A Dead Dog’s Teeth

If you wrote feature articles for magazines like I did in the 1990s, something you heard about but rarely experienced is the phenomenon of “doors being opened for you.” If it happens – and it happened to me in 1991 – labor intensive tasks like running down leads, finding phone numbers, cajoling sources to go on the record, finding and copying documents – all the drudgery that feature writing entails (which was way drudgier before the internet) just dissolves. Documents appear in your mailbox, or at your door. You don’t have to call sources, they call you. They start talking, pause, and say things like, “you might want to record this.”

To download the FREE “Indian Rose” short story, click here. The story I was working on concerned Ralph Nau, an eroto-maniacal stalker who once mailed a dead dog’s teeth to Olivia Newton John as a declaration of love. Nau scared a couple of A list celebrities so badly that they contracted for protection with Gavin de Becker, security consultant to the stars. Once de Becker takes over he handles all requests for information, and the answer routinely is no. But in the case of Ralph Nau, who was stalking de Becker’s clients Cher and Newton-John, a strange turn of events made publicizing the situation important. Suddenly doors were opened for me.

The precautions de Becker takes for his clients are so comprehensive that any threat someone like Nau might pose is neutralized. The only risk is to the stalker. In the unlikely event that he penetrates the outer rings of protection his life is in peril, because as a last resort de Becker’s operatives will shoot him. That has never happened (so far as I know), and it was easy to see why when de Becker described his methods. A poor soul like Ralph Nau, who never had a friend in his life, was never alone once de Becker was on the case. Security agents followed him night and day. They sat next to him when he went to a movie, stood in line behind him when he went to McDonald’s for his solitary evening meal, stood watch outside his door when he was in his room (which was practically a shrine to Newton-John) and tailed him whenever he left.

Eventually Nau became so frustrated at his inability to make contact with Newton-John, Cher, or several other actresses he was in love with that he left LA, and went back home to rural Illinois. Shortly thereafter he murdered his eight year old step-brother, a crime for which he’s never been held accountable. He was deemed too disturbed to stand trial, and he’s been in legal never-never land ever since. In 1991 there was some fear that he’d be released from the mental health facility where he was being held, and Nau’s Hollywood victims were afraid he’d be wind up back in LA. They wanted the story I was writing for Chicago Magazine to be published before his case was considered. The story, “Star Stalker”, appears in The Family That Couldn’t Sleep at Night, published by Calumet Editions.

Last I heard Nau was still in custody in the Illinois mental health system. He remains eligible to petition for release, and does so regularly. He has developed an interest in several female television personalities. He thinks they’re communicating with him through the screen. The letters he sometimes manages to send them are pretty disconcerting, but the likelihood of his release is so remote that they aren’t too worried.

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