Umbrella Man, Umbrella Man, Please Stay Away. Don't Come to Dealey on JFK Day.

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Louie Steven Witt, are you still out there somewhere, alive? Would you tell me if you were? You know you're back in The Dallas Morning News this morning, but only as a ghost. I wonder if you really are a ghost yet. I can't find you with Google, which may mean ... well, we know what it may mean. It's a sinister fact, is it not, not being Googleable?

On a clear sunny day, what on earth could Umbrella Man have been doing down there except shooting poison darts at JFK from his trick umbrella?
I happen to be working on a column for next week's newspaper about the upcoming 50th anniversary celebration of the Kennedy assassination at Dealey Plaza on November 22. Oh, I'm sorry, that's not the name. They say it's a celebration of his life, not the killing. But his life didn't happen at Dealey Plaza, as you well know, Mr. Witt.

You have something in common with the old rich Dallas people sponsoring the 50th whatever-it-is this year. A half century ago all of you were abducted and transported into the bizarre quantum universe of Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory. When he wrote about you in particular, Mr. Witt, in The New Yorker in 1967, the late great novelist John Updike described the alternative reality that consumed you as "a sub-atomic realm where laws are mocked, where persons have the life-span of beta particles and the transparency of neutrinos, and where a rough kind of averaging out must substitute for absolute truth."

You are Umbrella Man. You will always be Umbrella Man. History has named you Umbrella Man. History is written by the link-clickers, and the link-clickers will always refuse to recall the sober modest account you gave in 1978 when you dragged yourself reluctantly before the House Select Committee on Assassinations and tried to explain that damned umbrella.

You told how chagrined and embarrassed and deeply regretful you were about going down to Dealey Plaza on that clear sunny day in 1963 and standing on the motorcade route beneath a black umbrella. The umbrella was an obscure historical reference that you yourself didn't fully get.

You had read about people in Phoenix or maybe somewhere else bringing black umbrellas to a JFK political rally as a political jibe aimed at JFK's father, Joseph. It was supposed to be a reference to charges that Joe Kennedy, as FDR's ambassador to England, had supported British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler. Chamberlain carried an umbrella a lot, and ... uh ... yeah. One of those jokes that just reaches a bit too far, couldn't we say?

When you testified before the House Select Committee, a congressman on the panel accused you of being "a pretty cool cat" that day in the midst of chaos at Dealey Plaza. Pretty cool, as in maybe a bit too cool. Hmm, Mr. Cat? As in maybe you were down there shooting poison darts at the president from your trick umbrella? Possibility?

I loved your answer. You said, "I can assure you I was not all that cool. I think one of my reactions was knowing that I was there with this stupid umbrella and heckling the president."

You described it as a really bad gaffe. "I would have to describe it," you said, "as kind of like a bad joke that had gone sour, or a practical joke you pulled on someone that had gone sour."

Two years ago documentary filmmaker Errol Morris did a short film about you called Umbrella Man, in which he interviewed Josiah "Tink" Thompson, a Yale-educated Kierkegaard scholar who wrote Six Seconds in Dallas, the definitive book about the Zapruder film. In the Morris documentary, Thompson recounts your saga as an illustration of the principle Updike was trying to explain in '67 in The New Yorker, a decade before you emerged briefly from hiding to speak to the House Select Committee: that in investigating things it is possible to burrow beneath the surface of life and find oneself in a quantum universe of weirdness where every single ordinary event becomes a trap-door leading to an even deeper weirdness, not because of anything intrinsic in the event itself but because of the investigating.

Well, he puts it better than that. Thompson tells Morris: "If you have any fact which you think is really sinister, it's really obviously a fact which can only point to some sinister underpinning, hey, forget it man, because you can never on your own think up all the non-sinister perfectly valid explanations for that fact. A cautionary tale."

Yes, a cautionary tale that was your life, was it not, Mr. Witt? Anyway, if you're still around somewhere in the flesh, I wanted you to know that your ghost is still prancing around Dealey Plaza in fine fettle. In its story about the 50th Anniversary Dallas-Shot-JFK Festival, The Morning News again today reminds people that even if it rains on the day of the 50th, there will be no umbrellas allowed in Dealey Plaza.

No umbrellas. Even if it rains. Isn't that weird, man? Isn't it kind of sinister? Isn't this whole 50th thing weird and sinister? You know you're not supposed to say the 50th what, right? The mayor gave orders: It's just the 50th, like the 50th mm-mm. You can't say what it is the 50th of, because if you say the word, assassination, the bad scary thing might come back up out of the ground. Just like if you took an umbrella down there.

No umbrellas!

In some ways, the legacy of the JFK assassination may have made Dallas the weirdest city in the world. But you already know that, don't you, Mr. Witt? You of all people know why we can't have umbrellas down there that day. You know what umbrellas can do. Mr. Witt? Are you out there? Or are you ... here with me?

Man, am I ever ready for Halloween.

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Thanks.  Now I can't get the Sammy Kaye "Umbrella Man" song out of my head:

The Umbrella Man
Kay Kyser

Toodle - luma luma
Toodle - luma luma
Toodle - oh lay
Any umbrellas, any umbrellas
To fix today?
Bring your parasol, it may be small. It may be big
He will fix them all with what you call a thing-a-ma-jig
Pitter patter patter! Pitter patter patter!
It looks like rain.
Let it pitter patter. Let it pitter patter.
Don't mind rain
He'll mend your umbrella, then go on his way
Singing toodle luma luma. Toodle lay.
Singing toodle luma luma. Toodle lay.
Any umbrellas to fix today.
When there's a lull
And things are dull
He'll sharpen knives for all the wives
in the neighborhood
And they say he's very good.
He'll darn a sock
Or fix a clock
Fix an apple cart
And even a broken heart --
He'll mend anything but he'd much rather sing -
Toodle - luma luma
Toodle - luma luma
Any umbrellas any umbrellas
To fix today
He'll packs up your troubles
Then go on his way 
singing oodle luma luma
Toodle lay
Any umbrellas to fix today.


Let's not get confused by Witt, poison darts, ice bullets or any other disinfo. Caro's latest volume on LBJ is full of references to 'Chamberlain umbrella men' which is a supposed insult to Commie appeasers. I believe the umbrella man in Dealey Plaza on the fateful day was a spotter for the shooters and a visual reminder to JFK on who was about to take control of his destiny.

TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

The overlords want to make sure you get to enjoy every moment as they are pissing on your head, telling you it's raining.

UM-brellas would ruin all of their fun - not to mention make it far more difficult for the facial recognition software to function properly.


Yo Dallas did not kill JFK. A Communist named Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK.


No umbrellas? Even if it rains. Really? This isn't a joke?

Keep Dallas Weird


One of the weirdest cities in the world? No. Maybe, one of the most repressive cities? Yes, I can definitely see/hear/smell/taste that.


@Catbird No umbrellas, because they might inject our "Dear Leaders" with a poison loaded steel pellet.

everlastingphelps topcommenter

 @if6were9 Ahh, another non-traveller.  I have a long, long list of places you can go if you seek more repression than Dallas.  Cleveland, Tulsa, Salt Lake City, Knoxville, Indianapolis... why, the list goes on and on and on.

Try expanding your horizon, philistine.


@gabe48  WTF does that have to do with Mac's bar-b-que, unless you're an imposter.


@if6were9 @everlastingphelps Congratulations, fellow world traveler! I was born in the Eastern Bloc, lived in Brooklyn for years, have traveled practically everywhere in Europe, lived in Hong Kong for two years and Taipei for one. Now I live in Dallas, by choice. Does that make my e-traveling-peen bigger than yours? No.

Does your original statement and reply to phelps have any meaning? No, at least not for the last few decades. It makes you a douche. Come on over, enjoy the hipsters being oppressed in Oak Cliff, come enjoy the LGBTs being repressed in Oak Lawn, hell, you can even come over and meet our old Lesbian sheriff.

If Dallas proper was as repressive as you make it out to be, our 28.8% white population would likely be much larger. It's a big city, it has lots of problems, but that doesn't make you any more than an ignorant, ill-informed knob.

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