Christian Gerhartsreiter, who used many assumed names – the most notorious being “Clark Rockefeller” — is the subject of the new play “True Crimes” that will be performed in Toronto at Crow’s Theatre from April. 4-15.
Rockefeller was a self-aggrandizing liar who ended up being prosecuted for kidnapping his own daughter. But before that Gerhartsreiter was living in LA County under the name of Chichester and just a few years ago, after a long investigation, he was convicted of the 1985 murder of sf fan and LASFS member John Sohus. He also is suspected in the disappearance of Sohus’ wife, Linda, another LASFSian.
When someone is a successful criminal, the “successful” part inevitably outweighs the “criminal” part. There’s a long tradition of romanticizing criminals – think of all those shows about the Mafia. Woven between the crimes is a thread of populism and approval for getting over on The Man.
I never expected to have the experience of seeing this fictional polish applied to somebody who killed people I’d met. It makes me sick. When people write that something makes them feel sick, I always believe them, whether or not I have the same visceral reaction. I’ll understand if you don’t feel the same, but I assure you when I say it here, I mean it literally.
There were so many absurd pretensions and highly embroidered lies involved in the “Clark Rockefeller” part of the story they can upstage the darker part of his story. Even journalist Frank Girardot, who followed Gerhartsreiter’s LA prosecution for years and wrote a book about him, said on File 770 in 2013 right after the murder conviction was announced, “It’s a tragic story that would be a comedy if it wasn’t for the deaths of John and Linda.”
The trailer emphasizes that he was a con man – which he was, but fictionalized con men are usually thieves or impostors pretending to a title or expertise they don’t really have, not kidnappers and violent murderers. Think of movies like The Great Impostor with Tony Curtis, or Catch Me If You Can with Leonardo Di Caprio – two of Hollywood’s most attractive actors. I feel doubtful about the direction this play will be taking.
True Crime trailer:
[Thanks to Murray Moore for the story.]