Lifeguards · San Quentin · Puppets

Also: More new podcasts than you can shake an airpod at

Fancy-pants filmmaker Darren Aronofsky is tackling a true-crime tale about New York lifeguards. The director, who might be as well known for dating Jennifer Lawrence as he is for his art-house fare (Pi, Requiem For A Dream), has won a bidding war for rights to the New York magazine longform piece “Boss of the Beach,” Deadline reports.

The article, about the alleged crimes (Drownings! Corruption!) and scandals during Peter Stein’s 40-year reign as head of the New York City lifeguard corps, is set to be a series for Searchlight Television. According to Deadline, the hunt is now on for a screenwriter to adapt the story. But before you get too psyched about what Speedoed hunk should play Stein, you should know that this is how he’s looked for the last 20 or so years. (No shade on getting older — we are all doing it! Just setting expectations appropriately.) — EB

I’m already looking forward to the great longread someone will eventually write about how badly the California prison system fucked up at San Quentin. That’s the site of one of the state’s only death rows, which means that the inmate population at Quentin isn’t the CW demographic: given the lengthy appeals process for death penalty cases in CA, no executions since 2006, and a moratorium on executions for as long as Gavin Newsom is governor, and you’ve got a lot of old guys in cells.

As you know, it's old folks that face some of the greatest risks with coronavirus, risks that increase when one is in close quarters like a rest home or jail. So the place was already a powder keg before J. Clark Kelso, the court-appointed receiver in charge of health care in the state’s penal institutions, approved “a mass transfer of inmates from a virus-plagued prison in Southern California,” the SF Chronicle reported last month, setting off an epidemic within the facility of thousands of cases among inmates and workers, as well as — as of Monday morning — about 25 inmate deaths and at least one corrections officer.

“It is incredibly frustrating that we had one person make the decision to transfer a few patients from one prison, Chino, into San Quentin,” Newsom said at a July 9 presser. “That decision created a chain of events that we are now addressing and dealing with. I'm not here to sugarcoat that.” The SF Chronicle reported Monday that 12 of those fatalities were on death row, taking out victims with an average age of 62.

It’s an issue that makes wrongful conviction and incarceration even more troubling (as if that’s possible) than it was pre-pandemic: it’s enough to be condemned to die for a crime you didn’t commit, it’s another to be trapped in a cage with a deadly virus because of that conviction. And even if you’re rightfully convicted, this isn’t how we should be doing prison as a developed nation. Coughing to death because you got busted for car theft shouldn’t be an accidental part of your sentence, any more than rape or shiv-ing should be.

Will this pandemic cause us to rethink the corrections system the way we’ve been forced to rethink schools or restaurants or dangly earrings (“Switch to Studs to Avoid Mask Mess” is the fashion story I need to read, btw)? I certainly hope so. Because looking at how easily avoidable the San Quentin case was (and I’m sure there are loads of other cases like Quentin’s; I just know folks there and can almost see it from my house, so it’s front of mind), this seems like the kind of thing that — if we keep pushing — could spark real change. One hopes. — EB

Man, I blew it with my news hook last Friday. When I proposed a “favorite heists” discussion thread (it’s not too late to join the conversation here), I’d forgotten that Netflix’s The Great Heist is about to drop.

The Colombian original series is a fictional adaptation of the 1994 robbery of the country’s Bank of Republic, a caper in which $30 million of new, as-yet-uncirculated bills were stolen, throwing the country’s economy into a tailspin. I’ll spoil you just a bit by revealing that the cops were in on the heist, but I’ll shut up after that. The six-episode series will be released in full on August 14. — EB

Sarah and I don’t need to rob a bank to pay the bills, thanks to you all. I’ve often thought that as middle-aged white women, Sarah and I would make a great crime team*, but things haven’t come to that — yet — due to the generous support of our subscribers. If you have the resources to also sponsor these two old broads’ future lives of no (actual) crime, we hope you’ll consider joining our team of paid subscribers. But if not, we understand! And we promise not to mug you in the parking lot.

*True, we both have what colleagues might politely describe as “a commanding presence” but, still, we could tone it down for the moolah. Cover the tattoos, keep our masks on for everyone’s viral safety, and we’re good to go!

Tell me what I am supposed to do with this Jeffrey-Epstein-related headline. As Sarah noted yesterday in her look at Surviving Jeffrey Epstein, I don’t always bring up coverage of this high-profile case because “what’s the point. What good does it do to recount the horrors. Who is it for.”

All true, and, also, there’s just so goddamn much of it. But even among the multitudes, “Prince Andrew 'groped two girls in Epstein Mansion with Spitting Image puppet of himself’” — a headline in the Mirror tabloid — still managed to remain in my brain.

As an American, I mainly think of Spitting Image as the puppets from the “Land of Confusion” video (above). They always seemed mean and scary, as opposed to, say, the Muppets. A 2014 Daily Mail homage to the puppets shows the Prince Andrew effigy in question, a visage that even without the rising tide of allegations against the royal is profoundly disturbing.

And with it, even more so. According to a deposition taken in 2016, Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell, and the prince used the puppet to degrade a 17-year-old victim. It’s just, like, you think the whole thing won’t get any yuckier, and then it does. And now I’m passing it on to you, like when something smells awful and you hand it to your friend saying “oh god smell this.” Sorry about that. — EB

There are so many new podcasts this week that bullet points seem like the best way to get them out there. — EB

  • Name: Park Predators. Tagline: “Sometimes the most beautiful places hide the darkest secrets.” FYI: This show on crimes in Canadian tourist attractions is from the folks who bring you Crime Junkie; do with that what you will.

  • Name: Very Presidential. Tagline: “Every Tuesday through the 2020 election, host Ashley Flowers shines a light on the darker side of the American presidency… From torrid love affairs and contemptible corruption to shocking cover-ups and even murder, she’ll expose the personal and professional controversies you may never knew existed.” FYI: Ashley Flowers spends a lot of time praising the police, and she lives in the notoriously red state of Indiana, so I’m a little worried about this whole operation.

  • Name: Unfinished Business. Tagline: Something from this weird video, I guess? FYI: This podcast from the Hillsborough, County, Florida Sheriff’s Department drops on August 10.

  • Name: Trace: The Informer. Tagline: “Lawyer Nicola Gobbo represented some of Australia’s most dangerous criminals, all the while secretly working as a police informer. Why did she do it, and how was it allowed to happen?” FYI: This is the second season of Trace, following a season on the death of Maria James, a Melbourne mom who was killed in a bookstore. That season was pretty good, so hopes are high for the second go-round.

  • Name: Thicker Than Water. Tagline: “From the hero whistleblower of the infamous Theranos scam, Thicker than Water is a look at never-before-revealed details behind closed doors at the company, revealing a cautionary tale of corporate bullying, gaslighting, ego, and wealth running amok in Silicon Valley.” FYI: This is on Audible, so you’ll have to pony up to get it. Not sure you want to commit? Schultz was recently on I’m So Obsessed, which should give you a taste of what you’d be buying.

Wednesday on Best Evidence: It’s The Blotter Presents, Episode 154, with guest Omar Gallaga on to discuss Surviving Jeffrey Epstein and The Con.

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