Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I am not in the habit of recommending books, but if you like true crime stories, get a copy of "Wicked Intentions: The Sheila LaBarre Murders."

There are a couple of reasons:

It is a riveting tome full of crime, sex, money and unbelievable evil, and

It is as well written a book as I have read in recent years.

Oh, by the way, it is penned by a Holyoke native, Kevin Flynn, who covered the bizarre story for WMUR TV Channel 9 out of Manchester, N.H.
You may recall bits and pieces about the story.

Sheila LaBarre was a serial murderer who lured innocent men to her farm in Epping, N.H., and well, kind of "burned them up," so to speak.

The twisted plot as to how she was caught and how it all came about is well told by Flynn. It is, to use the well-worn cliche, "a page turner." LeBarre is as looney a tune as you will find anywhere.

The fact that something so horrible could happen in a small town like Epping is another part of the story.

Flynn, 38, is the son of Charby and Sharon Flynn of Holyoke. He is a graduate of Holyoke Catholic High School and Notre Dame College in Manchester, N.H. He worked in the media for years, first as a radio newsman at WZID in Manchester and then at Channel 9, the only network-affiliated television station in the Granite State.

His involvement with the LaBarre story starts with his coverage of a "missing persons" story that grew into an unbelievable tale of horror.

Flynn's research and knowledge of the case is at once arresting, so to speak. But, his ability to put words on the page is truly amazing.
Simply put, the story is well-told, and an easy and interesting read.

Flynn has since left Channel 9 and is now working for a public relations firm in New Hampshire. He is apparently mulling several other books.

"Wicked Intentions" is published by New Horizon Press. Michael J. Burke, of Holyoke, is retired from The Republican. He can be reached at








Whom exactly is the nanny taking care of?
More than one celebrity has fallen for the children's keeper

Suzanne Hansen's memoir pulled back the curtain on the lives of celebrity nannies.

Nanny, nanny, nanny.

What does the nanny know?

Roger Clemens' former nanny played an interesting role in Wednesday's congressional hearing over whether the baseball star used performance-enhancing drugs.

Did Clemens' chief accuser and former personal trainer really see the famed pitcher's nanny in a bathing suit during a party at the home of admitted 'roid rager Jose Canseco?

Did Clemens try to get the babysitter to change her story?

Who knows? But if she kept a real-life Nanny Diary, it could make for some juicy reading.

Modern-day Mary Poppinses caring for the children of celebrities are privy to the secret lives of the rich and famous and, occasionally, they even play a starring role.

In recent years, celebrity nannies have turned cuddling with the kids into canoodling with the parents.

Sienna Miller reportedly ended her engagement with Jude Law after the actor admitted he had an affair with his nanny, Daisy Wright, who cared for one of his three children.

"I just want to say I am deeply ashamed and upset that I've hurt Sienna and the people most close to us," said Law in a 2005 statement.

Wright shared a detailed account of her trysts with Law -- which apparently occured while he was filming the movie "All the King's Men" -- with the British newspaper the Sunday Mirror.

Ryan Shawhughes, who was the nanny of the two children of Ethan Hawke, when he was married to now ex-wife Uma Thurman, is now pregnant with his child, according to a Jan. 30 People magazine article.

Comedian Robin Williams married his son Zach's nanny Marsha Garces Williams.

Williams told GQ magazine, "I was separated from my wife for a pretty long time before we became anywhere near involved."

The fictional 2003 bad-boss exposé "The Nanny Diaries" spent weeks on The New York Times best-seller list. And two years ago, Suzanne Hansen, a former live-in nanny for Hollywood agent Michael Ovitz, actress Debra Winger and celebrity couple Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, penned the memoir "You'll Never Nanny in This Town Again: The True Adventures of a Hollywood Nanny" (Random House, 2006) that pulled back the curtain on the life of celebrity nannies.

Almost all nannies now sign non-disclosure documents, which doesn't allow them to reveal details of their employers lives. Hansen did not have to sign one when she was a professional nanny.

She says nannies have a front row seat to celebrities lives whether they want to see it or not.

"They are privy to everything. They see affairs going on that they can't tell the other spouse. They see drug use and the fighting," says the author, who now lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two children.

"A lot of times the mother will confine in the nanny as a therapist. The relationship gets kind of blurred. You become their confident, which you don't want to do. You don't want to say 'I don't want to hear this' because she's your boss."

Hansen isn't surprised that some celebrities, such as Law, have affairs with their nannies.

"He can't really go out and date," she says. "I think what happens it there are such fake people around all the time.
Hollywood isn't so grounded. You get a nanny from the Midwest or someplace, and she just seems so warm and real."

Hansen says she now sees that celebrities tend to look for more "seasoned" nannies, that is, babysitters who more resemble Mrs. Doubtfire than a young Julia Andrews.

"When I was nannying, I would go to Gymboree and I would hear mothers say 'the secretaries in my husband's office all have to pass the ugly test.' They're all just so afraid of losing their husbands."




The Baltimore Sun--Intermarry and be Merry

By Arthur Blecher

It's hard to imagine a cozier holiday scene than the whole family gathered together to trim the tree. But for 2.5 million Americans in Jewish-Christian households, this is a scenario fraught with tension and feelings of betrayal.

As the rabbi of a congregation that is more than half interfaith couples, I have learned that the holiday season is an especially difficult time for people with multiple religions in their household. More often than not, the gentile partner grew up with Christmas cheer in the home, but the Jewish partner learned to view traditions such as Christmas carols and holiday wreaths as "un-Jewish."

Many Jews who are married to Christians feel tremendous guilt about simple rituals such as picking out the perfect spruce tree, because it recalls what may have been one of the most difficult decisions of their lives: marrying outside the faith. That's because American Jews have been fed a steady diet of fearful sermons about the imminent destruction of our ancient people - not through genocidal anti-Semitism, but through slow annihilation from assimilation and intermarriage.

It may sound silly, but many Jews in interfaith couples feel that sending out red-and-green cards to their neighbors and friends in December is a kind of betrayal. However thoroughly Americanized, the people I counsel can't quite forgive themselves for not living like a character out of Fiddler on the Roof.

When my congregants come to me with questions about presents under the tree and leaving cookies for Santa, I tell them that they should enjoy the Christmas spirit.

There's no reason to feel guilty about a little mistletoe. And more important, there's no reason to feel guilty about having married a non-Jew.

Fear of intermarriage rests on two great myths of American Judaism: that Judaism is disappearing and that intermarriage poses a grave threat to the continuing life of the religion.

These false notions, almost universally believed by American Jews and seemingly impervious to mounting contrary evidence, have long and impressive pedigrees.

In the century since prominent Rabbi Solomon Schechter's anti-assimilation warning that "traditional Judaism will not survive another generation in this country," the American Jewish population has grown from 1 million to approximately 6 million. Jewish summer camps, schools, charities and Web sites form a network of institutions that has no equal in Jewish history.

In recent years, the myth of the disappearing Jew can be traced in large measure to a single, well-publicized study recording 5.2 million Jews in America, down from 5.8 million. But many other counts disagree.

The American Jewish Yearbook, which has been keeping track of the number of Jews in America since 1902, reports the population is now 6.4 million. A recently released study from Brandeis University found as many as 7.5 million Jews in the United States.

Conventional wisdom mainly blames intermarriage for the mythical decline in the American Jewish population. Yet one-third of Jewish-gentile couples raise their children exclusively as Jews. Of course, almost all fully Jewish couples raise their children as Jews, but it's important to remember that Jewish couples produce, on average, 1.9 children - below the replacement rate. Even if every Jew married another Jew, there would be no population boom.

Meanwhile, two Jews who each marry non-Jews will collectively produce an average of more than four children. Even the pessimistic National Jewish Population Survey acknowledged that the vast majority of these kids grow up with either an exclusively Jewish identity or a dual Jewish-gentile identity.

The math of intermarriage should give rise to optimism, not overblown comparisons with the Holocaust.
Intermarriage is as old as the Jewish people. Moses married the daughter of a Midianite priest. Even the insular Jewish communities of Eastern Europe were not immune.

American Judaism must move forward from viewing intermarriage as a threat. Marrying the person whom you love, whatever his or her faith, is no betrayal. And celebrating this season of joy with that person is no transgression.

Rabbi Arthur Blecher of Beth Chai congregation in Washington is also a therapist and the author of "The New American Judaism: The Way Forward on Challenging Issues from Intermarriage to Jewish Identity." His e-mail is

Copyright © 2007, The Baltimore Sun


Lincoln writer wins national arts fellowship

By CINDY LANGE-KUBICK / Lincoln Journal Star

Wednesday, Dec 12, 2007 - 12:25:55 am CST

It’s been a good year — make that a great year — for Lincoln author Kelly Madigan Erlandson.

In September, McGraw-Hill published her first book “Getting Sober: A practical guide to making it through the first 30 days,” which quickly went into a second printing.

Her poem “Reliquary” was included in the just-released anthology “Best New Poets 2007.”

And in late November she received a phone call: The National Endowment for the Arts was awarding her a $25,000 literature fellowship.

One of 42 awarded nationwide.

“It was stunning to me at the time,” Madigan Erlandson said of her reaction to the call. “And it continues to be.”

The 45-year-old was judged on her submission, “One Hundred Seeds,” an essay that explores her cousin’s death at the hands of a drunk driver and Madigan Erlandson’s own experiences with alcohol and subsequent work as an addiction recovery counselor.

The creative writing fellowship “enable(s) recipients to set aside time for writing, research, travel, and general career advancement,” the NEA wrote on its Web site.

How will she spend the money?

She is working on several projects, including a piece of fiction, a collection of poetry, and essays on canoeing and kayaking Nebraska rivers, said the author.

She hasn’t made any “firm decisions” on which project will take priority but knows the cash will allow her to take an extended period of time away from her day job at the Independence Center to devote time to her writing.

“It’s breathing room,” she said.

Madigan Erlandson is one of two Nebraskans to receive the highly competitive award this year. James Reed of Omaha is the other.

The last time an individual Nebraskan won an NEA literature fellowship was in 2002 when an award went to Gothenburg native Ron Block.







Carnal Knowledge | Condoms: A look at their place in history
By Faye Flam
Inquirer Staff Writer

This summer, in what some may consider the end of civilized society, mainstream drugstores started stocking the 4Play vibrating ring - a battery-powered, next-generation, "pulsating" condom accessory. And to think that only a couple of years ago they hid regular old rubbers behind the pharmacy counter. "There is an overall demystification of the sex industry going on in the country," says Carol Carrozza, vice president of marketing for LifeStyles, the brand behind 4Play.Those who fear for our collective innocence needn't worry: Condoms have been out of the closet before.

Take the 17th century, when they were sold openly to men and women by tailors and taverns or through special shops, says Aine Collier, a University of Maryland professor and author of a book on prophylactics through the ages. Casanova "was passionate about condoms," she says, and would often entertain women by blowing the condoms up, which also tested for holes. She maintains that the 18th- A condom advertisement from the 1930s, reprinted from "The Humble Little Condom: A History."

century libertine was particularly diligent when having sex with nuns, although his autobiography mentions one nun who supplied her own. Collier, who teaches history and English, learned all that after a romance writer asked whether it would be historically accurate for her 17th-century heroine to slide a condom onto her lover's tumescent manhood, or whatever she called it. The subject caught her imagination as a lens through which to view human nature, politics, commerce, and power struggles between the sexes. So she gathered enough lore to write The Humble Little Condom: A History, to be released by Prometheus Books next month.

 The condom was officially invented and reinvented more times than the wheel, especially by sausage manufacturers who kept noticing what else you might put in that casing. Condoms may predate even the sausage, having evolved from various other types of penis coverings used as long ago as ancient Egypt. The concept may go back even further. A cave painting at Grotte des Combarelles in France that was determined to be at least 12,000 years old shows what appears to be a couple coupling, Collier says, "and it looked for all the world as if the man had covered himself with some kind of animal skin." But condoms took off big time in the late 16th century, when they were made from linen or animal stomachs or other innards. "They were very crude," Collier points out, fitting like a Baggie and secured with plain twine or colored ribbon. People of the powdered-wig era liked the protection their condoms offered from unwanted pregnancy as well as from syphilis and other infections. In the 1870s, however, morality czar Anthony Comstock launched a war on condoms in America. He and various New York businessmen pushed what was known as the Comstock Act through Congress in 1873. It outlawed pornography as well as the sale or purchase of condoms and other birth-control devices.Collier's research found that 3,873 people were arrested and more than 2,900 convicted for condom-related crimes, among them giving lectures that advocated birth control. "The States are still trying to recover," says Collier, who spent part of her childhood in England.







Lone Star: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Dan Rather




June 5, 2006 -- DAN Rather made some surprising enemies during his many years as an award-winning reporter and anchorman for CBS News - one of them being his "60 Minutes" colleague Morley Safer, who Rather once suggested should have been shot dead.

In "Lone Star," an unauthorized bio of Rather out this September, Alan Weisman writes that Safer "has not been a friend of Rather's for years, since their days in Vietnam." The final straw came when Rather took over for Safer not long after Safer's jolting report about the burning of a Vietnam village by a platoon of U.S. Marines.

"When Rather replaced me . . . he went to a group of Marines and said, 'If I were you guys, I would have shot him.' Or words to that effect," Safer tells Weisman. "And that my report should never have gone on the air." Asked whether Rather had ripped his fellow newsman to cozy up with the troops, Safer bristles, "Who the hell knows why? Have I ever confronted him about it? No. Now we just have a polite relationship."

Rather is also raked over the coals by co-workers for the dubious handling of his report on President George W. Bush's alleged lousy Air National Guard service record. Rather continued to defend the story even after it was found to be based on forged documents. "It's the same thing he did over and over again. You know, 'Don't tell me I'm wrong,' " former CBS News president Ed Joyce told Weisman, who himself was a CBS newswriter and producer.

"In my opinion he was guilty of journalistic malpractice," Joyce says. "To go out on a limb with that sort of thin sourcing and then, when you get caught, go on the 'CBS Evening News' defending it in such an arrogant fashion was wrong."

Producer Richard Cohen said, "This is the story of Macbeth. It's about someone who was so seized by his own ambition that he forgot everything else. All he wanted to do was anchor the 'Evening News' - in fact, he wanted to be the 'Evening News.' "

Rather, who quit last year, has cooperated with other books but snubbed Weisman.

"Though the author has known and worked with Dan Rather for decades, in the end Rather decided not to cooperate with the book," Michael Onorato, a director at Wiley Books, told Page Six's Bill Hoffmann.
Rather's flack, Kim Akhtar, said,: "Mr. Rather has not seen a copy of the book yet. He can't comment on it."

Tiny Dancer by Anthony Flacco

Readerís Digest magazine excerpted Tiny Dancer

The August, 2005 issue of Readerís Digest magazine featured a condensed version of Tiny Dancer.

Anthony Flacco, author of Tiny Dancer with Khaled Hosseini, author of The KiteRunner.



KCBS-Los Angeles-- Zubaida, the Tiny Dancer