SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
November 25, 2018

The Big Molester Roundup

 

Maybe it’s something that occurs to everyone at one time or another. I dunno. But every few weeks I find I have to pause and think, “Yeah, I’ve known way too many child molesters in my time.”

            Granted, I’ve known a bunch of criminals and ex-cons, from murderers to mobsters to check forgers and penny-ante thieves, but a lot of them were people I met in the course of work, and it’s not like we remained close friends or anything. Not most of them, anyway. But the child molesters for the most part were people I knew pretty well before the charges came up. That’s the disturbing thing. You hear that a kid you grew up with went into a cable TV outlet with a bunch of guns and killed six people and you think, “You don’t say? Imagine that. Didn’t think he had it in him.” But you hear that a kid you grew up with was just convicted on child molestation charges, and you get a little queasy.

            Thing is, while I can understand any number of criminal impulses, despite the reams (forgive me) of psychological analysis out there, molesting kids remains beyond my comprehension. Maybe that’s just because I don’t like kids much and tend to stay away from them, and so can’t imagine the idea of using them for any kind of sexual gratification. But that’s just me.

            A few weeks ago I wrote about a cousin of mine who’d just been busted for having some kind of online sexual this-or-that with a young girl. He was only the latest. Here’s a quick run-down of some of the child molesters I’ve known (at least those I’m aware of), in chronological order.

            Around 1979 or 1980, my dad was the security and maintenance manager at a big shopping mall in downtown Green Bay. I was in junior high at the time. He had three or four security guards working fore him, moonlighting or ex-cops, mostly, chubby, slow-moving guys who ambled around the mall all day in official brown uniforms looking for rambunctious teenagers. One of them, Larry, was my favorite. Interesting, very nice guy who also worked for the local Animal Care and Control unit. He always had great stories to tell about retrieving raccoons from someone’s house, or uncovering a nest of bats under an old woman’s bed. Everybody liked Larry. Big, beefy guy with thinning hair and a baby face.

            Then one day Larry just disappeared. Back then I was much more interested in national and international news, and so wasn’t following local news much. If I had, I likely would have seen the story.

            I had a job in the mall at the time and so usually ran into Larry two or three times a week, but it took me a few weeks to notice he hadn’t been around in a while. I finally asked my dad what had happened to him, and he quietly, simply, and sadly explained that Larry had been arrested after he touched an eight-year-old boy inappropriately while on an ACC call. He was never mentioned or heard from again.

            One hot and humid summer night during high school I took the bus to the west side of town to catch one of the regular all-ages hardcore shows in the rented hall above Northside Lanes. I think No, No Response, and Suburban Mutilation were playing that night. Probably a few other bands, too, I don’t recall. I’d gone to the show alone, as per usual. It was a miserably warm night, and in that crowded, sweaty hall temperatures were running about twenty degrees warmer still, so I’d taken a seat on a ledge near an open window to try and get some air. A pudgy, balding older man with glasses and a baby face emerged out of the mass of swirling, thrashing teenage boys and made a beeline toward that same window. He took a seat on the ledge next to me and began trying to strike up a conversation. I could smell the creepy vibe rolling off him like sweat, so kept my guard up.

            At first he was talking abut the whole hardcore punk scene, how much he loved it, loved the music, and wished he’d been able to find something like that when he was younger. Then he began with the probing questions, like “Are you here alone?” Then came the move, as he started talking earnestly about how hard it was to be a lonely teenager, and how important it was to find a friend.

            Yes, well. Even before he started talking it was clear where he was headed, so I excused myself and disappeared into the pit. I could get some air some other time. Later that night I made sure he was preoccupied with some other young thing when I slipped out and headed for the bus.

            Many years later I asked a few people from the old scene about him, and sure enough, he was a notorious local chickenhawk who regularly trolled the shows for young, sweaty flesh. The hardcore scene nationwide was swimming with chickenhawks, a few taking the form of some of the most popular bands around. I obviously never really knew this guy, and have no idea if he was ever arrested or convicted, so maybe it doesn’t count, but I thought I’d drop him in here anyway.

            Several years after I graduated high school, my parents gave me a call and asked if I happened to know a kid named Barry Bledsoe.

            “Sure I know him,” I said. “We were in school together from first grade through graduation. I think he was at my sixth birthday party in the old house. Big, burly kid with freckles, curly red hair and big glasses. Baby-faced guy.”

            Barry and I were never exactly what you’d call close friends, but we were friendly enough. You end up in so many classes with a kid over the years, it was inevitable.

            My parents told me that’s exactly who it was, and that I’d described him perfectly. In fact they were so excited by the fact I knew him they forgot to tell me why they were asking about him. They just went on and on about how amazing it was that I knew him.

            I was finally able to pry out of them that they were asking because his picture was in the paper that day, and his picture was in the paper because he’d just been charged with several counts of child molestation and was looking at a ten-year sentence if convicted. Some six months later, he was found guilty.

            As part of a long feature on the new generation of young, intellectual and artistic Nazis I wrote for The Welcomat back around 1992, I interviewed the likes of underground luminaries Boyd Rice, Michael Moynihan and Adam Parfrey. Moynihan also pointed me toward a fellow named James Mason. So I gave him a call and conducted what turned out to be a nearly two-hour interview,

            Mason was living in Colorado at the time, I believe, and had been George Lincoln Rockwell’s second in command in the early days of the American Nazi Party. More recently he’d founded a new organization called The Universal Order, a revolutionary Nazi group which derived its teachings as much from Charles Manson as Adolf Hitler. Universal Order rhetoric was as violently racist and bloodthirsty as anything I’d read in any of the white supremacist publications I’d perused as part of my research.

            Fascinating and scary guy, this Mason, who was clearly well-read and could be pretty funny at turns.

            Mason had a neatly-trimmed beard, wore horn-rimmed glasses and spoke with a precise and arrogant Southern accent.

            Mason, it seems, was so pleased with the interview and the resulting story that he sent me an inscribed copy of his book, Siege, which gathered together hundreds of Universal Order pamphlets. Again, all quite fascinating and scary.

            Shortly after the interview ran, a friend familiar with the new fascist underground, and with Mason personally, told me Mason was living in Colorado at the time because he’d already been chased out of six other states as a result of kiddie porn and child molestation charges. He’d actually spent several long stretches in prison for it, and was now no longer allowed to re-enter those states.

            Several weeks later this same friend told me Mason had been arrested yet again, this time in Washington state, and had just started serving a twenty-year sentence. Stupid Nazi goon simply couldn’t control himself, it seems.

            A few years after arriving in New York, I was visiting some friends in the East Village when they introduced me to an old and dear friend of theirs named Brother Antwerp, who was visiting from L.A. for a few days. A big, boisterous and outrageously charismatic fellow with a Texas drawl and a baby face, Antwerp was a wide-ranging visual artist with deep ties to the rock’n’roll scene. The friend who introduced us had worked with Antwerp back in the early Eighties when they had a comic performance art routine that played a lot of punk clubs. Since then he’d gone on to be art director for the likes of Zappa and Tom Petty, and was in New York that day because he was meeting with Michael Jackson.

            Antwerp and I wandered around the East Village that afternoon and had a rollicking conversation. A few years later when I was working as editor-at-large at The Welcomat in Philly, my editor Derek and I conscripted him to do a weekly comic strip for the paper, which was pretty nifty.

            After the paper folded and all of us were canned, Antwerp and I stayed in sporadic touch. I couldn’t get him into the New York Press, but he kept me updated on all the other things he was up to. He was one of those people who seemed to be working on a different plane altogether. There was something quite distant about him, but he was nevertheless compelling and told a great story.

            Then one day it struck me that I hadn’t heard from Antwerp in nearly a year. I went online and did a quick search, and sure enough. A whole bunch of stories cropped up about his arrest and conviction on child molestation charges, making much of the fact that he had ties to Michael Jackson.

            Well, shit. I called one of our mutual friends who had little to say other than to confirm the stories. Thing is, neither the stories nor my friend went into any details about what, exactly, he’d done, but whatever it was, he was serving an eight-year sentence in the federal pen for it.

            Eight years later, I got a phone call from Antwerp, but that’s another very long story. Never did find out what he’d done or to whom, but I learned all about life in the federal pen and what it’s like to be officially branded a convicted sex offender once you get out. He was still as compelling and charismatic as ever, if a bit more desperate given all his old business contacts now wanted nothing to do with him. Another mutual friend, a lawyer, counseled me it would likely be for the best if I did the same.

            All of the above leaves me wondering sometimes if maybe I should change my shampoo or something. It also leaves me occasionally ticking through all the people I still know and consider friends, looking for the baby-faced ones. I may start laying down bets.

 

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