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 Post subject: From the Founder of the John Dillinger Died For You Society
PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 4:34 pm 
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When we discussed Public Enemies on ONBC one of our tidbits was on The John Dillinger Died For You Society. I have heard from the founder of the JDDFYS, who just happens to be our current author Bill Helmer! He has written a first hand account of the history of the society and sent along the publicity flyer advertising the annual gathering in Chicago to commemorate of the shooting of John Dillinger outside the Biograph. This year happens to be the 75th anniversary of the day Dillinger died so a big gathering is expected. If you attend, please report back to us! The link to our original tidbit is below.



William J. Helmer


The true and unvarnished origins of

THE JOHN DILLINGER DIED FOR YOU SOCIETY


There I was, delivering a paper to an American Studies class that was spellbound by my argument that John Dillinger deserved much of the credit for improving bank security during the 1930s when Americans desperately needed an true “social bandit” to take their minds off their Depression worries. He had style, a sense of humor, treated his hostages practically like guests (he tied Mrs. Patzke to a tree with a shoe string), eluded police and FBI traps, and when he broke out of the Crown Point, Indiana, jail with a wooden pistol, he swiped the sheriff’s car and motored out of town singing “Git along, li’l doggie, git along.” He was also a ladies’ man—gentle and romantic—until the terrible night of July 22, 1934, when he enjoyed “Manhattan Melodrama” at the Biograph Theatre before trigger-happy Federal agents finally set him free.
He died with his boot on, betrayed by the duplicitous “Woman in Red,” and a new girlfriend, ignorant of the plot, and with whom he’d set up nights nursing back to health after a car wreck. The fact that my Aunt Meta was a student nurse at Cook County Hospital who wangeled her way into the Cool Room to see his body, was equally impressing, considering that Chicago was suffering a terrific heat wave and literally thousands waited hours outside the morgue to glimpse the sad corpse…some no doubt weeping. What with the flies that had to be shooed away from terrible wound that that exited his cheek, it must have been the inspiration for what later generations would call “A Taste of Chicago.”
Actually, our idea for a “society” dates back to 1966 at The University of Texas in Austin as a spoof on the Elvis Presley fan clubs that were springing up everywhere; and you can imagine the excitement my story earned afterwards when we adjourned to the venerable hundred-year-old Scholz Garten, brimful of John Dillinger and augmented by a few pitchers of beer. What helped was Professor William Goetzmann (a Pulitzer Prize winner for something) who downed enough suds to propose that we establish The John Dillinger Died For You Society.
He was also tipsy enough to declare that its founder should by me, a/k/a Dr. Horace Naismith, ostensibly on an enforced sabbatical as the Director of the Good-Neighbor Marriage Counseling Clinic, who combined that calling with his work as an Amateur Gynecologist & Gunsmith, just outside the Mexican border town of Del Rio. (But that’s another story, sadly lacking in truth.)
We soon had membership and credit cards printed but it was not what you’d call a formal organization, like the American Legion or something. Everyone was an assistant treasurer authorized to sell memberships to anyone and keep the money, “Because John would have wanted it that way.”
The credit card read simply, “Present this on the barrel of a pistol and ask that your purchase be charged. In most states the charge will be armed robbery.”
And anyone could convene a meeting at any time, so long as they left one chair vacant for the “Dear Departed Member.” (That’s another story, too.)
Before the class had dwindled to about ten, we had our first inaugural meeting at my place on 12th Street, across the grounds from the state capitol, after which we amused ourselves with a little target shooting in the basement. A week or so after that we instituted what we called The John Dillinger Died For You Society Picnic & Punitive Expedition that included (among other ordnance) a Model 1928 Thompson submachine gun, a case of ammunition, a case of beer, and a case of dynamite, for our host, who had a ranch west of Austin, was big into blowing things up.
As the word got around, the Society could boast forty or fifty members and was virtually international (I think we had a Canadian) by the time I moved to Chicago in 1969, where John had fallen thirty-five years earlier. There I began to encountered other Dillinger buffs (they didn’t have a Society), but as luck would have it, two fellow Playboy employees—Robert J. Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, who just happened to have offices on either side of mine—were hard at work on Illuminatus!, which ultimately became a cult classic. Shea would write a chapter that involved conspiracies within conspiracies and then turn it over (sight unseen) to Wilson, who would elaborate with even more conspiracies. Oddly enough, it made sense!
Needless to say, Shea and Wilson were both Dillinger enthusiasts because of their frequent patronage of the Biograph, and I believe they already had worked Dillinger into their story—or stories, as it appeared (because of its size) in three Dell paperbacks with different subtitles until Dell relented and produced an “Illuminatus Trilogy” that was about two inches thick. More than once did they invent a “Reverend Horace Naismith,” although I believe the rascals gave him a certain recurring social disease.
And now that I was sandwiched between their offices on the tenth floor of 919 North Michigan—the old Palmolive Building—I fed them enough Dillinger lore that, by golly, we soon had not just one (in 1970 two conspiracy-minded historians had revived interest in the subject by publishing Dillinger: Dead or Alive?), but seven Dillingers, for he was being accused of robbing banks all over the country, sometimes simultaneously, and had to employ doppelgangers.
Meanwhile, I kept encountering more Dillinger buffs, and as luck would have it, I later encountered an ad-man named Tom Stern who had talked Jerry Lewis into sponsoring a 50th Anniversary Dillinger Day celebration, complete with dozens of antique cars, a lobby display of the silver-painted seat in which Dillinger supposedly sat that fateful night, not to mention a “Woman in Red” Contest that did its part to bring out upwards of 500 people to support Jerry’s—whatever that affliction is called.
And that was how I got to know Richard Crowe, fabled Ghostbuster (I call him) whose several-times-a-week bus tours included Resurrection Mary, Capone’s old Lexington Hotel, and, of course, the alley down which the ghost of John Dillinger still walks. Plus his partner-sidekick-whatever, Michael Flores, of the Psychotronic Film Society, given to bizarre movies, music, skits and such.
I, of course, circulated in the group wearing my straw boater, steel rim glasses, outrageous 1930s necktie, earning a plaque for my efforts, but it was Mr. Crowe who took it from there. After the big 50th Anniversary event, numbers of the faithful dwindled to maybe a hundred, who met across the street at what was then the Red Lion tavern before congregating to hear speech by Crowe in front of the Biograph ticket booth (I guess they got used to it) before following him and an honest-to-God, fully-kilted bagpiper to the sacred alley just south of the theater mournfully skirling “Amazing Grace.”
Because, we again have to presume, John would have wanted it that way.
This year—the 75th Anniversary of John’s passing--will be the biggest blowout Tom Stern’s extravaganza twenty-five years earlier. On the Wednesday night of July 22 the Lincoln Station tavern just up the street from the Biograph will undoubtedly be packed from 8pm to 10:30, the time when John left the theater and met his maker.
I, Horace Naismith, will not be present, alas, having retired to Texas, but not before passing the torch to Richard Crowe, Mike Flores, countless Dillinger aficionados, and dozens who will come from all over the country to pay their—ah—respects, no doubt ignoring my initial cheap excuse for celebrating the most colorful outlaw who never actually killed anyone.
Well, maybe one, but the cop refused Dillinger’s admonition to stop bouncing slugs off his bulletproof vest. He even shot low, they say, but one round stuck him as he fell. Anyway, John died, shot in the back, before he had time to go to trial.
Let’s say he was crooked but not twisted. Unfortunately, he had some friends who did not share his otherwise conventional (if somewhat flexible) respect for Family Values.

***

Image



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 Post subject: Re: From the Founder of the John Dillinger Died For You Society
PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 6:00 pm 
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I don't think I'll be heading to Chicago for this event...but it does sound like a hoot! :-O


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 Post subject: Re: From the Founder of the John Dillinger Died For You Society
PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 7:32 pm 
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DITHOT, does the John Dillinger Died for You Society have (a) a treasurer or (b) a mailing address where one might send a donation? Perhaps to Richard T. Crowe, the Chicagoan whose name is listed on the flyer?

I know I won't get to Chicago for the 75th anniversary, but I would like to pay my respects somehow, and help the Society defray its expenses. :gangster:

You know that Dillinger would love the idea of ordinary people showing up outside the Biograph 75 years later to remember him. It will certainly have J. Edgar Hoover spinning in his grave, too.

:dillingerhat:

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 Post subject: Re: From the Founder of the John Dillinger Died For You Society
PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 7:56 pm 
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p-tp, that is a good question but given the philosophy of the society's founding fathers I think the word "treasurer" might be a bit of a loose term. :lol: :tommygun: I'm hoping one, or more, of our intrepid Zoners will be able to represent us and pay our respects!

Quote:
"Everyone was an assistant treasurer authorized to sell memberships to anyone and keep the money, “Because John would have wanted it that way.”



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Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!
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 Post subject: Re: From the Founder of the John Dillinger Died For You Society
PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 10:39 pm 
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So, did Mr. Helmer's article remind anyone else of Hunter Thompson? Target shooting in the basement, conspiracy theories, fake names . . .


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 Post subject: Re: From the Founder of the John Dillinger Died For You Society
PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 10:45 pm 
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:cool:



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Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!
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 Post subject: Re: From the Founder of the John Dillinger Died For You Society
PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 1:11 pm 

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Here's a fun article from the Chicago Tribune about tonight's events and the John Dillinger Died For You Society. There's also some lively pictures from the Society's early days.

article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/chi-0721-dillinger-dayjul21,0,7730101.story

photos: http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/chi-090721-dillinger-died-society-pictures,0,5600894.photogallery

If anyone goes tonight, please report back! :cool:


John Dillinger Died For You
Group honors 75th anniversary of day infamous 'Tommy'-wielding gangster was shot, killed outside the Biograph Theater
Lauren Viera | Tribune reporter
July 21, 2009

It's the same story every year.

On the evening of July 22, Mike Dietz heads to Lincoln Park, bagpipes in tow, to set up shop at a bar near the Biograph Theater. Around 10:15 p.m. he straps on the pipes and joins a procession of bar-goers -- ranging from a dozen to more than one hundred -- down Lincoln Avenue toward the Biograph. The crowd strolls at a respectful pace until it arrives at the alley just south of the theater. The group lingers, as its ringleader, Richard Crowe, says some words, a prayer or both as the group laments the date of the night in 1934 that John Dillinger was shot and died in that very alley.

For Crowe and Dietz, the July 22 procession is more than an annual ritual. It's Dillinger Day, hosted by a motley crew known as The John Dillinger Died For You Society.

"Originally, it was just a table or two of people at a local restaurant," says Crowe, who began organizing Dillinger Day processions in the mid-'70s. "It got more involved because of my interest in doing something a bit more dramatic. We added a bagpiper ... started pouring out beer on the ground where he died, and so forth."

The group initially met at a restaurant a few doors down from the Biograph called, appropriately, Dillinger's. Thirty years later, the rendezvous point is Lincoln Station. Bar manager Benn Hamm admits he doesn't know much about the society, but he plays along. On his bar's agenda for Wednesday: 1930s music on the hi-fi, era-appropriate drink specials and a screening of " Manhattan Melodrama," the film Dillinger went to see at the Biograph the night he died.

Hamm and Crowe agree that the combination of the 75th anniversary of the gangster's death and the hype behind the summer blockbuster movie "Public Enemies" will no doubt mean a few more folks than usual at this year's procession. Still, only the most devout Dillinger buffs are card-carrying members of the society. Its foundation dates to the spring of 1966 in Austin, Texas. A gang of University of Texas grads and their professor were getting soused at Scholz Garten in celebration of one student's thesis presentation on the Thompson ("Tommy") submachine gun. Dillinger was heralded; the society was formed, but it needed a founder. A Dr. Horace Naismith, who claimed that he was the illegitimate son of Dillinger, rose to the occasion.

Of course, Naismith wasn't the founder's real name, but I digress.

Within weeks, the inaugural members of The John Dillinger Died For You Society pressed business cards naming each of them assistant treasurer, a title that authorized its cardholder to collect from every new member an initiation fee -- and pocket it, "because John would have wanted it that way."

Clearly, this Naismith was a genius, but a furtive one. I talked to sources who'd lost track of him and presumed him dead. I made up stories in my head that he'd gone into hiding to avoid nosy reporters in search of commentary on "Public Enemies." Then, I found a phone number.

These days, Naismith, a.k.a. Bill Helmer, is holed up in Boerne, Texas. He spent the bulk of his career in Chicago as a senior editor at Playboy, where he'd accepted a job the year after forming the society. Like a good assistant treasurer, he'd been inducting new society members all the while, including fellow Playboy crony and author Robert Anton Wilson. Wilson's signed society membership card sold on eBay earlier this month for $400.

I mention this to Helmer, now 73. In a drawl raspy with wisdom, wit and no doubt a bit of shock, he replies, "Holy [expletive]."

Helmer still has his membership card, along with boatloads of Dillinger collectibles and paraphernalia -- an eyebrow hair from one of the gangster's death masks, a penny Dillinger was carrying in his pocket the night he was shot -- and even more stories. Helmer's the guy who wrote his thesis on the "Tommy" gun, which he parlayed into his first book, "The Gun That Made the Twenties Roar." He's now wrapping up his seventh, tentatively titled, " Al Capone and His American Boys."

Helmer has too many stories to print here, but he did answer one burning question: What are his plans for July 22?

"Dillinger Day?" he says on his end of the phone, almost thoughtfully. "There's nobody down here who gives a [expletive] about Dillinger. This is Bourne, Texas, so I'll have to think of something."

The John Dillinger Died For You Society hosts the 75th anniversary gathering on Wednesday at Lincoln Station, 2432 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-472-8100. Events begin at 8 p.m. with a Dillinger re-enactment, followed by a procession to his death spot.


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 Post subject: Re: From the Founder of the John Dillinger Died For You Society
PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 2:48 pm 
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Thanks for sharing that, RamblinRebel. Those pictures are great!! :cool:

I do hope someone will be able to attend tonight's festivities and report back!
:gangster:



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Wow! What a ride!
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 Post subject: Re: From the Founder of the John Dillinger Died For You Society
PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 4:17 pm 
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That was so interesting, thank you DitHoT! :cool:

It says John was with his new girlfriend at the Biograph that night - I dont think the film implied that (did it?!) -

It's amazing how this man Dillinger had such a huge effect on so many people, and continues to do so to this day. Awesome! I think he would like that somehow. :dillingerhat:



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 Post subject: Re: From the Founder of the John Dillinger Died For You Society
PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 7:38 pm 
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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:
Thanks for sharing that, RamblinRebel. Those pictures are great!! :cool:

I do hope someone will be able to attend tonight's festivities and report back!
:gangster:


I am sure it will be a great evening. Wish I could be there.

Agreed, awesome photos!!!!!! :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: From the Founder of the John Dillinger Died For You Society
PostPosted: Wed Jul 22, 2009 7:46 pm 
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lizabel wrote:
That was so interesting, thank you DitHoT! :cool:

It says John was with his new girlfriend at the Biograph that night - I dont think the film implied that (did it?!) -

It's amazing how this man Dillinger had such a huge effect on so many people, and continues to do so to this day. Awesome! I think he would like that somehow. :dillingerhat:

Yes, Thank you DITHOT and I too hope someone who shows up will get back to us. Maybe some reporter will show up this year because of PE and we will get to hear how it goes.
No, lizabel the film decided to leave that out. They wanted the romance story to be about Billy who was off to jail for 2 years and the fact that John was dating Polly and had her photo in his locket didn't show the romance Mann was after in the film.
I do agree with you that Dillinger would certainly like the attention he is getting after all these years.



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