The Daily Beast‘s Harry Siegel tells the story of “an old friend of an old friend of” his, Louis Trumanti, an Italian-American plumbing surveyor from Queens, New York, who lives in Westchester with his Hungarian immigrant wife and toddler son. Trumanti, Siegel writes, is “a good-natured if foul-mouthed 37-year-old” Bernie Sanders supporter who etches his son Marco’s name behind the walls of the high-end Manhattan buildings he surveys.
He’s also suing the local police department where he lives in Westchester after they broke his back when his wife called 911 a year ago, afraid he was having a heart attack.
“This cop is telling me: ‘Yeah you beat your wife up. Is that the kind of man you are?’’
“I’m crying. I mean, I’ve never laid a hand on my wife. I had a great day. We had dinner and I played Call of Duty and fell asleep on the couch. Went into our bed and held my wife and fell back asleep. Wake up and there are the police taking me down—boom!—and telling me I beat my wife.
“I’m licking my lips and someone tells me to fucking stop so I do and I feel nauseous. Then tells me not to throw up, or it’s going to a big problem. They put a bag over my mouth.
“I’m crying. Is this who I am? Last thing I knew, I was falling asleep.”
Despite riches, power, and respect, some people are never satisfied. A poor North Carolina kid named Michael Thevis turned paperback smut and peep show machines into a million-dollar empire, and he shaped America’s porn industry right as laws started to relax around the ownership and production of sexually explicit material. When Thevis crossed into arson, threats, and murder, he brought himself down for good. At The Daily Beast, crime journalist Jeff Maysh gets access to Thevis’ diaries and letters to tell the full story of “The Scarface of Sex” for the first time.
Rival peep machine manufacturers emerged, included those run by Leon and Mike Sokolic, Art Sanders, and Bill Walters. Before now, the most Thevis had ever done to intimidate a rival was let off a stink bomb at a store in Baltimore. Not all competitors rolled over so easily. Nat Bailen, who manufactured a peep show machine for cartoons, started to sell his units to sex-shop owners who used them for porn. In 1970, a customer named Harry Mooney in Michigan asked to lease 50 machines from Thevis—an order so large he couldn’t meet it in time. Instead, Mooney bought his machines outright from Nat Bailen. As he would do so often, Thevis turned to Underhill.
“Something,” Thevis told him, “has to be done with Bailen.”
On April 26, 1970, Underhill drove from Atlanta to Louisville in his yellow station wagon, where he met a paid accomplice, Clifford “Sam” Wilson. In the dead of night, they broke into Bailen’s factory, carrying burglary tools and five-gallon containers of gasoline. They built a bonfire using his furniture and paperwork. When Wilson found some paint cans, he told Underhill, “Let’s really screw this guy,” and poured paint over the desks and carpets. There were four-foot-tall flames licking at the windows by the time the goons fled. Reeking of gasoline, Underhill found a pay phone at the Kentucky Turnpike, and called Thevis at the Central Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.
“Veni vidi vici,” Underhill said—I came, I saw, I conquered.
When Czarina Maria Feodorovna opened the plain white enameled egg on that early Easter day, she was met with a series of delightful surprises.
First, she found a round yolk made entirely of gold. That opened to reveal a beautiful gold hen with ruby red eyes. The midsection of the hen swung up, and inside was a small, diamond-encrusted replica of a royal crown and a tiny, delicate ruby egg.
After the fall of the Romanov dynasty, the royal art collections were plundered. The stunning Easter eggs, save one ferried away by the fleeing Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, were packed up and taken to Moscow, stashed away in a dark corner of the Kremlin Armory.
Empires fall, eggs break. Or, in this case, are sold off by Stalin to fund the regime.
Allison McNearny describes the intricate creations, their history, and the accidental discovery of one lost egg at The Daily Beast.
Alex Gibney’s much-talked about new documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief—based on Lawrence Wright’s similarly titled 2013 exposé—has been making headlines since it made its Sundance debut in January. It opened on limited screens across the country last Friday and will premiere on HBO in two weeks. In the meantime, the Church of Scientology has gone into overdrive attacking the film: taking out full page ads in major newspapers to denounce it; buying up Going Clear-related search results on Google; and trying to discredit the filmmakers and their subjects in a series of videos on the Church’s website. Scientology has long been shrouded in mystery—doubtless in large part due to the Church’s secretive practices—but the Church is also notorious for terrorizing critics and defectors. Suffice it to say they are not an easy institution to investigate. In honor of their inscrutable reputation, and with Scientology-talk nearing zenith zeitgeist, I decided to put together a reading list of stories that explore the Church from a variety of angles. Please don’t kill my dog.
Wright is nothing short of a master reporter (he won a Pulitzer for The Looming Tower, his 2006 history of al-Qaeda), and his deep investigative skills shine in this epic piece, a profile of Hollywood director and screenwriter Paul Haggis. Haggis was once one of Scientology’s most prominent members; he is now one of the Church’s most prominent defectors. This article eventually became part of Wright’s 2013 book Going Clear.
Starting in the mid-1980s, journalists Joel Sappell and Robert Welkos spent five years examining the Church of Scientology for the Los Angeles Times, ultimately producing a six-day, 24-article series (available here in its entirety) that ran in June 1990. Here—more than two decades after the fact—Sappell reflects on his unnerving experiences reporting on the Church.
Little known fact: the Church of Scientology owns more historic buildings in Hollywood than any other entity. Miller’s decision to examine the Church’s relationship to Hollywood in the context of its real estate empire makes for fascinating reading.
I read far and wide during my ten-year bit. I read all of the longest works of the world, the thousands of pages of Proust and Musil and Joyce and Tolstoy and David Foster Wallace. And I could follow whatever interested me at the time. I acquired a taste for Sir Richard Burton’s 19th century travelogues and read them all. But reading books on prison in prison is a wholly different and even surreal experience.
Prison books don’t work as a safe safari to someone else’s exotic pain when you’re locked up. Reading inside was a way of conquering time, mapping the regions of my new home and understanding what it all meant—no one is looking for armchair travel to hell when they are reading on a cot in a cell.
Solzhenitsyn was my Virgil many a time as I passed through the circles of incarceration. He taught me a personal lesson in bravery. The experience of reading books on prison in prison is rare and compelling. It is one of the only times I can think of when life imitates art to the very bleeding edge of an aluminum shank.
The story of Olympian Hope Solo, the U.S. women’s soccer star whose childhood and difficult relationship with her father—who spent time in jail for kidnapping her and her brother—shaped who she would become:
Solo’s last childhood memory of her father is from the following year. One day he reappeared in Richland, begging to take Hope and her older brother Marcus to a nearby baseball game. ‘Then we just kept driving, over the mountains, all the way to Seattle,’ she recalls. ‘We got a hotel room with a pool. We felt like we were living the life. Then I remember waking up one morning, and my dad is like, “Baby Hope, your mom just called, and she said you can stay another three days.” And I remember being like, “I didn’t hear the phone ring.” Right then, I knew that something wasn’t right.’
A day or two later, a SWAT team surrounded Solo in a downtown Seattle bank, ‘put him in the back of a police car, and hauled him off,’ leaving Hope and Marcus ‘alone and scared on the streets of a big city,’ she recalls. Before long, Child Protective Services showed up, and Judy wasn’t far behind. But Hope refused to forgive her mother for alerting the authorities. ‘I remember not talking to her the whole ride home,’ she says. ‘My dad was sitting in jail. I was a confused little girl.’
Abigail Woodcraft was seven when she indoctrinated into the Church of Scientology via an arm of the church known as Sea Org. What she endured, and how she escaped:
One of my first jobs as an official member of the Sea Org was in the security department, meaning I had to make sure people obeyed church rules and ethics. It seemed that people were always in some kind of trouble—the place felt ruled by fear. You could get in trouble for random things; for instance, someone might question why there were so many loose papers on your desk. Another thing you could get in trouble for: masturbation. Early on in my new job, I had to sit down with a man in his 40s who had admitted to masturbating, and tell him to cut it out. I was 15 years old.