I don’t care if they’re in mini-series or movies but as I’ve become unexpectedly enthralled in this dopey “American Crime Stories” first season covering The People vs O.J. Simpson, it has made me hungry for more dramatizations of 1990s real life crime dramas. I choose the 90s not just because I lived through them and desire a similar “look at new angles” depiction of the stories I remember seeing in bits and pieces as a kid but also because of the historical significance of the time for such cases. The advent of more extensive nightly news segments, news talk shows, investigative news shows, talk radio, and cable news channels all popped in the 90s like never before and the stories that captured the attention of all these outlets, feeding on each other as those stories among all the other crazy crap going on in the world retained the tv box-office leaderboard status is a story in itself.
These are my top 5 picks I want to see done anywhere, anyhow, in a similar approach to the American Crime Story series, which stupidly is wasting their 2nd season on “Hurricane Katrina”… Maybe it will shock me and be not-garbage, but doing a season about American Crime Stories on bad weather (and presumably the alleged “criminal” malpractice of poor evacuation and aid by the inept local government) sounds like a massively squandered opportunity. These would have been infinitely better choices. I will include the Wikipedia entries for each case afterward but won’t be reading any of them beforehand and instead will be presenting my list from memory only, since that is what is fueling my desire to see them dramatized.
1- JonBenét Ramsey
What I remember about the story: A 6 year old beauty pageant contestant no one had ever heard of before is mentioned in a bizarre ransom letter and while the parents seemingly arrange to pay it, police are involved but find no evidence of a break-in or kidnapping. Then the girls body turns out to be in the friggin basement of the house, covered but not exactly hidden, and the physical trauma suggested horrors from sexual abuse to brutal beating in the poor child’s last hours. Speculation was on one of the parents but I forget which one while I got the impression that the other parent was oblivious. The crazy extent of the sexualizing of a 5 and 6 year old that took place in the doll dressing that went into these pageants (that evidently isn’t uncommon for such pageants) creeped everyone out, adding fuel to the weird details of the story. What I can’t decide if I’m weirded out by or if I glowingly approve of is the girls name… It sounds like perhaps its an homage to a French aunt or something but its her parents names: John Bennet Ramsey marries a woman named Patricia and they name their daughter = JonBenét Patricia Ramsey. lol.
What I want to see in a dramatization: What in the eff was going on with these parents? And who the hell did it? Does the evidence suggest it was one of them or was it really a random hit by a wandering psychopath that they were just oblivious to?
2- The Menendez Brothers
What I remember about the story: Adult brothers conspire to shotgun murder their parents, do it, and then have a lengthy trial for some reason. To my knowledge, the parents were wealthy, but not famous, so I didn’t and don’t know why this was such a big story that lasted so long in the news cycles. I remember allegations of abuse from the parents being used to unconvincing degrees on why they deserved to get surprise-murdered (it wasn’t even over a dispute or argument or any crime of passion from what I remember) in their living room. The boys tried to make it look like a home invasion or something and then went to go see a movie as an alibi. The movie they saw? The James Bond film License to Kill (because Batman was sold out).
What I want to see in a dramatization: Why did they hate their parents so much? Even if it was a money grab, I remember the reporting of the murders sounding very personal and not the kind of “just doing business mumzy and dadzy. nothing personal” coldness you might expect.
3- Amy Fisher & Joey Buttafuoco
What I remember about the story: Dubbed “the Long Island Lolita” after the book and films about a 12 year old nymphomaniac who successfully seduces a 40something year old man, Amy Fisher had an affair with a central-casting style Long Island Italian male stereotype named Joey Buttafuoco when when she was 17. She became obsessive and attempted to murder his wife by ringing the doorbell in broad daylight and just shooting her right in the face when she answered, giving rise to the knock-knock joke we told at the time whose punchline to the “who’s there?” question was “AMY FISHER – BOOM” as you finger-gun the joke recipient in the face. Mary Joe Buttafuoco survived, now with limited facial mobility, and stayed with Joey for at least a decade afterward before coming to her senses in a series of crazy details that kept cycling.
What I want to see in a dramatization: The sleeziness from Fisher and Joey under the nose of the oblivious Mary Jo. Evidently Fisher was fame-whoring for awhile and that contributed to the reasoning for the attempted murder in such a way. She pursued getting her name in the headlines at the time and when she got out of jail, doing tv specials and a few porn films afterward. Seeing the start of this lost soul going all wrong mentally and using her sexuality to “make it” would be fascinating to see unfold.
Wikipedia entry for Amy — For Joey.
4- Michael Jackson’s Molestation Allegations
What I remember about the story: In the early 90s Michael Jackson was at the peak of his sensation levels as a rockstar personality and everyone loved his weirdness in a David Bowie style way where his androgyny was considered cool. Then in 1993 he was accused of diddling a kid and that androgyny turned into “proof that he’s a fag” and the tide of public opinion turned from a weird mixture of everyone still liking him as a performer and weirdo tv figure but now no longer respecting his eccentricities the way they used to.
What I want to see in a dramatization: Michaels story. Which is that he was railroaded and witch-hunted for being bizarre and effeminate but was innocent of the crimes he was accused of. I maintain that the truth is that Jackson suffered from arrested development and saw himself as a child, which led to potentially inappropriate conduct an adult might have with children – but not molestation, not sexual abuse, and not the predatory arrangements accused. I wanna see the fake “see how adult and heterosexual he is??” publicity stunt marriage to Lisa Marie Presley, his interactions with Macaulay Culkin (who always denied any harm or inappropriate activity to him or in his presence) and the media circus around the whole ordeal (which is the secondary character in all these stories).
5- Tanya Harding & Nancy Karigan
What I remember about the story: I’m afraid to search this story and find out that details I had grown up with where somehow not true. This is my original “too good to check” news item that just seemed so crazy that it not only actually happened in real life but in such a public way. As far as I know: Figure skater Tanya Harding and her boyfriend or husband or something, hired some dude to break the leg of her main competitor Nancy Kerrigan and it actually went down. Meaning, some guy stalked a figure skater and hit her in the leg intending to break it so she couldn’t compete. He failed and only bruised her thigh or something but Kerrigan didn’t go on to the Olympic heights she was on track to anyway because of it and Harding finished in poor placing anyway.
What I want to see in a dramatization: The white trash conspiracies involved in this hit, the execution of it, the aftermath and the cultural spike in figure skating interest that ensued is all ripe for interesting characters and situations to be acted out.