Of all the unlikely things that could have happened, Oliver Stone now finds himself on the other side of the table. The assassination-theory table, that is. The one he helped set. For months, the director of JFK has been attacking the Warren Commission and calling for a new investigation into John F. Kennedy’s 1963 murder. But now that the fracas has stirred up circumstantial evidence that points a guilty finger at the mob, a view antithetical to his, Stone has gone ballistic, calling the Mafia theories ”outrageous,” suggesting they’re part of a cover-up that ”allows the bigger lie to continue.” Suddenly, Stone sounds as defensive as those he’s attacked.
The latest conspiracy furor began with a New York Post story alleging that JFK’s death was ordered by mobster Jimmy Hoffa. This was followed by a media barrage, including a special ABC Nightline report, urging the release of the government’s locked-away assassination files, which purportedly contain evidence of Mafia complicity. Adding to the heat is an upcoming movie, Ruby, starring Danny Aiello as Oswald-killer Jack Ruby, which portrays organized crime (in league with the CIA) as the major force behind the shooting.
Stone, whose JFK lays the blame mainly on elements within the CIA and military intelligence, concedes it’s ”possible that the Mafia could have provided the hit men,” but only under the direction of more omnipotent forces. Kennedy’s murder, argues Stone, was ”highly organized and well carried out. Never in the history of the mob have we ever seen that kind of organization.” He feels the Mafia lacked the ability to steer Oswald in and out of Russia and eventually set him up as a Communist patsy. ”The only people who do have a history with this type of operation are the intelligence agencies.”
The debate should quicken when Ruby opens in early March. In its portrait of the mob-connected Dallas strip-club owner (and his fictitious stripper girlfriend, Candy Cane, played by Sherilyn Fenn), Ruby claims that mob bosses, angry at President Kennedy for not respecting their role in swinging the 1960 election in his favor, were looking for revenge. JFK suggests Ruby’s shooting of Oswald was ordered by conspirators who wanted to keep Oswald quiet. Ruby allows a conspiracy, but maintains Ruby shot Oswald for personal reasons.
According to Ruby screenwriter Stephen Davis, ”People who knew Ruby told me he was too much of a Walter Mitty, loose-cannon type of guy to have been part of a conspiracy. He may have been a witness to a conspiracy, but at the same time he responded emotionally and impulsively with the shooting.” In the eyes of Ruby director John Mackenzie (The Last of the Finest), ”Kennedy was a president Ruby loved. He loved celebrities, he loved glamour.”
Stone sees danger in such opinions. Playing up the Mafia angle, he says, ”isn’t only unrealistic,” it’s a diversion — a dodge created by ”a bunch of New York tabloid writers who have always glamorized the mob and given them powers they do not possess. These people do not have one-tenth of the power ascribed to them by writers and the people who’ve made Ruby.” The peril, he says, is that ”if push comes to shove and the government is forced to accept a conspiracy theory, they’re going to try and lay it off on the mob. I guarantee that’s what they’ll do.” The irony, of course, is that the first push was provided by Stone’s own film.