Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sing Sing a Song

Just got off the phone with the librarian at the New York State Archives. Apparently they have a "nice thick file" of Lepke materials there courtesy of Sing Sing Prison, and he's going to see about getting me a copy of it. Though the psychological profiles seem to be sealed and unavailable, I can't wait to see what else I can get my hands on - warden's notes, personal mail, visitor records. Delicious! Oh, and lookie what I found on the Archive website!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Film Grows in Brooklyn

So after I left my incredible 5-month residency on Governors Island last summer, followed by yet another nurturing August at Yaddo, I thought "Well, that's it then...back to the corner of my cramped apartment to make a film."  But what can I say, I'm a lucky girl, and instead I have now landed at a wonderful shared artists' studio space in Dumbo.  I've got the rasp of oil paint in my nose and throat and burning in my eyes courtesy of some fellow studio occupants (one is madly stapling away at a canvas just next to me), and indeed I'm back in the saddle making my film. 
At the moment, I'm looking out the window at the top of the Brooklyn Bridge as it peeks out through the base of the Manhattan Bridge.  If I crane my neck out of one of the picture windows just right, I think I can actually see my old digs on Governors Island....okay, maybe not, but hell, it sure feels like it.  In any event, I seem to be managing to  circle the Lower East Side of Lepke's childhood before he became the Brooklyn mob lord he was. And though his view from his adopted Brownsville wouldn't quite be as picturesque as this, this feels just right for my work of visualizing him walking and talking his way from birth to the electric chair.  Here we go loopty loo.
Recently, I spent a day at the NYC Municipal Archives with my trusty sidekick Kathryn O'Kane sifting through some of the multitudes of files they have on Lepke and Murder Inc.  We made it through a fraction of what's there, so a return trip is definitely coming up, but here's one fun fact:  Lepke's final hiding place before turning himself into J Edgar was with the girlfriend of one of his associates.  When she was was later questioned by police, she reported that he had expressed delight that she served him real meals instead of the spaghetti he was used to cooking up on the run, and was grateful for the conversations he could have with her and her young son.  So pparently it's lonely on the lam and the food sucks - let that be a precaution to all you would-be fugitives....
Speaking of running, I'm headed down to Florida next week - family tree in hand - to see Mom and some Buchalter cousins and collect some more family stories (or navigate the aversions, anyway).  I also hope to see Sean, Gurrah Shapiro's descendant and my current "co-star" of the film.  If you missed the video of our Skype chat, you can check it out right here...and stay tuned for more!

LOOKING FOR LEPKE: Lepke and Gurrah on Vimeo

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Walls Come Tumbling Down

So much to say, so much to reflect on.  All that coming soon.  In the meantime, I put together a little video to document my last days in my studio on Governors Island. Sigh.

Click here to watch it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

This Weekend on Governors Island


My Governors Island residency is coming to a close, so this weekend is your last chance to visit me in my studio and see LOOKING FOR LEPKE in's photos from the first event in May. [This time around, you'll also get to sample some of the film that I've been editing together.]

Ferries to Governors Island are free and depart regularly from Manhattan and Brooklyn. Visit for ferry schedules and directions to the pier. And for more information about me and my fellow artists, please visit

Saturday, July 2, 2011

I Came, I Saw, I Did a Little Research

Okay, I am an utter, dyed-in-the-wool, unrepentant geek. There, I said it. Now I'm gonna tell you why (or at least one of the reasons, anyway). I love libraries - always have, always will (and please, let them live forever! Digital schmigital!) Even as a kid, I spent hours walking around in the stacks, sifting through the books in their taut plastic coatings, flipping through the card catalogs (I just recently unearthed an old Ramones record I apparently never returned ... oops!) But I digress ... The National Archives is way up there on the geeky-library-lover's list, and yet I'd never been there, at least not until last Monday.

I was in the DC area for the world premiere of my new short film WATER so I couldn't resist the opportunity to hang out an extra day and dig in to some serious Lepke history. I was so excited about the prospect of the day, that even after five days of frolicking fun at the SilverDocs Film Festival, I man
ged to get myself to the College Park facility at 8:30am just as they were literally opening their doors. I got my official researcher's card, filled my "nothing-allowed-inside-that-doesn't-go-on-this-cart" cart with all ilks of camera and sound equipment, grabbed my ambitious printout of 60 films I wanted to review, and headed for fun and adventure on the Motion Picture floor.
This is where I
subsequently spent a celluloid-soaked 8 hours on my old friend the Steenbeck and his buddy the 3/4" Umatic deck, sifting through all sorts of newsreel footage from the 1930s and 1940s, sporting the requisite white cotton gloves. I found some gems depicting the beginning of WW2, the Dewey-FDR showdown, and of course the proclamation of the end of Lepke, ultimately getting through only a handful of the 60 films I wanted to, but hey, that's not bad for a novice. Never made it to the floor with the photos, nor the extensive textual collection, but left there satisfied with the beginnings of accomplishment.

The day was awesome, overwhelming and definitely addictive. I will definitely be found sifting through history on the media-soaked fourth floor of NARA some day very soon. But next stop, New York's Municipal Archives. YUM!

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Dust Settles

Well, that was fun! Thanks to the over 1,500 people who turned out for our Open Studios event last weekend! It was a lot of fun, and my laryngitis was never so well-earned. We even had a special appearance by one of "the band" - Charlie "The Bug" Workman's great great nephew (or something like that) stopped by for a visit, and everyone was pretty quick to notice a more than fleeting resemblance between him and his notorious kin. There were a plethora of fedora-wearers in the house who stopped by for a photo with the life-size Lepke hanging in the middle of my space. And even my mother stopped by for a peek at what I'm up to. If you missed the festivities (or were right in the throes of 'em) please check out the Looking For Lepke webpage with photo highlights. And here's a little collage that my uber-talented friend Craig was inspired to create...

And so back to work....the heat has broken and there's been a delicious breeze and perfect sunshine on the island all week, which has been less than inspirational for studio work, but great for exploratory walks. Yet the show must go on and work I have. Spent the better part of the week getting into the latest theories on the subject of psychopaths and the nature-nurture question, and have reached out to a few of the leading researchers in the field. Should be meeting one of them this weekend!

I also had a much-postponed but greatly
anticipated first Skype conversation with the other member of my new "band", that is Gurrah Shapiro's great nephew. We had a lot of fun comparing notes, which were surprisingly similar when it came to family cover-ups of our sordid relations. Here he is peeking out from his initial disguise as his "Uncle Jack". It was the start of a beautiful friendship, though it left me with very profound thoughts about how what goes around come around. Not that we're gonna be following in our ancestors' footsteps, but just how worlds collide over and over again...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Open Studio Event May 28-29

Now's your first chance to visit me in my studio and see LOOKING FOR LEPKE in progress....

AY 29 12-5PM

Ferries to Governors Island are free and depart regularly from Manhattan and Brooklyn. Visit for ferry schedules and directions to the pier.
And for more information about me and my fellow artists, please visit