Several years ago, I produced a few programs in a series for The History Channel called Gangland. As a mother of 3, for whatever nuts reason, I decided it would be smart to go into the field and spend vast amounts of time in the unprotected atmosphere of gangs. No offense to any of the gentlemen I made an acquaintance of, but it was an eye-opener and definitely a high-risk lifestyle.
One of the shows I produced was about The Mongols motorcycle club – a group of 1%ers (outlaw motorcyclists). I went out to California where their headquarters is located. In the car on the way there, we came to a corner and didn’t recognize it was an active hostage situation. My cameraman, being a cameraman, got out and started shooting footage. Contrarily, I slumped down in my seat and started trying to figure out how to become much smaller. When I got my wits about me, I finally sat up and thought this, hopefully, would be the only time I was on an active crime scene. I started taking the photos you can see here. The perp was successfully arrested without any bloodshed.
After all the adrenaline of that scene, we carried on to a very fancy house where I was greeted by a number of The Mongols in their colors. As a documentary maker and voyeur, I have a hard time not taking EVERYTHING in and just behind these men was an ample selection of fire arms on a pool table. I started to mention that I record EVERYTHING and they cleared out as much contraband as they could before cameras were actually rolling.
I spent the next 4 hours interviewing members about their lives and insights. I was positively fascinated. I was only flummoxed when one of the members, who I had a special liking for his directness and great stories, told me he had many more stories that were even uglier than the ones he’d already recited. I reminded him he’d done a perfect interview, but nonetheless, he wanted to pursue his point. (Keep it in the back of your imagination, I’m one of two women in the room – there are approximately 2 dozen men). Before I knew what was happening, he wanted to prove himself by striking himself with a solid blow to his groin area. Although my mouth flew open in shock, the men around me were devastated (I did see a few of them blanche). He did it again, much to my amazement and their horror. We all assured him he had proven himself and that we could carry on.
The next move was to Long Beach Longshoreman’s Hall, where we met up with hundreds of other Mongols, ready to party and have their yearly meet up. As we arrived, I made a call to my office saying that if they didn’t hear from me the next day, I would be floating in Long Beach harbor. I really did not know how things were going to go. We filmed late into the night. By the time I emerged, I was thankful indeed that I was all in one piece with great footage in the can.
That’s a long way of saying it’s better to live life to the fullest and be grateful for every experience than to live life in fear. I get it, it was not the smartest thing I’ve done, but I was handsomely paid, the show aired to fabulous ratings and it changed me, if only a little bit, having been exposed to something I would never have had contact with otherwise.