The Blotter Presents 149: I'll Be Gone In The Dark and Murder Made Me Famous

Plus RHONJ, even more Tiger King, and a chat with HBO-doc directors

Is my old friend Mike now my former friend Mike? I’ll Be Gone In The Dark wasn’t to blame for jeopardizing the Carol Daly Appreciation Society, though the six-parter on the Golden State Killer — and Michelle McNamara’s journey into the heart of that darkness — seemed to struggle to braid those two threads together, and to get past the halo of reverence around McNamara herself. Still, we’ll keep watching.

Murder Made Me Famous, on the other hand…ooooo-fah. I wanted a Garden State case to go with the Golden State one, and if I’d tracked down the American Greed on Mafia boiler rooms I’d REALLY wanted to talk about, it’d be a whole different world, but we ended up with S04.E06 of one of Reelz’s more cynically garrabagio offerings, the episode about Melissa Drexler/“the Prom Mom.” It is cringily hilarrible and almost defies belief, and when we go to hell for laughing at a certain tone-deaf sound effect, it's this show we'll have to watch for all eternity. Listen to Episode 149 right here (with care and gentleness towards yourselves, as there’s coverage of sexual assault, neonaticide, and…that Foley effect, yikes).


Another month, another bonus-book tiebreak battle! This month’s voting is closer than usual and I’d like to close this poll tonight; would you guys mind picking a book for me, if you haven’t already voted?

Pick July's bonus book!

For June, you tasked me with Vanity Fair’s Schools for Scandal, which I quite liked — if you’re a paid subscriber to this newsletter, you can read that review here. If you’re not, we’d really love to have you join us; want to try it out for $5 a month?

The U.S. Attorney’s District of New Jersey office confirmed yesterday the Mob ties we’ve all suspected dangle, just offscreen, from certain RHONJ cast members. You should really just read the press blast yourself, but if you’re busy putting together your annual Bobby Bonilla Day luncheon and haven’t the time, here’s a pertinent snip:

In the spring of 2015, [Thomas] Manzo, one of the owners of the Brownstone Restaurant in Paterson, New Jersey, allegedly hired [John] Perna to assault his ex-wife’s then-boyfriend in exchange for a deeply discounted wedding reception for Perna held at the upscale venue. Perna, who is a “made man” in the Lucchese Crime Family with his own crew, worked with his associates to plan and carry out the assault, which took place in July of 2015. In exchange for committing the assault, Perna held a lavish wedding reception at Manzo’s restaurant for a fraction of the price, which was paid by another Lucchese associate and close friend of Manzo’s. The wedding and reception, held in August 2015, were attended by approximately 330 people, and included many members of the Lucchese Crime Family.

Separately, prior to the date that Perna was scheduled to begin serving a state prison sentence in January 2016, he falsely reported that his Mercedes Benz was stolen and destroyed. Perna filed an insurance claim for the destruction of the Mercedes Benz in order for the balance due on the Mercedes Benz. However, Perna had staged the vehicle theft and arson with other members of the Lucchese Crime Family.

tl;dr: this is some sad Vesuvio II shit right here. If you’re not local and don’t therefore have a functional working knowledge of which families go with what notorious figures, the Luccheses ran the so-called “Mafia cops.” Perna specifically is a family-business guy who doesn’t seem terribly adept at staying out of the pen. There’s also a family tree for the Manzos over here, as they’ve been off the show for so long, you may have forgotten who’s related to whom; Caroline and Albert ran the Brownstone, and Albert was onscreen all the time (and on their wretched spin-offs), probably to promote the business, but IIRC “Tommy” was resolute about not appearing on camera or even being mentioned thereon. Anonymous fun’s over, friendo. — SDB

Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries reboot is pretty good. I’m surprised too! Here’s my review for Primetimer, but basically, the new one doesn’t try to recreate the classic (there’s one case in each episode, instead of 4-5 segments; there’s no host). At the same time, it keeps a couple of nostalgic elements that old-school fans will enjoy, including the creepiest bars of the original theme song — and even the ghost of Mr. Robert Stack smiling upon the title card, as seen above. Seeing that authoritative face’s outlines made me rather emotional as I was watching the screeners, I don’t mind telling you!

The first six of the new verzh dropped this morning; not sure when the second set comes out. — SDB

I can’t wait to watch this IndieWire convo with three HBO docu directors on how they “evolve true crime stories beyond the headlines.” Sam Pollard (Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered), Erin Lee Carr (I Love You, Now Die), and James Lee Hernandez (McMillions) talked with Tambay Obenson about “creative trust” at HBO, the compulsion to learn more about certain crimes, and the larger stories of cities as told through their most notorious cases. The vid’s about 40 minutes long, and I’m particularly looking forward to what these creators have to say about how HBO made, and maintains, such a strong brand in this subgenre. — SDB

Could the pandemic help Tiger King win an Emmy? Deadline’s Matthew Carey posits that dramatic shifts in at-home viewing habits — i.e., the water-cooler docs that, with no water cooler to gather around, everyone had time to watch and discuss — could give Tiger King (and Last Dance, the other spring docuseries on everyone’s mind) a big advantage in Emmy voting.

And if you needed further proof that the algorithm is always listening (Narrator: “They didn’t.”), an email arrived as I was typing out the above, touting the participation of Tiger King participant Kelci “Saff” Saffery in an ad for Bader Scott, a Georgia injury-lawyer outfit:

Amid a global pandemic, Saff shook the world sharing his story of losing an arm in a tiger mauling during his job as a keeper at Joe’s Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park. After the accident, Saff faced the choice of amputation or years of reconstructive surgery. Saff chose amputation, losing the arm and returning to work within a week. 

The aftermath of the injury was captured by the documentary crew and Saff’s resilience and pragmatism sparked interest the world over. But what happened to Saff when filming ended? Despite his fortitude, Saff’s life-changing injuries would completely change his future, physically, mentally and financially. 

Is this the tackiest TK coattail grab we’ve seen? Not by a long shot (and honestly, good for Saff to get paid somehow). Interesting timing, though, given that Eve and I were enduring a barrage of these a couple months back.

Also, Bader Scott has at least one employee whose job title is “first impressions manager.” Oy. — SDB

Thursday on Best Evidence: Pod reviews, Outcry, and a conviction coming out in the wash?

What is this thing? This should help. Follow The Blotter @blotterpresents on Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to The Blotter Presents via the podcast app of your choice. You can also call or text us any time at 919-75-CRIME.