Jim Garrison's Strangest Lead - The Fag Ball
Updated: Oct 9, 2021
One business day after Clay Shaw was acquitted, Garrison charged him with two counts of perjury - for denying that he knew David Ferrie or Lee Harvey Oswald. The two counts of perjury carried a twenty-year term, the same as the conspiracy charge Shaw had just beaten.
Garrison had his work cut out for him. He clearly felt he did not have enough evidence to convict Shaw because he instructed his staff to find new leads. Once again, he was going to have to find the evidence after the indictment. His staff redoubled their efforts, and memos started flying in on some new but mostly old leads, or more accurately rumors. Garrison even gave instructions on how to name and file these memos with the new leads (to be titled "Shaw Leads II.".
The strangest lead was the "Mardi Gras Ball Caper." In February 1962, over ninety people were arrested at a "fag ball" during Mardi Gras. The party was described as "extremely lewd," and several people were naked. The Times-Picayune of February 26, 1962 noted that a policeman's dog "flushed out one man from a sewer pipe after he leaped out a window and attempted to flee."
Now, seven years later, it was time to have a closer look at this party. A Garrison memo dated March 20, 1969, states that "this lead sounds like an old one which was presumably checked out but its insistent re-appearance suggests that there may possibly be more here than merely smoke. The report is that Ferrie and Shaw were present at a faggot Mardi Gras Ball in Jefferson Parish and that one of them was arrested."
Frederick Soule of the vice squad prepared a list of the people arrested, along with their addresses, noting that it was a "party for perverts." Shaw and Ferrie were not on the list. Garrison had to rely on the next best thing: propinquity. David Gentry, a friend of Clay Shaw's, had identified Shaw's friends and acquaintances. Garrison cross-checked the lists and found that Shaw knew a few of the arrested people. But what on earth could be done with that information?
But Garrison did find that propinquity did yield some additional leads. A memo dated March 27, 1969 titled, "The New Shaw Lead File," by Andrew Sciambra listed a variety of leads. Here is the section on the 'fag ball.'
Leonard Frank and Dea Diettrick lived in buildings owned by Shaw; James Mooney lived on the same block as Oswald; William Johnson's address was 935 Burgundy, and Shaw once owned 937 Burgundy; Philip Geraci testified before the Warren Commission that he once met Oswald when he was fifteen, but this Phil Geraci was forty-nine. There was also a "Long Shot Special:" William Johnson worked at the Dallas International Trade Mart, and Shaw worked at the New Orleans International Trade Mart.
Obviously, nothing of substance came out of the 'fag ball' leads. My book, On The Trail of Delusion, goes over many of the other silly leads that were being considered in 1969.