Galapagos Affair: 1930s Murder Mystery

DATELINE:  Add a Fake Baroness to a Gilligan’s Island Scenario

 Galapagos Affair

Dora & Dr. Ritter, suspects or victims?

When the film uses the tag: “Darwin meets Hitchcock…,” we are totally hooked instantly. Yes, this is a true 1930s murder mystery that would shock Hercule Poirot and confound Sherlock Holmes.

In 1929, Floreanana, Galapagos, was an uninhabited island where B. Traven, Greta Garbo, and J.D. Salinger would have been happy. A German doctor, Friedrich Ritter and his lover Dore Strauch settled there 60 miles from another human being. This is what Herman Melville called the Enchanted Islands, but where ancient tortoises put a curse on visitors.

Within a few years the island was colonized by a middle-class German family named Wittner—and then a colorful woman who called herself a Baroness Eloise von Wagner with her “two husbands.” She claimed imperiously that she planned to build a hotel on the island for American millionaires—which did not go over well with the other four adult residents. No one owned any of it, but the territorial governor gave the Baroness miles of prime land for her project.

When these people took up life in the Edenic locale, they went slightly mad (or likely were already). This documentary uses extraordinary footage—and the brilliant voice-over of Cate Blanchett—to show how the alleged Baroness chose to become queen of her domain, to the point of killing anyone who trespassed on her personal paradise.

She even made a ridiculous movie on location in 1934, which gives this documentary some wildly odd footage of all involved.

With the unwieldy title of The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden, you have a startling and hypnotic documentary about lunacy in the world that Charles Darwin found a pristine lab of genetic development.

Newspaper headlines and docu-footage make this film a marvel of truth and sensational history. Who killed whom?  Everyone has a theory, but the Baroness and one husband disappeared, another husband met a foul end, and Dr. Ritter seems to have been poisoned.

Within a few years the original group was cut down by 2/3 by suspicious deaths. Who done it?  We defy you to figure it out from this marvelous documentary.

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Stone’s Throw to Consequence in JFK

DATELINE: Movie History Literally

 Kirkwood's Grotesque  

Twenty-five years after Oliver Stone’s conspiratorial extravaganza, with more Kennedy assassination documents released weekly, it may be time to re-consider JFK.

The movie has become legend—and now checks in at a length worthy of Ben Hur or Lawrence of Arabia. Yet, that still is not enough.

The movie is the ultimate docudrama, providing theory and re-enactments about the death of an American president in Dallas in 1963. Many of the arcane details that made Stone’s movie seem fantastic have become ingrained into the epitome of fake news turned into fake history. As Pontius Pilate once succinctly put it, “What is truth?”

Stone takes the same approach as Jim Garrison: he uses the system to present ideas, in some ways abusing the process and going outside the usual parameters.

Oliver Stone went for the sensational: casting the most minor roles with notable, famous actors. It gave credence to the view that many people, especially celebrities, agreed with his perspective of the facts. He believed Clay Shaw was an assassin’s conspirator.

On top of that, he even cast the aging Jim Garrison as Chief Justice Earl Warren interviewing Jack Ruby in his prison cell shortly before his fateful death from cancer. Tommy Lee Jones made a dandy Shaw, and Kevin Bacon sizzled as the ersatz Russo.

Garrison’s conspiracy case against Clay Shaw, New Orleans businessman with a salacious private life, was built on reports from Perry Russo, who died in 1995 shortly after the movie was released. But, the Russo character turned to stone, or a pillar of salt, suddenly called Willie O’Keefe, a gay hustler who put Lee Oswald into the maelstrom of New Orleans double agent gay life. Russo always claimed he was maligned, but not by his associations.

Whether the connected dots actually mean there was conspiracy, or just coincidental dots connecting, may never be known with witnesses wiped out by accidents, murders, illness, and mystery deaths over the decade after the Kennedy assassination.

We are far more likely today to accept a movie as our historical reference than ever before. With that, Oliver Stone’s well-produced film gains credence. The viewing public who won’t read history are clearly condemned to accept re-enactments in a movie.

Garrison’s case was a case of self-delusion, or invisible and secret government sabotage.

Our friend Jim Kirkwood covered the original trial and befriended Clay Shaw, but Jim always had a penchant and soft spot for killers and those accused of unsavory acts. He called his book on Clay Shaw and Jim Garrison by the appropriate title of American Grotesque.

When we tried to bait him over drinks about the Clay Shaw case in the 1980s, he wouldn’t bite. It left us uneasy then, and later when the JFK movie came out, we were confounded. Jim Kirkwood was gone to the undiscovered country and so was his insider knowledge.

Today, when the latest documents hint at deeper, uglier, unpleasant details, we wish Jimmy Kirkwood were still here to see us dangle on the hook of conspiracy.

Stone’s JFK throws us for a loop still.

Dr. William Russo has written two timely books: Riding James Kirkwood’s Pony, on Kirkwood’s life, and Booth & Oswald, on the assassins.

Curse of Oak Island: Season 5, Starting Gun

DATELINE: On the Money

oak island

Our cruel skepticism has been dumped on its head into the Nova Scotian Bay of Fundy. The Curse of Oak Island is back–and better than ever.

As Season Five opens with the death of young Drake Tester, off Oak Island of some unfair seizure, the pall of mortality hangs on everyone—from 94-year-old Dan Blankenship to the younger generation of treasure hunters. Young men of good character are not supposed to die before old, cynical adventurers.

Yet, this season on the show, there is finally something tangible and within grasp. We are still left with anguish over the enterprise that boasted a seventh person had to die to solve Oak Island’s mystery. The Lagina brothers never expected the youngest of their treasure hunters would be the one.

In the meantime, safety went to the forefront with the notion of sending a diver down 170 feet into a small shaft. With the bends and hypothermia likely dangers, the diver nearly exceeded his safety limits. It made for dramatic reality television, but also made obvious how the obsession for treasure is dangerous.

Metallurgist Gary Drayton, Australian expert, found another artifact that could be as much as 400 years old on an island no inhabited back then—making this season compelling television viewing.

The two-hour premiere seemed to be the most professional in the history of the search. This gives the quest some highly charged foreshadows.  However, at the end of the night, as it has for all their efforts, technology fails for reasons unknown. Call it a curse.

Whatever Oak Island is hiding, it has a deep and abiding reluctance to reveal itself to the nosy eyes of the camera—or to the adventuresome spirit of a team of adult “boys” as they call themselves.

We won’t miss an episode.

Kevin Spacey Pilloried: Trial by Social Media

DATELINE:  Accusations

Darrow Spacey

We must be in a new era of McCarthyism, Toto.

We are not fans of the Kevin Spacey Netflix series House of Cards, believing from the beginning that the British version was superior.

However, we are a little distressed at the latest trend. Netflix has suspended the Spacey series because of one young man’s allegation that Spacey accosted him over a decade ago. It seems like punishing everyone associated with the well-known actor.

Not even Clarence Darrow could likely spin Spacey out of this mess.

Corey Feldman seems to be doing something similar, collecting money based on his alleged victimization. Feldman is raising a public hue and cry about sexual predators—and asking for $10 million to fund his docudrama and personal life.

Who knows what the truth is? Is Feldman shaking down the goodwill of fans? Is Spacey’s accuser looking for free publicity?

We used to think we were in a country where you were innocent until proven guilty.  Court rooms and evidence are no longer required. Perhaps the US of A was never that country of ideals.

If a charge is made against you, you are immediately guilty, and castigated in social media. You can muster no defense; you can bring no supporting evidence. And in a situation where it’s your word against accuser, you’re dead dead dead.

Even if the accusation is recanted or disapproved, the taint will remain. There is no deodorant for being labelled a child molester.

We have no idea of whether Kevin Spacey committed an attack or seduction on a 14-year-old boy long ago. It seems strange to wait 14 years to complain about it. Perhaps it’s true Spacey cannot recall such an event—especially if it never happened, or is lost in an alcoholic haze.

However, there are benefits for the victim. Now the recipient receives great sympathy from a community looking for victims to support; he probably will be offered a bunch of roles and recognition in his acting field for bravery.

On the other hand, Kevin Spacey’s career may be in shambles. Having his hit series canceled or suspended is not a good sign of the future.

But times have changed. You will be judged today on yesterday’s actions by today’s standards. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Kevin Spacey charged with pedophilia or Robert E. Lee on a charger on a pedestal.

Dark Legacy: CIA & Bush Take Their Lumps

DATELINE:  Who Dunnit?

Bush:Kennedy

In the week that Donald Trump released the long-hidden Kennedy Assassination documents from the National Archives, we decided that revelations never quite meet the theories spawned. The hidden truth was never put into a government memo.

So, we took in one of the most outlandish and yet frightening of all Kennedy murder conspiracy films: Dark Legacy.  This is a three-Hankey movie: John Hankey wrote, directed, and produced this disturbing documentary and conspiracy theory.

This time it is CIA-centered George Bush, the 1st one to be president, who in the 1960s worked for and led (as J. Edgar Hoover called it) ‘some misguided anti-Castro people.’ Bush later was director of the CIA, but his family had dark ties to CIA director Allen Dulles (fired by John Kennedy months before the assassination). Dulles was the fox in the chicken coop when he was appointed to the Warren Commission.

The coincidences pile up about who knew whom. We waited breathlessly to find out that Oswald took in a monthly allotment from the FBI, and that Jack Ruby was on Richard Nixon’s congressional staff in 1947.

The film borders on accusing the CIA of trying to embarrass J. Edgar by putting one of his operatives into the center of the conspiracy to kill Kennedy.

We think it unlikely the recent papers released under Trump’s order will embarrass the Bush family—or even Ted Cruz’s father (allegedly an associate of Oswald). However, the dots connecting so many famous names will rattle you.

This little conspiracy documentary borders on overkill, but however improbable the conclusions, the facts hint at possibility.

Five Fingers: James Mason Chooses the Right One

DATELINE: Classic Spy Drama

crossed Mason

What a joy to re-discover one of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s forgotten masterpieces!

Five Fingers came in-between so many other, better remembered films like The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, All About Eve, and the Barefoot Contessa. In 1952, Mank went to Turkey to film the true story of World War II’s notorious spy who sold info to the Nazis. The Germans called him Cicero and were forced to pay him an exorbitant sum for his services, but distrusted him.

Bernard Herrmann supplied the music score.

Once again, Mank assembled the best actors: James Mason, Michael Rennie, and Danielle Darrieux. He had an ear and eye for top-quality British actors.

The Nazis think Mason is one of those arrogant members of the aristocracy. They know the type. In fact, Cicero is the valet to the British ambassador, a brilliant man who states: “The only thing that disgusts me is poverty.” When the head of British intelligence calls him the worst piece of trash, Mason shrugs: “I rather thought I looked like a gentleman.”

Only Mason can deliver lines with aplomb—and Mank gives him plenty of hilarious, cynical throwaways. Mason chews up great dialogue with a voracious appetite for screen fame. His inflections cannot be repeated by anyone.

Mason’s spy is not James Bond, but he makes mincemeat of Nazis and British authorities as he ultimately outsmarts them—his poverty-stricken countess partner and himself.

As a poor cabin boy, Mason’s Cicero once saw a man in a white dinner jacket, high up on his villa’s balcony overlooking the ocean. He was laughing hilariously. It is only at the end of the film, when Mason becomes the embodiment of his boyhood dream, do we find the biting irony of it.

What a movie!

 

Feud: Ryan Murphy & Olivia DeHavilland

DATELINE: Creepy Producer

 

coda

The spry legend, Miss Olivia DeHavilland whose Oscars outnumber anything Ryan Murphy will ever compile, has fired another volley at miniseries Feud: Joan & Bette, created by Mr. Murphy.

Right before the series is about to reap Emmy glory for its hilarious and entertaining depiction of two movie stars in a death throe struggle like scorpions, more turns of the screw emerge.

Miss DeHavilland’s character, ‘herself’ it appears, is a mere supporting figure. Yet, she does not like how she is portrayed. In a deposition through her lawyers, she tells the world she never called her sister, actress Joan Fontaine, ‘a bitch’ to any director or producer.

That may mean she used to term privately among friends, or even to hapless Joan Fontaine’s face, but her point is the script and series misrepresented her behavior. She said: “The false statements and unauthorized use of my name, identity and image by the creators of Feud have caused me discomfort, anxiety, embarrassment, and distress.”

Yes, being violated is like that, no matter what your age.

Murphy’s glad-hand attitude demeans Miss DeHavilland by calling her “Olivia,” despite her age, her position, and the fact that he never has met her, let alone sought her permission to use her as a figure in a docudrama.

In blatant admission, Murphy’s mouthpieces claim: “The fact that the words attributed to her and the purported endorsement are false does not transform the character into anything other than an exact depiction of de Havilland.”  Hunh?

That’s quite an admission: they know they have misused her by having her say words she never uttered, but it’s all for the profit of Ryan Murphy—and to give us viewers a few guffaws.

We wish to point out that Miss DeHavilland is a real human being, not an emblematic symbol like the White Whale, appearing in a work of fiction.

Murphy is betting that the 101-year old Oscar winner may pop off at any time—thus giving him the last word, which he will have anyhow as time will likely bestow on him the honor to be standing at the end of all this mess.

In all likelihood, the arrogant TV producer probably thought DeHavilland was already dead—and it didn’t matter how he used her identity.

What the old legend is showing here is that identity theft can occur in many ways:  when you profit from stealing someone’s personality, you’re a thief, Mr. Murphy. But, as Hollywood producers go, that is no crime at all.

 

Required Reading of Darryl Stephens

DATELINE:  Actor Transcending

 Darryl Actor & Author Darryl Stephens

As stars go, Darryl Stephens has been on low-profile phase for a decade. With cult movies and a cult TV show, he has become a face, an attitude, and a symbol of the modern gay actor.

Now, after years of hearing fans of his 2006 show, Noah’s Arc, ask him for advice about how to live in America in the 21st century as a gay man, he has actually come up with the book to tell us:  Required Reading: How to Get Your Life for Good.

Stephens is educated, intelligent, and writes well. It is to his credit that he has been deeply moved by dedicated fans to his black sitcom, once trivialized, then discovered by those in deep need of optimism and standardization of lifestyle.

Never an A-list star, Darryl has nonetheless selected his roles judiciously enough to be recalled by the producers of Boy Culture: The TV Series, about to start filming with the original star ten years later.

The first half of his book gingerly feeds us details of growing up as a middle-class kid with a growing awareness that he is a stunningly beautiful black young man. From the angst of learning his gay soul, he shares his insights and wisdom like a male Dear Abby.

Darryl has taken on the difficult responsibility to subsequent generations of gay men with worries that seem new, but are old-hat if they can find a role model to explain. Because of this, he does not really delve into the film work and world of acting in Hollywood until the second half of the book.

He omits much about Boy Culture, except to express his pride back in 2015 when the book first appeared.

Darryl Stephens was a pretty face and attractive body, always a passport in Hollywood, but the onset of middle years is a true test of character acting. Once the toast of gay beauty, he deals frankly with the difficult life of an actor in eclipse, losing youth and money too.

We want Darryl to be happy and to succeed, unlike so many critics who bashed him along the way. We have joined in the backing of the new series with his reprise of the key character in Boy Culture.

We know the world is ready to recognize Darryl Stephens.

 

When You Admit Ghosts Haunt Your Home

DATELINE:  Not Exactly Living Here

I don’t see dead people.  But, my home is indeed haunted, and I hear them moving about all the time.

Friends begged me not to reveal to the public that I live in a house with four ghosts (or technically three ghosts and one spirit).

They told me repeatedly that a tell-all book about paranormal will open me up to ridicule and charges of being more than just another eccentric author.

They claimed it would damage my “serious” nonfiction about Hollywood history and biographies (now will be considered another form of channeling).

Since publishing my true story about learning how the spirit world has fingered me, I hear repeatedly the chorus: “Have you had a stroke?”  or “Are you off your meds?”

Some accuse me of demeaning the victims of the Titanic for suggesting that, just because my ghosts used to own my neighborhood (literally, the whole street), as they were rich.

Yet, I have become protective of my friendly ghosts: they include the former housekeeper of the White family for 50 years, named Addie; a 55 year-old well-to-do-businessman, likely another Titanic victim; a young man who was apparently murdered in the neighborhood some time ago; and my main contact, Richard, who went down on the Titanic when he was 21-years old, on a vacation trip after graduating from Bowdoin.

Why me?

As a retired college professor (literally true), I try to tell the reasons in the book, but it may become lost in the sensations of revealing too much. However, I will continue to resist the numerous requests from those who want to visit me to see ghosts.

No, my home will not be an open house on Halloween, and I do not try to contact Houdini by séance regularly.

William Russo is the author of Ghosts of Mill Circle, now available on Amazon in both ebook and paper format. He also wrote Tales of a Titanic Family, Audie Murphy in Vietnam, and numerous other nonfiction biographies.

Patriots’ Most Off Off-season Ever!

off off-season

New Book!

It is a hilarious romp that could make a highlight reel of its own!

From a championship ride through the streets of Boston before 1 million fans – to winning the ESPY award, you can follow every strange moment in Patriots history of 2017!

If you want to see what your New England Patriots have been on up to since the Super Bowl victory in January, and before they have begun the new campaign of 2017, you need to look at the new book that details every ridiculous adventure, scandal, and outrageous behavior, of the winning team.

From the twisted blogs of Ossurworld who was there for every minute!

now available on Amazon for smart readers and their tablets.

Nikola Tesla: More than Meets the Eye

DATELINE:  Under Appreciated Genius

Tesla & sparks

PBS produced a documentary on the mysterious genius born in 1856 whose inventions seem to include Star Wars Defense Initiative and particle beam death rays.

Its title is Tesla: Master of Lightning, and he used electrical currents to win a war with Edison, light up a World’s Fair, and made himself glow in the dark.

We may never know the whole story as Tesla’s notebooks disappeared when he died in 1943. Were they stolen by Nazi spies? Russians? The FBI?

A recent little book by Ralph T. O’Neal III came to our attention in which Tesla’s stolen secrets are the McGuffin of an extra-governmental conspiracy in something called Shadow War: MJ-12 Versus the Vatican.

MJ12kindlecover

The final segment of the PBS film seems to hint at futuristic, Jules Verne technology created by Nikola Tesla.

The man came out of nowhere, Croatia in 1884, and immediately became enemies with Thomas Edison, J. Pierpoint Morgan, and Guillermo Marconi. That’s quite a climb to infamy when a poor immigrant hobnobs with the greats of the 19th century a few years after arriving in New York.

Trump would not have let Tesla into the country if he tried to enter today.

The documentary and the life of Tesla almost seems like science fiction—but it is tragedy and enigma wrapped in a bit of showmanship by the great inventor.

Most today know the name Tesla as a progressive car. He was much more than that, and you may owe it to yourself to learn about a man who eschewed fortune and lost his fame.

Johnny Cash: Up Close with His Manager

DATELINE:  Country Star Revealed

man in black  Director Holiff with Johnny Cash

In the first ten minutes of this documentary, with its realistic reenactments, you might think you are watching some outrageous fiction. But, it’s all true. You are about to enter the world of My Father and The Man in Black.

Saul Holiff was Johnny’s manager for nearly 15 years, through some of the worst moments of his addictions, black-outs, and temperamental snits.

Holiff alienated many people with his brash character, but he loved being in show biz, even on the outskirts. His business ties to Cash, like all personal management ties, were tenuous—and inevitably broke.

Yet, his son Jonathan never knew his father. He left home as soon as he could at age 18—and they almost never spoke. When his father committed suicide in 2005, he left no note.

But Jonathan’s mother said he left something else: boxes of audio diaries of his relationships with Cash and his sons. And herein lies a tale both shocking and fascinating.

Writing, directing, and producing this “tribute” to his misunderstood father seems an extraordinary feat by Holiff.

Even as a child, he often thought Cash was his father because every sentence spoken in front of him always contained father and Johnny Cash. They were inseparable. Saul introduced June to Johnny.

Cash wanted to overcome his drug-addled past and prison persona for being born-again. He became as addicted to Jesus as he was to pills.  He even made a religious film in the Holy Land, but it was cruel to ask his long-time manager, Jewish atheist Saul to play Caiaphas in one scene.

The break between them was not long after.

Using careful crafted re-enactments and voice imitators to read Johnny’s letters to Saul, this documentary seems to have melted into oblivion when it demands to be seen. Don’t miss it.

History Channel Loses It Again with Amelia Earhart

DATELINE:  Much Interesting Evidence Remains

boyish Earhart

The hue and cry has begun that the History Channel’s latest documentary is a fraud. Alas, Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence has much to recommend it—and one glaring issue.

A linchpin photo, said to be of Earhart and Fred Noonan, captured by the Japanese, may be of the two pilots in an earlier time, according to researchers. Not fake, but misleading.

History Channel is vacillating, of course.

They have produced another of those series in the Bob Baer mode, with Shawn Henry, a flak from the FBI who jumps to conclusions faster than you can say “Russian connection.”

Among the best features of the one-episode documentary are the collection of film clips of Earhart, charming and charismatic. Even 80 years after her death, you can see why she remains fascinating. And, we are spared an endless series of investigations over hours.

Yet, the investigation is quick to blame conspiracy, rather than negligence and incompetence of the United States forces. She sent the number 281 as a radio message, which the US search teams presumed meant miles, not latitudes.

Interviews with witnesses, including one 90-year old woman who clarifies the mistaken story of decades that she saw Earhart executed, set the record straight.

However in shows like this, one incorrect fact can doom the quality. And, strange details, like missing bones once thought to be hers, add to the mystery.

Shawn Henry, host and investigator, is quick to jump on the most sensational conclusion when the moderate one strengthens his case.

Should you skip it as another unreliable History Channel dubious documentary? Certainly not. We hung on its intriguing evidence.

Movie Gold = Blue Gold

DATELINE: Blue Denim without Brandon De Wilde

 blue gold

Though we expected this documentary to be frivolous, it turned out to be entertaining and smart.

Blue Gold: American Jeans tells the story of how the fashion-plate pants of the Old West have become a big business and an art form. Yes, you will regret having tossed out those moth-eaten old pair of blue jeans. They are worth thousands of dollars today.

Oh, the film traces the historical process of how jeans are made with indigo dye and rivets by Levi Strauss, or Lee, or Wrangler. You will surely learn how the business of fashionable jeans in America has gone to the Far East.

This little film compiles everything you want to know about blue jeans—from Calvins to Brooke Shields with nothing next to her. Every morsel of trivia about blue jeans is here. And, you can’t be much closer to a subject than how it fits and shapes your scrotum and ass.

Authentic blue jeans are indeed valuable, especially in Japan nowadays. Collectors travel the Midwest and Nevada to find old trunks with old trunks. You will not find many documentaries that will combine Bob Dylan, Bruce Lee, with Iggy Pop and James Dean.

It struck us that those looking for authentic jeans, worn by real workers years ago, are actually big phonies. They never worked for their jeans, but they paid thousands of dollars for the privilege of looking like blue collar types in their pantaloons.

With a main host who looks a great deal like John Goodman on a lark, the film will not make your butt look fat.

Directed with holes in the right places by Christian D. Bruun, the film is sheer delight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unusual True Ghost Story Revealed

DATELINE:  New Book about Spirit from Titanic Disaster?

mystery kindle coverIn his new book Mysterious Mill Circle, almost as an addendum, Dr. William Russo has finally told part of the true story about the strange activities at the former estate of two victims of the Titanic disaster.

In the final chapter of the new book comes the revelation about a possessed doll and its strange connection to the Titanic.

For years the story has circulated privately and quietly among local residents of the sleepy New England town where two victims of the Titanic were born and raised. Only one is buried nearby when his body was recovered. The other was never found in the North Atlantic.

Is the spirit or ghost taking hold of a doll version of Edvard Munch’s “The Silent Scream”? According to the author, the inflatable doll deflates and inflates on its own. But, that is only part of the mystery.

scream up close  “Silent Scream”

Previously Dr. Russo told the story of the victims in his nonfiction biography entitled Tales of a Titanic Family, but that historical work did not explain some of the paranormal activities associated with the neighborhood where the victims formerly lived.

The book also contains several tales of grotesque and odd wildlife on Mill Circle.

Now on Amazon in both paperback and e-book versions (strictly for smart readers).

 

 

 

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