More DB Cooper · Netflix's Night Stalker · The Navy-Vets Con
Plus new trailers, upcoming premieres, and the soothing properties of forgery
|Best Evidence||Jan 13||3||5|
We hope you’re all continuing to hang in there during this crazy time. If you’ve temporarily elected to avoid everything but baking shows and sea shanties, we get it — and the Best Evidence archive is here for you when things settle down. (And even when they don’t!) I’ve got a recommendation later in this email for a “cozier” true-crime read/listen; if you’ve got a rec like that (yes, “rewatching the Fyre docs” totally counts), let’s hear it. — SDB
Netflix’s Night Stalker docuseries is…the opposite of that, but I still found it very compelling. That’s not surprising, because director Tiller Russell did The Last Narc and The Seven Five, among other solid sits — but Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer makes thoughtful choices. Here’s a snip from my Primetimer review:
It's sometimes difficult to communicate how heavily a decades-old and now-solved case hung over a community, but Night Stalker does a great job conveying the near misses and frustrations of the investigation, along with the innumerable sleepless nights for both cops and civilians.
The series has a handful of other quality hallmarks — including archival news footage featuring TV-newsmag legend Keith Morrison, who was then a local news reporter (it's good that he's chyronned; his signature plummy cadence was not yet fully developed in the eighties, and I might not have spotted him otherwise).
If now isn’t the time for this one, add it to your Netflix watchlist; it’s worth returning to at some point. — SDB
Thanks to Twitter correspondent Ashley for the heads-up on the latest DB Cooper longread over at Rolling Stone, which focuses on flight attendant Tina Macklow — “does her story hold the answers?” Nearly 50 years on, I just don’t know what else we’re going to learn. That said, the story is right in the middle of that “interesting, and illegal, but not so dark that we can’t handle it right now” lane Eve and I have been trying to drive…plus Macklow hasn’t really participated in the DB Cooper Industrial Complex much until recently, which means the tinfoil-hat brigade thinks she’s in on it?
Despite rumors swirling on online forums, Mucklow says her decision not to talk wasn’t a cover-up for some deeper mystery: She isn’t in witness protection, and she’s not suffering from PTSD over something mysterious the hijacker did during their time together in the cabin of the plane. After the incident, she cooperated with the FBI investigation and has since sought, mostly successfully, to move on. “I went on with my life, pursued what I needed to do, had my own personal interests, likes, and wants,” she says. “I wasn’t defined by that hijacking.” The only thing making that difficult has been the dozens of people each year who keep asking her about it.
Andrea Marks’s piece is a smooth read, with lots of context about the role of flight attendants back then, versus today; the different connotations of a plane hijacking; Mucklow’s decision to take the veil; and the “aggressive Cooper obsessives who won’t take no for an answer. Give it a look. — SDB
Women In Blue will premiere on Independent Lens February 8. I wasn’t a huge fan of the film when I saw it last summer, in no small part for reasons outside the filmmaker’s control, but I’d be interested to hear what you guys think, and if you have a DVR or the PBS app, the price is right. — SDB
And while a documentary called Assassins is very possibly not what anyone’s in the mood for, a new one about the murder of “Rocket Man”’s brother Kim Jong-nam hits VOD on Friday. It’s directed by Ryan White (The Keepers); here’s the trailer for that one:
I don’t know if I can handle this one during this particular historical juncture, but as of this writing, it’s rocking an impressive 100% on the Rotten Tomatometer among critics. — SDB
Let’s wrap it up with another longform piece from the index of Sarah Weinman’s Unspeakable Acts: “The Strange, Spectacular Con of Bobby Charles Thompson,” from Washingtonian’s March 19, 2017 issue. Here’s the logline from Daniel Fromson’s piece:
Donors all over America opened their wallets for his United States Navy Veterans Association. Politicians all over Washington posed for grip-and-grins with him. But not only was he not a legitimate fundraiser for military families—he wasn’t even Bobby Charles Thompson. A look inside the hunt to catch one of the country’s biggest con men.
Not that a con job is a victimless crime, of course — but I’m definitely finding during the last week or so that I’m interested almost solely in non-lethal, fraud-based true crime. In fact, I’d like to recommend Provenance as read by Marty Peterson; under other circs I might find it a bit slow, but something about the puzzle-solving involved in art forgery plus Peterson’s warmly precise pronunciation of “Giacometti” is really just the bedtime thing here in early 2021.
Anyhoodle, back to “Thompson” — and Fromson/his editor, whose crisp timing in this sequence is a delight to behold:
[Thompson’s landlady] Moore was in bed and heard her dog growl. One of her other housemates came in. “We have a situation,” he said.
Downstairs, Moore found ten or so US marshals and Portland police officers in her living room. The head marshal introduced himself, then asked about her housemate Don—whom they had just arrested outside her front door.
Moore, concerned, asked if Don was okay.
“Well,” the marshal replied, “Don isn’t Don.”
A couple grafs later, you get to “Thompson”’s assemblage of fugazi aliases, which includes names like “Richard Overturf Jr.,” like, maybe go with something that doesn’t sound like a Fletch outtake. (No offense to the Overturves in our readership.) It’s a great read even though “Thompson” is a Trumpy kook. — SDB
Thursday on Best Evidence: We’ll see what Eve’s got in mind!