Jay J. Armes

Pseudonym of Julian Armas
(1932–)

“The Lord has given us a brain. We only use one-tenth of ten percent of it.”
Jay J. Armes

Okay, you got me…

JAY J. ARMES is a real person, not a fictional person.

He’s a real-life Texas private eye, generally considered, at least according to him, as one of the very best, receiving awards and recognition as “the man who has made the greatest contribution to the investigative profession.” He has friends in high places and his clients have included Elvis Presley, Howard Hughes, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando, whose son, Christian, Armes rescued from kidnappers. Supposedly he’s never lost a case, and has even succeeded “where the FBI and CIA have failed.”

Don’t believe me? Just ask “Armes.”

He’s also certainly one of the most colourful and flamboyant private eyes around, on either side of the reality divide. At the age of twelve (or is it eleven?), he lost both his hands in an accident (dynamite was apparently involved), and was outfitted with prosthetics.

Over the years those prosthetics have evolved, transforming Armes (his real name!) into a sort of real-life James Bond/Six Million Dollar Man. His two powerful steel claws can slice through steel, but are delicate enough to thread a needle. At one point he even had a .22 Magnum implanted into his wrist. But he also owns five-fingered prosthetics which he can wear when the occasion demands, allowing him to appear in public without attracting undue attention to himself.

He’s not just your average local private dick, either. He has a pilot’s license, runs his own crime lab, has degrees in psychology and criminology from New York University, and speaks seven languages, including thirty-three dialects of Chinese, which must come in handy — his agency supposedly has branches all over the world, employing over 2000 agents.

No wonder profiles began appearing in such magazines like People, Newsweek and The Atlantic, or that he started popping up on Today and The Merv Griffin Show. He even played a deranged killer in a 1973 episode of Hawaii 5-0 called “The Hookman.”

His paperback biography, J.J. Armes, Investigator: The World’s Most Successful Private Eye, co-penned by Frederick Nolan came out in 1976, and helped to inspire a series of toys from Ideal, hoping to capitalize on the “Bionic Man” craze. Billed as “J.J. Armes: The Detective with Interchangeable Hands,” the figure came with various interchangeable “action” hands, including suction cups for climbing walls, a magnet for hanging onto steel structures, a machete, a pair of false hands for undercover roles, a hook that converts to a pistol and a pair of spring loaded hooks. There were also numerous accessories available, including a Mobile Investigation Unit with a “Super Hook”.

Eventually Hollywood came a-calling. A 1993 TV movie, The Investigator, was shot and aired, a potential pilot for a series.

But they keep trying. In January 2005, Armes announced that Marvel Comics’ honcho Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men et al, was developing a superhero based on Armes. Says Lee, “When I first met Jay I was bowled over. I couldn’t believe that a real live person could have the incredible powers that he possesses”

One of Lee’s co-producers laid it on even thicker: “This can truly be a tent pole franchise with the right studio partner. Amazingly, Jay can now do more with the fantastic steel claws that have replaced his hands than people with their own hands can do. He can reach into fire, smash through doors, fire bullets with unerring accuracy, cut through metal, fly utilizing a jet pack, scuba dive, pilot a jet — and he is master of the deadliest karate chop. No wonder Jay J. Armes is the most famous, most sought after investigator in the world.”

Meanwhile, Armes continued walking down those mean streets. Last I heard, he was the “Chief Investigator” for The Investigators, an El Paso-based detective agency, and lived on a high security, fourteen-acre estate in Texas, with assorted tigers and cheetahs, a chimp, a wife and a loving family. Supposedly he’s been known to use his 750 pound tiger as a “lie detector.” He tools around town in a specially rigged Hummer.

Overcoming a childhood handicap and becoming such an inspiration to so many others? You gotta hand it to the guy.

EXCEPT… 

 

Most of the above, cobbled together from press releases and Armes’ 1976 “biography,” is horseshit.

In “Is Jay J. Armes for Real?”, a 1976 article in Texas Monthly, reporter Gary Cartwright revealed how Armes’ fascinating and inspiring biography was all messed up by a TV crew of pesky Canadians trying to film a segment for W5, an award-winning and well-rerspected television news show. As the article progresses, and Armes squabbles with the TV crew who refuse to do a straight puff piece, the discrepancies, contradictions, blatant exaggerations and outright bullshit begin to pile up to almost Trumpian levels. Turns out Armes isn’t even his real name.

The more Cartwright digs, the more he discovers. It’s a great little piece of journalism, now more than forty years old, but still amazingly relevant. To be sure, Armes’ life, is still interesting and even worth reading, but it’s buried under so much self-serving excrement that it’s difficult not to notice the smell.

THE EVIDENCE

  • “I never give up.”
    — Armes explains his success
  • In his autobiography, Armes relates an experience he had with a client who had hired him to get the goods on her husband. It turned out that the husband, a well-known actor, was having an affair–with another man. Distraught, the client made a pass at Armes, revealing her breasts, and asking “Is there anything wrong with these?” Armes allegedly replied “That is not what you hired me for.”

UNDER OATH

  • “Have you ever seen the pilot for the J.J. Armes series? It is a trip! I actually tracked him down, received an autographed photo (his business is still going strong!) and am sending him hardback editions of his book, since his library has been dwindling, apparently (there are several copies available in Portland, Oregon, however).  Anyway, take care. Many thanks.”
    — Robert Sollars
  • “I’ve been wondering about this letter for years. As far as I knew, there was never a hardcover edition of the book, nor did a pilot ever air. When I asked Mr. Sollars to clarify, I never got a response. Fifteen or so years later, though, somebody else chimed in to say that yes, there was a hardcover edition (and a copy or two have since surfaced on Amazon). Evidence of a TV movie, though, is still a little scarce.”
    — the editor (December 2019)

BOOKS

  • J.J. Armes, Investigator: The World’s Most Successful Private Eye (1976; by Frederick Nolan and Jay. J. Armes) Buy this book

TELEVISION

  • J.J. ARMES
    (1993 Tri-Star)
    Unsold pilot
    Supposedly outlandish as hell. Has anyone seen it? Who starred in it? There is no record of this ever being produced or aired.
  • JAY J. ARMES
    (2005, In production)
    A first draft feature treatment was supposedly written by Scott Lobdell, writer of “Uncanny X-Men” and “Generation X.”

TELEVISION APPEARANCES AS AN ACTOR

  • HAWAII FIVE-O
    (1968-80, CBS)

    • “Hookman” (September 11, 1973)
      (Season 6, Episode 1)
      Jay J. Armes guest-starred as Curt Stoner
      According to some sources, Armes also appeared in an episode of Mannix, but–what a surprise–I can’t seem to find any information on that one.

FURTHER INVESTIGATIONS

  • The Investigators
    For over thirty-five years, Jay J.Armes’ El Paso-based team of “international investigaors” have provided state-of-the-art investigative services to clients from around the world, offering a full staff of professional, highly trained and certified investigators and specializing in “high-risk, high-profile cases… See for yourself why we have been the number one choice of Governments, Royalty, and entertainers from around the world for over thirty years!”
  • “Is Jay J. Armes For Real?”
    “He says he’s the world’s greatest private detective, but…” Journalist Gary Cartwright is a little dubious (June 1976, Texas Monthly)
  • America’s Most Flamboyant Private Eye and the 8,000-Mile Manhunt
    Armes always gets his man. Even in Thailand. By Dylan Taylor-Lehman (2020, Pocket Worthy)
  • The P.I. Toy Chest
    Treasures from the past…
  • True Detectives
    P.I. Novels by Real-Life Eyes
  • True Detectives
    Non-fiction by Real Life Eyes
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

2 thoughts on “Jay J. Armes

  1. First of all there is a hard cover version of mr. ARMES book I have copy of it second when he says he will do something he does it dont criticize what you dont know.

    1. I stand corrected. There IS a hardcover edition. It must have been a small press run, though — when I first wrote the article, I couldn’t find copies — or even mentions — in any of the usual places. All I found were multiple references to the paperback. As for the rest of your post, I assure you I did my research.

      As a kid, I sort of admired Armes, so it was disappointing when I did the research for this entry, maybe fifteen years ago, to to discover how much of his bio was pure malarkey.

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