Next to the grassy knoll

img20000242AA.JPGJFK and the day I took one quick shot in Dallas…

By Dom Joly, Sunday 24 November 2013


I’ve spent the last week overdosing on Kennedy porn. I’ve watched so many documentaries about what happened on that awful day in Dallas 50 years ago that my own head is ready to explode. I feel somehow guilty being so obsessed with the tragic death of a man but, like so many others, I am.

About three years ago I set off on an “assassination vacation” of the USA. I did a road trip in which I visited most of the most infamous assassination sites the country had to offer. Dealey Plaza was by far the most powerful. As I rounded the corner of the Texas Book Depository it was as though I’d stepped on to the set of an unbelievably powerful déjà vu.

What really struck me was that Elm Street itself is still a busy thoroughfare, with two white crosses painted on the tarmac to indicate where the bullets hit the President. I think I rather expected it to have been closed down and turned into some sort of commemorative site but the Dallas rush hour traffic stops for no man.

Just next to the grassy knoll were a bunch of conspiracy theorists that had little stalls and each tried to sell you their version of who killed Camelot – “LBJ, The Mob, Castro, The Russians, Marilyn Monroe…” It was Nutsville Central. I asked the least nutty one whether I could visit the Texas Book Depository.

“You can, it’s now a museum, but you don’t want to go there as it’s run by the Federal Government. It’s all lies in there. They’ll register your details and you’ll be on the list. Don’t do it.” He looked frightened.

I backed away and headed for the museum. A sign on the door warned visitors (a little tardily I thought) that firearms were not allowed in the building. I took the lift up and wandered over to the corner where Lee Harvey Oswald had set up his solitary sniper’s nest. The area was glassed off, the boxes he’d piled up for cover frozen in time. I looked out of the next window down and saw the view that Oswald would have seen (minus the presidential motorcade obviously). I took out my camera and snapped a shot of this iconic vista. Within seconds an enormous security guard was on me.

“No photography sir…”

I apologised and made to move on but she was having none of it.

“I have to ask you to delete that photograph, sir.” She wasn’t joking. I was being asked to delete a photo of one of the world’s most photographed city streets by a representative of the Land Of The Free. I refused and headed for the lift, closely followed by Gargantua who was calling for assistance on her radio. I was now – like Oswald – being pursued by the law through the corridors of the Texas Book Depository.

This was turning into a very realistic exhibition. I made it to the lift, got downstairs only to find another guard trying to prevent my exit. I shimmied past him and through the gift shop hawking tasteful toy models of JFK’s limo. I burst through the doors on to the melting streets and ran past the conspiracy theorists who just looked sadly at me with “I told you so” expressions. or



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