Bob Shell: Letters From Prison #15
Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018
I’m sitting here listening to some wonderful music. It’s the soundtrack album for The Collector, a late 1960s film by William Wyler, based on the novel by John Fowles. I consider Fowles to be the finest writer in English of the second half of the 20th Century. The Collector may have been his first novel; it’s certainly one of his earliest. By very happy synchronicity, Maurice Jarre was given the task of composing the score, and that seductively sensitive music stuck in my mind when I first saw the film and wouldn’t let go. Samantha Eggar was the actress, but I’ll be damned if I can remember the actor’s name. It’s just the two of them for almost the whole film, and they both did spectacular jobs. Simple plot, but beautifully realized.
I rushed out and bought the soundtrack on vinyl LP as soon as I could find it, and probably wore the grooves off a copy or two. Somehow, when my music collection changed from vinyl to CD I never could find this music on CD and after my turntable broke down I was without a lot of music. Some came out on CD, but much didn’t, or my sources just couldn’t get it.
Naturally I was delighted yesterday when my regular search turned up a hit and I. was able to buy the soundtrack of The Collector. I have a list that I search for regularly, and periodically I’ll get a hit and once more listen to music that’s only a memory in my mind.
Another album I played the grooves off in the 60s is Puzzle by The Mandrake Memorial, one of the best of the psychedelic genre. That one did come out on CD eventually, but is still absent from our music catalog. We get our music downloads from a company called JPay, which has an exclusive deal with the Virginia DOC. There are terminals on the wall of each pod, and when we’re allowed out in the pod we can log on and search for music to buy and download, and send and receive email. Most songs cost us $ 1.99 each, with albums running around $ 15.00 – 17.00. Unfortunately, JPay doesn’t have any Beatles, Bob Seger, John Mellencamp, and several others, but otherwise their selection is pretty good. They even have some pretty obscure groups like Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies that I used to listen to back in the day. I even recently found an odd old album I like, Hard Rock From The Middle East by The Devil’s Anvil, perhaps the only American rock band that sang in Arabic and Turkish!
Music makes the long, sad, boring hours of prison pass a bit faster and carries me away from this sordid existence that is my life now.
Maurice Jarre is one of my favorite modern composers. He’s been lucky enough to write the musical scores for some of the finest motion pictures. I have a collection of movie music, and have more by him than any other composer. There are few outlets today for composers working in the classical mode, so I’m glad movies still provide an outlet for this talent. Rich patrons who support art for art’s sake are all too rare these days. Of course, this applies to all arts, not just music. We can’t all be Jeff Koons!
About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Mr. Shell is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-letters-from-prison-14/
To access the Catherine Trifiletti Lookbook for Summer 2018, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/gallery/catherine-trifiletti-design/
Letters From Prison: Part 14, 2018
Letters by Bob Shell, Copyright 2018
I should explain my reactions on being arrested. I was raised to believe the police were my friends. My father, a TV news reporter, had many friends on the Roanoke force, and one of my cousins was a police chief. So I’d been around policemen all my life and was comfortable with them. So when the Radford police arrested me I talked to them honestly and figured they’d quickly realize they had it all wrong and drop the charges. Wrong!
When I first got to know Marion in early 2002, she was very open with me that she was a druggie. Said she’d been a “pill freak” since the age of 13. Called herself a “walking PDR” (PDR is the Physician’s Desk Reference, a big book that includes information on all prescription drugs, what they are used for, and pictures of all pills, capsules, etc.). Marion could identify almost all pills and capsules on sight. She was also a pot smoker, on pretty much a daily basis. I wasn’t concerned about the marijuana, because I knew it wouldn’t hurt her, but did have some concerns about the pills. Back in the late 60s I’d known Dr. Humphrey Osmond, a researcher at NIMH in Bethesda. He had a project in which he gave people money to buy street drugs and bring them to him. Then his lab would analyze them to see if they were really what they were sold as, and if not, what was really in them. Not surprisingly, many were not what the sellers claimed they were, and some contained pretty nasty stuff, like belladonna, formaldehyde, etc. According to studies I’ve read, the situation is even worse today. A fairly high percentage of “X” sold today is something other than MDMA, the real substance that’s called “Ecstasy.”. MDMA is a so-called “super amphetamine,” and even the real stuff can be dangerous because it spikes body temperature and blood pressure.
Anyway, the question was asked, “did you ever give Marion drugs?”. The honest answer was yes. Marion was taking Valium, and so was I. We both had prescriptions from our doctors, hers in North Carolina, mine in Virginia. Did I have any proof that she had a prescription? All I know is that she would periodically go home to North Carolina and come back with a big prescription bottle full and the label had her name on it. Anyway, she ran out one time and couldn’t go home to get a refill right away so I gave her some of mine to fill the gap. You might think “No big deal!”. But you’d be wrong. I got a one year sentence for that. Did I ever give Marion any other prescription or illegal drugs? Emphatically no! And I’ve offered to take a polygraph exam on that (or any other questions), but the prosecution turned down my offer. Polygraph results are not admissible in court in Virginia, anyway, but it would have been nice to demonstrate that I’ve told the truth from day one.
What about the marijuana? I never bought any for her, but I did pay her for modeling and studio assisting, and I’m sure she spent some of her money on marijuana and pills. Her supplier, a college student named Rob, came to my trial and testified that he’d supplied her with pot, pills, and cocaine. But he said he was not a drug dealer, just a guy who got drugs for her (!). In spite of this admission made under oath in court, he was never charged with anything!
When they searched my studio the police found in Marion’s purse her pipe and the plastic box she carried her stash in, and ignored them. The detective said that they weren’t interested. After my 1969 experience in Richmond, that really surprised me. What a turnaround in those years!
Shortly before her death, Marion had gone to Florida to spend a week with friends near Orlando, had gone to some sort of concert/party/rave and came back with some pills sold to her as X. She’d taken some at the party and said she thought it wasn’t really X. I told her to throw them away, and thought she had. I’ll talk more about those suspect pills another time.
(How many of you know that, at least in Virginia, if you pick up someone else’s prescription medications from a pharmacy, you are violating the law? I was in court for a hearing one time. The person ahead of me was a frightened young woman who had been caught with her grandfather’s pills during a traffic stop. She was facing six years in prison! I don’t know how her case turned out because the judge didn’t drop the charges at the hearing, and sent her off to jail. That’s insane!)
Since Richard Nixon pushed the “War on Drugs” all his successors have followed suit, persecuting drug users but little else. Sure, they make a big splash now and then arresting people like Pablo Escobar and “El Chapo,” but that barely dents the river flowing across our borders. The government should have learned with the Volstead Act and the “Hooch War” of the 1920s that prohibition does not work. As long as there is a demand, someone will fill it.
As far as Marion’s drug use, I figured that she would outgrow it, as I had. By the late 1970s I had completely given up on drugs and considered them time wasters. I was just too busy. I even gave up alcohol, except to nurse a single Campari and soda all evening when appearances demanded.
Marion and I went to several parties when she accompanied me to Las Vegas for a photo industry trade show in 2003. She loved it, all the glitz and glitter. At a party at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, she was delighted to meet a very drunk Val Kilmer, who was a Nikon spokesman at the time. There’s a picture of us taken by Vladimir Samarin, Editor of Photomagazin in Moscow, at another party on that trip on the opening page of bobshelltruth. com……
About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Mr. Shell is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonywarderotica.com/bob-shell-letters-from-prison-13/
Poetry by A. H. Scott, Copyright 2018
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About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by A. H. Scott, go here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/a-h-scott-whos-trippin/