The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

SE Campus professor shares knowledge of historical icons

By Karen Gavis/se news editor

One SE Campus associate professor teaches art but is also an expert on Texas outlaws Bonnie and Clyde.

As a consultant on the lives of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, John Neal Phillips has been an on-camera speaker in 15 documentaries. His book, Running with Bonnie and Clyde: The Ten Fast Years of Ralph Fults, tells their story through the eyes of a cohort. Fults introduced Phillips to Clyde’s sister-in-law, Blanche Barrow, and Phillips edited her prison memoir My Life with Bonnie and Clyde.

Phillips said Blanche Barrow did not like how the 1967 Bonnie and Clyde movie starring Warren Beatty portrayed her, saying “that movie made me look like a screaming horse’s ass.”

As a gift, Blanche Barrow gave Phillips a photo of her holding Snowball, a dog that had survived a 1933 gunfight near Platte City, Mo. The photo was taken by Clyde Barrow and has a note on the back handwritten by Blanche to her father, Phillips said.

“I’m not much of a collector, but people do give me stuff,” he said.

Phillips also has a picture of Clyde holding a weapon and standing in front of his car, the photo was given to him by Clyde Barrow’s sister Marie.

When interviewing eyewitnesses, Phillips said he talked to five people about one particular gunfight and was told five different stories. He said he then had to present the truth as factually as he could determine it to be.

Phillips said sometimes he will do a documentary and think if Bonnie and Clyde were to walk in, they would probably say, “Who the hell is this guy?”

History is not his only pastime.

Besides being an expert on outlaws, Phillips said he has met Andy Warhol and Richard Nixon before he became president and been in the eye of a hurricane. The most exciting thing ever, though, was eyeing The Beatles live about 200 feet from the stage, he said.

Phillips said Warhol had a great sense of humor. Phillips, who studied art in Florence, Italy, was better able to understand Warhol’s art after meeting him.

Phillips has master’s degrees in both film/photography and printmaking/painting.

No Country for Old Men is a favorite film of his, and he said he likes the Coen brothers’ films a lot.

“They really have a way of photographing the psychology of people,” he said.

Phillips teaches his students art via film. Early each Saturday morning, after a quiz, his students sit in cushioned seats and watch movies.

Students are welcome to bring snacks, just nothing too crunchy, he said.

Phillips said filmmaking incorporates music, art, architecture, theater and literature, and he uses video the way other people use paintings.

“Film is the best way to study all of these things at once,” he said.

Phillips hopes his students will learn more about themselves and discover why they like certain things. He said he learns more about himself the more he teaches.

“If you know who you are, you are in pretty good shape to progress into the future,” he said. “We don’t always like what we see, though.”


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