Don's Blog: June 2020

Clay Shaw/Man of a Million Fragments: The True Story of Clay Shaw/Dueling Voices/I Lost It at the Beginning/101 Reasons Not To Murder The Entire Saudi Royal Family/He Knew Where He Was Going (?)

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Clay Shaw's Return to New Orleans In Early 1942

One of the minor mysteries about Clay Shaw is his return to New Orleans in early 1942 (or possibly earlier), where he worked for a company that was managed or owned by Theodore Brent and Rudolf Hecht.

Until I discovered that in the Norman Cousins papers, I was always under the impression that Shaw went to New York City in early 1936 and only returned to work after the war had ended. However, this evidence showed that he was working for this company that apparently had something to do with manufacturing aircraft and possibly other wartime industry materials. Shaw and Cousins communicated during this period, and I believe that Cousins even visited with Shaw at his apartment in New Orleans.

Shaw apparently returned to New York City later in 1942, and had some discussion with Norman Cousins about working for seemed to be some type of arts-related wartime effort (which presumably would have kept him out of the military). However, that apparently never panned out and Shaw went on into the military and eventually overseas.

The discovery of this information did give at least partial answers to two questions:

1. How did Shaw get the job at the International Trade Mart (ITM) immediately upon getting out of the military in early 1946. He had worked for Brent and Hecht, the two leading figures at both ITM and International House (IH) in New Orleans immediately prior to going into the military. I'm sure he had known them before that as well. Little of Brent and Hecht's records or correspondence has survived to my knowledge, other than a fair amount in the ITM and IH records, which are helpful but not 100% complete.

2. Shaw had been friends with Kay Lucas (later Kay Lucas Leake Dart) from his work in the theater in New Orleans, and I think he may have seen her in New York as well. In a 1967 letter, in what I interpreted as an oblique reference to Shaw's homosexuality, Kay Lucas Leake Dart mentioned a "long, long night at 727 St. Ann" where they tried the "Noble Experiment." I assumed from that it was a reference to an attempt to have physical relations, but could never figure out when Shaw lived at 727 St. Ann, or when Kay Lucas Leake Dart did. However, in the letters to and from Norman Cousins during this early 1942 period, Shaw used the address of 727 St. Ann.

Still, mystery abounds on those gaps in the Clay Shaw story, and some things may take more independent research before being cleared up, if indeed they can.

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