In 1988, “ace” reporter Mike Taibbi produced and aired a 3-part expose on a “satanic cult masquerading as a rock band” – Missing Foundation, the legendary downtown NYC industrial group. Not only is this perhaps the worst example of journalism we’ve ever seen, it’s fun to watch the footage of MF “at work,” and to goof on Mike’s coke-addled (hey, it was the ’80s) speculations. It’s also a glorious time capsule of the late ’80s, long-vanished Lower East Side, and some of its wackier inhabitants.
Mr. Taibbi’s interest is first piqued when he hears rumors that the “shadowy personalities” known as Missing Foundation instigated the Tompkins Square Park riots (well, they did throw the first bottles, but it surely wasn’t a part of some master plan – they were just a bunch of angry fuck-ups, not part of some nefarious underground). In some of the laziest reporting you’ll ever see, Mike trundles on down to the park and interviews murderer and cannibal Daniel Rakowitz, who is apparently the only park denizen who would talk to him. If you don’t remember, Mr. Rakowitz was the guy who cut off his girlfriend’s head, made soup out of her and fed her to the homeless. But what kind of story is that, compared to Missing Foundation writing “Die Yuppie Scum” on the wall of a new condo?
In which Mike Taibbi learns where “some of that hatred is coming from.” “What you’re looking at, and listening to, is not music…” Ah, everybody’s a critic… I like how Mike talks about how they “spit into the crowd” (:49) just as drummer Mark Ashwill (later the lead singer of The Spitters) spits into the crowd.
In which Mike asks, “Was the Tompkins Square Park riot planned? If so, by whom?” How about this quote from Mr. Rakowitz: “What about somebody crazy like me? who will just “take off your heads while you’re not paying attention.” Old hippie activist Aaron Kaye says there were some angry folks who shall remain unnamed, who did toss bottles…leading Mike onto Missing Foundation – supposedly just a rock group. He tracks down Pete Missing’s old landlord, Yuri, who says that when his tenants skipped out on three months rent, “I found some skins – looked like some sort of white cat…and I found a jar filled with what looked like guts to me…I found a cat which was still breathing, and very skinny…who had one side of his belly shaved…” Yup, it’s that one-sided belly shaving that’s always the dead giveaway.
The best part though, is the final moments, when Mike hints that the Missing Foundation is so powerful that “the fbi’s joint terrorst task group… found no interstate links…one highly placed police source told us: that investigation won’t go anywhere.” Of course, there’s an alternative explanation as to why the investigation will go nowhere…
Mike is clearly running on fumes here, as he re-hashes the story from the first two episodes. You do get to see Pete Missing on fire at the 3:00 mark though. So let’s see, how can we stretch this? Let’s go back to the east river park bandshell, where an unknown group has been killing and dismembering cats and birds…for the purpose of satanic ritual.
A homeless man who lives in the bandshell sez: “I seen two mens dressed in white and they be talking about the devil…” Dressed in white? A cat with a shaved belly? Draw your own conclusions.
I do like the very end though, where Mike says, “And when people feel the economic crunch and you can’t have the life others have – you get dangerous.” Hmmm…sounds like something Matt Taibbi would say!