If you haven’t seen Nick Broomfield’s Tales Of The Grim Sleeper (currently in rotation on HBO as part of their documentary series), it’s somewhat typical of a Nick Broomfield documentary (a la Biggie and Tupac, or the infamous Kurt & Courtney) in that it features lots of footage of an awkward British man walking around holding a giant microphone. And also in that it offers an incredible portrait of a community and a place and a time, while not necessarily getting you any closer to the subject of the title.
That is, you don’t necessarily learn much from Tales of the Grim Sleeper, about Lonnie David Franklin, alleged to have killed at least 10 and possibly many more women over 25 years in South Central Los Angeles, but you do get a visceral sense of what it was like to live in South Central during the crack years. At times it definitely feels like it would have put Thunderdome to shame, at least in terms of the value of human life. The upside is, apocalyptic conditions tend to produce interesting characters, and probably the best of them is a former addict and prostitute Broomfield finds named Pam Brooks.
You can only imagine the kinds of abuses and horrors Pam must have witnessed during her crack days (and I wouldn’t recommend it), but Broomfield finds her living alone as an independent, four-years-sober mother and grandmother who is blunt, relentlessly positive, and incredibly helpful, becoming at once Broomfield’s best character, lead researcher and local fixer. Calling Broomfield and his camera man “My friends from England,” she gets them access to her circle of local streetwalkers, cracking wise, philosophizing, and providing them countless soundbites along the way. Frankly, the woman should have her own talk show. Here are some of my favorite Pam-From-The-Grim-Sleeper lines:
“I have no respect for pimps, for any man that put a woman out here and make her sell her p*ssy and he ain’t selling his dick with her.”
On seeing an old friend still on the streets:
“Sh*t I started when I was like 17, and I’m 45. That bitch is older than me. She still look good though! Bitch ain’t lost no teeth.”
Upon seeing a 19-year-old on the corner, scantily dressed:
“You see that? Bitch ain’t got no panties on. She’s out here assh*le naked. That’s f*cked up.”
To a car that honks at them while staring at the 19-year-old with no panties:
“Just pick the bitch up and go about your business, trick!”
On setting up a meeting with Lonnie’s son:
“I don’t give a f*ck about Lonnie! I’m not scared of no one but God.”
On trying to keep Broomfield from getting killed:
“I ride around with two white boys, I’m from the hood, I’m a crackhead. They dunno if y’all from England. You motherf*ckers could be anybody. Like when did I become a motherf*ckin investigator? They don’t know who you are. They probably think you the f*ckin FBI.”
On Lonnie’s son’s former babysitter and abuse victim, currently homeless:
“She’s a sweet girl, but she’s lookin for love in all the wrong motherf*ckin places.”
Wisely, Broomfield lets Pam have the final word in his movie, clearly aware of her unique ability to put the finest point on things.
“What I’m trying to explain to you is that just because they have Lonnie, doesn’t mean this is over with. There’s another motherf*cker out there just as sick as he is. You know what I mean?”