Keith White

On the morning of May 23,1934 outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker purchased their last meal in the tiny hamlet of Gibsland, Louisiana. In fact, Bonnie was still munching on her breakfast sandwich-a hamburger-when she and Clyde were ambushed and killed. Seven decades later, the residents of Gibsland commemorate their "fifteen minutes of fame" by hosting a street fete which they call the Authentic Bonnie And Clyde Festival. Thanks to the efforts of a group of gangster thespians known as Reenactments, Etc. ("Early Thirties Crime"), John Thompson's "trench broom" plays a huge role in the festivities.

While the real Clyde Barrow never had access to a "Chicago typewriter" (The BAR was his full-auto of choice), Hollywood has placed Thompson submachine guns into the hands of most of the actors who have portrayed Clyde in motion pictures and on television. Paying homage to Clyde's cinema image, the players of Reenactments, Etc. delight spectators by engaging in Tommy gun shootouts in front of Gibsland's City Hall and by recreating the ambush at the actual site.

Since all performances are live, miscalculations sometimes occur. At the apex of one of the City Hall melodramas this year, one lucky bandit who was suppose to die like a dog in the street ("Crime does not pay") was able to escape unscathed instead because the police machine gunners ran out of ammunition before the skit was concluded.

All six lawmen involved in the ambush scene at the end of the 1967 motion picture, "Bonnie and Clyde," were armed with Thompsons. At Gibsland in 2002, ambushers deployed four blank-firing submachine guns - three Colt Thompsons and a German MP-40. Concealed in the thick underbrush, the incorrect vintage Teutonic buzz gun could only be heard, not seen. Next year, said reenactors hope to field four TSMGs.

Gibsland's festival serves as a magnet for crime buffs of every stripe. Moreover, it has become a rendezvous point for relatives of the famous. Clyde Barrow's nephew and Bonnie Barker's niece are regular participants. So are the sons of lawmen Ted Hinton and Frank Hamer.

In 2002, John Dillinger's nephew came to town. As might be expected, the members of the Dillinger clan have a rather low opinion of J. Edgar Hoover. When the remark was made that he bore a physical resemblance to the legendary F.B.I. director, John's nephew indignantly retorted, "No I don't. I'm not wearing a dress." (A snide reference to the charge that Hoover was a transvestite).

Interested parties can purchase a video of the 2002 Authentic Bonnie And Clyde Festival and other Bonnie and Clyde memorabilia by contacting Southwest Historical Publications at (214) 747-2362 and requesting one of their flyers.