For almost 25 years, I made my living working for the tabloid press, Both in television and in print. My job was to track down the subject of a story so that a reporter could go and interview them, or a photographer could get their picture.
Two years ago, in disgust, I gave up what was a $200,000,00 a year occupation and quit. I went back to regular private investigation work just so that I could sleep at night
It seems that the only headlines that I see as I stand in the checkout counter are negative stories.
It makes me think of the Anne Murray song “Sure Could Use A Little Good News Today”!
The week after the National Enquirer ran a story about Mindy McCready’s tragic suicide, The Globe, a sister publication of the National Enquirer, that is also published by America Media, ran a front page story with the headline of “IT WAS MURDER” The center spread two page story re-used and unlicensed photo of me that had been published the week before in the National Enquirer, but quoted a “P I for hire” (Paul Huebl) that is known for making sensationalist claims about dead celebrities. His regular headline usually reads “Insert celebrity name here MURDERED BY DRUG DEALERS“. This week it’s Mindy McCready & David Wilson. Last year it was Whitney Houston with the same writer making the same accusations!
I don’t think they even changed a word in the story, just the names of the victims. I saddest part for me is that the way the story is laid out using my photo, it leads someone who only looks at the headlines while at the checkout line, to think that I was the source of the story. I was not!!!!!
In the very same issue, They ran a story about my friend Neal Schon from Journey. It claimed that he was a “DEADBEAT DAD” and that he had left his children homeless. They felt that they could get away with it because they could quote a blog from Neal’s ex-mother-in-law. A blog that had since been removed because of a threat of a lawsuit. Neal is neither a “deadbeat dad” and his children are not “homeless”! But lawsuit or no lawsuit, the story is out there and you can’t un-ring the bell.
Are mean and nasty headlines the only way they can sell a paper? Have we, as Americans become so cynical that we can never see the good in people? NBC Nightly News has at least tried to counter this with their closing “Making a Difference” segment. But that is just not enough! If we want the world to change, We have to start with ourselves. I was never a real big Michael Jackson fan, but one song he wrote (Man in The Mirror) said “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and make that change.
For years the media attacked Mindy with this sort of press and just plain mean comments posted by people who did notknow her and never met her. I have no doubt that this constant badgering led to her suicide.
The correct headlineshould have read;
MINDY McREADY MURDERED BY THE MEDIA!
Week after week the majority of what I read or hear in the tabloids, Facebook, Twitter and the rest is just plain mean.
We should take a lesson from another singer, Taylor Swift andask ourselves the question “Why you gotta be so mean?”
You, with your words like knives and swords and weapons that you use against me You have knocked me off my feet again got me feeling like I’m nothing You, with your voice like nails on a chalkboard, calling me out when I’m wounded You, pickin’ on the weaker man
Well, you can take me down with just one single blow But you don’t know what you don’t know
Someday I’ll be living in a big old city And all you’re ever gonna be is mean Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?
You, with your switching sides and your walk-by lies and your humiliation You, have pointed out my flaws again as if I don’t already see them I’ll walk with my head down trying to block you out ’cause I’ll never impress you I just wanna feel okay again
I’ll bet you got pushed around, somebody made you cold But the cycle ends right now ’cause you can’t lead me down that road And you don’t know what you don’t know
Someday I’ll be living in a big old city And all you’re ever gonna be is mean Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?
And I can see you years from now in a bar, talking over a football game With that same big loud opinion but nobody’s listening Washed up and ranting about the same old bitter things Drunk and grumbling on about how I can’t sing
But all you are is mean All you are is mean and a liar and pathetic and alone in life And mean, and mean, and mean, and mean
But someday I’ll be living in a big old city And all you’re ever gonna be is mean, yeah Someday, I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
The picture that you see above, is how I will best remember Mindy. She always had a smile for me even in her darkest hours. That photo was taken about six months after I first met Mindy. The occasion was a private engagement she was hired to do to promote a company that is now long forgotten, Almost none of the people who showed up and paid to see Mindy perform that night were even remotely interested in the product that was being pitched. They were there to see MIndy and were thrilled that she was performing again. The promoters had not promoted the event very well and there were only a few dozen people in the room.
I was there in my usual capacity in the entertainment business to provide Mindy with the use of my security crew. I never got paid for the gig, as the promoter had stiffed me and the crew. None of my guys complained. They told me later that seeing Mindy McCready perform was payment enough. And, that was how she affected most everyone who ever met her.
But, I am getting ahead of myself here. I have to go back to the first time I ever met Mindy. I had heard her on the radio and really loved her songs. But I didn’t even have a clue what she looked like, or anything about her life’s struggles and the way she was depicted in the media. Unless one of my clients is in the spotlight, I don’t even pay attention to the rags or blogs. I have better things to do the listen to or read the gossip.
But Mindy was about to enter my life in a big way. In the summer of 2009, Mindy was appearing on the Dr. Drew Pinsky show “Celebrity Rehab”. Unlike what was reported in the press, she was not being treated for drug and alcohol use, but rather for “co-dependency syndrome”, of which the use of drugs and alcohol are a side effect. Mindy had been in a series of abusive relationships, and she knew that, if she did not get some help, she would continue to make bad choices in the men she dated. There had been some problems on the set, and one of the producers (Alison Martino, daughter the famed singer Al Martino) called me for my assistance in dealing with it. Unlike what most viewers thought, when the show was not taping, not all of the rehab house members stayed there. The producers would sometimes pair them up and put them in houses “off campus”.
In this case, Mindy and Kari Ann Peniche, had been paired up to live in this luxury home in the foothills above Pasadena, just minutes away from the “Celebrity Rehab” house. Mindy was almost finished with the show (she only needed to do some voiceovers), and Kari Ann had become so disruptive that she was interfering with the treatment of the others in the house. But, she was still under contract, and Dr. Drew did not want to abandon her. He still held out hopes that she could be helped by treatment. But he had to consider the group as a whole. In any event, Alison advised me that Mindy had reason to believe that Kari Ann, had gotten into her laptop and had copied the songs that she was working on. When she confronted Kari Ann, a fight broke out and Kari Ann made threats against her. The producers just felt that the solution was for me to go and get Mindy and take her to a safe location where she could stay until her responsibilities to the show could be completed. I was dispatched to get her, and was only told that her name was “Mindy”. I had never watched the show and knew nothing about her. I took my friend and operative, Verna, with me in case there were some “female issues” that needed to be dealt with. driving to Pasadena my home in Riverside, we arrived about eight in the evening on June 18th, 2009. While on the way, we were getting constant text message updates from Alison, who was trying to stall Kari Ann, from returning home until Mindy could leave. When we arrived, we loaded all of Mindy’s stuff into the car a quickly as possible and drove off with her. I later discovered that amongst the items that Mindy took with her were 2 “slave” drives that Kari Ann had used to download Mindy’s songs. She was not going to return them until she could remove her songs from the drives. But, that is another story for another time. As we were loading the car, Verna kept saying to me, “I know her. She’s famous”. To which I replied. “Honey, everyone I work with is famous. Whoever she is, she may be a big deal to the world, but to me, she’s just another client.”. I had no idea how all of that was about to change.
We arrived back at my house in Riverside around midnight. I showed Mindy to the guest room and went to bed. Before I could drift off to sleep, my phone rang. It was Verna, calling me from her house across the street. She sounded very excited. “I figured out who she is. It’s Mindy McCready, the singer. You know, the Ten Thousand angels singer”. I responded with something like “Yeah, OK, Can I go to sleep now?”, and hung up the phone.
The next day, I awoke to the smell of bacon cooking. It was Mindy in my kitchen making me breakfast. Not only was she making breakfast, but she had already found my laundry basket and had put a load of clothes in the washing machine. Mindy was sitting on my couch folding my Levis.
She was definitely not one of the “Divas” that I was used to dealing with. She told me she did not have any cash on her, and asked if I could cash a check for her.
I never cashed the check. To me, the memory was worth much more.
Over the next few days before she flew back to Nashville, I shuttled her back and forth from my house to Hollywood to do some voiceovers with Dr Drew. Mindy & I were fast becoming friends.
Before, I knew it, Mindy was on her way back to Nashville. I promised to visit her when I took my annual trek across America. Over the next few months, Mindy & I were on the phone to each other almost everyday. She told me of she battles with her mother and the Florida courts in her efforts to regain the custody of her son, Zander. I began running background checks on all of the people associated with the case, and investigated the claims she was making about how the Lee County,
Florida courts would never listen to a thing she had to say. I found all of her claims to be true!
I told her that she needed to try to get her career back on track and let the professionals deal with the custody issues. I promised to help her in any way. The next September, Mindy called me and told me about the Pasadena show and asked me to help her with it. I got my crew together, and on the night of the show, we arrived at the hotel where I met with Mindy and her band members.
One of them was Shawn Carnes, whom she described as her “best friend”.
During rehearsal, and the show that followed, I videotaped the session, which I later posted on my You Tube Page:
The only media that showed up were a journalist and photographer from Splash News. They trade places with Mindy and let her become the paparazzi taking pictures of them. Mindy graciously signed autographs for all that showed up. One girl, Chevon Sammons, drove several hundred miles from Los Banos, California just to meet her. Another, Stacia Wapniarski, a karaoke host from Riverside told Mindy how she could mimic her voice perfectly and always sang her songs. On the spot, Mindy did a duet with her which was recorded and posted on her Facebook page. My Brother in-law and sister, Chuck & Florence were there and thanked her for the time she spent with them while staying at my house in Riverside. Even with just those few in attendance, Mindy felt like a success. Expecting a larger crowd, I had made up several dozen backstage laminate passes, that were now going to go unused. Mindy asked me to give one to every one who showed up as a souvenir of the evening, and told them that it would be good for admission at any future show. That was Mindy McCready!…… Kind, generous and giving of herself.
A few weeks later, in early October, I made good on my promise to visit her and Shawn in Nashville.
Mindy lived in an abandoned brick factory that had been converted into condo’s. Almost everyone in the building was in the music business, and every night was a jam session, sometimes at a neighbors house, and sometimes at Mindy’s.
And some nights, we would just head into town where we never waited in line for a table, and everyone wanted to be at Mindy’s table.
MINDY MADE FRIENDS WHERE SHE WAS. AND, SHE WAS ALWAYS THE CENTER OF ATTENTION!
SHE FELT THE MOST COMFORTABLE AMONGST HER FANS.
SHE WAS STILL A KARAOKE SINGER AT HEART.
The humility that Mindy showed was expressed on her Facebook page where she listed her occupation as a “Non-emergency ambulance driver and professional karaoke singer” The “non-emergency ambulance driver” part was Mindy’s tongue in cheek reference to her days as a child working doing crime scene cleanup after school. And, the ” professional karaoke singer” reference was to pay homage to her roots. Mindy was always amazed by all of the unknown talent that she found in all of the karaoke bars she went to across the country.
She loved being with people who just wanted to have a good time and hang with their friends.
Over the years, I stayed in touch and would stop and visit Mindy whenever I was passing through Nashville, and later Heber Springs. I went to be with her while she dealt with her bankruptcy case in an effort to regain the royalties to her music and recordings. And, we talked or exchanged text at least once a week.
Then, the day came that I got the excited call from her. Mindy was in love! She had met the man she would come to call her “Soul Mate”. And soon, they would be having a child of their own! She told me she was pregnant. She wanted to tell me first before her rep released the news on November 30th, 2011.
But still, this could not fill the void she felt from not being with her other child, her first born, Zander
Mindy confided in me that she had finally come to the conclusion that she would never get a fair shake from the Florida courts. The fix was in!
Unless she could get her case before a new judge in a new venue, she would never get him back.
She had considered taking him to Nashville, but rejected that idea because she wanted a place where there would not be the “celebrity” factor.
She had an up coming visit in Florida, and at that time, she would make her move and bring Zander back to her and David’s new home in Heber Springs, Arkansas. On December 2nd, 2011, she made her move. Days later the media would report that she was “found hiding in a closet” in David’s house. That is not the story she told me!
Shortly after the story broke, Mindy called me and told me that once again, the media twisted the facts to make for a sensational headline. First of all, she was not “found hiding in a closet”. When the police came in, she was sitting on the couch with Zander, watching cartoons. It was not, just “a friend’s house”, but her and David’s home. The media wanted to give the impression that the feds had closed in on a dangerous felon with guns drawn! Within a year, before a new judge, in a new venue, where all of the facts could be considered, instead of the court taking media hype as “evidence”, Mindy got full custody of Zander. And, Zander now had a little brother to make her family whole. On April 9, 2012 Mindy delivered her second child, Zayne Wilson. They were a “family” now and things were looking up. Or so it seemed!
She was working on a new album with David, and trying to develop a reality show. she was very excited about the new songs. I had made my annual trek across America to take photos for my friend, writer, director & artist George Gallo. I always combined my vacation with a fall photo shoot. I had been posting the pictures on my Facebook page and Mindy had been following along. She wanted to use some of the photos that I had taken in New Hope, Pennsylvania and maybe combine them with some that she wanted me to take of her home in Heber Springs, Arkansas, to create the cover for her new album. I had the idea of calling the album “Coming Home”, and Mindy liked it. Hearing of the news of the approaching Super Storm Sandy, I had left New Hope, Pennsylvania, and was headed west back to California. I would stop and visit Mindy & David, take some pictures & pick up a copy of the songs. I planned on staying a few days, but just before my arrival, Mindy called me and said that the city was tearing up the street in front of the house to put in a new water pipe. She said the water had been turned off, and she could not put me up. She would e-mail me some pictures of the area and would meet me in town to give me the songs. The meeting was less than 30 minutes.
It was not like Mindy, and I could sense that something was wrong,
After I got home, I looked thru all of the pictures, listened to the songs, and sent Mindy the photo on the left. She loved it, and said that she would get back to me. I didn’t hear from her for over a month. And then, the tragic news came of David’s death. I tried to reach Mindy for several days with no answer.
Finally, about two weeks after David’s death, I got a call from her. We talked for hours that first phone call.
She told me that the real reason for cutting my visit short months earlier was that, just before I was to arrive, David had gone into one of his depressive mood swings. She said that David had suffered from depression and was embarrassed by it. She said that he would start to feel better and “go off his meds”. It was an endless cycle. And, sometimes, Mindy said, “I just felt like I was taking care of three children”.
She then opened up about everything. She told me that one of the things that made her and David click was that they had so much in common. He had suffered much the same was as she had. And he expressed himself through music, just as she had. She just felt so connected, and now he was gone.
She wanted to change the album cover title to “I’ll See You Yesterday”. She reminded me of one of the songs on the CD she had given me, and told me about a young singer she had met by the name of Courtney Dashe, and just how she had connected with the song. She wanted to turn it into a “suicide prevention” PSA, and wanted me to sync a slide show of photos of her and David with an end slate that would give out information on how to contact the Suicide Is Preventable organization (www.suicideispreventable.org). Over the next few days, she said that she wanted me to try to “set the record straight” She was very upset about the media report that she may have been involved in David’s death. She told me about the gunshot residue test (GSR) that to police had done right after David’s suicide and how they would not let her go in the ambulance with him to the hospital. Why had they not released a statement about that. Why, when all they were waiting for was the toxicology reports from the state crime lab, did they just say, “The case is still under investigation”? I could see that the media pressure was now sending Mindy into a downward spiral. I sent an e-mail to Dr Drew, and he reached out to her. I told her that she would get through this. I sent he a text saying “This, too shall pass”. I continued to work on the video.
And then I got the news that she had been taken into custody and sent to a psychiatric hospital. Her children had been taken again and it was all starting over. In little more than a day, she called to say that she had been released after her “tox screen” had come back negative for drugs & alcohol. She wanted me to try to find her a new lawyer. I told her that it would be hard to cold call an attorney without some sort of proof that I represented her in that area. I ask her to send me some sort of power of attorney. She said, “Just record my calls, and they can hear it from the horse’s mouth. I don’t want what I have to say twisted around later. I want people to hear my story from me”. And so, I started to tape our conversations. I reached out to a child custody attorney and got him to agree to take her case. He called Mindy a few times, and was going to meet with her on the following Tuesday. Little did he or I know, that by then, Mindy would be taken from us forever! Saturday came and she e-mailed me a copy of the “Proposed Custody Order” Now, the DFS was asking the judge to send both of her children to her mother in Florida. I tried to explain to Mindy that this was just a “Proposed Custody Order“. She still had time to fight this. She needed to work with the attorney and do what was needed to prove to the courts that her children would be okay with her. I got a message that Mindy had kicked her father and step-mother out of the house. She was going to ask her aunt to come and take care of the boys. The court surely would have to return them then.
She turned her thoughts back to releasing the video. She had a sense of urgency, yet calm. I uploaded the video to You Tube on a private like and asked her when she wanted me to release it. Her last words to me were “You’ll know when”. The next day, Mindy was gone. The Mindy that I had come to love, The caring mother, the gifted singer and songwriter, the friend to every stranger that she ever met, the Mindy that the media vilified and never got to really know, was gone forever! I will miss my friend, and I will never forget her.
Her life now has become another tragic country song that will be played forever. It is truly sad that this is what it took for people to see the real Mindy McCready. Since her death, more than a million positive comments have been posted on the web. Her final video (posted below) has to date gotten 259,371 views. Why did all of her fans wait until she was gone to tell her how much she meant to them?
A memorial in Nashville is being held for Mindy on Wednesday, March 6.
I grew up in Orange County, California, what is now referred as “The O C”. We lived on Balboa Island and were used to having Hollywood celebrities as neighbors. some of the regulars that I would often see at Hershey’s Market on the Island were, John Wayne, James Drury (The Virginian) & Buddy Ebsen of Beverly Hillbillies fame. But the most exciting thing to happen in the Summer of 1965 was that Dick Clark of American Bandstand was coming to town to film and entire week of episodes for his new show “Where the Action Is”.
He would be filming at Corona Del Mar High School & at some of the local beaches, and was looking for kids to be there for the background scenes. Even though I had graduated from Costa Mesa High School a few years earlier, I jumped at the chance to be on the show.
On hand would be Steve Alaimo as host, Paul Revere And The Raiders, Billy Joe Royal singing his hit “Down in the Boondocks”, and Mary Wells filming what would become one of the very first music videos. She would be singing “Two Lovers” in the school library. The director, Al Schwartz had all of us kids that showed up at the high school, stand in a line so that he could pick the ones out that he wanted for each scene. I was picked to play a boy in the library who is bouncing back and forth between the rows of books and flirting with his “Two Lovers”. All of the kids in town just couldn’t wait to see themselves on TV. Little did I know what a tremendous effect Dick Clark would have on my life, and that our paths would cross again beginning in 1992..
After high school and the navy, I drifted in and out of trouble, jail, and eventually prison would be my fate and the beginning of a life of crime. My life “committing” crimes came to and end in 1979 when I was released on an appeal bond from Terminal Island federal prison after a successful petition for a writ of habeas corpus. I wasn’t innocent, mind you, I just had found a loophole that got me out of prison. I vowed never to return. My “life of crime” however, was not over. Upon my release, I caught a bus to San Francisco. The day after my arrival, I spotted an ad for a private investigator job. When I applied, I told the owner of the agency all about my criminal past and that I had just been released from prison a few days earlier. He hired me on the spot and I became one of his top investigators.
I teamed up with one of his other investigators, Fred Valis, and we went on to start our own agency, Backstreet Investigations, which I still operate to this day.
Over the years, Fred & I would be involved in the solving of many notorious case and would eventually be featured on 60 Minutes as the guys who infiltrated the Gambino family’s bookmaking operations. As fate would have it, Dick Clark saw that 60 Minutes broadcast and decided that he would like to acquire our life story rights for a television series. In the meantime however, we had gotten hired as the in-house investigators for the television series Hard Copy. I had come up with an idea for a series of segments they called “Caught on Tape”.
It was during the hiatus from that show that I met with Dick Clark for the first time since that day at Corona Del Mar High School, some 28 years earlier. We were meeting to discuss the development of a show based on our lives. It was the be called “Vermin & Pestilence”, after the code names given to us by the FBI. I told Dick of our meeting before during the filing of “Where the Action Is”, and my music video with Mary Wells. Dick picked up the phone and called his video archivist, Jeff James. Twenty minutes later, he walked thru the door and handed Dick a copy of the clip which he gave to me.
Dick found out that we had produced the “Caught on Tape” and asked us if we would be interested in doing a series of one hour specials. The show would be called “Caught In The Act”. Ten minutes after Dick came up with the idea for the show, he asked us to follow him across the street to the offices of then NBC programming vice-president Don Ohlmeyer. We walked in unnanounced. The guard at the NBC gate does not stop Dick Clark. Dick asked me to explain the show and in less then five minutes we had a deal for a one-hour special. I started to tell Don Ohlmeyer more when I was interrupted by Dick, who said we had to go now. As we desended the stairwell, Dick leaned over to me and said “Listen kid, when you strike oil, stop drilling!” “Caught In The Act” aired on Wednesday, July 7th, 1993 and came in 18 in the weeks’ ratings. It was to be the beginning of a beautiful and lasting friendship.
Over the years, Dick would help me with both television projects, and my private investigation business. When work was slow, he would put in a good word to get me work. When Dick Clark called, people hired you. People paid attention to him. About a year after I went to work for Dick, I was at a karaoke club and saw an amazing year old girl with a four octave vocal range. Sara Niemietz (www.saraniemietz.com) who was visiting L A from Chicago. was amazing. I just had to introduce her to Dick. I handed her parents (Tim & Cheryl) the card you see above. The name Dick Clark didn’t mean much to a seven year old, but her mother called the next day and & invited them to come to Dick’s office. Dick picked up the phone and the next day, Sara had an agent & they moved to L A.
The day after Fred and I took care of the “personal matter”. We were summoned to Dick’s office and met in the office of Neil Stearns, Dick’s director of development, to discuss what shows we wanted to pitch. This meeting was Dick’s way of saying “thank you” for making a dangerous situation go away. Whatever show we wanted to pitch that day would be optioned. About ten minutes into the meeting, Dick picked up the phone and asked Kari to join us. She entered the room carrying two turquoise Tiffany boxes. They contained brass clocks, personally engraved with Dick’s signature and inscribed with the words “Many Thanks”. Dick said that Kari had suggested Dick Clark tour jackets, to which he replied, ” What are you nuts? I don’t want these crazy thugs walking around with my name on their backs”. After Dick left the room, Neil asked “What was that all about?” Continuing, “I’ve worked for Dick for twenty years, and I never got no stinkin’ clock!”
For a time, Backstreet Investigations was located on the second floor of the Dick Clark productions office. I only closed it down and started working from home after the death of my partner, Fred Valis.
And, on that occasion, almost 7 years to the day prior to his own death, Dick helped come up with the money to pay for Fred’s funeral.
Dick even wrote a letter to help me get a certificate of rehabilitation (the first step to a pardon) and get my own Private Investigator’s license, as I had been working all these years under the license of Fred Valis.
Dick’s door was always open to me I became his confidant, and he was mine. He was always there to give sage advise. His wife Kari and his personal assistant, Amy never stopped me to ask “Do you have an appointment”.
I was looking forward to seeing Dick & Kari the next time I was in town, but that chance never came. The day Dick died, I did not hear the news on television, but thru text that started coming in on my cell that read “Sorry for your loss”. What loss?, I thought, and then I ran to the television and saw the news. I tried to call Dick’s office, his cell phone, his wife, Kari and Dick’s assistant, Amy. All my calls were going to voice mail. I was in shock! “Dick Clark, Dead at 82″ the banner across the bottom of the screen read. I am not ashamed to say that I broke into tears and spent the next two days crying and trying to understand how the man who was going to live forever was now gone.
There will never be another like him, and I will miss him, but I will always have these memories.