Tuesday, May 04, 2010


My dad died tonight.  

Albert Sutter.  Not exactly sure how old he was, late 80's.  After my mother died four years ago, he never really recovered.  Al had nothing that stirred his heart, mind or soul.  He was terribly unhappy.  Suffering from the onset of dementia, he simply lost the will to live.  He died of pneumonia complications a few hours ago in New Jersey. 

I know this will sound callous, but I'm not sad.  Part of me wishes I was.  I wish his death were a gut-wrenching experience that flooded me with memories and cracked my heart open.  But alas, no. 

My lack of grief is not that complicated.  I'm sure a few years on a couch could figure out the specifics, but the truth is, I never felt close to my father.  Something happened a long time ago, way before I was responsible for my actions -- for some reason, I severed the bond.  It was clear to me at an early age that Al wasn't the place I went to feel good about myself.  

My dad was raised in Port Elizabeth, NJ.  He was a popular, street kid who boxed Golden Gloves, built cars, served two tours in WWII and Korea.  He was a bad ass.  Not a prick, just incredibly cool.  I was not cool.  I was a troubled kid.  Morbidly obese, hyper-sensitive, a loner, a chronic dreamer.  I was a huge embarrassment to my dad.  Without the sensitivity or people skills to reach out to me, his frustration with who I wasn't was difficult for him to conceal.  The more embarrassed he got, the more of an embarrassment I became.  It was painful for both of us to be around each other.  The divide grew, the damage was done and neither of us knew how to fix it.  I split at 19, moved 3000 miles away and never looked back.

Katey had an interesting take on parents passing.  She said that we don't mourn who they were as much as who we wish they were.  I guess that's true.  I began that mourning process years ago.  After I got sober in 1993, I had to look at all my family wreckage.  I made amends to my parents and did my best to maintain a loving, albeit superficial relationship with both of them.  

It was at that point I had the clarity to understand that my dad was basically an unhappy guy.  I'm sure at one time he was a young man full of dreams and enthusiasm.  He only had a high school education, but he was incredibly bright and charismatic.  I know he had greater ambitions than being middle-management at GM for 35 years.  My mother was not an adventurous soul.  She was like me, she hated people and didn't like to leave the house.  My dad loved people and loved to travel.  He always deferred to my mother.  Al felt trapped. He was George Bailey without the wonderful life.  And he could never see past his own dissatisfaction.  That innate misery shaped who he was as a man.  I admit, I longed for Mike Brady.  I wanted a father who was present.  Who would sit me down and give me advice -- about sex, girls, life.  I wanted a father who could make me laugh.  More than love, I wanted a dad whom I respected and who respected me.  

Al and me, we could never deliver those things.  

I accepted that reality a long time ago.  That's why I'm not saddened by his death.  Because the truth is I mourned my father's passing thirty years ago when the bond got severed.  All that acting out in my youth -- the obsessive behavior, the eating, the booze and drugs, the anger, the violence -- that was my mourning.  That was me letting go of my father.  So now, I feel a bit empty, nostalgic maybe, but not sad. 

I loved Al as best I could.  Al loved me as best he could.  

What I try to do is learn from my experience with my dad and stop the cycle of self-obsessive disconnect.  I want to be a father who is present for his children.  I go out of my way to talk to my teenage son about all those uncomfortable subjects my father could never broach -- sex, drugs, girls, masturbation, relationships.  I'm strict with my kids, but I praise them more than I correct them.  And I make them laugh.  Constantly.  I fucking make them laugh.  I guess that's how I honor my dad.  That's how I preserve his memory, by taking all the things I wish he was and placing that responsibility on myself, so I pay it forward. 

I don't know where we go when we pass, but I hope Al goes to a happier place.  And I hope he knows, that I am happy with the man I have become.  So despite our disconnect, his path shaped my path and I'm glad he was my father.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


Roman Polanski issued this statement through his friend and author Bernard-Henri Lévy, director of the French magazine La Règle du Jeu --

Throughout my seven months since September 26, 2009, the date of my arrest at Zurich Airport, where I had landed with a view to receiving a lifetime award for my work from the representative of the Swiss Minister of Culture, I have refrained from making any public statements and have requested my lawyers to confine their comments to a bare minimum.

I wanted the legal authorities of Switzerland and the United States, as well as my lawyers, to do their work without any polemics on my part. I have decided to break my silence in order to address myself directly to you without any intermediaries and in my own words.

I have had my share of dramas and joys, as we all have, and I am not going to try to ask you to pity my lot in life. I ask only to be treated fairly like anyone else.

It is true: 33 years ago I pleaded guilty, and I served time at the prison for common law crimes at Chino, not in a VIP prison. That period was to have covered the totality of my sentence. By the time I left prison, the judge had changed his mind and claimed that the time served at Chino did not fulfil te entire sentence, and it is this reversal that justified my leaving the United States.

This affair was roused from its slumbers of over three decades by a documentary film-maker who gathered evidence from persons involved at the time. I took no part in that project, either directly or indirectly.

The resulting documentary not only highlighted the fact that I left the United States because I had been treated unjustly; it also drew the ire of the Los Angeles authorities, who felt that they had been attacked and decided to request my extradition from Switzerland, a country I have been visiting regularly for over 30 years without let or hindrance.

I can now remain silent no longer!

I can remain silent no longer because the American authorities have just decided, in defiance of all the arguments and depositions submitted by third parties, not to agree to sentence me in absentia even though the same Court of Appeal recommended the contrary.

I can remain silent no longer because the California court has dismissed the victim's numerous requests that proceedings against me be dropped, once and for all, to spare her from further harassment every time this affair is raised once more.

I can remain silent no longer because there has just been a new development of immense significance.

On February 26 last, Roger Gunson, the deputy district attorney in charge of the case in 1977, now retired, testified under oath before Judge Mary Lou Villar in the presence of David Walgren, the present deputy district attorney in charge of the case, who was at liberty to contradict and question him, that on September 16, 1977, Judge Rittenband stated to all the parties concerned that my term of imprisonment in Chino constituted the totality of the sentence I would have to serve.

I can remain silent no longer because the request for my extradition addressed to the Swiss authorities is founded on a lie. In the same statement, retired deputy district attorney Roger Gunson added that it was false to claim, as the present district attorney's office does in their request for my extradition, that the time I spent in Chino was for the purpose of a diagnostic study.

The said request asserts that I fled in order to escape sentencing by the U.S. judicial authorities, but under the plea-bargaining process I had acknowledged the facts and returned to the United States in order to serve my sentence. All that remained was for the court to confirm this agreement, but the judge decided to repudiate it in order to gain himself some publicity at my expense.

I can remain silent no longer because for over 30 years my lawyers have never ceased to insist that I was betrayed by the judge, that the judge perjured himself, and that I served my sentence.

Today it is the deputy district attorney who handled the case in the 1970s, a man of irreproachable reputation, who has confirmed all my statements under oath, and this has shed a whole new light on the matter.

I can remain silent no longer because the same causes are now producing the same effects. The new District Attorney, who is handling this case and has requested my extradition, is himself campaigning for election and needs media publicity!

I can no longer remain silent because the United States continues to demand my extradition more to serve me on a platter to the media of the world than to pronounce a judgment concerning which an agreement was reached 33 years ago.

I can remain silent no longer because I have been placed under house arrest in Gstaad and bailed in very large sum of money which I have managed to raise only by mortgaging the apartment that has been my home for over 30 years, and because I am far from my family and unable to work.

Such are the facts I wished to put before you in the hope that Switzerland will recognize that there are no grounds for extradition, and that I shall be able to find peace, be reunited with my family, and live in freedom in my native land.

I was actually shocked by this release.  I'm wondering if Polanski's lawyers were too.  It feels like a hasty rant, drenched in slop sweat and desperation. Clearly, he is a man who is seeing his world as he knows it coming to an end. The famous director appears truly indignant, almost stunned by the reality that he may actually do time for the crime he committed over thirty years ago.

I'm trying to resist the urge to dismiss Polanski as an egomaniacal pedophile, but this statement does nothing to further him as a man who has paid his debt. 

Like most, I only know the somewhat obscured facts released to the general public -- Thirty-three years ago he drugged and raped (yes Whoopie, raped) a thirteen year old girl. She ratted, he got caught. His lawyers made a deal -- if he pled guilty, he walks after time served.  In his case, that meant the forty-two days he did in Chino. That's a pretty sweet deal considering the maximum sentence for rape is twenty plus years. But this is where it gets fuzzy. Apparently the judge never signed off on the deal.  Polanski claims that he did and at the last minute the judge reneged.  I guess there was also discussion of additional sentencing.  Feeling duped and I'm sure, terrified, Polanski fled.  He's been a fugitive ever since.  Last September, the Los Angeles District Attorney's office, working with the Swiss Police, had Roman Polanski arrested at the Zurich Airport.

Here's why I believe Polanski's statement will fail him.  His emotional missive isn't about the crime, it's only about the punishment.  He never mentions what he did -- other than to suggest that the victim has suffered enough.  He doesn't admit guilt.  He never veers toward contrition.  He shows no remorse.  He simply stays on point.  The point being that he was promised one thing, then given another.  The emotion, the outrage, the passion, the exclamations have nothing to do with his part in the affair, it's all about what was done to him.  It's a condemnation of our corruptible justice system.  In his mind, he is clearly the victim.  And he wants you to feel his pain.  He wants you to understand why he deserves freedom.

I'm all about sticking it to the man.  And yes, the Los Angeles justice system has had/is still mired in scandal.  Mr. Polanski may be absolutely correct.  Perhaps he was wronged.  Perhaps that judge thirty years ago did pull a media-whoring bait and switch.  Perhaps the recent documentary did ignite the current DA's need for headlines.  Perhaps we should put all this behind us and just move on.


The problem is the nature of the crime.  If Polanski got caught with some blow or a few hookers or it was some domestic issue, chances are people would be in his corner.  But he doped and sodomized a minor.  His act personified the perceived debauchery of Hollywood power and money.  People can't see past that.  They can't see past the fact that he only served five and half weeks for this insidious crime.  They can't see past the fact that he ran away and never faced his accuser.  They can't see past his present-day lack or remorse and arrogance.  

Maybe Polanski's press release will play internationally.  God knows everyone's looking for a reason to hate us.  But here, in the states, fuck, man -- it's just gonna motivate folks to light the lanterns and dust off the pitch forks.  People want this guy to fucking suffer. 

I am a liberal.  I am an artist.  I greatly admire and appreciate the vast talent of Mr. Polanski.  I am also a stepfather of a fifteen year old girl and the father of a three year old girl.  At the end of the day, I don't give a fuck about talent or art or career -- I care about family.  My family.  Polanski's actions represent a violation of the very thing people care about most.  His crime is every parents nightmare.  If he's looking for a sympathetic ear he ain't gonna find one here.  

I suggest he remains silent just a little longer.