Tea’s Weird Week: An American Madness Road Trip
Over the summer I was contacted by a filmmaker named Eric Hayden, who had heard me on a podcast (Rumor Flies) talking about my book, American Madness. He got a copy and read it and then messaged me, asking if I’d thought about adapting the book into a documentary. I told him I had always believed that the book would adapt well into that format.
There were a couple things that made me want to work with Eric (and his wife, Kim).
One was that he had read the book and understood it. That might seem like a low bar, but over the past ten years or so I’ve talked to plenty of reality show jokers and other people with film projects who want me in on something they’re developing who haven’t read my stuff. At best they are wasting my time (and their own). At worst, they are hoping that I hand over my research and/or contacts to a fringe group of people for little to nothing in return. Eric was offering to have me be involved each step of the way, something very much appreciated by me.
Second– Eric’s background is not in documentary filming but mostly video effects (though he does have directing and writing credits), however in looking at his impressive resume it was clear to me that he built his career by being hard-working, innovative, and talented. Some of the films he’s worked on include Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, Deadwood: The Movie (Eric’s team was nominated for a video effects Emmy for that one), and many more. Most recently, he’s been a video effects supervisor on The Orville.
So after some discussion, we agreed to start working on this documentary with myself, Kim and Eric producing, Eric directing, and me helping set up interviews. The first day of shooting was July 31 and was an extended interview with me here in Milwaukee. Since then, we’ve been working slowly but steadily to arrange interviews, dig up materials, and plan the direction of the documentary. We’re in contact almost every day– today, for example, me and Eric have been texting about how the tragic death on the set of a movie starring Alec Baldwin is ripe for a quickly developing conspiracy around it.
Earlier this month, we decided to spend a few days interviewing in Northern California and LA. It was a great, productive trip. Here’s some notes on what we did. If you don’t know what the Bohemian Grove or Richard McCaslin is, you should read my book American Madness.
I arrived in San Francisco on October 7 and spent the next day, Friday, relaxing. I met my friend Elizabeth for lunch, she had moved from Milwaukee to San Francisco many years ago. Saturday, Oct. 9 was the longest day of shooting interviews. We started out by talking to “Anonymous Grove Valet,” someone who had worked in one of the Bohemian Grove camps for over ten summers as a “valet,” an all purpose job of cooking, pouring drinks, cleaning, helping with luggage, etc. We wanted to find out what this person did or did not see in the Grove and what the clientele was like.
From there we headed to Superhero Desserts (1449 Webster St.) in Alameda, a bakery operated by Real-life Superhero members of the California Initiative. I first met Rock N Roll and Night Bug ten years ago at an RLSH event called HOPE in 2011. Def some of the favorite people I’ve met in that movement, I’ve several times cited them as doing the RLSH the “right” way. And so cool that they’ve opened their bakery business, a portion of proceeds going to their food/supply handouts to the unhoused. Rock and Bug also met Richard McCaslin in passing a couple times. It was great to see them and my only regret, as always, was not having more time.
From Superhero Desserts, we ventured further north to visit Mary Moore. Mary is a longtime activist and one of the founders of the Bohemian Grove Action Network. For decades, she helped organize a group of activists who gathered outside the gates of the Bohemian Grove every summer to protest. BGAN was also key in sneaking undercover reporters into the Grove and extracting documents and pictures out (by Grove employees). I interviewed her by phone for American Madness, but slowly cruising up a windy, narrow mountain road to visit her cottages in the Redwood forest was quite an experience. Now in her 80s, Mary showed us around her incredible collection of research and I’m so glad we got to visit and get an interview with her. Mary lives just a few miles down the road from the Grove, so we of course had to visit. We didn’t attempt to trespass, but shot some footage in the area.
The next day, on Sunday, we interviewed Don Eichelberger, another BGAN founder, in front of the Bohemian Club in downtown San Francisco, then began the long drive down to the Los Angeles area. Once there, the Haydens were incredibly hospitable towards me, letting me stay in their guest room. We shot an interview with Dave Baker and Andrew Price, comic book writers and hosts of the Deep Cuts podcast, who were able to give insight on comic book aesthetics and conspiracy problems (they are currently unrolling a massive Deep Cuts series on QAnon, listen here: deepcutspod.com). We had another meeting, then I flew home.
There’s still much to do on the documentary, including work on reenactments and interviews in other cities. For now, we’re catching up on the many hours of interviews that were already filmed. I’ll update periodically as production moves forward. And next week I’ll talk about ANOTHER (but smaller scoped) documentary short project I’m working on about local horror hosts. Fun stuff!
Tea’s Weird Week, S3 ep 05: Denver Airport Conspiracy: On my way home from California, I transferred at Denver International, a notorious hub of conspiracy. I spoke to my Denver friend Jenny Sanchez (Long Days Travel) about how these conspiracies spun. Me and my co-host Heidi Erickson discussed weird news about the Not Deer, an unemployed wizard, the country’s fattest pumpkin, the Zodiac Killer, and more. Plus trivia with Miss Information, and we close out with a track by Jon Henry, “Chicken Little.”
Listen here: Tea‘s Weird Week S3 ep05: Denver Airport Conspiracy (podbean.com)
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Check out my latest books:
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)
Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)
Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)
Tea’s Weird Week: Random Acts of October
Real-life Superheroes, paranormal investigators, conspiracy theory: classic Krulos topics. Three short things related to these subjects have crossed my brain this week and got collected here.
The Legendary Jack
Let me tell you about this guy I know, Jack. Jack is frustrated. It’s hard to catch a break in this world. You put heart and soul into a project, you pour in this passion and you are ignored. Meanwhile some putz will launch into the stratosphere of fame for just the stupidest thing you can think of. It’s a drag, man.
One day recently, Jack told us on Facebook, he was at the check out of the grocery store. While scribbling out a check for the groceries, counting the pennies in his head, he noticed an ad on the check out lane for a guy he used to work with at an oil changing place. This guy now had his own mortgage company. You can bet this guy doesn’t worry if he’s buying generic or name brand peanut butter!
But Mortgage Man Dan will never know the thrill of leaping off the corner post of a wrestling ring, sweat and adrenaline flying off of him as he tackles Baron Von Retchblubber (or whatever his name is) while a crowd in rapture cheers, letting rip a primal scream. Because this Jack is former wrestler JACK T. RIPPER, famous hero (or heel is probably the right term) of a hundred fights!
But wait, there’s more! Zzzzzzap! This same Jack is the mighty Razorhawk, one of these Real-Life Superheroes, founder of the Great Lakes Alliance, founder of the HOPE events. I joined him in the search for a missing college student in Saint Paul, on a patrol on the streets of Minneapolis, and for a HOPE event in San Diego. I wrote about it in my book Heroes in the Night. Years later, I saw him at a HOPE event in Chicago. BAM!
This Razorhawk, in fact, was the winner of a YouTube reality show titled Academy of Heroes. His co-stars were his Real-life Superhero colleagues: the noble Knight Owl, the nimble Nyx, the dashing Danger Man, the philosophical Phantom Zero, the generous Good Samaritan, and the..uh…mouthy Motor-Mouth! By the end of the show, Razorhawk was declared winner by none other than comic legend Stan Lee himself. Excelsior!
And now, Jack has a more mellow project, but a very cool one. He’s now here, as his motto says, “to chew bubblegum and build models,” but he happens to be “all out of bubblegum.” Now known as the JACK OF MODELS, he has created his own YouTube show in which he carefully builds a variety of car and figure models, shows you how it’s done, and offers a few tricks and tips so you can enjoy this hobby, too.
I’m a fan. You can find the show here:
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv2ZgO3bbhW7rq-CdcYhskw
My most read column this month was a reprinting of a rarely seen article I wrote years ago titled “The Ghost Hunter’s Daughter” on Alexandra Holzer, star of the new reality show The Holzer Files. Just recently I had the chance to profile two interesting paranormal investigators for the October issue of Scandinavian Traveler magazine: Dale Kaczmarek of Ghost Research Society, who has been on the supernatural trail since the 1970s, and Ursula Bielski of Chicago Hauntings, who organizes the annual Chicago Ghost Con. Both have written books and offer tours and are all around experts on Chicago ghostlore.
You can read the article, “Meet the real-life ghostbusters,” here: https://scandinaviantraveler.com/en/places/meet-the-real-life-ghostbusters
I also compiled Dale and Ursula’s picks for “Chicago’s top 5 haunted locations”: https://scandinaviantraveler.com/en/places/chicagos-top-5-haunted-locations
Denver Airport Conspiracy
Ever since it was built, Denver International has been the subject of several conspiracy theories, including secret tunnels, weird art, a cursed horse statue, Illuminati meetings, and more. It’s pretty wild and every time I fly west, I hope for a layover at the airport.
While blocking off part of the airport for construction this month, the airport decided that instead of traditional “pardon our dust” signs, they would go full troll with a series of signs alluding to their reputation, including ones that mention the Illuminati, aliens, Reptilians (aka Lizard People), and more. Check out more of the signs here: https://www.curbed.com/2018/9/7/17832102/denver-airport-conspiracy-theories-signs-construction
And if you like conspiracy, well, hang on to your butts because November is Conspiracy Month here at Tea’s Weird Week. I’m doing some conspiracy related travel mid-November so I’ll be doing some reporting from the road. It’s going to be…interesting.
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