Will the 2nd season of American Crime Story live up to the legacy of the 1st season? The Assassination of Gianni Versace will certainly face comparisons to The People v. O.J. Simpson. Because the O.J. miniseries was good, really good, and had a stellar cast. American culture changed so much in the 90s, so it’s important to remember how much has happened. In that era, Hollywood was still deeply ensconced in the celluloid closet. So society recoiled more so when informed, via splashy headlines, that a gay serial killer was on the loose. Andrew Cunanan, a name whispered softly in hallways, not overtly stated in polite company. Gianni Versace, did you hear what happened to him? Surely, he must be involved in sordid dealings with this gay serial killer. With the atelier dead and buried, everyone left had to figure out what to do with the company. The Versace brand would likely have died with Gianni’s passing. But somehow Donatella was able to find a way to endure the transition. She and the company survived in the face of cutthroat tastemakers’ fashion whims. Nobody believed she had a shot. Will the miniseries be just as good? My hunch says no, but stay tuned to find out and come to your own conclusion.
HELTER SKELTER – In the late sixties, Playboy magazine published an article with photos predicting: “This is the year that Sharon Tate happens …” She had already appeared in The Fearless Vampire Killers. Also, she’d appeared in the film adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s first novel–Valley of the Dolls–named after the book. She’d gone on to receive a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in this movie. Married to Roman Polanski, her director in Vampire Killers, Sharon was close to her son’s delivery date. Another one of her films had just wrapped, The Thirteen Chairs co-starring Orson Welles. Waiting for her husband’s return from filming, she spent an evening with friends after dining out at her favorite restaurant. Two weeks from giving birth, Sharon Tate was murdered by the Charles Manson family along with four other people. Including Steven Parent dead in his parked car, Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger, found deceased on the front lawn. Sharon Tate’s neck was tied with rope to Jay Sebring’s and they were found in the living room. She’d been stabbed sixteen times and died along with her unborn son. Recounting the events leading up to the murders, the true crime book entitled Helter Skelter detailed what happened that awful night. Charles Manson and his cult devotees, also known as The Family, committed the heinous crime as part of their vision of apocalypse, war, and violence. He drew his references from Beatles music and the Book of Revelations. Manson and his followers were successfully prosecuted and found guilty as part of their scheme to trigger Helter Skelter.
STAR 80 – While working at Dairy Queen, Dorothy Ruth Hoogstraten met Paul Snider. He took photographs and sent them to Playboy magazine. The camera loved her fresh faced innocence, she was on her way to becoming a star. She moved to LA, changed her name to Dorothy Stratten and started working as a bunny. The pair married the same year. Soon she was Playboy’s Playmate of the Month, and quickly after that, Playmate of the Year. Hugh Hefner secured several guest starring roles in TV and movies for her. Sensing trouble, Hef encouraged her to cut ties with Snider. Her ex felt as if he was losing her. He began to have a private investigator follow her around LA when they separated. After trying to reach Snider for hours he broke into his bedroom and discovered two bodies. Police determined he murdered her, raped her and shot himself. Dorothy was only 20 years old when she died. Her lover at the time, Peter Bogdanovich, was making a movie with her which he struggled to finish. He wrote a book, titled The Killing of the Unicorn. Stratten’s rise and fall was depicted in the 1983 film entitled Star 80.
The Clutter murders – It was 1959, in the middle of the night, at an isolated Kansas farmhouse. Dick Hickock and Perry Smith had just driven four hundred miles across state and entered a darkened home. The cellmates planned to rob this unsuspecting family, leave no witnesses, and start a new life in Mexico. The Clutter family—Herb, Bonnie, their daughter Nancy, and son Kenyon—were roused from sleep. The cellmates insisted they give up the location of a hidden safe. There was a problem with the plan … since there was no safe … and, no cash. They bound the family, searched for money and briefly debated what to do. In a fit of rage, Smith slit the father’s throat and put a bullet in his head. They rest of them had to die too, in cold blood. Finding nothing of value, the killers left with a small radio, pair of binoculars and less than fifty dollars in cash. The Clutter murders would later be described in the vanguard nonfiction novel, In Cold Blood. Truman Capote, author of Other Voices, Other Rooms, left New York for Kansas after reading a 300 word newspaper article. His co-author and research assistant was Harper Lee, an author in her own right, of To Kill a Mockingbird. Capote and Lee grew up together and had been childhood friends. First published in The New Yorker, In Cold Blood was a sensation and the pioneer of the true crime genre. It has been adapted into film, television and a graphic novel.
ANNA NICOLE – Anna Nicole Smith met J. Howard Marshall while working at a Houston strip club. She was characterized as a gold-digger, since she never lived with–or had sex with, the elderly oil tycoon. Meanwhile her star was rising as the Playboy Playmate of the Year and a Guess model. He died and she claimed he’d promised her half of his estate. A judge believed her and awarded her nearly $500 million. In midlife her media career swung wildly. Culminating in the year before her death, with a birth (her daughter Dannielynn), a marriage (to her attorney Howard K. Stern) and death of her son (Daniel). She died suddenly in a hotel room due to multiple drug intoxication. The autopsy delayed her funeral resulting in a closed casket service. Her photographer (Larry Birkhead) filed a paternity lawsuit since the birth certificate listed her attorney/ husband as the father. A court confirmed DNA evidence and the case was abandoned. Years later her psychiatrist (Khristine Eroshevich) and attorney/ husband faced court pressures. Apparently they’d used fake names to acquire painkillers and sedatives. Tragically, her life story shares characteristics to Marilyn Monroe’s. The icon’s striking beauty was so similar to Anna Nicole’s. A delicate flower in the bloom of youth that withered and died too soon.
THE PEOPLE VS OJ SIMPSON – With the recent airing of the TV miniseries, The People v. O.J. Simpson, the public is once again fascinated by this spectacle. It’s a rags to riches to rags story. A gifted young man wins his way out of the projects (San Francisco Hunter’s Point), only to end up tried, sued, bankrupt and in prison. What happened, you might ask? It all changed on a summer night in 1994, when a secluded sidewalk was discovered awash in blood. That of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman … but they were nothing more than friends. What came next was characterized as the Trial of the Century. An instant star maker, the key player’s names are famous, even today. Kris Kardashian (Jenner), Johnnie Cochran, Al Cowlings, Christopher Darden, Robert Kardashian, Robert Shapiro, Kato Kaelin, Marcia Clark. Since then, OJ lost a wrongful death trial, was evicted from his estate, was investigated for drug trafficking and is currently imprisoned for armed robbery. Check out this American classic!