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LAist Interview: Rodger Jacobs
Rodger Jacobs is an author, journalist, documentary producer, blogger and familiar gadfly in the LA blogosphere. He has just published his latest project about one of Los Angeles's most well known murder cases in the 80s. Called the Wonderland Killings, the brutal murder of 4 people in a Laurel Canyon home gained even more noteriety when authorities discovered that porn star John Holmes had played a mysterious role in the case.Age and Occupation: 46. Writer and documentary producer.
How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and which neighborhood do you live in?
I’ve lived in L.A. since 1979 and currently reside in Glendale.
Let’s talk about your latest book, “Long Time Money and Lots of Cocaine.” Why did you package the transcript of John Holmes’ preliminary hearing in the Wonderland murders?
There is a substantial audience out there hungry for information on the Wonderland murders. By contrast and comparison, the Manson killings of 1969 were resolved. The murderers were brought to justice. The Wonderland slayings remain, for all intents and purposes, an unsolved mystery and mysteries without a resolution tend to tantalize and give birth to myth and conjecture. With the preliminary hearing transcript, the Wonderland groupies – for lack of a better term – can get a glimpse into what really went down on the night of July 1, 1981, in the words of those who were there: Susan Launius, the sole survivor of the attack; David Lind, a slick, smooth-talking hood who was one of the trigger men in the robbery of reputed mobster Eddie Nash that preceded and instigated the murders; and Tracy McCourt, the petulant wheelman in the Nash heist.
What compels you to revisit the slayings and what does the story say about Los Angeles, in the 80s and now?
I have been fascinated by the Wonderland case ever since co-producing the documentary “Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes”in 1999. It is such a quintessential L.A. story of the 80s: drugs, sex, excess, night clubs, gangsters, and porn stars. It’s like Raymond Chandler on crack.
Why did you choose to publish the book on Lulu.com. What does the print-on demand delivery system offer over other, similar systems like iUniverse.com?
Lulu Press offers a very affordable set-up with generous royalties. The cost of the ISBN - to get your title into other markets like Amazon and bricks and mortar book stores - comes out of the author's own pocket but that's a small price to pay, literally, for everything else Lulu does for authors, such as providing a storefront free of charge.
Which movie about the entire John C. Holmes story accurately captures the Holmes milieu- "Wonderland" or "Boogie Nights" ?
As much as I like "Boogie Nights", it remains a fairly superficial movie. Based on my research, "Wonderland"arrives closest to the truth but in both films an apologist's tone creeps in with reference to Holmes. The man was a poster child for sociopathic behavior. This is a man who pimped out his underage girlfriend to Eddie Nash in exchange for drugs and that's just the beginning of his sins. Charles Manson was deranged and messianic but John Holmes only cared about himself and didn't care who got hurt - or killed - in his never-ending quest to feed drugs and self-esteem into his wasted system.
What's your favorite movie(s) or TV show(s) that are based in LA?
I know it sounds trite and predictable but "Chinatown" has to be the best L.A. movie ever made. Sydney Pollack's adaptation of Horace McCoy's "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" runs a close second.
Best LA-themed book(s)?
Too many. I'll sidestep Nathanael West's blistering "Day of the Locust" to applaud some more recent works like Michelle Huneven's "Jamesland" and the Nina Zero private eye novels by Robert Eversz. Eversz is one of the best unsung novelists in the crime genre we have working today. He has a fascinating style and I liken him to Raymond Carver if Carver had decided to write about L.A.'s slumming angels.
In your opinion, what's the best alternate route to the 405?
I'm not telling.
What's the best place to walk in LA?
Venice Beach boardwalk to the Santa Monica Pier.
If you could live in LA during any era, when would it be?
1947 was a pivotal year in L.A.'s history. Not only did the Black Dahlia murder occur in '47 but the town was full of soldiers returning from the war with scarred psyches. It was a strange and violent time and men wore double-breasted suits and snap-brim Fedoras.
What is the "center" of LA to you?
L.A. has a center? That's news to me.
If you were forced to live in a neighboring county, which would you choose? Ventura County is a wussy answer.
I think L.A. should be broken up into a series of counties so we have better choices. I mean, come on: Ventura, Orange, San Bernardino - those are choices?
If you could live in any neighborhood or specific house in LA, where/which would you choose?
Anywhere on Los Feliz Boulevard adjacent to Griffith Park.
Los Angeles is often stereotyped as a hard place to find personal connections and make friends. Do you agree with that assessment? Do you find it challenging to make new friends here?
That's not a stereotypical statement in the least. L.A. is too far flung to be any kind of social magnet outside of one's own neighborhood and community.
What is the city's greatest secret?
There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people living and working in L.A. who have never given thought to writing a screenplay.
Drinking, driving. They mix poorly, and yet they're inexorably linked. How do you handle this conflict?
It's a yellow - sometimes green - vehicle with four tires and a Middle Eastern man behind the wheel. I think they call it a taxi cab.
Do you find the threat of earthquakes preferable to the threat of hurricanes and long winters?
I've endured both earthquakes and hurricanes. Hurricanes and tornadoes are scary as all hell because you usually have a few moments to contemplate what's about to hit you. Earthquakes are sudden and arrive without warning, unless you monitor the USGS earthquake maps on the web every day - which I do. We're in a period of seismic drought in L.A.
Where do you want to be when the Big One hits?
On Mulholland Drive, silently watching as the city falls down and taking a naturalist's notes.