Something arrived in the mail the other day that reminded me of a party I went to in LA five or six years ago. It may have been Hollywood, or it may have been Santa Monica (I can’t remember). Lady Buzzkill and I were out there, socializing with our west coast set (you know, the George Clooney crowd) when I heard a shout from across the room. “Prof!,” came the shout, “Prof baby!” I looked over my martini and who was it but my old Buzzkill buddy, Spike Lee. Hadn’t seen him for a few years, but, as Lady Buzzkill hob-nobbed with some of her chums in the theatre world, Spike and I reminisced about the old days.
In the course of our gabbing, I said, “listen Spikey, baby, I’ve got a great, true story for a movie for you.” Spike said to lay it on him, and so I did. “It’s the story of an man who deserves more attention than he’s gotten — Ron Stallworth…” “I don’t want to make a movie about a wide receiver,” he said. “No, Spikester,” I said, “_Ron_ Stallworth, not John Stallworth.” “I’m all ears,” he replied.
I then told him the story that I’m about to tell you.
Ron Stallworth was the first African-American member of the Ku Klux Klan. At least, he was the first that we know about. It’s hard to imagine that there have been others.
Stallworth was a police detective in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in the late 1970s, when he noticed an ad in the newspaper announcing the formation of a local chapter of the KKK. He phoned the number in the ad and, posing as a white racist, convinced the Klansman on the other end of the phone to send him information about membership. Stallworth filled out the forms, paid his dues, and was able to join this new chapter. He kept up this ruse for the better part of a year. Usually, he only contacted the new Klan chapter by phone, but when he absolutely had to go to a meeting, he sent a white undercover detective who was on the case to pose as him. Wired for sound, and completely prepared with the info from Stallworth’s phone calls, the white detective was able to gather lots of intelligence about planned Klan activity in the area.
Stallworth and his partner were able to pass on vital information to the rest of the police department. They stopped Klan cross burnings and bombings before they happened, and they were able to discover that a number of important people in Colorado Springs were secret Klansmen. For instance, two Klansmen who worked Fort Carson were being used by the KKK to help plan a theft of military firearms in preparation for a race war that they thought would erupt nation-wide. And throughout the year of investigation, the police were able to learn a lot about Klan practices and working methods. All because of Ron Stallworth’s initiatives. So he’s our Man Crush Monday.
Oh, but I almost forgot. The thing that came in the mail a few weeks ago was a DVD “screener” for the movie that Spike Lee made about Ron Stallworth. Important people like myself are sent these screeners before movies are released in the theaters, so we can write reviews and otherwise capitalize on the film’s publicity. So the Spike-ness took my advice after all.
I so rarely recommend going to see a historically-based films, as all of you know. But Spike Lee’s new BlacKkKlansman is really good. Sure, a few liberties were taken with the historical narrative, and I probably didn’t like it as much as some of Spike Lee’s classics, but it’s definitely worth seeing. And Ron Stallworth’s own book about all this, is on the Buzzkill Bookshelf.
Talk to you next week.
Ron Stallworth, Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime.
Black Klansman is an amazing true story that reads like a crime thriller, and a searing portrait of a divided America and the extraordinary heroes who dare to fight back. During the months-long investigation, detective Ron Stallworth sabotaged cross burnings, exposed white supremacists in the military, and even befriended David Duke himself.