Mystery Scene, Spring 2019
The opening music is lush but ominous. As the movie credits roll, strains of carnival music break through, accompanying the camera as it moves in on a barker, doing his best to entice crowds outside a tent with a sign that reads GEEK. GEEK? To modern audiences, a geek is someone with minor social skills – possibly combined with extra-ordinary intelligence. An eccentric. An oddball. A dweeb. Back in the 1940s the term implied something else – something dark. And tragic. Something within this movie tent, where a striking looking man, wearing a white T-shirt and great physique, watches and waits. “This exhibit is being presented solely in the interest of education and science!” claims a handler, who points to an unseen figure below. “Is he the missing link? Is he man or beast?” The man in the T-shirt – his name is Stanton Carlisle, and he’s a newcomer to the carnival biz – stands, appalled, among the gaping onlookers. When the (unseen) geek is tossed live chickens to eat, Carlisle walks away from the squawks of brutalized poultry, and the resulting gasps from the crowd. He goes on to say, incredulously, “I can’t understand how anybody could get so low.” It’s a prophetic line that serves as a dirty welcome mat to “Nightmare Alley,” a weird, unsettling 1947 movie about an enigmatic grifter who uses the women he meets to con his way to the top …
Growing up within a freeway’s crawl of Los Angeles, my “3 R’s” were reading, writing and … show business. For me, it wasn’t the romance — tour a Hollywood backlot and you discover how much is make believe. I was always interested in finding out how the magic was made. Today, whatever project I’m on, I’m still looking beyond the facades.
The byline “Pat H. Broeske” has appeared on stories as disparate as an examination of Jim Morrison’s poetry and the ABCs of cataloguing a major archaeological collection. But it’s as a veteran chronicler of Hollywood that Broeske is best known, covering everything from popular trends to the actual business of “the Business.”
Writing credits include: The New York Times, Orange Coast, Emmy, Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Times (staff writer), Us, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Chicago Tribune, Interview, Soap Opera Digest, Elle, Redbook, Family Circle, Fitness, American Archaeology.
Fascinated by the convergence of “Hollywood & Crime,” Broeske is an experienced producer/writer/consultant for reality docu-drama who has conducted interviews from behind prison bars and in the back seats of squad cars. TV credits include truTV’s “Anatomy of Crime“ and “Video Justice” for Langley Productions (of “COPS” fame).
Two best-selling biographies, Howard Hughes: The Untold Story (Dutton) and Down at the End of Lonely Street: The Life and Death of Elvis Presley (Dutton) — co-authored with Peter Harry Brown — enjoyed major serializations, and both audio and foreign language editions. Writing … pssst … under her pseudonym of “Katharine Cummings,” Broeske examined the life of Elvis’s daughter in Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Lisa Marie Presley Story (AMI Books). She has also served as a paid consultant for university press publishers.
For many years a UCLA Extension Writers’ Program instructor, she currently teaches non-fiction writing and film as literature for Saddleback College Emeritus Institute.
A native Southern Californian, Pat H. Broeske makes her home in Orange County with architect-husband James Broeske and a menagerie of rescue cats and dogs. She is a lifelong mystery buff, serving on the board of Orange County Sisters in Crime, and is a member of Mystery Writers of America.
Pat H. Broeske
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