Friday, July 25, 2008

The Golden Ganesh Status

Update 8/1/08:

In case you haven't been around lately, The X-Spot was off the air temporarily, due to a mistaken characterization of it as spam.

We’ve only got one major role left: Dee. Gee, a smart Aussie student. Where can we find one of those? Well, if we can't find anyone to play the part of Dee, I have several contingency plans in mind.

Also, if you have friends (cyber or meatspace) and family who might want in on the action, we still have a few bit roles.

Performance Issues

Those of you who’ve sent in recordings have raised some issues. So to clarify:

1. The name ‘Smythe’ rhymes with ‘writhe’ (long ‘i’)
2. Bob’s last name, Toricello, is pronounced Tor-a-SELL-o
3. Ignore the directions V.O., O.S. and b.g. Those are for me, not you. Record the lines marked as such just like all the others.
4. I know how to simulate a telephone call from a land line. Does anyone know how to simulate one from a cell phone?
5. I’m currently gathering special effects. Some of the hardest to find are cell phone cackle, and a decent city park. If you come across them, send them my way at
6. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me.
7. The statue's name is pronounced ga-NESH.

This is the last organizational post for The Golden Ganesh on The X-Spot. I’m going to continue this over at my test site.

Keep up the good work. I have high hopes for the project, and it’s been fun working on it. I hope you guys have fun with it too.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

I Gotta Barn Called The Golden Ganesh

In case you're wondering why I've got the same post up day in and out, it's because it's easier to organize this thing. As you can tell, we're making good progress in the casting, and we've received some test recordings from Foam and SJ that are quite (we can now add acting to SJ's list of talents) in addition to the really good ones from Pjazzypar. So, it looks like we're moving along.

Only seven major roles to cast. I'm gonna start horsecollaring people soon, so it looks like we'll indeed get to the minimum. If anyone has friends or relatives that want a small role, or one of the available leads, direct them here.

Since there seems to be some interest in pursuing this further, I’ll present to you The Golden Ganesh (click here to download the script--if that link doesn't work, try the one graciously provided by Jgrrrl here; Adobe Acrobat required). It’s a radio drama comprised of sixteen episodes lasting approximately five minutes each.

The Story

An insurance company hires a private investigator to recover The Golden Ganesh, an ancient relic allegedly imbued with magical powers. Someone stole it in broad daylight in front of witnesses, none of who saw the actual theft.

The Roles

I separated the parts into several categories. The private investigator looking for the Ganesh is the star, for he narrates, has the most lines, and is present in every episode. Two of the episodes consist entirely of narration, background conversations, and sound effects. The Co-Stars are the principals, people who appear in several or more episodes. The Featured categories are for roles that actually speak in one or two episodes, but have an important role in them. The Bit Parts are those consisting of one or two lines in a single episode.

The Detective—Hard-boiled private eye, low tolerance for anything, least of all BS (Ricardo)

Announcer (Mr. Foam)
Bob—Articulate, mild-mannered police detective (JohnB)

Lynn—Canadian comedienne, fading ingénue (Jgrrrl)
Felicity—Tall Amazonian bleach-blonde genius (K9/She)

Dee—Australian artist and exit-counselor with absolutely no tolerance for BS
Diane—Hip young criminologist (Foam)
Jenny—Gorgeous; a genius on three subjects; clueless about everything else (Holy Cannoli)
Franklin—Tall, strapping comic (Rayke)
Futon Cops--Faceless, yet effective criminologist (SJ)

Featured Roles
Smythe—A hard-bitten veteran of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (X. Dell)
MacBrian—A brown-nosing cop always looking for career advancement (Rayke)
Col. Michelle Smith—Wacky, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist and cult leader
Captain—A wise commanding police officer (Pjazzypar)
Judge Ewing—Elderly Hippie type (Boneman)
Indra—Almost mechanical little man. (Nunya)
Pete—Supercilious police Lt. (Crushed by Ingsoc)

Bit Parts
2nd FBI Agent (Yinyang)
Caterer (Pjazzypar)
Driver (Crushed by Ingsoc)
1st FBI Agent (Pjazzypar)
Homeless Man (Mr. Foam)
Homeless Woman (K9/She)
Hostess (Pjazzypar)
Machine Dialer (Pamela Ringgold)

Mounted Cop (Boneman)
Mr. Johnson
Old friend (Yinyang)
Old professor (Pjazzypar)
Rude Cop (Pamela Ringgold)
Student (Foam Jr.)
Voice Machine (Boneman)

Those of you reluctant to make a commitment to the project are nevertheless invited to take one of the bit parts (consider it a blogger cameo). Below are detailed instructions on how to do this (a simple, high-tech way, and an even simpler, low-tech, analogue way).

We need a minimum of sixteen different people to make the leads and featured performers distinguishable. We could then double-up on the bit parts and take turns as the announcer, as needed (but I’m hoping more people will feel inclined to join us as things progress—after all, no one likes to be left out).

By the way, if you have friends or family who’d like to join us, they’re welcome too.

The story is set in New York, so accents simply don’t matter (except in the case of Smythe, Lynn and Dee). Although these roles have a gender assigned to them, I could very easily rewrite most of them. The star role, the detective, will work fine for a woman, as would Bob, Franklin, Judge Ewing, the Captain and so on. So if you see a role you want, but it’s not the right sex, tell me, and I’ll fix it for you.

The Method

We have two ways to do this; one digital, one analogue. The digital method is obviously the highest quality. Yet I sense some might not have the time to learn new software.

Required: A tape recorder, audiotape (fifteen minutes at least per-side), a microphone (preferably an external mike, but a condenser mike—the one built into the tape recorder-- will do in a pinch for many of the bit parts), a stamp and an envelope.

1. Recite your lines into the tape player and record.
2. E-mail me at for an address.
3. Put the tape in an envelope, slap some postage on it, and drop it in the mailbox.

Required: Audacity freeware, a computer (Windows or Mac), a microphone or headset with an eighth-inch plug. Note: if you have other software that creates mp3, ram, wma or wav files, you may use that instead of Audacity.

1. Plug in the microphone or headset.
2. Download Audacity, if you do not already have it.
3. Open Audacity and your Windows Volume Control program (most of you should find Volume Control under All Programs>Accessories>Entertainment; if not, search your C drive for it from the Start Menu).
4. Say a few words (like “Testing one, two, three”) in order to get a sound check. Adjust the Volume Control (under microphone) to get a good level. On Audacity, watch the green bars on top. They should go as far to the right as possible without peaking (i.e. without getting any red tips on the end).
5. Press the red record button, and recite your lines. Record for each episode separately. When done, press the stop button.
6. When done with an episode, click File, Export as MP3. Audacity will then convert your recording to an mp3 file, and save it to your hard drive.
7. Send the mp3 file as an attachment to


Just try to sound as natural, and as in character, as you can.


Some of you are gravitating toward certain roles. Pjazzy has already sent me the mp3 for her part (it was good, too). I'm going to indicate who's interested in what. Completely in boldface=The mp3 is recorded, and in my possession Boldface in blue=Someone has taken the role.

If you have problems downloading the file, e-mail me at, and I'll send it to you that way. Unfortunately, DivShare isn't working consistently today.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

I Gotta Barn: A Proposal

From the moment I first heard Middle Ditch, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could, as a cybercommunity, get together to put on our own radio drama, and then post it?”

After thinking about it, I realized that it would be physically possible for each of us to act scenes, and edit them together with sound effects and music. But in this instance, can a cybercommunity do what a meatspace community can?

I’d like to test this hypothesis. It will involve all of you.

What I am proposing is that we create a radio drama. I don’t have a barn, but I do have Audacity and a script. If you can stick a microphone into the back of your computer, speak lines, and e-mail the mp3 recordings, then I can edit them here.

I know this is something we can, theoretically, do. But can we actually do it? Before I propose anything further, is it something that you would like to participate in?

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Gotta Barn: The Detour through Feckenham Swarberry

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about the blogosphere is the amazing talent just waiting for someone to enjoy it. Over the years I’ve enjoyed the paintings, sketches, photographs and crafts of our good friends K9 and Foam. Knowing that these two wonderful artists can manage a livelihood from their ken is a true blessing. Likewise, I love rooting for Rinda Elliot, especially now that she’s got a new agent, and I have recently enjoyed Charles Gramlich’s Swords of Talera, the first of what a three (soon to be four) part series. Rinda, I’d love to see on the NYT Bestsellers list. And all you have to do is take a peek at Charles’ Wikipedia entry to get a hint that his train might be picking up steam. I’m hoping that it will arrive soon at a theatre near you.

One of the first people I had the pleasure of knowing in this cyberspace was another talented individual who goes by the name Cocaine Jesus. I met him courtesy of Da Gal from Minnesota. She, along with out dear friend Enemy of the Republic, co-wrote a now-defunct blog, Utility Fish Erotica. Right away, the quality of his writing stood out. His characters, many of who existed in some past era, were interesting, often virtuous. It was fascinating to read about them, their situations, and their era. Reflecting a firm understanding of history and psychology, his stories, torrid as they could be at times, didn’t encroach the fine line between sensual and tawdry, let alone cross it. And it takes a fine writer to know the difference between erotica and sleaze.

So it came as no surprise to me that CJ could just as adroitly pen a PG story. Still, I marveled at its hidden sophistication, it’s humble down-home charm, and it’s humor.

Actually, it’s downright hilarious.

I’m referring to The Village Tales of Feckenham Swarberry. Set in a fictional small town quite reminiscent of Monique Caddy’s Middle Ditch, Feckenham Swarberry is part mystery, part Keystone Kops, and part Peyton Place. There isn’t really a plot so much as there are lots of mini-plots, which include, among other things, an underwear thief. Each subplot develops nicely, yet the true strength of Feckenham is its characters: the awkwardly lovesick cop; the pretty shopkeeper he desires; the retired military officer always on call for one last mission; the straight-as-an-arrow American expatriate, the prim schoolmarm with a secret past, and of course, Reverend Elvis.

If you search for the town of Feckenham Swarberry on the Web, you won’t find it. Perhaps that’s because CJ has done what I hoped he would. He’s written it as a book and is currently looking for a publisher.

You see, in the I-gotta-barn world that we call the Internet, we can become “the media.” As much as CJ can be a novelist, Foam and She/K9 visual artists, and Monique a radio producer, I can be a reviewer.

Although CJ is a cyberpal, that doesn’t have any bearing on my views of Feckenham Swarberry. It’s an amazingly fun read, one that a lot of people--those who love literature, and even a lot who don’t--will enjoy.

So to all you would-be publishers out there, what the #@$! are you waiting for?


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Saturday, July 12, 2008

I Gotta Barn in the Middle of the Ditch

A few months back, I sorta found gold, or rather it found me.

You see, I’m a big fan of radio drama, and a frequent visitor to the Old Time Radio site for episodes of Nero Wolfe¸ X Minus One, and The Jack Benny Show. I love these shows. But here’s the thing: they’re situated in a past reality that I never saw. No one during the ‘30s or ‘40s could even conceive of such things as the ubiquity of television, or the end of Jim Crow, much less the Internet, the Green movement, or any of the stuff that constitutes our lives today.

So imagine my joy when Monique Caddy, the writer, director and co-star of a new radio drama happened by The X-Spot.

The show’s called Middle Ditch. From the comments, I know that some of you have already indulged in its charm and humor, which ranges from dry to slapstick. For those of you who remain unaware, it’s a tale of local politics, sex, innocence, infidelity, amnesia, homicide, sibling rivalry, and the occasional second-hand cannibalism, set in a semi-rural one-horse town of about 200 residents. If you haven’t listened to it, you’re missing out on all the fun. But have no fear. All of the shows are archived, and I recommend them highly.

Middle Ditch originated as Monique’s contribution to a project titled “A Woman’s Guide in Saving the World.” The inspiration for her piece, “The Village Debate,” came from an incident witnessed by her husband, David Caddy, which occurred during the 1980s. As Monique explained to me in a recent e-mail:

David was then invited to join one of the first local ‘Green’ groups. Curious, he went to one of its meetings fully expecting that local issues would be discussed. Bemused he found that instead the group focused on South America and third world issues and ignored local concerns. This was filed at the back of my head and I used that for my contribution. ‘The Village Debate’ was born.

David was invited by MiPOradio to write and record ‘So Here We Are: Poetic Letters From England’ (link is on MD). One evening we discussed the possibility of creating a radio serial based on ‘The Village Debate’ and putting it on a blog. We contacted some friends and asked them to take part. ‘The Village Debate’ was rewritten with a different ending and became the first episode of Middle Ditch. We recorded the first seven episodes last year August and put the first two online.
Here, we see the I-gotta-barn principle working at its very best. You have a group of friends who have come together. Using their skills as writers and radio performers, they were able to give life to a cast of characters that not only amuses the folks back home in England, but those of us in the Western Hemisphere too.

Like many such projects that I see on the Internet, Middle Ditch has, at its base, a group of people performing together in meatspace and time, who then post to the Net. Thus, they act in ways traditionally thought of as communal. Monique went on to write:

We come together six times a year and record several episodes in our Stourpaine Studio (David’s office). We rehearse in the lounge and then record in David’s office. Everybody gives his/her time for free and after each recording session we go to our local pub for a meal and discuss future storylines.
At the end of the e-mail, she adds, “I hope that this information is useful.”

Actually, it’s more than useful. It’s inspirational.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

I Gotta Barn

Scholars are currently debating on whether the relationships formed here in cyberspace constitute networks or actual communities. After two and a half years of blogging, I’m under the opinion that they represent both.

The ability to reach out to people who share a common interest with you is unparalleled. You need only go to a person’s Blogger profile, and click a link under their favorite book, movie, music etc. to network with other posters who are into the same things you are. We also branch out (especially in the early stages) to those commenting on the blogs we frequent. For these and other reasons, one would have difficulty claiming that networking isn’t a key component of what we’re doing here.

At the same time, I’ve noticed that after a certain networking phase has begun, people begin to settle into something more characteristic of a community. We begin to choose our neighbors, as some of our early commenters fade away, and others enter later on a more long-term basis. Like neighbors, there are things we go through together: illnesses, holidays (in myriad nations), life, and unfortunately death.

One thing a meatspace community can do is come together to create events, wherein everyone rallies together to provide a good time for all: a grand picnic for the Fourth of July, perhaps, or maybe even a small play.

If you’ve ever seen some of those movies from the 1930s, during the height of the Great Depression, you’ll recall that oftentimes country characters, wishing to entertain themselves and their friends, decide to put on a show. Problem is, they can never think of a venue to host it until one of the characters realizes, “Hey! I’ve got a barn! We can do it there!”

Nowadays, the phrase “I’ve got a barn!” refers to any amateur production that has to improvise the wherewithal to achieve its goal of homemade amusement. This was especially true in the ‘30s, when the only electronic media were radio, records and movies, and all of those cost precious money. But the tradition continued long after the New Deal’s resignation into history.

Back during my days in rural Ohio, I participated in this type of entertainment, because some friends and I got bored with going out and getting hammered every night. I don’t remember who started it, but we were talking about the 1960s musical Hair. We’d all seen the movie (in fact, most of us saw it together), but only one of us had seen the actual play in New York. He kept telling us about the differences in plotline and such. Well, I went to the bathroom for a second, and by the time I came out they were all talking about actually putting on the play themselves, just because it was something to do, and we were curious to see it.

Mind you, each of us had downed at least ten kamikazes and a gallon of beer by this time. So I didn’t really think we’d do it come the morning after. But lo and behold, by the end of the week we were pooling our money together to rent the license, book and score of the play from Tams-Witmark.

For a stage, we had something even better than a barn, namely a natural amphitheatre. Never mind the fact that we were constantly chasing off deer during the rehearsal, and from the director’s perch I could see cornfields in the distance. For all intents and purposes, we had just brought the East Village (NYC) to the middle of the sticks.

And others were keen to help. There were people in the community who had mothballed their “hippy” clothes from the 1960s, and Vietnam vets, who provided us with costumes, in exchange for a ticket. The county inspector condemned our set as unsafe, so a group of local carpenters built us a much better (not to mention safer) set.

Over its brief three-day run, our production of Hair sold 2,500 tickets, giving us barely enough money to even our account with Tams-Witmark. So what? The memories of the experience and the fun lasted years.

If you Google the phrase, you’ll see the I-gotta-barn spirit is alive and well. You’ll find numerous examples of people getting together with their meatspace friends, recording songs with their ProTools and mixing them down to mp3s, and posting them. Hop on over to YouTube, and you’ll find everyday folk putting on shows with their friends.

Of course, one need not go as far as Google or YouTube to find the I-gotta-barn spirit in action. It exists right here in our own back cyberyard.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Soul-Stirring Difference between Y & Z: Epilogue

Elisa Boyer, like the fantasy Elisa Bozer, used the lure of sex, followed by a false charge of rape, to foster somebody’s destruction. I only consciously became aware of Elisa Boyer’s existence in 1998 as the woman who began the chain of events that led to Sam Cooke's death. So, the revelation was eerie when it happened. I couldn’t help thinking that my former girlfriend, whom I recognized at the time as my own inspiration for Bozer, had done something along the same lines.

Of course, I realize that there exists a very rational, and mundane explanation for all this. The thing was, I always knew who Elisa Boyer was. I’d simply forgotten that I knew. In fact, I probably learned of Boyer’s name in 1964, but simply blacked it out, because my toddler mind couldn't accept the horror of the news. Perhaps the most compelling confirmation of this theory came when I finally got my hands on a photograph of Boyer as she appeared in 1964. She looked nothing like Elisa Bozer. Since I based my template for her on a sparse description that contained no pictures, my unconscious mind would have to pick up the slack in creating a fantasy Eurasian woman who reminded me of my girlfriend. So when a parallel event happened in my own life, my unconscious mind went back, and dug up the most easily accessible metaphor it had.

Since 1998, I’ve also learned the degree to which such oligopolistic entities as Clear Channel Communication have taken over radio broadcasting. Nowadays, media corporations do intense demographic studies, and feed the data into a computer, which aids the making of a playlist. So, if a corporation owns several stations in the same market, the computer might highlight a specific artist over a certain period, instructing each individual station to play said artist at particular times of day. Were Cooke one of those artists facing a heavy rotation cycle, then these stations might have played his music at the same general time, but not at the precise moment. For someone like me, who channel hops, were I to go from one corporate-owned station to another, it might seem somewhat paranormal, or mystical. One need not subscribe to that point of view to see that the coincidences prompted my conscious mind to explore the trail that seemed so apparent.

I'm not really given to fancy. Still, I have to admit that I kinda like the notion that I loved a distant icon, and that he loved me too; enough to win back my affection after decades; to be with me through a stressful examination, and to see me through a dangerous romantic encounter.

I especially like the notion that Sam's music or spirit is still around. In April of this year, my last surviving grandparent passed away, and an overriding sadness enveloped me when I realized that whole generation was now gone forever. I intended this series to honor Grandma X, since dancing with her to Sam Cooke records was arguably the fondest memory I had of our entire relationship.

And suddenly, the series became much more when something, what Erik Greene described as “kismet,” led him to The X-Spot, so that he could take an active role in discussing, correcting, and adding to the conversation and to my writing.

I’m deeply grateful to Greene for his original research into this matter, and for his presence here, and I thank him.

As for Sam, I’m really not usually given to fancy. Yet, I have a more important reason to thank him.

He left behind a lot of great music. If the man is someday forgotten, at least his songs will endure--as Ms. Winehouse could tell you.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Soul-Stirring Difference between Y & Z: Context & Speculation

In commentary on the previous post, our friend SJ astutely noted that while we might have no reason to consider the official story true, we don’t have evidence (at least at this time) to form a case against any suspect or group. The problem is that much of the evidence that would have indicated guilt was either “lost,” exaggerated, or simply never collected, thus, making a case against an individual or group unlikely, and that’s a shame.

So, I don’t really feel compelled (at the moment) to collect evidence that is no longer extant, and form a legal case against anyone. Throughout this series, I’ve been thinking, trying to imagine a new approach to investigation that might shed more light on this subject. But that's not what I intended for this series. What I wanted to do here was (1) shed light on one of my favorite musicians, so that readers can find out more about him; (2) counter a story about Cooke, which I knew to be untrue; and (3) to honor my last surviving grandparent, for we shared a love of Sam Cooke’s music. Yet mainstream narratives repeat this story, often with little examination or question. In so doing, they have recklessly clouded his legacy, and in the process obscured some of the most important realities of rock and roll of this era.

Though I cannot make a case against anyone, I can still observe the facts at hand and speculate about what actually happened that night. I obviously cannot guarantee the accuracy of what follows, and thus feel inclined to emend my hypotheses in light of new information. At the same time, I’m confident that this scenario is far more consistent with the evidence than the official story. First off, I’d like to share a couple of details that help the pieces fall into place.

(1) The gun used to kill Cooke had fired three shots. One was the fatal shot that killed Cooke. The second hit the ceiling, ricocheted, and embedded itself into a wall. The third bullet was never found.

(2) Police described the walls of the office as splattered with blood. Yet no photographs of these walls remain. In fact the only crime scene photographs I have seen contain minimal amounts of blood. They say that Franklin too is covered in blood. Yet, earlier in this series I posted this picture (left) of Franklin taken from the crime scene. The blood is not only minimal, but, as Greene notes, also splotchy, unlike a naturally occurring spray. If the police overstated this evidence, then we have good reason to suspect that they also exaggerated with respect to the amount of blood on the walls. Furthermore, as you can see, there are no marks on her face, which you would expect from someone who claimed to have just been in a tussle for her life.

(3) Police considered the Hacienda office as the homicide scene, and focused their attention there, not on the motel room.

With this in mind, my belief is this: somehow, Cooke realized that Klein had stolen Tracey Limited.  Somebody within the circle of small dogs got word that Cooke would fire Klein and take legal action to take back his corporation. Somehow, someone had to deal with Sam Cooke before he could begin the fight to maintain his independence. Either trailing him, or finding out beforehand where Cooke would be, someone set up Jim Benci and Elisa Boyer to be at Martoni’s that night.

Benci’s role was simple--to pass off Boyer to Cooke without raising suspicion. Otherwise, it might have looked strange in those days for Boyer to approach Cooke on her own. Because she might have actually known Cooke beforehand, she could have approached him openly by herself, but that would have alerted everyone at Martoni’s that they had met earlier.

Boyer performed the first part of her function rather well, namely to separate Cooke from his friends Al and Joan Schmidt. She, and perhaps others there, delayed Cooke from leaving Martoni’s, so by the time he arrived at PJ’s, the Schmidts had given up hope of seeing him there, and left.

While at PJ’s, Cooke got into an argument with another man, presumably because of Boyer. As Greene pointed out earlier here, witnesses described Cooke as noticeably drunk, even though his reported blood alcohol level (0.14) should not have caused such an impression, if for no other reason than the fact that Sam had a reasonable tolerance for drink. It therefore seems likely that the incapacitation process began, as Greene says, at Martoni’s. The most likely agent of the doping: Boyer. That would have been her second function.

Perhaps the purpose of the PJ’s incident was literally to cause a scene, to give potential witnesses the impression that Cooke was violent and reckless. That someone would care to go to this length to establish Cooke’s frame of mind is interesting to me, for it suggests that whoever directed the action that night didn’t have an exact outcome in mind. But if their goal was to blackmail Cooke on spurious rape charges, Cooke would have made it easier for others to believe that he was either drunk, deranged, or both, and therefore likely to commit a violent act.

Outside PJs, someone accosted Sam as he approached his car. I believe that some of the violence Cooke suffered could have been there. That would account for blood and skin in the car, if that part of the story is indeed correct. It would also account for the marks on his face. Because Sam had been accosted, drugged, and possibly beaten, this other party drove Boyer and Cooke to the Hacienda, while someone else followed in another car. (It’s my understanding that such parties usually work in groups of two or more.)

Cutting out Klein from his life meant that Cooke had curtailed any benefits the small dogs and their masters might have derived from Sam’s work, and the purpose of this encounter would be to convince him to change his mind. They had fooled around long enough with him, and were now determined to make him get with the program, or else. Offing Cooke would have been the last resort, for it would mean killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Because of her near self-admission that she had been at the scene of the crime, I’m inclined to believe that the small dogs also sent Barbara Cooke to the Hacienda, in an effort to help them persuade her husband to remain with Klein. In such a circumstance, I would expect her to do as they say, for Sam wanted to cut ties with her too. If so, she would have given up the comfortable lifestyle to which she had become accustomed.

Once at the Hacienda, manager Bertha Franklin, most likely understanding what was going on, checked one of the thugs into a room. Either he signed the registration card as Sam, and then re-signed, or he signed it as Cooke and left it at that. We only know that someone signed in as Cooke because of police observation and Franklin’s statements. Yet, the registration card itself is missing, so we don’t know really whose handwriting is on it. If Sam had actually signed in under his own name, then no one would have caused the registration card to disappear. After all, it makes the story of the sex-crazed maniac all the more believable because it demonstrates intention to go specifically to that place, and for one believable reason.

They then took Cooke to a motel room. At this point Boyer might have been with him or not. I’d guess the small dogs took her inside. There’s no sense in letting potential witnesses get a good look at her as she milled around the parking lot. They laid out their ultimatum, and Cooke refused. They then took a heavy blunt object, and attempted to beat him into submission, causing defensive injuries to his hands, and a swelling on the back of his head, most likely from an ensuing concussion.

At some point, the attention of the perpetrators wandered, maybe because they wanted to conference with each other. Perhaps sensing one last, desperate shot at life and liberty, Sam, dazed and confused, bolted suddenly out of the door, and hustled across the parking lot towards the manager’s office. One of the goons fired a shot from his twenty-two, perhaps errantly, perhaps as a warning. Sam reached the door of the office, where he tried to get help from Franklin. However, Franklin, savvy to the ways of the world, would have none of that.

Cooke’s attackers soon caught up with him. It would be awkward to deal with him out in the open, where a car (especially a patrol car making the rounds) might see them. So they busted down the office door, literally dragging him inside. In the process Sam chipped his fingernails (as Greene speculates) in a futile effort to claw away from them on the sidewalk. Once inside, they gave Cooke one last chance, firing a warning shot that hit the ceiling, and went into the wall.

Beaten, exhausted, and still drugged, Sam refused for the last time. The attacker closest to him fired a single shot that he knew, from experience, would be fatal.

The execution now complete, these men, professional as they were, knew that they only needed to give police a story that they could sell to the public. It probably took them a few minutes to decide on and improvise a self-defense scenario involving the attempted rape of Elisa Boyer. They both intimidated and bribed Franklin, Boyer, Alex Prado and other witnesses to play along (an anonymous source related to Greene that witnesses were paid off). After all, as Alfred Hitchcock used to say, a horse with a carrot in front of it and a stick behind it tends to go any direction you want it to.

After Cooke’s execution, Allen Klein hires attorney Marty Machat to represent the family at the coroner’s inquest. Machat proves to be so passive that he allows the prosecution and presiding medical examiner to repeatedly mispronounce his name. Moreover, Machat allows Boyer to slip off of the witness stand, without asserting his right to question her. He doesn't even raise an objection. While publicly Klein dismissed the official story, the lawyer he hired didn’t seem to make much of an effort to dislodge it from the record or from the mediasphere.

Klein also hired a private investigator, ostensibly determined to get to the bottom of Cooke’s murder. Initially, something puzzled me about this. A private eye would have come across the paperwork that chronicled the surreptitious transfer of Tracey Limited from Cooke to Klein sooner or later. He would have then figured that Klein himself had motive for murder. Because of Our Uncle Sam, I’m now thinking that Klein hired an investigator because he wanted to see how easy it might have been for someone to connect him to the events of that night--by finding, for example. the original incorporation documents now missing from the Nevada state archives. Klein said that he canceled the investigation on Barbara Cooke’s request. I don’t know if that’s really the reason he ended it, but it would make sense for Barbara to stop an investigation that might place her at the scene of the crime.

Barbara probably never got a chance to play her intended role the night of the murder. Yet, she had in her possession what the others had killed for, namely the rights to Sam’s licensing. She indirectly sold it to ABKCO via Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore. The sale wouldn’t have raised suspicion were it not for the ridiculously bargain basement price.

I would like to point out that I finished the above paragraphs weeks before reading Our Uncle Sam, and changed some items (as noted) to reflect what I learned from Erik Greene’s 2006 biography. I don’t know why I was surprised that a good deal of what I wrote concurred with a possible scenario that Greene considered plausible. Still, I took that as affirmation that a reasonable person can view the evidence this way.

Meanwhile, Klein still controls the Sam Cooke catalogue. Over the years, he’s quashed a mini-series about Cooke by refusing to grant license for his music. After all, how can one produce a movie or TV show about any musician without that musician’s music? (I’ve actually seen this done in bios of other musicians; the results are not good.) J.W. Alexander passed away quietly in 1996, as did Sam’s dad, the Rev. Charles Cook. His mother's death occurred in 1967.

Bertha Franklin returned to her hometown of Detroit in 1965. According to Wolff et al she passed away from a massive coronary the fall of that year. However, Greene gives the year 1989 as the date of her passing. I’m going with Greene here, for Wolff et al didn’t seem entirely sure of Franklin's fate.

The last I heard of Elisa Boyer, she was still serving a twenty-five to life sentence for second-degree murder.

As for the rest of us, we can't prove what happened on that night. We can only disprove the scurrilous version of events given to history. Maybe someday we'll be in a position to change history’s perception.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Soul-Stirring Difference between Y & Z: The Mob, the Thief, the Wife & Her Lover

Why do you think Sam Cooke is dead? Everyone thinks he was murdered in a motel. Oh, he was murdered, all right. He was murdered because he got out of line. I got it from the horse’s mouth. Cooke was told he had a big mouth, to stay in line, and he didn’t do it…You can only go so far
--Elvis Presley, quoted by Erik Greene
Whatever way you view this, the official story of Sam Cooke’s death isn’t believable. It runs counter to known evidence, and is almost exclusively based on the accounts of eyewitnesses, two of them easily proven to have lied at the coroner's inquest. I’m thus quite certain that Bertha Franklin did not kill Cooke in self-defence, and fairly sure that she didn’t shoot him at all. Furthermore, I’m quite confident that he didn’t attempt to rape Elisa Boyer that night. As it turned out, “foolin’ with some woman” had no bearing on this case.

I’d like to ruminate on a few things before offering speculation as to why someone killed Cooke, and how. We have a rough idea of who might have given the go-ahead for the actions and potential counteractions that night. We can also begin to respond to Enemy of the Republic’s burning question: who benefited?

The Mob

Sam had always faced extortion attempts from a shadowy group he constantly referred to as “small dogs.” I believe this was Cooke’s euphemism for ‘Mafia.’

In his book Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money inside the Music Business, Fredric Dannen chronicles the interrelationship between the Mafia and the music industry from the 1890s to the 1980s, showing but a tiny glimpse into this seamy side of rock and roll. Because of my own experience, and that of my research informants (whom I won’t name), I would say that despite the importance of Dannen’s research, the book vastly underestimates the pervasiveness of organized crime within the music industry

That’s not to say that organized crime is the music industry, or that it even runs the music industry. Think of it more as a nexus of common business concerns. The Mafia has played a historic role in the distribution and promotion of recordings in exchange for high fees. Thus, both the industry and the mob profited from this arrangement.

Frank DeSimone (left), the capo of the LA mob at the time of Cooke’s death, undoubtedly had ties to the music industry, and controlled the city’s vice rackets. That’s important to keep in mind because of the involvement of a prostitute (Elisa Boyer) and a part-time record label employee (Jim Benci/Liberty Records).

What’s also important to note is what Dr. Rodney Muhammad said in his review of the pathology report. He noted several signs of Mafia involvement:

Possible Mob Signatures to warn others? Body found with one shoe on and in a Black Jacket, car was left untouched and running (how could Elisa steal his clothes and wallet but leave his car keys?), bullet was expertly delivered through the heart and lungs (instantaneous death). Add to all this that his alleged signature at the hotel was never analyzed in court [capitalization original].
Dr. Muhammad refers in part to the .22, the gun favored by the Mafia in similar slayings. He also mentions the expertise required to inflict the mortal wound. That authorities found the Ferrari with ignition on suggests that theft played no actual part of the events of that night.

The one shoe off and one shoe on thing might seem puzzling at first. To be honest, I’ve not heard of this specifically. Yet, I have heard about things like it. When researching a screenplay, I had an opportunity to talk to somebody who had worked as a hitperson, and through this learned something important. Eliminating a potential threat represents just one aspect of a hit. Oftentimes, the method and “signatures” of a hit serve as a means of communication.

Because organized crime simply cannot function without the corruption of public officials, some hits have certain signifiers, which serve to alert anyone investigating the crime to back off. As I said, I never heard of the one shoe method, but that would suffice, for who would wear only one shoe, even in an emergency? It sticks out, and is not something that would occur frequently. So, that would make a good sign.

In other words, Sam's death had “Mafia” written all over it.

The Thief

Cooke was determined to keep control of his royalties and copyright, and threats would not stop him. Up until 1963, Sam had a lot of light on him, for at the time, he was an A-list celebrity. That could have posed a dilemma, with respect to carrying out violence against him. It might not have stopped the execution of a threat. At the same time, it could have delayed a final decision.

I believe Allen Klein might have entered the picture, secretly under the aegis of this Mafia/industry nexus. Where threats didn’t work, maybe sabotage, an inside job, could. When looking at Klein’s career, one can easily see him as an artist-wrecker. Although failing to break-up the Stones, he managed to take control of some of their most important work. He played an instrumental role in breaking up the Beatles. In the case of Herman’s Hermits, he took control of their catalogue through the Reverse Productions Corporation, a company similar in structure to Tracey Limited.

Klein’s relationship to Cooke reminds me somewhat of that between Michael Jeffery and Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix’s kidnapping, by people he described as Mafiosos, forced him to retain his ties to Jeffery, despite the manager’s glaring incompetence (among other things, he booked the ill-fated tour with the Monkees). His abductors explained to him that Jeffery had ties to them and their business concerns, through some nebulous connection. Like Klein, Jeffery took control of the artist’s work through a corporation (Yameta, in Hendrix’s case) over which he claimed ownership and asserted total control (with none for the artist). Those who kidnapped Hendrix told him that they would kill him if he broke away from Jeffery. Sure enough, Hendrix died one week after firing him. Cooke was murdered while in the process of dissolving his ties with Klein.

Klein said that he couldn’t fly out to LA to sit with the family on the 12th because the flights from New York were cancelled due to snow. So, according to Wolff et al, he called S.R. Crain and asked him to fly out from Chicago to help Barbara and other family take care of the arrangements. Yet Greene couldn’t really pinpoint the exact time Klein arrived in Los Angeles. All the New York airports had flights cancelled, but on the night of the 12th, not the morning after. This would have given him a day and a half to get there. At the same time, we have other reports that Klein was in fact there with the family on December 12th. So it remains uncertain exactly when Klein went to LA.

Until reading Our Uncle Sam, one thing that puzzled me about Klein was his hiring of a private investigator and an attorney for Barbara Cooke, followed by the subsequent dismissal of said investigator at the request of the said Mrs. Cooke. But given what transpired later, this all makes sense, now.

The Wife and Her Lover

Everyone close to Sam Cooke--family, friends, and business associates--says that if the singer practiced monogamy, he never got it right. He had a number of affairs. Greene briefly hints at the identity of a couple of Hollywood starlets who numbered among his paramours. He also had long-term sweetheart named Dot Holloway, and possibly a four-year relationship with Boyer.

At the same time, Barbara Campbell Cooke indulged in her own extracurricular activities throughout their marriage.

As a gospel star in his youth, Sam had impregnated several women within a brief span of time, one of them Barbara. After a failed marriage to singer Delores Mohawk, Cooke thought to marry one of the mothers of his children. Greene makes clear that he and other members of the Cook clan had always supported and reached out to these offspring. But the law, then as now, only allowed one wife per husband. So, he settled on Barbara. Thus, Barbara most likely always lived under a cloud knowing that he “settled on” her. She subsequently pursued other interests.

Although they both carried on extracurricular activities, Barbara seemed particularly indiscreet. Greene relates an incident where over dinner with the entire Cooke family (including the kids) and company, Barbara abruptly left the table and announced that she “had a date.” She would also pursue her social life over the telephone during the day. One day in 1963, while on the phone, their son Vincent fell into the family swimming pool and drowned. The incident dealt a major blow against an already odd marriage, which began to decline even more sharply afterwards.

Upon learning of Sam’s death, Barbara showed signs of severe emotional trauma, and on the weekend of December 12th, 1964 relied heavily on tranquilizers. As a result, she greeted mourners in a near stupor.

Most of the Cook family could accept that. What they couldn’t accept were announced intentions of marrying then-boyfriend Bobby Womack as early as January 1965. Womack’s mother disapproved of the marriage because he, at the time twenty years old, was underage. So the couple delayed the announcement until that March, after Womack celebrated his twenty-first birthday.

The sudden marriage only months after Cooke’s death infuriated some in the family. Sam’s brothers, David and Charles Cook, Jr., went to Barbara and Bobby’s hotel room the eve of the couple’s wedding with the intent to thrash Womack. Barbara brandished a gun, whereupon one of the brothers disarmed, and then pistol-whipped her.

The beating probably damaged, if not destroyed, Barbara’s loyalty to the Cook family, and might, in part have partially explained some of her later actions. She would later demonize Cooke as a “bad man.”

But a much earlier event gave the family cause for alarm. After the Chicago memorial service, while at the Cooks’ apartment, Barbara nervously blurted out “Did anyone say that they saw my car at the motel?” Confused, family members asked her to clarify, whereupon she explained that Sam might have stopped at the Hacienda the night of his death because he saw her car in the parking lot. Elaborating, she claimed that her twin sister, Beverly, was in the car, not her.

No one ever found a will after Sam’s death, although the family was sure he made one. So, the estate went to his widow. And perhaps in the most suspicious act of all, Barbara sold Cooke's publishing rights to his old producers at RCA, Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore for $103,000, a tiny micro-fraction of its actual worth. Peretti and Creatore then sold the rights the following year to a proprietary company owned by a long-time associate named Allen Klein.
While I understand that Barbara still collected a small percentage of royalties after the sale, ABKCO would continue to control the licensing of Cooke’s music to this very second.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Soul-Stirring Difference between Y & Z: The Fall Gal

Evidence strongly indicates that the explanation given at the coroner’s inquest investigating Sam Cooke’s death cannot be completely true, and could very well be completely false. According to Bertha Franklin’s testimony, Cooke busted in the door at the Hacienda, looked around the office, and then physically attacked her. He then twisted her arm, forcing her to flee, and then she grabbed her gun. In an earlier comment in this series, Erik Greene seriously challenged that notion:

For example, X, one thing you missed in retelling the story is the time in between [when] Sam allegedly broke down the door and when she grabbed her gun. In the Inquest, Franklin stated that once Sam broke down the door, he searched the rooms in the one room apartment before returning to the living room to confront her. He confronted her by grabbing and twisting her arms and pinning her on the floor--a move from which she somehow managed to escape. While tussling with Sam, she supposedly reached up and grabbed the gun off of the tv and shot him.

Let's examine this logically. NFL linemen may be able to knock doors off of hinges on the first try, but guys that stand 5'10" and weigh 160 lbs. usually struggle with these things. What was Franklin doing while Sam was trying to break the door down? If you knew you had a gun in the apartment, wouldn't you run for it as he's attempting to bash it in?
Here Greene asserts that Franklin, smaller, older, less agile, and less strong than Cooke, would not have easily gotten away from him. I would agree that’s unlikely. Still, Franklin could have had a massive adrenaline rush at the time. So, it might have been remotely possible to break his grip, even though Sam, at that time allegedly hopping mad, would have also gone through a hormonal surge. It’s even less likely that Sam could simply bust down a door. Speaking as one who has actually done that, and who’s considerably larger than Cooke, it’s not nearly as easy as it is on television. Furthermore, if Cooke had busted down the door, you’d think there would be evidence of it--a bruise, splinters in the jacket, a smudge, anything. And if Cooke had attacked her, as she said he did, we would expect to find some kind of marks on her. Yet, police didn't report any.

And, as Greene points out, Franklin took a long time to decide that she needed a gun.

Franklin said that she beat Cooke with a broomstick. Yet, whatever blunt instrument trauma Sam suffered couldn’t have come from something so flimsy. The beating left a two-inch knot on his head, and had completely smashed in his nose. Singer Etta James, who attended Sam’s funeral, noticed, along with other mourners, that in addition to the obviously brutal beating Cooke had taken about the head, his hands were badly mangled, a vivid description of defensive wounds. Others have noted this too, in addition to chipped fingernails.

Franklin also claimed to have shot him before beating him with a broomstick. Here, we have two major problems. First of all, the hotel manager’s registered handgun was a .32-caliber. The fatal shot came from a .22. If Franklin shot Cooke in self-defense, as she claimed, one would have expected her to have at least used her own gun, especially since a .22-caliber gun doesn’t have much pop from a distance. (Even though she testified she shot him at close range, the point of brandishing a weapon would have been to keep an attacker at a distance.)

Of course, mobsters and professional assassins prefer the .22 for hits up close, because they are smaller arms and more controllable. You don’t have to worry about the bullet passing through the person you want to whack, and into a person you don’t want harmed. Furthermore, you can gain a quick advantage on a person close by with less risk of them disarming you.

Dr. Rodney Muhammad, a GP licensed by the state of California, reviewed the pathology report, and posted his findings on He noted the implausibility of Franklin reaching for a .22 caliber weapon in the situation she described, especially since, according to her own testimony, she had plenty of time to grab her .32:

Normally, a .22 does not have the power or the luck to do the kind of damage that this round did. However, placed between the 3rd and 4th ribs at the mid-axillary line (under the armpit) at point-blank range, the small round avoided any collision with a rib bone or significant muscle tissue that would have kept it from penetrating the both lungs AND the heart. The shot may have also been timed to be fired when Sam was ‘breathing in’ (on inhalation) to further decrease the resistance [emphasis original].
Secondly, the original pathologist’s examination makes the sequence of events a physical impossibility. Dr. Muhammad noted that in addition to needing a much heavier instrument, Franklin would also have to have bludgeoned Cooke before shooting him. The massive swelling noted by the pathologist and mourners alike could not have occurred after a fatal gunshot wound, for reasons Dr. Muhammad makes quite obvious:

The reason I feel he was struck on the head someplace else has to do with the amount of swelling that was noted at autopsy. If the blow was delivered as Bertha said, AFTER she shot him, the swelling would be insignificant because of 2 things: volume depletion of blood and fluid due to the massive internal bleeding, (not enough fluid left to make a head blow swell) and the heart had stopped pumping altogether which would result in an aborted inflammatory response [emphasis original].
Dr. Muhammad also cites a number of problems with both the police and coroner’s investigation: no description of when rigor mortis had set in; no information about cuts, scratches or bruises to Franklin; no nitrate tests to determine if Franklin had, in fact, fired a weapon; and no determination of whether Franklin was right handed or a southpaw. Moreover, there’s the seeming disappearance of crime scene photos and other evidence. Greene adds that the deputy medical examiner who actually conducted the autopsy, Dr. Harold Kade, was evasive on the witness stand regarding key points. When asked if there were evidence of narcotics, Kade replied:

There was no indication of recent needle puncture marks, and the findings were not suggestive of a narcotic overdose or narcotics in significant quantity at the time of death.
This doesn’t answer the question of whether or not he or anyone else found drugs in Cooke’s system. True, you have a body that’s suffered blows from a blunt instrument and a shot from a handgun. But in determining contributing causes of death an investigation should be able to rule out the possibility that someone had drugged the decedent beforehand to make him more vulnerable.

At the same time, Dr. Muhammad said something perhaps more critical: he believed Sam suffered the bludgeoning someplace other than the Hacienda. Rumors exist that blood and tissue samples were found in Cooke’s Ferrari, which was running during the time of the investigation and after. If the blood and skin (described simply as “dark”) belonged to Cooke, then he couldn’t have collapsed inside the office as Franklin testified. He could have either been in the car when the assault against him began, or someplace else and driven in his own car. Although he could have made it back to the car once shot, one would have to ask why he would come back into the office where, for all he knew, more bullets and “broomsticks” awaited. If the blood and skin didn’t belong to Cooke, then that’s a whole big issue within itself, for it would indicate a struggle, most likely between Cooke and someone else. Neither Franklin nor Boyer bore any marks noted by police.

Franklin testifies incompetently as to the series of events at the coroner’s inquest, despite undergoing several revisions. She describes a scenario that’s not physically possible. Her testimony contains obvious errors, and violates both common sense and logic at critical points. Furthermore, we actually have no evidence that she shot anyone that night, other than her testimony and that of Evelyn Card, who allegedly heard the events over the telephone.

Card, the owner of the Hacienda, runs a shady hotel where she has to know illegal activity occurs. Alexander Prado, who testifies that he saw Boyer offer “resistance” en route to the motel room has offered no reason, to my knowledge, of why he was at the Hacienda in the first place. The place was a no-tell motel. I don’t know if he were there with a prostitute himself, if he were having a tawdry affair with a co-worker, or simply staying there for completely innocent reasons. It doesn’t matter. Just the fact that he is in a motor inn of ill repute makes him vulnerable to police coercion.

What this means is that other than easily discreditable eyewitness testimony, we have no evidence that (1) Cooke wound up at the Hacienda on his own volition; (2) that he was beaten at the motel’s office, with a broomstick; (3) that he attempted to force Boyer anywhere against her will, and subsequently rape her; and (4) that Franklin shot him that night. We also have documentary evidence that undermines the validity of Franklin and Boyer statements.

On the other hand, we have physical and circumstantial evidence that contradicts points two, three and four, and strongly suggests the involvement of another person who is more powerful than Franklin, and skilled at committing murder. Furthermore, any evidence that could clarify the matter has wound up either missing, never collected, or simply glossed over by authorities.

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