Little Holmes · Night Clubbing · Amityville

Plus: Some adaptation photos for the books

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Does looking at famous people cosplaying as true-crime figures make my day? Yes. The buzz is increasing for House of Gucci, the true-crime tale involving the famous fashion house. And as you know since you are a loyal Best Evidence reader, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta — aka Lady Gaga — is playing Patrizia Reggiani, who was convicted of plotting the death of her ex-husband, Gucci heir Mauricio Gucci. MG’s on the left, played by (of all people) Adam Driver, which I am not mad about given how he’s rocking that Knives Out-level sweater. The Ridley Scott adaptation of Sara G. Forden's The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed will drop in theaters on November 25th, 2021.

While Gaga and Driver were arguably glammed up for the Gucci show, Gen X idol Matthew Modine was dramatically deglammed for his role as Rick Singer in Operation Varsity Blues, which premieres on Netflix tomorrow. It’s kind of amazing what happens when you take a strong-jawed man and sweep his hair forward, isn’t it?

I can’t tell if they also threw some prosthetics in to make Modine more Singer-like, but whatever they did worked (based on the photos, at least)…it’s the voice I’m just not so sure about, as Modine’s remains so darned youthful even though he’s (brace for impact) 61. Early word on the show is good: in her review for Primetimer, Sarah wrote that OVB is a “well-made, briskly paced feature” and is “definitely worth your investment.” So, I’m looking forward to diving in this weekend! Will you be watching, too? — EB

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Many happy returns to Elizabeth Holmes, who will welcome a baby this summer. The Bay Area News Group’s Ethan Baron has the scoop: Holmes’s lawyers just informed prosecutors that the Theranos co-founder, who faces multiple charges of felony-level fraud, has “an expected due date in July 2021.”

This throws yet another wrench into her federal case, which was initially planned to begin in San Jose U.S. District Court by late summer, 2020, and was delayed by the pandemic until July 13 of 2021. Now both sides are asking Judge Edward Davila to delay jury selection until August 31.

Holmes, who reportedly marred hotel heir Billy Evans back in mid-2019, is 37 years old, which might sound late to have a first child in some parts of the world — but it’s pretty standard in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the average first-time maternal age is around 33, but grows higher with increased income and educational status, despite the difficulties some associate with pregnancy over the age of 35.

As some experts warn against COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant women, it’s possible that Holmes faces increased risks of contracting the virus, making a delay for the trial advisable. At present, Judge Edward Davila has not ruled on the requested delay, but a status hearing on March 17 might provide more details on Holmes’s pregnancy and how it will impact the case. — EB

From bootlegged booze through to lover’s tiffs turned bloody to drug deals gone south, the nightclubs of history have many true-crime backrooms. In the disco stick spirit of the Welcome to Your Fantasy podcast, some of these bring to life the escapist promise of a place where everyday drudgery disappears with neon, glamour and music, and the perpetual promise of sex clouds the reality of overpriced cocktails. 

So while we’re waiting for the headline act — Herd Immunity feat. R Numbers — to refill dance floors again, here are some crime tales from beyond the velvet rope. 

The Comedians, The Mob and the American Supperclub by Kliph Nesteroff

WFMU’s Beware of the Blog tells how for forty years the most famous nightclubs in America were controlled by the mob. It was an astonishingly sophisticated operation that reached its apex in Las Vegas, before the media corporations stepped in with a more sanitised way of doing things. Some entertainers missed the old days but pity the poor comedians who had to deliver a set while a hit took place during their shows; talk about cancel culture gone too far *rim shot*. 

City of Devils: The Two Men Who Ruled the Underworld of Old Shanghai by Paul French

If Scorsese fancies following up Goodfellas with a movie that would probably hack off the Chinese Communist Party as much as Kundun did, here’s his perfect subject. French’s book delves into the anything-goes Wild East of 1930s Shanghai and the criminals who flourished there. One of the main characters is nightclub impresario “Dapper” Joe Farren who had a chorus line to rival Ziegfeld’s, partially funded by a heroin-smuggling operation.

Studio 54 (2018)

This documentary on the most famous night spot of all is mostly just serviceable, but it doesn’t need to do much more than to secure the rights to an excellent soundtrack and let the story unravel. The giddy rise of Steve Rubell’s empire is only matched by its rapid fall, including some strikingly amateurish tax evasion plus oodles of cocaine. Streaming on Netflix now.

Stonewall Uprising: Why Did the Mafia Own the Bar? and Stonewall: Prelude to a Riot episode and guide by Making Gay History

Like so many clubs of the era, Stonewall was operated by the mob. Run as a private “bottle club” meant it had no need for a liquor license, and corners were cut - the hygiene was so bad it’s been blamed for a hepatitis outbreak in 1969. But it was another 1969 event that made the underground gay club immortal, when anti-police brutality protests were led by Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. The podcast Making Gay History’s exhaustive mini-series on the riots uncovers the true stories behind the legend.

Christine Keeler, Georgie Fame and the Flamingo All-Nighter in Wardour Street by Rob Baker

Stabbings, drug dealing, and pimping all went on at London’s swinging-’60s The Flamingo Jazz Club, but that alone wouldn’t make it as historically significant as, say, one of the Kray brothers’ gangster hangouts like Mr. Smith’s. However, one of the club’s showgirls was 19-year-old Christine Keeler, who was having concurrent affairs with both the British Government’s Secretary of State for War and a Soviet spy. After another of Keeler’s boyfriends shot up her friend’s apartment in a rage, the resulting trial would be a key part of the Profumo Scandal’s tabloid frenzy. From a smoky basement in Wardour Street where topless girls danced to speed-addled jazz bands, the stage was set for a political earthquake that would lead to the then-Conservative government’s downfall. 

By Margaret Howie, who has never had a night out that’s led to the undoing of a major political party, but is keeping her dancing shoes shined just in case. 

The man who arguably caused “Amityville” to become a synonym for bad real estate deals has died. As a fan of true-crime real estate, I bow to 112 Ocean Avenue as the OG in the genre: the house where Ronald DeFeo Jr. killed his family promoted a whole cottage industry of content, including the original Amityville Horror, the goofball Ryan Reynolds remake (his shirtless scene is so lean and muscly you’ll want to give the Deadpool to be a nice pasta dinner), and countless issues for interior decorators.

Convicted in 1975 after mounting an insanity defense, DeFeo Jr. has spent the last several decades at Fallsburg, New York’s Sullivan Correctional Facility. According to the Associated Press, on February 2 he was moved from the prison to the Albany Medical Center for an undisclosed medical issue. He died on Friday, at age 69. The house, which was last sold in 2016 for $850,000, remains standing and is reportedly still occupied. — EB

Wednesday on Best Evidence: Coming attractions!

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