The other night I watched the CNN special report “Biker Brawl” with my muse.
I had already wasted about four hours on the show. A CNN reporter and researcher named Ann O’Neill bought me lunch at a place called Hennessey’s Tavern in Hermosa and we talked. Four days later I talked some more to Ed Lavandera, on camera, at a place called Gasser Lounge in Redondo Beach.
My comments didn’t make it into the show. I wasn’t surprised. If anything I was relieved. I am not a TV guy.
I like Lavandera. He had written to me about going on camera. I wrote him back and told him he was in the book that I was then completing about Waco. I was sarcastically judgmental of a report he had done last October that was built around two views of the Twin Peaks surveillance video. I sent him the passages in the book that included his name, like “It is probably not out of line to wonder if Ed Lavandera or anybody else at CNN ever bothered to read the ‘more than 2,000 pages of documents’ the cable network had obtained or whether Lavandera just glued the whole, big stack of them to his office wall like a moose head.” Ed has a very thick skin. He still wanted to talk to me. I ignored him
Eventually I sent him some passages from the book that describe in detail what happened during the gunfight. I sent him those passages because I thought there was a pretty good chance he did not know what happened in Waco and I wanted him to know. I want the world to know and Ed is much more important than I. He is a soloist. His voice rings out. I am the guy in the chorus who sings out of tune. Of course, I think everybody else is out of tune. Ed asked if I ever went on camera. I told him sometimes but I avoided it because “I am not very photogenic or slick.”
He replied, “Neither am I, but that’s what I do for a living.” So we met at a little bar that always has bikes parked outside.
When we talked, Ed told me something like, “You know I just can’t say some of the things you can.” I think that’s at least close to what he said. I wasn’t taking notes.
I said, “Sure. I get it. I just hope I gave you something you can use.” It turned out I didn’t.
So a week later, as we watched Ed on TV, I said to my muse, “You know what I want to know? What I want to know is, if the ATF didn’t have anything to do with the Twin Peaks then what is this ATF son of a bitch doing in this television show.” Sound bites from some black ATF agent. I didn’t catch his name, seemed to be the skeleton of the “special report.”
“They have a story line,” she replied as if talking to a small, stupid child. “They run what fits the story line. They leave what doesn’t fit out. They run the news that fits.”
The Waco book – I called it, The Twin Peaks Ambush: A True Story About The Press, The Police And The Last American Outlaws – has three sections called “The Noise,” “The Ambush” and “The Sadistic State – A Postscript.” Most of the book is written in the third person but I let my hair down a little and wrote some of the last section in the first person because I am painfully aware that I am the out-of-tune-voice in the chorus. I know I would sell a lot more books and have a lot nicer life if I just learned to sing on key like all the real biker authorities – like Steve Cook, Jay Dobyns, Kerrie Droban, Julian Sher and Charles Falco. Like whoever the hell that ATF agent was in Ed Lavandera’s CNN special report the other night.
“You don’t strike me as a guy who is very impressed with anybody,” Lavandera said when we were almost done sitting on a couple of Gasser’s barstools. I didn’t answer because it is true. I am arrogant. I don’t know my place and I sing out of tune. I know. Believe me, nobody has to tell me. I knew it long before I finished this book.
I closed The Twin Peaks Ambush with the words:
“I should have written a book about a brave, freelance, undercover investigator trying hard to save Waco from the marauding biker hordes. I should have written about the depravity of the Bandidos. I should have written about a dedicated prosecutor trying so hard to see that justice is done. I should have written about his colorful assistants. I should have written about a folksy police sergeant trying hard to keep the people informed. I should have written about the stalwart judge, the crusading justice of the peace and the meticulous reporters. I should have written about a beautiful, little college town in Texas. I should have written about the unassailability of American justice.
“I will never learn.
“I wrote this book instead.”
I tell you all of this by way of giving you a warning. I am not everybody’s cup of tea. You can buy a copy of the arrogant and out of tune The Twin Peaks Ambush here.