The Blotter Presents 154: Surviving Jeffrey Epstein and The Con
Plus the Bad Gays pod on true crime, Court TV, and wit-sec
|Best Evidence||Aug 12, 2020||3||1|
Afternoon, everyone — sorry for the delay! As 2020 continues to act a raving fool, I had to spend part of the day in Jersey, triaging my parents’ fridge after a five-day power outage. You might say the amount of ’90s mustard rattling around in the door was…criminal.
Or you might just want me to get to the dang newsletter! So here we go. — SDB
My guest Omar Gallaga and I can’t exactly say we enjoyed either of our Most Wanted topics this week — Surviving Jeffrey Epstein and The Con — but we think they’re both significant and worth seeking out. The former
centers the survivors of Epstein's monstrousness while also indicting a society that let him manipulate it with shocking impunity. It's a good docuseries that's also a difficult sit, and the rare discussion of the case of late that had the capacity to tell us something new.
The Con also told us something new, about a different kind of predatory behavior -- the outright frauds that led to the financial crisis of 2008. It's a straightforward narrative without a lot of production bells and whistles, but it's also a very careful accounting (so to speak) of all the different bad actors in the world of mortgage fraud, from inexperienced brokers to rapacious CEOs to the Wall Street traders who created the demand.
And I’m told The Con just got its virtual-cinema run extended by two weeks, so you’ve got a little more time to seek it out — and you should make that time, if you can spare the $20. In the meantime, Ep 154 is right here! And some show notes for you, too:
My Primetimer review of Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
Where to watch The Con
Court TV’s got some upcoming programming that may be of interest. First up is Judgment With Ashleigh Banfield, “a weekly hour-long series taking viewers on a deep dive into the most provocative and talked about trials and cases of all-time. With brand new interviews and exclusive first-time ever reveals, each installment will look to further explore everything people only thought they knew about these touchstones in judicial history.” …So, basically, an Unsolved Mysteries “UPDATE” segment? Cases will include Casey Anthony, Conrad Murray, OJ, and “Jodie Arias.”
Speaking (alas) of The People v. OJ Simpson, Court TV also plans to marathon the complete OJ25 docuseries on October 3-4, to coincide with the 25th anniversary (!) of that trial’s verdict. You know, every time I see that series mentioned, I’m like, dang, why haven’t I gotten around to watching that one yet? And every time, I check our archives, and every time, I am re-reminded that it is 37 episodes. Three seven.
The network is also planning coverage for trials “involving” George Floyd, Robert Durst, R. Kelly, Ahmaud Arbery, and others, and I get that they’re trying to condense the big names into a single headline, but putting a sandwich-stealing murderer and a serial sexual predator under the same participial umbrella as martyrs of racial injustice is not the best. In any case, it’s a packed network docket that will also include the trial of the so-called “doomsday-cult mom.” No firm dates yet, but we’ll keep you posted. — SDB
The publicity team for the Bounce network also let me know about upcoming content there, including a Michael Jackson documentary and a docuseries slated for November called Dying To Be Famous. There’s always a ton of content to cover, new and old — and Eve and I are always looking to hear from you guys about what you’d like to hear about on the podcast and/or read about here. Call or text us at 919-75-CRIME, or leave a comment!
And if you’re a paid subscriber, you get to make me read books of your choosing! Who doesn’t love that kind of benevolent power??
Paid or not, we love hearing from y’all. — SDB
The Top 7 True-Crime Episodes Of The Bad Gays Podcast. As high-concept show titles go, it’s hard to beat Bad Gays. An indie podcast dedicated to “evil and complicated queers in history,” it has similar energy to You’re Wrong About…, with two hosts who are more interested in the riots than the rainbows of LGBTQ lore.
Their attention on villains rather than heroes means that there are plenty of episodes on true-crime subjects, and even the familiar ones are told from a provocative point of view. Each episode features critic and novelist Huw Lemmey and writer and researcher Ben Miller taking turns telling each other the story of a (maybe) queer (sometimes) evildoer. This isn’t just juicy antiquarian gossip, but a wider reckoning with how histories are manufactured. It’s also absolute archive porn for research nerds.
Here are the top seven episodes for true-crime fans interested in hearing more from the bad behaviour that dares to speak its name…
Leopold and Loeb
A classic double act for true crime fans, the Leopold and Loeb episode shouldn’t be skipped just because you think you’ve heard it all before. Host Ben Miller talks not just about the killing of Bobby Franks, but the media brouhaha that was kicked off by their “trial of the century” and how it fed into a moral panic over predatory gay men that has never really gone away.
The skinhead gangs who terrorised minority groups in 1970s Britain didn’t dog-whistle their white supremacy ideas; they were loud and proud Neo-Nazis. But one of the movement’s most notorious street fighters was keeping his sexuality a secret, even as he was raising his own profile through three jail terms and tabloid headlines. How Nicky Crane found acceptance in London’s gay nightclubs, swastika tattoos and all, leads to an exploration of both the cognitive dissonance possible among groups of dunderheaded racists, and the complexities of the queer punk skinhead subculture.
Unlike Nicky Crane, who became infamous as a thug long before his sexuality was known, Ronnie was never in the closet during his reign as one of swinging London’s favorite gangster twins. British tabloids, TV, and movies have always loved the Krays and helped turn this unrepentant murderer into a folk hero, but never quite knew what to do about his fondness for young men. In host Huw Lemmey’s telling, Ronnie’s mythology is built on a toxic brew of nationalism and class stereotypes. Not that it’s all Marxist deconstruction — there’s also a cameo from Judy Garland.
The man behind the Lavender Scare, a key player in the Rosenberg trial, and the charmer who forced a senile man to sign over a fortune to him, Roy Cohn provides a lot of evil to go around in this sprawling history of the guy who, when he died, left behind his disciple Donald Trump as a parting gift.
Elmyr de Hory
Finally, a Bad Gay you’d like to have a drink with. De Hory was the art forger’s art forger, the guy who buddied around with Orson Welles and became the “star” of F Is For Fake and Clifford Irving’s bestselling book Fake! (the exclamation mark being a suitably camp touch). De Hory’s tenuous relationship with the truth is almost too perfect for our post-postmodern times, and this episode is a romp through a lowlife’s high art.
A rare female entry in the Bad Gays rogues’ gallery, this episode works to separate Wuornos’s tragic life story from the media coverage that surrounded her conviction as the “first woman serial killer.” Digging into the anti-sex-worker bias, classism, and homophobia that clouded her trial, Miller and Lemmey aren’t here to deify Wuornos, but to examine how she went from being the poster girl for capital punishment in the 1990s to becoming a muse for Cardi B.
Colonel Victor Barker
While Colonel Victor Barker was a thief and a Fascist, the crime that put his name in the history books was his 1923 marriage to Elfrida Emma Haward. Six years after the wedding, a London court convicted him of perjury for marrying Haward when Barker had been assigned female at birth. The judge thundered that Barker had “profaned the house of God” before sending him to Holloway’s women prison after the trial had made the case a media sensation. The episode’s guest host, writer and filmmaker Juliet Jacques, discusses the peculiarities of upper-class British society and how Barker’s extraordinary life can’t be neatly tidied up into modern concepts of gender. — Margaret Howie
You’ve probably got whiplash from today’s newsletter — Epstein! Court TV! mortgage fraud! Nathan Leopold! — and our last tidbit here likely won’t help: an explainer from A&E Real Crime about federal witness protection. Becky Little starts with the formation of the WITSEC program, largely to protect witnesses against Mafiosi (and Mafiosi/associates themselves) from reprisals, and throws in some factoids for people who didn’t know Henry Hill got fed up with “egg noodles and ketchup” and blew his own cover after only two years in the program. There’s also the story of Wahed Moharam, who really struggled with staying under (and his second wife, who really struggled with liking her own spouse, apparently; click the link, you’ll see), and what happens when a protected witness hates his new job or can’t cope with the constant anxiety.
Little’s piece doesn’t get as in-depth as I’d hoped, but there’s a handful of wiki-hole links that should scratch your itch on the subject…and a link at the bottom to a piece about the Lufthansa heist, which brings it all back around to GoodFellas quite nicely. — SDB
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