Seher Şeniz and the Melancholy Nature of Fame

Being a 1970s Turkish pin-up queen was no easy task. Just ask Seher Seniz; a stunningly beautiful belly dancer/actress who became famous and infamous in the Middle East and Europe for her boldness, dark-haired good looks, and free spirit. She gained notoriety during the golden era of Turkish film, whose Yeşilçam (literally translated to “Green Pine”) movie industry was Turkey’s answer to Hollywood. But despite all the fame and glory, Seher was a deeply tortured individual who dissipated mentally until she tragically took her own life in 1992.

She was born as Seher Başdaş in the district of Narlıdere, in the scenic Aegean coast city of İzmir on March 1, 1948. She was a sensitive and moody Pisces who learned how to survive without a father after he left her family at a young age. When asked about her youth, she stated, “We have never been a close family. I can say that I never had a family.” When she was 14, she started acting in bit part roles in movies. At the age of 16, Seher was forced into marriage with an older man who was obsessed with her. According to Turkish law, a girl came “of age” once she had married, regardless of how old she actually was. Showing her resolve and resistance, Seher managed to end the marriage after a month and used the law to her advantage to emancipate herself from her mother.

She despised being married to a man who was forced upon her, and said in a 1981 interview that:

When I got married, I didn’t even know the biological difference between a man and a woman. I was so embarrassed, my first night was a complete disaster. I was inexperienced, he was inexperienced. I couldn’t get out of the bathroom for 2.5 hours.

For 10 years, until I was 25, I couldn’t think about sex. I couldn’t touch a man. I started to doubt myself for a while… ‘I wonder if I’m a lesbian or do I like women’… Thank God I wasn’t… That 10-year depression is far behind, now it’s like a dream. Look, my shyness hasn’t gone away. Even today, I am ashamed to undress in front of a man. I blush when I undress. Among the men who come into my life, no one has sex with me in the light. My bedroom is always dark. I undress in the dark, I make love in the dark.”

In the 1960s. The bottom pic is pre-nose job.

Unusually, Seher’s husband’s family approved of their divorce, because he was then quickly engaged to a wealthy girl. They were divorced in one brief court appearance. This debacle no doubt tainted her view of life, sex and relationships, society as a whole, and even her own family. Her mother must have married her off early due to financial desperation or disagreements over her acting and modelling career, but the fiasco destroyed a part of her daughter’s soul. Seher chose to move with her mother, older brother and sister to Istanbul in hopes of establishing a better life, though after a certain point, she cut ties with her mother permanently because they did not see eye to eye. She retained relationships with her siblings, but they were never that close.

Pageant Girl

When she was 17 years old in 1965, she placed 4th in the Caddebostan Beach Beauty contest, and she dropped out of high school. A year later, Seher won 2nd place at the 1966 Turkey Beauty Contest. Famous for her fiery temper, she became angry at placing second so she threw her ribbon at the jury and stormed off. She yelled at them, “How can you choose me second, I’m a queen.” She also made some hilariously bitchy comments about her winning opponent:

“Sevtap is a beautiful girl. But she was not really in shape during the competition and it was my right to take first place. The audience shouted, ‘Seher… Seher…’ for minutes. I didn’t receive my prize.”

Psychedelic poster art for Katerina 72

The incident got her noticed, and from 1970 to 1975 her acting career peaked. At the urging of movie producers (who told her she was perfect except for her supposedly “large” nose), Seher underwent a rhinoplasty. This would lead to a lifetime of constant plastic surgeries, such as breast implants, Botox and more nose job revisions. She starred in mostly forgotten Turkish B-movies which were loaded with the smut, violence, and cheesiness that was typical of cinema at the time. Seher was usually casted for her face and body, something which she disdained. She claimed to be a shy woman who hated disrobing for cameras, and that she was even timid while undressing in front of her husbands, protesting:

A rare pic of her relaxing with no makeup on.

“Actually, you’ll be surprised again, but sex is not as important to me. I am one of the most romantic people in the world. Rather than making love, I like to sit for hours holding hands. If the liars who pour rose petals on the stage in buckets during my shows knew that I actually get more pleasure from a single rose that, it would affect me more…”

In 1971, she made her first and only famous movie: Tarkan: Viking Kani AKA Tarkan vs. the Vikings, which is now a cult classic. The low budget swashbuckler film was one in a series of several movies which detailed the tales of a Hunnic warrior named Tarkan, and his encounters with Vikings (played by random Turks in blonde wigs). Seher plays a Chinese queen named Lotus and she performs an impressive knife-throwing striptease dance. This oddball Conan the Barbarian-esque B-movie became a “so bad it’s good” staple of Turkish cinema, and was her only film to become popularized among western filmgoers.

The elaborate headdress she wore in Tarkan: Viking Kani (1971) was iconic.

Seher starred in 22 roles during her career, including a 1982 uncredited appearance as a belly dancer in the trashy American TV show Love Boat. She is often referred to as the first Turkish model to appear in Playboy magazine, but it was actually Nejla Ateş in 1955. As well as acting, Seher did nude modelling and danced at nightclubs throughout Europe to supplement her income. For a time she lived in Paris, and belly danced at the Moulin Rouge. It was perhaps here where she met her second husband; an American named Anthony Wilkins. This marriage was short lived, and next she married an Armenian named Teknur Kiraz.

Queen of the Nightclubs

When Seher was underaged and unable to obtain a work permit to dance in Turkish strip clubs, she used a fake ID which went by the name of “Zora.” Initially, she made 150 lira per night, but she was quickly promoted to 500 for her talented dance routines. For the time period, it was as much as a moderately successful civil servant. At first, Seher disliked being a belly dancer:

“For the first six years, I was disgusted with my job. I hated belly dancing and was ashamed of myself for doing it to earn money. Then I got used to it. I believed that belly dancing was an art. Now I dance with pleasure.”

“I dance to Arabic music. But not all. Generally, this music is very heavy. I stayed in Cairo for 15 days to find music for myself. It is difficult for me to work in Turkey. We have six musicians who can play Arabic style. It’s impossible to put them together and put them on stage. That’s why I dance with playback. But with playback, I can’t get in the mood, nor the audience. I’m in a quandary about it.

I am an ape-tempered person. I get bored quickly. Maybe that’s why I like traveling, different places, different people.”

Visiting Egypt helped Seher realize that belly dancing was an art form, and she devised new methods of dance techniques after learning from locals. Her greatest love was travelling, and she wanted to observe every hidden corner of the world, even if it was not always profitable. She said “I will visit without thinking of money. Drink and eat and I will dance. I’ll see, and what I learn will stay with me as the profit.” After awhile, the money seems to have dried up and she was obliged to go back home.

With two failed marriages under her belt, Seher returned to Turkey in the 1980s and began performing at high end casinos in Istanbul. She was one of the most sought after belly dancers of her time. Regardless, the 1980s were described as a time of “great spiritual depression” for her, and this is when her life went into a downwards spiral. She felt oppressed by the 1980 Turkish military coup, which saw censorship and cinematic decline. The 1970s were a sexually liberated and decadent time period for Turkish cinema, but things were about to change.

The Yeşilçam golden era had come to an end, and Turkey had come to be ruled by a far-right Islamist military dictatorship which saw half a million Turks jailed, and thousands killed and disappeared. Interestingly, the CIA was involved (as they always are). There is no doubt that all of this brutality negatively affected Seher’s already fragile mental health. After the military coup was reversed in 1983, she performed in her final film in 1985. Her acting career was, effectively, over. This was perhaps one of the reasons why she had tried to commit suicide a year earlier.

On June 29, 1984, a 35-year old Seher overdosed on four bottles of Mogadon, a benzo used for insomnia and anxiety. She was rushed to the American Hospital in Istanbul by a shocked journalist who had turned up for an interview appointment, and was revived with great difficulty. After a twelve hour coma, she came to and uttered “I want to die.” It is said that she attempted suicide after her affair with a married businessman had crumbled. Seher was the type of girl who always dated rich. She didn’t care how the guy looked as long as he was loaded. Unfortunately, these sugar daddies never lasted too long and often left her heartbroken. They only saw her as the “other woman.”

Three years earlier though, Seher had made this statement:

“Men don’t know how to get women. They fall for them too hard. Women run away from what falls on them. There should be a bit of ‘run to the rabbit, catch the bloodhound’ atmosphere. If I were a man, there wouldn’t be a woman in the world that I couldn’t get. I learned this so well…”

She seemed to be an odd mixture of bravado and frailty.

Unable to cope with aging, a flailing career, a string of shattered relationships, and crushing depression, she turned to pharmaceutical drugs to numb the pain. In movies, she had always played the beautiful, oversexed and self-assured femme fatale role. In reality, she was a vulnerable and emotional person who disliked being objectified and sexualized. But it wasn’t always that way. In 1967, a gutsy Seher gave an interview to Pazar Dergisi magazine before her acting career blew up. In it, she is quizzed about her antipathy towards the Turkish film industry:

“I am not against Turkish cinema. Turkish cinema is actually against me. To put it bluntly, I don’t like the roles they offer. Small roles, all the time… Yes, I am not considered an important name in cinema, but I have a name for myself onstage… Filmmakers came and said ‘Seher, there is a wonderful role for you in this movie. Madam, it’s a great role. You will get undressed in one scene of the movie. You’re going to strip, you’re going to have to go to bed and have sex.’ Come on, step up the better roles…”

“Besides, what is the money they offer for these roles? They can’t even give me the money that I want. Even if they try to give it, they put me under a debt to them. I swear they’d be embarrassed if they knew I didn’t have time to deal with controlling contracts. And they’d never mention it again. I don’t mind getting undressed. Thank God that my body is beautiful. I don’t have an ugly angle… In the movies, I can undress as they want. But give me the lead role.”

“My name is Seher Şeniz. I am one of the most famous names in the striptease field. I have over tens of thousands of fans. We are not dead if we have not become an important actor in the cinema. I don’t care about anything. I have money in the bank, I get by like a rose. What else do I want from God, more trouble? Whenever I have the opportunity, I also go to Europe. Every night I count my money in my palm. As you can see, I am in a good mood. I have direction. I don’t intend to go back to zero again.”

This interview is fascinating because it shows how bold and fiery she was as a person, and her high levels of ambition and drive. After being abandoned by her father as a youth and forced into an arranged marriage, Seher became hardened to life and was determined to support herself and succeed. Initially, she held strong principles about not wanting to act unless she approved of the role. Unfortunately, she never received the important lead role she had always desired and was relegated to mere eye candy. It is tough to find pictures where she is fully or even partially clothed.

In May of 1992, Seher told her older brother Turhan Başdaş “I am going to Europe,” and left him the keys to her Teşvikiye apartment. On May 14, due to the smell of her decaying body, suspicious neighbours informed the police and Turhan that something was wrong. When they broke down the door, they discovered that Seher had been dead for several days, maybe even weeks. It was a grim end for the 44-year old actress, whose second suicide attempt had succeeded. The autopsy discovered that she had died after drinking hundreds of morphine pills (!!!) with two bottles of whiskey. She left behind a heartbreaking suicide note which delivered a scathing indictment of society:

“No one is responsible for my death. I swallowed 100 synthetic morphine pills and took other sleeping pills. Thank god I managed to go. I am disgusted and always have been disgusted by all of you. When I was only 15, I understood what people in this world are worth. I finally managed to leave this disgusting world. It would be a joke if I said it was hard to die. I am not made to be a whore, I am sensitive and emotional, no one knows. Tell no one that I am dead. I don’t want to be buried according to Muslim traditions. Burn my wigs and scatter the ashes. Wrap me in a white robe and cover me up, that’s all…”

Seher in the 1980s

Unfortunately, her relatives did not honor her last wishes and buried her according to Islamic tradition. Seher left the property to her brother Turhan, who was a retired lieutenant colonel. Of her death, he said:

“She mostly lived abroad. Sometimes in France, sometimes in England. She wasn’t working, but she had no financial problems. Recently, she was saying that she was tired of everything, of the world and people. She had seen everything she could see in her life. Therefore, she was in a depressive mental space. She wasn’t alone, she had many friends.”

A Turkish newspaper wrote her a touching obituary in Sept of 1993: “Her dance was like willow branches swaying in the wind. In the slowly fading light of fire, a belly dancer, dressed in shawls and smiling, came, and turned the darkness into gold and then left this realm.” Sadly, Seher did not see the light she brought into the world or the goodness that was still possible, so she ended her life. Years earlier, she gave a very prescient interview in May of 1981 about her feelings on religion and the afterlife:

One of her last pictures.

“I believe in God. I also believe in being born again… And I know that I will come to the world as a man next time. That’s when women should be afraid of Seher… If he comes back to the world as a man, knowing how to get all the women, woe to those who will come… I love all animals except snakes and scorpions. I can’t keep animals because I love them too much. Because I can’t stand separation and death. I also love children very much.”

Not many people knew who she really was as a person, or the intelligent and creative side of her that longed to be a mother, an artist, and a normal woman. The detailed interview also described the journalist visiting Seher at her apartment in the chic and affluent Şişli district:

“Seher was ladylike… Her house is a charming, tastefully furnished penthouse. The highlights are books and musical instruments. She loves all kinds of music. She also likes to read. It’s time to read, when she goes to bed to sleep at night… But when she picks up a book, a thousand thoughts come to mind. She also likes to daydream. That’s why she was unable to finish the few books she started. Outside the stage, she has little to do with paint or make-up… Same with clothing… When you meet her on the street, it’s hard to think she’s a famous stage artist. Someone like you and us. Quiet, unpretentious…”

Seher Seniz was a woman of many talents, ideals, dreams and contradictions. On one hand she gave off the image of strength and self sufficiency, yet on the other hand the sexual exploitation of the 1970s seems to have taken its toll on her. She was a driving female force in the Muslim world, who inspired women to embrace their sexuality and to dress how they desired; yet she was also someone who was ashamed of nudity and who became fed up with being treated like a sex object for her entire career.

Inspiring pop culture: British producer S. Maharba uses rare images of Seher for his album artwork.

Her beauty was unearthly and rare, but she was deeply insecure to the point where she botched her nose with endless rhinoplasties. Her belly dancing influenced many performers after her, yet she had reservations about the profession. She loved her home country, but she disdained the manner in which women were treated within Muslim society; and her last wishes were a rejection of her faith. At the same time, she also expressed a profound belief in god. She believed in love and wanted children, yet all three of her marriages collapsed and a spoiled affair drove her to attempt suicide.

Seher was a captivating figure who entrances fans and admirers to this day. She had a star quality and charisma which attracted people to her, but she could not find peace within herself. Perhaps she has been reincarnated as a man, like she wished to be. Or maybe she is still dancing on, as a ray of brilliant light in the afterlife.

Jasmine Dhunna: The Vanishing of a Scream Queen

If you’re a fan of retro B-horror movies, you may have heard of the Ramsay Brothers; a family of innovative filmmakers who pioneered a new wave of Indian horror in the 1980s. Horror films are almost nonexistent in South Asia, but the Ramsay brothers managed to churn out a few sleazy low budget hits that caught the eye of cinephiles all over the world. The most famous of their underrated oeuvre is Veerana/ Deserted Place, a colorful and bizarre 1988 horror extravaganza directed by Shyam and Tulsi Ramsay.

The vibrant colour scheme resembles that of a Mario Bava giallo movie.

While most Bollywood movies are tame, PG-rated and reserved, Veerana tried its best to be as lurid and depraved as possible without getting censored. It’s almost like an Indian version of The Exorcist, but with Hindu mythology instead. Shyam claims he was inspired by his own alleged encounter with a witch on a highway in 1984. Featuring trippy neon lighting and a disco soundtrack by Bappi Lahiri, the film tells the tale of an evil witch named Nakita; who possesses a beautiful young girl, played by stunning and mysterious actress Jasmine Dhunna.

The witch Nakita was a memorable monster; grotesque in appearance, and based off the Indian myth of the Churel (चुड़ैल), a demonically-possessed sorceress who lives in the woods and who can shapeshift into an attractive woman. The special effects the Ramsay Brothers used to portray the Churel were supplied by British prosthetics artist Christopher Tucker, who had worked on Hollywood films such as The Elephant Man, The Company of Wolves, Star Wars: A New Hope and The Boys From Brazil. Although their movies were patently low budget, the Ramsays spared no expense on their chilling FX and masks.

Tfw you don’t moisturize…
Source: rhetthammersmithhorror

Jasmine is probably the most obvious reason for Veerana‘s success. In a country where the population is more interested in 3-hour family-friendly musicals than a quickie slasher gore flick, Jasmine packed the theater seats with her seductive dark-haired good looks and charisma. Although she was just a novice actress, her profile blew up after the film’s release, and Jasmine was hot property. So what happened to her career? Why did she just vanish from the public eye without a trace?

It’s because there is scarier shit out there than Churels, and that’s the Bollywood mafia underworld; a group of rather deranged fellows who run the Bombay film industry from behind the scenes. The irony is that in Veerana, Jasmine plays a powerful succubus who seduces and kills depraved men. The movie is one of the rare female-centric Indian films, and it explored uncharted territory in depicting a hypersexual and violent witch who rebels against traditions. But in real life, Jasmine was the one who fell prey to patriarchal misogyny.

Sarkari Mehman (1979)

Not much is known about Jasmine’s personal life. She starred in two little known movies before the Ramsay Brothers cast her in Veerana, which brought her acclaim and attention. For Indian standards, Jasmine’s role was considered very risqué. Full nudity and kissing aren’t allowed in conservative Bollywood, so directors supplant that with thotty outfits and dance scenes. For her role, Jasmine dressed in black silk nightgowns, bright red swimsuits and dresses, and even appeared in nude in a bathtub music sequence.

The haunting song “Sathi, Mere Sathi” was wildly popular upon its release, and still is even now with 10 mil Youtube views racked up by thirsty Jasmine stans. The supernatural lyrics feature the succubus attempting to seduce her victims with promises of otherworldly love. This tune alone cemented Jasmine’s popularity and perfectly captured her mesmerizing beauty; to the point where people are still obsessed with her to this day, even though she only has three acting credits to her name.

She was on top of the world: a bold new star on the horizon of Indian cinema, unafraid to depict her audacious sexuality in a culture that repressed women. What could go wrong? Sadly, everything. Jasmine caught the eye of some unwanted simps who wouldn’t leave her alone. And they weren’t just your average beta orbiters, but legit criminal underworld dons. It was said that they noticed her resemblance to the tragic 1950s actress Madhubala, often called India’s Marilyn Monroe due to her premature death at age 36.

Madhubala

Jasmine had not anticipated this bullshit. In a bravado-filled interview from 1987, she seemed cocky and full of zeal. Her measurements are described as 36-26-36 and her height 5 ft 5.” After Jasmine starred in her first movie Sarkari Mehman (1979) and it wasn’t a hit, she went back to schooling and worked as a model. When the interviewer alludes to her being a has-been, Jasmine matter-of-factly points out that “I was barely 13 then. I wasn’t fully grown and was pushed into the industry. Today I am 18 and know what’s what in tinsel world.” However the timeline doesn’t add up, so she may have been around the age of 21 at that time or even older.

Jasmine in 1978

Jasmine goes on to state that “if the leading man is able to excite me, I don’t mind kissing him. I’m even willing to shed my clothes if I get a director like Raj Kapoor.” In Veerana, Jasmine canoodles with Tarzan star Hemant Birje, which she probably didn’t mind. The article also mentions her doing a film with Dharmendra, but that never materialized. The vibe one gets from this interview is that Jasmine was a free-spirited, open-minded and ambitious girl who was probably too young to be pushed into acting, but who wanted to shoot her shot regardless.

A blinged out Jasmine seduces Hemant Birje.

Sadly, creeps were lurking. After Veerana was released, Jasmine was bombarded with daily solicitous phone calls from the Indian mafia. There was a Bombay underworld figure who was obsessed with her, and just straight up harassed her for sex. Although she contacted Bombay police and asked them to help, the cops were corrupt and useless. Jasmine was on her own and afraid for her safety. And she wasn’t just being pursued by just any two-bit thug. Infamous drug lord, mob boss and terrorist Dawood Ibrahim was after her!

Not every woman is brave enough to turn down Dawood’s advances. Picured above is him and his mistress Mehwish Hayat, a Pakistani actress 27 years younger than him. Methinks she is being held hostage.

Ibrahim and his violent D-Company gang were very well known in India for their lethal brutality and ready willingness to slaughter their enemies. Despite the fact that Ibrahim is only 5 ft 3″ and looks like a silly Mario Bro, he is guilty of some of the worst crimes in Indian history. Through his wealthy criminal empire, Ibrahim monopolized control of Bollywood by providing funding for movie productions. The industry was under his thumb, and actors, producers, and directors all did what they could to keep the manlet thug happy.

Ibrahim clearly had a “type,” and he was enraged that Jasmine declined his calls.

Jasmine was totally repulsed by the situation. If having a Bollywood career came at the cost of being a mob moll escort, she wasn’t interested. It was incredibly brave of her to reject Ibrahim’s perverted advances, as the deranged man was obviously capable of murder. Jasmine clearly had a sense of integrity. Other actresses, however, didn’t mind sleeping with a bite-sized psychopath to further their career.

Desperate to rescue her flailing career, Mandakini turned into a mob moll.

By 1989, beautiful Anglo-Indian actress Mandakini’s career had gone into a downwards slump. She was in her late 30s, and she wasn’t getting roles. In comes Dawood Ibrahim to save the day! He was thirsty AF for her after seeing her in the 1985 movie Ram Teri Ganga Maili. The pair had an affair after meeting at one of his lavish parties, as Mandakini hoped he could help her land some roles with a bit of blackmail here and there. Unfortunately for her, the association with Ibrahim tarnished her career and ended it for good. Within a year of meeting him, she became box office poison.

After his affair with Mandakini, Ibrahim probably felt completely entitled to Jasmine. Her rejection seems to have infuriated Ibrahim, and Jasmine completely vanished from the public eye to avoid his wrath. Veerana was her first hit, and last ever film. It’s impossible to know exactly what happened to her, or where she is today. There are nothing but strange rumours that are impossible to verify. Apparently no one knows her specific whereabouts except for the Ramsay Brothers, who say she is still alive.

In a 2017 interview, Shyam Ramsay allegedly said that “Jasmine is very much in Mumbai. Her mother had passed away, who she was extremely close to, which really affected her, and she took a backseat and no longer associated herself with the film world. In fact, we shall be making a sequel to Veerana, and then definitely I shall get Jasmine to play as a mother to the new girl who shall be playing Jasmine.” Sadly, he died before that could be possible, and Jasmine did not emerge even for his funeral.

However, according to this article, a purported friend of Jasmine claims that “she did not leave the Indian film industry. People distanced themselves from her because of the lies of underworld connection about her spread by the Ramsay brothers.” The friend says that Jasmine was naively pressured into filming a B-movie that tarnished her reputation. So what the hell is actually going on here?

There are also crazy conspiracies and rumours that Jasmine died a long time ago, perhaps in a car crash, that she was murdered by the mafia, or committed suicide. Some speculate that she fled to New York, and married an American man. There are reports that she settled in a Gulf country, maybe Dubai or Jordan. She is said to keep a low profile and is now married with a family. This is very unusual in Bollywood, as most celebrities are attention whores who try to soak up every bit of the spotlight as they possibly can until they’re dead in a gold plated coffin.

It’s hard to tell truth and myth apart in this case, but whatever scared Jasmine away must’ve been serious. She was beautiful and popular, yet she chose to live a life of privacy and isolation due to sexual harassment from thugs and being exploited by filmmakers. She isn’t even on social media either. This could be due to the fact that Dawood Ibrahim is still alive, and just as feared as ever so hopefully he doesn’t kill me for exposing him.

The perks of being a gangster? You can date way out of your league.

Ibrahim’s insanity skyrocketed after the Jasmine incident. He actually committed his most terrible crimes after accosting her. It was a good thing she followed her gut feeling and dipped out of Bollywood and away from psycho Ibrahim before the real shit went down. He moved onto his next high-profile mistress, Pakistani actress and model Anita Ayoob. She wasn’t a shy or quiet woman either. She was kicked out of Miss Asia Pacific Intl’s beauty pageant for stating that “Muslim women should be allowed to have four spouses, just as Muslim men can take four wives at any one time.” Apparently that’s controversial in Asia, I guess.

Anita Ayoob, femme fatale

In 1995, the small-time, hot-tempered actress was rejected for a role in a film by producer Jawed Siddique, so Ibrahim ordered the man shot dead. Like Mandakini, Anita’s career was soon over for associating with a criminal thug like Ibrahim. The gangster wasn’t afraid to have his enemies killed in broad daylight. Gulshan Kumar was a businessman who owned T-Series, India’s largest record label (best known in the West for its beef with annoying Youtuber PewDiePie). He was shot to death with 16 bullets in 1997 on Ibrahim’s orders, right in front of a temple of Shiva.

But Ibrahim’s most evil deed occurred in 1993. Enraged by sectarian violence against Muslims, he orchestrated the Mumbai bomb blasts along with his D-Company gang. 1,400 people were injured, and 257 people died; making it the worst terrorist attack in the city’s history. Ibrahim still remains on the lam today, and is hiding in Karachi, Pakistan with three fake passports, millions of dollars, and control over a massive criminal empire. He counts the late Osama bin Laden and a variety of other terrorists as his buddy. And yet, Bollywood still cannot stop making terrible movies about him and glorifying him.

After the terrorist attack, Ibrahim’s famous friends came under scrutiny. Mandakini was forced to go into hiding, and Anita Ayoob was accused of being a Pakistani spy. Conspiracy surrounds the entire affair. Luckily for Jasmine, she was far away from all of this bullshit and could not count herself as one of Ibrahim’s former mistresses or associates. Bollywood was a corrupt cesspool that she had narrowly escaped. Rather than join his sick and twisted criminal cult of death and mayhem, Jasmine escaped into a life of anonymity.

Divya Bharti: Dead at only 19. Was she killed by Ibrahim’s henchmen?

Other starlets weren’t as lucky. Divya Bharti was a teenage actress who was super popular and highly paid in the early 90s, but whose life was cut short bizarrely and mysteriously due to probable criminal circumstances. In 1993 (the same year as the Bombay blasts) she supposedly fell to death off of her fifth-floor apartment building balcony. She was dead at only 19-years old; perishing from head injuries and internal bleeding as the ambulance rushed her to the hospital. Mumbai police deemed her demise a suicide, but Divya’s parents objected to this. Why would a beautiful teen actress in the prime of her life kill herself?

Divya and her shady husband. Although he was 26, Sajid looked middle aged.

Divya had been married to Sajid Nadiadwala, a cheap hoodlum of a producer who operates on nepotism and mob links. She had even converted to Islam for him. He was also a buddy of Dawood Ibrahim, and Divya had just discovered his criminal connections and disapproved of them. Some say she threatened to reveal his mob ties, and that Sajid or his unsavory pals took revenge. Divya’s childhood maid Amrita who was present the day of her fall and who was the last person to speak to her died 30 days later of a supposed cardiac arrest. Other witnesses from that day are still too afraid to speak.

With all the carnage he left in his trail, Ibrahim remains the most brutal crime figure in India’s recent memory. Who knew the B-movie schlock and camp of Veerana had such a dark shadow lurking behind it? Jasmine managed to escape the whole nightmare unscathed, and probably watched in horror as she read about all the murders, terrorism, and intrigue that surrounded the industry she had once wanted so desperately to be a part of. Thankfully, Jasmine’s sharp intuition had warned her against getting involved with a psychopathic manlet gangster.

This movie is seriously aesthetically spectacular.

The Ramsay Brothers’ weird and wild brand of horror movies unfortunately never took off in the West, but the directors have a small cult following amongst Indian horror fans. Veerana still remains their most watched movie, and viewers are always captivated by Jasmine’s ghostly and eerie performance as a possessed girl. She brought the role to life with her bold ability to be sexy and scary at the same time. And she managed to avoid getting killed by India’s worst and most ruthless mobster, so that’s pretty impressive too. Jasmine may still be out there somewhere, but she remains a haunting specter forever on the outskirts of a sleazy film industry that tried to exploit her; and thankfully failed to do so.

The Exploitation and Redemption of Laura Gemser

If you’re a fan of trashy vintage B-movies and Grindhouse films, there is no doubt that you are familiar with Laura Gemser. She forged a successful career out of her unearthly beauty, and she is still world renown by die-hard fans to this day. But who was Laura Gemser as a person? How did such a shy and intelligent woman cope with being viewed as a sex icon due to the explicit Black Emanuelle movie series?

On the surface, her life story is a glamorous jet-set tale of stardom in the flower-power & free love era. Underneath the facade of bare skin on celluloid, there was a darker conflict going on in her heart. She enjoyed and despised aspects of her work at the same time. The films she starred in were disturbingly violent and often pornographic, and after awhile she balked at doing such roles. Laura yearned for a legitimate movie career, but was instead offered a steady incline of smut. This is the flamboyantly tragic life story of Laura Gemser.

From Java to Utrecht

She was born as Laurette Marcia Gemser on October 5, 1950, in the tropical city of Surabaya, Indonesia. The country was a Dutch colony for hundreds of years, and finally gained its independence in 1949. However Indonesia’s liberation was far from peaceful, and the authoritarian president Sukarno ruled with an iron fist. The country was in a state of conflict, with communist and radical Islamic sects constantly squaring off against one another. Concerned by the instability, her parents moved the family to Utrecht, Netherlands when she was only four years old.

After graduating high school, Laura attended Artibus Art School to study fashion. And of course, the 5 ft 7″ beauty was immediately noticed for her model good looks. In the early 1970s, she posed for fashion magazines in Belgium and Amsterdam. From the span of 1973 to 1977, Laura appeared on five covers of the Italian erotic magazine Playmen. She also posed for the French magazine Lui and worked with Francis Giacobetti. But it was in Italy where her career would take off and she would become a star.

The 1970s were an era of liberation in all shapes and forms, be it social, sexual, racial or otherwise. There is a misconception that American Hollywood films were at the forefront of everything progressive. This was untrue. In the U.S., bland and ordinary actresses such as Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep ruled the screen with a monopoly and swept the Oscars. In Italy, it seemed that audiences were more ready to accept ethnically diverse actresses.

Italian cinema often cast women of color in the 1970s, such as the Eritrean actresses Zeudi Araya and Ines Pellegrini, Burmese actress Me-Me Lai, African-American actress Ajita Wilson, Brazilian actress Florinda Bolkan, Dominican actress Lucía Ramírez, Afro-Italian actresses Carla Brait and Angela La Vorgna, and Jamaican actress Beryl Cunningham, among others. The roles they were given were often of dubious quality (cannibal horror movies, erotic films and violent giallo), but these women became underground stars in their own right.

Spanish magazine ‘Personas’, number 67 from December 15, 1974

La Principessa del Cinema Italiano

In 1974, a 24-year old Laura starred in her first film called Amore libero (Free Love). It was an Italian production shot on the gorgeous French island of Seychelles. Described as an erotic adventure film, it was considered pedestrian and tame compared to her later films. Despite its mediocrity, the movie did the trick and got Laura noticed. Perhaps unaware of what she was in for, she moved to Italy to pursue her newfound acting career.

Softcore porn was rife in 1970s Europe, and the most infamous film of 1974 was Just Jaeckin’s X-rated Emmanuelle, starring Sylvia Kristel. Based on the autobiographical smut novels by French-Thai libertine Emmanuelle Arsan, the film caused a stir in France upon its release and was followed by two more sequels. Laura played a small role in Emmanuelle 2 as a kinky masseuse.

Like a sheep wandering into a pack of wolves, Laura had no idea what she was getting into:

“I wanted to be a model. I was still a little girl. I came to Italy specifically to shoot ‘Amore Libero,’ because someone was impressed by my photographs and therefore made contact with my agency. Even the part I did later in ‘Emmanuelle 2’ was born because the director Francis Giacobetti was a photographer with whom I had already made several nude and fashion shoots. I remember the day when he asked me if I wanted to do a part in the film he was going to make, ‘Emmanuelle 2.’ And I replied: “Why not?” 

Emmanuelle II (1975)

Love, Fame and Scandal

This was a first in a long chain of sleaze films for Laura. In a way, cameoing in Emmanuelle 2 was like selling her soul to the devil. Afterwards, she was offered the lead role in a series of Italian grindhouse spin-offs named Black Emanuelle. The Italians removed an “m” from the name so their French counterparts would not sue. Directed by Bitto Albertini, 1975’s Black Emanuelle turned Laura into a cult film star. He had seen a poster of her while at a travel agency in Kenya, and was mesmerized by her knockout looks.

Despite having limited prior acting experience, Laura was cast in the main role. One of the pros of starring in the film was that it was shot in scenic Nairobi, Kenya. Laura said that she “didn’t really read the script, but they told me I was doing it in Kenya, so I said yes. That’s the only idea– to go to Kenya, and that for me was okay. I don’t care about the script.” One of Laura’s favourite things about her acting career was that it allowed her to travel and to see new places. She had an adventurous and bold spirit, and she brought this carefree attitude into all her performances.

Impossibly beautiful in Black Emanuelle (1975)

She also met the love of her life on the set of the film. Laura’s handsome co-star Gabriele Tinti was infatuated with her ever since spotting her at a production office in Rome, and the two later began a passionate affair while filming in Kenya. She was a Libra, and he was a Leo- it was meant to be! Laura said “it was meeting Gabriele that pushed me to leave my homeland to come and live here in Italy… to always be close to him.

Gabriele was a B-list Italian actor with matinee idol good looks that led the press to dub him “the Italian Alain Delon.” He grew up poor, so this pushed him to have an extraordinary drive to succeed as he grew older. Gabriele starred in dozens of movies each year all across Europe and in Hollywood, and eventually began to foray into erotic films.

Gabriele Tinti and his piercing gaze.

Despite the fact that he was 18 years older than her, Laura loved him immensely. The couple married in 1976 and stayed that way until his death in 1991. Gabriele also starred with Laura in all of her Emanuelle films, except for Emanuelle Around the World. It was strange that they both had such a strong bond despite performing in graphic sex scenes with other actors as well.

Laura and Gabriele had an understanding that while they performed in vulgar films, they still had an unbreakable attachment between them. Indeed you can see the chemistry when they perform together: the couple light up the screen and you could genuinely tell they were in love! Rather than working bum 9-5 jobs, the pair travelled the world and starred in films together. It seemed a small price to pay because it allowed them a luxurious lifestyle at the cost of getting naked onscreen. They were like the Onlyfans thots of their day.

Crazy in love!

While Black Emanuelle may have brought Laura love and a career, it’s technically a terrible film. It is a weird and haphazard porno flick with a cheesy soundtrack and just so many ridiculous moments. It was also tough for Laura to get used to stripping down on film. Her agent complained that Laura could barely pose for a picture, so it would be even tougher teach her to perform in movies.

Director Bitto Albertini claimed “it was difficult to make her act, and she thought it was a game. She didn’t take it seriously at first, then she became pretty good.” The contention may have come from the all the nude sex scenes she was compelled to do. In many moments, Laura looks awkward and downright uncomfortable. But this was her new job, and she steeled herself to it.

Laura and Karin Schubert on set.

Another thing that infuriated Laura was the fact that Albertini had added in hardcore porn footage during the editing stage- without her approval! Laura never performed in hardcore acts on screen, and vehemently refused any requests to do so. Yet Albertini had inserted random stand-in scenes without her permission. This was something Laura would always feel very icky about. She described the nightmare of finding out about what had happened:

“Any excuse is good to get naked. I saw the one– the first Emanuelle, because I was curious. But then I felt baaad, because I didn’t expect to see… I refused a lot of scenes. They put in a stand-in, and I didn’t know. So when I saw the movie, I felt rather bad. There was a scene in a train. I think it was… she was making love with a whole football team. I don’t remember. But, I refused that scene, and they used stand-ins, and– I don’t know what are the scenes… I forgot. Really, I forgot…”

The Misfortunes of Karin Schubert

The beautiful and tragic Karin Schubert.

While Laura always had the leverage throughout her career to refuse hardcore porn, her co-star Karin Schubert did not. Karin was an attractive German actress who starred in French and Italian cult films throughout the 1970s. When the roles dried up and she began aging and facing financial difficulties, Karin’s life turned into a nightmare.

While her role in Black Emanuelle was already embarrassing enough, it was about to get worse. Karin’s son was a troubled drug addict, and it was up to her to pay for his psychiatric treatment. In her 40s, a middle aged Karin posed for nudie magazines. In the 1980s, she was eventually forced to do hardcore porn to pay her debts. She acted in over 20 pornos, and it broke her mentally.

Karin and Laura in Emanuelle Around the World (1977)

Having already suffered sexual abuse in her youth, Karin attempted suicide three times yet she survived them all. She was then interred in a psychiatric hospital. She lamented I have neither family nor friends, neither money, nor future. I wanted to die because I missed everything. For people, I am a whore.” She now lives in an isolated area of Germany; faraway from the media and alone except for her pet dogs who keep her company.

The King of Sleaze

Thankfully, Laura never fell into the trap that poor Karin did. It was the constant love and support of Gabriele Tinti that kept her strong throughout her career. Black Emanuelle was a smash hit, and Laura signed a contract with director Aristide Massaccesi AKA Joe D’Amato for five more films. If you’re a geeky cinephile, you’ll definitely be familiar with the infamous D’Amato. He was the most well-known exploitation film director in 1970s Italy, and churned out hundreds of low budget films that left audiences in awe of how perverse and depraved they were.

Joe D’Amato and Laura Gemser in Venice, on the set of Emanuelle in Bangkok (1976)

D’Amato really knew how to sell a film: just add copious amounts of sex and gore. Bitto Albertini’s Black Emanuelle looked like a joke compared to D’Amato’s sequels. He directed every genre of film possible, from horror to fantasy to westerns to straight up porn. And quality wise, you couldn’t exactly say his movies were good. But they were shocking and attention-grabbing, and the charming and goddess-like Laura Gemser became his most valuable asset.

Laura was his muse and inspiration. The camera adored her, and D’Amato captured her at her best angles. He described Laura as a shy, wonderful and sweet person who was very private and liked to keep her life hidden from the media. While the Emanuelle character she portrayed onscreen was very kinky and hedonistic, the real life Laura had a very committed relationship with Gabriele Tinti.

Ely Galleani and Laura Gemser in Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade (1978)

Co-star Ely Galleani said Laura was sometimes hard to work with because she seemed “very upset” during their lesbian lovemaking scenes. Indeed, Laura would go on to say that “it’s hard to make love with a [woman]. I mean, it’s… it’s really hard. But, you know, you get paid for it, so you do it. You just do it!” So despite the Sapphic scenes she performed in onscreen, Laura was not bisexual in real life.

D’Amato depicts Emanuelle as a strong, independent, and promiscuous photojournalist who travels the world and gets down with almost everyone she comes across, be they male or female. Cue in lackluster sex scenes every five minutes and feature some horribly dated and corny musical scores by Nico Fidenco. He was certainly no Ennio Morricone.

The bella donna in Venice, on the set of Emanuelle in America (1977)

Emanuelle is also extremely oversexualized, and is shown to enjoy gangbangs and group sex- and even gang rape! Wtf. In the post AIDS era, these films come off as very twisted and obscene. The only redeeming properties of the Emanuelle films are Laura Gemser and her many interesting co-stars. If not for her, these movies would be discarded as nothing more than repetitive, abject trash. Laura said herself that:

“It seemed like one long, long movie that didn’t end. You know, it was always the same story, the same things happens.. I was a journalist… a photographer… and they always sent me out to to find some drug criminals. There was a lot of drugs, right? And then.. there was always the same situation… always had to get myself undressed to get something… I don’t know….

Bloody & Extreme Grindhouse Cinema

Then why did she continue doing the sordid Emanuelle films? Well the fact that she was able to travel to Thailand, Morocco, Hong Kong, New York, Venice, Washington, San Diego, Egypt, India, Iran and China could have contributed to it. Most of the films were garden-variety and forgettable, but two 1977 classics stand out for their offensive and wildly violent plots: Emanuelle in America and Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals.

In Emanuelle in America, Laura plays a journalist who goes undercover to bust a snuff film ring. There is an array of nauseating scenes; such as horse bestiality, orgies and random, terrible hardcore porn inserts. 1970s Italian filmmakers had a serious problem with exploiting their stars. D’Amato had tried many times to make Laura film hardcore porn scenes, but she always gave him a resounding NO!

Emanuelle in America (1977)

Penthouse magazine founder and producer Bob Guccione had cut porn scenes into Tinto Brass’ 1979 disasterpiece Caligula without telling anyone, much to the chagrin of stars Malcolm McDowell, Peter O’Toole and John Gielgud. After watching Caligula in theaters Malcolm said “I felt like a woman after she’s been raped.” This strongly echoes Laura’s sentiments about her own films.

The worst parts of Emanuelle in America, however, are definitely the hyper-realistic, gory snuff film scenes. For some reason, D’Amato thought it would be a good idea to include graphic torture in a literal porno. The film was seized by an Italian court because they thought the disturbing footage was real, and one of the traumatized actresses in the snuff scenes sued production but lost the case. The things Italian directors got away with back then were mind-blowing. The horrific sequences inspired David Cronenberg’s amazing 1983 classic sci-fi body horror flick Videodrome, so at least it was good for something in the end.

Laura and Gabriele. This is probably my fave Emanuelle outfit.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, mondo movie Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals was even worse. Just look at the title. Thankfully, this film had no hardcore porn inserts. But it was still marketed as an erotic film, despite the fact that it was literally about cannibalism. Another one of D’Amato’s bright ideas. His vomit-inducing film went on to inspire Ruggero Deodato’s even more nauseating and infamous 1980 horror film Cannibal Holocaust. I strongly advise you not to watch these two back to back.

The plot is trite: Laura the journalist and Gabriele the anthropologist go on a cute New York date to discuss cannibals and to make love, and then D’Amato cuts to them watching a tribal castration scene. It didn’t make for a good romance movie, but it did give the film an air of bizarre infamy. The duo then head out to the “Amazon jungle,” which is really just the forests of Lazio, Italy. Racism ensues (the “native” tribe is played by Filipino tourists!), as well as graphic scenes of cannibalism, gutting and dismemberment. Skip the popcorn when you watch this one.

Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977)

Going Mainstream

With movies like these under her belt, is it any wonder Laura grew disillusioned with her career? She did have a few roles in some “respectable” movies, such as the 1977 Terence Hill and Bud Spencer comedy film Crime Busters, and the 1976 Hollywood disaster flick Voyage of the Damned. Director Stuart Rosenberg said he wanted an actress who looked Cuban, and personally chose Laura for the role. She called the experience “unreal.” Unfortunately, she had no lines and just played Orson Welles’ arm candy. Laura gave a fascinating account of him in an interview and said he was:

A big guy (laughs)… he walked very badly because of his size. I remember that he spent his days locked in his room, he never wanted to talk to anyone. Even when Faye Dunaway went to look for him because she wanted to talk to him, Orson drew back, he didn’t want to meet her. Poor thing, she came to the set on purpose because she wanted to talk to him. But Orson would lock himself in the room after the take.

Orson Welles and Laura Gemser in Voyage of the Damned (1976)

The least awful D’Amato film starring Laura was 1976’s Black Cobra Woman. This was the closest he ever got to making a decent movie, and the presence of Hollywood star Jack Palance added a little class to the production. And unlike the terrible musical scores the other Emanuelle films had, this one had a pleasant soundtrack by maestro Piero Umiliani.

Black Cobra Woman is a strictly softcore film that doesn’t have any trademark disturbing D’Amato scenes (other than a snake being skinned alive and eaten at a Chinese marketplace). Set in Hong Kong, Laura plays an exotic snake dancer who is wooed by sugar daddy Palance. In the film, Laura performs sensual snake dances and looks effortless while doing it. In real life, Laura had a fear of snakes and one even defecated on her when she was handling it!

Nothing comes between a girl and her snake ♥

The Private Life of Laura Gemser

It’s tough to find an interview of Laura from the 1970s, but I managed to discover a rare newspaper clipping from that era. The article is in Spanish and was an interview done when she had a stopover at El Prat airport in Barcelona to meet a movie producer (this is a rough translation btw I did the best I could). In the clipping, Laura reveals that she wants to stop getting naked on camera because “everything has a limit” and that she has other plans for the future. Surprisingly, she says that she has studied archaeology, and even passed two pharmacy courses as she wanted to pursue a medical career.

We also find out that she is bilingual and speaks five languages (Dutch, Indonesian, English, Italian, and I’m not sure of the other one). When quizzed about the upside of the Emanuelle film series, Laura admits it gave her “fame and a comfortable economic position.” The reporter also mentions that she is happily married to Gabriele Tinti, who accompanied her on the trip. This is all very interesting because not much is known about Laura’s private life outside of her film career, so it’s fascinating to see she had other ambitions that sadly never came true.

B-Movie Extravaganza

Laura’s career slogged on into the 1980s as she starred in trash films of all genres: sexploitation, women in prison films, nunsploitation, sex comedies, an erotic biopic on Caligula, more pseudo-Emanuelle sequels, a martial arts flick with Toshiro Mifune, Sonny Chiba and James Earl Jones, a zombie movie, horror, fantasy, and other questionable films I don’t recommend watching. The girl had to make a living somehow.

On the set of 1982’s Violence in a Women’s Prison, the no-nonsense Laura clashed with her haughty co-star Lorraine De Selle. She had some harsh words for her:

“She was someone who put on incredible intellectual airs. But she was a pseudo intellectual in my opinion. I mean if you make a movie like “Violence in a Women’s Prison” you can’t be an intellectual… you can’t be a busy theater actress when you’re shooting such bullshit. In short, the story is what it is, it’s definitely not Shakespeare… let’s have fun, right? “

With Mónica Zanchi on the set of nunsploitation film Sister Emanuelle (1977)

In 1980, Laura recorded a song called “Crazy Eyes (And We’ll Love Again)” in Germany and surprised everyone with her vocal talents. She had a beautiful singing voice and it was a shame she didn’t record more music because that track is actually very dreamy and well produced! It was also bizarre that Laura’s voice was dubbed in almost every film she ever appeared in, despite the fact that she spoke good English but with a slight Dutch accent.

In 1983, Laura co-starred in the cheesy hit American TV movie Love is Forever with the king of corniness, Michael Landon. The director and producers forced Laura to hide her identity on set:

This was at the behest of the director and the production. They didn’t want my ‘erotic’ past to connect with the film, which was a story for the whole family. So they gave me the name of Moira Chen, but it didn’t help because everyone wrote: Moira Chen is Laura Gemser (laughs). Hall Bartlett, the director, was an American who wanted to change my life. It was a little bit nasty… He was a moralizer. It forced me to deny even in the face of evidence. When in Thailand people said to me: ‘Are you Laura Gemser?’ I had to say: ‘No… no, I’m Moira Chen’. It was embarrassing.

Stills from Looking Good with Laura Gemser, a weird 1980s workout video.

Laura tried to turn a blind eye to the hardcore porn that was being inserted into the films she made with D’Amato, but then she realized these scenes were literally being filmed right there on a parallel set. At least she had a sense of humour about it:

“I’ve always believed that Aristide [Joe] made porn films at the same time as ours. But not that these were scenes to be included in the films themselves. I realized it late, on the set of 1982’s ‘Caligula the Untold Story.’ There is a scene in that film in which Emperor Caligula, David Brandon, and I walk to a bedroom. As we walk, a long, incredible porn scene starts, and after half an hour of wild sex, the scene resumes with us entering the bedroom. I remember when I saw Aristide, I said to him: ‘Fuck, Ari,’ this bedroom was really far away!”

Caligola… la storia mai raccontata (1982)

Laura Gemser: Goblin Costume Designer

From 1988 onwards, Laura worked on Italian low budget D-movies as a wardrobe and costume designer. After all, she was an ex-model who had studied fashion in college. She worked on D’Amato’s films as the two had a close friendship throughout their careers. Most famously, she helped create the costumes for 1990’s Troll 2, often called the worst movie ever made. The film was shot in Utah with an all-Italian production crew. None of them spoke fluent English except Laura, which caused the shoot to be a total mess.

She did her best with the low budget, creating goblins out of Halloween masks and burlap sacks. Ever the penny pincher, producer D’Amato would go on to re-use these costumes in 1982’s Ator: The Fighting Eagle. Even so, Troll 2 was a disaster that was universally panned, and the special effects were mercilessly mocked. It is tragic that this movie is associated with Laura, but at least she had fun on set.

Laura at work on the set of Troll 2 (1990)

And she didn’t have to strip naked on screen anymore! Phasing out her acting career was like a breath of fresh air for Laura. She described the discomfort she felt the first time she had to disrobe:

“The first few times I had to undress in front of the camera were a traumatizing moment… but then I got used to it. Sure, everyone on the set looks at you like that (she widens her eyes and sticks out his tongue, panting like a dog), then it’s a bit embarrassing, but if you take it as a job, it all goes away. You say: I have to do it, they pay me. And frankly, I didn’t do particularly rough scenes, even if once, in Italy, it didn’t take much to cause a scandal…

Notti porno nel mondo (1977)

When my first Emanuelle came out, there was this big poster with me on it, and I was naked ’til here… and they censored it. They took it down, and so people were curious to see it… So nowadays, you see everything… I mean, even in TV you see everything. In those days it was rather… How do you say it? Uh, scandaloso… [I got] a little bit tired of doing this, and I was trying to do some other kind of movies. But… I had that label on me, and it’s very hard to get out of it. So I said ‘I hate it,’ so I stopped doing it.”

The End of Love

Another factor that contributed to the end of Laura’s acting career was the death of her beloved husband Gabriele Tinti. With him by her side, Laura was full of confidence and strength. But when he passed away in Rome on November 12, 1991, she was heartbroken. He was only 59 years old, but he was a lifelong smoker who died of a myocardial infarction before leaving on a flight to France to star in a new film. The couple had been married for 15 years. Since they never had any children and her family was split between the Netherlands and Indonesia, Laura was left on her own.

Laura and Gabriele in Hong Kong, 1976.

Laura and Gabriele were both enigmatic and mysterious people who kept their personal lives out of the public eye. But in 2016, Laura agreed to be interviewed for a documentary on his life called Come in un film: La Vera Storia di Gabriele Tinti. In this film, she recounts rare info about his life. He was originally named Gastone, and was a poor boy from the Bolognese village of Molinella. When he became famous, Gabriele returned home in a white suit and sports car, which the poverty-stricken villagers soiled with their own blackened hands and clothes.

Even though he was 20 years younger than her, Gabriele seduced legendary Italian actress Anna Magnani in the 1950s and she fell madly in love with him. He was also married to Brazilian actress Norma Bengell for seven years during the 1960s. Gabriele was an attractive and charismatic playboy, but Laura was the woman who had stolen his heart. In the documentary, Laura tears up talking about him and remembers him fondly and with great love. She had Gabriele buried in his hometown of Molinella, in a grave next to his father’s.

Electric chemistry: the couple in Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977)

After his death, Laura disappeared from the screen, but continued designing costumes until 1993. To those who asked her why she retired, Laura joked about not wanting to play “Emanuelle’s grandmother” because she was now in her 40s and a widow. Laura and Gabriele had lived together at a villa in Saxa Rubra, a solitary village 14 km away from Rome. They had a small wooden house with a wild garden set in a fairy tale landscape. After his death, she found life there to be lonely and painful, so she moved to a different location in Rome.

Retirement and Isolation

The last time Laura was spotted at a public event was at Joe D’Amato’s 1999 funeral, which she was said to have become emotional at. Despite all he put her through in those weird movies he made, Laura still had a soft spot for D’Amato. Nowadays, the man would be #metoo’d in a minute. She had given a compelling account of him in a 1997 interview:

On the set of Emanuelle in Bangkok (1976)

“In my opinion Aristide is a born actor, a comic actor, because he has this face that makes you laugh immediately when he speaks. At the time I didn’t understand Italian well, but every time this funny little man said something to me I inevitably burst out laughing. I had a really good time with Aristide…

Today it would be unthinkable to make films like those… Working with Aristide was an adventure. He did everything: he was the director, the cinematographer, the producer -and an actress very often also had to be a costume designer and a seamstress. In the last period of our collaboration I was a costume designer because I had had to learn how to do it already when I was shooting the other films. Everyone had to be able to do a little bit of everything.

Gabriele, D’Amato and Laura in 1976

But thinking about it was funny and Aristide made me laugh a lot… laughing is important. He always had such agitation on him… he was always anxious and he forgot everything on time: his shirt, his shoes, a mess like few others! A great professional but also a great mess. When he got angry then I don’t tell you!

Aristide, however, did not get angry a lot, usually he always did it with irony. The few times he really got angry I went away because then it was unbearable: he screamed, cursed and so on and so forth… One thing that Aristide and I have in common is that we fall asleep everywhere, we sleep easy. It also happened to me in the breaks between takes. But he too was no less.”

A rare still from The Lost City, a D’Amato film that was never completed.

Laura now lives a quiet life somewhere in Rome, far away from all the movie cameras. She is in her 70s, and she rarely takes interviews. In 2000, director Alex Cox interviewed her in A Hard Look, a documentary on the Emanuelle films (I have transcribed the interview into different sections of this article). She was still pretty and glowing at the age of 50, but seemed disappointed and conflicted about her acting career.

In 2016, Laura appeared in the Gabriele Tinti documentary. And in 2018, Severin Films released a short interview with Laura called I Am Your Black Queen as a featurette on a DVD release set of hers (yet I can’t find it… RIP). Information about her is scarce, but I raked up as much as I could from Italian cinema sites. She proves to be a tantalizing enigma for fans who want to get to know more about the real Laura Gemser.

Laura discusses her late husband in Come in un film: La Vera Storia di Gabriele Tinti (2016)

Unlike many other actresses who crumbled in the face of fame and abuse by the film industry, Laura managed to hold up under all kinds of pressure and bow away gracefully from the screen. Countless starlets succumb to suicide, substance abuse, botched plastic surgery, poverty, mental illness, and other afflictions. Yet even as a widow, Laura managed to keep herself together and settle into a private life in Rome.

She enjoys craftsmanship, and makes her own furniture out of recycled material. Laura still designs her own clothes as well, and often sells them at the grand market of Porta Portese by the Tiber river. She is a very low-key and a level headed person, which is remarkable considering all she’s gone through.

Laura seems to want to distance herself from her smut career, and that is understandable. The Emanuelle movies truly were exploitation in many more ways than one. They were films that exploited Laura herself, and forced her to do unimaginable acts (everything shy of actual penetration) onscreen. She is a wonder to watch in movies; as she is extremely gorgeous and slender with long black hair, a stunning smile and the It quality of a star. Yet the content she was forced to do was way beneath her.

She was an intelligent and unique woman who deserved much better than the sleazy roles she was given. There is a feeling of wasted talent when reflecting on her filmography. Laura was much more than just her pleasant face and body, and her acting ability and beauty as a person shine through in the gritty grindhouse films she drifted above. To her fans, Laura Gemser will always be a bright and glorious diamond glittering in the rough of 1970s erotic B-movie cinema.

The Glamour and the Suffering of Marisa Mell

It is said that beauty is a gift bestowed only upon the truly blessed. For Marisa Mell, this initial blessing eventually turned out to be a bitter curse. She was a dazzling sex symbol and a style icon in the swingin’ 1960s, but her career later dissolved into poverty and tragedy.

She was born on February 24, 1939 in Graz, Austria as Marlies Theres Moitzi; later changing her name to one that was easier for non-German speakers to pronounce. Marisa was stunningly statuesque at 5’8″ tall and had a perfect body to match. Her face was structured like some ethereal Roman goddess; with mesmerizing green eyes, prominent cheekbones and a defined square bone structure. There are many gorgeous women out there, but Marisa was special. She just naturally had that It quality and hypnotic screen presence. It was obvious that she would be a star, and the Queen of B- Movies.

Rise to Fame

Marisa’s father abandoned their family when she was young, and she was smothered by her mother’s attentions. They resided in a housing complex inside the school grounds where her mother worked. Marisa appeared in her first film in 1954, at the age of 15. She was educated at a nunnery, and briefly attended a school of commerce in Graz. From 1958 to 1963, she was married to an Italo-Swiss man named Henry Tucci, but there is zero information on what type of person he was or what their marriage was like.

As a child, Marisa idolized Greta Garbo. After seeing Garbo’s 1936 film Camille, Marisa decided she too wanted to become an actress. She admired Dorothy Dandridge and found her beautiful, and had a crush on German actor Curd Jürgens. Some of Marisa’s hobbies were painting and studying archaeology. Her childhood was described as lonely. She often wore black, and girls admired her beauty from afar. Marisa was never seen without a man on her arm because she hated being alone.

Soon enough, Marisa went to Vienna and attended the Max Reinhardt drama school for four years to learn how to become a stage actor. The first time her lifelong friend Erika Pluhar saw her, she thought “I’ve never seen such a beautiful girl. In the movies maybe, but never so close and real… I envied her haughty untouchability, this insurmountable aura of beauty. ” Eventually, Marisa was offered more film roles.

She played in a ton of mostly forgotten West German movies that no one has seen (including Edgar Wallace Krimi pictures), and was then cast in legendary British director Ken Russell’s trashy 1964 comedy flick French Dressing. Russell (a talented director when not harassed by penny-pinching producers) knew that his first feature film was garbage, and later described the production as “a very unhappy film as far as I was concerned.”

French Dressing (1964)

Regardless, the film got Marisa noticed outside of Austria. She was the new Germanic Brigitte Bardot. When she was invited to the 1963 Buenos Aires film festival, she tried to seduce Psycho star Anthony Perkins. Unfortunately for her, Anthony was gay and more attracted to Julian Mateos, her Spanish arm candy. She was living the good life. But due to a freak accident, her success was almost prematurely botched.

Calamities and Bad Luck

In 1963, Marisa suffered a horrible car accident while shooting in France. Comatose for six hours, she almost lost her right eye in the horrific collision, and required extensive surgery for two years to repair her damaged lip. Due to good surgical work, the effects were almost un-noticeable. She was said to have a curled upper lip after the accident, which somehow made her look even more beautiful. Marisa believed she survived because “God was on my side.”

Applying make-up on the set of Casanova ’70 (1965)

After recovering, she returned to acting, moved to Italy and became a well known B-movie starlet. While filming the 1964 western The Last Ride to Santa Cruz on Spain’s Gran Canaria island, an athletic Marisa fell off her horse and suffered an intense nosebleed. She was rescued by a male passerby who immediately fell for her.

Marisa enjoyed the sunny climate and chic jet-set lifestyle of Rome over the austerity and gray cold of Austria. Her highest profile production at the time was Mario Monicelli’s light-hearted 1965 comedy Casanova ’70. She starred alongside Marcello Mastroianni, Virna Lisi and Michèle Mercier. She also played in the 1966 thriller Secret Agent Super Dragon, a lame James Bond knockoff that has the dubious honor of being featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and having a 2.3 rating on IMDB.

From the flopped live performance of Mata Hari.

That year, Marisa was chosen to star as famed WWI spy Mata Hari in a lavish $800,000 Broadway musical adaptation, directed by Hollywood icon Vincente Minnelli. She was spotted by his wife Denise, through her photoshoots in magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

After a disastrously embarrassing 1967 preview in Washington, the entire production was sacked. Lady Bird Johnson was in attendance that evening, and had sponsored the performance. Only later did the Minnellis realize that Marisa could not sing, and neither could she speak English. She had spoken to Denise only in Italian, and she was said to have gotten the role after having a lesbian affair with her.

Critic Ken Mandelbaum wrote that “the show ran well past midnight, scenery collapsed and the virtually nude Mell was accidentally spotlighted during a costume change.” Theater programmer Max Woodward, who witnessed the performance, stated that “at the end, she’s tied to a pole. And then after they shoot her, she reaches up and scratches her nose.”

Yikes. The debacle effectively ended Marisa’s chances at a Hollywood career, and she fled back to Italy to escape the backlash. She claimed that she didn’t want to become the property of any Hollywood studio anyways, because their restrictive “contract was a whole book. I think that even to go to the toilet I would have needed a permission.” Previously, in 1964, she had refused a lucrative seven year Hollywood contract.

On the set of Danger, Diabolik (1968)

Regardless, the failure stayed in Marisa’s heart forever. Whenever Europeans asked her about her time on Broadway, Marisa would lie that Mata Hari was a great hit in order to save face.

Success in Italy

In 1968, Marisa starred in what is arguably her best known film: Mario Bava’s campy action-crime extravaganza, Danger, Diabolik. Based on the Italian comic book series (fumetti), the film was Italy’s flashy and psychedelic answer to Batman, and featured a hip soundtrack by Ennio Morricone.

Marisa and John in a promo shot.

Marisa was cast as Eva Kant, the sexy and stylish girlfriend of the Italian criminal mastermind Diabolik; played by handsome and chiseled American film star John Phillip Law. Together, the two made a formidably attractive onscreen couple, and had electric chemistry that kindled a brief love affair offscreen.

The Eva Kant character was supposed to be blonde, so Marisa donned a very high-quality wig to play the role. Unlike the Eva of the fumetti, who dressed more conservatively and wore her hair in an up do; Marisa’s adaptation of the character called for more slutty and revealing outfits and long, flowing, golden hair. The film was an instant hit and a cult classic, and so was Marisa.

Marisa Mell and John Phillip Law make out on a pile of cash in Danger, Diabolik (1968)

Initially, Catherine Deneuve was cast, but she was fired after a week of filming. Mario Bava lamented how she was too much of an “ice princess” and not sexy and uninhibited enough to play the role of Eva Kant. John Phillip Law said that she was nice, but they had no sexual chemistry.

Ironically, Catherine refused to perform the famous scene where she and Diabolik make love on ten million dollars of cash; but later starred in the explicit 1967 Luis Buñuel film Belle de Jour. It was of no matter, as Bava would find a new actress. His initial choice was Italian actress Marilù Tolo (fashion designer Valentino called her the love of his life), but producer Dino De Laurentiis liked Marisa much more. And so, the rest was history.

The lovers share a passionate onscreen kiss.

John Philip Law said that when he and Bava saw Marisa, “we knew everything was going to work out. We fell into each other’s arms on the first day, and had a really great relationship on — and off-screen, after a while.” The photogenic pair shacked up together, and even adopted a stray black kitten found on a beach in Anzio whom they named Diabolik.

The flame was fickle, and their affair ended after shooting wrapped. John was a notorious playboy, and Marisa wasn’t short of lovers herself. Fun fact: Diabolik the cat eventually became the property of Jane Fonda, and she took him back to Paris with her after she co-starred with John in the 1968 sci-fi cult classic Barbarella.

Virna, Ursula, Marisa and Claudine.

Marisa’s next film was 1968’s Anyone Can Play, a romantic comedy in which she co-starred with Virna Lisi, Ursula Andress and Claudine Auger (the latter two were famous Bond girls). Despite the cast of classic beauties, the film was a flop and faded into oblivion.

With 1969 came Marisa’s second most famous film; a giallo by infamous horror gore-exploitation director Lucio Fulci called Una Sull’altra (One on Top of the Other). While Fulci’s later films were mostly bloody and disturbing, this one was tame and restrained in comparison, and extremely well made. The film also has an outstanding jazz soundtrack by Riz Ortolani.

Marisa Mell gives Jean Sorel a bj in Una Sull’altra (1969)

In this giallo classic, Marisa stars in a suspenseful double role, and again dons a glam blonde wig to play her character. It is very reminiscent of the 1958 Hitchcock film Vertigo, and explores the nature of infidelity, lascivious sexuality, morality, fate and mistaken identity.

In some countries, the film was released under the skeevy title Perversion Story. Her co-star was dashing French actor Jean Sorel, and the pair had fantastic chemistry onscreen. While he does not appear on Marisa’s long list of lovers, I bet my life that they smashed irl.

Looking like a perfect 10 on set.

Dating a Bad Boy

In 1969, Marisa also suffered a miscarriage. The child had belonged to her boyfriend, an Italian nightclub owner, drug dealer, mobster and producer with aristocratic roots named Pier Luigi Torri. He was like the real life Diabolik, except uglier. Marisa and Pier Luigi dated on and off for six years from 1965 onwards, and he was her longest boyfriend.

Through Pier Luigi, Marisa accessed a world of wealth, parties, drugs, glamour, power, intrigue and excitement. He was a jet-set member of Roman high society, and an eligible bachelor whom many gold-diggers wanted to nab. He occasionally produced films; many of them being softcore pornos.

With her sugar daddy Pier Luigi Torri.

He could often be seen driving his Ferraris and Rolls-Royces around Monte Carlo casino, and gambled away millions of lira at a time. He owned several villas and beachfront properties, as well as one of the most luxurious yachts in the world. When Prince Rainier of Monaco propositioned Pier Luigi for his yacht, he turned the Prince down. From then onwards, Rainier had a flaming hatred of him.

It is presumed that Marisa met Pier Luigi through her friendship/fling with fellow Austrian actor Helmut Berger. Berger himself was having a gay love affair with director and nobleman Luchino Visconti, who was a permanent fixture in the Roman aristocracy. To be anybody in Italy, you had to navigate the complex social web of who’s who.

Pier Luigi, his producer friend Bino Cicogna and a man named Vassallo all co-owned Number One nightclub, the hottest place to be in Rome. Cocaine circulated freely among the clientele, some of whom came from the most prestigious families in Rome; as well as entertainment industry and political names.

In December of 1971, Bino was found dead in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had supposedly committed suicide by placing a plastic bag over his head and sticking it in a gas oven, due to his despair over pending criminal charges and an addictive cocaine habit. But Pier Luigi suspected foul play.

Soon after, Number One nightclub was raided by cops and busted for cocaine. There is no doubt that Marisa used coke as well, but who didn’t at the time? As the cops began to close in on Pier Luigi, Roman tabloids went wild trying to link Marisa to the scandal.

In 1971, he fled Italy on his yacht to avoid the criminal charges pending against him. He escaped to Monaco, but bitter Prince Rainier ratted him out. After an arraignment in Nice, France, he was allowed to leave. Pier Luigi then escaped further to London. It is thought that his and Marisa’s relationship cut off around this point.

Marisa in The Devil’s Ransom, a 1971 film that Pier Luigi Torri produced as a starring vehicle for her.

She stood by him however, until he was arrested once more in London for a $300 million dollar scam. Pier Luigi then ingeniously escaped Scotland Yard by crawling outside through a bathroom ventilation shaft, and then scaling the rooftops to safety.

He vanished for 18 months, but was re-arrested in New York 18 months later. Though he was extradited back to Italy and sentenced to seven years in prison, he never served any time. Pier Luigi went on to marry a different woman, had two children, and died in 2011 at the age of 85.

The troubled couple dine at a Roman restaurant.

Where does this wild crime drama leave Marisa? The relationship took a major toll on her. Pier Luigi had a violent and abusive temper and often beat her. That could possibly be why she had a miscarriage in 1969. Regardless, she wanted to marry him and settle down. But that never occurred because he was too busy being an international criminal. The fiasco also murdered her reputation.

Thotting Around Europe

Still, Marisa did not learn her lesson and continued to date or have one night stands with many sleazy fellow actors. Her list of lovers is long and varied, and includes Alain Delon, Warren Beatty, Helmut Berger, Stephen Boyd, Robert Evans, Michel Piccoli, John Phillip Law, Roman Polanski, and even the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. And these are just the ones worth noting.

The two undoubtedly would’ve made a great couple, except I think Marisa has better bone structure than Alain.

Her love affair with Alain Delon seemed to have been mostly one-sided. In her 1990 autobiography Coverlove, Marisa discusses the hook-up in gratuitous detail. Delon, however, never even mentioned Marisa in his own book. The two met in 1962 on a plane to Yugoslavia. She was immediately attracted to Delon, and described him as “passionate and animalistic” in the sack.

Unfortunately, Delon was a massive lothario (read: manwhore), and Marisa turned out to be just another notch on his list. But hey, this was the guy who broke Romy Schneider’s heart. Hilariously, Marisa claims to have had sex with Delon leading up to the press conference announcing his engagement to Francine Canovas (later known as Nathalie Delon), and after it!

Poster art for Marta (1971)

Seduced and Abandoned

In 1971, Marisa met Stephen Boyd, the man who was perhaps the love of her life. Stephen was a handsome Irish rogue best know for his iconic role in the 1959 sword and sandal epic Ben-Hur. He was eight years older than Marisa, and had already broken a lot of women’s hearts.

She gave a detailed account of their passionate romance in her book, and described it as “so difficult, strange, beautiful and sad that I can hardly bear to think of it.” The pair first met on the set of the 1971 psychological thriller Marta. Marisa described the meeting as electric, and claimed upon first glance she realized that he was “the man of my life.”

Stephen Boyd treated me like a piece of prop! she complained.

Stephen, however, did not feel the same way and ignored all of Marisa’s advances, much to her chagrin. Even though the film had many sex scenes, she could not get Stephen to react. Marisa said the experience wastorture. I spent eight weeks showing him only my best side – sweet, cute, seductive, open, mysterious – everything! It was no use.

Stephen resisted Marisa all the way through the filming of Marta with a will of iron. She was pissed, and never wanted to see him ever again. After all, which man in his right mind could resist Marisa Mell? Six months later, the pair returned to Madrid to shoot another film called The Great Swindle.

Historia de una traición (1971)

Marisa gave up her attempts to seduce Stephen. This time, it was his turn to try and put the moves on her. He began courting Marisa, and sent her roses and asked her out. She couldn’t resist, and jumped at the chance to go on a date with Stephen at a flamenco bar.

His glances made her “weak in the knees,” and she said that helooked like a god.” After the date, they spent the night at Stephen’s place. It was clearly a satisfying lay, since Marisa described him as “just so awesome in his passion, his tenderness and his masculinity that I completely lost my head.”

Stephen admitted that he had initially rejected Marisa because he was scared of getting involved with a “dangerous woman” like her, and that he had just gotten out of difficult love affair. And yet, he snapped and proposed marriage that very same night. They decided to have a Gypsy wedding, probably for the shock value of it.

The couple went to a Gypsy camp in the morning, and rode in horse-drawn carriages. Marisa wore a silk dress and Stephen wore a linen shirt, and the observers sang and danced flamenco by a fire. During their wedding ceremony, the pair took a blood oath. A priest cut their wrists with a dagger, and mingled their blood together to bond them as husband and wife. 

The altar of Sarsina Cathedral, where they received an exorcism.

 Eventually, they realized that their relationship had become too obsessive, so the superstitious pair went for a ritual exorcism at the 10th century Cathedral of St. Vicinius in the Italian village of Sarsina. The couple apparently felt that they had been “possessed by an evil demon. Our demon was our passion. A Catholic priest blessed them and recited the exorcism rites.

Marisa didn’t care if people thought they were crazy, and remarked “sometimes love is like a deadly disease, sometimes it makes you feel that you are damned for all eternity. Trying to explain the reasons for this is impossible. There are things in our lives that are too high for our philosophy.

 Soon after the exorcism, Stephen fell ill and decided to end the relationship. He had a high fever, but doctors couldn’t tell what was wrong with him. They believed it was a psychosomatic disorder caused by their love affair. He told Marisa “I must leave you, for I know full well that one day you will go. I could not endure it. She cried and begged him to stay, but he left on a flight to Belfast and she never saw him again.

 After Stephen’s death in 1977, she claimed that his spirit often spoke to her from beyond the grave. She explained that “we both believe in reincarnation, and we realized we’ve already been lovers in three different lifetimes, and in each one I made him suffer terribly… But sometimes I have the feeling that he is speaking to me – from another world.

Marta (1971)

I like the supernatural/occult touch to their romance, but it most likely dissolved due to Stephen’s inability to commit to Marisa. He was a player who constantly bragged about being an individualistic bachelor, and was not yet ready to be tied down by marriage. Nevertheless, the year-long fling was quite intense while it lasted and Marisa never forgot him and the memory of their ephemeral love.

A Fading Star

It was obvious by now that Marisa had bad luck with men. Should she have just avoided these toxic romances and focused instead on building her career? She once proclaimed that “movies are my life, and my life is a movie.” But she was also dismissive of her profession, stating “I have a higher goal than making one stupid picture after another.” Whatever that goal was, it never materialized.

Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso (1972)

In 1972, she played a small role in Umberto Lenzi’s Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, a gory yet dull giallo that has since become a B-movie classic. While it was not exactly Lenzi’s finest work, the film has some gruesome death scenes that stand out. Marisa is murdered by a killer wielding an electric power drill in the movie’s bloodiest sequence.

By the late 1970s, Marisa’s career hit a steep decline. She continued to star in films until her death, but most of them were D-list movies that were way beneath her talent level. Although she was only in her 30s, she appeared ten years older than her actual age. This was most likely caused by excessive drug use and hard living.

La belva col mitra (1977). The bisexual Helmut once said that Marisa had a very pleasant androgynous face, and would’ve made a beautiful man.

In 1977, she starred in her last notable film: Beast with a Gun AKA Mad Dog Killer, a shockingly explosive crime thriller that bordered on exploitation due to its violent and sexual content. She starred alongside her former lover Helmut Berger; who gave a hilariously over the top yet masterful performance as a sick and depraved criminal on the loose. They were still close friends offscreen, and often partied together.

The film was based on the antics of Italian mafioso Renato Vallanzasca; a criminal so perverse he once decapitated an informer during a prison riot. The movie perfectly captures the maniacal spirit of its subject, and is fast-paced and action-packed with an awesome soundtrack by Umberto Smaila.

Helmut Berger literally deserved an Oscar for his performance.

Beast with a Gun was classified as a “Video Nasty” in the U.K., and declared an obscene film that could be confiscated by police if it were to be re-released in theaters. Quentin Tarantino later lifted the soundtrack and used some clips of Marisa and Helmut in his supremely unoriginal 1997 movie Jackie Brown.

Sadly, more tragedy struck that year in 1977. Marisa became a mother-to-be once again at 38 years old. She was photographed by paparazzi in Rome while heavily pregnant, and was accompanied by her Afghan Hound Rocco and actor Gianni Macchia. She looked to be in the late stages of pregnancy, yet she was still smoking cigarettes. Strangely, Marisa believed that Rocco was in the incarnation of somebody she once knew and had telepathic powers.

On November 26, 1977, Marisa gave birth to a premature baby girl she named Louisa Erika, after her mother. Sadly, her baby died the very same day. Marisa was heartbroken, and never attempted to have a child again. Neither did she ever reveal the identity of the father. Louisa Erika was buried in Rome’s Camposanto Teutonico cemetery; a graveyard reserved only for those of German descent.

A Dismal Downfall

Marisa’s life was on a steady downhill course. In the 1980s, she was almost a nobody. She was in her 40s, and producers now considered her too old to be a lead actress. She struggled to find work, and became mired in poverty and depression. Marisa drank and used drugs, and appeared in porno mags to churn out an income.

Marisa appeared in a 1983 edition of Men magazine, a hardcore publication.

She was never shy about showing her body for money, but these were not the glitzy and tasteful Angelo Frontoni Vogue photoshoots she had started off with early in her career. These pictures were more on the vulgar side, and she was ashamed that she had to resort to nudie mags to make an income. In 1986, a cynical Marisa reflected back on her life and looks, stating that “I was never proud of my beauty, I was rather bothered by it. It was a tragedy. Every man wanted me, but no man wanted to keep me.”

Despite all her attempts to do so, she never found true enduring love. The whole world had wanted her, but when she grew old she was cast aside. When she lost her looks, she lost everything. Yet she was confident in herself and refused to get plastic surgery; something which is very admirable and rare in this day and age.

She was forced to return back to Austria so she could receive some much-needed welfare money. Italian porn directors had offered her roles, but Marisa refused to take that dark road. Outside of nude modelling, she tried to make money in other ways but wasn’t too successful at it. She was still friends with Helmut Berger, and he would often ring her doorbell late at night which annoyed her.

Marisa did poetry readings, starred in low budget independent movies, sang (she was terrible at it), and made art. She painted and drew, but her exhibitions were not very popular. In Christmas of 1991, mere months before she died; Marisa was back in Vienna and so desperate for money that she took a job as the cook of Father Laun, a pastor from Kahlenbergerdorf. When she died penniless, this kind priest paid for Marisa’s grave.

The artist and her works.

At Death’s Door

A lifelong smoker, Marisa was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 1991. She received many different treatments including chemotherapy, but none eased her symptoms. Some female friends took her a on a trip to India to cheer her up, since she was fascinated by eastern spirituality. Marisa enjoyed herself immensely, and began wearing saris back in Austria. She also started worshipping the Indian saint Sai Baba.

Marisa was a superstitious woman, and used alternative medicine to try and cure her cancer. She enjoyed parapsychology, tarot readings, necromancy and fortune telling. She was also a classic Pisces, stating that “I believe in astrology but I don’t need it…It ruins your nerves if you take it daily.” Marisa continued to have flings with younger men like a cougar until her health prevented it.

During a palm reading in the 1960s.

On May 16, 1992, Marisa finally succumbed to throat cancer at the age of 53 and died alone at the Viennese Wilhelminenspital. Her funeral was attended only by a few close friends. None of her former film colleagues showed up, or the many people she once knew in Italy. In the end, she had nobody who was truly there for her. It was a sad ending to a once illustrious life.

Actress and friend Christine Kaufmann remembered Marisa as “a strong woman with who you could eat spaghetti with at home, but could also appear with at high end cocktail parties where she would wear fragile golden shoes because she had very beautiful small ankles with a stunning face.” Sounds ideal.

Her gravestone at the Kahlenbergerdorfer Friedhof cemetery, courtesy of The Marisa Mell Blog.

Though most people only cared about her looks, Marisa was an intelligent woman on the inside. She enjoyed the works of Rainer Maria Rilke, Jean de La Fontaine and Honoré de Balzac, and her favourite novel was Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. She read poems by the medieval German lyricist Walther von der Vogelweide, philosophy by the Chinese Taoist Lao-Tze, and of course, she was into Friedrich Nietzsche.

Her favourite artist was Modigliani, and her most-loved classical piece was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2. Marisa was also a great cook, had a sizeable record collection (she liked Edith Piaf and The Beatles), and loved vodka and Winston cigarettes. Her favourite films were Bergman’s The Silence and Truffaut’s Jules and Jim.

In an interview from the 1960s, Marisa dismissed her sexpot image and described herself as “a very good girl” who is “shy, sensitive, ambitious, intelligent and good-natured.” Her dream role was to play Anna Karenina. She had yearned to becoming a serious actress, but was more often chosen for “sexy” roles. In her school days, she had considered herself an existentialist and wanted to become a philosopher. And instead, she is now beloved by geeky cult and exploitation fans for her exciting and glamorous B-movie roles and knockout face and bod.

Marisa’s close pal Erika Pluhar gave a touching eulogy for her deceased friend:

“You died in poverty. But maybe a little richer, I think, than when you were paid large salaries. When your body was being exploited and you didn’t have the strength to resist and look for love instead of competing. Who is the most beautiful in the whole country, this eternally pernicious question ruined your life too.”

Beauty made Marisa into a pop culture icon, but it also destroyed her. The callous Roman film industry she had worked for and gave all her youth to had discarded her once they considered her to be too old. She was an attractive mature woman and still a fine actress, but she wasn’t given the chance to prove it in her later years.

Marisa Mell was a gorgeous, smart and multi-talented actress who also partied hard and had a self-destructive streak. She loved with passion and gave all of herself to her relationships and performances. Sadly, her acting career fizzled out and she died of the terrible cancer that ravaged her body; alone and forgotten in a Viennese hospital.

Audiences now remember Marisa for her vibrant onscreen presence and striking one-in-a-million looks. But we should also remember who she was outside of her films, and the way she suffered and struggled with quiet strength and dignity. Marisa Mell is a tragic B-Movie Queen for the ages; the Austrian princess of sleaze, charisma, and style, and there will never be anyone like her again.

Tiffany Bresciani’s Twisted Romance

What happens when a heroin-addicted prostitute dating a washed up and lobotomized punk rock star crosses paths with a violent, mentally disturbed serial killer? Total, utter chaos and heartbreaking tragedy, which would lead to her terrible death at just 22 years old.

Tiffany Bresciani was born on March. 10, 1971 in Metairie, Louisiana; a boring southern city where nothing really happens. She was an only child who dreamed of escape and fame, and her mother Cheryl said that she “wanted to live in the big cities… She was very happy and beautiful and loved people.” Tiffany’s grandmother nicknamed her “little lamb.”

She was a dreamy and idealistic Pisces girl of Italian-American descent with striking green eyes and reddish-brown hair; described as small, waif-like and pretty. Tiffany had a tattoo of a purple rose encircling her left wrist, and an Egyptian ankh set against a floral pattern on her left hip. She had an interest in alternative rock culture and pagan spirituality, and she dressed like a cool goth girl.

Tiffany’s goal was to become an actress, and she initially went to Hollywood. Deterred for whatever reason, she then headed to New York and set her sights on Broadway. However, life does not always go as planned. She ended up as a stripper instead; dancing at a sex emporium called The Big Top Lounge.

She dated Rick Wilder (the skeleton-looking founder of punk band The Mau-Mau’s) in a turbulent on-and-off relationship. This seemed to be the first stage of Tiffany’s downfall: becoming a stripper and rock’n’roll groupie.

Initially, however, things started out great. Tiffany reached the pinnacle of luxury by staying with Rick at his luxurious West 45th St Whitby co-op; occasionally inhabited by stars like Sinatra and the Barrymores. The place had an amazing view of the city, and made her feel glamorous and safe. Unfortunately, her life unraveled at a blinding pace.

Tiffany and Rick made a bizarre couple.

Tiffany suffered from a debilitating heroin addiction which caused her to turn to prostitution. A neighbor at the Whitby said that “she was always stoned. I used to worry so much about her. Most of the time, she was on drugs.” Rick and Tiffany’s relationship disintegrated over her addiction and sex work, and soon she was selling herself on gritty Allen Street to fund her habit.

Love Will Tear Us Apart

Around this time, she met her new lover: Dave Insurgent, lead singer and co-founder of the hardcore punk band Reagan Youth. His birth name was David Rubinstein, and his parents were Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland.

Surrounded by Nazi punks and skinheads, the Reagan Youth were one of the few anarcho-leftist bands in the punk scene at that time. Their band name was a satirical mashup of Ronald Reagan + the infamous Hitler youth of WWII.

A grand view from the expensive Whitby apartments, where Tiffany once stayed.

They were the creators of such wonderful songs as Jesus Was A Communist and I Hate Hate, and regularly performed at the iconic CBGB nightclub. Quite honestly, their music is patently mediocre and I recommend the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag and the Misfits instead.

By the time Tiffany met Dave, he was extremely busted. Due to his erratic behavior, the Reagan Youth had disbanded in 1990. Dave was addicted to heroin and dealt drugs to make income, but he wasn’t very good at it and often pushed his luck. He used his own products instead of selling them, and when asked to repay his debts; he brashly informed seasoned thugs “you’ll get your money when I say you get it.” Wrong move.

During a smack deal gone wrong, Dave got his shit rocked for not paying up. A rival dealer beat Dave into a coma with a baseball bat, and he was taken to a hospital in emergency condition and lobotomized. Bandmate Paul “Cripple” Bakija described the horrific aftermath:

Dave “Insurgent” Rubinstein

The next day I visit Dave in the hospital and boy is it tough, he looks like hell. Dave’s eyelid was swollen so much it reached all the way down to his upper lip. His parents were there and I find out that he needed a lobotomy to save his life. 

Eventually, he gets discharged from the hospital but Dave now has stitches going around his forehead from ear to ear. When Dave finally recovered, as best he could, I asked him what happened. Dave told me he couldn’t remember anything.

Ouch.

Suffering from brain damage and post-surgical pain, Dave used marijuana to medicate himself. Sadly, the lobotomized ex-punk singer soon turned to heroin once again. He moved out of his parents’ home in Queens to an apartment on the Lower East Side. This is where he met Tiffany.

Tiffany’s sense of fashion was very cute and resembles the modern E-Girl aesthetic.

Dave once had a girlfriend named Susan Cordon, and she would cry and become extremely upset whenever he used heroin. Bakija said that she was the only thing preventing Dave from full fledged addiction. Once Susan dumped him, Dave became a junkie. She said that “after I left, he called one day freaked out that he had woken up in a crack house. Part of him knew what he was doing was scary and could have consequences.”

His friends now avoided him, and he couldn’t have looked too great with stitches running across his face from ear to ear. Dave was a shadow of his former self, and he would never perform again.

Despite all this, he somehow managed to hook up with beautiful Tiffany Bresciani. She was into alternative and edgy men, and dodgy Dave fit the bill. The clout from being in a known punk band, as well as their common heroin addiction must have created a strong toxic bond of love between the two. Without anyone to dissuade them from their drug use, the couple fell deeper into heroin abuse and degeneracy.

For some reason, Tiffany began to support Dave financially through prostitution; even though he was seven years her senior. Through her self sacrifice, Tiffany kept the couple afloat. Dave claimed to love her and even pronounced her his fiancée, yet he did not lift a finger to help the two out of the situation.

Instead, he often accompanied Tiffany while she went to solicit clients, and waited for her on the street. When she was finished, the two would go buy heroin together. If that sounds cucked, that’s because it was. Dave told his parents that Tiffany was a dancer. In a way, she was.

While she stripped at sleazy nightclubs, she caught the eye of a 34-year old unemployed landscaper named Joel Rifkin. He had seen her and been mesmerized by her performance, and was said to have been a regular customer.

On June 24, 1993, Tiffany would meet with Rifkin for the last time. Unknown to her and the other girls who worked the streets of New York; Rifkin was the worst serial killer in the city’s history. And now, it was Tiffany’s turn to die.

Who was Joel Rifkin and why did he murder women?

Joel Rifkin was a killer without a conscience. Born in 1959 and abandoned by his birth parents, he was adopted by a loving upper middle class family; so loving that detectives later on suspected that Joel’s mother Jeanne and sister Jan stayed silent despite knowing of his crimes.

While most serial killers have a fucked-up childhood filled with abuse and beatings, Rifkin’s family life was perfectly normal. What was problematic, however, was the bullying he faced in school. While in the gym showers, students threw eggs at him. Bullies dunked his head in toilets, and stole his clothes. Once some boys waited outside a library to beat him up, so he had to call his father to come rescue him. He was nicknamed “turtle” and “lardass” for his stooped posture and slow gait.

Geeky Joel

As for women, they though Rifkin was creepy and ugly and he was rejected by all of them. The only time he had a relationship with a woman was when he was in college studying horticulture; and a heavyset dark-haired classmate briefly dated then dumped him. She said he was “sweet, but always depressed.” In 1987, Rifkin’s father committed suicide after a fatal prostate cancer diagnosis. 7 months later, Rifkin was arrested for soliciting prostitution.

On the outside, people thought Rifkin was a normal guy. He seemed a bit shy and awkward, and was 34- years old yet still living with his mother and struggling to remain employed. But there was nothing on the outside to suggest alarm, and he was tested at a high IQ of 128.

On the inside, however, he was a violent monster. In 1989, Rifkin began a 4 year killing spree in which he murdered 17 prostitutes (or possibly even more); and dismembered and mutilated their bodies. He strangled them to death, then strew their limbs all across New York state. He dumped the corpses in forests, rivers, canals, fields, and abandoned properties.

The murder scene from Frenzy (1972)

Rifkin had no mercy for his victims, and killed sex workers because he believed their lives were worthless and that nobody cared for them. At his trial, he would realize that wasn’t the case. But any how, he was addicted to murdering women and he couldn’t stop.

After his apprehension, police found in his room books about Jeffrey Dahmer, Gary “Green River Killer” Ridgway, and Arthur Shawcross; sick serial killers who also murdered prostitutes. They also found a bondage manual on tying ropes and knots, and Women and Love by the feminist sexologist Shere Hite. Rifkin was obsessed with Hitchcock’s 1972 thriller Frenzy, and watched the strangulation scene hundreds of times. He developed a fetish for choking women.

Joel Rifkin was basically an incel who had snapped. While working at the Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, he was rejected by a pretty blonde intern he was crushing on. It was too much for him. He lost it, and took out his rage on helpless and vulnerable sex workers. And unfortunately, Tiffany would be his final victim.

Pickup on Allen Street

It was a warm summer night, and Tiffany Bresciani was back on the streets after briefly trying to get help at a methadone clinic. She wanted to stop using heroin, but it was impossible. Tiffany’s mother and grandmother still cared about her and often mailed her care packages. The most recent one contained pictures, summer dresses and a white teddy bear. They asked her to come back home, but by now heroin had taken over her life.

Tiffany and Dave were hanging around outside waiting for a potential client, when a blue 1986 Toyota sedan pulled up. Joel Rifkin was on the prowl- in his mother’s car. Tiffany might have recognized him from a previous meeting, and trusted Rifkin enough to get in the car with him.

Rifkin later noted that he could not stop staring at her flattering outfit; a sheer green blouse and a black skirt that highlighted her figure, and that he liked her wrist tattoo. He also claimed that her murder was not premeditated (she was his second prostitute that night, and he had not killed the first girl), and that he assumed she was high on either cocaine or methadone.

Rifkin negotiated an encounter with Tiffany for $40, but some sources give that number to be as low as $20. Tiffany bid farewell to Dave and told him she would only be 20 minutes. Instead, he would never see her again.

Tiffany got into the vehicle, and Rifkin drove her to the nearby Manhattan Bridge. As they prepared for sex, a passerby nearly peered into the car; causing Rifkin to suffer from erectile dysfunction. This was a common occurrence with him, and he had once murdered a prostitute after she cried over his inability to get it up.

During sex, Rifkin decided to murder Tiffany. He squeezed her throat with his hands until her eyes were wide with fear, just like scene he desired to emulate from Hitchcock’s Frenzy. After a minute of strangulation, Tiffany died at around 5:30 AM. She was only 22- years old, and her life had ended in the most sordid and tragic manner.

When quizzed on Tiffany’s killing afterwards, Rifkin coldly summed the situation up as “it was someone I met in the city, and things didn’t go well.”

A gruesome serial killer comes undone

Pleased with himself, Rifkin stared at Tiffany’s body and admired her beauty and her auburn hair. He thought to himself what a shame it was that she was dead when she had been so attractive. The psychopath then drove to a supply store to buy blue tarp and long cord, and wrapped up Tiffany’s naked body in a deserted parking lot.

By the time Rifkin arrived home, it was 9 AM and his mother wanted her sedan back to run errands. Amazingly, his mother never realized there was a dead body in the trunk. Had she opened it, she would’ve uncovered a shocking surprise. After she returned home in 30 minutes, Rifkin removed the corpse and left it on an orange wheelbarrow in his mother’s garage. He then went inside his home and slept.

Police later found a wheelbarrow full of blood at his home.

Tiffany was his 17th victim, and Rifkin was no longer phased by killing. When asked how he could do something as repulsive as dismember a body, he said that the act of murder in itself was the true point of no return. He killed mechanically, and took pleasure in all the acts that preceded and ensued from it.

During his interview for the A&E documentary on his life, Rifkin jokes about Tiffany’s decaying body being “nice and ripe,” and chuckles at how his mother never noticed it. The man clearly has a sick sense of humor, as there was a bumper sticker on the back of his vehicle which read “Sticks and stones may break my bones but whips and chains excite me.”

Almost four days later, Rifkin realized that the corpse was decaying in the summer heat. For whatever reason, he had lagged in disposing of the remains. At around 3 AM on June 28, he placed the body in in his white 1984 Mazda pickup truck, and drove around looking for a place to discard it.

The totaled pickup

A pair of cops spotted his pickup on Long Island’s Southern State Parkway, and observed that it had no license plates. Unfortunately for Rifkin, the plates fell off during that fateful ride. Gripped with fear and the knowledge that he would finally be apprehended, Rifkin hit the gas pedal.

A 20 minute-long high-speed chase ensued, in which Rifkin drove up to 90 mph trying to get away from the cops pursuing him. Tiffany’s corpse rattled around in the back of the trunk as he drove, and at one point the vehicle nearly tipped over. In his mind, Rifkin was hoping he could drive into a body of water, and swim away from the whole situation.

After a dangerous pursuit, Rifkin finally crashed the vehicle into a streetlight. As the officer walked up to Rifkin, he observed him sitting in the driver’s seat with his hands up and a calm expression on his face. The horrified officer then smelled the strong odor of a decaying body. He inspected the back of the pickup, and shone a flashlight onto its contents.

There he observed Tiffany Bresciani’s badly decomposed corpse; so rotten that he could not even tell her ethnicity or gender. Since the corpse smelled atrocious, Rifkin had put Noxzema skin cream under his nose to avoid inhaling the stench. He had learned this trick from the film The Silence of the Lambs.

Rifkin’s sick charade had finally come to an end. Yet officers at the scene noticed that he was oddly relaxed. It was as if he had wanted to be caught. He asked an officer to turn up the AC in the police vehicle, thanking him and stating “there won’t be any AC where I’m going.” Police captain Walter Heesch instructed fellow officers as such:

“This guy’s too calm. Here’s this body, it smells so awful, and he’s riding around with it. And he’s not excited; he’s not upset. It’s not like this is his first murder, where there were drugs and sex and he got excited and killed her. There have to be others. Start asking him if there are others.”

A bra found in Rifkin’s room. He collected trinkets from his victims, and Tiffany’s driver’s license was one of the many objects discovered there.

After two hours of interrogation, Rifkin cracked and confessed to 17 murders. After several well-publicized trials, he was sentenced to 203 years of life in prison. During his sentencing, the judge said he deserved to be in jail in his next life as well.

And what of Tiffany, who was was loved and missed?

Tiffany’s mother Cheryl became worried once her daughter stopped phoning her. They usually spoke three times a week, and when the calls stopped coming Cheryl said that she “had the most awful feeling.” The last time she saw Tiffany was 9 months ago. She had returned home to Louisiana to visit.

When she discovered her daughter was dead, Cheryl was heartbroken. She testified at Rifkin’s trial on behalf of the pain she felt as a mother. About him, Cheryl says “I don’t hate him, I don’t hate anybody. I just can’t understand that. It’s still a shock to me… I still have that heartache, you know, it never goes away. There’s that empty feeling without her.”

Tiffany’s mother points out her daughter’s crypt.

And what of Dave “Insurgent” Rubinstein? What became of him when his beloved fiancé disappeared? Let us go back to the night of June 24, 1993, when Tiffany vanished in a blue sedan, right before his very eyes.

The 20 minutes had passed, and turned into hours- yet Tiffany was still nowhere to be seen. A panicked Dave combed the city, going to familiar haunts hoping to spot his girlfriend. He went to the strip club she danced at, and searched through every local emergency room. Dave even phoned up police to report the vehicle Rifkin that had picked her up in, but it was to no avail.

Finally, he was informed that his girlfriend’s decomposed corpse had been found in the pickup truck of an infamous serial killer. Dave was devastated by the loss. They had shared their addiction and suffering with one another, and she had supported him financially and emotionally. Additionally, he may even have felt some guilt about the whole situation.

Dave sporting cringey white boy dreads

They had had a Panic in Needle Park and Sid and Nancy type of intense relationship. As if what had happened wasn’t bad enough, Dave was dealt another blow that would send him over the edge. On June 30, 1993, just two days after Tiffany’s body was discovered, a one in a million freak accident took place at the Rubinstein home.

His father, Ronald, had somehow run over Dave’s mother, Giza, with his vehicle and killed her. The cause of death was internal bleeding. How does that even happen? How does one accidentally run over their own wife in their home garage? It just seems absurd.

Giza Rubinstein had survived the Łódź ghetto of Nazi-occupied Poland, and was in the Auschwitz concentration camp when it was liberated in 1945. All of her family members were killed except for her sister. Dave’s poor mother had survived the worst circumstances, only to be accidentally killed by her own husband years later. The irony and cruelty of life is mystifying.

Giza Gitla Rubinstein

Unable to cope with the immensity of these two tragedies, Dave decided to kill himself. On July 3, 1993, three days after his mother’s death, Dave committed suicide by overdosing on heroin. His father Ronald buried his own wife and only son in the same week. Ronald himself had survived Stalin’s gulags, yet this truly was the worst time of his life.

The depression and loneliness of losing his girlfriend and mother at the exact same time understandably crushed poor Dave and obliterated his will to live. However, Dave’s ex-bandmate Paul Bakija had more insightful information into the situation:

“The last time we spoke was the night he died. He came over to my house. It all happened fast. I think his mom died a few days after his girlfriend, who was a prostitute. This wasn’t his main girl. His main girl is still alive. The one who ended up dying was some girl he picked up on the street. She was tricking, and she paid for his drugs. He put her in a car, and that was the last time he ever saw her. I think he committed suicide a week later.”

Yikes. According to the way he tells it, it sounds like Dave was literally acting as Tiffany’s pimp, and cheating on her as well. Though technically, Tiffany was unfaithful too. It is shocking though that Dave told his friends that Tiffany wasn’t even his “main girl,” and there was some other more prominent woman in his life.

Did Dave kill himself out of guilt? Did he somehow feel that he was responsible? Tiffany had tried to get clean a few times before her death, and despite failing to do so; it indicates she had the will to make a better life for herself. She was only 22, and her life was cut short so abruptly.

Ultimately, the toxic relationship that Dave Rubinstein and Tiffany Bresciani had going on between them contributed to their destruction. Running into Joel Rifkin was a shocking stroke of bad luck, as their lives had already been filled with so much misfortune.

The saddest part is, Tiffany Bresciani’s life is now defined by Joel Rifkin and Dave Rubinstein- it as if she has lost her own identity between these two. Information on the girl herself is rare and scarce to come by. Rifkin said about his victims, “I killed prostitutes because they had no one.  They had no lasting relationships.  No family who cared.  No one would ever come looking for them.” That is total bullshit, and he must be proven wrong.

Judging from the few photos and testimonies of her, Tiffany seemed like a sweet goth girl who was just lost in an awful addiction that ended up consuming her. She was an interesting, well-read, street smart, fashionable and fun individual, but she had lost herself in the end. Men had taken advantage of her when she was at her lowest and most helpless.

Some people hope that she and Dave are together in the afterlife. I just hope that wherever she is now, Tiffany is finally at peace.

How Rohinie Bisesar Lost Her Mind

Rohinie Bisesar is not an imposing woman. Standing at only 4’11” at 85 lbs, she appears utterly harmless and shy in her behavior and etiquette. She is pretty, and looks younger than the 40 years of age she was in the mugshot above. She is intelligent and highly educated, with an MBA and a Bachelor’s in Molecular Biology.

And yet; she stabbed a woman to death 2 weeks before Christmas in 2015, at a Toronto pharmacy while in the grip of a schizophrenic episode.

How did this attractive and well-schooled woman decompose psychologically? It is a complex tale of mental illness, child abuse, a strict Asian family, capitalism, careerism, delusion, abandonment, personal failure, and pure madness. This is the story of Rohinie Bisesar.

School portrait

A Strict Childhood

She was born in 1975 in Guyana, to Hindu Indian parents. Guyana is a beautiful South American tropical nation, but it suffers from extreme poverty and a culture of domestic violence and misogyny. It has the highest suicide rate in the world, and was home to the 1978 Jonestown Massacre; when crazed cult leader Jim Jones induced over 900 of his followers into “revolutionary suicide” via cyanide-laced Kool Aid.

Her parents moved to Canada in 1980, with their two oldest children. They left behind their youngest daughter, five-year old Rohinie, in the care of relatives. By all accounts, she was not their favorite child. After earning enough money to buy a house, her parents finally brought her to Toronto to live with them. They had another son shortly.

Rohinie occupied the lowest hierarchical position in the family: she was the second daughter. Her parents were more proud of their two boys, and they viewed her as the extra daughter they didn’t need.

The Bisesar Family Store

She was compared to her successful older sister Chandra; an ambitious investment banker and chartered accountant living in New York City.

Her parents ran a small clothing store called Sandra’s and Chico’s, and worked part time gigs as well. They were serial workaholics who expected Rohinie to have the same drive for labour that they did. Any time she was not at school, she was made to work at the family store.

She had no time for a social life or dating. Rohinie’s father was a super strict traditional Hindu, and she grew resentful at how her parents controlled every aspect of her life. Her father forbade her to wear makeup, well into her 20s.

Finally, she rebelled: Rohinie ran away from home as a teenager, but was discovered by a truck driver who took her to a police station.

The Bisesar Family Home

This was the last straw for her religious nut father. He took her to a Hindu faith healer, and they performed a bizarre and disturbing cleansing ceremony. They forced Rohinie to strip naked, and poured chicken blood onto her. With a father like that, who needs an enemy?

After this, Rohinie became skeptical of her religion; often ridiculing superstitious aspects of Hinduism. Her antipathy towards her abusive father may have driven her off dating Indian men. Later on, when asked out by men of her race, Rohinie would politely inform them that she only dated tall white men.

After graduating high school in 1993, Rohinie attained a Bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology at the University of T Scarborough, and an Administrative Studies degree in General Management from York. She also had a certification from the Canadian Securities Institute, and a certificate in mining as well. She worked as a technical writer and computer technician at York’s math department, and attained her MBA in 2007. Her future looked promising.

Leaving the Nest

2003 was the year that Rohinie could not stand living with her parents any longer. She was 28 years old, yet still bound by a curfew and her parents had access to her bank account. Her life was one of mere work and study. It was no life at all.

Her traditional religious parents thought it was blasphemy for a woman to leave the home before marriage. But Rohinie defied them by moving out to live with a female roommate, prompting her parents to accuse her of being a lesbian.

She acquired a deadbeat boyfriend five years her junior. When interviewed later on about the murder by Toronto Life, he hides under an alias and basically just throws Rohinie under the bus and covers his own ass throughout the interview.

People who claimed to know Rohinie described the boyfriend as “a sloppy, ripped jeans and stained t-shirt type of guy who did not take care of himself.” This may just be slander, but the story gets even more eyebrow-raising.

They met when he and his male friend were driving down the street and whistling at Rohinie. She was initially annoyed, but Rohinie gave him her MSN messenger ID.

Their first date consisted of going to a restaurant for Thai food, then a dance club. Rohinie did not have many friends and was sheltered, so this must have been exciting for her. She appeared to be naïve about him as well: he was unemployed, living with his mother, and trying to launch a music career. Not exactly a prize catch.

At this point, Rohinie was in her 30s and wanted to make up for the years she lost living at her parents’ house. The boyfriend described her as “this outgoing, strong, assertive woman. She was a Type A personality. She helped to put me on a new path that benefitted me.”

Indeed she did. She became his mommy gf.

Dreaming of Success

Rohinie financially supported the boyfriend while he attended York University to attain a degree in commerce. She rented them an upscale apartment in heart of the city. This was a far shot from living with his mama and making mixtapes in the basement.

She struggled to stay afloat at harsh investment firms where 12 hour work days were the norm. She was overwhelmed and stopped showing up for weeks at a time. She was fired by her firm after 4 months.

For two years, Rohinie was unable to find a new job. She began taking out loans and huge lines of credit to support herself and her boyfriend, and amassed a crushing amount of financial debt.

In 2010, Rohinie finally managed to get a new job as a mining analyst associate. The couple moved into a better and more expensive apartment. The entirety of the couple’s financial responsibilities fell on her, and she tried her best.

At her brother’s wedding

Rohinie’s days were long and often lasted from 5 AM to 10 PM. Her work consumed her life, and she did not have money to indulge in luxuries. She had only a few outfits, and took her boyfriend out for dinner at swank restaurants whenever she could afford it.

And yet, she could not conform to the toxic codes of corporate culture. She was a small ethnic woman at a mostly male finance firm, but she still had the nerve to criticize her superiors in front of other people.

Rohinie grew extremely paranoid that her co-workers were going through her computer. She wanted to place a spy camera on her desk to prove this. These appear to be the first exterior indications of her schizophrenia. She was fired 7 months into the job.

Rohinie retook exams to become a chartered analyst despite failing six times, and applied to dozens of jobs to no avail. Nobody would hire her.

Working Girl

She now felt that someone, or something, was conspiring against her through nanotechnological mind control; that her ex-employers were somehow preventing her from getting hired somewhere else.

The stress she felt about being in debt probably contributed to her decline. Why didn’t her boyfriend chip in at this point and help take the pressure off of her shoulders? Why didn’t her parents provide assistance to their struggling daughter?

Breaking Up

The boyfriend criticized Rohinie for not applying to lower-status jobs, yet did not help out himself. Despite the fact that she was over $60k in debt, she kept using credit to pay monthly rent. The boyfriend’s six year-long gravy train had come to a halt, and he wanted out.

Yonge and King, the busy district where Rohinie and her boyfriend lived.

He began to avoid interactions with her, admitting he “would wake up, shower and leave for work as soon as I could. I just wanted to leave and let Rohinie do her thing.” This was the time in which she needed help the most, but he abandoned her.

He dumped Rohinie, and said that she “became hysterical” and screamed at him. He left the apartment, and told her to move back in with her parents as well. This was her worst nightmare.

Rohinie dreaded going back, and stayed alone in the apartment for 6 months. Later that autumn, the boyfriend gave her the measly sum of $2,500 and helped her move back in with her parents. She was doomed; sent back to the very same horrible environment she feared and resented.

She and her parents butted heads immediately. Ever the strict Hindus, her parents placed a curfew on their daughter even though she was nearly 40 years old. She didn’t even have her own house keys, and if she returned home after 10 PM, she was effectively homeless for the night.

A depressing view over Yonge and King.

Even when she attended networking events to gain employment, her parents still refused to allow her inside after curfew. Rohinie would sleep at Tim Hortons for the night. Her life was a walking nightmare.

Her parents, on the other hand, claimed that they were afraid of her, begged her ex-boyfriend to help her get therapy, and locked their doors at night out of fear of their daughter.

The ex-boyfriend sometimes saw Rohinie walking down city streets, and said she looked like a bag lady and reminded him of the Russell Crowe character in A Beautiful Mind.

Downwards Spiral

Things all came to a head in March of 2014.

For whatever reason, Rohinie threatened to burn her parents’ house down and pushed her mother so hard that it damaged a door. Her parents called the police, and she was taken away to a mental ward and diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The ex-boyfriend came to visit her, and found that she had been administered a strong dose of antipsychotics. With the medicine in her system, she was able to talk to him like a rational human being and finally admitted to hearing voices in her head for several years. One of the voices was an old white male business executive.

They had a touching moment where they cuddled in the bed of the mental ward. However, Rohinie would not recover because she refused to take her meds.

Not many people realize how strong antipsychotic drugs truly are. Countless schizophrenics struggle to stay on medication that keeps them assimilated into society, yet destroys their mind and body in other ways.

One of the drugs Rohinie was prescribed was Olanzapine. Common side effects are weight gain, sleepiness, a rise in prolactin which weakens the bones, dizziness, high cholesterol, pancreas issues, erectile dysfunction, OCD, suicidal thoughts and hyperglycemia/diabetes. And these are a few of the side effects.

Following her release, Rohinie moved in with her aunt and landed a contract job at a business firm. She tried to go straight, but once she was off the meds it was over.

Her parents attempted to get her institutionalized, but they had no legal precedent to do so. The stage was set for a disaster. Rohinie left her aunt’s house in the autumn of 2015, resigning herself to a life of homelessness and drifting.

Lost on the Streets of Toronto

She was known to wander around the city all day, most often on Bay Street; which is the main part of Toronto’s Financial District and like a shitty Wall Street, and in the PATH System; a rat-like maze of underground tunnels which contains thousands of shops and offices.

An eyewitness who worked at Goodlife Fitness gym described Rohinie as polite, yet disturbed. She spent 5-8 hours a day in the gym bathrooms, showered and groomed there, and even washed her underwear in the sinks. She stared at her reflection in the mirror for hours, sometimes screaming at it. One day, she had a psychotic episode and destroyed a blow dryer.

While being thrown out by security, she apologized profusely and claimed that “it was all because of these voices in her head who ruin everything, they’ve deprived her of her house, fiancé, and a career.”

Toronto is a city with a New York, Paris, and London tier price tag; but it is bleak and frozen and without style or uplifting scenery. It is a depressing, cold, lonely city; where the weak and impoverished often get crushed within the walls of the harsh and unforgiving concrete jungle.

She visited the same Starbucks on Yonge and King each day, and would “come in and always get an ice water or a tall pike coffee and would sit at a laptop turned away from the wall.” When she had no money, she just ordered hot water with cinnamon in it.

Rohinie stayed there from morning until closing time, and had only a few outfits which she wore over and over: a smart black pantsuit and a lavender or white shirt. When Starbucks employees tried to converse with her, Rohinie appeared awkward and was slow to answer.

The Starbucks that she was obsessed with.

They described her as “very antisocial. We knew something was off because she would stand at the cash and give us a blank stare.”

She put up small signs at her table offering financial services, walked around trying to give people her business card, and dropped off her resume at offices and firms.

At this point, Rohinie was functionally homeless. She emailed people and begged them for money: “I am asking all my friends to contribute, if they can and wish to, denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 or $100. My goal is simply to ensure I have basic necessities (food, water, shelter, clothing, and products for hygiene and beauty).”

The only people who helped were men who had a crush on her, or those who pitied her. Rohinie still had her looks, and she was a pretty and petite size 00 who attracted many admirers. A broker who hit on her in public said she rejected him, but he allowed her to crash on his couch regardless. This man claimed that she was $200k in debt.

Toronto’s depressing PATH Undeground

80-year old Trueman MacHenry, Rohinie’s former mathematics professor from York University, tried to help her out as well and took her out for meals. He said of her:

“She was very friendly, she was very good with people, she was bright. Everybody who knows about [the stabbing] at work feels very badly, and I almost had a nervous breakdown over it. I tried to keep her from starving to death…

Rohinie bought a gym membership downtown, using it as a place to bathe and sleep until staff asked her to stop. Then she tried sleeping on the subway, a dangerous situation that she disliked very much. She slept in corners of the underground city and couch-surfed. The idea of staying in a shelter never came up: She was kind of a patrician.”

Her LinkedIn Page

Rohinie would also go to classy hotels and restaurants with her makeup and hair done, and sit there for hours not ordering anything. When asked to; she would tell the servers to first create a better menu, and instead ate sliced apples from a little container and a granola bar.

A server on Wellington Street saw her with a succession of different men each time, noting that “they looked like lonely guys probably trying to pick her up. They were older men who obviously didn’t know her.”

Professor MacHenry said that Rohinie once did obtain a place to live through social assistance money, but it went downhill quickly. She moved in with a man she knew, and things went sour when “he came onto her, and I don’t know if she moved out or what she did. She was angry,”

Before Rohinie snapped, she sent a final disturbing email to all her colleagues and friends:

“I need to speak to the top professionals in artificial intelligence, military and government. I need to get to the bottom of something that has been quite disruptive. Something has been happening to me and this is not my normal self and I would like to know who and why this is happening. There is either a single person or more responsible and who and why would be nice to know…. I am sorry about the incidence…. I felt the need to be extreme to see if it would work. I would normally not do such a thing.”

She truly believed that the government or some kind of powerful entity had inserted a microchip into her body, and was using nanotechnology to control her brain and actions. Rohinie had stopped taking her medication, was under extreme stress from being homeless, and was estranged and alienated from her family and loved ones.

Something terrible was about to happen; something gruesome that would shock all of Toronto.

Murder on Bay Street

The scene of the crime, one week after it happened.

If you’re a Canadian, you’ll be familiar with Shoppers Drug Mart; an overpriced pharmacy/drugstore/convenience shop hybrid that is literally everywhere. Nobody expects to get knifed while they’re grabbing groceries, but that’s exactly what happened on Dec 11, 2015 at the 66 Wellington St W location of Shoppers.

Rosemarie Junor was a 28-year old ultrasound technician who was newly married and well liked among family, friends and colleagues for her cheerful and uplifting spirit. Like Rohinie, she was of Indo-Caribbean descent (a Guyanese mother and Trinidadian father).

At 2:35 PM, Rosemarie left work to walk to the Shoppers located in the dungeon-like underground PATH system. As she browsed the aisles for lotion, she spoke with a friend on her cellphone. Suddenly and without warning, Rohinie Bisesar walked up to Rosemarie and stabbed her once in the heart. Rosemarie’s horrified friend heard her scream through the phone line.

Rosemarie Junor

The stabbing proved to be fatal, as the knife had pierced through Rosemarie’s heart and vital organs. Rohinie left the kitchen knife she had purchased at a local Dollar Store on a cosmetics display, and calmly walked out.

A bleeding Rosemarie collapsed at the pharmacy in the back of the store and yelled out, “Help me, I’ve just been stabbed!” When an employee asked her if she knew her assailant, Rosemarie told her that she did not. Tragically, Rosemarie died after five comatose days in the hospital. She was in a vegetative state, and her family was forced to take her off life support.

Earlier that year, a hopeful Rosemarie had posted this on her Facebook: “Dear God, Thank you for another day of Life. Thanks for another day of waking up healthy and happy.” Young, in love and successful; her life had been cut short abruptly.

Rosemarie on her wedding day.

Rohinie remained on the run for four days, during which she was the most wanted woman in the country. She was finally captured and set to a maximum security prison. When Rohinie’s father was quizzed by reporters, he gave a cryptic and strange answer: “People need to know what happened. Because she was highly educated.”

In prison, investigators tried to uncover why Rohinie committed the crime when she didn’t even know Rosemarie personally. Some felt like there was a connection between the two women because they were both Indo-Caribbean, as it is not often that women of South Asian descent randomly kill one another.

Rohinie gave police a surprisingly cold answer. She told them that she chose to stab Rosemarie because they were both of the same height. However, she claimed that she was being controlled by the voices in her head, and that they instructed her to kill.

Rohinie leaves the scene of the crime.

She gave a disturbing firsthand account of the murder during her psychiatric assessment:

“The day started as usual…I showered and dressed…was reading business newspapers to keep up my knowledge…I don’t recall how I got downtown…I heard the voice downtown in late morning… It said what is the worst thing you can do…I was really agitated and upset…phased out, not thinking, like those river stones again…stepping one at a time.

I’m usually in the Starbucks at Adelaide St., East and Yonge Street…It’s easy to sit and do work, I had my laptop…I pretend to read but I’m zoned out…distracted by the voice and the movements and communication.

The voice said to get a knife…went to the Dollar store to buy the knife…I’m familiar with the place and it’s close to the subway.

I went back through King or St. Andrew subway entrance…went to the bathroom in First Canadian place…didn’t want to hurt someone…A lady asked if I was okay…I’m in the concourse, moving from one bench to another…

Then the voice, communication and movements made me sit up, turn, walk straight into the Shopper’s fast…I was not an agreeable participant…went right up to the person (victim) with no hesitation, barely took it (knife) out of the bag…My arm was in L-shaped.

The voice said, if you mean it do it…The voice and movements raised my hand, pushed forward…It was like the knife was sticking to my hand and couldn’t be dropped…I was spending all my energy fighting the voice and communications…fighting the invisible entity…As soon as it happened I wanted to get away…traveled back home…The voice said I should have kept the knife.”

In Custody

Following her apprehension, Rohinie was charged with first degree murder. The media was shocked at how such a small and harmless looking woman could lash out so violently. Her former colleagues were surprised as well, with a friend named Andrius Pone describing Rohinie as a “professional career woman and a sophisticated individual. Rohinie is a very gentle person, she speaks in a whisper. I don’t know what has happened with her but it’s just so incredibly out of character.”

Karl Gutowski, a friend of Rohinie’s for eight years, had this to say about her:

 “She seemed very sweet but odd. She’s been able to sustain herself from a large network of friends, but I speculate the list got shorter and shorter. She got that one job, but she didn’t get to keep it for too long. She couldn’t adjust to pretty normal office politics.”

In court, Rohinie was disheveled and confused. With no access to makeup and hair grooming products; her acne scars and dark undereye circles were visible, and her hair was wild and uncombed. Her lawyer Calvin Barry said she was “very upset and like a deer in headlights.”

Rohinie in court, with odd marks on her face.

During a 2016 appearance, she ranted and raved in court about being involved in some obscure terrorist plot that went all the way up to the prime minister and the military, and was then hospitalized and medicated before the trial was resumed.

She had also claimed that she was being “damaged” somehow by those in charge, requested a “body scan” and had strange bruises on her face which she attributed to a microchip being implanted inside her.

Rohinie told the court that the voices in her head were “a real time, progressive dialogue and conversation. Whoever it is will tell me something, I’ll tell them to go away. I have somebody [else] communicating with me. I have to listen to both of you at the same time”

In 2017, Rohinie was declared unfit to stand trial due to her severe schizophrenic symptoms. She even denied that Rosemarie was really dead. The judge sent her off to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto for psychiatric treatment.

In November of 2018, the court found Rohinie not criminally responsible for the murder of Rosemarie Junor, because she was in the throes of a psychotic episode during the homicide.

In early 2019, The Ontario Review Board decided to keep Rohinie in the CAMH mental hospital because she was still in denial about her own involvement in the murder. The board continued trying to rehabilitate her; keeping her on “a strict regime of medication, cognitive behavioural therapy and psychotherapy.”

In May of 2020, the board granted Rohinie more freedom and access to the community, due to the fact that she is now supposedly of sound mind. It is now up to her case officer to decide whether or not she can leave the facility unsupervised, and even live outside of it.

The only conditions are that she must report to her review officer on a weekly basis, as well as refrain from purchasing firearms and weapons.

Aftermath

Rohinie appears to have changed her tune about the killing, almost seeming to express remorse and awareness of her actions:

“I did not plan to go murder someone…It was just like time stopped with all the chaos in my mind…I feel sorry for the person (victim) caught in my illness.”

Rosemarie Junor’s family members and the broader public were not happy about the court’s recent decision. Less than five years after the unprovoked killing, Rohinie is being given lenient privileges that could perhaps go terribly wrong in regards to public safety.

Even weirder is the fact that Rohinie is still trying to apply to jobs, to this very day, deluded to the fact literally nobody will ever hire her again.

During her appearances, the courtrooms were usually packed; as Torontonians were fascinated with the macabre case and its odd defendant. The presence of so many spectators led clueless judge John Ritchie to remark, “What does Rohinie do? Is he a sports figure or something?”

A spectator tried to give Rohinie’s lawyer David Burke his contact info on a small folded note of paper as he left the courtroom; stating that he wanted to go on a date with Rohinie. Burke refused to be an intermediary.

Rohinie’s story is shocking and saddening, yet it is not surprising. Had she received proper medical treatment earlier, Rosemarie Junor would have still been alive.

Instead, the combination of parental abuse, abandonment from a man who she loved and devoted herself to for six years, schizophrenia, homelessness, debt, work-related pressures and unemployment all came together to create a volatile outburst of unpredictable violence. Being a South Asian woman in Canada is tough, and this may have contributed to her stress and frustration as well.

At the time of the stabbing, Rohinie was 40 years old and most likely in the grip of a midlife crisis, without a home or anyone to care for her, and Christmas was fast approaching. She snapped and did something awful that the world will never be able to forgive her of, due to things beyond her control.

The question remains- will they really release her from the institution? Should they? While she should not rot her life away in a traditional prison, the memory of her crime still seems too fresh and new. She needs help and long term care.

What will become of Rohinie Bisesar? Only time and her own sense of guilt and repentance will answer that.

The Baffling Case of Little Miss X

Halloween: a time of celebration and candy; of horror and ghouls and costumes and elaborate parties. There are phantoms and ghosts, but the scariness is all in good jest and one goes home at the end of the night with a sense of merriment.

But on October. 31, 1958 in Coconino County, Arizona, a young girl lay dead 10 miles southeast of the Grand Canyon. Something horrible had happened to her. And even now, over 60 years later, we still have no idea of who she was and how she met her demise.

Authorities gave her the fittingly haunting nickname of Little Miss X. Her body was found on a remote hillside dirt road off Skinner Ridge in totally skeletal condition, and therefore no cause of death could accurately be determined. They estimated that she had lain there undiscovered for at least 9 to 18 months.

With such a long postmortem interval, it would prove impossible to find any evidence or suspects in her case.

Little Miss X was anywhere from 5′ to 5’3″, approximately 105 lbs, and was white with Hispanic ancestry. She had reddish/dark brown hair that was dyed a lighter shade. Her hair was wavy, but possibly because she had gotten it permed. She was thought to have a brown skin tone.

She was determined to be anywhere from 11 to 17 years old. This is odd because anyone with even a basic knowledge of forensics knows that female skeletons show obvious signs of puberty in their pelvis and bone structure.

Remnants of the victim’s hair.

So how were police investigators so unspecific and clueless in their estimation of her age? An 11-year old’s skeleton is very different in appearance from a 17-year old’s, and the forensic pathologist performing the examination should have been easily able to differentiate. Something smells botched here…

Her teeth were well-cared for and in good condition, proving she was from some sort of middle class background. She had had seven fillings in four of her teeth during her lifetime.

Disturbingly, Little Miss X was found naked. But she did have a bunch of clothing and items lying next to her.

Necklace found at the scene.

There was a powder puff, a tiny jar of Pond’s cold cream, an 18″ 10-karat gold chain, a white nylon comb, and a blue plastic nail file with the letter P imprinted onto it, and R written by hand.

There was also a short sleeved white wool cardigan, a size 34C white cotton Maidenform Alloette bra, size small white rayon underwear, and GRAFF California Wear pedal pusher capris with a green, brown and red plaid pattern.

Weirdly, the clothes at the scene were too big for her. Investigators were unable to tell if the clothes even belonged to the girl. They probably didn’t.

Could the killer have left these items at the scene to throw off police and cause confusion? Could these items be from a different crime scene, from a different dead girl?

The comb, powder puff and Pond’s cream.

Or were these just random personal effects the killer had somehow accumulated? Some even wonder if the killer was a woman.

If Little Miss X really was an 11-year old, why would she have this type of clothing and these items anyways? This suggests something alarming, like the presence of child exploitation and a possible sex trafficking ring.

This was a case that was cold from the very beginning. Little Miss X’s identity eluded authorities, so they gave up and buried her. Four years later in 1962, she was exhumed and her body was re-examined.

The sweater found at the scene. Probably the worst possible way they could have photographed it.

Unfortunately, when the clueless authorities re-buried her; Little Miss X’s remains stayed lost for years because they had forgotten where exactly they had interred her. According to the Doe Network, her remains were finally re-discovered in the summer of 2018.

Little Miss X’s NamUs page once had an image of her skull, but it was taken down. This is important because this picture would have helped artists and amateur e-sleuths to create newer and more accurate reconstructions of her.

It is also possible that Little Miss X had shovel-shaped incisors, a common trait in those with indigenous DNA; which could be why police suspect she was of Hispanic descent. It would have been useful to concretely know this as well, as web sleuths could compare Little Miss X to missing people who also had this trait.

Sheriff Cecil Richardson and Deputy Johnny Ortiz look over the case file of Little Miss X in the 1950s.

There is a clue as well in the pants found at the scene. As previously stated, they were Graff California Wear brand capris.

Graff was founded in 1933, and became popular in the 1940s and 1950s among Californian women for their comfy and tacky two piece suits and slacks. It was modern clothing for modern women, who were constantly on the go and wanted to resemble Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce.

These were not pants that an 11-17 year old would wear, and they didn’t seem to fit Little Miss X anyways. Were authorities ever able to trace back who purchased these capris? It doesn’t seem so. Was the killer then from California? God only knows.

A very swag Graff pinstripe pantsuit.

A case this mysterious causes all kinds of speculation, and in the past false theorizing led investigators down several dead ends.

It was suspected at one point that Little Miss X was Donnis “Pinky” Redman, a California girl who vanished without a trace on March. 1, 1958. 14-year old Pinky and her 18-year old boyfriend Mike Griffin (creepy age difference imo) eloped to Las Vegas, Nevada, but their journey was cut short before they could marry.

The couple disappeared along the way, and Mike’s abandoned 1950 Dodge Clipper turned up in Williams, Arizona. Their bodies were never found.

Donnis “Pinky” Redman

Williams is an approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes drive to Skinner Ridge, where Little Miss X was found. Naturally, people would connect these two cases together; as the body and car were found just 59 miles apart.

However, Little Miss X had lain there dead for at least 9 months minimum, whereas Pinky vanished just that March of 1958. The time frame is off.

Other clues that led people to suspect Little Miss X was Pinky Redman was the fact that the latter also had a petite frame, at 5’2″ tall and 105 lbs. The age bracket also fit, and Little Miss X was found with the nail file initialed “PR.” Did it belong to Pinky?

Michael “Mike” Lawrence Griffin

Pinky was last seen wearing a yellow sweater and brown capris, similar to the clothing found near Little Miss X.

What didn’t fit was the fact that Pinky was blonde, blue-eyed, and white; whereas Little Miss X was dark haired with swarthier skin and was most likely a Latina. Investigators eventually ruled out Pinky Redman as a possible match.

It is possible, however, that the person who killed Pinky and Mike + Little Miss X was one and the same. Was there a serial killer operating in the Arizona desert in 1958?

A more recent reconstruction of Little Miss X.

In Pinky and Mike’s case, anything could’ve happened along the dusty stretch of highways that connected California to Vegas. They could’ve picked up some unruly hitchhiker, who preyed upon the young, naïve couple and stole their car.

Mike was a small ginger boy who only stood 5’3″ tall and weighed 120 lbs. Any form of criminal could have taken advantage of the poor pair. Hopefully one day their bodies are recovered from the vast and giant Arizona desert, or wherever they may lie.

Another dead end that occurred in the Little Miss X investigation was was when she was suspected of being Connie Smith.

Constance Christine “Connie” Smith was a 10-year old girl from Wyoming, whose grandfather was a former Republican governor named Nels Hansen Smith. She ran away from Camp Sloane in Salisbury, Connecticut in the summer of 1952, after being bullied by fellow campers.

On July. 16, after being punched in the face by girls the day before, Connie nursed a bloodied nose with an ice pack. She left the camp and wandered down Indian Mountain Road. People witnessed Connie walking down the road with tears in her eyes, picking daisies and trying to hitchhike back home.

After this, she was never seen again. Despite attempts by her wealthy family to track her down, Connie had vanished into thin air somewhere down that highway.

Connie’s dental records.

Police once suspected that Little Miss X was Connie, and tested the former’s teeth against Connie’s dental charts. The results proved to inconclusive, and Connie was ruled out.

And anyways, Connie was a bit too young to be Little Miss X, and physically she was much smaller; standing at 5′ tall and weighing 85 lbs.

The only explanation would then be that Connie was held captive for at least 4- 5 years, and then murdered and dumped in Arizona. But that seems to be a stretch. Also, Connie had no Hispanic or Native American DNA. It is very unlikely that she is Little Miss X.

An amateur reconstruction of Little Miss X, done by a Redditor.

It is disheartening that Connie Smith’s killer was never found. Neither was Pinky Redman’s, or the person who murdered Little Miss X.

The 1950s were a troubling era for crime; where the lack of technology rendered the identification of murderers, and even victims, as a difficult and sometimes impossible task. In Little Miss X’s case, there is so much mystery and so few answers. Though her killer is perhaps dead and gone, it could still be possible to discern her identity.

If police have not yet located Little Miss X’s body, they should do so immediately. It is tragic that faulty police work caused them to lose the unknown girl’s remains and therefore botch her case.

Coconino County, Arizona

Little Miss X lay out there in that lonely desert for perhaps a year, decomposing until she became a skeleton. She was once forgotten, but then found again on Halloween of 1958. It is time we find out who Little Miss X was, and give her back her name and dignity.

The Enigma of Eklutna Annie

A creepy clay reconstruction of the victim.

What do you think of when you imagine Alaska? You conjure up a grand, snowy vision of unconquered terrain: vast, far and endless. It is as if the icy territory lasts forever in continuous isolation and secrecy.

Since the inception of Alaska, Americans who could be categorized as misfits and unconventional loners have taken advantage of the privacy and desolation of this state, and its sparsely populated lands.

In many areas of Alaska, you are completely alone: surrounded by wild, untouched nature. You are undisturbed by the burdens of being social and fitting in.

You are free and in your natural state…. if you can survive in such an intimidating environment, that is.

Resurrection Bay, a fjord where Robert Hansen buried three of his victims.

Robert Hansen was a serial killer who used the remoteness of Alaskan terrain to torture, rape and murder young women. Many of them were sex workers, as well as young girls struggling to survive the harshness of their environment.

Eklutna Annie is perhaps his most famous victim. She is a total mystery; unidentified for over 40 years without even a glimmer of clue to who she may have been.

Annie is one of Hansen’s earliest victims, and was killed anywhere from November 1979 to June 1980.

Electricians found her badly decomposed body in a shallow grave, buried alongside a set of power lines that stretched down South Eklutna Lake Road, approximately a year after her death. Her body had been eaten away at by wild animals (particularly bears), and was left unrecognizable and in mostly skeletal condition.

A less disturbing (?) reconstruction.

Investigators tried their best to create a profile of Eklutna Annie from the remnants of her body. She was a short girl with a small frame, between 4 ft 11″ and 5 ft 3″ tall. She was thought to be anywhere from 16 to 25 years old, and had auburn/strawberry blonde hair.

She was thought to be white, but with a degree of Native American DNA. She wore a light colored sleeveless knit sweater, a brown leather jacket, jeans, and red knee-high heeled boots with a nylon zipper on the side.

Judging from her apparel, Anchorage PD officer Maxine Farrell assumed that Eklutna Annie was either a topless dancer or a prostitute. Hansen himself claimed this, but he seemed to say this about all of his victims.

Farrell was mocked by other officers for her theories:

Eklutna Lake, the general area where the victim was found.

“Shortly after that I got a report of another one missing, she was a street prostitute and I thought this is a prostitute missing, so that would match up with Eklutna Annie. After that, almost every month I had two or three women missing. That’s when I started asking questions.

I got the missing persons reports and I began to get information about relatives and information about jewelry they wore. I was a psychology major, so I knew a lot of these serial killers kept souvenirs. I finally made a spreadsheet of it …

By the time I got finished, I had about 10 girls. I went to my superiors, advised them that there was a serial killer because of the number of girls I was collecting as missing persons and they laughed at me and said no, you’re wrong. They thought I was stupid. Stupid woman thinking there’s a serial killer. I wasn’t stupid.”

Just as Farrell had claimed, officers would eventually discover that Hansen actually did keep souvenirs of his victims.

A brand new composite, created in 2020.

Officers also pondered whether she was a runaway from California, Washington, or Canada- a hitchhiker who was not originally from Alaska. Hansen, however, said she was from Kodiak, and spoke to him about living there with her family.

No ID was found on the victim, and neither did she match any missing persons reports. Who was this mysterious woman? The secret died with Robert Hansen. But then again, even he claimed to be unaware of her identity.

According to his story, he had picked up Eklutna Annie from a bar and given her a lift. He told her that he lived in Muldoon, and that he would give her a ride home. As Hansen sped past Muldoon Road, she grew suspicious and afraid, and asked him to let her out of the vehicle.

Hansen relayed the story to cops while in custody:

”I just pointed the gun and I tell her, I says, ‘Now look, if you do exactly what I tell you and don’t give me any problem whatsoever, there’s going to be no — you won’t get hurt any way, shape or form.”

But that wasn’t how it went down.

During this ride of terror, Hansen’s car got stuck on a muddy road, and he told her to get out of the car to help him. She took this as her chance to escape.

As she tried to run away, Hansen pursued and overpowered her; grabbing her by her long hair. He claimed this was when she pulled out a knife from her purse, and attempted to stab him in self defense. To the very end, she fought for her life.

Twisted Bob Hansen was an experienced hunter.

Hansen managed to tear the knife away from her, and stabbed the unknown woman in the back until she was lifeless. During the struggle, as the terrified woman realized she was going to die, she screamed out “You’re going to kill me!” in hysterical fear.

For all her bravery, she could not survive the scourge of her deranged killer. When reflecting back on Eklutna Annie’s murder, Robert Hansen said it gave him a sense of sadistic pleasure.

There was nothing he hated more than a woman who fought back against him, and nothing gave him more satisfaction than subduing and killing a wily prey.

During his 1984 interrogation by police, Hansen claimed Annie was his very first victim. However, this seems unlikely as he is suspected of killing even more women before her.

Hansen and a dead goat

Who was this sick man?

Robert Hansen was born in 1939, and grew up a shy, skinny, nerdy kid in Iowa; suffering from a stutter and chronic acne. Like his Danish immigrant father, he grew up to be a baker. Later on the media would grant him the moniker “The Butcher Baker.” He killed anywhere from 17 to 21 women until his capture, maybe even more.

His humiliating high school years, filled with rejection and inceldom, would cause him to hate women with a passion as he grew into an adult. These misogynistic tendencies would eventually become violent.

At the age of 20, he lost his virginity to a prostitute while in the army.

In high school, he was bullied because he looked like Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor.

At the age of 21, Hansen attempted to burn a school bus to gain vengeance for being a loser in high school. A series of petty crimes followed, which then escalated to murder in the 1970s.

Although Hansen had a track record of kidnapping, raping and abusing women, police did not suspect him of murder for many years; which allowed him to easily kill dozens of women for a decade.

Hansen was a sadist and psychopath who took refuge in Alaska to torture and murder women in a more private setting. He drove women out to remote areas, forced them to strip naked, and shot them as they ran through the snowy wilderness.

Hansen’s aviation map of Anchorage. Noted are the spots where he buried his victims.

It thrilled him to hunt live victims, and he often tortured them for days before the final coup de grace. He even had a private plane which he used to fly out victims to distant cabins where they could never be found.

Hansen was finally captured and imprisoned in 1983, after one of his victims escaped alive and spilled the beans on his disgusting antics. Although he was finally caught and locked up like the animal he was, Eklutna Annie remained unidentified.

Usually, Hansen kept his victim’s possessions as souvenirs- especially their jewelry. Not in Eklutna Annie’s case: it was one of the rare crimes in which he left the jewelry alone, most likely because she was one of his earliest murders and he was then an inexperienced killer.

Her necklace.

She had on her a plethora of beautiful and unique handmade jewelry: a copper bracelet with three turquoise stones, a heart shaped pendant, gold hoop earrings, a white shell ring, and a gold plated Timex wristwatch. She also had a pack of Salem brand matches in her pocket.

Some believe that Eklutna Annie’s jewelry was of Native origin, but authorities were never able to trace any of it back to its source. It is also worth noting that most Native jewelry is made from silver, and not gold as she was wearing.

From her jewelry, you get the impression she was an interesting woman with exquisite taste in jewelry. That morning, she had dressed herself with care and attention, never knowing it would be her last day on earth.

Her turquoise bracelet.

So if Eklutna Annie was well dressed, wearing distinctive jewelry, and a possible topless dancer/sex worker in Alaska- why didn’t anyone ever come forward to identify her? Officer Maxine Farrell had some theories:

“The fact that a prime source of information in these cases was women who worked the streets was the first obstacle. These women have very little trust in the police, which is understandable given the fact that most of the time we’re adversaries. As a result, most were reluctant to talk.

Her Timex wristwatch

The second obstacle was the constant movement of these women. In a year’s time, one of these women might work in a club, then out on the street, then in a massage parlor. She might also work the circuit and move city to city… those circuits tracked from Seattle to Anchorage to Honolulu. And after all that upheaval, this same woman might get sick of the routine and quit without giving notice…

A third obstacle was the fact that many of these women used stage names. Investigators would talk to a woman on the street or in a club, who’d tell them she had worked with a woman named ‘Tania’ a few months before — and hadn’t seen her in a while. In checking out the lead, investigators would go to some of the other clubs in the Anchorage area. At ten different clubs, they’d find 15 different ‘Tania’s.’ So which Tania was that, anyway?”

One of her hoop earrings, and her ring

This is exactly what Hansen, and other serial killers of his ilk count on. They victimize sex workers and transient women, as it is often more difficult for authorities to identify and search for them.

Hansen believed his victims were not worthy of life because they dwelled in prostitution and vice. He used excuses to justify his cruel murders. Even during his confession in which he admitted to killing Eklutna Annie, he tried to blame her by claiming she had pulled a knife on him, therefore she deserved to die.

In his twisted mind, the women he killed were nothing but his pawns. But this is untrue. This woman he killed belonged somewhere, had a family, dreams, hopes and goals. And there are many of us out there who want to find out who she was in her lifetime.

Salem Matches found in her pocket

Although investigators possess Eklutna Annie’s DNA, and have tested it against other suspected murder victims, none have ever matched up so far. The case has gone cold, to the point where we can only pray that something substantial eventually turns up.

Although she was killed near the small village of Eklutna, which has only about 70 inhabitants; she was buried in Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery, about a half an hour’s drive away. Her grave is simply marked “Jane Doe/Died 1980.”

Occasionally, visitors leave flowers on her gravestone. Sometimes, Alaskans even hold reenactments where actresses assume the role of Eklutna Annie and describe the limited details we have about her. But most importantly- she is still remembered and thought about, despite remaining nameless for over 40 years.

The Forgotten Woes of Varvara Rasputina

A post-revolution portrait, damaged by Soviet authorities.

Varvara Rasputina was the youngest surviving daughter of Grigori Rasputin (1869-1916), the infamous Russian mystic and holy man who used his supernatural abilities to wield political power over the Romanov royal family.

She lived in the shadow of her legendary father, and died quietly without any fanfare. Her more famous sister Maria Rasputina gained attention for her work as a lion tamer in Paris and then the USA.

But Varvara’s life ended early and in a depressing manner.

She was born in 1900, in Pokrovskoe, Tyumen Province- an isolated, cold, and distant village in the midst of the Siberian Urals. It lay on the Tura River, and its residents were simple farmers who lived a low-key existence.

Village of Pokrovskoe on the Tura River, photographed by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky, 1912.

Except, that its, for her father.

Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was not your typical turn-of-the-century Russian peasant. He claimed to receive sacred visions from God, and was said to have otherworldly powers which he used to lure believers into this thrall.

He had seven children with his wife Praskovya Dubrovina, but only three survived to adulthood: Dmitry, the oldest son; and two daughters, Maria and Varvara. It was a hard knock life for the rural family, but they were a mentally tough and spiritually enriched bunch. Maria wrote of her dad:

“My father would often take us on his knees, my brother Mitya, my sister Varvara, and myself. He would tell us wonderful stories with that tenderness he always showed and that absent look in which seemed to be mirrored the countries he had visited and the strange adventures he had met with on the road.”

Grigori and his 3 children: from L to R: Maria, Varvara, and Dmitry.

Rasputin left his boring village for St. Petersburg; abandoning his wife and children to pursue the existence of a Starets (which was, in the Orthodox religion, a spiritual pilgrim/monastic hermit).

In doing so, this supposedly simple and barely literate Siberian peasant quickly managed to ascend the ranks of Russian society; until Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna became convinced that Rasputin was indeed the holy healer he claimed to be.

Their poor son Alexei suffered from hemophilia. This left him unable to clot blood, and simple falls and accidents left the boy near death and with horrible complications.

Enter Rasputin: somehow, with no medical or scientific knowledge, an uneducated peasant from the lower classes repeatedly and successfully prayed away the Tsarevich’s pains and sufferings. How did he do it?

Grigori and his hoes

Even today, scientists are unable to explain what exactly allowed Rasputin to heal the Romanov’s son, on a consistent basis.

Back in Pokrovskoe, Varvara and her siblings missed their absent father. Despite his absenteeism, Rasputin was a dependable and devoted dad. Once, a family friend in Pokrovskoe attempted to rape Maria. Rasputin attacked the rapist, and took an ax hit on the skull while trying to defend his daughter.

Thanks to the Tsarina’s help, Rasputin managed to bring Varvara and Maria to St. Petersburg in 1913, and enrolled them in the best school there. He hoped to turn the girls into “little ladies.” How cute.

Grigori and his sister Feodosia

The elitist Smolny Institute rejected the girls due to their low social status, so they attended the Steblin-Kamensky private preparatory school. The girls lived in walking distance of their father’s residence. Their brother Dmitry, on the other hand, did not enjoy city life; so he stayed in Pokrovksoe and lived as a farmer.

Maria was the most popular and bold of the three siblings, and high society ladies fawned over the charming little girl. Varvara, the youngest, was more quiet and reserved. While Maria preferred to take French lessons (this would come in handy for her later in life), Varvara spent time studying intently for her classes.

Their mother Praskovya only came to St. Petersburg once a year, and lived in their home in Pokrovskoe for the most part. The girls learned to become independent quickly. They lived down the hall from their older cousins Nyur and Katya, who looked after the sisters on a daily basis.

Maria Rasputina, right, with her father and a follower in March 1911

Rasputin was said to have been a constant playa. Rather suggestively, their mother once said of their philanderous father:

 “He can do what he wants. He has enough for everyone.”

Rasputin was very protective of his daughters. He wanted to keep them away from degenerate modern vices, such as candies, gramophones, perfumes, and boyfriends. Only once they were 15- years old did Rasputin allow Maria and Vavara to go to out the theater- and even then they had to be accompanied by an adult and arrive home by 10 PM.

The girls were nervous to meet then Tsar’s children, but it went exceedingly well. Maria and Varvara found the Royal Palace to be luxurious and grand, and the princesses gave them beautiful porcelain dolls as a gift.

The girls’ shared room in their father’s apartment, which they often visited during school holidays. Source.

The Romanov children were curious about the girls’ life back home in Siberia. They asked Maria and Varvara the names of their cows in Pokrovskoe.

Varvara got along especially well with Grand Duchess Anastasia, as they were close in age (Varvara was one year older). It was said the Anastasia was very caring towards her.

The good times did not last. The tide was turning against Rasputin, as haters despised the lowly peasant for so swiftly ascending the ranks of Russian society.

They called him a Khlyst (a bizarre occultist sect present in Russia at the time), and a sex maniac; spreading rumors that the monk was a madman who was having sex with the Tsarina and cucking the Tsar.

Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, c. 1914. She was close with Varvara.

The tension all came to a head on Dec. 30, 1916, when a gang of jealous noblemen (led by infamous cross-dresser and spoiled rich boy supreme, Prince Felix Yusupov) brutally murdered Rasputin at the age of 47.

Rasputin was not an easy man to kill, as he was supposedly poisoned, beaten, shot three times, and then thrown in the freezing Malaya Nevka river.

It took a band of cowardly men to kill the wily and powerful holy man.

Rasputin’s murder was devastating for his poor family. They were barred from attending his funeral, which was organized specifically for the Romanovs to pay tribute to their deceased holy friend.

Empress Alexandra Feodorovna with her children, Rasputin and the nurse Maria Ivanova Vishnyakova, 1908.

The girls were, however, later invited to the royal palace to play with the Grand Duchesses. The Tsarina had also paid for Varvara and Maria’s black mourning dresses.

Maria would go on to say, “I love my father. As much as others hate him. I have not the strength to make others love him.” It is clear that the girls adored their dad, no matter the bizarre rumors that surrounded him, and they mourned his memory for life.

Following their father’s death, the two girls moved in with their French teacher and were granted 62,000 rubles by the Romanovs, as Tsar Nicholas told the girls’ mother:

 “I will become the second father for your beautiful daughters. Alix and I always loved them as our own daughters. May they continue to study in Petrograd, and I will make sure that they do not need anything.”

Colorized portrait of Rasputin

Unfortunately, that promise could not last long.

In 1917, their mother and brother returned back to Pokrovskoe, and the girls stayed in St. Petersburg to investigate their father’s murder. The siblings were arrested and interrogated the following day by government authorities. Although they were pressed to talk about the royal family, the girls did not acquiesce.

The Russian Revolution had begun, and things were getting ugly.

Luckily, the girls were freed by Boris Soloviev, an admirer of their late father. Boris and Maria would go on to marry, even though the two were not attracted to each other.

The Romanov Family was mass murdered by the Communists in July of 1918, bringing in a dark era of totalitarian rule in Russia.

Rasputin had eerie, penetrating eyes, and was alleged to have used them for hypnosis, mind control and mesmerism.

The Russian Revolution did not bode well for Rasputin’s family. Maria and Boris escaped Russia circa 1920 to reside in Berlin, Paris, then finally L.A; but Varvara and the others did not have that luxury.

At first, the Rasputin family sheltered together from the Russian Revolution in their Pokrovskoe home. But Varvara wanted something more out of her life.

She was 17 years old when the Revolution occurred, yet she managed to complete her high school education. Varvara then left Pokrovskoe to go to Tyumen, the largest city and capital of the Oblast (province) that she resided in.

Varvara was searching for career + education opportunities that would allow her to save money and leave grim Soviet Russia.

Varvara and Maria playing with dolls

In 1919, she obtained a position as stenographer/clerk for the justice department of Tyumen Oblast. Varvara earned 1,560 rubles a month. She was miserable working there, but she had to do it as she was desperate for income.

Men offered Varvara money in exchange for sex, but she adamantly refused. Life was the gloomiest it had ever been for her.

In February of 1924, Varvara wrote Maria the following letter:

“Dear, Dear Marochka. How have you been? I didn’t write to you in so long because I didn’t have money, and you can’t buy a stamp without money.  

In general, life becomes worse and worse everyday. You think and cherish the dream that you will one day live well, but again it’s only a mistake.

Maria, Varvara and Dmitry

 And all thanks to our friends: such as [my employer] Vitkun and similar people, they are all liars, and nothing more, they only promise… Such a distance to work is a horror, it takes an entire hour and a quarter to walk there, because I have no money for the tram...

 Lord, how hard it is, the soul is torn to pieces. Why was I born? But I am reassured by the fact that there are so many of us who are unemployed, and that we are all just honest people trying to preserve our dignity.

How is [your husband] Boris Nikolaevich doing? Yes, I really want to see you, my joy. How is the health of your lovely children? I sort of envy [our brother] Mitya, because he does not beg, like us. Although we eat our piece of bread, it is not sweet...

The Rasputin family home in Pokrovskoe: A two-story log house built in the 1890s.

You see how I started to blabber, it’s really good to type on a typewriter; your hands don’t get tired and you can write a lot. God bless you and your children, and say hi to Boris. You are my joy.

– Varvara

Varvara complained that her bosses, the Vitkuns, were too wealthy and decadent. While Varvara did not even have any money for transportation, Mara Vitkun bought several fancy hats and drove around the city in a cab as Varvara braved wretched weather to get to work.

“May they choke on their greed. God will help the orphans,” said Varvara in the letter.

Varvara lived with a friend named Anna Fyodorovna Davidova in a shared apartment. In 1925, she left Tyumen for Moscow. However, the move would prove fatal.

The big city: Moscow in the 1920s.

Through working at her office job, Varvara had contracted a bad case of tuberculosis, which was then succeeded by typhus. The work environment was unsafe, unhygienic, and located in a damp basement.

TB is a dangerous disease that wreaks havoc on the lungs and weakens the body. Typhus begins with flu-like symptoms and rashes, then causes brain inflammation and death if it is not treated.

Poor Varvara no doubt went through a horrid last year of life, plagued by poverty and disease. Typhus overtook her, and Varvara died alone in Moscow in 1925. No family member was there with her.

Maria and Varvara

Did she see her father in her last moments? Whose death was also so untimely and tragic?

Her friend Anna Fyodorovna traveled to Moscow to assist in her funeral and burial. Varvara was buried at the Novodevichiye Cemetery. Anna described her funeral as such:

“Varvara lay in her coffin completely shaved, no hair. Written on her gravestone were the words:

Our Varya.

Died in 1925.”

Varvara’s head was most likely shaved because she had contracted the airborne form of typhus; which spreads through fleas, mice and ticks on rats, and often hides in the hair and scalp.

Anna Fyodorovna Davidova, loyal friend until the end.

She had wanted to save money to leave Russia and move to Paris with her sister. But both of them were too broke and powerless to make the dream come true, and Maria was forever heartbroken by her sister’s death.

Unfortunately, the Soviet government renovated the cemetery in 1927 to make space for the burials of high status politicians. In doing so they uprooted thousands of bodies, and Varvara’s was one of them.

What happened to her remains is unknown. It is depressing that she was not even allowed to rest in peace after her early demise.

Novodevichiye Cemetery in 1930

In 1930, the remaining Rasputin family’s property was confiscated by the Soviet government. As Maria had safely escaped Russia; brother Dmitry, his wife and children, and mother Praskovya were deported to Salekhard, to work in forced labor camps in the frigid Arctic Circle.

Each died one by one as they were slowly worked to death, and the entire family, save Maria, was wiped out by 1933.

Maria Rasputina lived a fascinating life; working as a restaurateur in Prague, a dancer in Berlin, a performer at the Cirque d’hiver in Paris, and a lion tamer in Miami. She published a biography of her father in 1977, the year she died. Maria always suspected that the Soviet government had poisoned Varvara.

Maria, Varvara and Dmitry

Rasputin’s killers had escaped the ordeal unscathed. Ironically, it was Rasputin’s family that suffered the brunt of the aftermath.

Felix Yusupov, the prince who orchestrated and took credit for Rasputin’s murder, was from one of the wealthiest families in Russia. He was an aristocrat who looked down on the poor, and continued to live a life of splendor and glamour after killing Rasputin.

Following the Russian revolution, Felix escaped with his wife to live in the fanciest arrondissements of Paris in impeccable apartments, and even founded his own short-lived couture fashion line. He lived until 80, and died in 1967 after a long life of wealth and privilege.

Felix Yusupov with his wife Irina, a niece of Tsar Nicholas II, 1910.

When you think about Varvara working herself to death in some dank Soviet cellar, to scrounge for money to leave a country where she had no future, it makes one nauseous. History is no fairy tale. More often than not, the good guys lose and the bad guys die in a plush manor and get buried in a coffin of gold.

What happened to Varvara’s remains? Are they buried in some strange corner of Moscow, unknown and unmarked? We will never know.

It is also very difficult to find pictures and information on her, but hopefully one day a hidden Soviet archive will be uncovered and shed a brighter light on the forgotten woes of Varvara Rasputina.

An eerie illustration of Rasputin taking tea with the Tsarina and her children. Was he a sinner or a saint?

The Violent Rebellion of Sarah McLinn

Sarah Gonzales-McLinn is a girl who killed her 52-year old ex-boss and sugar daddy Harold Sasko, back in January of 2014, at the age of 19. She is now currently serving a 50-year minimum sentence for first-degree murder.

Following the homicide, Sarah was immediately slandered as a “gold-digger” and “psychopath” by the media and police; while Sasko was turned into a martyred saint. After killing her former manager, Sarah wrote “FREEDOM” on the wall in his blood. What did this signify?

Not many understand the truth of what really happened, and it is time that it be told.

Sarah was born on Jul. 9, 1994, and grew up in Topeka, Kansas. She was naive and sheltered due to being home-schooled for years. Following her parents’ divorce, she was molested by a neighbor.

Sarah at her first communion.

This traumatized her, and she began sneaking out of her home at odd hours to drink her sorrows away.

Despite all this, Sarah had a kind streak. She always looked out for her disabled younger brother, and once rescued an abused horse.

But fate was not kind to the struggling teen.

At 15, she was brutally assaulted by an older male friend: he pushed her into a coffee table, breaking it in the process; and proceeded to burn her with cigarettes and rape her.

Birthday girl

She suffered from PTSD flashbacks and nightmares, and was hospitalized at a mental institution after attempting suicide when she was 16.

Sarah’s parents’ divorce had caused her to feel unwanted and out of place. She no longer felt welcome or comfortable living with family, and desperately searched for a way out.

Escape would present itself in a terrible form. When she was 14, she got a job at CiCi’s Pizza parlor.

Her manager was a well-off yet sleazy individual named Harold Sasko. He was in his 50s, owned two locations of the restaurant chain, and had a creepy reputation.

Terry David managed one of Harold’s restaurants, and claimed that his boss told him “to only hire young, attractive girls.” When Terry warned female employees to watch out for Harold, he was incensed.

Harold presented himself as a devout Christian, but Terry said he was a “wolf in sheep’s clothing… he had ulterior motives, and I know that for a fact.”

Later on, when Terry heard of his boss’ death, he stated that “the first thing I said to my wife was, ‘I wonder which one of those girls’ dads went over there and killed him.”

And it gets even worse.

School portrait of Sarah.

Ann Tau’s young children worked at CiCi Pizza, under the employment of Harold. During their shifts, she waited for her kids in the parking lot; since they could only work a limited amount of hours due to their age.

In this time, Ann became a sort of confidante for the midlife crisis-having pizza boss. Harold would get into her car and openly rant about his problems.

Ann recounted the disturbing time she spent in Harold’s company:

“He wanted to die… He was Catholic, so he didn’t believe in suicide, but he asked me if I would kill him.

He told me how to kill him, and I’m convinced he told Sarah the same thing. He was a very sick person. I’m an adult woman with five children, high functioning, and he weighed me down.”

This occurred a year before Harold’s death.

Before Sarah’s trial, Ann went to the district attorney and told him everything, but he declined to allow Ann to testify.

She said that “the jury should have heard how he was messed up, and that this was the environment Sarah was part of.”

Alas, it was not so. The saintly picture of Harold that was presented in court went against Ann’s own experiences with the man. The game was rigged.

Anyways, let us return to Sarah. Due to her unstable home situation, Harold asked her to move in with him. She was 16, and he was 50.

And so ring the alarm bells…

Harold Sasko, wannabe sugar daddy.

At this point, Sarah was not even working at CiCi’s Pizza anymore. Her ex-manager had somehow reconnected with his vulnerable former employee, and found the perfect opportunity to exploit her.

Harold tried to gain her confidence by picking her up from school and taking her to Taco Bell, and asking questions about her life. Once she turned 17 and graduated high school, Sarah finally took the plunge and moved in with Harold.

Sarah explained to her suspicious family how “he said he would show me a better life and pay for me to go to college.”

Sarah’s tattoo says “Only god can judge me.”

They didn’t buy it.

Sarah’s mother Michelle Gonzales said that the living arrangement upset her, and caused her and her daughter to have fights when Michelle advised against it.

According to Michelle, Sarah was delusional about Harold’s real intentions:

“She’d say, ‘He’s a Christian man!’ He preyed on that whole Christian thing with her, and wanted to rescue her from her broken home.”

To Sarah, Harold was just a harmless father figure. He initially requested that Sarah refer to him as “dad,” and told inquisitive friends that the girl living with him was his stepdaughter.

Things got weird real fast.

As she neared 18, Harold became more brash and sexual. He gave her weed and alcohol, and discussed the idea of them dating. Sarah tried to refuse, but the implication became clear: no sex, no home.

God had officially left the premises.

In addition, she claimed that Harold also gave her cocaine and ecstasy, and got her extremely drunk to make her more susceptible to his perverted advances.

Crime scene: Harold’s ugly ass LawrenceKansas home.

He wanted her to feel indebted to him. Harold began leaving out a copy of a printed running tab, which listed all the things he had bought for her since she moved in.

He told Sarah she could only leave once she paid him back for everything, and warned against legal retaliation if she did not. She was working at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but only made minimum wage.

Despite this, she was giving Harold most of her pittance of a salary. It was still not enough, and he demanded she pay him back rent. This was ironic coming from the man who once offered her a better life.

Does this look like a normal, equally matched couple to you?

Finally, Sarah got drunk, steeled her nerves, and gave in to the older man’s sexual advances. Why? Her mother has a theory: “She told me she thought she couldn’t come home, because he told her no one would want her there.”

Feeling displaced and hopeless, she began having sex with the man who once called himself her second dad. She most likely felt too guilty to return home after these disturbing experiences.

Dr. Marilyn Hutchinson, psychologist for the defense, said that after interviewing Sarah for 17 hours during her trial; she found that “her sense of captivity was pretty intense.”

Sarah said she could only stomach sex with Harold while she was completely inebriated or drugged, and most often she was barely conscious while he had his way with her.

She “would just lay there and check out’’ and was “disgusted” with the encounters and said no repeatedly, but he just held her arms down and ignored her.

The prosecution later argued that all this was consensual. But try and see it from her perspective: if you were a broke and homeless teenager who had to have sex with a man in his 50s in order to survive, would that really be a voluntary situation?

Rumors began to spread in Kansas that Harold and Sarah’s relationship had a sexual bent to it. An anonymous businessman from Lawrence had some inside dirt on the situation:

“He took the girl in and was supposed to be getting her back on track, but… a [CiCi’s] manager told me that they were having a big time affair… that it was pretty torrid… and (Sasko) had kicked her out five or six times and she had worked at CiCi’s and she’d been fired there a number of times.” 

Harold arrived late for work, often with hickeys on his neck.

Harold’s house of horrors

Co-workers at Bed, Bath & Beyond described Sarah as shy, quiet, and fashion-model good looking at a slim 5’8, 120 lbs stature. When they tried to pry into her relationship with Harold, she was quick to assert that he was her stepfather. But everyone suspected something sleazier.

Their living arrangement was basically an open secret, yet nobody intervened to help Sarah.

She later testified that:

 “I would leave the house sometimes when he was gone. I would have to sneek (sic) around because he would get mad … I think more than anything he made me feel he owned me. I was a toy to him like his personal barbie doll. That’s what he tried to make me.”

This manifested itself in Harold pressuring Sarah to get butt implants, because he wanted her to be a “curvier Barbie.” Cringe.

Due to pain resulting from the procedure, Sarah took hydrocodone all summer long. The drug is a powerful painkiller derived from codeine, and said to be nearly as addictive as morphine.

He also paid for her to undergo a nose job, and wanted her to get a boob job in the future, telling her that “no man would find her attractive because her breasts were not big enough and her butt was not big enough.”

Okay there, Harold.

The surgeries totaled $16,000, and Harold demanded that she pay him back- or he would sue her if she tried to leave him. She was in his debt, and he warned her that if he took legal action, “she would never be able to own a house or anything.”

She testified that:

“He was very nice at first and called me his daughter. After the relationship turned sexual he was very mean, he would always belittle me.

He owned me at that point, and the surgery just solidified it for him. I was so embarrassed and I hated myself because it had gotten that far. My sister and I used to make fun of girls who did that, and that was something we’d never do.”

Sarah was unraveling mentally. Her previous psychological issues had been exacerbated by living with a weird old guy in his 50s who kept trying to have sex with her.

She was too humiliated to return back to work and face her coworkers’ questions, so she spent her days lying on the sofa drunk and high, wondering how she would escape her financial quandary.

Cyle Ossiander, a CiCi’s Pizza’s manager, went to visit Harold at home and witnessed an incident that disturbed him.

He found that Sarah had killed, skinned, cleaned, and cooked a rabbit for dinner. But it wasn’t just any bunny, it was a domestic one she had bought from Pet World.

Cyle said “It was a household rabbit, not game. I don’t know of many people that would kill a rabbit and eat it.”

Actually people do eat rabbit, Cyle. But usually not pet ones. And this one wasn’t the first: Sarah butchered and ate several of them, and later used the exact same knife and method of execution on Harold.

She was on antidepressants for six months up until Harold’s death, switching from Zoloft to Pristiq a few days before shit hit the fan. She later told detectives that:

“I had violent thoughts for two years and they progressed, I guess. They just became really intense. I’ve not been in a good place. It’s like really hard to explain. Little things make me turn and see red almost.”

She had finally had enough of her perverse living situation.

By all accounts, Sarah was emotionally and psychologically exhausted, plagued by financial and mental issues. She said the period leading up to the killing was hazy and “felt like dreams.”

Five days before, Sarah cemented her plan to murder Harold. Police would go on to find that she had googled “neck vulnerable spots.”

On January 14, 2014, Sarah slit Harold’s throat. She drugged him first so he would not feel pain, but also so he would not be able to fight back.

That fateful day, Harold returned home and started working on a speaker system. He asked Sarah to bring him a beer, and she did.

She brought him three beers- but she laced the fourth one with crushed Ambien she had hidden on top of the microwave, so he would be drunk first and less likely to taste the pills.

After 5 Ambiens masked in a few more beers, Harold passed out cold on the floor. Next, she bound his wrists tightly with zip ties.

A gory crime scene photo depicts Harold sprawled on the floor, and blood smeared on the walls.

He mumbled a few words in his barely conscious state. Feeling guilty, Sarah had second thoughts about the murder. But she had already come too far…

She retrieved her hunting knife (the one she’d used on the bunnies), and touched Harold’s neck to feel for his pulse. Sarah stabbed into his carotid artery, then sliced into his neck horizontally, sawing in a side-to-side motion into his spine.

This nearly decapitated him. Sarah said it was difficult to penetrate his neck with the blade, so she held his head in place with her left hand the whole time.

She initially told detectives that as she killed Harold, she “just didn’t feel anything.” However, she then claimed that as she saw Harold die, “everything was screaming at me.”

Detective M.T. Brown, who interviewed Sarah after the murder, testified that “she said she wanted to see someone die… she wanted to see what it felt like to kill someone.”

She went to the sink to clean off the knife, then wrote the word “FREEDOM” on the wall in Harold’s blood. Sarah then showered and washed off the blood, listening to music while doing so. She called into work, saying she would not be in for a few days due to a relative’s death.

Sarah straightened her hair, packed up her bags (including a photo of her sister Ashley), grabbed her chocolate Labrador dog Oliver, and took off in Harold’s 2008 Nissan Altima. She vanished, leaving a trail of confused cops in her wake.

Harold’s hands were bound so tightly that they turned purple.

She left her cellphone and tablet behind, so authorities could not track her.

Police broke into Harold’s home on Jan. 17, three days after the murder, when he did not show up for work and was reported missing. A cop peered through a window after knocking on a door and receiving no answer, and saw Harold lying in a pool of his own blood.

What caused her to snap?

Two days before she killed Harold, Sarah sent the following telling text to her sister:

“I’m starting to realize I don’t want the dream everyone wants for me. I don’t want the American dream. I want real freedom, and I know how to get it and I have to give up a lot. I feel like a caged animal.”

While the media portrayed her as a bloodthirsty monster, the truth was much more complex.

This young and vulnerable Latina, made putty in the hands of an older, more powerful, and financially controlling man; longed for freedom that went beyond subservience to a former manager. She needed to escape the sexual constraints he had placed on her, to be more than just his “Barbie” and pawn.

It was perhaps misguided, and a deranged act of violence; but Sarah had killed out of pure desperation. She killed the authority figure who had sexually abused and confined her to a life of financial and mental slavery.

Sarah was on the lam, and managed to evade capture for 11 days. Police initially put Sarah down as a missing person, but soon realized that she was guilty of Harold’s murder.

Her post-homicide adventure reads like a bizarre crime novel. Knowing her capture was inevitable, Sarah fled boring Kansas for Texas.

Sarah often woke up in shaking cold after sleeping in the car all night, and wanted to go somewhere warm. She then drove on to Florida; because she thought the ocean view would be much nicer there, and she also wanted a certain tattoo from a specific artist. Gotta love her priorities.

En route, she slept in the car, at occasional rest stops, and once even shacked up with a kind pastor and his wife. They fed her dinner and housed her for the night. Other than that, she mainly ate fast food and takeout, paying for everything in cash.

She was tattooed by Florida artist James Baker, and he provided some interesting testimony into Sarah’s mind and personality. He said that the two had a mutual interest in serial killers, which they discussed as he worked on her tattoo.

Sarah was a fan of the 1992 murder mystery novel “I” Is For Innocent, by Sue Grafton. She paid James $200 for a rib cage tattoo that took two hours to complete. It was of her favorite quote from the book:

Her fave novel

“Beware the dark pool at the bottom of our hearts. In its icy, black depths dwell strange and twisted creatures it is best not to disturb.”

She also had roses tattooed onto her shoulder.

Sarah was finally captured at the Everglades National Park on Jan. 25 at 10:30 PM, after an officer found her sleeping in the stolen car. They rudely woke her up, and found she was lying right next to a loaded gun.

Inside the vehicle, police discovered $2,399 in cash, two knives (one of them was the blood-stained murder weapon, hidden in the map pocket of the driver’s door), two guns, an ax and hashish. 

This spelled the end for her short and violent burst of freedom.

The trial was an utter disaster for Sarah, and so was her initial interrogation. Sarah admitted to the police that she had “wanted to see someone die,” and the media and prosecution ran wild with this quote.

Suddenly, all the evidence proving that Harold had kept her as a virtual sex slave was brushed aside, and Sarah was depicted as a psychotic individual; a femme fatale who had lured Harold to his demise- despite the fact that she was a mere teenager suffering from years of mental issues, exploited by a man 33 years her senior.

The media kept pushing the narrative that Harold and Sarah were “roommates”– perhaps wishing to not disgrace the dead man, but willfully ignoring the truth and spreading outright lies by doing so.

Police even found a questionable text from Harold; in which he apologized to Sarah a few days before the murder, for trying to force her to have sex once again.

This too was ignored, among all the other enlightening testimony from people who knew the darker side of Harold.

Sarah also said that Harold was suicidal due to business and personal issues, and often talked to her about killing himself. This is backed up by Ann Tau’s testimony, with whom he also discussed such subject matter.

Sarah headlines a gossip rag.

The court instead chose to focus on the grim physical evidence against Sarah: which included a stick-figure target she had created at home to throw knives at; with major organs, blood vessels, and even the groin marked out especially.

The conservative Kansas elite gathered in droves to condemn Sarah yet were quick to defend Harold, as she was turned into a villain and a cold-blooded killer in the eyes of her community.

At her February 2014 hearing, Sarah was upset to see her family appear in court, gathering to support the once-abandoned teen. Her defense attorney Carl Cornwell said that “she was embarrassed. She didn’t want to see her family there. She was embarrassed.” 

In 2015, after only four hours of jury deliberation; Sarah received a Hard 50 Penalty- a life sentence, with a chance of parole only after 50 years.

The District Attorney Charles Branson ridiculed and doubted Sarah’s claims that she was raped as a child, despite the fact that Sarah cried while showing the court her cigarette burn scars.

Her mother Michelle was dismayed at her daughter’s harsh sentencing, and the court’s unwillingness to acknowledge that Harold kept Sarah in sexual slavery and financial bondage.

Michelle admitted her daughter would have to go to jail for the crime, “but not the rest of her life, because he had no business doing what he did to her.”

CiCi Pizza: where the nightmare began.

Despite the fact that Sarah’s family paid defense lawyer Carl Cornwell $40k in legal fees and they had a legitimate case, Carl used an extremely idiotic defense. He argued to the court that Sarah had Multiple Personality Disorder, informing her they could win if they used that defense.

And so, Carl preached to the court about how Sarah had many different, violent personalities named Alyssa, Vanessa, and Myla- is it any wondered the jury condemned her to life in prison?

Even the prosecution’s psychiatrist, Dr. William Logan, admitted that Sarah showed symptoms of PTSD, major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Yet Carl did not use this evidence to his client’s advantage.

Sarah as a young girl, full of hope for the future…

The trial was totally botched, and her ship sank immediately.

Sarah currently resides in the women’s prison in Topeka, Kansas. Her mother Michelle tries to stay in contact with her, and has even set up a site in her daughter’s defense.

Michelle does not ask her daughter to contemplate her crime, as Sarah is not receiving any psychiatric therapy in jail. She says “I don’t encourage her, because if I open that box, who’s going to help her with what falls out?”

Her prison is infamous for rape and violence, yet Michelle says “what’s saddened me the most about her being there is she told me she’s safe now.”

Sarah and her mother.

Even the confines of jail seem less disturbing than her life outside- one in which Sarah had to be sexually subservient to an old man just to keep a roof over her head.

Such is the tragedy of Sarah’s life: she killed the man who sexually abused in her a pathetic bid for freedom, but only doomed herself to a lifetime of imprisonment.

As of 2020, Kansas Department of Corrections facility in Topeka lists her earliest possible release date as Feb. 1, 2064. The American prison system is harsh and unforgiving; merciless towards those who need justice the most.