Written by: Gordon K. Smith
The opening night event of Dallas VideoFest 26 will be the first public screening of TRUE TALES, a production of AMS Pictures, which looks at the life and times of Dallas stripper Nancy Myers, aka Tammi True, her days headlining at The Carousel Club with boss Jack Ruby, through the Kennedy assassination and Ruby’s murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. The docudrama mixes archival photographs and film clips with recreations of the events, shot at many of the actual locations. Cassie Shea Watson plays the young Tammi. The real Nancy/Tammi (who also appears in the film), director Katie Dunn and executive producer Andy Streitfeld discussed the film at last week’s roundtable interview.
KATIE: We met Nancy, and sat around a table for an hour and a half hearing her amazing stories about Jack Ruby. She keeps everything, pictures from back in the day, of Herb Jeffries, Tony Bennett, and other people. We just fell in love with her, she had so much to tell, not just about the assassination, but Dallas in the ’60s, and what it was like, the allure, the sex. It was just beautiful, and who better to tell the story?
NANCY: Well, I thought, here comes some Mickey Mouse people wanting to hear about Jack Ruby, a subject I avoided for many years. I got tired of FBI and reporters asking me about it. Most people I worked with never knew I was a stripper, ‘ cause I have an education…then D Magazine came out with that article and pictures. One of my coworkers called another and said, “Did you know?” The other one said, “You just now findin’ out?” It was bad enough that people in my neighborhood found out that this PTA mom was a stripper at night. That was bad PR. After 50 years I decided to tell my story.
KATIE: In two and a half years we’ve never not heard a new story.
NANCY: They cut enough to make a whole new film…we had a lot of fun doing it.
*Nancy detailed the D Magazine story that brought her back in the limelight.
NANCY: There was a story in the newspaper. They interviewed another girl who worked with Jack in the Sunday paper. Joy Dale told the reporter I was dead. Pretty bad when you wake up and find out from the newspaper that you’re dead. I called the paper and they ran a retraction. So then a young man wanted to do a story about downtown Dallas in the ’60s for D Magazine. They did a beautiful layout, but I was replaced on the cover by In & Out Burger. They found my letter from the Warren Commission, and a card from The Carousel Club.
*Nancy was questioned by the Warren Commission, during their controversial examination of the assassination.
NANCY: They flew me in from Oklahoma City, where I was working, back to Dallas. I flew back and did a show that night. I didn’t like what they wrote and I refused to sign it…they wanted me to say Jack was a bad guy and involved, and I wasn’t gonna say that.
ANDY: The moral of the story was, Jack wasn’t a bad guy. He really took care of his friends, the girls and their children. He was a hothead and went off at exactly the wrong moment. Everyone who tries to make a conspiracy out of it doesn’t know the details.
TAMMI: They should have not let him enter the (police HQ) basement. I first heard about it on TV. I don’t know if Oswald killed John Kennedy or not. All I know is about Jack and what kind of person he was. I know why he did it…there were death threats at the police station. One of the cops begged the chief not to take (Oswald) out that way. Jack happened to be downtown, saw the activity at the ramp, had his gun with him – he had a permit – and in that moment he just snapped. Boom! I never talked to him again after that. I regretted it…People said he was mean, ran a sleazy club…I never saw any of that. He was a law abiding citizen. He loved and respected the police. To him, being the President of the United States was the highest honor. He thought it was terrible…the club lasted a couple of months after that and then they lost their liquor license. After that, they made it into a police gym.
KNOWSHI: When Oliver Stone came to town to do JFK, did he talk to you? Are you a character in it?
NANCY: No he didn’t. Maybe he couldn’t find me. I’m not a character in it. I didn’t see it…there’s a lot of stuff about me out there that’s absolutely not true. Jack didn’t spend the night with me in Tulsa or any other time. He was not my boyfriend. His partner Ralph Paul was my boyfriend.
A lot of baloney out there and I want to set it straight.
NANCY: My deal with (Katie and Andy) was, you gotta stick to what I say. You can embellish a bit here and there, but it’s gotta be the way I tell it, and I think they did a fantastic job…we had a full house at the (cast and crew) premiere. The laughing and audience reaction was wonderful…my kids loved it.
ANDY: We also produced it for today’s audience, who doesn’t know that much. Twenty-five year-olds don’t remember all of this story…we thought there was enough old men telling the story of what happened in ’63. Most documentaries are the same guys you’ve seen a hundred times before. Who could be better than someone who can work her boobs individually? (which Nancy quickly demonstrated). How many guys can do that?
NANCY: I was very involved (in the production). Sometimes during the shooting, (Andy) popped in, and I said, “I would have done that differently,” and he’d go to Katie and say, “Let’s do it again, the way Nancy says it happened”…(Cassie) was good. She wasn’t as bawdy as me, but she did good. They said, “it’s going to be hard to find somebody with a body like I had – I had a drop dead body – someone built like that, somebody who could dance, and act. And be willing to strip. Cassie could dance a bit and could act.
KATIE: Opening night is really exciting. At the opening night party will be Tammi True, performing and doing a little comedy. We’ll also have The Ruby Revue doing a show.
NANCY: The Ruby Revue called me after the article wanting to know if I’d get up on stage at The House of Blues. Then they begged me to come back and go to The Texas Theatre and do a little sumpin’…so I’ve become part of their group. They’ve adopted me. They ask me how do I stay in shape? I used to do 12 to 15 minute shows, three times a night, seven nights a week. I could eat like a horse after I got home!
TRUE TALES will premiere Wednesday, October 9th at 7pm at Gilley’s in downtown Dallas, as the opening night event of Dallas VideoFest 26, with Nancy Myers and The Ruby Revue-Texas’ Premiere Burlesque and Variety Show in attendance. Early ’60s/Mad Men costumes are encouraged!
For more information visit: http://videofest.org/opening-night/