Thursday, May 24, 2012

Reflections: My First Year As A Journalist

By Bryan Cain-Jackson

Bryan Cain-Jackson

My first article:

All I could remember was – What the hell am I going to write?  I had no leads, it’s not my blog – I’ll be contributing to a major news entity, I can’t just eff around.

So, I was sitting on the couch with my laptop and a glass of wine – I watched President Obama make a historic announcement – we had finally gotten Osama Bin Laden.

It was the craze!!!  All over social media, that’s all we talked about for days.

It was a no brainer, this was going to be my first story that I would write for Technorati.

I wrote that the article “Bin Laden is Dead; US Rejoices” on the night of May 1, 2011 – it was published on May 2, 2011.  I was truly sailing into the unknown.  I had only written theater, short stories and had a less than nominally successful blog.  I had no idea what I was doing – so I just went whatever way felt natural to me at the time. 

It was weird; every day was like opening night.  How many people were going to read it?  Was I going to pop up on the news for shooting off at the mouth the way I’m so infamously known for?  Everyone has an opinion – what was going to be their opinion of me?  Would they even care?

All these questions run through your mind, you hope that something that you’re doing is relevant to someone other than just you – this is how I felt.  Because of that feeling, I put enormous pressure on myself to achieve success.  I worked hard.  I worked as though I were getting paid serious money.

The more and more I started writing in the world of journalism, the more I developed a style; a creative voice so-to-speak.  I was ready to start making taller requests for stories.

In my second month, the news was heavily covering the auction of Michael Jackson’s Thriller jacket.  Everyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Michael Jackson fan.  Naturally, I was encouraged by many of my friends and loved ones to write about it.  I was really hesitant and didn’t see much more to write about that I hadn’t already seen anywhere else.  I really didn’t want to go into another “stop making money off of this dead guy” routine – I seen too much of it, felt that way, read it, been there, done that and wanted desperately to move on.

One of my good friends said to me, “Why don’t you find out who the jacket’s beneficiaries are and interview them?”

That was something I hadn’t seen.  So, I went with it.

I set about an extensive search that I had planned to spend the day working on…

15 minutes later – after having a nice but brief chat with Darren Julien of Julien’s Auctions, I had the names of all of the benefactors of the jacket.  Two of them were close friends of Michael’s and were not granting interviews at the time, the others were his kids which was going to be an automatic no for me since my name isn't Oprah, and the last was Tippi Hedren – the famous actress who starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.  She runs a wildlife refuge called the Shambala Preserve.  When Michael left Neverland, he asked that his two prized Bengal Tigers named Thriller and Sabu be left in the best care in the world – Tippi’s preserve was just the place.

So, the next step was to call the Shambala Preserve and ask to speak with their publicist to get a couple of comments.   The office manager at the preserve was very helpful – she put me on a hold that seemed like it was lasting forever…  Finally she came back on the line and told me, “Mrs. Hedren will speak to you this afternoon, when is a good time for you?”

My jaw dropped – I had to make sure I was hearing this right.  “Mrs. Hedren?  Tippi?  Tippi Hedren?”

“Yes!”  She laughed.

So, needless to say, my knees were knocking and I was breathing very heavily when it came time to pick up the phone and dial the number to talk a film legend.

She was incredibly nice, gracious and passionate about her cause.  Tippi had given me so much material in the span of 35 minutes on the phone with her that once I got off – I realized I was writing not just one article about Michael’s jacket, I was writing another about Tippi Hedren and her wildlife preserve. What I thought was going to be a few days of rigorous tasks ended up being unbelievably easy.  I spoke to Tippi in the early afternoon and by 9 I had both articles written and ready to be published the next morning.

After the feeling that I had from talking to Tippi Hedren and writing that story, it was just an unbelievable high; it was an achievement and only at the beginning of my second month in journalism.  One thing was for certain – I wanted to keep feeling that high.  So, it was time to kick things into second gear and raise the bar.

The bar had been raised – I did everything from hard-hitting op-ed piece that would occasionally piss people off, to interviews with experts in their fields and of course – more stars.  There was and is no topic that I wasn’t afraid to attempt to focus on at least once.

Of course, since I write for Technorati – there is the obligatory typecasting by association, I do quite a bit (sometimes more than I’d like) of social media, tech, mobile apps and all sorts of other wicked cool brainchildren of truly brilliant people.  So, yeah – it’s not a bad thing at all to do those types of pieces, each and every interview I have been fortunate to do has been beneficial in a unique way, no two alike.

My efforts as a writer are not just to encourage more reading, that’s every writer’s goal – I hope.  My goals are to inform, educate and entertain at the same time I am being informed, educated and entertained.  Whether it’s a person, place or thing that everyone knows, or if it’s a person, place or thing that I firmly believe that everyone should know – I want my readers to get something out of it. 

July of 2011 was a truly exciting month – being asked to drive and write about a brand new Audi A7, having deep conversations and writing great stories about the actors Alice Krige and Rene Auberjonois were just three more highs.

I have made some amazing friends and acquaintances.

Bryan Cain-Jackson with Peter Yarrow
of Peter, Paul and Mary
Nana Visitor, Grace Lee Whitney, Rosie O’Donnell, Peter Yarrow, Demian Bechir, Ameer Vincent, Adrien Odate, Don Trip, Marlena Shaw, Avery Brooks, Ken Goldstein,  Danny Pudi, Reverend Eugene Callendar, Reverend Linda DeCoff, Shani Saxon-Parrish at BET Digital and so many more with so many more to come.

So, here’s to my first year at Technorati, all my friends on the editorial team – all my readers and all my supporters… 

Many thanks…

But, we’ve only just begun.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

An ALTERnative Experience In Theatricality

By Bryan Cain-Jackson

Never before has theater been a more moving, emotional and intimate experience than it is in the AlterTheater Ensemble’s production of References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot – an Obie Award winning production written by Oscar nominee Jose Rivera.

The ensemble cast consists of a charismatic and sexy group of actors – a cast that is so enticing in performances and overall presence – it makes watching the story of an offbeat set of characters battling through conflict appear more alluring and attractive.

The AlterTheater Ensemble offers the audience a chance to connect with the cast in a way that traditional theater does not.

The ensemble inhabits vacant storefronts, furniture stores, and various other different spaces outside of the traditional theater setting to perform their shows.

These spaces tend to make the audience feel part of the conflict in the story – we watch in hopes for a resolution to these characters that we become deeply and emotionally invested in.

This type of theater is often called Guerilla Theater – a frankly more inventive and “out-of-the-box” method of delivering performances to audiences.

The show is in its last weekend and will close on May, 20th.  See it in San Rafael, CA.  For more information on AlterTheater – visit their website AlterTheater Ensemble.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Jim Morrison: The Lizard King

By Bryan Cain-Jackson

Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors

They both thought of themselves as purist of the art form rather than those who wanted to achieve celebrity status.
The recent loss of 27-year old Amy Winehouse brought me back to an artist that shared many similarities to her.
Jim Morrison, artist, lead singer of The Doors, passed away July 3, 1971. He was also age 27. In the world of above average music artists, death seems to have affinity for those at the age of 27. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Kurt Cobain all died at age 27.
Morrison and Winehouse share more than a few passing similarities.
Morrison wrote poetry and was an above intellectual (I.Q. of 149); he was often misunderstood because of it.  While attending UCLA, he became fast friends with a fellow student by the name of Ray Manzarek, they became the first two members of The Doors which was formed the summer that they met in 1965.  Manzarek recognized the genius of Morisson’s poetry and felt that his words could be put to the tune of Rock n’ Roll.
Morrison believed that he could get a deeper, spiritual and poetic word across to a generation of anti-establishment people, something that Morrison himself embodied.  So he agreed that he would go along with the forming of a music group though it was with understandable reluctance. 
Once The Doors hit the scene, Morrison himself stood out and instantly became a sensation with the young girls of that era.  He was different, he was bad and he seemed not to care what anyone thought about him or really about anything.  Thus the image portrayed was no doubt a part of what was expected, those who knew Morrison speak of his softer side.
In his ever growing rise to fame, Morrison grew increasingly uneasy as things did not go the way he originally envisioned.  He was a sex icon and that is what he desired. 
Morrison already had what many would describe as self destructive habits, thus any he already had would increase.  He binged on heroine and often drank heavy liquor like it was water.  His rebellion of fame had begun and was very public in a time of stricter censorship.
 The Doors had landed the biggest act in town; The Ed Sullivan Show.  They were asked to perform their hit song Light My Fire.  Unfortunately, the word “higher” which were in the lyrics of the song was forbidden on national television at the time.  In true Morrison fashion, he said it anyway and right in the face of the camera lens which caused a pandemonium on live television.  The Doors were banned from ever performing on Ed Sullivan again.
Morrison began showing up to performances late or intoxicated.  He was rumored to have exposed himself at one venue, although it is not known for sure it caused The Doors to be banned from yet another venue.
By 1969, the once slim and slender Morrison had become a heavy boozer with a pot belly and a very thick beard.  He often recorded the remaining albums under the influence of hours of heavy boozing. 
Morrison had finally found his way out through his unending fascination with death; it was achieved by total abuse for his body, the vanishing of the looks that his female fans longed for.  He wanted to only have his music appreciated, not so much he himself; even though he was rumored to be quite the ladies man. 
Jim Morrison has a voice that will echo on for generations to come. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

"This Is The Zodiac Speaking..."

By Bryan Cain-Jackson

SFPD's sketch artist renderings of Zodiac

In the late 1960’s, in the outskirts of the big city of San Francisco was a quiet place to live with minimal crime and almost no homicides; it was truly life in the suburbs.

On the night of December 20, 1968 it was about 45 degrees; a fine example of a winter in Northern California.  The residents of Benicia and the neighboring city of Vallejo knew not of the tragedy that would befall them on that night.

David Farraday and Betty Lou Jensen

17 year-old David Farraday and 16 year-old Betty Lou Jensen were going steady.  On the aforementioned night, Betty Lou was being allowed to go out on her first date that night.  The Jensens were a strict Christian family and reluctantly agreed to allow their daughter to attend a local high school dance with the young Farraday boy whom they had heard nothing but great things about.

After the dance, Betty Lou and David drove to a quiet spot in Benicia just outside of the city of Vallejo which is where they lived and went to school.  Lake Herman Road had a couple of small gravel parking lots that were widely used as lover’s lanes for the youth of both cities.  They found an unoccupied spot to sit, talk, and hold hands.

It is unknown what had occurred, but the grisly result has become part of true crime history.  David Farraday was shot and killed at point blank range.  Betty Lou was shot in the back multiple times as she tried to flee the scene.  Lake Herman is pitch dark at night, where was she trying to run?  No one knows for sure.

With not much previous experience in homicide, the Solano County Sheriff’s department was overwhelmed.  After a long period of time and no leads the case eventually goes cold.

Darlene Ferrin and Michael Mageau

Vallejo celebrates with fireworks on the unusually hot night of July 4, 1969.  Michael Mageau and Darlene Ferrin are good friends and they have driven to the park at the then isolated area of Blue Rock Springs park.  At this time, it was a rural area and not the widely developed community park that it is today.  They are approached by a car that pulls to the right rear of their car.  The car parks and sits there for about two minutes before speeding off, only moments later to come back.  This time the car pulled directly behind them, a man stepped outside of the car holding a bright flashlight and shaking it around while walking up to the passenger side window shining the lights in the faces of Michael and Darlene before opening fire on them.  The shooter fired multiple shots at both of them; Michael survived, Darlene did not.

Within the hour, the Vallejo Police Department received an interesting phone call from the shooter in question.  The man on the line spoke in a chillingly calm and controlled voice and enunciates his words clearly.  He sounded as though he were reading something.  This was their conversation.

“I would like to report a double-murder.”

“Who’s calling please?”

“If you go one mile east on Columbus Parkway, you’ll find two kids parked in a brown car.  They were shot with a 9 mm Luger.”

“Who is calling please?”

“I’m the one who did it.”

A chilling moment of silent ensues.

“I also killed those kids last year.” 

His voice changes tone from calm and controlled to taunting and childish.


On July 31, 1969 three letters arrive to three different newspapers in Northern California.  One each was sent to the Vallejo Times-Herald, San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle.  The letters contained exhaustive details of both the December and 4th of July shootings.  With the letters there was a cryptogram and in the letter there was a threat that more lives would be taken if the letter and the puzzles were not solved and placed on the front page of each newspaper.  It was signed with a mysterious symbol.  In August another letter followed with more details about the Lake Herman murders.  This time the killer gave himself a name…  Zodiac.

Zodiac's signature symbol

The next crimes escalated in terms of their risk, Zodiac needed a greater challenge to get him his desired level of potency. 

Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard

During broad day light at Lake Berryessa on the evening of September 29, 1969, Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard were bound and stabbed by a man wearing a strange executioner’s style hood and bearing the symbol that would later be known as the Zodiac killer’s logo.  The man claimed that he only wanted money and their car keys, he took neither.  Bryan was stabbed 7 times; Cecelia was stabbed more than 18 times and died a day and a half later.  Bryan survived.  A telephone call to the Napa County Sheriff’s was made in the same sense as the call to the Vallejo PD.  No letter followed.  Instead, Zodiac leaves his trademark symbol on the door of his victims’ car along with the dates of his last murders and the current date along with the time being at 6:30.
Zodiac leaves his calling card on his victims' car door

Rendering of Zodiac at Lake Berryessa

The greater Northern California area would be placed on a curfew as a result of these Zodiac attacks and other sightings.

The final and last confirmed victim of Zodiac was a cab driver who picked him up in Downtown San Francisco. 

Paul Stine

29 year-old Paul Stine was shot at point blank range to the back of the head inside his cab after he parked it on the corner of Washington and Cherry in a very posh neighborhood near Presidio Heights.  Zodiac was seen getting into the front scene of the cab by two children.  They believed him to be drunk and wrestling with the driver so they called the police as it was happening.  They described Zodiac walking away from the crime scene. 

Within minutes, a cop was on the scene and questioned the children.  He had heard over the radio that they were looking for a “Negro male.”  Upon re-interviewing the children, he found that they were indeed looking for a white male.  The officer ran back to the car to radio everyone of the correction to the error that the dispatcher had made.

Another cop was approaching the scene coming down an opposite street.  When they saw a white male walking away from the crime scene on the sidewalk, they did not question him for whatever reason.  The cops discovered the victim’s shirt had been cut, his wallet, glasses and car keys were missing.

Thus Zodiac was not caught. 

A letter followed days later, this contained a blood stained piece of the shirt that the victim wore that night he was shot.  This letter contained a quote that would get Zodiac nationwide attention in 1969.

“I think I shall blow out the tires of a school bus one morning and just pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out.”

School buses all over the Bay Area were escorted by helicopters, motorcades, and motorcycle police who were heavily armed in the event that such an attack would be attempted.

Northern California residents were paranoid.  It was never known where he would pop up next and every time a new letter was published in the newspaper that contained a threat, he always would claim another victim.  The paranoia increased when he hit the city.

The letters would continue for 5 years.  The facts became myth and now unfortunately to legend; adding to that great desire for fame that he possessed.  Zodiac made good on his promises to vanish… Never to be caught.

The mystery has made Zodiac one of the world’s most elusive serial killers, has spawned a major motion picture and has a website of amateur sleuths dedicated to solving the mystery with millions who visit it every day.

Although San Francisco has officially closed their investigation, Solano County Sheriffs, Napa County Sheriffs, and Vallejo PD all still have open cases.  Due to a tip on a possible new suspect, the FBI has also begun an in-depth investigation.

For more information on Zodiac, visit

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tippi Hedren Loves More Than Just The Birds

Article first published as Tippi Hedren Loves More Than Just The Birds on Technorati.

By Bryan Cain-Jackson

Legendary film actress, Tippi Hedren, has been in show business for more than 60 years. Starting at the ripe age of 20, her first film where she was not even credited for her role as an ice box petty girl to her breakout success in the role of Melanie Daniels, the cool blonde in the Alfred Hitchcock classic “The Birds.” From working with Ed Wood Jr. to working with the Master of Suspense, Tippi has certainly been there for the best era in film.

We know her mainly as the beautiful blonde that stood defenselessly in the phone booth amidst chaos caused by a flock of menacing ravens trying to get to her. That scene was one of the most memorable in history.

The Tippi Hedren we should all know better is the woman who is just as beautiful on the inside and she is on the outside. Tippi Hedren, mother of actress Melanie Griffith, grandmother, and animal rights activist. Tippi has been caring for wildlife animals for nearly 40 years, to put it charitably, it is her passion.

In 1983, Tippi started the Roar Foundation. This foundation’s sole responsibility is to support the abandoned exotic felines at the Shambala Preserve.

Tippi talked about the challenges, costs, and excitement of formation and maintaining of the Roar Foundation and the Shambala Preserve and Animal Sanctuary in Acton, California 45 minutes northeast of Los Angeles.

“It was huge, absolutely huge.” Hedrin recalled. “We were making a film about the animals at the time, the funds from the film lasted a few years it was gone. So I formed the organization to accept donations, as well as to educate.” She said. “I have to raise $75,000 a month. It is a very expensive feat.”

Tippi is extremely disappointed with the continued treatment of animals; she is very sharp and forthright with her continued battle against the inequities of mankind against nature.

“We rescue these animals. They are all born in the United States to be sold as pets, and of course they are not pets.” Hedren spoke sternly. “They are bred and born here to be (household) pets or for financial gain,” she said, “It’s a huge business, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, it’s on par with the sale of illegal drugs.”

Not only is this illegal, it is extremely dangerous. The lack of knowledge in this area is very alarming, and quite sad.

“It is sad, and it’s sad for two reasons,” Hedren said, “One is that these animals should not be born into captivity, and it’s extremely dangerous for humans.”
These are all things that are clearly violations of an animal’s rights. Tippi has become actively involved in the increasing of those rights on a political level.

“I co-authored a bill in 2003 to stop the interstate traffic of these animals to be sold as pets,” she said, “I testified for the bill and it is titled the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, which prevents the animals from being sold by the breeder out of their state. It was a baby step and it took 2 years for it be enforced. The bill was signed December 19, 2003.” Hedren said proudly.

Tippi does acknowledge that there is still more work to be done, and she is working on another bill that will further act in the best wishes of animals out there. In the meantime, she enjoys the visits from people who love animals the way she does.

The Shambala Preserve is also the home to Michael Jackson’s two Bengal Tigers named Thriller and Sabu. The preserve will be benefit greatly from the auction of the Michael Jackson Thriller Jacket as it is the main consigner. “We are very excited,” Hedren said, “Thriller and Sabu are living wonderful life here.”

Tippi Hedren does have one belief that she tries to instill in every one.

“There is nothing that we can give an animal that they need, nothing at all. They just need to be free, and we do our best to let them do what they need to do.”

For more from Tippi on Thriller and Sabu, please see my Technorati article “Thriller Jacket: Where The Money’s Going.”

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

By Bryan Cain-Jackson

Everything from how to teach your son how to shave, play baseball and the art of chivalry, being a father has many definitions.

Teaching your daughter the art of saying no and ensuring her prom date that you carry a licensed firearm add to a long list of responsibilities that can cause white hair or for it to fall out completely.  There are so many important aspects to a father.

I had and still have a father.  My grandpa is my dad.

My father was a sperm donor.

My grandfather taught me the art of chivalry, how to treat a woman with respect and be a gentleman at all times.  When I take my lady for a walk, she has to always walk on the inside of the sidewalk and never on the out.  She is never allowed to open her own door in my car or anywhere else for that matter.  I bring her flowers not just when I’ve been an ass, but also just because.  Although there are many women who do not appreciate that chivalry, I pride myself in this attribute.  My grandfather/father has taught me well.  From watching Superman with me, to hiding my Thriller video, and playing baseball with me, he was the essence of fatherhood and set forth many examples for me to follow that I will carry with me for the rest of my life and instill in my own children when I blessed to have them.

To all the fathers that step up to the plate and hit it out of the park everyday and not just when it’s convenient or required of them:  HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

Keep it up, your children will appreciate the fact that you were there from day #1.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Power To The People!!!

By Bryan Cain-Jackson

Four of the biggest figures in our history were assassinated all within 5 years.  These men were not afraid to bring change to the masses.  They wanted a better quality of living for everyone regardless of their color, creed, and religion or class system.

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.  Were it not for President Kennedy, we might have waited for many years for the Civil Right Act to be enacted.  JFK was the beginning of the modern thinking.  Away with the old and in with the new was the direction.  We were to become a country that took accountability for its mistakes and kept no secrets from its citizens.  The establishment protected its own best interests; thus was the beginning of a future of hope being snatched out from underneath an entire generation.

Malcolm X, a prolific Civil Rights activist, was assassinated in Manhattan on February 21, 1965.  He gave us the wisdom of “The Hate that Hate Produced.”  He was often targeted with hate for being an African-American man trying to rise to the occasion in a society that did not want that.  X made many controversial statements in the eyes of the press; he was not someone who did and said what was expected of him.  X pushed the envelope and brought the darkness to the light with his powerful and impactful words of wisdom.  He was not pro-establishment; therefore he could not be allowed his rise to power.  The establishment took Malcolm X from a generation that would have surely followed in his footsteps.  So continues the hopes and dreams, snatched from us.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights leader, was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968.  MLK was also a leader in the development of a new way of thinking like his respective counterparts, he believed in liberalism.  MLK brought fourth many powerful and historical speeches, his most famous being “I have a dream.”  Through words and through action, MLK repeatedly made a call for unity.  He wrote his “Letters from Alabama” while being jailed for marching against hate and displaying his hopes with words and with actions.  MLK’s protests were seen as disruptive and illegal.  His call for unity continued despite those who did whatever to quite him.  Although the establishment stepped forward to silence him, even in death his voice echoes on for generations to come.

Robert F. Kennedy, former U.S. District Attorney, New York Senator, and Presidential candidate, was assassinated June 5, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California.  He has just won the most important state in the Democratic Primaries, California.  Bobby was the last best hope for a new liberal generation that wanted to end the war and break the color barriers that existed in our great nation.  The nation was dividing, only his leadership could have brought forth a sense of paradise that this country would never have thought imaginable.  The establishment must do what it feels is necessary to protect its interests.  A generation’s last hope is snatched away by “the man.”  Riots and hate ensue, Nixon becomes President and the senseless war in Vietnam rages on with a daily growing body count.

I raise the question that if one of these men had survived, what would our nation be like today?  Each of these four men laid their lives on the line for the ideals of modern liberalism to take its rightful foothold on this country.  Why?  So that each man and woman could be free and independent without prejudice just as the constitution dictates under a guise.

These four giants in our history died in their attempts to bring power to the people. 
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