The Blotter Presents, Episode 105: The McMartin Family Trials and Bundyville: The Remnant
Plus: Anna Sorokin's Netflix dreams.
Oxygen’s Uncovered franchise is airing a two-hour examination of the McMartin Preschool investigation. The show, entitled Uncovered: The McMartin Family Trials, is the main topic on today’s The Blotter Presents podcast, on which Sarah is joined by Toby Ball of Crime Writers On….
If you don’t recall the case, there are plenty of “30 years ago” retrospectives from 2014 to get you up to speed. The best might be this New York Times “Retro Report,” in which since-retired columnist Clyde Haberman deftly described the Manhattan Beach preschool’s 1983-era allegations of systemic molestation of its charges, seemingly with a Satanic bent. There’s a video the paper made back then, too -- here it is:
The SoCal case ended with a trial that went on for years and was reportedly “one of the longest and costliest in American history,” clocking in at around $15 million. In the end, no one was convicted of any crimes but (especially for those of us of a certain age) “McMartin” isn’t a word you’d use to positively describe any preschool you’d willingly enroll your kid in.
Sarah notes that for an Oxygen product, the documentary is “relatively restrained,” which is probably a wise idea when the allegations therein include claims of magical flying and animal sacrifice. If you remember the crime, the show could provide you with a good refresher -- and if it was before your time, prepare to be dumbfounded by the case. Uncovered: The McMartin Family Trials airs on Saturday night, so come back after that and let us know what you thought of it. -- EB
Sarah and Toby’s Cold Case this week is still quite warm: It’s Bundyville: The Remnant, the second season of a podcast or text (you can pick) collaboration between Oregon Public Broadcasting and Longreads. While the first season works to illuminate Cliven Bundy, the cattle rancher who allegedly led the 2014 Bundy Standoff and has since vocally supported anti-government efforts and the sovereign citizen movement, its second season takes a look at the extremists inspired by Bundy.
If you’re interested in cults or cult-adjacent topics (sorry, Jonah Engel Bromwich), you’ll likely be interested in the series, but Sarah and Toby note that in places it feels a bit too "NPR-y," which makes sense with OPB in the mix. (But I know what they mean and I’ll bet you do, too.) You can listen to the second season of Bundyville here, and hear Toby and Sarah’s discussion of it here.
Well, so much for my Erin Lee Carr pitch. In a recent Patreon-only Blotter Brief episode, Sarah and I discussed what female suspects that we’d love to see I Love You, Now Die’s Erin Lee Carr cover in her next project. I pitched so-called Soho Grifter Anna Sorokin for the Carr take, for her unrepentant nature (speaking to the NYT from Rikers Island in May, Sorokin said “I’d be lying to you and to everyone else and to myself if I said I was sorry for anything,” and admitted “I’m not a good person”).
Back in June of 2018, Sorokin made a deal with Netflix for a Shonda Rhimes-backed adaptation (presumably a dramatic series -- does Shondaland have a documentary neighborhood?) of Jessica Pressler’s bombshell piece on Sorokin from May of last year. (You read “Maybe She Had So Much Money She Just Lost Track of It,” right? If not, go now, this will still be in your inbox when you’re done.) As part of the arrangement, Sorokin was set to receive a $15,000 per-episode consultant fee and a $7,500 per-episode royalty fee, with a $70,000 payment expected for Sorokin this past June.
Not so fast, said New York State attorney general Letitia James in May, citing the state’s Son of Sam law. The filing, which was revealed by the New York Post over the weekend, argues that the Netflix deal qualifies as “profits from a crime,” and the $70K and other fees should instead go to the New York State Office of Victim Services for disbursement to her victims. According to court filings, her victims are owed $198,956.19, and City National Bank, which loaned Sorokin $100,000, tells the New York Times that it intends to sue her for her Netflix gains.
If you’re a Sorokin superfan, the Netflix series won’t be your only chance to see her tale. Lena Dunham is reportedly working an adaption of Sorokin’s caper for HBO and Rachel DeLoache Williams, a former Vanity Fair photo editor and friend of Sorokin’s, wrote a book about her relationship with the grifter that was -- what timing! -- just published. My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress dropped on Amazon Tuesday. -- EB
True crime podcast Summer of '69 was released Monday on Spotify. The series, which is not about the Bryan Adams song, has in its first seven episodes (I ask you, who has time to listen to seven eps in two days? We are not all cross-country truckers, Spotify!) covered the Zodiac (the Blue Rock Springs attack and his infamous letters went down that summer), Judy Garland’s death (June 22), and The Brotherhood of Eternal love (a drug-worshipping cult that was active in the ‘60s and ‘70s, so kind of a stretch). According to Fast Company, which has a nice piece on how the pod came about, the show will run for 14 episodes and conclude on August 2. -- EB
Lifetime is planning a documentary on Jeffrey Epstein. Like its influential R. Kelly coverage, the show will be called “Surviving Jeffrey Epstein,” the network announced Tuesday at the Television Critics Association. Speaking of Kelly, the channel is also planning a four-hour follow-up that will presumably cover the aftermath of its initial coverage. Finally, USA Today reports that Lifetime is also developing a project on the college admissions scandal that will focus on “two wealthy mothers who share an obsession with getting their teenagers into the best possible college.” Which poses the question: Who do you get to play Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin? -- EB
Thursday on Best Evidence: I’m reviewing Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, which I will examine from a true crime perspective. How Manson-y is it? Beats me, the press screening isn’t for a couple of hours so I’m as in the dark as anyone. -- EB
What is this thing? This should help.