At the height of her career she would become the most notorious woman in all of America!
If you were to ask someone to name the most famous porn stars of the last 50 years, who would you expect to be included? Some of the names would be Christy Canyon, Seka, Lisa Deleeuw, Candida Royalle, Virginia Bell, and maybe the infamous John Holmes. But Janet “Conforto” Mole would probably not be on the top of that list. Janet who? Though many have never heard of her, during much of the 1960s she was the most prominent adult entertainer in American history and savagely trashed in the press. She was an adult film star with connections to a presidency 50 years before Stormy Daniels ever met Donald Trump!
Conforto was a red headed Irish-Italian girl born in Brooklyn, New York in 1936. She was raised in a strict Catholic household, attending Catholic convent school from pre-school onwards. Years later, she claimed that she learned to overcome her shyness and perform in front of others by doing short Christmas skits at the convent schools holiday pageants. By the age of 16, she tired of her Catholic Italian upbringing and became a runaway. She later relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana where she worked odd end jobs. To make ends meet she became a cigarette girl, walking around clubs selling loose cigarettes from a display tray wrapped around her chest.
The job did not last long, however, as Conforto was attracted to the “bad boy” alpha-type males and the edgy lifestyles they led. She quickly went from selling smokes to becoming a burlesque stripper at the jazz clubs, speakeasies and saloons that dotted 1950s New Orleans. She took the stage name JADA which she preferred to have spelled using all capital letters as she felt it distinguished her from the other timid dancers.
Conforto was an instant hit! Her flaming red hair, freckles, hot lipstick lips, and big boobs made her a huge draw. But in addition to her looks, Conforto was a dancer who actually liked to perform! Many of the other girls who danced at the time were far more reserved and performed without feelings or emotions. For them, stripping was just a job. Not Conforto! The power of bringing a crowd of men into a frenzied pitch definitely excited her kinky side. Add some alcohol and a little nudity, and you can imagine the huge audiences her shows would attract. She was warned by more than one club owner to tone down her shows, but none of the warnings seemed to have much effect. Conforto loved the attention, and there was no stopping her. She quickly went from being a champagne girl to the main event.
This type of salacious behavior on stage was rare at the time. Conforto began to have a national following in the United States. One of the people who recognized her talent early on was Irving Klaw, the New York City adult publisher and filmmaker. Another was Phobe Publishing which published a magazine special on Conforto titled simply “Jada.” Other prominent features in adult magazines followed.
Conforto was not the first stripper in the 1950s to cross over into printed nudie magazines; however, her poses were far more provocative. As the later Warren Commission Report indicated, she was known to push the limits of what was allowed. This is what she liked, and she wasn’t shy about letting others know it. She soon became the most sought after adult star in America. Her live performances would draw fans from far and wide with long lines forming to get into the club.
By the early 1960s her life was in high gear. Not only was she a top draw touring as a burlesque dancer, but she had also starred in burlesque films such as “Naughty Dallas.” Prominent national photographers such as Roy Kemp began to photograph her.
In 1963, she relocated to Dallas and moved in with Jack Ruby, a Dallas area businessman who owned a strip club called the Carousel Club. Ruby had previously managed the career of stripper/nude model and actress Candy Barr. But his violent temper and mood swings were said to have brought that relationship to an end. There were rumors around Texas and Louisiana that he was in league with the Mafia, and that those who opposed him felt the wrath of organized crime.
Conforto knew of Ruby and his reputation, but that did not seem to scare her. Indeed, it may have initially thrilled her as she had a history of being with violent men. But the major reasons she may have been attracted to Ruby was his money and lifestyle. When she performed in Dallas, her pay was triple of what she made dancing in New Orleans. Ruby also had her tour to other clubs across the United States. Her fans were nuts about her and she was considered by many to be the finest burlesque dancer in the country at the time. She regularly drew huge crowds to her shows and most of her performances were sold out.
It did not matter to her that Ruby took much of the money she earned; she was still doing better than when she was dancing without an agent. She was also making substantially more than other strippers at the clubs. Additionally, she was able to keep her tips from the shows which were significant amounts. She purchased a pink Cadillac convertible and a spacious house in Dallas. She was headlining at burlesque clubs across the country and had a national notoriety – who wouldn’t be happy with this?
But after a few months, things with Ruby began to deteriorate. His mood swings became difficult to overlook, and his temper was volatile. Things became so bad between the two that in early August 1963, Conforto obtained a restraining order against Ruby for domestic violence. Several people who knew her at the time claimed Conforto seemed to be tiring of Ruby and his antics and contemplated leaving him. While she was pondering her decision, she stopped performing at the Carousel and considered signing with another agent and dancing out of Houston, Texas.
Everything changed, however, on November 22, 1963, when Lee Harvey Oswald walked up to the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository, pulled out a rifle and shot President John F. Kennedy while he was riding in an open convertible in Dallas.
The first hour after the shooting was a period of great confusion. No one was certain if the assassination was part of a larger attack, or whether Vice President Johnson, who was in the car behind the President, was safe as that car sped off. Soon afterwards he was sworn in as the 36th President of the United States.
In an instant, the entire nation was stunned and grieving. The violence against the youngest president ever elected was senseless. Within hours, the images of the assassination were broadcast nationally. The nation was dazed — how this could have happened? But as horrible as the assassination was, what transpired in the next few days was even more bizarre.
The police quickly apprehended Oswald at a movie theater and brought him to the Dallas Police Station. On November 24, Oswald was escorted by police through the station’s basement en route to a more secure jail. By chance, Ruby also happened to be in the building. Grieving at the news of Kennedy’s death and in a rage, he approached the officers as they were moving Oswald, pulled out a gun shot and Oswald dead. What was even more astonishing was that the entire shooting was broadcast live on national television!
The country was reeling, and with that confusion came anger. Who was Oswald, and why would he assassinate the President? Because Oswald was dead, we would never know. Why did Ruby shoot Oswald? Neither man appeared to have a connection to the other. The frustration of not being able to find the answers to these question caused indignation across the country. Not long afterward, Ruby was diagnosed with cancer and died while incarcerated.
But Ruby’s death did not end the matter. The entire nation was furious at what had transpired. Attention quickly focused on anyone associated with either man. Both men were disavowed by people who knew them, stating that they were loners whom they had not seen in years. Ruby had no close relatives. His former client, Candy Barr, had moved on and changed her name. The only one left was Conforto!
When Conforto heard the news of the shooting, she tried to flee Dallas and return to New Orleans. This attempt was unsuccessful. After being questioned by the police, she was released. To reporters, she was adamant that she had no idea why Ruby would do such a thing and proclaimed her innocence of any knowledge.
Her denials were not believed, and her name became permanently associated with the assassination. Newspaper articles used her Italian heritage to imply that she had ties to the Mob though no credible evidence of that ever emerged. She was portrayed as someone so vile that she complained years later that she could not find any meaningful employment. Worse yet, conspiracy theorists and reporters believed that by the mere fact of being Ruby’s girlfriend, she had secrets that she was not divulging because of her continued love for Ruby. The Warren Commission established by the United States Congress to look into the Kennedy assassination found absolutely no proof of this and exonerated her. But this did not seem to matter to the general public. To them, Conforto was guilty by association and widely reviled.
Burlesque clubs and publishers who only a short time earlier offered her thousands of dollars to dance and pose nude were now distancing themselves from her as much as possible lest they became tainted by her notoriety. She had to sell her house, the pink Cadillac, and most of her possessions to make ends meet. Broke and destitute, she disguised herself in order to take menial labor jobs, only to be discovered by the press and have to relocate yet again. This cat and mouse game continued for years. During periods of the 1970s reports surfaced that she was homeless and living on the streets. Others claimed that she had gone mad and was institutionalized.
She was killed in Albuquerque, New Mexico on 9th May 1980 when the motorcycle she was riding collided with a school bus. She was only 44 years old.
Rest in peace Janet. Your fans will always love you!