New Stage Play Focuses on Murderer Gerhartsreiter

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.]

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5 thoughts on “New Stage Play Focuses on Murderer Gerhartsreiter

  1. Is there supposed to be one more ‘r’ in the word ‘Muderer’ in the headline?

  2. Yeah, I know what you mean about how one feels when one knows the victim of a crime. I never knew John Sohus but I was acquainted with Linda. Indeed, she was the cover artist for one of the issues of my genzine HOLIER THAN THOU.

  3. I am sorry for your loss, and that this made it fresh again.

    I never like work that grandizes the killer over the victims.

  4. Firstly, Mike, I’d like to say that I’m sorry this has hurt and sickened you. I also dislike how stories about murderers turn victims into data points. It’s incredibly callous and hurtful to everyone who knew the people who were killed.

    Secondly, I did a wee Google and found an old interview with Torquil Campbell about the play, and he seems to be aware of how awful it is and not have a desire to aggrandize Gerhartsreiter. I don’t know how it translates to the stage, though. Here’s the link if anyone has an interest.

  5. If I knew John and Linda I’d be tempted to protest the opening, either in person or online, to get some media attention focused on them instead of their killer.

    That obviously has the risk of helping the play get more publicity, but being able to tell a wider audience about them could be some comfort.

    I was a childhood acquaintance of Aubrey Hawkins, the cop killed by the Texas Seven.

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