Private Investigators And Crime Scene Investigations, Part II

Updated April 10, 2018

Welcome to the second part of "Private Investigations and Crime Scene Investigations," based on a series of classes my husband and I taught for Kiss of Death, the mystery-suspense arm of the Romance Writers of America. It's also timely as this past week we returned to investigate a crime scene for an attempted homicide charge that involved multiple vehicles. The incident occurred several months ago, yet we found physical evidence (pieces of broken parts that matched the vehicles involved) in an area not mentioned in the police report. 

As explained in the first class, PIs typically investigate crime scenes after law enforcement/others have finished their investigations and re-opened the area, returning it to everyday use.

Now, let's kick off class II with the question...

After Police Have Completed a Crime Scene Investigation, What Might a PI Do?

A PI might be called on to visit, photograph and document a crime scene after the police have processed the crime scene. During this visit, the PI might look for evidence not found/collected by the police in their work-up. Your fictional PI could easily be at the scene to look for “things not done” by the police, which is a fruitful area for defense lawyers in criminal cases to exploit when critiquing the government’s case in trial.

 Tire marks (image in public domain, attribution Robert Kroft)

Tire marks (image in public domain, attribution Robert Kroft)

In one of our experiences, we re-visited the scene of an attempted vehicular assault at least a month after it occurred (btw, this is a different case from the one mentioned above). What evidence did we gather weeks after the event? For starters, the tire marks were still clearly seen on the pavement -- we photographed these marks for the attorney. We also measured the area where a complex set of vehicular maneuvers were alleged to have occurred. Additionally, we videotaped the pattern of vehicular travel at the exact speeds alleged by the police.

When Police Don’t Want to Process a Crime Scene, What Might a PI Be Asked to Do?

There are many instances where the police don’t perform testing or otherwise process an entire crime scene because to do so doesn’t help their side of the case. To be fair, the police may feel that they’ve gathered enough evidence (by perhaps taking witness statements).

In such scenarios, criminal defendants often complain because the police didn’t perform a certain test or search an area. It is an old axiom of criminal law that the police have no duty to gather evidence helpful to an accused. This often results in criminal defense attorneys retaining a PI to perform crime scene testing so as to gather the evidence omitted by the police.

Following up with an example, our agency was once retained to find slugs from bullets fired as warning shots in the general direction of, but not directly at, a couple who claimed they were the victims of attempted first-degree murder (which requires a substantial step toward a deliberate and premeditated homicidal act). If found guilty, our client faced a possible 48-year prison sentence.

According to the accused (our client), the bullets would be located on a portion of his 886-acre ranch where it would have been impossible for him to aim at the “victims” and have the slugs land. As the sheriff's office had done a cursory, on-foot search of the ranch land for these four .357 slugs, we decided to do a more in-depth search, using metal detectors. By the way, the sheriff’s office did not own a metal detector.

Meanwhile, our client was being held in a local jail in lieu of $300,000 bail.

Using our client’s characterization of the trajectory of the bullets and factoring in the nature of the load, we were able to map out a possible area approximately a half-mile from where the incident occurred. Braving cold winds, an unusually large amount of scrap metal in the ground (which kept setting off the metal detectors), and burrs that came up through the soles of our shoes, we burned approximately 24 man hours before locating the four slugs.

 The first slug we found

The first slug we found

When we found that first slug, we whooped and hollered like a couple of miners who'd just hit gold. Our client's mother, who was staying at the ranch to watch over her grandkids, heard our yells and came running across the fields to us, crying as she knew our happy yells could only mean one thing: We had found the evidence that proved her son was innocent.

After the slugs were found, we carefully photographed the site. The slugs were then shipped in evidence bags to the police, where ballistic experts matched the slugs to the firearm seized from our client on the night he was arrested.

In this example, because of the evidence obtained by PIs (several months after law enforcement had finished processing the crime scene) the D.A. reduced the charges and our client was released (on Christmas Eve, after spending over three months in jail). You can imagine how meaningful that Christmas was for his family.

Postscript: A few months later, the rancher called, said he'd like to do something special for us. He visited our home and checked our roof, water heater and fence, looking for something to repair. There wasn't anything that needing fixing, but the visit was a heartwarming reunion. Soon after, he sold his ranch and moved back to his hometown in another state so he and his kids could be near the rest of their family.

This wraps up class 2.

In the next class we cover the basics of homicide investigations, from key tasks covered by law enforcement, to an overview on estimating time of death, to how a PI might be called upon to aid in a homicide investigation. We also describe a case when a criminal defense lawyer retained us to investigate a former homicide scene, and what we learned.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of this content requires specific, written authority.

On Anniversary of Raymond Chandler's Death: A look at THE LONG GOODBYE (1973)

Opening footage: The Long Goodbye, via YouTube.

Vilmos Zsigmond on Filming The Long Goodbye

Vilmos Zsigmond, the cinematographer on The Long Goodbye, said it was the funniest comedy he had ever filmed, due to Elliot Gould's characterization of Philip Marlowe.

Elliot Gould was never better than in [“The Long Goodbye”]. He plays this private eye who looks really dumb but he’s not dumb.
— Vilmos Zsigmond

In a Rolling Stone interview, Zsigmond said "a cinematographer can only be as good as the director." However, he initially worried about the always-moving camera that Robert Altman, the director, wanted and thought the constant motion would be too obtrusive for the audience. At some point, however, Zsigmond said he forgot all about the moving camera as it evolved into the storytelling, just as Altman had envisioned. (More about Altman's reason for an always-moving camera in the below section Robert Altman, Director.)

Zsigmond also used experimental exposure techniques (also called flashing) in The Long Goodbye to give Los Angeles a faded look to match Altman's vision of the city looking like "old postcards."

What About the Cat?

The above YouTube segment at the top of this post shows the opening credits to Altman's The Long Goodbye. In the scene, Marlowe is trying to feed his cat, which becomes a complicated, bumbling affair. As noted by Marlowe fans, he never had a cat, but apparently Raymond Chandler loved cats, so Altman put one in. Later, Gould said one of the points of the film was that friends could be as fickle as cats.

The Genesis of the Philip Marlowe Character

Raymond Chandler began playing with the Marlowe character in short stories for pulp magazines such as Black Mask and Detective Fiction Weekly long before he penned his first novel The Big Sleep. In those earlier stories, Chandler tested different names for this private eye character, such as Mallory and John Dalmas, before finally settling on Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep.

Chandler eventually wrote eight Marlowe novels, dying before finishing the ninth, Poodle Springs, which was later finished by Robert B. Parker. Most of the these novels have been adapted for TV and film, with an impressive list of actors playing Marlowe, including Humphrey Bogart, Dick Powell, James Garner, Robert Mitchum, Powers Boothe, Danny Glover, and of course Elliott Gould.

As I look back on my own stories it would be absurd if I did not wish they had been better. But if they had been much better they would not have been published.
— Raymond Chandler

Some say The Long Goodbye doesn't hold up to Chandler's The Big Sleep or Farewell My Lovely. Others say it's Chandler's best work. Some say Gould isn't as cool as Bogie or as world-weary as Mitchum. Others say Gould is the only actor to have captured the essence of Marlowe.

Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe

In the opening segment, Gould shows us a bumbling, wise-cracking, conscientious, chain-smoking Marlowe. The camera roves and wanders as it follows Marlowe, who meanders and drifts as he looks for cat food, talks to his cat, talks to the ladies next door, drives to find food for both the cat and the ladies. Gould's Marlowe is vulnerable, sweet even, yet cynical. Dressed in his crumpled suit (he puts on his jacket to drive to the store at 3 a.m.), he's a throwback to a more conventional era in the pot-smoking, freer world of the 1970s. 

In a 2000 interview, Elliott Gould said he had "fallen out of grace in the industry, was basically un-castable" when Robert Altman offered him the role of Marlowe. 

Interesting fact: Marlowe's car in the film was actually Gould's (a 1948 Lincoln Continental, very Marlowe-esque). 

Another interesting fact about Gould: He's recorded every Marlowe story on audiotape.

Robert Altman, Director

Peter Bogdanovich was originally supposed to direct The Long Goodbye, and he wanted either Lee Marvin or Robert Mitchum to play Marlowe. He didn't want Gould to play the role because he was "too new." After Bogdanovich was off the project, Robert Altman was on.

When in doubt have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.
— Raymond Chandler

According to the 2009 article "Rip van Marlowe: Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye," Altman initially didn't want to direct the film, feeling that Marlowe had already been done and everybody connected Bogie with the role of Marlowe. But after it was suggested that Elliott Gould play Marlowe, Altman was in. When Gould said he didn't know if he could play Marlowe, Altman said he could because he was Marlowe.

Altman decided the camera would always be moving (as seen in the opening credits), giving the audience the feeling of being a voyeur who's always looking over somebody's shoulder or peering around someone's back. "The rougher it looked, the better it suited my purpose," Altman said. The article "The Long Goodbye" by Noel Murray quotes Altman saying that the premise of the film was Marlowe falling asleep in Chandler's era and waking up in the weird wonderland of California in the early 1970s.

The film wasn't well received at first, but all these years later it's become something of a cult classic. Many credit Altman's film as being truer to the mood established by Chandler in the book. 

Interesting fact: Leigh Brackett, who wrote this script, was also the scriptwriter for The Big Sleep, directed by the iconic director Howard Hawks (final scene via YouTube, below).  On that note, I'll now finish my coffee and get to work...but first, I have to feed my cat.

Final scene from The Big Sleep, via YouTube

Dealing with a Cyberstalker

 Cyberstalkers are internet bullies who hide behind bogus identities.

Cyberstalkers are internet bullies who hide behind bogus identities.

A year or so ago, a defamatory “book review” showed up on Amazon—the term book review is in quotes because in no way was it a review of a book. Instead, it was a malicious character attack written by someone hiding behind a bogus ID. Unfortunately, I’m not the only author to have dealt with such non-book-related reviews written by people with personal agendas.

Amazon and Vengeful Reviews

By vengeful, I mean reviews that contain no analysis of the book, only mean-spirited, spiteful content directed at the author.

Letter Template

Below is part of the letter I wrote to abuse@amazonaws.com. I have replaced real names and titles so this letter is basically a template.

Dear Amazon:

An abusive comment written by “[bogus ID]” remains in a book review for [book title] [link to book review]:

[screen shot of review here]

This review does not meet Amazon’s review submission guidelines because:

  • It contains no information about the book itself
  • Content is spiteful
  • Content directs readers to go to other sites that are not associated with the book or Amazon
  • Content only contains malicious attacks on the author

For the above reasons, I request you to please delete this review.

Sincerely, [name]

The above bulleted list specifically addresses content Amazon deems unacceptable in reviews. To read more about Amazon’s review guidelines, click here.

More Evidence About The Cyberstalker

Internet searches revealed that this person had cyberstalked before. Multiple times.

Additionally, I did some Internet research on this “reviewer” (thanks to a writer-friend’s lead) and found a connection that revealed his real name. From there, I conducted background research and found a police report where this individual had been reported for cyberstalking several years earlier. The woman who had filed the police report stated that the man had repeatedly bragged to her about his ability to destroy people on the internet. When he got angry at her for not wanting to date him, he hinted that he would destroy her reputation, too, via the internet.

Too Frightened to Go to the Police

His threat frightened the woman—so much so, she was afraid to go to the police because they would likely contact the man to ask that he leave her alone (which they did), and that the man would retaliate by making good his threat good to destroy her reputation. Fortunately, someone convinced her that going to the police, as well as filing for a restraining order, would protect her (which ended up being true on both counts).

Here's another article where a woman was able to stop her cyberstalker by going to the police, as well as to court for a restraining order: Amazon stalker sent anonymous deliveries of illicit novels to victim, court hears

All of that data about the cyberstalker was in the police report that I forwarded to Amazon, who immediately took down the cyberstalker's malicious reviews.

I was fortunate to find that police report (which is public record), but it’s not always the case that such compelling data is discovered. But even without it, I believe Amazon would have taken down the review as it violated Amazon's review policies.

By the way, if you have received similar vengeful reviews, keep in mind that it may take Amazon several weeks, even a month, to follow up on your takedown request. While you are waiting for Amazon’s response, resist the urge to click on the bad review link, and ask friends and family not to click it, either. Simply put, clicking = interest and interest = higher ranking. You don’t want that vengeful “review” getting more attention.

Others Have Been Stalked on Amazon

Sometimes in a big way. Several years ago a Michael Jackson fan group bombarded a book on Amazon (which they felt was derogatory about MJ) with hundreds of one-star reviews.

Although some say that Amazon suggests responding to a stalker’s comment (KDP Thread: Dealing with a Stalker), I advise against it (see “Tips for Handling a Cyberstalker” below).

Wish I could say this cyberstalking episode was a one-time event, but it wasn't. 

A Book Blog Tour Stalker

This happened almost seven years ago for a book I co-authored. The cyberstalker didn't know me, but was obsessed with my co-author. Besides this stalker posting bogus, malicious reviews, he began trolling our book blog tour and posting derogatory comments at each site. Yes, we had our own tag-a-long book-blog stalker. He hadn’t even read the book, how rude.

Working with Blog Hosts

We contacted our blog hosts ahead of time, briefly explained that we had our very own personal stalker and suggested the host monitor all comments and delete his offensive rants. Oh, and to please forward us the stalker’s IP address. Gee, imagine our surprise (not) to see that all of the derogatory comments originated from the same IP address.

Blog Host Put a Stop to It

 Our cyberstalker disappeared—POOF!—like smoke

Our cyberstalker disappeared—POOF!—like smoke

One of our hosts (decorated ex-military, unafraid to tangle with anyone) posted one of the stalker’s rants, and publicly censured the stalker for acting like a cowardly baby hiding behind his mommy’s skirts. Yes, those were his exact words. Must have hurt the stalker’s feelings because after that his public shenanigans stopped cold. He just…disappeared. Poof! Like smoke.

Ignoring The Stalker

We didn’t know that particular host would publicly censure the stalker—in fact, if we had been told ahead of time that he was going to publicly call out and embarrass the stalker, we would have requested there be no public exchange.

We don’t specialize in stalking cases, but we have been contacted by writers and others who are being stalked, and we always suggest they ignore the stalker and document all activity in case the person wishes to later involve the police or hire an attorney.

What Is Stalking?

Classically, it is a repeated pattern of unwanted, offensive contact intended to harass or frighten the subject. The Internet, unfortunately, provides opportunities for stalkers to anonymously intimidate their victims.

Tips for Handling a Cyberstalker

Here are some tips for handling a cyberstalker.

1. Save all correspondence, including header information in emails and other forms of electronic correspondence.

2. If you are 18 or under, let your parent (or an adult you trust) know about the cyberstalking.

3. Respond in writing with a cease & desist request. Then do not engage further with the cyberstalker. Clearly state that the contact is unwanted and that the cyberstalker should immediately stop all forms of communication. Check the filtering options on your email (and other communication services, such as social media) and apply the filtering options to halt the cyberstalker’s messages from reaching you.

4. Contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and file a complaint. If you’ve learned the cyberstalker’s ISP, also file a complaint with their ISP, too. ISPs have policies in place to handle cyberstalking, such as eliminating incoming messages from the cyberstalker, if known.

5. If the cyberstalking continues, contact your local law enforcement or local prosecutor’s office to see what charges (if any) can be filed. Save these communications as well, including any police reports.

6. Consider changing your email address, phone numbers, ISP, and other contact information the cyberstalker is using. Also considering using encryption software.

Resources on Cyberstalking

HaltAbuse.org: Working to Halt Online Abuse

Get Safe Online: An article on cyberstalking and ways to protect yourself

FBI: Internet Crime Complaint Center

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the content requires specific, written authority from the author.

Remembering Mike Nichols: From Comic to Director

vintage typewriter on sepia.jpg

Today is Mike Nichol's birthday. He would have been 86 years old. What a mega-talent and inspiration he was to writers, actors, directors, and others.

He directed some wonderful films, including The GraduateSilkwoodWorking GirlWho's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Heartburn. And he directed plays, from what I believe was his final one, Betrayal (which sold out for all performances before the play even opened), to years ago directing a young unknown named Whoopi Goldberg in her one-act play that took her from obscurity to being a star.

He Grew Up a Loner...

Later in life he said that growing up a loner gifted him with the ability to know what people were thinking. I think he likely meant that he could easily, and often correctly, interpret people's emotions and motivations, which makes me think of "truth wizards." This is a term coined by research psychologists about people who have an uncanny way of detecting liars, as well as other emotions/motivations within a person. Truth wizards have typically grown up in difficult environments where, as children, they learned to carefully observe people as a means of survival, really. I know about truth wizards from researching them years ago for an article, and later a murder-mystery novel featuring a character who was a truth wizard (Mistletoe and Murder in Las Vegas).

From Loner to Famous Comic

 Elaine May and Mike Nichols, 1960 (image is in public domain)

Elaine May and Mike Nichols, 1960 (image is in public domain)

After Mike Nichols started college, he said he was a loner no more. His first success as an artist was as part of the two-person comedy team with Elaine May. After that came directing plays, then film. He won every award as a director: the Emmy, Oscar, Tony...I may have missed one in that line-up.

What I like about reading his quotes on directing film and plays is that his words apply to writing, too.

A Few Favorite Nichols' Quotes

Here's a few of my favorite Mike Nichols' quotes. As I mentioned above, he was talking about film-making, but his thoughts on technique and process apply to crafting stories and characters as well.

"There are only three kinds of scenes: a fight, a seduction or a negotiation." 

"A movie is like a person. You either trust it or you don't."

"I've always been impressed by the fact that upon entering a room full of people, you find them saying one thing, doing another, and wishing they were doing a third. The words are secondary and the secrets are primary. That's what interests me the most." 

"I think the audience asks the question, 'Why are you telling me this?'...there must be a specific answer."

Do Ghost Hunters Really Find Ghosts?

Tomorrow is Halloween. For the last month, several older hotels here in Colorado have been hosting ghost-hunting parties and spooky tours. Silly fun...or are these hotels truly haunted?

Over the years we've had a few people call our agency, asking if we could investigate ghosts they believe are haunting their homes. We will decline, explaining that we are not paranormal investigators, and we try to steer them to paranormal investigation sources that sincerely want to help people and not take advantage of their fears.

What Is a Paranormal Investigator?

Most paranormal investigators are people who are certified in parapsychology or who have studied paranormal investigations. Their goal is to help people in need, and often paranormal investigators do not accept money for their services (although they may accept donations for travel, lodging and expenses). Some paranormal investigators make money through writing books, conducting “ghost tours,” giving workshops, or even starring in TV reality shows about ghost hunters.

Tips for Hiring a Paranormal Investigator

We used to recommend people contact the National and International ParaHaunt Paranormal Family Network that gave referrals to paranormal investigators throughout the U.S.and the world, but it appears the organization no longer exists.  

However, you can check the background of the paranormal organization or investigator before you retain their services. Contact the Better Business Bureau, research the organization/person on the Internet for news stories and client referrals, review their website and contact any former clients for recommendations, or hire a private investigator to double-check the paranormal investigator’s background (especially if you’re inviting this person into your home).

 Photograph of floating spirit & spirit "orb" by William Hope, early 1900s

Photograph of floating spirit & spirit "orb" by William Hope, early 1900s

Ghost Hunting at Three Colorado Haunted Hotels

More than once I have visited the Stanley Hotel and taken its Ghost Tour. The “Stanley” is known for its Room #217, where Stephen King first began writing The Shining, later made into a movie starring Jack Nicholson.

My Digital Photos Caught “Orbs”

I took photos during these ghost tours with my digital camera, and others in the group (including the tour guide) would tell me I had captured orbs, which supposedly indicated the presence of spirits. The Paranormal Encyclopedia says that “both skeptics, and many ghost hunters, agree that photographic orbs are most often, if not always, caused by natural elements such as dust, pollen, or water vapor.” I don’t know what caused the orbs, but if I’d seen, oh, a spectral figure hovering in the photo…well, then I’d believe I’d captured evidence of a ghost.

Claims of Ghosts, But When I Visited…

I’ve visited other reported haunted hotels and buildings around Denver, Colorado, starting with the “Brown.”

 Brown Palace Hotel, Denver Colorado, 1898

Brown Palace Hotel, Denver Colorado, 1898

The Brown Palace Hotel

I’ve taken the ghost tour three times at the Brown Palace Hotel, built in 1892. Each time, the guide told us fantastic stories about ghosts and ghouls who haunt the hotel, from a long-dead string quartet that still practices their music to a ghost-like train conductor who walks through walls. I would have loved to have seen or heard one of these apparitions, but I never did. Neither did anyone else on those tours.

Although one of the tour guides swore that late one night she saw a “black mass” of vapor swirl up to the ceiling and disappear. Hmmm. Shame no one got a picture of that.

House of Mirrors

Seven or so years ago, I was writing a novel that featured a ghost character who'd lived during the late nineteenth-century silver-boom days of Colorado. During this era, there was a famous madam, Mattie Silks, whom people claim still haunts her old living quarters in Denver (which was called the House of Mirrors).

 Mattie Silks, Denver madam, 1845-1929 

Mattie Silks, Denver madam, 1845-1929 

One spring afternoon, I visited the House of Mirrors, which had morphed into a bar/restaurant. The business was closed, but a friendly bartender let me in to walk around and look at spots where the madam’s ghost had been seen and heard (several people claimed to have even heard her whispering on a certain staircase). Did I see or hear any ghostly goings-on? Unfortunately, no.

But the bartender claimed there had been spooky goings-on in the old building. He said late at night, when he's alone cleaning up, sometimes the elevator will suddenly start working, its doors opening…and no one is inside. And then there was the night when an entire shelf suddenly crashed to the floor.

I couldn't help but wonder if both the shelf and elevator had perhaps been in need of repair. But if while I was there I’d seen a spectral form materialize, or better yet if it had spoken to me, I might have added “paranormal investigations” to our agency services.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the content requires specific, written authority from the author.

The Day I Met Elvis Presley

Today, August 16, 2017, marks the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. I had met him accidentally in 1967, along with a dozen or so others, as he was trying to enter his dentist's office in Palm Springs, California. Despite being besieged by people out of the blue, he was gracious and funny...and a bit flirtatious.

Ten years later, on August 16, 1977, I was working for Dick Clark in Hollywood when the phones began ringing and ringing—reporters calling with the news that Elvis had died, and could they get a quote from Dick Clark?

As I fielded those calls, I recalled the day ten years earlier when...

I Met The King of Rock 'n Roll

I accidentally met Elvis in 1967 in Palm Springs, California. I was 15 years old, and had just finished marching in a parade with the high school drill team and band. It was terribly hot that late spring day, and my girlfriends and I were hanging out after the parade, walking down a shady median. All of a sudden, one of my pals shrieked, "There's Elvis Presley!"

I looked across the street and there he was, with two beefy bodyguards, trying to walk into a dentist's office. I say "trying" because a small crowd had gathered around him. My girlfriends and I ran across four lanes of traffic to join that crowd. I don't think we even looked for oncoming traffic—we just ran across the street, a gaggle of squealing teenage girls—to see The King of Rock 'n Roll.

Right Before His 1968 Comeback

This was right before his comeback in 1968—dang, he looked good. Tan, healthy, trim. He was very cordial, charming even, to the people in the crowd, signing things they handed to him, saying you're welcome and thank you very much.

After several minutes, he thanked everyone and said he needed to go inside to see his dentist, I, being an overly excitable 15-year-old, yelled from the outskirts of the crowd, "Please, Elvis, just one more signature!"

He looked over the heads in the crowd, smiled at me, and said, "Okay, just one more."

The Crowd Parted...

And let me through and I stood there, looking up at Elvis Presley. My God, Elvis Presley. Gobsmacked doesn't even begin to describe how I felt. He asked me what I wanted him to sign and...I realized I had nothing. So I turned around and said, "Sign my back."

I meant the back of my shirt, but he lifted my hair and placed the pen on the back of my neck and started writing...

Elvis's Memorable Words to Me

"You're too sweaty for me to sign your back," he teased.

Yep. I'll always remember how Elvis Presley told me I was too sweaty.

"I meant my shirt," I rasped, my heart pounding so hard I thought I'd pass out. "Sign the back of my shirt."

I could feel the pressure of his pen on my back...as he wrote he spelled out, "T-h-e b-a-c-k o-f m-y s-h-i-r-t" as though he were signing my exact words.

I turned around and said, "Is that what you wrote?"

And he gave me that curled-lip grin and said, "No, honey, I wrote my name."

And he went inside the dentist's office.

The Shirt Tale

I kept that shirt for years...sometimes I'd take it out of my closet and look at his signature. I moved so many times over the years (I moved three times that first year in Hollywood alone), and somewhere in the midst of all the moves, I lost that shirt. I've sometimes wondered if anyone ever found it and wondered why "Elvis Presley" was scrawled on the back in large cursive letters. They probably thought it was a joke—well, unless they compared a sample of his real signature against it.

August 16, 1977

In my early twenties, I moved to Los Angeles with the dream of working in film production. Within two years, I was working for Dick Clark who at the time was producing a TV show for ABC. Another TV show, Barney Miller, filmed on a nearby stage, and the actors would often stroll over on their breaks and chat with us. I didn't own a television so I wasn't all that sure who these actors were. Probably a good thing because I would have been gobsmacked all over again. (I know, what kind of Hollywood film production employee doesn't own a TV? Well, I didn't have one for years and never missed it, although I enjoyed watching TV at other people's homes. Years later, a boyfriend decided enough was enough and surprised me with a TV for my birthday.)

Back to working for Dick Clark. On August 16, 1977, our phones started ringing and ringing...Elvis had died. As I fielded calls, I looked back on that spring day when I'd accidentally met Elvis, amazed and saddened that here I was ten years later, juggling calls from reporters about his death.

Dick Clark's Significance to Elvis Presley

On the day Elvis died, reporters and others wanted to talk to Dick Clark because of his reputation for promoting, and making careers for, many musicians, especially on his former TV show American Bandstand (1956-1987) that brought rock 'n roll into millions of families' homes. 

Interestingly enough, Elvis never appeared on American Bandstand, but that's because he was overseas in the Army when the show became a mega-hit. Clark, however, is credited with keeping Elvis's name burning bright in front of America's teenagers during those years via a series of telephone interviews with Elvis that were broadcast on American Bandstand. Fans, especially girl-fans, couldn't wait for their Elvis to come back to the States. You can read more about it here: How Dick Clark Helped Keep Private Presley Popular.

Forty Years Later

Now it's been 40 years since the day The King of Rock 'n Roll died. Cast members of Barney Miller have passed on, as has Dick Clark. I look back at that job and oddly enough, I can't recall much about my day-to-day job tasks that year for Dick Clark, but I vividly recall the day Elvis died.

The image is one thing and the human being is another. It’s very hard to live up to an image, put it that way.
— Elvis Presley

"The Day I Met Elvis Presley" - All Rights Reserved by Colleen Collins. Do not copy, distribute, or otherwise use the content of this article without written permission by the author.

In Honor of Book Lovers Day: Keith Richards, Rock-n-Roll Librarian

  Keith Richards, Rolling Stones Voodoo Loungue World Tour, Rio de Janeiro, 1995 (photo is in public domain, courtesy of Machocarioca)

Keith Richards, Rolling Stones Voodoo Loungue World Tour, Rio de Janeiro, 1995 (photo is in public domain, courtesy of Machocarioca)

When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer.
— Keith Richards

The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards: Rocker outlaw...guitar god...book lover

This will either surprise you or make you jealous: Keith Richards has extensive personal libraries in both of his Sussex and Connecticut homes. In fact, he has so many books that he once considered "professional training" to better manage his vast collection. Yes, dear reader, rock-n-roll bad-boy Keith Richards dreamed of becoming a librarian.

Keith and the Dewey Decimal System

Once upon a time, Keith was painstakingly arranging copies of rare books about the history of early American rock and World WarII. He was applying the standard Dewey Decimal classification system (possibly fortified with a glass of vino or a little ganja -- although he no longer does "the hard stuff" Keith is quoted as saying he's still fond of wine and weed). Whatever he might have been imbibing, he nevertheless felt overwhelmed with his massive book classification project, at which point he seriously considered becoming a librarian.

Can you imagine being shushed by Keith Richards? Or what it would be like going to the reference desk...and there's Keith Richards?

He'd probably be very cool about books turned in late; after all he once owed libraries 50 years worth of fines.

The Saga of Keith and the Overdue Library Books

Keith Richards Owes '50 Years' of Library Fines (Huffington Post)

Library offers to waive Keith Richards' £3000 fine if he drops in for visit (Mirror)

 

Rock on. Read on.