Heidi Fleiss · Hillsong · ChatGPT
Welcome to the March budget sweep. It's a doozy!
I’m keeping this brief. I hate hate hate it when I get an email newsletter that gets truncated! But we have so much to get through this month that I know that unless I am as brief as can be, this month’s sweep of all the links we’ve been hoarding will get that bottom of the issue chop. So I’m going to quickly remind y’all that Sarah and I work very hard to deliver this publication to you every day of the week, and that any time we get that “new paid subscriber” alert our hearts overflow with joy…
…and then I am going to get to it. I hope you enjoy this month’s budget doc cleanup, and that your last two days of March are a delight. — EB
HBO Max to Develop Heidi Fleiss Scripted Series From ‘The Staircase’ Co-Showrunner Maggie Cohn [Variety]
The timing of this announcement intrigues me, as it comes just weeks after the so called “Hollywood Madam”’s ex and longtime friend, actor Tom Sizemore, died at age 61. Fleiss made the interview rounds just after he died, which reminded me that she was still alive; and now this. Will the current era offer a more nuanced view of sex work than 2004’s Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss? Unsure, but just a quick spin through a google search of Fleiss’s name suggests that there’s no shortage of material to call on from the last few years, here’s a taste.
The Night of the 12th review – gripping true-crime drama breaks with convention [Guardian]
This adaptation of “a real case recounted by the French author Pauline Guéna in her 2020 eyewitness reportage book 18.3: Une Année à la PJ” is in select theaters now, and details on a streaming release have yet to be announced. Based on this review, however, the story is largely fictionalized, which makes the “true crime” claim slender at best.
George Nassar, 86, Killer Who Heard Confession in Strangler Case, Is Dead [New York Times]
This is only news, it seems, because no one bothered to see what Nassar was up to until Boston Strangler was released; he died in prison in 2018 of prostate cancer, despite a claim in the movie’s endcards that he remained alive and incarcerated. Whoops.
Alex Mar And Sarah Weinman Discuss True Crime And Criminal Justice Storytelling [Crime Reads]
In fact, it was Weinman who first raised the question that Nassar might no longer be with us! But that doesn’t come up in this deeply processy conversation between the authors (Weinman wrote Scoundrel, as we know, and Mar wrote the newly released Seventy Times Seven, about a teenage death row inmate. Reading this long piece is a worthy pursuit for writers and people who like writing.
21 Side-By-Sides That Show Actors Who Have Played The Exact Same Role In A True Crime TV Series Or Movie [Buzzfeed]
Buzzfeed listicles, I know I know, but this one is really fun. I had forgotten that Boris Kodjoe played OJ, what a trip.
New ESPN Investigative Documentary Explores 2018 Murder of Utah Student-Athlete Lauren McCluskey [ESPN]
The content for this project is rolling out as we speak: “LISTEN Debuts Tuesday, March 28, 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+ and ESPN+ on Hulu; A Special Episode of ABC’s 20/20 “Running Out of Time,” Based on ESPN’s Investigation, Airs Friday, March 31, at 9 p.m.” ESPN also dropped a longread on the case this week, it’s worth a read.
As book bans ebb, the battle to criminally charge Texas librarians has started [Houston Chronicle]
It’s especially barftastic to read this the same week that we’re hearing these same legislators talk about their refusal to make laws against guns, but they “have introduced bills this year that, while not always mentioning libraries, would make it easier to criminally prosecute librarians for violating state obscenity laws.”
Jay Ellis Sets True-Crime Podcast ‘Freeway Phantom’ & Plans Scripted Series [Deadline]
The Top Gun: Maverick star is behind Freeway Phantom, a podcast about the 1970s-era serial killer who killed at least five girls in the D.C. area, dumping their bodies by the freeway and taunting police. The podcast promises “new evidence that could crack the cold cases wide open” and is set to launch on May 17. (D.C. police just released a slew of docs from the case last month following a FOIA request, I’m wondering if the request came from this pod’s producers?)
Danish Series 'The Nurse' Launches on Netflix April 27 and Reveals First Teaser [Netflix]
Based on Kristian Corfixen’s true crime book of the same name, this is a dramatic adaptation of the Christina Aistrup Hansen case. Hansen was accused in 2016 of killing at least four patients with fatal doses of morphine, following a trial for manslaughter she was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The series will likely face market confusion with the similarly themed and titled The Good Nurse, which dropped on the streamer last year, confusion that’ll be cleared up when viewers realize that Good is in English and this one is in Danish.
Vanity Fair Studios and Scout Productions’ The Secrets of Hillsong to Premiere May 19 on FX [Vanity Fair]
This “four-part investigative docuseries” managed to snag Hillsong high-ups Carl and Laura Lentz, and is expected to cover the same ground as VF’s 2021 longread on the scandals at the influential Hollywood church as well as the allegations against its leadership since then.
I Was a Teen Ecstasy Dealer in the 90s [Vice]
Jessica Wade’s Vice as-told-to is ostensibly a promo for Dublin Narcos, a Sky TV three-parter on “how drugs changed the fabric of Dublin.” Wade’s story is fairly standard true confessions stuff, but it’s a decent enough read while you’re waiting for the toaster to pop. I’m more interested in Dublin Narcos, truth be told, so I’m hopeful a U.S. streamer snaps it up so I can watch it. U.K. BE readers, did any of you check it out?
Prison Money Diaries: What People Really Make (and Spend) Behind Bars [The Marshall Project]
It’s chilling to me how many folks think that the prison labor used to make many of the things that we purchase or use is comparable to voluntary work outside incarceration. THMasked “people in prison to track their earning and spending — and bartering and side hustles — for 30 days” for this eye-opening report.
Europol warns ChatGPT already helping folks commit crimes [The Register]
I am ready for our chat bot criminal true crime future! Europol’s report (which is only available to read as a download, a decision that sort of makes me feel like a sucker…is this how the chatbots get me, like inviting a vampire to dinner?) says they saw the “first practical examples” of how this new tech would be used for ill “mere weeks after the public release of ChatGPT…For a potential criminal with little technical knowledge, this is an invaluable resource. At the same time, a more advanced user can exploit these improved capabilities to further refine or even automate sophisticated cybercriminal modi operandi.”
A Scammer Who Tricks Instagram Into Banning Influencers Has Never Been Identified. We May Have Found Him. [ProPublica]
This one is so juicy, folks! Here’s the dek: “OBN, a mysterious fraudster, says he made hundreds of thousands of dollars by exploiting Instagram’s security gaps. He’s eluded Meta and law enforcement, but we followed his trail to Las Vegas.” There’s so much great stuff here involving influencer culture, tech, and general scumminess. If you liked Hollywood Con Queen, this is up your alley.
'Satan Wants You' Trailer Uncovers the Hysteria Behind the Satanic Panic [Collider]
This doc from Canadian directing team Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams premiered at SXSW this month, here’s an interview with the duo from the fest. Reviews were moderately positive, so it’s worth watching for this one to make a streaming debut.
Oops! Newark Duped in Bogus Deal with Fake ‘Sister City’ [Tap Into]
This is a total “why hasn’t this been adapted yet,” but it’s so good it’s got to be. “For six days in January, the City of Newark had a nifty ‘sister city’ cultural-trade deal with one of India’s emerging independent Hindu nations: ‘United States of Kailasa.’ Turns out, Kailasa does not exist. It's entirely fake.” This story is bananas, and I insist on an adaptation, thank you.
Fox News Editor Overseeing Crime Fearmongering Is Felon Himself [The Daily Beast]
”Tom Lowell, a longtime Fox News Channel producer who now runs the law-and-order-obsessed newsroom, took part in a 1986 liquor store burglary in South Florida that ended in a drug bust. And he got a slap on the wrist, despite cops saying the ‘burglary was extensive.’” Hypocrisy at Fox News? I declare!
Vanessa Bryant Reaches $29M Settlement in Suit Over Kobe Bryant Crash Photos [The Hollywood Reporter]
The world still seems unwilling to look the credible sexual assault allegations against the late basketball star in the eye, and though that frustrates me, I get that. Clearer cut and easier to grapple with are claims by Bryant’s family that “first responders had taken photos on their cell phones” at the helicopter crash scene that claimed his life then “shared them with colleagues, and one person showed a stranger at a bar.” That hefty settlement is unlikely to keep sheriff’s department deputies and firefighters in line (if you know what does, please do speak up!) but one might hope that it will make for harsher penalties and punishments if that behavior is spotted in future.
Friday on Best Evidence: The Colorado Cannibal!
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