Neverland Sold · Brady v. Maryland · Conversations With OJ

Plus a Quibi deal and crime on ice

Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch has finally sold. After five years on the market, the amusement-park/arguable crime-scene home of the late King Of Pop went for $22 million — not bad at roughly $8,150 an acre, if you ignore its provenance, which, good luck.

TopTenRealEstateDeals.com’s notes on the purchase have a definite “ding dong the witch is dead” flavor in the lede, describing the property as a “wicked real estate stepmother” and noting a couple of times that the original ask in 2015 was $100 million. Pretty rich opener for a “stigmatized property,” although the write-up also notes that, after Jackson’s 2009 death, “the ranch was stripped of every reminder of Jackson’s tenure there and renamed Sycamore Valley Ranch, its former name.” You can click through for a recap of Jackson’s first encounter with SVR, as well as a reasonably thorough accounting of what all the new owner gets once the check clears (“several barns, animal shelter facilities and a maintenance shop … The four-acre lake also has a fountain”).

Businessman and part owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins Ron Burkle, a “former associate” of Jackson’s, is the new owner; no word on what he plans to do with the property, but this wasn’t the only stop on his recent real-estate shopping trip. Burkle also owns other exceptional homes, like Bob Hope’s “spaceship-looking” one in Palm Springs, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mayan-Revival Ennis House, so one assumes his focus is on preservation/historical value, versus making SVR his residence, but…people are weird. (For more on Wright’s horrific true-crime story, check out this explainer on History.com.) — SDB


“Keeping the focus on hockey” was not a segue I saw myself typing, but you never know what themes are going to emerge around here — and so it is that we go from a story about an NHL owner to a story about a(n alleged) gangster buying his kid a minor-league hockey team. Rich Cohen’s piece from the October 2018 Atlantic begins with the sort of grand-pronouncement eye-roller editors are ostensibly paid to cut, but he won me over with his use of the word “strivers,” and with the fact that I’ve been to Danbury, CT a couple times and he’s absolutely dead on. Cohen describes the tale as “legend” in the area, where he lived at the time of publication, and as “Sopranos meets Slap Shot.”

The piece is as much fun as that implies: the Trashers, named for their benefactor’s career in waste management, and their cartoonish mascot Scrappy; the fact that the kid in question literally was a kid, 17 years old; the “fight quota” that AJ “The Littlest GM” Galante felt gave fans their money’s worth. It contains the following sentence: “His job was to be the Kevin Costner to Brent Gretzky’s Whitney Houston.” Whose job? A guy nicknamed “Wingnut.”

Evidently, a movie was in the works a couple years ago based on a Sports Illustrated piece on the team, but I’m not finding any updates to that, although I’d watch the hell out of a 30 For 30 on these Zamboneheads. — SDB


My husband’s birthday is coming up, but since we won’t have an issue coming out on the day, I honor him today with this Marshall Project longread on “the bumbling murder that led to a landmark legal ruling.” That ruling, of course, is Brady v. Maryland, and it’s been a running gag with my sweetheart (whose name is Dan Brady) for years now that he should have a podcast called The Brady Violations that’s just him bitching about stuff.

I also honor Sarah Weinman for tipping me to this and other longform pieces at the back of Unspeakable Acts…and curse her for making me spend all my Christmas cash filling out the holes in my Best American Crime Writing shelf! jk, that needed doing. Anyway, back to Thomas L. Dybdahl’s piece on the Brady ruling, which manages to get a fair bit of Supreme Court, and specifically Justice Douglas, backstory in as well:

To Douglas, the Constitution was not a neutral document, but one “designed to take the government off the backs of the people.” Broadly speaking, he believed “[t]he aim of law in its civilized sense is justice.” With the Brady rule, he was not merely announcing a new disclosure requirement. He was proposing no less than a “revolutionary shift” in criminal procedure, in the words of Judge Stephanos Bibas, a former law professor recently appointed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. And he had gotten a majority of his colleagues to support him.

The piece goes on to talk about whether Brady has had the intended effect, and what became of John Leo Brady after the momentous ruling (the weirdly disoriented denouement of Brady’s punishment phase was a new one to me). — SDB


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Since I killed Quibi, it’s only fair that I report that its content may yet live on. (NB: I did not in fact kill Quibi.) “The biggest bust of the streaming boom” is in talks with Roku to move its content there…but maybe not all of it. Of course, because it’s Quibi, it’s not as simple as just slapping a price tag on the library, says Edmund Lee in his New York Times write-up:

Complicating the talks, which were first reported by The Wall Street Journal, is Quibi’s unusual business strategy. Mr. [Jeffrey] Katzenberg and Ms. [Meg] Whitman didn’t pursue ownership of the platform’s content, instead buying exclusive rights from creators to stream their shows for seven years. The arrangement was attractive to producers, who retained the right to later resell the shows to another service, such as Netflix. It is unclear how a sale would affect the rights of content producers.

The article goes on to mention the debut of Discovery+ and The Roku Channel’s prime position vis-a-vis distributing exclusive content without having to make it. It does not specifically mention the fate of Quibi’s typically misguided true-crime fare, which may mean that stuff languishes unsold thanks to rights entanglements. Or thanks to it…not being good. — SDB


I wasn’t joking about those Best American Crime Writing purchases, so here’s one from the 2002 edition, edited by Nicholas “Wiseguy” Pileggi — Pat Jordan’s “The Outcast,” in which she embedded with OJ Simpson in the summer of 2001. Your appetite for OJ content may be limited, but give this one a spin, if only because her opening description of Simpson, which is now nearly 20 years old, is out of date as far as his geographic and carceral circumstances, but utterly relevant re: Simpson’s narcissism. And not just Simpson’s; the last two sentences in this snippet could be describing a certain outgoing president.

Today, at fifty-three, almost six years after his acquittal, Simpson seems to be free of doubt, shame, or guilt. He refers to the murders of his wife and Ron Goldman, and his subsequent trials for those murders, as “my ordeal.” Now he wants vindication. Only that can erase the stigma that has transformed him from an American hero into a pariah, living out his days in a pathetic mimicry of his former life. And he appears to believe that he will get it, as he got everything—by sheer will—and with it a return to fame and wealth and adulation.

See also the apparent inability to stop talking/belief that any utterance, no matter how crass or damaging, is worthwhile simply by virtue of the individual having himself uttered it:

“As a father, I was just a disciplinarian before, and now I’m everything to my kids. People ask me what’s the hardest thing for me, and I tell them I was always a great dad but I’m a horrible mom. I don’t cook. . . . A man’s natural instinct is to solve problems. Like when Jason said Sydney did a lot of things and I never caught her. I said, ‘That’s one of the reasons why I love her. She’s smart enough not to get caught.’ She’s her mom all over again, she’s got those German genes—her grandmother, my wife, now my daughter. Those bitches’ll wear you out.”

That the relatively narrow reach of OJ’s lethal self-absorption reads as nearly quaint to us now really tells you something. — SDB


Thursday on Best Evidence: The case against a fashion icon heats up


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