Breck Wall — the man dubbed ‘Jack Ruby’s queer ex-roommate’ — says Oswald’s killer was too ugly to be gay
LAS VEGAS — A few miles east of the Sunset Strip, Breck Wall welcomes me into his home. Inside, it’s a busy morning — a technician just fixed the DSL line, and as he leaves, Wall gives the AT&T employee a Chihuahua.
"Tanner was left behind by a titty dancer who was staying in my spare bedroom. When she moved, she couldn’t take care of him. But Tanner and my dog aren’t getting along," Wall explains as we sit down in his living room, which also serves as a photo gallery of his famous friends: Sammy Davis Jr., Joan Rivers, Johnny Mathis, Liberace … .
At 74, Breck Wall is a legendary casino show impresario. His most famous credit is "Bottoms Up!" a bawdy burlesque revue that ran in Las Vegas for four decades. But before "Bottoms Up!" moved to Nevada, Wall opened the show in 1959 at the Century Room inside The Adolphus Hotel.
Across the street from The Adolphus was Jack Ruby’s Carousel Club. And for about a year and a half, Ruby and Wall ate lunch together practically every day at The Copper Cow restaurant on Commerce Street.
Wall is a minor figure in the Ruby-Oswald saga. In 1964, the Warren Commission questioned Wall about his friendship with Ruby. And when New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison pieced together his conspiracy theory about gay businessman Clay Shaw, Garrison described Wall as "Ruby’s queer ex-roommate."
"Garrison was a real jerk. Everyone hated him," Wall says. "Every day, his staff would make up absolute lies — about me, about Jack. We were never roommates. I lived at The Adolphus, and Jack Ruby never visited me there. And I never went over to Jack’s apartment. I don’t think Jack ever allowed anyone to visit him at home."
Wall says Ruby always carried a gun and big wad of cash.
"I don’t think he used a bank account," Wall says. "Jack was a character. He thought he was funny and wanted to be a comic. He talked like an Easterner and acted like a thug. He wanted to be in the Mafia, but they didn’t want him because he had such a big mouth."
For a few months, "Bottoms Up!" left the Adolphus and moved across the street to the Carousel Club. Wall co-managed "Bottoms Up!" with his lover, Joe Peterson.
"But Jack was really hard to work with. He wanted to be the boss," Wall says. "Finally, I told him, ‘Jack, I can’t take this anymore.’ At the time, we had a chance to go back to the Adolphus. Jack got so mad that he exploded. Instead of going at me, he knocked Joe down the stairs and broke his tooth. We didn’t speak for a month."
Did Ruby apologize?
"I never saw him sorry about anything. That stuff about worrying over Jackie dealing with Oswald’s trial was more like Jack saying, ‘Isn’t that terrible? Someone should blow that guy’s head off.’"
In 1992, the National Archives provided access to Ruby’s FBI files. At various times, FBI agents were ordered by the headquarter’s brass to investigate Ruby’s subversive activities and whether he had homosexual tendencies or other "sex perversions."
Did Wall think Ruby was gay?
"No. I don’t think he liked men. Besides, he was too fucking ugly. There was a woman, but I don’t think they ever had sex. Who would dare? Jack was too concerned about Jack Ruby to be interested in anyone else," Wall says. "But I liked Jack. He was entertaining. He didn’t have many friends, though. I think he was used to being alone and he was a little sad about it. I thought there was something good about him. But I also knew he was dangerous."
On the day Kennedy was shot, Wall and his lover watched the motorcade drive by The Adolphus. By the time they went back upstairs to their room, the TV news broke in with a special bulletin about Dealey Plaza.
"After that, the entire city of Dallas was shut down. All the lights went black," Wall remembers.
So Wall drove to Galveston to visit friends. He told The Adolphus’ front desk to call him in Galveston if the Century Room was up and running again. Like everyone else in the country, he saw Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV. Within five minutes, reporters were calling Galveston for quotes about Ruby. Wall immediately drove back to Dallas and snuck back to The Adolphus to lay low. The following Saturday, Dallas County Sheriff Decker called Wall and told him Ruby was depressed and not talkative. The sheriff thought Ruby’s lunch buddy might perk him up.
"I panicked. I thought they were going to arrest me," Wall said.
Three cop cars arrived at The Adolphus. After Ruby killed Oswald, downtown Dallas was besieged with onlookers and Kennedy mourners. The police station was only five blocks away, but Wall had to lay down in a back seat of the squad car as the car slowly snaked its way to the police station where four policemen escorted Wall to Ruby’s cell.
He only spent about 20 minutes talking to Ruby inside his "bulletproof tank. Jack had all these telegrams taped up — people congratulating him. I said, ‘Jack what did you do?’ He said, ‘I’m a hero. Look at all these telegrams.’" Wall recalls. "I said, ‘Jack, you’re not a hero. You shot the man who killed the president before he could talk.’"
Wall shows me a letter that Ruby sent from the Dallas County Jail on Dec. 24, 1963. The letter is addressed to Wall’s lover, Joe, thanking him for "how wonderful" Joe spoke of Ruby in an interview. He writes "Thank Breck for visiting with me. What do you think of all these crazy things in the newspapers? Everyone [is] taking a shot at me."
Wall doesn’t believe Ruby was involved in any conspiracy.
He thinks Ruby impulsively fired at Oswald — the same way the mercurial hustler exploded at Joe and broke his tooth.
"When Jack saw Oswald, he got so mad, he just pulled out his gun and shot him," Wall says. "Without any warning."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 21, 2008.