SECTION ONE

sm
COLUMN SEVENTY-TWO, JUNE 1, 2002
(Copyright 2002 Al Aronowitz

THE STRANGE CASE OF MAX CANTOR
MONIKA'S GHOST


MAX CANTOR

At first, Max Cantor said he was nervous about letting me interview him.  Then he said he wasn't nervous.  Then he said he was.  Then he said he wasn't.

"I'm investigating dark circumstance," Max said.  "There's a lot of very dark people connected with this story and I'm not sure I have the right personality for it.  I'm extremely aggressive and I can be very annoying and very persistent and it's not exactly the safest story in the world to investigate.  There are other areas of journalism which are not so risky as this.  I believe this story might be dangerous for me.  I really think I know what I'm talking about and I really don't want to sound an alarm for these guys.  No, I'm not nervous, but I could get more nervous than I am right now. 

Max didn't, for instance, want me to characterize him as fearing that the Lunatic Lower East Side's ruling freakatollahs would turn him into another Salmon Rushdie by putting a price on his head or any other of his body parts.  He didn't want me to joke that he claimed not to know which body parts these loonies liked the best even though he does know too many details about the alphabet city chefs who had their hands in the stew pot when a 26-year-old topless dancer was chopped up, cooked and served as an entree at a free banquet for Thompkins Square Park's homeless.

"I would never refer to these people using those kind of tabloid terms," Max protested upon learning my choice of words.  "I don't have that kind of agenda.  You're going to get me killed!"

"Well, what do you want me to do, write about these people in terms that would ennoble them?" I asked, adding that I thought these are the kind of creeps who give marijuana a bad name.

Already, Max has received a couple of phone calls intimidating enough to make him start looking over his shoulder.

"One phone call asked didn't I think it would be a healthy thing if I minded my own business.  Whoever made the phone call is obviously not a good fan of mine.  The second time, he called me to ask did I think it over."

But Max, who has written about the murder for the Village Voice and who is now writing a book about the crime, said he is burdened with too many prior emotional problems to need this kind of worry added to his shrink bills.

"This is no joke!" Max insisted.  "I just got word that somebody else involved in this case was murdered in Ohio as recently as August!"

Then, afterwards, he told me that the murder in Ohio had nothing to do with the book he was writing.

"Forget about the Ohio thing," he said.  "Don't even mention it!"

Max's saga originated when the dancer, a Swiss native named Monika Beerle, made the mistake of bedding down with a 28-year-old screwball named Daniel Rakowitz in his East Ninth Street apartment.  Then, after she succeeded in getting her own name on the lease, she compounded her mistake by trying to kick this sickoid out of his pad and out of her life.  This was in August of 1989 and Rakowitz took great offense, to say the least.  A mental case who already had served four hitches in psycho wards, Rakowitz believed himself some kind of supernatural divinity and---abracadabra!---Monika ended up in the human food chain.  Rakowitz is now day-dreaming about receiving an early release from the loony bin after a jury found him too nutty to be squirreled away in the clink.  The jury kept voting 11 to 1 to send Rakowitz up the river for from 25 years to life, but the lone holdout on the panel was an unemployed member who wanted to keep the jury deadlocked for as long as possible because he needed the $15 that jurors got paid every day.

An actor-turned-journalist, the handsome, dark-haired Max was on the case even before Monika showed up for dinner.  The 32-year-old Max had fallen in love with the Lower East Side's loonies and had zeroed in on weirdo Rakowitz as one of the most colorful characters Max had met down there where the avenues are too poor to afford being called by more than a single letter and where brains often are cooked while still in their owners' skulls.  Rakowitz wore a long, shaggy beard, always walked with his pet rooster cockadoodle-doo-dooing in his knapsack and smoked and sold marijuana out in the open for everyone to see.  Pot, in fact, was usually Daniel's only topic of conversation.

Then, three months after interviewing Daniel, Max sat down for breakfast, opened his Daily News and saw headlines that told of the mystery of a severed head found in a bucket.  When he read that police had arrested Rakowitz, Max practically spit his scrambled eggs across the room as he exclaimed:

"Oh, my god!  Holy fuck!"

Months later, Max, who has never stopped researching the story, keeps turning up evidence indicating that Monika's blood also drips from other freaky fingers and not just from Daniel's kooky claws alone. [Editor's note: And he was correct. Eventually, there were more arrests.]

"The point being," Max told me, "that in March of 1990, Daniel called me from the Brooklyn House of Detention and said, 'I'm here for a crime that I'm innocent of.  I had nothing to do with this woman's death and the real killers are still out there and you portrayed me in your Village Voice article as some kind of dangerous lunatic.  You did me wrong and if you just investigate this, you'll see that I'm telling the truth.'"

"Did he threaten to serve you up on a bed of rice pilaf?" I asked.

"Oh, he was very nice about this," Max answered.  "Enough to make me say, 'Well, hmmmm!' and start nosing around.  And what I discovered was shocking.  I mean, I don't believe Daniel.  I believe that Daniel. . .  Geeziz, this is real tricky territory for me, but I don't believe what Daniel told me over the phone.  Daniel insists that he's innocent of the crime, and I don't believe him.  But the crime and the circumstances surrounding the crime are far more complicated."

"So, you do believe that he had accomplices?" I asked and Max answered in a voice that was barely audible:

"Yes."

And then he added slowly as he groped for words:

"And. . .I'm not. . .alone. . .in. . .that. . .belief."

"Like, who else believes there were others involved?" I asked.

"The District Attorney's office," Max answered.

"Why?" I wondered.  "Have you brought your material to the District Attorney?"

"No," Max said, "but I know for a fact that the police are chasing someone else around.  In fact, they're chasing a couple of people."

"They haven't found these guys?" I asked.  "Or they don't have the goods on them or what?"

"They found one once," Max said, "and they gave him a subpoena and he disappeared."

"Can you say who it was?" I asked.

Again Max answered in a voice that was barely audible.

"No."

And then he added:

"But I think that there are still more accomplices.  This story reads like the most unbelievable work of fiction that you could ever. . ."---and his voice trailed off---"I mean I think I'm a pretty good journalist and I think I've found a story that. . ."---and he groped for words again---"I mean I don't know really how much I can say on the record. . .just that it's a very complicated and a very, very sticky situation and Daniel took the fall for a crime in which a great many people were involved, including Daniel."

"What do you mean by 'a great many people,'" I asked and Max replied:

"I'm talking about more than two."

"Are you talking about more than 10?" I wanted to know.

"It depends on what kind of crimes you're talking about," he said.

"Well, what kind of crimes are you talking about?" I asked.

Max was vague and dark about the details, but he left me with the picture of a satanic ritual slaughter executed before an audience that watched as if the killing were some kind of performance art.  Not only did the audience watch, but the spectators then helped dismember Monika, cook her and serve her to themselves as well as to the derelicts in Thompkins Square Park.  At Rakowitz's trial afterwards, a witness testified that one of the homeless found a finger in his soup.

I first met Max through a mutual friend at whose home Max kept me spellbound as he read aloud from a passage that he had just written for his book:

The Smoke-In was scheduled for August 26, 1989.  Several hundred freaks planned to gather in Washington Square Park.  Organizers promised live music, free pot.  Daniel had a stack of flyers advertising the event.  He and Liz distributed them in the Wall Street area one day.  She accompanied him that morning to Manhattan District Court.  He was charged with criminal mischief, accused of trying to steal an American flag on July Fourth.  Together, they got stoned before the session.  Afterwards, they wandered the financial district passing out the flyers to Yuppies and businessmen.  One who dressed as if he might have been a lawyer, said, "This looks interesting.  Can I have a few more?"  The tiny paper flyers bore a date, AUG 26, in bold black characters.  A clenched fist framed by an iridescent green marijuana leaf, was depicted in the act of shattering a syringe.  At the top of the flyer ran a slogan: Boycott White Powder; Bring Back Herb.  The campaign made perfect sense to Daniel.  He was strongly opposed to narcotics.  "I'm totally against heroin and cocaine dealers," he informed Liz that afternoon.  In fact, I'm organizing people to rob and murder and make disappearing persons out of heroin and cocaine dealers forever more."  Sweat showed on his cheeks and forehead.  He appeared ecstatic.  "I believe it's okay to torture these people to get all their assets before they die so that you can use that money to buy up lands to give all their financing to the homeless.

A son of theatrical producer Arthur Cantor, the six-foot-one Max was graduated as an English major from Harvard in 1982 and immediately decided to become


'Diner' director Barry Levinson
was 'displeased'
with Max's acting


an actor.  Max eventually won the film role of Robbie, the creepy med student who works as a waiter in a Catskill Mountain resort hotel, where he succeeds in impregnating Cynthia Rhodes.  The film was a hit called Dirty Dancing, and Max's creepy med student character set the movie's plot in motion.

"I still think I'd like to return to acting," Max said, "except that when you're an actor everybody's always looking at you.  I think I'm a very talented guy but I'm also self-destructive.  I get in my own way.  I alienate people.  I'm extremely loud and noisy and I push too hard.  I got a role in a TV pilot called Diner, which was written and directed by Barry Levinson, and I wasn't very happy with my work.  I have great ability and natural talent but I gave a poor account of myself.  Levinson was displeased, too.  Levinson thought I could have done a lot better."

And what did Levinson have to say about Max's performance?

"No comment!"

It was after striking out in Diner that Max, beset with anxiety and depression, turned his talents toward writing, started identifying with East Village types, fell in love with the Lower East Side and never looked back.

"I was living with my girl friend on the Upper West Side and we were getting kicked out," Max remembered.  "We didn't have any money and we didn't know what to do.  It was July Fourth, '85.  We went down to the Lower East Side, a couple in their twenties walking along and asking strangers if they knew of any apartments up for grabs.  All the supers were hanging out on their stoops.  And somehow we wound up on Rivington Street at the Nada Gallery, this crazy place where all these people were doing this performance art thing, with everybody banging as hard as they could on tin drums with pipes and scrap metal.  It was deafening.  You could hear it from blocks around, this tremendous, fucking noise, and I said 'What the hell is that?'  And we took a look in there, and there were all these freaks with tattoos and turquoise hair smashing and bashing on these metal things.

"It was at the corner of Rivington and Forsythe, right around the corner from the Rivington 'School,' which is a giant scrap heap, a great mountain of scrap metal welded together and built up in this jungle of craziness.  It's called 'School' sarcastically.  Like the Flemish 'School' of painting, the Expressionist 'School,' the So-and-So 'school,' they call it the Rivington 'School.'  It's a giant sculpture garden.  Those who don't like it would argue that it's a giant tower of garbage, basically.  A lot of people look at it and they go, 'What a fucking monstrosity that thing is!'  A lot of people look at it and they say, 'It's the most incredible thing ever!'  There is nothing like it in any other city on earth.  It borders on what used to be Adam Purple's Garden of Eden."

Purple footsteps on the sidewalk also are what led Max to the Lower East Side.

"One day, I was walking away from this garden," Max remembered, "and I saw a plotch of purple footsteps and they were walking toward Adam Purple's Garden of Eden.  We were walking away from the garden and we followed them backwards until they disappeared into the subway entrance at Broadway and Prince.  I thought, 'Geeziz, isn't that the weirdest thing!  Why the fuck would somebody put purple footsteps going from the subway entrance to so-and-so?"

By the time Max figured out why, it was approximately a year and a half later and purple footsteps started turning up all over Manhattan.

"But the thing is," Max remembered, "they weren't the same footprints.  These were really nice ones, clean ones, with no drips.  And they were obviously made by a machine.  By a guy named George Bliss, a friend of Adam Purple.  This was after Adam Purple's Garden of Eden had been destroyed, bulldozed by a contractor hired by the city or by some Council group to erect a housing project.  George wanted to hide his identity.  He didn't want to be known as a huge vandal.  He's a cool guy.  He's an artist.  He's been involved with the Green Movement, the Bicycle Movement.  He just made the footsteps and if you followed them, this path of steps would take you to the site of what used to be Adam Purple's Garden of Eden.  And I decided to find this guy and I tracked him down.  I investigated it.  The Voice bought the story but the Voice never published it."

Subsequently, Max found himself walking through Sheep Meadow where he "bumped into this march, where all these kids were banging on drums and tooting whistles and waving banners and there was a squadron of police accompanying them and they went into Sheep Meadow and somebody threw a handful of marijuana cigarettes into the air and everybody started to dive for them.  And I said, 'What the hell is this?'  And it turned out to be the Abbie Hoffman Memorial May Day Smoke-In.  And it was just a great number of people sitting in Sheep Meadow and getting toasted.  And this guy, Mickey Cezar, who called himself the Pope of Dope, was among them and he was wearing a bishop's mitre, a papal thing, and he was very colorful and the whole thing was just amazing."

Cezar at the time, was operating a profitable "Dial-a-Joint" service, selling marijuana over the telephone and making deliveries via a fleet of bicycle messengers.

"My god, what a colorful, insane character!" Max remembered.  "Here, he's just screaming to be arrested and nobody even knows he exists, although the authorities have discovered him since then.  At this time, he was very well known among people who used his dial-a-joint services, but among the great majority of New Yorkers, he was a complete unknown.

"I couldn't believe that nobody in the mainstream was writing about this cultural pocket.  I thought it was more interesting than investment banking, which is what a lot of other journalists do.  As I sat in Sheep Meadow and watched, I saw that everybody was relating.  It was like a big interrelated tribal thing.  Everybody knew everybody else.  Clearly, there were figures who were accorded higher respect.  Everybody played a role and you could see that there were feuds and there were power struggles going on between this person and this other person about who was going to lead this amorphous movement either in this direction or in that direction.  Nobody was quite sure about what this movement was all about but it was certainly all about the fact that the political climate that we live in today sucks.  That things aren't right the way they are.  That the world is not a fair place and that this country is run by despicable charlatans.  That's what this movement seemed to be all about.

"And I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on.  I wanted to penetrate this movement and understand who was who.  I don't know why I picked on it but I just thought I could really map this world and assuage my curiosity."

During Max's exploration of the Lower East Side, he discovered a place on East Ninth Street that called itself the Temple of the True Inner Light, a temple whose members worshipped drugs, which they referred to collectively as "the Psychedelic."

"It was a little storefront with a little mandala painted on it," Max said.  "I wondered what the hell are these people selling?  It said 'The Psychedelic is the Creator' on it and I knocked on the door and I said, 'What is this place?' and they said, 'It's a temple!' and they gave me what they called a letter, which was a flyer, essentially, about what their purpose was, and I was blown away.  It said they give away free communion to the public with a non-controlled psychedelic.  They came up with some sort of chemical that was not illegal, although I believe it now is illegal.  The point is they gave it away free to everybody who comes in.  And everybody comes in from Jersey and goes, 'Hey, man, let's trip out at the temple,' except it's not a joy ride because they don't let you have it unless you promise to stay there for this however long harangue and this long harangue goes on for a very long time.   And you trip out but you can't just smoke the stuff and run outside and groove.  You have to sit there and listen to their harangue, which is not entirely pleasant.  At least not for those who aren't 'enlightened.'  So I decided I'm gonna write an article about these guys.  I'm glad New York has a psychedelic temple, even though I felt it was such a wacky, crazy thing.

"And I started hanging around the Lower East Side and Thompkins Square Park and I came across this clique of Anarchists, people who considered themselves to be revolutionaries.  They had this place they called the Anarchist Switchboard, where they would hang out on Ninth Street, a half-block away


Of all the nutcakes on the Lower East Side, Daniel Rakowitz was the nuttiest


from the Psychedelic Temple.  And one of the people I met there was Daniel Rakowitz and he carried around this rooster and he called himself 'The New Lord.'  I decided he was a colorful character who was like a perfect source.  I asked him, 'You ever been over to that temple?  You ever smoke that shit?'"

The consummate actor, Max mimicked Rakowitz's reply, aping Rakowitz's voice:

"'Yo, yeah, man, three times!'  I said, 'Can I interview you?'  He said, 'Yeah, sure!'  He gave me his phone number and his beeper number.  He was also a marijuana messenger.  I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on.  I had walked into this scene with all these rivalries going on.  Everybody knew everybody else.

"It was 1989, a week before my 30th birthday, and I felt that out of all the people on the Lower East Side, this guy takes the cake.  I mean he was the zaniest, the wackiest, the most tripped-outedness, the kookiest of them all.  This guy was really something.  Dickens could not have come up with someone more outrageous than this guy.  He was very amusing and he was very personable.  He had a joint burning round the clock and about after two or three days he gave me his phone number.  I called him and he came over to my house.  He set his bicycle against my bookshelf there and he had his pack that he put down and his rooster was squawking in it.

"I said, 'Can I interview you for this piece on the Temple?' which was more or less background for my Lower East Side thing, and he said"---and again Max mimicked Rakowitz---"'Well, sure!'  I took my tape recorder out and I put it down.  This was like my very first interview.  I wasn't even really sure of how the tape recorder worked.  I kept picking it up to make sure the wheels were turning.  I forgot to slate it so I don't know exactly what date it was.  Though I know it was the first week of June in '89.

"I checked the sound levels and he launched into this incredible rap about how he was 'The New Lord' and he was gonna be elected president in 1996 and he was gonna take all his enemies and he was gonna kill them.  He was talking about killing the cops.  I asked, 'Do you sell anything else besides pot?'  And he said, 'No, in fact I'm organizing people to rob and murder and make disappearing persons out of heroin and cocaine dealers and so on and so on,' and he said all this with a big smile on his face like he was kidding around.  I laughed.  I said, 'That's some pretty explosive shit there that you're saying, some pretty inflammatory shit.'

"He said, 'Well I said the same thing to Mike Taibbi on Channel 2 News.  They taped me November 7,' and he had all the dates and figures and he had this very complicated numerological explication of his birth date which, when he added the numbers together, added up to a certain number which he used to justify the fact that he was in fact some divine figure and he had the evidence of the supernatural of his divinity facing page 696 in a German language edition of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, which he kept in his knapsack at all times, next to his rooster.

"And at one point, I said, 'Well, what's so special about your evidence of the supernatural?'  He said, 'Well, it's a picture of a cow head coming up through with two horns and if you turn and rotate the picture 90 degrees you can see it turns into a picture of me and I'm walking toward you and there's a blonde-haired woman walking toward me and as I come toward you, you can see my nose and my eyes and my hair and my beard and my coat and my shirt and my pants and my zipper and my knees and the shading on my knees and instead of my feet, though, I have dog paws and if you rotate the picture again, we turn into a picture of a dog looking like a German shepherd, and dog spelled backwards is God.'

"So, I said, 'Well, that's something.  I wanna get a look at that.  Let me check this out.  Can any schmuck see it?'  And he said, 'Well, sometimes you gotta look at it for like 20 minutes.  But if you concentrate really closely, you can in fact see it.  And it is evidence of the supernatural.  Other people have told me.  I'm not the only one who can see it.'  So I said, 'Let's see it!'  So he pulled out his Mein Kampf and very carefully opened it up to the proper page and slipped this sacred thing out and he put it on the desk and he looked at me very offhandedly and said, 'If anything happens to this, I'm gonna have to kill you.' 

"And he turned back to look at the picture and I said, 'Jesus Christ!  Then I don't wanna see it!  Get it outta here!  Get it outta here!  Get it outta here!'  And it suddenly dawned on me.  This guy is crazy!  And I said, 'Well, fold it up then and put it away, put it away, put it away, put it away, just put it away!'  He said, 'Well, you're not gonna try to harm it, are ya?'  'Well, no, I'm not, but I don't wanna see it!'  I got very alarmed.  'Well, you're not gonna try to harm it.  Just don't harm it.'  'Well, suppose I harm it by accident?  Suppose I spill this coke I'm drinking on it?  Suppose I accidentally spill this glass and it gets all over the picture?'

"And he sort of looked at the ceiling and stroked his beard and said, 'Well, I wouldn't kill ya if ya spilled the coke on it by accident.  But if ya did try and like harm it purposely in any way, I would have t'kill ya.'

"And he said, 'Well, that's all!  C'mon!  Just look at it!'  And I said, 'Oh, OK,' and I got a very cursory look at it, but I wasn't going to spend six hours drooling on it and doing whatever the hell I was going to do to get myself killed.  And I said, 'Well, thanks a lot, that's great, see ya later, Daniel,' and I sort of packed him out of my house."

Max lived in a clean, neat and compact studio apartment not far from the Chelsea.  When I was there, I found a well-chewed plastic pen top lying on his bed.

"Afterwards, I would see him every once in a while," Max remembered,  "And then I didn't really see him.  And there came a time when they had another one of these giant pot marches.  They had them periodically.  And there was one that year on August 26 and it was in Washington Square Park and bands were playing.  It was a very sunny day and I wondered where Daniel was.  Why wasn't Daniel here?  All these bearded hippies were hanging around and passing out these joints, huge, fat doobies, and I was thinking, 'Where's Daniel?  Why is he not partaking of this thing?'  Cause the guy was a complete marijuana nut.  That's all he ever talked about.  He sold it quite openly."

Less than a month later is when Max opened up his Daily News in his breakfast nook and spat his scrambled eggs across the room.  He went back outside to buy the Post and found Daniel was on the front page of the Post, too.

"And I was really shaken," Max remembered.  "And I went back to my apartment and I started calling people up and telling them about that guy I interviewed.  Because his interview that I got with him was so outlandish, describing these visions that he had at the age of six, these incredible things that were happening to him and how he was going to take me under the wall and the experiences he had at the Psychedelic Temple.  They were so outlandish that I would play them to people.

'this guy was something else.  He just fits in down in the Lower East Side.  That sounds like a loaded comment, but individuality counts for so much there that no one would even notice that he was a raving lunatic.  Like me, they just thought, 'Well, he's a raving lunatic, well, so what?  Where else is he gonna go?'  It just seems like all the raving lunatics, at least the colorful characters, are down there.  This place was such a conglomeration of Dickensian types, that was why I was drawn to it.  But now it was all over the tabloids: Drugs!  Murder!  Gore!  Sex!  Cannibalism!  A Manhattan location!  Tripped out Bohemianism!  A Manson look-alike!  A foreign girl!  Tabloid city!"

The tabs, dubbing Rakowitz as "The Monster of Thompkins Square Park," couldn't seem to decide whether he was employed as a dishwasher or a short-order cook.  As for Monika, they classified her as a "go-go dancer" who considered her body parts tasty enough to show them off at "a host of Midtown topless bars."  Actually, she was a dedicated dancer who studied at the Martha Graham School.  According to Max, Monika, like himself, was a person who couldn't get out of her own way, but she was also a very formidable personality with a strong spirit and powerful karma.

"Everybody in Thompkins Square Park except myself had known a murder had been committed," said Max, describing the rumors of mass cannibalism that started being whispered all over the Lower East Side after Monika was served for dinner.  "For weeks, they were saying that he cut up this woman and fed her to the homeless people.  It was a horrible story, but I believed it.  It added up.  It made sense to me.  It wasn't just like I was just pulling your leg.  People were making jokes about it.  It definitely happened.  And there was not one word about it in the media.  This murder had been committed and no one was apprehended for the crime until a month later.

"All these whisperers were making jokes about---'My God!  He cut her up and fed her to us in the park!'  This was two weeks before this murder hit the paper!  These were not rumors coming up after the fact but before the fact!"

During his trial, Rakowitz complained that his prison guards played a cruel joke on him by serving him a platter of bones for dinner.  In court, he threatened to squirt stagnant urine on the prosecutor, an attorney named Maurice Mathis.  Rakowitz kept interrupting the trial with what the New York Times described as "bizarre outbursts."  When the jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity, he thanked the panel members, saying:

"I hope someday we can smoke a joint together.  I won't find fault with your verdict.  The prosecution has an overwhelming case against me.  But I'll be getting out soon and I'll sell a lot of marijuana so I can bring to justice the people who actually committed this crime."

Smiling at Justice Robert M. Haft, Daniel offered to smoke a joint with the judge, too, but the judge waved him off with an embarrassed smile.  Then Rakowitz, a Texan, who had come to New York in 1985, leaned over to his lawyer, Franklin Gould, and said:

"Marijuana is great!"

After the trial, the Post headlined the story:

        'Thompkins monster'

        is declared insane

In its encapsulization of what happened, the Daily News reported that Rakowitz was nabbed a month following the killing "after bragging of the kill and leading cops to a five-gallon bucket of Beerle's bones in a Port Authority baggage room."  According to the Post, Daniel "described in detail how he cleaned and preserved Beerle's body with disinfectant dishwashing liquid and kitty litter."


A holdout apparently wanted to keep the case deadlocked because he needed the money


The Times told of Rakowitz testifying that he did not kill Monika but admitted that he "dismembered her, bleached and boiled the bones 'to disinfect them,' and hid them.  After rumors that a body had been boiled reached local detectives, he was questioned, and led them to the bus terminal baggage room, where he had left her skull."

According to the newspapers, Justice Haft afterwards told the seven women and five men on the jury panel:

"It was a lulu of a case.  I'm sure you didn't know what you were getting into.  I didn't know what I was getting into," he added, shaking his head.

In the tabloids, Juror Valerie Holmes later was quoted as saying of the lone juror who tried to keep the panel deadlocked by holding out for the acquittal:

"He was very determined, very manipulative and he didn't mind how long he stayed there!"

Max, now writing his carefully documented and extensively detailed book, wanted me to be careful not to endanger him or any of his sources.

"When I wrote the Village Voice piece," Max said, "I knew a great deal about this fellow, Daniel Rakowitz, but I knew next to nothing about Monika Beerle.  The entire piece was written from Daniel Rakowitz's point of view.  And then I got letters accusing me of being a prostitute, a sonofabitch trying to make a buck out of the death of this young woman.  It was very upsetting.  When it was all said and done and I sat back, I really began to see more aspects to it in my head.

"I never spoke to any member of her family, because, frankly, I don't know how to approach them.  I know they're not happy about this.  Monika's mother is in Switzerland and her father is dead.  This was a very conflicted woman who had unbelievable power that still reigns.  When you talk about what power she had when she was alive, what I'm referring to is emotional power.  People who are creative are very troubled and very troubled creative people have a great deal of emotional power.

"She was a dancer.  I don't know if she was a particularly good dancer.  Some people say, 'Oh, she was!'  I spoke with many people about her dancing and nobody lauded her to the skies, except for a very few.  But most people seemed to agree she was emotionally troubled.  I know she had a need to dance.  Like I say, I don't know if she was a very good or a very successful artist but I think she probably did have a potential for being a very good and successful one, if she could overcome her emotional problems.

"Even though she's dead, her spirit survives her.  How does it manifest itself?  I don't know.  Let's put it this way: I believe that"---again he groped for words---"that somehow an effort was made to expunge her from the universe entirely, not just her body, but the whole fucking thing.  And it didn't work."

Max seemed to talk in circles trying to explain what he meant.

"I think that there are many people on this world who believe that murder is justified," Max said.  "I've come across quite a few of them who believe we're living in a corrupt and rotten world where murder is used as a means to an end on every corner on every street.  By the government. By God knows who!  Everybody fantasizes about murdering somebody who is trying to screw you.  Somehow, you gotta fucking blow 'em away!  Why not?  That's just the way the world is.  There is no higher law.  There is no great authority. I'm living on this planet.  So are they.  They're in my way.  Fuck them!  People have codes of ethics that are completely internal.

"Now, I personally don't believe in killing anybody unless they take a weapon to you.  But, after someone dies, I think some people believe in going further.  After you die, there's a question of what happens to your spirit?  I don't believe it's an accident"---and Max groped for words again---"I don't believe that what happened to Monika was aimless and the work of a person or a group of people who did not believe that they were trying to do something.

"It came out during the trial that she was manic depressive.  At least, that's what the doctors claimed.  She had a lack of ability to see other people's points of view.  I think she got herself involved in a very dangerous situation.  She moved into an apartment and she took this guy on.  There are many people around who think that what happened to her is utterly justified by the circumstances.  I'm not one of them.

"Whether or not it's justifiable to murder somebody under any circumstances, I don't think it's justifiable under any circumstances to try to snuff their very spirit out of existence.  So that nobody can ever know what happened to them after they died.  Perhaps they can put your spirit out of existence, but my guess is that your spirit goes to become part of everything.  There are whole religious groups who believe that your spirit comes back.

"I believe that an effort was made to destroy this woman's energy or to disperse it so thoroughly that it was no more.  I believe that it was witchy.  I think that there was something witchy about this killing.  I think that something witchy happened and I think that what that, that, that,"---and he groped for words again---"and I think it's a miracle that this guy got caught.

"You don't understand how much time elapsed.  People were talking about it all over town.  At every step of the way, this guy had every"---and again Max groped for words---"The man who is now in a mental institution for committing this act had an opportunity to get away basically with this crime at every step of the way, at every step of the way, at every step of the way.  At every step of the fucking way!

"He went through great pains, for example, to yank out every single one of her teeth from the skull.  The reason one would do that, one would presume, was so that the dental records"---and he groped for words again---"there's no teeth, so that if you take the teeth out of the skull, the skull can't be identified.  And then you can't charge someone with murder if you can't identify the skull.

"But instead of throwing away the teeth or crushing the teeth with a hammer or a pair of pliers or doing whatever the hell you would do to get rid of them, he saved them all in a separate piece of paper and put them in a gardener's glove and left them with the skull.  So when they found these bones, they were able to rearticulate the teeth into the dental arcades and establish whose skull it was.  Now that's not a smart thing to do.  He might have gotten off on that very simple thing.

"In his video, he speaks quite calmly and clearly that one of his friends had advised him that the thing to do with her bones was to put the bones in a metal bucket with a bunch of charcoal and set fire to the charcoal and let the whole thing smolder until the charcoal went out and then just crush the bones into black powder and then when you're done with it, take it and just sprinkle it in Thompkins Square Park or something.  But, no!  He wanted to save them.  I don't know why.  I suspect I know why.  I suspect he wanted to save them because he believed they had some magical or totemic power.  But the very fact that he saved them, that's what got him caught!

"The point is that he really had the opportunity to get away with this clean.  It's a miracle that he was stupid enough to want to save those bones.  He could have walked into the Ninth Precinct and basically said, 'A murder was committed and I might have had something to do with it,' but if they hadn't found any bones, they would not have been able to charge him with anything.  In addition to which, at the final minute, he actually led the detectives to where the bones were.

"He didn't have to do that.  And this is something that the chief detective on the case has reminded me on more than one occasion.  'Don't forget, Maxie-boy, if it wasn't for me, you wouldn't have anything to write about!' and he's correct.  I don't know how in hell they managed to convince Daniel to take them to where the bones were.

"But if Daniel simply had not"---and Max groped for words again---"If Daniel simply had said 'I don't know what you're talking about!' and had gone to the Ninth Precinct and said, 'I don't know where any bones are!' they never would have found them.  And even if they had found them, they never would have been able to trace them to him.  It's a miracle that this guy was caught and I believe the fact that he was caught indicates that his efforts to expunge this woman's soul from the universe was unsuccessful.  That's what I mean when I say her spirit is very strong.  I believe in karma.  And I believe that Monika's karma is yet to be fulfilled."

To Max, Monika's murder had been an act of great rage, vengeance, hate and spite.  Alive, she had been powerful enough to provoke those extreme emotions and, dead, her energy remained powerful enough not only to survive the attempts to obliterate it but also to avenge her killing.  In other words, Max believes that Monika Beerle's spirit is not only powerful enough to haunt those who killed her, chopped her up, cooked her and ate her, but also powerful enough to haunt them into doing themselves in, in some witchy way.

In other words Monika's ghost got her revenge.  ##

* * *

After portions of the foregoing article appeared in the New York Press, Max Cantor was found dead with a hypodermic needle still stuck in his arm.

To me, the death of such a vibrant, brilliant, talented young man was as incomprehensible as it was puzzling. Apparently still susceptible to the pangs of paranoia that can afflict recovering freebase-smoking cocaine addicts, I immediately feared murder. Hadn't Max expressed such a fear? As a one-time police reporter I knew that a so-called "hot shot? of undiluted heroin was a standard way of murder in the criminal drug world.

Hesitantly, I phoned the New York Press to ask if I should write a follow-up. I found myself talking to a woman editor who left me with the distinct impression that she was pissed because I already had invaded her turf, that the freaks of the Lower East was her beat. She also was very cleverly stoked the fires beneath my boiling paranoia, making it clear that I already had invited Max's killers to pay deadly attention to me.

I never wrote the follow-up. Relations between the New York Press and me simply evaporated. The pettiness of the New York Press became even more apparent to me when I bought an ad to advertise THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST's appearance on the Internet. The New York Press deliberately pied the ad so that it became incomprehensible to readers.

But Max himself had told me he had smoked cocaine freebase 'so I could get to know freebasers and so I could be hip enough to interview them." I was appalled. I warned him about my own experience with freebase:

'the first hit is too much and every hit afterwards is not enough. Eventually you take a hit and it makes you feel so bad you think you're gonna die. Freebase don't make you hip, it just makes you crazy. It's the ultimate commodity. Cocaine simply makes you want more of it."

I was finally persuaded that Max's quest for hipness was his killer. He had begun to experiment with heroin so he could be hip enough to interview junkies. He had become hooked so quickly that he had even talked to people about trying the ibogaine method of cold-turkeying. Ibogaine, an African root, has proved successful in battling heroin addiction. With his typical fearlessness and enthusiasm, Max apparently had used drugs that were too hard for him. It became obvious that Max himself had unknowingly administered the "hot shot."

So what did Monika's ghost have to do with that?  ##


MONIKA BEERLE
(Photo courtesy adma@interlog.com

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