WHERE PAUL BERNARDO USED TO LIVE – PT III

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My friend, the great photographer Geoffrey James, was able to get an all-access pass to Kingston Penitentiary, including the Segregation Unit and those cells only moments before occupied by such murderous sexual deviates as Saul David Betesh, Paul Bernardo and Russell Williams.

As with all great art there is precedent and tradition. Prisons are not a common subject in the societal lexicon or dialogue – they should be but they’re not; in photography or in life. But the formidable American shooter Danny Lyon has done it before, in the 1960s.

In Lyon’s case, he somehow talked his way into a number of operating prisons in Texas and got loose on the ranges and among the work crews. The results are quite remarkable. Not so easy getting access here. As Geoffrey is quick to point out, “Americans are different, they have no shame.”

Years ago, shortly before it was scheduled to close, Geoffrey tried to talk Eastern State Penitentiary officials in Philadelphia into a similar project but the vagaries of bureaucratic thinking denied him the necessary timely permissions and, as Geoffrey also said to me “once they say no, it’s forever.”

“So the trick this time was to never let anyone say no.”

Ironically, Eastern State, transformed into a successful tourist attraction, now encourages everyone to bring a camera. Bringing his camera, a digital Leica Rangefinder and taking pictures inside Eastern State now would be completely pointless for James. The part Geoffrey needed to capture is gone. Very soon after an institution like a prison or an asylum closes, it irrevocably changes and thereafter, “it too is gone forever.”

In a process that is somewhat magical what was once a Gothic house of horror becomes a tourist trap and just as they arrive in droves at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater so to do tourists attend prisons like Eastern State and the Ohio State Reformatory (the 250,000 square-foot facility where “The Shawshank Redemption was shot in 1994) by the tens of thousands. Snapping pictures is what tourists do; it is not what Geoffrey James does.

Geoffrey has well learned over the years what all good investigative journalists know: “Never rush in and get a no.”

Chains of command must be learned. There are far more people in a bureaucracy that can say “no” than “yes. You have to know, literarily and figuratively, from whom you are seeking permission and what they may require to say “yes”.

In Geoffrey’s case he found his way to the right Regional Commissioner of Corrections, who he understood to have been the warden of the Kingston Prison For Women (K4W) where Karla Homolka was housed for the first 4 years of her sentence. It was similarly closed by the correctional authority for good when the last prisoner was transferred out in May 2008. The walls have been demolished and the property now belongs to Queen’s University.

The Commissioner understood implicitly what Geoffrey meant when he said the work had to be done immediately before the renovators moved in, while the laundry is still undone, because once closed and tampered with, the prison part of the facility evaporates.

She was predisposed to Geoffrey’s project because she knew exactly what he meant when he talked about evanescence and immediacy, to get in and start shooting right away even before all the prisoners had been relocated.

A prison is evacuated according to the incarcerated individual’s assessed risk level – the most dangerous first the least last. There are other considerations but that is the main criteria.

Some of the portraits of the inmates that were still there waiting to be moved (to where God and the prison authority only knows) are among the most haunting in the book.

Change is very difficult for the institutionalized – think about Brooks (James Whitmore) the old con in The Shawshank Redemption and the most gentle, wise and kind character in the movie.

When released after 50 years, Brooks hangs himself.

Shortly after they learn of Brooks’ fate, contraband smuggling con Red (Morgan Freeman) explains what it means to be “institutionalized” to Brooks’ best friends, fellow con Heywood (William Sadler) and convicted murderer Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), the protagonist of this thoroughly compelling picture: “The man’s been in here fifty years. Fifty years! This is all he knows. In here, he’s an important man. He’s an educated man. Outside, he’s nothin’! Just a used up con with arthritis in both hands….These walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them.”

The thirty-foot high, 10 foot thick limestone walls of the historic Kingston Penitentiary are those walls

The Shawshank Redemption was filmed on location in the famed Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio. As did Eastern State Penitentiary, the Ohio State Reformatory has been transmuted into a tourist magnet that has helped boost the economy of Manifield and the surrounding counties. Last year, the O.S.R. had 80,000 visitors. The 250,000-square-foot fortress, first opened in 1896, a number of years after the Kingston Penitentiary, has become a state landmark. Today it is as important to the local economies of the three or four surrounding counties as it was when it was a functioning prison.

Geoffrey James new book “Inside” about the historical Kingston Penitentiary has achieved his goal. All kinds of institutional cruelty as well as accomplishment, the troubling ambiguity that characterizes North American penal history, is palpable in many of the un-peopled photographs that otherwise appear to be, on the surface, explorations of architectural accents and angles.

It is thoroughly evocative collection that fully captures the spirit of place.

In many of the photographs the claustrophobic cells look like their occupants have just gone out to the canteen. Much of the prisoner’s artwork (some of it truly remarkable,) old-timey pin-ups and newspaper clippings still cling to the walls. Bunks appear just slept in with unlaundered blankets askew. The resulting collection of photographs, captions and short revealing endnote written by James is a disturbing, thought-provoking, completely original narrative that elegizes at the same time as it eulogizes… and indicts.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, the Russian novelist said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” That has been my direct experience and its truth is manifest in Geoffrey James “Inside.”

This book of photographs, captions and short essay is exactly what Geoffrey James is all about: Composing narratives with magnificently rendered still photographs that capture both the past and the future.

He did this with his first published collection in 1989. la campagna Romana which appears to be a fine suite of beautifully framed landscape photographs taken with his “primitive, shoe-box panoramic camera.” It is, in fact, about the same thing “Inside” is about: the photographer’s search for something ineffable, in the case of la campagna Romana, the famed Roman countryside and whether it actually still exists.

In the preface to la campagna Romana Geoffrey James says “my journey, rather than leading to any kind of understanding of this landscape, brought only a dawning sense of the labyrinthine complexity of Italian life, of the manner in which the political permeates everything… at Castel di Leva, just south of Rome (Plate 17), I talked with a shepherd’s wife while staring across the GRA at a vast Eurosprawl of radio towers and supermarkets and military barracks – a vision, if ever there was one, of the future of campagna.”

Change a few nouns and verbs the same could be said about “Inside”. It’s about his search for the truth about prison, about it’s soul, no matter how dark, and what it says about our civilization.

Because he sees in this world – as it is immediate and inexorably captured by the lens – another world, perhaps one more real, with some vestige of truth, the one jagged piece of the jigsaw puzzle that allows for a multi-diminsional, integrated apperception. He thinks this might be it and that’s why he bothered.

Greater than the sum of its parts, “Inside” will be published on September 18 by Black Dog Publishing, London, England with support from the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, On.

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WHERE PAUL BERNARDO USED TO LIVE – PART II

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Taking a sip of white wine, Geoffrey James told me about meeting the prison librarian while in the prison shooting photographs for his new book “Inside”. A very pleasant woman close to retirement, the topic of Paul Bernardo came up.

I asked why? “Because,” Geoffrey said, “the media somehow got a hold of the idea that Bernardo was working in the library and created a mild regional and institutional disturbance. She was astonished because nothing could have been further from the truth.”

She explained that Bernardo spent a good deal of his time writing “grievances,” not a particularly unusual activity for longer-term residents.

Those incarcerated in Canadian prisons have rights (so to speak) and one of those rights is to formally complain about anything that may be amiss or awry (in the prisoner’s judgment) to do with their treatment by the prison. “It’s a Canadian thing.”

For instance, if a prisoner is well-behaved and orderly it is that prisoner’s “right” to have a job. Prison jobs pay a pittance – the Harper government recently changed the daily wage from $7 to $5 – but, of course, it’s not about the money.

On the inside, having something to do, anything, is better than nothing. Inside or out, idle hands do the Devil’s work. Bernardo had not been assigned a job in the long years since he was incarcerated – for life – in 1995. And he wanted one. It was his right.

Prisoners’ grievances can, and occasionally do end up in a federal court if the correctional bureaucracy is particularly recalcitrant and unreceptive. Grievances get lost.

As is often the case in bureaucracies that set up systems for communication and petition, his first two or three attempts were rebuffed. He appealed.

Just before the matter was going to be elevated to an outside court, the prison gave him a job. The gate keepers had no appetite for airing such dirty laundry and bring Bernardo’s name back into the press which it would have done had some intrepid ink-stained wretch found Bernardo’s name on some federal court’s docket.

Regardless, the fact that Bernardo was given a job got out. There are gremlins everywhere; completely skewed, it got out.

On August 13, 2013, CHCH-TV a local Hamilton-based station, finally gave Paul Bernardo what he’s always wanted: a taste of the kind of hysterical attention that has followed his ex-wife Karla. Since Karla left Paul nothing has gone right and now he’s doing life in the big house in a 6′ x 8′ closet-sized cell 24/7 365 per, on the seg row in whatever federal prison he’s put in.

The 2:51 second CHCH-TV item went like this:

Nick the News anchor: “Sadistic killer Paul Bernardo may be staying in a maximum security prison. But according to what Donna French has been told, the man who tortured and killed her daughter Kristen, is living a cushy life behind bars.”

Then, over a series of fast cuts of the killer and his then wife Karla in the back of police cars, being escorted by police hither and yon, stills of the young victims, a clip or two from Paul and Karla’s voluminous home videos, the usual visual accoutrement and bric-a-brac of the psychopathic sex killer programming unfolds for 15 – 20 seconds to reporter Lauran Sobouran’s breathless voice-over:

“Bernardo is one of the most despicable criminals in Canada he drugged and sexually assaulted his sister-in-law Tammy Lyn Homolka and with the help of his wife Karla he tortured and strangled Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. The heinous crime spree would have continued if Karla hadn’t started talking when he nearly beat her to death. Bernardo was declared a dangerous offender the public led to believe he would be locked up for life.”

Cut to (CT) a close up (CU) of Donna French, Kristen French’s mother with a police car (inexplicably) in the shot:

“I was sure that he would be in solitary confinement forever. They wrote us a few months ago… it hadn’t just happened it had been a couple of years I believe… ”

(While Mrs. French speaks the camera closes in first on her right profile and then switches to the left. An old television technique to maximize the viewer’s sympathy and accentuate empathy.)

V.O. (Voice Over)

“Donna French was shocked to learn that Bernardo is now out of solitary confinement working in the prison library… Donna French is upset, people in St. Catharines infuriated”

CT medium shot of a person in a St. Catharines mall identified as “Catherine Pickenuck” “infuriated”:

“He should be locked up for 23 hours a day, what he did to those girls (her voice-breaking…)”

CT a younger, attractive, animated woman with sunglasses probably in the same mall identified as “Jody Curry” “Bernardo should be locked up”:

“What he did to those girls was horrendous… There’s no way he should be sitting in a library or restocking shelves. It’s awful I even get choked up (fanning herself with her right hand like an actress who has just received an cherished award,) I grew up in Scarborough so I remember, it’s awful” (breaks down in tears).

Because she is attractive and animated and cries on cue Jody gets the lion’s share of the airtime in this two minute and fifty-one second piece.)

VO: “20 years after the Bernardo/Homolka crime spree people react like it happened yesterday…”

Cuts to a couple of other woman in the mall parking lot who have very similar opinions to Catherine and Jody.

CT medium shot of reporter Lauran Sobouran standing in the Grace Lutheran Church parking lot. The church sign behind here says “May Jesus Bless Richly Lyne and Craig.”

Lauran Sobouran holding the microphone: “Now, the anger and raw emotion is still so intense for many in this community that they can’t even drive by the Grace Lutheran Church parking lot where Kristen was abducted without all those nightmarish memories coming back to them.”

CT a still visibly upset Jody Curry: “If you remember (pause) it was an absolutely horrific thing, (pause) you know we weren’t even allowed to walk in the street…Why should he get anything?”

In direct contrast to this remarkable bit of fetishistic television, Paul Bernardo’s status as a completely isolated segregated prisoner had not changed and it never will.

Unlike many prisons in the United States, no prison in Canada has ever lost a “skin beefer” (con-speak for convicted child rapists and killers. Cons don’t make the fine distinction between teens and children the FBI Behavioral Unit does.) Since the 1972 riots in Kingston Penitentiary, described so graphically by ex-con Roger (Mad Dog) Caron’s influential 1978 memoir Go Boy! Memories of a Life Behind Bars no one has been killed while incarcerated in a federal penitentiary.

Because their mandate is to isolate these offenders and keep them alive, in the true British tradition to bureaucratic fidelity, our Correctional Service has been exceptionally good at keeping prisoners such as Paul Bernardo, The Shoeshine Boy killer Saul David Betesh and most recently the cross-dressing murderer, ex-Colonel Russell Williams alive.

Bernardo, like the rest of his sort, spends at least 23 hours a day locked in a 6′ x 8′ closet, isolated in a special unit Mrs. French called “solitary confinement” with the few other segregated or isolated prisoners they have in the system.

After all these sorts of criminal are the rarest of the rare and Canada only has a total of around 10,000 people held in federal penitentiaries at any given time so there might be ten to a dozen lifers such as these. They were not all housed at the Kingston facility but probably the majority was.

Just to clarify another media myth while I’m at it, no prisoner in Canada has access to email or the Internet and especially those held in a Segregation Unit. A television, sure. Of course the toilet is en suite as is the mounted steel slab that functions as both couch and bed, a table and a chest of drawers, all firmly fixed to the floor. But that’s it. If the individual can afford a computer then they will have one. There’s no wireless in the Big House, at least not in Canada. But be assured with the bare necessities of life in that cell there is barely room for the prisoner, let alone one 6 feet tall with a computer.

I reiterate, Paul Bernardo and the few others held in segregation are completely isolated at all times from all other inmates; they see no one except the correctional service officers assigned to the segregation unit.

If anyone at CHCH-TV had bothered to check they would have discovered the “job” Paul Bernardo was given was that of prison “book reviewer.”-The task of “evaluating all of the books in the prison library fell to him. Hence the librarian’s detailed knowledge of situation.

But Mr. Bernardo did not get to go the library to do his job. The library is accessible to the general population so it is completely inaccessible to any “seg” prisoners. It took them a while to come up with but in the end the correctional services bureaucrats were quite pleased with themselves. They had devised a job for Paul Bernardo for which he did not have to leave his chair let alone his cell.

The books, a few at a time, were brought to Bernardo by a guard. When he finished reviewing those, a few more were delivered. And so began another lonely enterprise in absolute futility that ostensibly would go on forever, like his incarceration in virtually total isolation, until he died.

Except it didn’t.

When they closed the prison, Bernardo lost his job. And there is no guarantee that his new stewards will be as innovative as the former. Or, perhaps they have already given that job to one of the other seg boys moved to the maximum facility at Millhaven with Bernardo. I don’t know. Nor do I care.

The librarian pointed out the almost inconceivable tedium of Bernardo’s claustrophobic existence to Geoffrey.

She explained that sometimes the guards forgot, or were too “busy”, to facilitate the hour-a-day that Bernardo, and his confreres, were each supposed to get, alone in the exercise yard.

It’s hard to contemplate, she said; living in a closet-sized cell. Seeing only the same few guards day-in and day-out. Reviewing stacks of old used books for a few dollars a day. If you asked her, a person would be better off dead.

Bernardo probably agrees. Betesh did, way back when and yet he’s still around lost somewhere in the catacombs of dim institutional memory and bureaucratic efficiency.
Bernardo and his plight really have absolutely nothing to do with Geoffrey’s project and had the media not made such a ridiculous spectacle of itself Bernardo’s name might never have come up. But the librarian was clearly struck by the strange incongruity of it all and what seemed an infinite capacity on the part of the media to get it wrong, damn the consequences or cost.

In spite of the fact that my biography of Paul Bernardo in Invisible Darkness is the most comprehensive and complete in existence, Geoffrey well knows I have never had any interest in Bernardo. To me he was never more than the Ken on Barbie’s arm. Geoffrey told this anecdote because it illustrated an increasingly dysfunctional legacy media that he knows is something in which I have an abiding interest.

My pitch to the publishers for a contract and advance to write Invisible Darkness ” was very short.

In one paragraph it posed only two questions: “What was the pretty young wife doing all the while her husband was out raping and pillaging? That and how they eluded discovery for such an extended period of time.

When I sent the my “pitch” out on a quiet Sunday afternoon to half-a-dozen publishers – by fax – in early 1993, email was the purview of academia and the military. There was no Facebook, no Twitter, and no texting.

After reading a long front-page story of Bernardo’s arrest in a newspaper in which the fact that he had a young wife who was from St. Catharines was buried deep in the copy, I had absolutely no idea how far-ranging and truly bizarre the answer would be. (To be continued)

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LIFE ON NUT ISLAND AND SOCIAL AMNESIA – PT. I

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Life on Nut Island

The Boston Marathon bombing: Now there’s a crime that speaks directly to us about the dangerous times in which we live, the inherent growing isolation of the individual in “society,” our perpetual pathological unawareness and psychic blindness, the helplessness of entire law enforcement bureaucracies in the face of one or two renegade lunatics – heavy stuff not the squalid, sordid tragic mess with which I became so entwined, the salacious Bernardo/Homolka saga that consumed ten years of my life and from which I will probably never fully recover.

As usual I’m on about unlearned lessons from Nut Island. My two arrests in 1998 and 2003 and subsequent decade-long prosecutions had nothing to do with “free speech” or “free expression” as many journalists and media-types and writers’ groups conceived – nothing so lofty.

(I was, of course, thankful for the Writer’s Union, PEN’s and CJFE’s and the Human Rights Watch support which was hung on that hook. Any writer in trouble with the police and/or government deserves that support providing they have not robbed a bank or killed their partner.)

Even though my arrests and prosecutions were “personal,” the consequence of a perceived offence that I had, unwittingly or not, levied upon a couple of politically powerful men, still none of it would ever have happened except for a quirk in the space – time continuum, a small “c” classic case of two or three people being in the wrong place at the right time for the wrong reasons.

Neither can anyone draw any survival lessons for the young and innocent from the story I was somehow destined to chronicle in “Invisible Darkness” and “Karla“. What lessons can we teach our daughters from the Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French abduction, rape and murder?

What is to be garnered from already street-wise and aware teenagers who approached, in Kristen’s case, a late model car with an attractive young couple in a church parking lot in the middle of a sunny afternoon in response to an ask for directions in a city in which people perpetually get lost and constantly ask for directions?

Is the lesson that you never ever talk to a stranger (or stangers) Susie, under any circumstances, regardless how innocent they appear. If some one asks you for directions you must immediately tell them to “fuck off” and run into the nearest house and phone the police?

Or in Leslie Mahaffy’s case: Is the lesson never practice “tough love”; never lock your teenager daughters out of the house in an attempt to teach them lessons? Maybe, but when mothers’ are at their wits’ end, tactics can get weird.

Does a “mistake” like that (if that’s what it is) deserve such an horrific and final restitution? Of course not.

But that would be the sum total of any lessons this reality show the Bernardo’s created conveys: “Don’t lock your daughters out of the house at night.” But what about all the tens of thousands of sons and daughters who don’t care whether their parents’ doors are locked because they long ago decided not to go home at night anyway? It’s a hopeless tautology, and hardly one from which lessons can be drawn.

And are we any closer to understanding psycopaths or sociopaths or whatever term is au current for this fictious character than we were when the figure was first coagulated in that unreadable book “Mask of Sanity” by Hervey Cleckley published 1941? Even if you buy into psychopathy, how does it explain or deter murderous creatures such as Paul and Karla?

There is however a lesson that can be taken from all extreme cases such as the Boston Marathon bombing, Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, Amanda Knox and her incarceration in Italy and the arrest and “successful” prosecution and wrongful conviction of the five young men who were convicted of a rape in Central Park ten years ago: The lesson is as unattainable as solid explanations for “Why Hitler“? We must scrap our institutions of law and disorder and start again because they are completely disfunctional and beseiged by a kind of organizational necrotizing fasciitis.

Read about it and watch: I wrote a piece published in Walrus Magazine in 2007 and soon to be released as an electronic long-read called “Life on Nut Island“. Amanda Knox has just published a memoir “Waiting to Be Heard“. And then there is the documentary called “The Central Park Five“?

STRANGERS AND STRANGE ANNIVERSARIES – THE BRITISH ARE COMING!

The French Invasion was followed by the British.

In February 2013 yet another television producer, this time from England, reached out to me. As the French are from the British, Mr. Turner was entirely different than Ms. Ladou. “I’m contacting you from a television production company called Twofour Broadcast based in Plymouth, UK. We make a documentary series called ‘Born to Kill?’ (known as ‘Twisted’ in the US) which is distributed worldwide. We’re currently on the fifth series and looking to focus one of the episodes on the case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

“The series ‘Born to Kill?’ tells the stories of some of the world’s most notorious killers through the words of the people that knew them, their victims, and communities best. The central crux of the series is to answer the nature vs. nurture argument – were these killers’ actions determined by violent predispositions they were born with, or a result of upbringing and life circumstances pushing them towards it?

“For previous episodes we have interviewed prosecution and defence from the cases, spouses and family members of the killers, the perpetrators of the crimes, criminal psychiatrists, victims’ family members, and expert journalists, always receiving positive feedback from those involved. Through those that knew the killer and the contemporary social environment best, we question the true impetus and drive of the crimes, rather than glorifying or vilifying as I’m aware many crime documentaries tend to do when focusing on serial killers.

“To help illustrate the kind of documentary we wish to produce on Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, you can find a link to a previous episode we have produced in the series on the case of Santa Cruz killer Herbert Mullin here:

As a consequence of my interaction with Mr. Turner and TwoFour which began in November, 2012 and continued over the ensuing four months I sent a missive to to TwoFour’s Chief Executive Charles Wace cc’d to the Managing Directors Mark Hawkins and Melanie Leach, as well as Executive Producer Neil Edwards.

“I am writing you out of sense of frustration and indignation. I am the author of two books on a Canadian crime commonly referred to as the Bernardo/Homolka case. The case has finally caught the eye of the producer(s) of one of TwoFour Groups’ programs ‘Born to Kill’.

“My two books, both published by Random House Group companies are titled ‘Invisible Darkness: The Strange Case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka’ (1997) and ‘Karla: A Pact with the Devil’ (2003). In spite of their age, both continue to sell briskly around the world.

“I own the worldwide broadcast, media and digital rights. I am recognized as the leading authority on this case and the books are rightly considered encyclopedic and definitive. “Virtually everything of any consequence in my books is understood to be proprietary information.

“In November 2012 someone from “Born to Kill” reached out to me and since then, off and on, and since February 2013, very much on, I have participated in a well meaning and open correspondence with one James Turner. Just before I was to be interviewed for the program in Toronto on March 28, Mr. Turner unceremoniously and without explanation cut me loose for want of a better phrase. His note from March 22 read

‘Hi Stephen,

Unfortunately we can’t proceed. Thank you very much for your correspondence but the schedule has changed and we’re no longer able to go ahead with the meeting and the interview.

Thanks again for your interest,

James’

“It was obviously the decision of whoever is the exec producer for this segment “Born to Kill” to exclude me. I do know that the project is going ahead because I know a number of the people who are scheduled to be interviewed in Toronto and environs from March 27 through to March 31.

“After all the time I was enticed to commit, not to mention the advice and leads I freely provided, the disrespectful and terse manner in which I have been dismissed cannot stand.

“Mr. Turner thanks me for my ‘interest’. It was not my interest in ‘Born to Kill’ it was the producers’ interest in me and my work. I had never heard of ‘Born to Kill’ or TwoFour Studios before I received an email in November 2012 asking me if I would be interested in participating in the program.

“As Mr. Turner said in his first email to me on February 22, 2013 ‘I’ve been reading your fantastic book, Invisible Darkness, which has helped my understanding of the case immensely. As someone who knows the case and has had direct contact with Karla Homolka, I feel you could offer valuable insight into the case and it would be wonderful to hear from you.’

“To my one line reply asking how I might be of service Mr. Turner said ‘We’d love to interview you for the documentary if that is of interest to you. Any advice you could offer for our own research would also be appreciated.’

Then on February 26 he said ‘Looking at our schedule, the crew is planning to be in Ontario from Wednesday 27th of March to Sunday 31st. Are any of these days convenient for you for the sit-down interview?’

“You might want to review the entire correspondence.

“A great deal of my time has been gratuitously wasted. When it came time to negotiate appearance fees and expenses Mr. Turner, with considerable corporate bombast, he gregariously explained, at length, the TwoFour Studio’s nickel and dime policy.

“Thinking your studio honorable and bona fide and in the interest of getting the story right for the European market I reluctantly agreed to the terms for reimbursement for the bare minimum expenses and nothing else. In return for this agreement, obviously considered by Mr. Turner’s superiors as too generous, I was dismissed.

“I was supposed to be in Boston this week and next. Mr. Turner told me unequivocally that I was going to be involved and I believed him. I rearranged my schedule at considerable expense to accommodate the ‘Born to Kill’ crew in Toronto between March 28th and the 31st.”

In the letter I go on to discuss “breach of contract” and “proprietary rights” inherent in copyrighted material: “Because the case was so complicated and so old, it would be virtually impossible for your lawyers or American lawyers and perhaps, today, even most Canadian lawyers (except for the three or four who did the legal work on both my books) to determine the extent of those rights and if they are infringed. It is virtually impossible to do anything substantial on this case without infringement.

“For example, Mr. Turner explained that the guiding narrative for “Born to Kill” series was the nature v. nurture dialectic. If someone in the segment you are cobbling together were to speculate whether Karla was “mad or just bad” that could constitute an infringement of my rights.

“One of the reasons that the Hollywood movie “Karla” was such a disaster is that the director and producer Michael Sellers was compelled to leave half of what he shot on the cutting room floor because he repeatedly infringed my rights.

“Mr. Sellers was also compelled to pay considerable compensation for assuming he could do his project without consultation with me and/or my agents and the bona fide Hollywood producer who at that time owned the motion picture rights which have since reverted to me. We found it remarkable that Mr. Sellers actually shot his entire movie either thinking that we would not notice or “naively” assuming that no one would raise objection. It is a testament to Mr. Sellers level of competence and his standing within the motion picture and television community that he did.

“For example, one of the things Mr. Sellers had to leave on the cutting room floor was a character based on Dr. Hans Arndt and the entire narrative sub-plot of his controversial, complicated relationship with Karla.

“Dr. Arndt’s relationship, opinions and assessments do not exist anywhere else other than in my books because I had an exclusive arrangement and agreement with him and he died years ago, tragically, a very youthful and fit 60-year-old, without ever speaking to anyone else about the case.

“If you require any more information, I will be happy to provide it. I look forward to your response,

“Sincerely, Sw

STRANGERS AND OTHER ANNIVERSARIES – PART III

DSCN05531-001Back to the Parisian producer who showed up at my remote farm door one dark winter’s day this January. “No, Ms. Ladous, you don’t come in,” I said.

Curiosity and my own vanity almost got the better of me but it was the “Truman Kaput; just like you and me” that brought me to my senses. There was some more terse incomprehensible imprecation as I was shutting the door but I was resolute that I was not going to entertain strangers unshaven and in my bathrobe. Also, as a man once besieged by media I long ago resolved not to allow anyone from the press (unless a friend invited for dinner) into my home. I long ago made it a rule that I would only give interviews or participate in a project from my hotel room in Toronto.

It occurred to me that Ms. Ladous must have gone to the Paula Todd School of Journalism where highjack and mendacity were main courses. But highjacking Karla Homolka, as we’ve seen, has a certain economic consequence but highjacking me? Where is the sense in that? Where are the $$ in Marina’s getting a few minutes of footage of me at the door in my bathrobe and pajama pants.

I was tempted though. I would have liked to explain that I have nothing in common with Truman Capote. He was a short man with a very large head, cross-addicted and a homosexual who wrote like an angel. I can only lay claim to one of those characteristics.

I would have also liked to know where she got the money for a transatlantic flight (for two) and how whatever she might do with this twenty-year-old case would ever square up and justify the time and expense?

As I’ve already described late last year, Ms. Ladous, a petite, dark-haired French woman reached out to Marsha via email and begged her to have me call her, so I did. Basically all I got a chance to ask was for more information about her “project”. The phone call occurred on Dec. 4, 2012. Here’s her email response to my verbal request which I received the following day:

“Following yesterday’s phone call I join you a “résumé” of the producer’s documentary movie…” And then some things similar to what she said on the phone: “To be a journalist in these circumstances is also something I want to show. In the documentary I want to follow Karla Homolka’s and Paul Bernardo’s criminal courses…I also imagine that there are questions without answer in this case, important points of detail deserving to be investigated and that could enlighten the public on this story…” blog.strangersand.marinaladous.resumelg

And then this: “For example, according to an investigator, Karla Homolka’s mother suspected that Tammy’s death was connected to Paul Bernardo, but she said nothing, is it true? We speak about battered women’s syndrome for Karla Homolka’s case, but according to an investigator, what she showed throughout this story is not compatible with the battered women’s syndrome, or the mental influence in state of suggestion. I have just finished a movie about this. The way she lives now days also proves that she does not deny nor regret her past, otherwise why was called TEALE? I read your books. I know that your testimony joins totally in my story. I shall be in Toronto on January 11th, I shall want to come back with you on the scene from this incredible file(case) that you know better that whoever.
Waiting for your answer.
Respectfully yours.
Marina L.”

I have embedded a jpg. copy of the “resume” Ms. Ladous “joined” at the top of this post. (Just off-the-cuff: It is very odd to me that almost everything I’ve seen from television people these days is printed on dark backgrounds and in an eligible font. What’s up with that?)

What she called a resume was in reality a “pitch” document in very broken English but it made a wacky kind of sense, sort of. I got the gist. It was written in the third person and began by explaining the logos at the top of the page:

“‘Lila production’ is a production comany co-developing feature movies and TV series. ‘Magneto Presse’ is a press agency producing high-quality documentaries for all major TV channels and ’13eme Rue’, owned by Universial, has commissioned us to produce ‘Marina aux pays des tueurs’ A series of 90 minutes documentaries revisiting cases involving killers around the world: Juarez, Mexico, Sweden, the Linkoping missing, French cold cases.
Marina Ladous a well-known expert in investigative reporting is the director.
In 2012, she filmed in Bagdad, Iraq. In the end of 2012, she finished a 90 minutes film about dangerous cults. In worldwide for the needs of her investigation, she was an undercover adept in different cults, and it too her a year work. She is also the director of ‘The French in front of law’ a series about difficult cases involving lawyers and judges in court. She also filmed in prison, ‘Dangerous Inmates’.
In 2006, she realized a film with FBI testimony, about Dayton Rogers, a Green-River killer copycat….”
It concludes “It has been five years since Marina speaks to us of this file. (sic. the Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo files mentioned in the mid-paragraphs.) She followed year after year the evolutions. The new life of Karla? The cold-case who could involve Paul Bernardo? The human implications of the policeman, the magistrates, the lawyers, the journalists and the witnesses. Can we emerge unscathed from this?
Marina’s experience of the criminal world makes her say that in spite of past years nobody forgot neither, Leslie or Kristen, neither Jane Doe, nor the January girl and 43 victims of Scarborough.
To decipher the criminal world is also a way to warn.
The shooting of the movie will begin on January 3rd, 2013.
We thank you in advance for the assistance you may agree to grant us.
Sincerely.
Yael Berdugo, Producer.”

I have tried to embed “live” links to the two television programs Ms. Ladous allegedly produced or worked for in this post without success. No idea why so I am just typing them in. The first about a retired elite cop living in seclusion after the brutal murder of his wife. A judge visits him to try and convince him to investigate two unsolved horrific murders. Hard to say whether this is a documentary or a re-creation: http://www.cinando.com/DefaultController.aspx?PageId=FicheFilm&IdC=11189&IdF=85915

The second about a murderer in Lyon, France called “At the Heart of Crime” hosted by Carole Rosseau: http://www.leblogtvnews.com/article-au-coeur-du-crime-avec-carole-rousseau-l-affaire-ortiz-46397949.html

I wrote back to Ms. Ladous on December 5, 2012:

“I’d be pleased to assist you in whatever way I can with the making of your documentary.
There are a few things I need to know and need for you to appreciate….” [Note: I have very specific but I think eclectic tastes in television programs and don’t want to be involved with anything that I do not understand or that I would not watch nor anything in which my input is not valued. Participating in the making of television programs, short or long, can be very time-consuming and expense-generating.]
“You told me you have read ‘Karla.’ I would not necessarily know that otherwise.
Would it be helpful to you were I able to get a French version to pass on?…. Your question about Dorothy Homolka, Karla’s mother: I don’t know who your source “investigator” is (there are a number of ill-informed people who persist in opinionating on the internet through various list-serves without even a basic working knowledge of the case) but I can tell you definitively that Mrs. Homolka did not suspect Tammy Lyn’s death was connected to either Bernardo or Karla until a good two years after the fact.

At that point of Karla’s violent separation from Mr. Bernardo, Mrs. Homolka knew something was very amiss but Karla did not tell her mother definitively until much later when her psychiatrist Dr. Hans Arndt “assisted” her composition of a comprehensive letter of confession.

Mrs. Homolka never suspected either of them had anything to do with Tammy Lyn’s death. My researcher conducted long conversations with Dorothy Homolka. Mrs. Homolka is not media-friendly, never has been and has never granted a formal interview to anyone except us.

If you knew Mrs. Homolka you would know that if she suspected such a thing she would never have sat back and accepted the coroner’s terribly flawed report that stated Tammy Lyn’s death was “accidental”.

If she knew anything she would have sounded the alarm and made sure the situation was resolved. She is not the kind of woman to keep anything to herself, including her opinions. She has many.
I could make time for you in January. What is your budget? I cannot collaborate for free, so how much of my time I could devote to you and your project depends on your budget. Let me know.

Nice to talk to you and thank you for your interest. I hope it’s a little warmer in France (I did not catch exactly where you are) at the moment than it is here in Toronto. Don’t forget your parka and toque and mittens. It’s damned cold in January in Toronto.”

A bit long you say. Perhaps, but it’s one of my pathologies that when engaged and confronted with ignorant questions or statements, I tend to go on. This is one of the reasons that I am shy of engagement and wary of strangers.

Doubly odd then, that this wayward stranger from the borderless and stateless land of Television would forsake the urbane pleasures of Paris, transverse the mighty Atlantic Ocean, make her way 90 miles northwest of Toronto in the worst snowstorm of the year to find three feet of snow accumulated in our quarter-mile long lane, had not taken the hint that the gods were against her enterprise and knock on our door. I enjoined Ms. Ladous to contact me by phone or email so that the questions I had could be answered and we could set up a proper session as I closed the door.

The local radio station was describing the school and road closures and they were legion. When we went out an hour later to go to town for supplies it was still snowing. There was no trace of Marina Ladous or her cameraman. If Marsha had not been there I would have thought I was hallucinating. I have not heard from or seen Marina Ladous again and a Google search of her name only turns up this blog?

STRANGERS AND STRANGE ANNIVERSARIES

DSCN05531-001Two somewhat strange Bernardo/Homolka related things have happened to me since New Years.

To fully understand how unusual the first occurrence was you have to appreciate that I live in virtual seclusion on a rockscrabble farm about 90 miles northwest of Toronto. Connecticut is a similar distance from New York but North Wellington is no Connecticut. Originally settled by poor Irish escaping the Potato Famine, the land in this area was the last to be apportioned because of its poor quality. A good deal of gravel and sand mixed with arable soil, it doesn’t stop the Mennonites or descendants of the original settlers. There are still more farmers than urban refugees and it has an authentic bucolic charm .The house is a two-storey built with yellow bricks that were fired more than 100 years ago and even though it sits on a hilltop you cannot see it from the road because of dense forest that surrounds the pasture and gardens. Many of our friends still don’t know exactly where we live and cannot find their way here without comprehensive directions. The last unexpected visitors we had were the police when they “raided” the old farm house at 6 AM on Sunday morning, May 11, 2003 and arrested me – at gun point – for the alleged offence of breaching court orders on my website to do with the recent publication of “Karla: A Pact with the Devil.” May 11, 2003: Very soon to be 10 years ago.

Police deliberately develop a heavy knock. This knock was similar. The 10 years vanished and we were back in that early May morning kitchen.

When I reluctantly approached the door, I could hear some commotion on the other side. I was wearing a long terrycloth bathrobe and flimsy black pajama pants and an old T-shirt so I gathered the robe together and partially opened the door. There stood a petite dark-haired women and a man with a television camera. She exclaimed “OUI ALLO’ Stephan, c’est moi, Marina Ladous, documentary director, I am here! From France!”

For the first thirty seconds I was clueless and speechless. Didn’t matter. She was in full flight and given her heavy French ellipses, somewhat difficult to understand: “Remember you phone me. I join you a resume of the producer’s documentary movie. As I explain to you, my purpose is not to make numerous movies, about the Homolka-Bernardo files but to study the facts as they occurred. I want to depict the fact one by one. Try to understand how can I. I’m just like you. Like Truman Kaput! To be a journalist in these circumstances is also something I want to show. In the documentary I want to follow Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo’s criminal courses. I also imagine that there are questions without answer in this case; I come in.”

It was a cold winter day in late January and overnight snow had filled the laneway. The pair – both distinctly un-Parisan and underdressed – had walked the quarter mile from the concession road.

PRISON OF ASSOCIATION – CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS

Anne Perry, the accomplished British mystery writer has written 60 books and sold over 26 million copies. She is also a convicted murderer who was sentenced to life in prison for the brutal murder of her best girl friend Pauline Parker’s mother in 1954. (Her fellow crime writer Ian Rankin interviewed her circa 2007. The interview was uploaded to YouTube .)

Unlike Karla, who has never managed to stay completely off the radar, Juliet Hulme, the name Anne Perry was born with, got out of jail in 1959, changed her name, moved to the Oakland area in California, became a devout Mormon and eventually the famous and wealthy writer she is today. In the process she variously lived in England, the United States and even Toronto, Canada, as the Globe and Mail proudly points out. She now lives in a stylish renovated piggery in the remote fishing village of Portmahomak, 50 miles north of Inverness, on the Scottish Highlands.

It was Peter Jackson’s 1994 film Heavenly Creatures that was Anne Perry’s undoing. The provincial media in New Zealand never completely forgot the sensational case and in the excitement over the movie redoubled their efforts to find out what became of her.

Even though as teenagers Juliet and Pauline had been so close the threat of separation drove them to commit matricide, they never spoke again after their early release from prison in 1959. Ironically, in 1994 Pauline Parker was also found to be living under an assumed name on a horse farm about five miles down the road from Perry’s piggery.

As reported in the Toronto-based Globe and Mail on Saturday, October 6, 2012, Joanne Drayton, an academic and literary biographer currently living in Christchurch, New Zealand has recently written a book entitled “The Search for Anne Perry” and is on a geographically small “tour” of Canada with Ms. Perry herself.

She said “I felt compelled in a way to challenge the way that she [Anne Perry/Juliet Hulme] was perceived. It just seemed to me you can’t leave someone in a prison of association forever. You have to acknowledge that someone has moved on and changed and evolved and developed a useful contributing life apart from the thing they got horribly wrong.”

Parker and Hulme hatched a plot to murder Parker’s mother because she would not allow Pauline to accompany Juliet to South Africa in the wake of Juliet’s parent’s divorce. This enraged the two teenage girls and they devised a plan to override Mrs. Parker’s decision.

Juliet brought a half-brick in an old stocking on a walk with Pauline and her mother in a remote park just outside Christchurch and the two girls battered Mrs. Parker to death with it.

The matricide shocked and reviled New Zealand, as did Karla’s horrific crimes committed 37 years later with her then husband, Paul Bernardo. Similar to the sensational media coverage in southwestern Ontario the Kiwi media speculated that the perpetrators were insane, the Devil’s servants, sexual deviates who deserved to hang. Although sentenced to life the New Zealand government arranged for Juliet and Pauline to be quietly released after only five years.

As I pointed out in “Karla: A Pact with the Devil” Juliet and Pauline were able to disappear as were the very few other women convicted of horrific crimes throughout history who eventually get out of prison one way or the other. Winnie Ruth Judd is a good example.

When Anne Perry’s true identity was revealed in the wake of Jackson’s movie, she had just published her 19th book. Her oeuvre includes the critically acclaimed Thomas Pitt and William Monk series set during the First World War, and her annual Christmas novellas.

Joanne Drayton told the Globe reporter “Because it (the movie and the revelation of her true identity) happened to her we’ve become so, I think, fixated with…that part of her story. But it is only a very small part of her story.”

Very reluctantly Perry invited Drayton to the Scottish Highlands and they spent nine days talking about her life.

“The book is crafted around what Drayton calls a conversation between the adult Anne and the child Juliet, a journey as opposed to an interrogation. While Perry, now 73, participated, this is not an authorized biography. Apparently Perry has not read it.

Recently in what Joanne Drayton described as “a surprise move” Perry decided to appear with Drayton at two upcoming Canadian festivals, Wordfest in Calgary and Banff, October 9 -14and at the Vancouver Writers Fest, October 16 -21.).

“When people can’t allow you to be something better than the murderer ever, then it’s a permanent sentence.”

I don’t know about that. Since I did the research and wrote Karla I haven’t given Anne Perry a second thought – until now. Frankly, I don’t know what the fuss is about. She is whoever she is and it is what ever it is. It seems to me that all anyone is up to in these mysteries that become connundrums wrapped in mental confusion is selling books.