Fort Worth club and Secret Service were in spotlight on fateful November day
Posted Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010
By Bud Kennedy
Almost 50 years later, the story of the deadly shots fired from a sixth-floor perch in Dallas still begins at the Cellar nightclub in Fort Worth.
Former Cellar workers shed no further light Sunday on their wee-hours work serving Secret Service agents the night before the shooting of President John F. Kennedy.
But in a new documentary about the 1960s downtown counterculture nightclub, guitarist Arvel Stricklin summed up the view from the bandstand: "I know I saw a lot of guys in suits. And the party went on until 6 a.m."
The ensuing investigation provided just one of the Cellar's many headlines during its 13-year run as a late-night haven.
Former musicians and workers gathered Sunday at the Fort Worth Central Library to see the first cut of the forthcoming Cellar documentary, named for a slogan stenciled on the club wall: You Must Be Weird or You Wouldn't Be Here.
Fort Worth filmmaker Giles McCrary interviewed them for the video, due to be released in spring. (A short video clip is at www.gilesvid.com.)
To explain, the Cellar was where Fort Worth's rowdy past met up with the peace-and-love '60s.
Guests danced to Jimmie Vaughan or the future ZZ Top, drank Everclear cocktails from servers wearing only bras and panties -- and then came back the next night to do it all again.
On Nov. 21, 1963, visiting reporters and Secret Service agents were looking for someplace to have fun after the Kennedys bedded down in what is now the Hilton Fort Worth.
The party went to a membership club and then, after midnight, to the Cellar, 1001 Main St.
As former Star-Telegram reporter Bob Schieffer wrote in This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You on TV, "It seemed a good idea at the time and must have been quite an evening. I remember that we stayed long enough for some of the Easterners to see their first Fort Worth sunrise."
Witnesses and guests later told investigators that some of the seven night-owl agents drank at the private club but that no one drank at the Cellar.
(Supposedly, those agents had other assignments away from the Dallas motorcade.)
But as former Cellar manager Jimmy Hill tells the camera in You Must Be Weird: "That wasn't grapefruit juice!"
We haven't heard the last story yet from the Cellar.
Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538
Twitter @budkennedyRead more at www.star-telegram.com
You Must Be Weird Or You Wouldn't Be Here.mov
A short film about the infamous Cellar nightclub in Fort Worth, Texas