate Bonnie & Clyde film, I was routing for Tonya Holly's effort-- which I hope somehow will be revived.  But it seems when funding is involved (and it always is)--  creative license is retained by those expecting large returns on their investment.  An unfortunate "truth"-- for those seeking and respecting the word.

So what's the verdict??  To me, all in all-- an entertaining 4 hours of "non-history"-- which to do it right, would likely take another 4 hours within a TV format.  So e
njoy this B&C effort for what it is-- as it has no way of being anything else. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Another Bonnie & Clyde Ambush Aniversary-- But What Does It All Mean??

To many the look on Bonnie's face within this photo, likely taken just weeks before their deaths says it all-- concerning an event Bonnie surely knew was coming.  And for a woman who seemingly possessed some spiritual or psychic ability to "know"-- as she did concerning the deaths of Billies children-- Bonnie couldn't have been more right.  For 79 years ago, those both supportive and enemy alike-- were gripped by sensational headlines and prose, telling of the annihilation of Bonnie and Clyde by the most decisive and chilling of methods-- an ambush.

But why does this iconic event still captivate so many so long after the fact??  And is it fair now to question what lessons have been learned over the decades-- and what it all means??  Some may choose to over-analyze or forever-rationalize the ambush and it's importance, in ways more complicated than need be. And others may question the harshness of the law until the wee hours of the dawn-- in taking out outlaws surely as ruthless as themselves.

To me, this historic event and snapshot in time is about human nature-- and serves as a reminder, concerning both the wondrous and often hurtful traits human beings possess and level upon one another.  The ability to love to the point of blindness-- the duty to remain loyal to the end, no matter the odds-- of wanting things sometimes unattainable, and taking from others when items desired cannot be earned by honest means-- of ending lives which get in the way-- and traveling roads within life, leading to places cursed as destinations never thought possible. But most telling-- of desperation and the fight for survival. 

Yes people can be wonderful with hearts and goodness to match-- but when pressed to the wall by happenstance or choice-- can become deadly foes.  And sometimes deadly foes need to be dealt with for the common good, by those with the capacity to be just as lethal.

So whether some within their imaginations, somehow wish they'd  also been there to help pull triggers in defense of "justice" that day-- or who feel a unique camaraderie with these strangely likable outlaws, and wish within their very souls to have received the onslaught of bullets as well-- in a defiant show of "passion" and righteousness for the common man-- or for those fans, aficionados or fact checkers striving to discover the truth within this history-- the ambush of Bonnie & Clyde holds a special place.  For you see, it seems no matter the experience, pain or gain-- indeed over time, so many human traits hold true.     

And then there's perhaps the greatest and most challenging of human attributes-- forgiveness.  I'm not sure how that one fits into this oft polarizing history.  But unfortunately-- I'm pretty sure there hasn't been much progress made along that front.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bonnie Parker's Bloodied Glasses-- An Update Worth Waiting For.

A ways back now, I published an article concerning Bonnie Parker's bloodied glasses-- reportedly worn by her and recovered at the scene of the ambush.  The owner of the glasses, a gentleman named Steve from Massachusetts (who has wished his full name to remain anonymous)-- had provided clarification to the blog re: Bonnie's specs, in telling of Shreveport, LA. Sheriff Thomas Hughes having obtained Bonnie's glasses after the waylay.  And what has seemed to be quite adequate provenance, has been documented here and elsewhere concerning Bonnie's bloody spectacles. However as is usually the case within Bonnie & Clyde History-- Bonnie & Clyde "naysayers" assembled after publication of the article to criticize, scrutinize and beat about the head, any notion of Bonnie's glasses being legitimate.    

Now for those of you who've studied the U.S. Bureau of Investigation Dallas Bonnie and Clyde File (file #26-4114)-- you'll know Sheriff Hughes to be a figure steeped in controversy, who some (apparently including the Bureau at the time)-- felt to be non-trustworthy.  Also stories regarding historical accounts, are often considered just that-- without some form of corroboration.  Fast forward to the present.  With "many thanks" to Jason-- here are scans of The Shreveport Journal, dated May 24, 1934.  Within an article Titled "Barrow and Parker Woman Had Paid in Looks and Health for Months of Dodging Officers"-- now an independent account of Bonnie's glasses (including their being splattered by blood)-- as reported by Tom Ashley, Journal Staff Reporter.  Since I've never seen this article before-- as Hubert Humphrey used to say-- I'm "pleased as punch" to provide it for you.

By including scans of both the Journal front page and article-- I hope all will enjoy seeing an olden account of Bonnie's glasses, newly brought to the fore.  Along with my thanks to Jason and best to Steve-- I can't help but include a note for the naysayers, who've previously expended time and venom in attempting to dispute Bonnie's glasses.  My feeling is as always concerning uncovering historical evidence.  Just as in life-- patience is indeed a virtue.  And when it comes to those who spend what could be valuable time, attempting to dispute with such animosity damn near everything within this history-- just think of the positive energy which could be spent, if not already stoking the fires of the indefensible.       

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bonnie & Clyde Memorabilia-- So Often Fluff, Masquerading For the Authentic.

Reuters put it this way-- (Reuters) - "Two guns believed seized from gangsters Bonnie and Clyde in 1933 after a deadly Missouri shootout with police sold for a combined $210,000 at an auction on Saturday in Kansas City to an unnamed online bidder".  Also and of perhaps greater note, this same news outlet reported on the now famous RR auction in this way-- (Reuters) - "Two pistols found on the bodies of famed Depression-era outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow after they were killed by a posse in 1934 have sold at auction on Sunday for $504,000". 

Now did these Hamer family treasures (the Bonnie & Clyde pistols from the death car)-- possess a stronger provenance than the Thompson submachine gun and shotgun reportedly seized from Bonnie & Clyde's Joplin hideout??  In my view-- yes.  But to some Bonnie & Clyde Historians who've spoken out-- even Bonnie's supposed "squat gun" is suspect.  However in reality-- only those present at the ambush would know.  So does Hamer's description of this now storied gun, trump others recollections who never spoke of such a weapon??  Apparently it does, although logic would neatly support the opposite conclusion-- that since others didn't remember it-- it may not be so.

But having personally spoken to Joplin's Chief of Police at one point-- re: their Bonnie & Clyde files and admitted inability to retain Bonnie & Clyde physical evidence from within their own ranks-- I would bet on the Hamer weapons before the Joplin ones.  Plus as many in the know know-- Clyde didn't at all favor the unreliable nature of the Thompson, but rather in every case I am aware of-- when a machine gun was employed by The Barrow Gang, it was a BAR. 

The recent failure of the Carroll Rich .32 to bring even a reasonable bid at auction, to me illustrates a point concerning the shallow nature of Bonnie & Clyde memorabilia and within a wider realm-- of memorabilia in general these days.  Some historical pieces are quite common-- while others can be remarkably rare.  Based on realities which exist within Bonnie & Clyde History-- true artifacts from this history and most individuals associated with it, are "exceedingly" rare.

For instance, we now know the truth regarding the destruction of Bonnie's remaining personal effects.  We also know most of Clyde's belongings were retained by the Barrow family-- with a portion of them being made available by family members over the years.  Such was the case, with Marie Barrow's apparent gesture of love-- in wanting "the kids" (as they were affectionately known by those closest to them) reinterred, so they could RIP together forever. But as it turned out, even though more than an adequate amount was raised for this purpose-- other family dynamics came into play, which negated such an effort.

With many family-held Bonnie & Clyde pieces destroyed, under wraps or dispersed-- that leaves the search for authentic Bonnie & Clyde artifacts to include items from those who may have "happened upon" the famous couple, or to law enforcement who seized remnants of the West Dallas duo's adventures over the relatively short time they were on the run.  Some of these remnants have logical and strong provenance-- while others so often appear to be cases of "wishful thinking". 

As I feel fortunate to own a number of authentic Bonnie & Clyde artifacts-- I often receive e-mails from those who feel they too have real Bonnie & Clyde pieces, and ask for assistance in trying to discern their reality.  As some may know, almost all my Bonnie & Clyde pieces-- came from family members.  My Bonnie poem "The Saga of Bonnie and Desperate Clyde"-- came from Blanche's Estate. Billie's unfinished manuscript, came from the Parker family via Blanche's Executrix with permission of Bonnie's niece-- whom I made certain knew I had it, and who so graciously allowed me to retain it.  Rhea Leen's such a sweet lady.  And so many remaining personal effects of Blanche, came to me via her Estate-- with provenance beyond reproach. 

The only Bonnie & Clyde artifact I own which came from unknown waters, are my dual Bonnie & Clyde signatures-- which
with help of the best experts I could find, much time and objective effort was spent authenticating.  The signatures, are one of those someone "happened upon" Bonnie & Clyde pieces.  But even The Bonnie & Clyde Signatures may have been obtained by a Barrow relative-- a possibility still being explored.

However among many candidates I've viewed which are obvious fakes-- there are some pieces out there I and others feel could be real.  In perhaps a surprising gesture to some, but surely not to me-- I do feel another pair of Bonnie & Clyde signatures could exist-- apparently signed on some sort of Drug Store container.  I say this, because I feel it's clear-- no authentic Bonnie signatures had surfaced prior to Bonnie's script within my piece, and also on Steve Haas' Bonnie poem "The Street Girl".  Bonnie formed her signature in a most unusual way-- and the Bonnie script on the Pharmacy container is formed similarly.  However, as only an image of this possibility exists, but no evidence of this container's owner or physical whereabouts is known-- I'm not sure how to advance this idea??

hen there are the Coach's Corners of the world and like memorabilia houses in Las Vegas and elsewhere-- who market "rare" and for many "suspect" alleged signatures like Bonnie & Clyde's, as if they were as common as the air we breathe.  My advice is simple-- be wary of any entity that promotes memorabilia backed by "authenticators" who've been cited within exposes' on forgery. 

The photo above of an alleged Clyde signature-- is apparently one of Coach's Corner's latest forays into their sea of suspicion. They claim
"Your Son" is added as a bonus, and book value approaches 3 grand on the hard to find piece".  Well for those who obviously know so little, and sell incredibly rare pieces for a pittance (and why would anyone do that?? unless afraid of greater scrutiny)-- the true value of a legitimate Clyde Barrow as noted through previous sales, might require the leveraging of someone's house.  "Many thanks" as always  to Chris-- for the pic and head's up.  But even some of the most "reputable" and respected auction houses as I view it-- can be guilty of shoddy diligence when it comes to promoting Bonnie & Clyde artifacts.  This was evident concerning that supposed signed photo of Bonnie, as sold by Christies and profiled here some time back.


The photo in question, sported an alleged and incorrect Bonnie signature with salutation and signature in 2 different inks backed by an iron-cladly "wrong" provenance.  When I contacted Christies on behalf of both the buyer and individual wrongly named as proof of this item's authenticity-- Christies hedged in claiming they never promoted Bonnie's supposed signature as the focus of this item.  A tale hard to swallow-- when most of this item's provenance centered around the signature, and when a news photo without script-- would've likely fetched hundreds of dollars-- not $7400.  Seemingly not much caring for truth or what's right??  "Cha Ching"!!!  Note: Another
photo w/Bonnie signature "identical" to the one sold by Christies-- was touted by yet another memorabilia site concurrently (yep)-- and reportedly sold for $15,000.  "Aye Yi Yi".

Guns seem the easiest items to promote, as having been in the presence of Bonnie & Clyde.  However o
ne of the latest things touted as a Bonnie & Clyde piece, is a ledger of unknown origin-- passed down through a family in Texas.  At 1st, based on the location of this item and possible connection to the flight path of an expanded Barrow Gangs' escape from their Eastham Prison breakout-- it was thought by some including me, that Bonnie & Clyde signatures within this ledger could be real. 

However, what wasn't disclosed by it's initial owner, but rather the gentleman who bought it-- was alleged multiple signatures of Bonnie & Clyde within this book, among the signatures of many celebrities sans explanation.  To my way of thinking this may have signaled some fun loving people's pranks-- to sign this Hotel register or whatever it was, as Bonnie & Clyde.  Probably not an unusual possibility-- as this dangerous, romantic and paradoxical couple were both admired and hated back in '34. Anyway-- with the reality of multiple versions of Bonnie & Clyde signatures apparently present-- I and others have backed away from this reported Bonnie & Clyde relic in the name of wariness and prudence. 

Long story just a touch longer-- such a "stand up" and respected Carroll Rich deserved better, than to have someone end up with a death car gun for 12 grand-- which to me, is an injustice to Carroll and this history-- considering a suspect Thompson fetched 10 times that within the same Mayo auction house.  But I suppose consistency is the key-- as Joplin sports some of the more blatant and likely Bonnie & Clyde fakes.  These include the Bonnie Parker Highway Patrol fingerprint card, located at the Missouri Highway Patrol Museum-- and the door at the
Dorothea B. Hoover Historical Museum, supposedly from the top of the stairs at the Joplin hideout-- but with bullet holes in it??  Now a Thompson, reportedly taken from the Joplin hideout.  But how much can you say, when fighting an uphill battle??

"As much as it takes".  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bonnie & Clyde Amatuer Coroner's Night Revisited

OK-- Since some wish to dredge up the Frank Hamer brutal shooting of Bonnie from the right side of the death car, as espoused by Jones, Fischer and Guinn-- such an analysis requires the "bloody dimple" on Bonnie's right cheek, to be an entrance wound not noted by Dr. James Wade within his Coroner's Inquest report of May 23rd, 1934.  Either that, or this theory implies a cover-up by Wade-- in succumbing to pressure by one would assume Frank Hamer, to avoid the embarrassment of such an action on his part.

However as Hamer wasn't known as a man who minced words or feelings, and his feelings toward Bonnie (apparently largely based on a jaded impression of the Grapevine killings) were adequatelexpressed-- such hedging of any determined action he participated in makes little sense.  It's all gobbledygook to me.  My response to such reckless Bonnie & Clyde supposition and sensationalism-- is to simply say "prove it".    

There are those still living, who remember James Wade as man of great integrity.  In defense of the real Coroner Dr. Wade-- we could begin with this photo of a cleaned up Bonnie-- which shows what many have always thought was a cute Bonnie Parker indeed having dimples.  But we've already known that from photos of her when alive.  But I wonder what happened to that bullet hole within her right cheek, so "clearly visible" within the bloody Bonnie photo?? I guess it just goes to show-- blood within a dimple, does not good history make.

Time to quote Jeff Guinn as per Jones and Fischer-- "As the Ford gradually rolled to stop in the ditch beside the road, Hamer hustled down the hill, brandishing his powerful Colt Monitor Machine Rifle.  He was taking no chances. First, he fired a burst into Bonnie through the rear passenger window.  Then, when the car had completely stopped, the six-foot, three-inch Hamer walked forward, leaning his towering frame over the front seat where Bonnie was slumped, and fired a final series of shots down through the window and windshield directly into her".  

"Ummm"-- I don't think so.  Without forensic evidence to support such a colorful description, this story may qualify for some elitist award of fiction-- but lacks credibility from an historical viewpoint.  "So many" point-blank and powerfully punishing shots.  Apparently it's too bad Hamer was such a poor shot-- "and" from such close range. For based on the record both written and photographic-- it seems he missed her.

For the record-- this is the photo and description from the Jones/Fischer report which started this whole brew ha ha-- and inspired Jeff Guinn to travel a slippery slope, when forming his interpretation of the ambush-- seemingly laced with large and poisonous doses of fantasy.  Besides addressing elements of the Warren Fordor vehicle, by a man who built a remarkable replica car-- no one associated with the Jones/Fischer report was an expert on any element commented on-- ie: forensic science, crime scene investigation or photography.  However by the time this creative analysis was published-- it had been decided Bonnie's "bloody dimple" was an entrance wound, and the true entrance wound as noted by Dr. Wade-- had miraculously morphed into a scornful and vindictive exit wound. 

Dr. Wade's notation of this wound was as follows-- "another through the mouth on left side, exiting at top of jaw".  Please compare this photo and analysis, to the photo of a cleaned up Bonnie above for the truth.  But I can just hear the conspiracy theorists now-- "well then, they must have doctored the photos".  "Oh please"-- but I do hope those with such inclinations, find more valuable things
to do in life .  

It's likely we will never know all that really occurred at the ambush of Bonnie & Clyde.  Hamer for example, said the Warren Car was traveling at a high rate of speed when the shooting commenced.  All other accounts have the car stopped or barely moving, which logic also supports.  Too many inconsistencies to address, in a post dedicated to the desire by some to over-sensationalize the already sensational-- and others to exploit unproven grandiose "theories"-- which I think are correctly classified by many including me, as what they are-- creative and "wanting" supposition.

And one last thing-- I absolutely want to address a comment made to me, that according to more than one source-- Ted Hinton stated that Frank Hamer had fired into the right window of the death car.  And based on the wounds in Bonnie's face-- even though Ted said Hamer used a .45 caliber, this individual surmised (surely proper admission)-- that based on it's penetrating power, Hamer instead used a .38 for this grisly task.  Well for those who know me, you'll know I didn't hesitate to go to the best source concerning Ted Hinton-- his Son L. J. "Boots" Hinton, who's both a good friend and most accurate relayer of information known concerning his father. 

I read the entire creative statement as espoused by this gentleman, in support of the Hamer assassin's theory to "Boots".  While decorum dictates I not print Mr. Hinton's response-- it's suffice to say, these comments attributed to Ted by those lacking both historical
knowledge and diligence-- are surely not correct. 

According to Ted Hinton and Bob Alcorn as told both publicly and in private-- Ted was the first officer to the car, trying 1st to open Clyde's door-- but when it wouldn't budge (as it had been blown shut by gun fire)-- Ted was said to have hurdled the hood of the Warren car to open Bonnie's door.  Alcorn apparently offered colorful comment, that he was afraid Ted might hurt himself in his haste to reach the death car.  It seems to me, those who wish "so mightily" for the Hamer vindictive elimination of Bonnie twaddle to be true-- are getting so bold, as to just make things up now.  But that seems in keeping with this whole "theory" doesn't it?? 

of course, no rebuke of Bonnie & Clyde lore would be quite complete-- without continued thanks to Jeff Guinn, for bringing unsubstantiated and sensationalized fodder to the forefront.  I suppose for some, it's best to keep Jeff's fateful words in mind when sorting through Bonnie & Clyde History--
a clever quote, which might allow a creative writer historical license to infinity and beyond.  Jeff said-- "all written history is ultimately best guess". 

Well here's a quote from me-- "No, it's not".
You know, I always try to be polite, fair and patient within the realm of Bonnie & Clyde History. However, I "will" call it like I see it.  And when studying Bonnie & Clyde, one thing's for sure-- for many it's a polarizing and emotional experience.  It seems when some travel dimly lit paths-- they strive to see what isn't there.  It's easy to float the sensational, and criticize those of us who do our best to "keep the gate"-- when it comes to historical truth.  These days it seems so simple to imagine scenarios without merit, and spread them like wildfire through modern means.  My feeling is rumor and innuendo within history, have always been a fact of life.  What seems different today-- is the personal tact some people take, when they cannot defend historical positions or plain get caught within a web of the non-defensible. 

Many will note, when I make statements concerning this history I rarely use absolutes-- a trait I am most conscious of.  For I know how hard it is to prove what's hard to prove-- so long after the fact.  Therefore I feel it best in most circumstances, to leave a little wiggle room.  I only wish some would realize, when they say with "absolute assurity" that some far-out notion is true-- keep building upon it with reckless abandon, advance contrived rumor and make personal attacks when asked to consider logic and employ diligence within their quest-- they would have the graciousness to take a step back and ponder their position.  What a refreshing change that would be.

Some might say I should heed my own words when it comes to Jeff Guinn.  Perhaps a fair comment.  But to me the difference with Guinn-- is sensationalism shouldn't have been allowed to trump diligence within a widely distributed work.  It's my opinion, Jeff had the opportunity and was expected to exercise heightened diligence when writing an historical account-- something it seems he wasn't used to. Now everyone and their brother quotes "Go Down Together" as being Gospel when it comes to Bonnie & Clyde.  "Yep"-- Bonnie was a prostitute and Hamer acted like a crazed assassin, hellbent on filling a hated Bonnie Parker full 'o lead.  Jeff Guinn said so.  Well while Jeff has long since left this history to write of other things-- those of us who seek the truth, are left to clean up his mess.  Someone has to.         

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"When It Rains It Pours"-- Another Bonnie & Clyde Death Car Weapon To Be Auctioned

When a recent auction featured Hamer family-owned guns reportedly from the Bonnie & Clyde Death Car-- Bonnie & Clyde Historians, aficionados and the public alike, marveled at the prices fetched for such rare and "romantic" weapons.  And almost all have surely viewed the inventoried arsenal of Bonnie & Clyde firepower, either through pics taken at Arcadia in the wake of the ambush-- or via Ted Hinton's famous film footage, which "God bless him" for taking.  As it's unclear to me, whether the Hamer Bonnie & Clyde weapons were included within the pictured arsenal or held back for private enjoyment-- I'm not sure whether any non-inventoried firearms from the death car have previously been viewed by the public??   Thus the weapon pictured above, may be "the or one of the"-- only non-inventoried death car guns known to exist. 

This weapon has been owned for some time by the renown Bonnie & Clyde Historian Professor Carroll Rich. As Carroll has become a friend over the years-- he and I have discussed this weapon.  But it wasn't until recently-- when he decided to part with it.  As per Carroll, the story and provenance of this .32 long goes like this-- 

"The gun was taken from the death car on the day of the shooting after the car had been towed into Arcadia.  One of Henderson Jordan's deputies, Reginald Hightower, who was not at the ambush, got the gun, with the bullets in it, kept it a while until the issue of who actually owned the contents of the car came into question.  Barrow's family were threatening to sue for the items, although the guns themselves were surely stolen.  Although there was supposed to be an inventory of weapons from the car, some of them were never on the "official" list. Reginald, whom we all called "Reg," gave the gun to his sister-in-law Vern, probably with the intention of getting it back later.  Vern Hightower was a widow whose husband--Reg's brother-- having had been gassed in WW1, later died of lung failure.  She lived alone with a small child, and  Reg believed that a woman alone might need to protect herself.  She had the gun from that point on, showing it on rare occasions to nieces and nephews, my brother and me among them.  Years later when she was an old lady and interest in Bonnie and Clyde had long since faded, she went to the nursing home.  She then passed the gun on to my father, her brother-in-law and the one who was dealing with her financial affairs.  She did not want to risk having the gun stolen from her house.  Both she and my parents--my mother was Vern's sister--seemed to think of it as some kind of unpleasant relic from a violent past, certainly nothing of value.  Later when I was older and had a renewed interest in B and C, my dad gave it to me.  I'm sure he felt it was almost worthless since the bullets it required were hard to find.  He knew all about guns, was a great hunter who frequently quail hunted with Prentiss Oakley. I think it has not been cleaned or fired since the day Reg took it from the car.  Certainly I have not done so--although a gun expert once told me I should keep it oiled.  Oddly enough, I also have an old shotgun my dad used, one he bought from Prentiss for $80.00."

Let me interject a feeling at this point.  There have been numerous stories told re: items removed from the death car prior to it being towed to Arcadia, or more to the point-- while the lawmen in charge of "guarding" the car looked the other way, thus allowing the public to have their way with Bonnie & Clyde and their rolling tomb-- until more reasonable heads prevailed.  Also I know of no one, who doesn't respect Carroll Rich immensely-- and hold him in the highest esteem.  Thus if Carroll states this Smith and Wesson pistol to be a non-documented weapon from the Bonnie & Clyde death car-- this surely seems a case where you can "take it to the bank".  Carroll's stellar reputation and knowledge of Bonnie & Clyde events-- as well as his personal friendships with key players involved (The Jordans, Oakleys and Wades etc)-- along with his family's close association with this history (a Cole connection)-- make Carroll's views unique, and worth paying close attention to.    

I think this weapon is fascinating not only because it's yet another death car weapon to become available-- but moreover as a reminder of stories told by those who were there-- of  both a frenzied mob descending on the car and picking at it until being stopped by those who allowed this morally debatable thievery in the 1st place.  And concerning actions by the ambush posse-- it's surely reasonable to assume, that the lawmen present also removed articles desired-- when given the opportunity.  There's also the story told of Capt. Hamer asking Lee Simmons what to do with the weapons from the car??  The response accepted as truth, was to give the lawmen carte blanche in keeping whichever weapons they fancied.  Thus for Deputy Reginald Hightower-- this gun was his baby and trophy from that fateful day. 

The Carroll Rich Smith and Wesson Bonnie & Clyde revolver is set to be auctioned by Mayo Auctions of Kansas City on February 2nd, 2013.  For those interested in this historic Bonnie & Clyde item, additional info can be found and questions directed here--