GSK · Lori Loughlin · The LaBianca House

Plus: why a varied true-crime-podcast diet is important

It’s hard not to wonder if the vintage-looking tile inside the bathroom of 3311 Waverly Drive, aka the LaBianca house, was there when the Manson family broke into the residence in 1969. Credit: Redfin

Well, that was fast. It was just August of 2019 when we learned that Zak Bagans, the frontman of the Travel Channel’s extremely bullshit show Ghost Adventures, had purchased a residence on 3311 Waverly Drive in Los Angeles for a cool $1,889,000

Bagans said at the time that he “was blown away by the panoramic views in the front and backyards…I was also intrigued by the energy I felt while there … It was mysterious and palpable.” It’s an energy that Bagans likely linked to Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, the homeowners who in August of 1969 were killed there by a group of followers of Charles Manson’s followers.

According to the Bay Area News Group, the house is back on the market, this time for $2.2 million, after Bagans said that he’d given up on a plan to film there “out of respect for the LaBianca family.” Do you believe him? I am…skeptical.

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According to the listing for the property, the home is “truly, one of a kind.” I have a lot of thoughts on its staging, but I won’t bore you with them — you can join me in hating some of its uglier knick-knacks by taking the “3D Walkthrough” on the middle of this page. — EB

I’ve been thinking a lot about my former colleague Casey Newton’s interview with podcasting sage Nicholas Quah. Newton, who quit his job at Vox Media tech publication the Verge to launch a Substack publication called Platformer, was talking to Quah about the growing pains Spotify can expect to face as it moves from a role as a podcasting platform to a place that hires talent.

That’s not especially relevant to our interests, but this bit, I believe, is. (This is Newton speaking.)

I was talking with someone a few years ago — I won’t say his name, but he’s a billionaire tech founder — and he was saying, “You guys really aren’t studying podcasts enough.” He brought up people like Joe Rogan, Sam Harris, and Jordan Peterson, and he said, “People are spending four or five hours a week with these guys, and most journalists aren’t listening to these podcasts, so there are these huge surging currents of thought in America that are really underexplored.”

And I started thinking about that for myself. A podcast I’ve listened to for over ten years now is the Savage Lovecast, and I’m now at a point where all my opinions about sex and relationships are just Dan Savage’s opinions. That is one situation where I thought I had really firm opinions about certain things, but over ten years, Dan just wore me down, and now all my opinions are basically his opinions.

There’s something about the intimacy of podcasting — that voice in your ear, the time spent with that podcaster — that does make it feel, somehow, more persuasive and “real” than text or TV/film, in some ways. It’s just you and the podcaster in the world for the 30-60-90 minutes a podcast episode runs.

It’s an argument for mixing up your podcast diet, between the arguably pro law-and-order shows from your local police department (if you indulge in such podcasts) to middle-of-the law-and-order-road audio content from folks like Billy Jensen, to reform-minded podcasts like Running from COPS.

Between the pandemic and the election, it’s tempting to remain in our little bubbles with what makes us the most comfortable, but Newton’s admission of the number Dan Savage has done on his brain reminds me that we’re all prone to believing what we hear…and that the best defense against that, and the best support for a smart and well-informed true crime podcast fan, is to hear a lot of stuff. — EB

Guess who went to jail Tuesday? Perhaps not the person we were all hoping for, but a true-crime triumph nonetheless: the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced in a press release Tuesday that 74-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo, also known as the Golden State Killer, arrived at the North Kern State Prison for processing.

North Kern is a medium-security waystation for many a California inmate, and DeAngelo is no exception: according to prisons spokesperson Terry Thornton, he’ll be evaluated on the basis of his “security, medical, psychiatric and program needs” and assigned a prison from there. There was a time when that meant he’d end up in a facility that specializes in elderly inmates, but these days, that’s kind of all of them: according to a Reuters report from 2018, about 18,400 of California’s 100k (or so) prison population are over the age of 55. That’s a sharp uptick from 1996, when only one percent of the state’s then-130,000 inmates were considered “elderly” (by prison standards — 54-year-olds, don’t @ me). — EB

Less than a week after Felicity Huffman concluded her sentence for her role in the college admittance scandal, Lori Loughlin began hers…and now we have an idea of what things are like for Aunt Becky in the big house.

According to the East Bay Times, Loughlin will be serving her two months at the same Dublin, CA prison Huffman did, but things will be way rougher this time around, as Huffman didn’t have to deal with a pandemic. Here are my five favorite points from the EBT’s piece on Loughlin’s prison life:

  1. “Other women in the low-security Dublin prison also may resent her wealth and fame, while guards may make it their mission to demean her.” OK, this is just speculation, but it’s also kind of a no duh — you could write the same thing about high school, just replace “guards” with “teachers.”

  2. At FCI Dublin, “inmates must wake up by 5 a.m. and be in their housing units for daily counts at 4:30 am. and 9 p.m. Loughlin also must make her bed every day and can be disciplined if she doesn’t keep her space tidy and if she sleeps in, misses meal time or is late for a work assignment.”

  3. “While Loughlin should be able to get access to a phone, she’ll have to wait her turn with other inmates” and “She won’t be able to enjoy visits from her family, including her daughters Olivia Jade Giannulli, 20, and Isabella Giannulli, 21.” Are we seriously expected to believe that these young women, who I only know from Instagram, would make a trip up to suburban Alameda County to see their mom? (Going to Dublin isn’t a bad idea — it’s a really nice place to live and has a nifty restaurant scene, but it doesn’t seem like the Giannulli kids’ cup of tea.)

  4. Loughlin will be quarantined for 14 days to prevent potential COVID-19 spread. Being in quarantine “is not pleasant,” a former inmate says. “There is nothing for her to do. I believe they have reading material but other than that it’s a really long day and night for her.”

  5. How unpleasant is it? “Loughlin won’t be able to leave her cell or unit, and meals will be delivered in brown bags.” OH NO NOT BAGS!!!

Want to learn more about Lori Loughlin’s prison life? The inmate handbook for FCI Dublin is here, a 47-page read that makes me never, ever want to go to prison.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you have the attention span for a longread. I mean, I don’t know your life — maybe a deep dive will be a pleasant distraction? Or maybe, like me, you will find yourself stuck in the car waiting to get a COVID-19 test* because your neighbors who have been doing things like going to Mexico and throwing dinner parties these past few months tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Not that I’m wishing that on you, just saying that if that were to happen, you might be grateful to have this terrific longread from Wired, on the struggle to determine the identity of a hiker found dead in the Big Cypress National Preserve. Here’s a snip:

It’s usually easy to put a name to a corpse. There’s an ID or a credit card. There’s been a missing persons report in the area. There’s a DNA match. But the investigators in Collier County couldn’t find a thing. Mostly Harmless’ fingerprints didn’t show up in any law enforcement database. He hadn’t served in the military, and his fingerprints didn’t match those of anyone else on file. His DNA didn’t match any in the Department of Justice’s missing person database or in CODIS, the national DNA database run by the FBI. A picture of his face didn’t turn up anything in a facial recognition database. The body had no distinguishing tattoos.

Nor could investigators understand how or why he died. There were no indications of foul play, and he had more than $3,500 cash in the tent. He had food nearby, but he was hollowed out, weighing just 83 pounds on a 5'8" frame. Investigators put his age in the vague range between 35 and 50, and they couldn’t point to any abnormalities. The only substances he tested positive for were ibuprofen and an antihistamine. His cause of death, according to the autopsy report, was “undetermined.” He had, in some sense, just wasted away. But why hadn’t he tried to find help? Almost immediately, people compared Mostly Harmless to Chris McCandless, whose story was the subject of Into the Wild. McCandless, though, had been stranded in the Alaska bush, trapped by a raging river as he ran out of food. He died on a school bus, starving, desperate for help, 22 miles of wilderness separating him from a road. Mostly Harmless was just 5 miles from a major highway. He left no note, and there was no evidence that he had spent his last days calling out for help.

It’s a great read, and it’s nice to have a mystery in which there are no real villains. You can read “A Nameless Hiker and the Case the Internet Can’t Crack” here. — EB

*I’m negative! Yay!

Friday on Best Evidence: We’ll figure something out!

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