Jesse and Jezebel: Low-Rent Capers and an Ink-Drawn Heart

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“Jesse and Jezebel, the name given to outlaw couple Jesse Weathers and Janice Lister after they began a sporadic crime spree in Arkansas, robbing a few gas stations, hijacking a truck and trying (and failing) to hold up a bank. Newspapers desperate for lurid copy just weeks after the death of Bonnie and Clyde seized on the couple’s low-rent capers and blew them up into a ‘national menace.’ With Janice’s sister Mavis in tow, the pair tried briefly to live up to the hype, first with a couple of insurance office robberies, then a brazen daylight attack on an armored payroll truck, which ended in a shootout on the streets of Fayetteville that left two bystanders dead, although it was never clear if they’d been hit by the robbers, the security guards or the police. Shaken by the incident, Lister and Weathers abandoned the life of crime, fled to Mexico and lived incognito for three years, then moved to Arizona using false identities, living out their lives as John and Sally Watson, a quiet, diligent car mechanic and a secretary for an insurance firm who ended up as head of administration. Jesse died in 1963 of congenital heart failure. The indomitable ‘Jezebel’ lived another 35 years, dying in her sleep at the age of 88. As for Mavis, who had returned to her parents’ home before the final job and was never formally charged with a crime, she parlayed her notoriety into roles in a couple of Hollywood B-movies, then spent a few years as an exotic dancer in dubious Chicago clubs. But with the advent of drive-in movies, she came into her own as a raucous, hard-bitten character actor, contributing memorable roles in films by Roger Corman, Russ Meyer, William Castle and others. She always claimed that she had never heard from her sister again after Janice fled to Mexico, but when Mavis died of lung cancer in 1974, a shoebox was found under her bed containing dozens of postcards with an Arizona postmark, left blank except for a small ink-drawn heart.” Pencil sketch, digital paint.

art and text ©2019 by Chris Floyd

About Chris Floyd

Tennessee. Moscow. Oxford.
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