Too close to home
January 31, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
Today I gave my first radio interview about how Mike Albee and Lura Dold of Sandpiper Publicity scammed me of $40,000 by exploiting the suicides of my parents. I used their names on the air, I identified their company, and I briefly described how it was done. This is just the beginning. Mike and Lura can’t sue me because they’re frauds. They aren’t real publicists.
Other reasons that Mike and Lura can’t sue me are:
I didn’t sign contracts for the double billing or the SEO work;
the SEO work was never completed;
everything Mike says on his Website about Sandpiper is a lie.
My e-mails and screen shots prove that the seven months I spent with Sandpiper were a charade. Virtually nothing was accomplished. Also, any lawyer would ask Mike and Lura, “Why did you take down the Basecamp posts and Wictor’s Facebook page and Twitter account? If he’s lying or misinformed, why did you immediately try to hide all evidence that you’d ever worked with him?”
The answer is simple: Mike and Lura are professional grifters, not book publicists. They have no defense. If they sue me, they’ll lose. I’m not going to sue them to get back my $40,000. I’m sure they’ve already spent it.
Plus, do Mike and Lura really want me to tell a jury how they targeted an incurably ill, housebound guy with PTSD and used his parents’ suicides as the means to squeeze as much money out of him as they could?
In return for me not suing them, I get to tell the non-jury world what they did. It’s a fair tradeoff. They can change their names or start another company.
Too close to home
After my interview I read an article about the movie Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Scarlett Johansson. The piece—by Phil Bowermaster—is titled, “What’s Real? Does it Matter?” In Her, Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with a computer program, the voice of Scarlett Johansson. Bowermaster asks if what Phoenix feels for Johansson is real and whether it even matters.
What if it comes down to a blissful relationship with a computer program versus no relationship at all? (There are a lot of lonely people out there, after all.) Or what if it’s a choice between a painful and abusive real-life relationship and a happy and satisfying artificial one?
As long as the relationship brings happiness, does it matter if it’s real? Again, we all know what the answer is supposed to be. But let’s not be too terribly surprised when, in the near future, a lot of people start to choose this particular form of non-reality over reality.
That world is already here. People haven’t waited for artificial humans to arrive; they’ve become the artificial humans themselves. It’s one of the reasons I choose solitude. Due to my early training, I’m drawn to artificial humans. Humanoids, to use the technical term. It’s my orientation. Though I was able to finally recognize that deficit, it’s not something I can overcome.
But I hate it.
I crave reality. My formative years and the first stages of my adulthood were spent interacting with frauds. I knew the whole time that nothing was real, but I couldn’t escape. It was like living in a theme park, where everyone except for me played a role.
When I was about seven, I read a comic-book story that disturbed me profoundly. Two men escaped from a prison in the desert and made their way to a beautiful little town. It had houses with white picket fences, new cars, and shady parks. Only one thing was amiss: no people.
The men decided to burglarize a house. They broke in and found the living room filled with mannequins. There was a father with a pipe, a mother wearing an apron, and two kids.
“What is this place?” one man asked. “Are we in hell?”
At that moment a blinding white light came through the window, and then the house was destroyed in orange-and-yellow flames. In the final frame you saw a mushroom cloud and a sign identifying the town as a model for testing nuclear weapons.
The irony of the two criminals thinking they’d found refuge on a nuclear test site wasn’t lost on me. Since they broke into a house, they got what they deserved. What upset me was the concept of an entirely fraudulent environment that could fool you and ultimately cost you your life.
In the Venezuelan oil camp where we lived, there was a really scary couple who were friends of my parents. The man—Roy—was a dead ringer for the actor Charles Lane; he was a mean, skinny, barking, farmer-looking guy with glasses. Mom told me that she was warned to never sit next to him in a movie, because he’d do this the whole time.
“What’s he gonna do next? I’ll bet he’s gonna open the door. Yup, that’s exactly what he did, didn’t he? I knew he was gonna do that! Now I’ll bet he’s gonna go downstairs. Sure enough, there he goes! Why’s he doing that? He shouldn’t go into the basement! But there he goes, just like I said he would.”
One night all us kids were asleep. The doorbell rang. Mom answered it, and we heard a commotion of raised adult voices. Then the light in our bedroom came on, as blinding as a nuclear blast. There was Roy in the doorway, his fists on his hips.
“Get up!” he shouted. “We’ve brought pizza! Move!”
We were stunned. This vinegary, spooky weirdo had invaded our house after dark to give us pizza? Was he insane?
“If you don’t move right now,” he snarled, “there’s gonna be a buncha warm little bottoms around here!”
We got out of bed in our underwear and went to the dining room, where Roy’s wife sat on the sofa, a pizza box on the coffee table in front of her.
“Have some pizza, boys!” she yelled as she opened the box.
Mom and Dad just stood there smiling, so we blearily took slices of warm pizza, sat on the floor, and ate it while Roy towered over us, glaring and monologuing.
“That’s good, isn’t it? Of course it is. No such thing as bad pizza. They just made it a few minutes ago. Fresh. Right out of the oven. Better than sleeping, isn’t it? Hey. Hey! Tommy! Have another slice! Have one! You too, Timmy! Pablo, you get one too! I mean it, now. Eat that pizza. Eat it!”
After we’d each had three or four slices, Roy snapped his fingers at us.
“All right. Back to bed. Get!”
So we scurried into our room. Mom and Dad never spoke about this nocturnal pizza raid. I realized years later that Roy and his wife were both drunk out of their minds. They probably didn’t even remember coming over.
It was all some weird performance put on for…somebody. This and a million other such spectacles have made me allergic to fraud, shtick, characters, pretend, and everything else that reeks of fakery. Acting has its place; I just can’t stand when people around me behave as though they’re on a stage or in front of a camera.
Actors don’t die well. I can tell you that from firsthand experience.
And it’s not Scarlett Johansson’s fault, but I’m not even slightly attracted to her. She’s like fingernails on a chalkboard. Whenever I see or hear her, I’m reminded of this atrocity.
To me, she’s no different from Roy growling about warm little bottoms as he forced us to eat pizza in the middle of the night.
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