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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Limericks from the Clay Shaw Trial

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

Well, time for some fun. James Kirkwood, a playwright who wrote "Chorus Line," attended Clay Shaw's trial and wrote American Grotesque. It's a terrific book, and I strongly urge everybody to buy a copy and read it. Some of the reporters at the trial penned limericks, and he put James Phelan's in his book:

Cried Big Jim, the world owes me praise.

And, I'll get it, come one of these days.

Earl Warren, the dunce.

Solved the killing just once.

But I solved it seventeen ways!

Last February I traveled to Boston University to go through the James Kirkwood papers. He compiled a whole file of limericks, and I copied some of the best.

Kirkwood was gay and, as Don Carpenter said in his terrific book, Man of a Million Fragments: The True Story of Clay Shaw, they "captured the spirit of the overtones of homosexuality that hung over the entire case."

Here we go:

There was a Feller, Mark Lane

Who Shrank when put on a train

Clay Shaw, heard of this

And on Lane took a piss

causing Lane to melt down the drain.

The next one is about Colonel Pierre Finck, one of JFK's autopsists, who, when he testified at the Shaw trial, spelt out a lot of words.

There was a colonel named Finck

Spelled F-I-N-C-K, as in 'sinck.'

When asked to relate

Our President's fate

He said, "I only spell, I don't thinck."

A hip talking lawyer named Dean

Cased quite a stir at the scene

a fag wedding he's sworn

was where Bertrand was born

And Jim's case was all just a bad dream.

There was a young witness named Perry

who said he was friends with a Ferrie

He said he played ball

with Oswald and all

But his statement was very contrary.

A D.A. by the name of Big Jimsy

Had a fantastical whimsy

But he screwed up the trial

And missed by a mile

For the case that he had was flimsy.

The jury got horny as hell

Their cocks were beginning to swell

They questioned the judge about sodomy

He said sure, if it relieves the monotony

But don't tell the press

And don't make a mess

Or I'll order a frontal lobotomy.

There was a young witness named Perry

Who persuaded a fairy named Ferrie

With his medical skill

To concoct a pink pill

That made any young man yield his cherrie.


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