Phil Spector · The Mafia · Weed
Are we entering a new golden era of true crime podcasts?
In late 2019, I remember reading all these future-focused stories saying that true-crime podcasts had clearly peaked. Like the rest of us, those pod prognosticators didn’t know that in just a few months, a highly-communicable fatal disease would shut down the vast majority of the entertainment industry…that is, except for podcasting, which, with its solitary nature, is kind of ready-made for the pandemic.
It seems like we’re now seeing more true-crime podcasts than ever before, and I’m not complaining! It puts people safely to work on the production end, and it entertains a world that’s still stuck at home, starving for a distraction.
In the last few days, in fact, we’ve seen a slew of new podcasts and podcast episodes with specific relevance to our interests. Here are some of the most intriguing. — EB
“Sammy the Bull” Gravano, who the New York Post describes as “Gangland’s most notorious rat,” is plotting a podcast. According to his Instagram, his “grandkids love my new Studio,” from which he’s promised a podcast on his life of organized crime.
Staten Island Live characterizes the mentions of the upcoming show as “a social media campaign,” and notes that Gravano admitted to 19 homicides. So far, he hasn’t made any admissions about when his podcast will launch, and his YouTube channel only boasts one video, from 10 months ago. Is Gravano learning the hard way that it’s easier to snuff out a life than competently create compelling audio content? The only way to find out, Gravano said in June, is to subscribe to his YouTube page, which is “where the podcast will be released.” — EB
A hundred million dollars!!! Back in April, Sarah asked what music world cases merited more true crime coverage, and I said “Phil Spector!!!” The universe heard my plea and now we have Blood on the Tracks, a podcast from Disgraceland creator/host Jake Brennan in which one hears “the fictionalized voices of the likes of Lenny Bruce, Ronnie Spector, Ike Turner, Keith Richards, John Lennon and Debbie Harry” telling Spector’s story, up to and including his slaying of Lana Clarkson.
Brennan tells Deadline that “I wanted the show to sound new, it sounds unlike any podcast you’ve ever heard, I hope, if I’m doing my job correctly,” so expect something different than the standard narration/clip/interview format. The show dropped on August 12, and it’s tough to find as Blood on the Tracks is the name of a lot of podcasts. It took more than a little googling around, but I found it here. Check back in four months to see if my second request has been granted. — EB
We know you don’t have a hundred million dollars. But you might have five, and that — sent once a month — is enough to keep Best Evidence afloat. We know that’s still a lot for some of you, and we understand. But if you have an extra $5 per month to spare, we’d be over the moon.
A world where weed is legal in one state and verboten the next has made for some fascinating intra-state true crime. The Syndicate is about a group of friends who made millions moving weed from Colorado (where pot was deregulated) to Minnesota (where it is not), a scheme that spiraled into “Buried cash. DEA moles. Sibling rivalries. Skydiving planes. Armed robberies. Cocaine. Partying. Fast cars. And an exploding hash lab,” the podcast’s creators say.
The show’s first two episodes dropped last week, with host Chris Walker telling Citypages that he went to such lengths to ingratiate himself with his sources that he let one — Joe Johnson, a skydiving instructor and so-called ringleader of the smuggling op — push him from a plane, as “It seemed like going skydiving would allow me to develop a rapport with him,” Walker says. The Syndicate’s site is here, and you can subscribe here. — EB
Hells Angel’s scion Jackee Taylor is podcasting about her life. Taylor was born Jacqueline Crouch. Her dad was Clarence “Butch” Crouch, a Bandito turned Angel who — after he was snagged for murder — agreed to testify against his brethren and went into witness protection for the next 40 years.
Taylor was only seven when her family went into hiding, and it wasn’t until recently that she decided to start unraveling the threads of her life; the result is Relative Unknown, a ten-episode show that released its first two episodes last week. It’s on Radio.com, which makes it a little bit of a pain in the ass to subscribe to, as that platform’s content has to come through their proprietary app. Taylor’s story might be compelling enough to counterbalance that hassle, though. — EB
Court TV’s podcast can get a little dry, but their newest episode — on the newly-released footage of the slaying of George Floyd — is perfect fodder to use when your uncle starts spinning some bullshit over the family corona text group. (Some of my best friends are uncles! I can say that!) Court TV was one of the news orgs behind the legal request to release the video, which gives me a lot of respect for them — I don’t know that Oxygen is filing FOIAs? (If they are, good for them!)
Their public record release request prevailed, and on this week’s episode reporter Ted Rowlands joins the show to discuss the impact the release of the new footage might have on both public perception of the case and the eventual trial of Floyd’s alleged accusers. Rowlands does solid work — he led CNN’s coverage of Michael Jackson’s death and the subsequent trial of Conrad Murray, so he has a pretty good grasp on how public reaction can inform court proceedings. You can catch the episode here. — EB
A thrift store got me here. I started listening to This Is Reno because my it’s one of my favorite places to go for vintage clothing — it’s only about 4 hours from my house, the old-school Wrangler scene is incredible, and the town is actually pretty badass in a multitude of other ways. [“Can confirm.” - SDB] An episode of the show was playing at one of my favorite shops, and I subscribed, but it’s typically more goings-on-around town fare.
But this week it’s about the Cathy Woods case, an Innocence Project success story regarding a woman (Woods) who was imprisoned for 35 years for the slaying of 19-year-old Reno college student Michelle Mitchell, and was exonerated via DNA evidence in 2014. Former Reno Police Lieutenant J. Andre Boles, who has since turned to a career in true-crime writing, is the guest and will presumably explain how things went so wrong. You can listen to the Woods episode of This Is Reno here. — EB
Wednesday on Best Evidence: Sarah let me sit in on the podcast, where we talked about true-crime journalism through the lens of Most Wanted and While The City Sleeps. Both are dramatic adaptions filled with attractive people, so, exactly the light lift I needed this week.
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