Andre Leon Talley · The Rope · College Admissions

Plus: Another Blumhouse docuseries

“Hey, where’s our Friday discussion thread?” It happened Thursday, friend. But it’s never too late to join in the conversation, which this week is pandemic in nature!

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If I’m reading this story right, Andre Leon Talley is facing allegations that he tried to steal a house. The fashion icon, whose career has spanned Andy Warhol’s Factory, Vogue, and the Met, is the subject of multiple docs — perhaps most notably The Gospel According To Andre.

Yes, Sarah and I are both fashion fans, but I didn’t have to contort too hard to get Talley into the true crime mix: According to this New York Times report, the former head of Manolo Blahnik (a brand Talley has vociferously championed) bought a $1 million upstate-NY house, and has rented it (as he describes the arrangement) to Talley since 2004. Now the homeowner wants to sell the place, but Talley says he can’t, claiming his allegedly intermittent checks were payments toward ownership of the house. Here’s a snip:

In 2004, according to Mr. Talley’s affidavit, Mr. Talley was forced to leave his New York apartment because of mold. In part because Mr. Talley (for whom money was worth thinking about simply as a means to purchase the beautiful things he craved) had run into financial trouble three times before — he filed for bankruptcy in North Carolina in 1997 and 1998, and in New York in 1993, largely because of failure to pay taxes — getting a mortgage would be complicated.

So Mr. Malkemus [ed note: that’s the Manolo Blahnik guy] and Mr. Yurgaitis [MB guy’s husband] offered to act as proxies for Mr. Talley: to buy the house and hold the mortgage — or so says Mr. Talley’s lawsuit, which claims he was operating in good faith that he would one day become owner of the property. He had also paid, his affidavit said, to maintain and improve the property, including spending $12,000 on a new boiler and $30,000 to replace the roof.

Given that in 1999 Mr. Talley claims Mr. Malkemus helped him buy a car in much the same way — for reasons not specified in the affidavit Mr. Talley was “unable to do so myself,” so he wired Mr. Malkemus approximately $45,000, the papers say, and Mr. Malkemus “went to a dealership and used those funds to purchase the vehicle on my behalf” — there was precedent.

There were also signs of potential future problems, with Mr. Talley apparently believing the $120,000 he gave Mr. Malkemus as part of the purchase was a down payment, though in the lease it was identified as a “security deposit.”

Things get messier from there, with reporters Vanessa Friedman and Elizabeth Paton reminding us that for most glossies, fashion reporters don’t follow usual journalistic standards, pocketing freebies as part of their jobs. But what happens when that pro-forma pocketing ends in an accusation of theft? If Talley and Malkemus make it to court*, we might find out. — EB

*smart money’s on a settlement, but what do I know

Yes, I miss things like seeing my friends or hugging anyone who’s not a dog or my husband, but I sure do love that I can attend every author event I want to. We talked about The Rope last week, with me writing at the time that “The case at hand is the 1910 slaying of ten-year-old Marie Smith, a crime for which a Black handyman, Tom Williams, was arrested. Some members of the community weren’t so sure Williams was the suspect, so they hired an out-of-town detective to come in and take a look at the case, eventually running a sting operation to find the real killer.”

Sounds pretty good, right? Well, author Alex Tresnioski is up to talk about the book, as part of an event sponsored by the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice. While the discussion is “at” the Lewes, Delaware, public library, we don’t have to be in the Blue Hen state* to attend. Just sign up here, then Zoom on in during the event on Monday, March 1 at 5:00 PM ET. — EB

*that’s really what they call it!

Ugh, I always forget about Epix. That’s the only place in May to find Fall River, a four-part docuseries on the 1979 slaying of three women — allegedly at the hands of human-sacrificing satanists.

Cult Nation has one take on the infamous case, which is often linked to the 1980s-era Satanic Panic craze. From their 2020 report:

Detectives from the Fall River Major Crimes Division would remain in contact with Karen Marsden in the weeks that followed, hoping to learn more about ‘The Fall River Cult’ – as this motley group of pimp and prostitute practitioners of the black arts came to be known.

“I’m a good person,” Marsden sobbed, “I believe in God.” Fearing for her life, she referred to Carl Drew as “The Devil” and told police of the consequences she expected for her betrayal.[11] In a narrative that mirrored the Manson Family cult, she claimed that Drew organized his prostitution ring as a Satanic coven that he ruled with an iron fist. “Satan will take his toll,” he would threaten the girls.[12] For the more Christian-fearful, like Marsden, this meant not only a violent death. She also believed that her soul would be sacrificed and cast into the flaming pits of Hell for eternity.

Accompanied by Carol Fletcher, another young area prostitute with ties to the cult, Marsden took police to the nearby Freetown State Forest. It was here that the girls claimed that the cult held their nocturnal gatherings. As they passed by an algae-covered pool of water, Marsden cowered in fear. This is where she was told that Carl Drew would dump her body – after “injecting battery acid into her veins” and “offering her soul to Satan” – if she talked to the police.[13]

You can see why the subject matter interested executive producer Jason Blum, the guy behind pretty much every horror movie these days. But here comes the twist: lead investigator Paul Carey, who was “so haunted by inconsistencies in the stories that he re-investigated his own case after he retired” (per a press release), says that “evidence surfaced that brought the entire story into question.”

The series talks to the still-incarcerated Drew, surviving witnesses, and other players, and seeks to illuminate not just the whole Satanic Panic thing (for which I have a bottomless appetite) as well as who might have actually killed these women. The show drops on Epix this summer, but for folks without the cable channel, there’s often a free trial period to its streaming version via Amazon Prime. The move might be to wait until all the episodes drop, get that trial, and binge away. — EB

Is it my birthday? If not, how did I get fashion, satanism, AND the college admissions scandal in one day? Fine, I don’t hit the big 5-0 until May 24 but apparently the party came early: The Associated Press reports that Operation Varsity Blues will drop on March 17 on Netflix. It’s a documentary, but with actors (??) of the scandal, and of all people, one-time teen idol hottie Matthew Modine [“with whom I share a birthday!” — SDB] will play Rick Singer. Man, now I really feel close to 50.

According to a press release, filmmakers used “an innovative combination of interviews and narrative recreations of the FBI’s wiretapped conversations between Singer and his clients, hence the Modine casting news — but no word on if folks like Felicity “ruh roh” Huffman will be appear in person or by proxy. Guess we’ll find out in a couple weeks! — EB

Just as this issue was heading to bed, BE subscriber Tara Ariano sent us this link. Ex-USA Gymnastics coach John Geddert, who along with Larry Nassar was implicated in a far-reaching, multiple victim sex abuse case, has died.

CNN reports that the 63-year-old Geddert, who faced 24 felony counts for allegations including human trafficking and criminal sexual conduct, “was found late this afternoon after taking his own life,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Thursday.

Makayla Thrush, reportedly one of Geddert’s victims, told Fox 2 that his death brings “no closure for me at all … "If you're not guilty, personally, I would have fought it. That's anybody's general reaction. I don't know why he chose that route. Was he guilty or was he not guilty? Personally, he was guilty.” —  EB

If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide: do not leave the person alone; remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt; and call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.

Monday on Best Evidence: Whatever bounty the weekend beings us!

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