Putting our children at risk

David Webb
The Rare Reporter

Child sexual abuse a concern for everyone, especially LGBT parents

Most people would probably agree there is no resource that a society cherishes more than its children. So it is hard to fathom how sexual predators manage with such apparent ease to carry out horrendous, undetected assaults on children practically under the noses of their families and others who are charged with their protection.

As horrific as the crime of child sexual abuse is, there are no firm estimates of its prevalence because it often goes undetected and is seriously underreported, according to agencies that study child abuse.

Less than 100,000 crimes of sexual abuse are reported each year because children fear telling anyone, and adults who become aware of the activity are often reluctant to contact law enforcement agencies, even though there is usually a legal requirement to do so.

With so many LGBT households now raising children, it is obviously vital that all parents be aware of the tactics used by sexual predators to seduce children without arousing the suspicion of their families, and aware of the symptoms victims of child sexual abuse exhibit.

The critical need for sustained intervention into child sexual abuse recently gained national attention following a grand jury’s indictment of retired Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on 40 counts of child sex abuse involving eight victims over a 15-year period. The victims reportedly came into contact with the now 67-year-old, married Sandusky in connection with the Second Mile, a children’s charity the former football coach founded.

Although Sandusky denied, this week in an NBC interview, engaging in any type of sexual activity with the pre-pubescent boys, he acknowledged showering and “horsing around” with them after exercise. He also admitted hugging young boys and putting his hand on their legs when they sat next to him.

His admissions shocked viewers and confirmed in many minds what was already suspected — Sandusky is most likely a pedophile that has taken advantage of young boys with the unwitting complicity of their families.

It is a devastating scandal that will likely rival the one that rocked the Catholic Church a decade ago when it became known that untold numbers of Catholic Church priests sexually abused young boys and violated the trust of their families.

If the charges against Sandusky are true, the accounts by the victims portray a classic pattern of enticement and betrayal practiced by the former football coach in his pursuit of the young boys. Likewise, the lack of action by those who knew about Sandusky’s alleged criminal activity parallel what often happens when the abuser commands power and respect in a community.

Much of the difficulty in combating child sexual abuse can be attributed to its relative youth in terms of public awareness about the crime. The first studies on the molestation of children began in the 1920s, and the first estimate of the prevalence of the crime was reported in 1948.

In 1974 the National Center for Child Abuse and Neglect was founded, and the Child Abuse and Treatment Act was created. Since then, awareness about the problem has grown dramatically, and much more is known about deterring the crime and assisting victims of it.

Children’s advocates have identified “red flags” to help parents and others protect children from sexual predators. They warn parents to be wary of someone who wants to spend more time with their children than they do, who attempts to be alone with a child, who frequently seeks physical closeness to a child such as hugging or touching, who is overly interested in the sexuality of a child, who seems to prefer the company of children to people their own age, who lacks boundaries, who regularly offers to babysit,who often gives presents or  money to children, who frequently walks in on children in bathrooms or locker rooms, who frequents parks where children gather, who makes inappropriate comments about a child’s appearance or who likes to photograph children.

Signs of possible sexual abuse in children include a fear of people, places or activities, reluctance to undress, disturbed sleep, mood swings, excessive crying, fear of being touched, loss of appetite, a drastic change in school performance, bizarre themes in drawing, sexually acting out on other children, advanced sexual knowledge, use of new words for private body parts and a reversion to old behavior such as bedwetting or thumb sucking.

Aside from the moral responsibility to protect children and other weaker members of society that all people share, it is essential to intervene in child sexual abuse because of the long-lasting psychological damage it usually causes. The problems can include feelings of worthlessness, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and distorted views of sexuality.

Also, victims of child sexual abuse tend to become sexual predators as adults, making it a crime that begets more crime.

The Sandusky scandal will undoubtedly lead to devastating repercussions for Penn State, for the Second Mile charity with which the former football coach is no longer affiliated and for law enforcement and university officials who became aware of concerns about the former football coach’s activities and failed to act on them.

But the real tragedy — if the allegations are true — will be the lasting impact upon the victims.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.        

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Updated Election Results, HISD III may be headed for recount (updated)

With 31.98% of Harris County precincts reporting, most races look much the same as they did at 7 pm when the Harris County Clerk published early voting totals.  The HISD district III race between Manuel Rodriguez and Ramiro Fonseca is turning into a nail bitter. With 58% of precincts reporting only 36 votes separate the two candidates. This race garnered national attention after Rodriquez mailed an anti-gay flier attacking Fonseca, and the Houston Chronicle subsequently pulled its endorsement of Rodriquez

UPDATED: with 94.74% of precincts reporting Rodriquez is now leading Fonseca by 3 votes.

Only candidates with more than 10% of the vote at current count are reflected.

City of Houston, MAYOR, 29% of precincts reporting
Dave Wilson  10.99%
Fernando Herrera  14.56%
Annise D. Parker  52.09%
Jack O’Connor 13.43%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 1, 29% of precincts reporting
Stephen C. Costello 51.59%
Scott Boates 21.71%
Don Cook 18.31%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 2, 29% of precincts reporting
Kristi Thibaut 16.29%
Elizabeth C. Pérez 12.40%
Andrew C. Burks, Jr. 19.08%
David W. Robinson 11.76%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 3, 29% of precincts reporting
Melissa Noriega 56.88%
Chris Carmona 24.63%
J. Brad Batteau 18.49%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 4, 29% of precincts reporting
Louis Molnar 10.93%
Amy Price 19.47%
C. O. “Brad” Bradford 69.59%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 5, 29% of precincts reporting
Laurie Robinson 19.43%
Jolanda “Jo” Jones 41.03%
Jack Christie 31.31%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT A, 19% of precincts reporting
Brenda Stardig 42.77%
Helena Brown 47.45%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT B, 44% of precincts reporting
Kenneth Perkins 10.09%
Kathy Blueford-Daniels 17.49%
Alvin Byrd  26.86%
Jerry Davis  23.68%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT C, 23% of precincts reporting.
Ellen Cohen  55.56%
Karen Derr 10.50%
Brian Cweren  27.86%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT D, 35% of precincts reporting.
Larry L. McKinzie  16.44%
Wanda Adams  83.56%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT E, 33% of precincts reporting.
Mike Sullivan 100%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT F, 8% of precincts reporting.
Al Hoang  57.33%
Hoc Thai Nguyen (Nguyen Thai Hoc)  19.90%
Peter “Lyn” René  22.76%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT G, 20% of precincts reporting.
Clyde Bryan 21.00%
Oliver Pennington 79.00%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT H, 38% of precincts reporting.
Patricia Rodriguez 30.55%
Edward “Ed” Gonzalez 69.45%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT I, 46% of precincts reporting.
Leticia Gutierrez Ablaza 33.96%
James Rodriguez 66.04%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT J, 7% of precincts reporting.
Mike Laster 70.16%
Criselda Romero 19.86%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT K, 19% of precincts reporting.
Pat Frazier 23.15%
Larry Green 68.40%

Houston I.S.D., Trustee, District III, 58% of precincts reporting.
Manuel Rodriguez  50.61%
Ramiro Fonseca 49.39%

Houston I.S.D., Trustee, District IV, 29% of precincts reporting.
Davetta Daniels 33.27%
Paula Harris 66.73%

Houston I.S.D., Trustee, District VIII, 26% of precincts reporting.
Dorothy Olmos 42.12%
Juliet Kathy Stipeche 57.88%

—  admin

Early voting results in Houston Races

At 7 pm the polls closed. The Harris County Clerk’s office must now count and tabulate the votes cast today in Houston’s 769 voting precincts. While we wait for the final results, let’s take a look at the numbers from early voting:

City of Houston, MAYOR, with 46,333 ballots counted:
Kevin Simms   7.55%
Amanda Ulman  1.60%
Dave Wilson  10.40%
Fernando Herrera  14.31%
Annise D. Parker  52.76%
Jack O’Connor  13.38%

Dave Wilson’s 10.4 percent is surprising, considering he’s been poling at less than 1%.  General wisdom is that conservatives are more likely to vote early than left-leaning voters. In my opinion his strong early showing is likely to dramatically decrease as the evening progresses.

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 1,
Stephen C. Costello 51.80%
James Partsch-Galvan  7.88%
Scott Boates  21.77%
Don Cook  18.54%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 2,
Kristi Thibaut 16.75%
Elizabeth C. Pérez 10.41%
Andrew C. Burks, Jr. 20.69%
Gordon R. Goss 1.75%
Bolivar “Bo” Fraga 9.51%
Eric B. Dick  7.44%
Jenifer Rene Pool  7.55%
M. “Griff” Griffin 7.25%
David W. Robinson  11.84%
Roslyn “Rozzy” Shorter 6.81%

With such a crowded field this race is still anybody’s game, fewer than 6,000 votes separate the early leader Burks from ninth position shorter.

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 3,
Melissa Noriega 56.67%
Chris Carmona  24.19%
J. Brad Batteau  19.15%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 4,
Louis Molnar 10.65%
Amy Price 18.43%
C. O. “Brad” Bradford 70.92%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, AT-LARGE POSITION 5,
Laurie Robinson 18.43%
Jolanda “Jo” Jones  42.16%
Jack Christie 31.46%
Bob Ryan 7.94%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT A, with 3,125 votes counted:
Brenda Stardig  43.06%
Helena Brown 47.01%
Bob Schoellkopf 9.93%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT B, with 4,710 votes counted:
Kenneth Perkins  8.87%
James Joseph 4.04%
Kathy Blueford-Daniels16.98%
Phillip “Paul” Bryant 5.66%
Alvin Byrd  28.27%
Jerry Davis 26.22%
Charles A. Ingram  6.63%
Bryan Smart 3.33%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT C, with 7,492 votes counted:
Randy Locke  3.88%
Josh Verde 17 2.47%
Ellen Cohen 55.28%
Karen Derr11.17%
Brian Cweren 27.20%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT D, with 6,498 votes counted:
Larry L. McKinzie  14.60%
Wanda Adams 85.40%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT E, with 4,283 votes counted
Mike Sullivan 100.00%

City of Houston, DISTRICT F, with 2,789 votes counted:
Al Hoang  56.72%
Hoc Thai Nguyen (Nguyen Thai Hoc) 20.84%
Peter “Lyn” René  22.45%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT G, with 5,917 votes counted:
Clyde Bryan  19.60%
Oliver Pennington 80.40%

Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT H, with 2,710 votes counted
Patricia Rodriguez 27.81%
Edward “Ed” Gonzalez  72.19%

Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT I, with 2,694 votes counted
Leticia Gutierrez Ablaza 31.28%
James Rodriguez  68.72%

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT J, with 2,013 votes counted
Mike Laster 70.67%
Rodrigo Canedo 9.78%
Criselda Romero 19.56%

Out gay candidate Laster takes a commanding lead, but this heavily Hispanic district is likely to see significant election day voting, so this early number, based on so few votes, is likely very different than the final number we’ll wind up with.

City of Houston, COUNCIL MEMBER, DISTRICT K, with 4,102 votes counted:
Pat Frazier 22.68%
Larry Green 70.24%
Alex Gonik 7.08%

Houston I.S.D., Trustee, District III, with 1,981 votes counted
Manuel Rodriguez 52.95%
Ramiro Fonseca  47.05%

This race garnered national attention after Rodriquez mailed an anti-gay flier attacking Fonseca, and the Houston Chronicle subsequently pulled its endorsement of Rodriquez.  That information did not become public until after early voting closed on Friday, so any effect it had on the race would not be reflected in these numbers. Only 102 votes separate the candidates at this time.

Houston I.S.D., Trustee, District IV, with 5,881 votes counted:
Davetta Daniels 33.81%
Paula Harris 66.19%

Houston I.S.D., Trustee, District VIII, with 3,091 votes counted:
Dorothy Olmos 40.28%
Juliet Kathy Stipeche 59.72%

Remember that these are only the votes cast during early voting, the final numbers can, and often do differ dramatically from early voting totals.

—  admin

3 arrested in assault on gay man in Reno

Victim Burke Burnett says he is relieved the men are behind bars and that he believes the attack was an anti-gay hate crime

Burke-Burnett

BRUISED AND BLOODIED | Burke Burnett said he was sucker-punched in the left eye at the beginning of the attack.

JOHN WRIGHT |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

RENO, Lamar County — The victim of a brutal assault last weekend in East Texas said he’s relieved three suspects have been arrested in connection with the attack, which he believes was an anti-gay hate crime.

But it remained unclear this week whether the case is being investigated as an anti-gay hate crime by police and whether it will be prosecuted as one by the Lamar County District Attorney’s Office.

Burke Burnett, 26, said he was jumped by several men at a Halloween party early Sunday in Reno — a tiny town just east of Paris and about 100 miles northeast of Dallas. Burnett’s attackers yelled anti-gay slurs as they stabbed him repeatedly with a broken beer bottle and threw him onto a fire.

He needed more than 30 stitches and suffered second-degree burns.

After graphic photos of Burnett’s injuries were posted online by Dallas Voice and drew national attention to the case, Reno police arrested three suspects Tuesday and Wednesday and charged them with aggravated assault.

“I’m grateful that they’re in custody,” Burnett said Thursday. “I’m in a lot of pain, but I am feeling better. I don’t want to see this ever happen to anybody else again.”

Burnett, who lives in Paris and came out as gay when he was 15, said he’s convinced the attack was fueled by his sexual orientation.

“The things they were screaming while they were doing it leave no question in my mind as to what their motives were,” Burnett said. “If that constitutes a hate crime … I don’t know all the laws behind that. It’s not my job to judge these guys or to say what justice is. I just hope that justice is served because what they did was wrong. It would have been wrong no matter who they did it to.”

Burke-Burnett-2

SERIOUS BODILY INJURY | Burnett suffered second-degree burns on his arms when he was thrown onto a lit burn barrel.

Reno police said they’ve arrested 31-year-old James “Tray” Mitchell Laster III, 33-year-old Daniel Martin, and 25-year-old Micky Joe Smith. All three are charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury — second-degree felonies punishable by up 20 years in prison. Each is being held on $250,000 bond.

Police have been tightlipped about their investigation and declined to release written arrest reports this week. A representative from the Reno Police Department indicated it will be up to the Lamar County District Attorney’s Office to decide whether the attack was an anti-gay hate crime.

Lamar County District Attorney Gary Young, in turn, said it will be up to a grand jury to make that determination. Under Texas law, a hate crime is not a separate charge but rather an enhancement that could result in the existing charges being bumped up from second-degree felonies to first-degree felonies — punishable by up to 99 years in prison.

“We’re in the process of receiving all the information as a result of the investigation,” Young told Dallas Voice. “We will present all that information to the grand jury, including all the information as to whether it’s a hate crime or not. The grand jury will make a determination whether it [a hate crime] is or isn’t part of the charge. If their actions of committing the aggravated assault are based on race or sexual orientation or whatever it may be, the grand jury can choose to enhance the offense up a level.”

Young declined to further discuss the cases.

Chuck Smith, deputy director of the statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality Texas, said the quick arrests in the case are a positive sign that Burnett’s attack isn’t being swept under the rug. But Smith said there are always concerns about whether police and prosecutors understand how the state’s hate crime law is supposed to work.

“While it’s true that that’s a prosecutor’s decision, it’s also important that the law enforcement investigators document everything that a prosecutor would need to know in order to elect to prosecute it as such,” Smith said. “The police can investigate it as such, and then the district attorney can prosecute it as such. A grand jury is going to receive proposed indictments from the District Attorney’s Office. The prosecutor would ask a grand jury for an indictment under those terms.”

Equality Texas has long advocated for a legislative study on enforcement of the state’s hate crimes act, rarely used by prosecutors in the 10 years since it passed.

“The reporting from jurisdictions in Texas is not comparable to departments of similar sizes in other states, and that’s a function of the state not adequately training and enforcing and using the hate crimes act,” Smith said. “They don’t aggressively report because they think it would reflect badly on their community, where in actuality the converse is true. In communities that aggressively report, it actually makes those communities safer.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Speaker at Fort Worth City Council meeting to ‘air disapproval’ of Joel Burns’ It Gets Better speech

Joel Burns

Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns has said repeatedly that he was moved to deliver his Oct. 12 It Gets Better speech when he read about the death of Zach Harrington, a gay teen who took his own life after hearing hateful anti-gay comments during a City Council meeting in Norman, Okla. Now, someone reportedly plans to protest Burns’ passionate speech — and undoubtedly make more hateful comments that could drive LGBT teens to suicide — during this Tuesday’s Fort Worth City Council meeting. Unbelievable.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Sunday that at least one person plans to speak during Tuesday’s meeting to “air disapproval” of Burns’ speech four weeks ago. The brief report in The S-T doesn’t identify the person or persons who plan to speak. It also doesn’t say where the newspaper got the information, which is strange:

At least one person — and possibly more — plans to be in attendance to air disapproval of the much-talked-about speech by Councilman Joel Burns last month in council chambers.

Burns, the first openly gay council member, gained national attention after delivering a stirring address, in the wake of recent incidents, pleading with gay teens not to resort to suicide.

Video of the speech became an instant sensation online.

Within a week, more than 200,000 people had posted the link to the speech on Facebook, and a media tour followed. Burns appeared for interviews on CBS’ Early Show, CNN, the Today show on NBC and the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Burns was among the speakers during Saturday night’s Black Tie Dinner in Dallas. Burns choked up as he talked about how he’d been contacted earlier in the day by Harrington’s father.

“Mr. Harrington said that Zach’s mom, a teacher, is having a particularly difficult time these days, and that he wishes he could let Zach know how much they miss him, but they can’t because he killed himself — after attending a City Council meeting,” Burns said. “As I said on Oct. 12, no child should be made to feel that they are without worth. Let us remind them of their value while we still can.”

Burns then led a moment of silence “in remembrance of the needless loss of teens who found the bullying too much to bear.”

Today we can add 14-year-old Brandon Bitner to the list of those teens.

Tuesday’s council meeting, should you wish to attend, is at 7 p.m. at Council Chambers at City Hall, 1000 Throckmorton St.

—  John Wright

North Texas becomes the gay news capital of the world — at least for a few weeks

In my 3½ years at Dallas Voice, I can’t remember a two-week period when North Texas generated so much national attention for a series of different LGBT-related stories. There was, of course, the Rainbow Lounge raid last year, but that was really one huge story, not four big ones.

First, there was Andy Moreno’s bid to become homecoming queen at North Dallas High School. Then there was Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns “It Gets Better” speech. Then there was the Dallas Police Department’s raid of The Club Dallas. And now, there’s Jon Langbert’s battle against the Boy Scouts, which landed him on national TV last night. Here’s the video:

—  John Wright

Brainy gays & Mondays: Karen Carpenter revealed

Denton’s Randy Schmidt gains national attention by giving the skinny on superstar Karen Carpenter

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

Randy Schmidt
TELL ME YOU LOVE ME, BABY | Schmidt never expected his little bio to become the must-read beach book of the summer. (Photo courtesy Zachary Stefaniak)

BOOK SIGNINGS
Legacy Books, 7300 Dallas
Parkway, Suite A-120, Plano.
July 9 at 7 p.m.
Barnes & Noble, 2201 S. I-35 East, Denton.  July 10 at noon.
………………………………………….

In 1989, a casual viewing of a made-for-TV movie changed the life of 13-year-old Randy Schmidt. He just didn’t know it yet.

When The Karen Carpenter Story aired on CBS, Schmidt became immediately enthralled with both the voice and dramatic life story of the smooth ‘70s crooner, who died of anorexia nervosa in 1983.

“Her warm, rich tone was like velvet, and I’d never heard anything like it,” Schmidt recalls. “She sang so effortlessly and so simply, but there was a great deal of depth and soul that came through in that simple delivery. The voice was the main draw, but the story was so shocking that it reeled me in as well. I remember feeling a great deal of compassion for Karen. I wanted to learn all I could about the woman and her incomparable voice.”

Schmidt’s infatuation turned to expertise on the subject of the Carpenters, leading him to work behind the scenes on documentaries about the Carpenters, including E! True Hollywood Story, A&E’s Biography and VH1’s Behind the Music, as well as a book that was a compilation of articles, interviews and concert reviews entitled Yesterday Once More: Memories of the Carpenters and Their Music.

But he knew there was still more to Karen’s story, not just a chronicling of her and brother Richard’s singing careers. And so began years of research for what would become Little Girl Blue, a 300-page biography that’s a detailed account of the singer’s battle with fame, eating disorders and her squeaky-clean public persona.

“There came a point in time during this project where I had to distance myself from my ‘fan’ ways of thinking. I also had to stop worrying about pleasing everyone and just focus on telling the truth of Karen’s life story. At that point, I did begin to dig a little deeper and ask the tougher questions. And I’m glad I did. I think it paid off,” he says.

His research included multiple trips to Los Angeles and her hometown of New Haven, Conn., to interview those who knew Carpenter best  — journeys made while Schmidt was raising two daughters and teaching full-time in Denton.

“It’s been challenging, to say the least, and there were many, many late nights to meet my deadlines. I conducted a number of phone interviews before and after school and on weekends. Summer breaks were the times I could get the most work done. It was something I made time for, since it was something that meant a lot to me. The last year of the project was really tough in terms of juggling everything and maintaining enough creative energy to go around.”

Schmidt says his partner of a year-and-a-half is his biggest fan and a huge source of support as the momentum built surrounding the book’s release this month. It has generated buzz and has created a renewed interest in the singer’s life. A feature in The Dallas Morning News and a long segment on Entertainment Tonight are just two of his favorite experiences surrounding the publicity so far.

“I got a call from my publicist the day before school was out for summer break and she was very nonchalant when she told me, ‘We have a request for an interview.’ I said, ‘Oh, okay, what is it?’ She replied, ‘It’s Entertainment Tonight,’ and we both laughed hysterically!” he says. “I expected my first TV appearance to be something local, not ‘the most watched entertainment news magazine in the world.’ I flew to New York a few weeks ago and taped at CBS Studios on Broadway, right above the Ed Sullivan Theater where Letterman films. I had a makeup lady and an awesome lighting guy. It was hard coming back to the real world and fluorescent lighting.”

He just heard that People has chosen Little Girl Blue as its book pick for its July 19 issue — no surprise, since the bio reads like a juicy novel, a great beach read. The storytelling is compelling and his access to Carpenter’s inner circle appears to be unprecedented, including a last-minute meeting with Frenda Franklin, who was Carpenter’s best friend and matron of honor at her wedding.

“They were friends from the early 1970s and were going together to sign Karen’s divorce papers on the day she died in 1983,” he says. “Frenda is extremely protective of her memories of Karen and rarely has spoken about their friendship. Frenda’s OK came in very late — just in time to make my deadline.”

It was an emotional roller coaster the day he spent interviewing Franklin in her Beverly Hills home. Also just weeks before his deadline, he received a call from Olivia Newton-John.

“I was elated, as you might imagine. She and Karen were close friends over the years, and Karen’s nickname for her was ‘ONJ,’ which she pronounced ‘Ahhhnj.’ So ONJ and I finally met up for a phone interview. That was a thrill.”

Schmidt is deservedly pleased with the final book, even though it was never approved by anyone in the Carpenter family.

“As with most projects initiated without his blessing, Richard is most likely unhappy with the book. It does put his family in the spotlight, and I believe many of those I interviewed were less inhibited than ever before. Agnes Carpenter was still alive to see the release of the 1989 TV movie and a 1994 authorized biography, but she has since passed away. People were not as careful to protect her this time around.”

And it’s abundantly clear, page after page, that there were more skeletons in Carpenter’s closet than just the widely publicized eating disorder, making for a gripping, heartbreaking read, but also providing a front-row glimpse into the complicated life of a true superstar.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 9, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens