Ink-Stained Tales

With Gina and some of the Press-Enterprise gang circa … back in the day.

As any scribe will attest, the best (and weirdest) stories from one’s career didn’t always make it into the newspaper. I collected a few of my favorites here.

The Perfect Murder? Prologue

One of the strangest stories I ever covered was the disappearance of industrialist Joe Derr in Acapulco, Mexico – and the ensuing tug of war between his prospective benefactors: Donald Baggett, his albino bodybuilder lover and accused killer, and the small Pennsylvania town that exiled him for being a homosexual when he was a boy.…

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Chapter 1: Red Room

This is a true story. It must be. It was in the newspaper. I put it there. So. One evening in 1987, someone called my newsroom to tip us that the tiny town of Benton, Pa., had inherited something close to a million dollars. It was bequeathed by a man no one in Benton at…

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Chapter 2: Titanic Rising

I’d like to say that Cy Ruthenburg’s rich tale of Joseph Derr’s rake’s progress, which hinged, in part, on the unexpected but not unwelcome debut of Oklahoma oilfield gambler Titanic Thomas in Evansville society, wafted on a fuzzy atmosphere of scotch above a spreading Ohio River sunset just over his shoulder, but since Cy’s club…

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Chapter 3: Enter the Albino

By the early seventies, Joe Derr’s need for deception had ebbed. If he needed to pass at a reception at the governor’s mansion up in Indianapolis he had a willing cadre of faded debs to take his arm and help him find his keys. Otherwise, if you wanted Joe Derr, you got Donald Baggett, too.…

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Chapter 5: The Final Footfalls of Joseph Derr

So there we were, Jorge Camps and I, greeting gray daybreak with a couple of bottles of Negra Modelo after completing a strange and most unholy carnal via crucis along Acapulco’s notorious Condesa Beach. We’d chatted up transvestites, prostitutes, pederasts, boys on leashes, bondage buddies, sadists and masochists (like love and marriage, you can’t have…

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The Work of Allah

The fire mine fire that would eventually consume Centralia, Pa., started in 1962 in a garbage dump, ignited a coal seam, and slowly but inexorably spread. Smoke began to pour from spreading fissures and occasionally a sinkhole opened up and swallowed a child.

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The Last Detail

In the late 1980s, my shooter buddy Keith and I traveled to D.C. for what would become the largest public demonstration in American history to that point, far bigger than Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington. The occasion was a pro-choice rally. Hard to beat a gorgeous spring day in D.C. with a story…

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