Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Dateline: 09/02/10

Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, And Lindsay Lohan Suggested For The Three Stooges Remake And Cher Confesses That Lady Gaga Is Her Long-Lost “Love Child”

My web advisor offered a way to ramp up the daily hits and log-ins on the “FreeCharlie Norman Now” blog, to build a larger base faster. She said we need more links and references to celebrities like Paris, Britney and Lindsay, so when their fans Google them, they will come here.

Since certain stars are having trouble with the law, getting involved in drugs and risking prison, perhaps it would be a good idea for them to google themselves and find out the real story about prison life from someone who knows about it. Me.

And since it is Hollywood we are dealing with, perhaps we will pitch some projects to the producers, give these screw-ups a chance to redeem themselves. I am offering a few suggestions of my own, of new movies and castings. If you have some, add them to the list.

Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan are perfect candidates for a The Three Stooges remake with a female twist. Since Britney shaved her head once, she’d be good as “Curly.” Paris bossed around Nicloe Ritchie in The Simple Life, so she could play Moe. Lindsay could frizz her hair and be a great Larry.

Can’t you see Britney going, “Woo, woo, woo, woo,” slapping herself, then falling on the floor and spinning around in circles like Curly used to do? Wait—she already did that! I think it was on YouTube, at a nightclub.

Lindsay smacks Paris in the face with a cream pie, and Britney smacks her Chihuahua, “Tinkerbell,” with a Twinkie. The potential is endless.

Another great casting for these three would be a female version of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Can you see it? Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are in a women’s prison. They get caught by the mean guards in a menage รก trios, and transferred to the nuthouse for evaluation and rehab.

Mel Gibson and David Hasselhoff would be cast as the mean guards. Glenn Close would be the strict warden. Angelina Jolie would fill the “Nurse Ratchitt” role, wear a short leather nurse’s uniform, and carry a quirt to enforce discipline. Oprah Winfrey would be the mother figure who tried and failed to keep the girls out of the meds. Kathy Bates would play McMurphy, Jack Nicholson’s old role, but this time Paris, Britney, and Lindsay unite to smother her. Kiefer Sutherland would be the medical orderly who takes them all on a day trip to the mall, instead of fishing. Wynona Ryder would get caught shoplifting thongs in “Victoria’s Secret,” and when they got back to the nuthouse, Angelina Jolie would give her electroshock treatments. Sounds like an Academy Award for someone.

Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, and Leonard DiCaprio would play the three girls’ outside romantic interests, the men they left behind, who come to visit them, and hatch an escape plot to rescue them. You can take it from there.

Another possibility, they might be great in a female The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Take your pick.

Or join with four more high-profile stars as female gunfighters in The Magnificent Seven. We can add Reba McIntyre, Uma Thurman, Jennifer Garner, and Jennifer Love Hewitt wearing tight jeans, holsters, and six-guns, and Stetson hats.

As an unemployed Texan by way of New Haven, Connecticut, George W. Bush could play the crooked sheriff. Donald Trump would be the bartender, Meryl Streep the card sharp, and the Jonas brothers would provide the saloon music. Sarah Palin would be a great bordello madam upstairs, with male prostitutes offering themselves for eight bits apiece to the Magnificent Seven. I can’t wait to see this movie. It will gross $200 million the first weekend!

If all these dropped names don’t generate some new hits, I don’t know what will. Perhaps Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Sean Combs will log in and decide to contribute a million apiece to the issues of wrongful conviction and imprisonment. And perhaps pigs will fly!



Monday, September 6, 2010


Dateline: 08/20/10


Notes and Observations From the Prison Front Lines

WARNING: if you are insectophobic, you might want to skip this part.

Something woke me in the middle of the night, a soft tickle on my face. It had been a restless sleep anyway, with a heat index of 106 degrees in Daytona Beach that day. It didn’t seem much cooler now. At four AM, lying on top of my thin mattress, my pillow sweat-soaked and musty, my dreams of freedom fleeing, if someone was playing games and waking me up, I would be very angry. I looked around the crowded dormitory, a large room jam-packed with narrow bunks and sleeping prisoners. With the exception of two Cubans smoking cigarettes across the room, I was the only person awake. What had been tickling my face?

It never gets dark in prison. Lights are always on. I’ve been told by friends “on the street,” that when one flies cross-country at night, the sickly-orange square beacons beaming into the sky in otherwise dark landscapes delineate the proliferating prisons everywhere. It is no different inside the “housing areas,” the polite word for cell blocks. Glaring fluorescent light banks burn from 5:30 AM till 11 PM daily, running up incredible electric bills. During the so-called “sleeping time,’ a few dozen lights are cut off, replaced by lesser fluorescent “night lights.” It is still bright enough to read by, and to see everything going on. Most men wrap their heads in t-shirts or towels to block out the light, so they can sleep for a few hours.

I looked over at the man sleeping on the neighboring bunk, scarcely two feet away. Close quarters. He lay on his back, mouth open, snoring. A cockroach crawled across his cheek and stopped, its feelers flickering, like it knew it was being observed. It continued creeping across my neighbor’s face, pausing on his lip, peering down into the gaping maw.

I didn’t know what to do. Waking a sleeping prisoner can be an iffy proposition. You never know how they might react. I’ve seen men freak out, wake up rolling and screaming in fright just from someone bumping their bunks. What if I woke him, he closed his mouth, and trapped the roach inside?

The roach did it for me. It tickled the man’s lip, interrupting his snorting snore. A hand rubbed his face. His eyes opened, confused. He looked at me.

“You’ve got a roach on your face.”


“He slapped at his face in panic. The roach leaped to the floor and scurried beneath the bunk. Two more cockroaches crawled up the wall by his bed. A barehanded slap smashed one. Ugh! The other got away.

“I hate these effing roaches!” he said. “This place is infested.”

“You don’t hate them as much as I do.”

We moved from Texas to Florida in the 1950’s, when I was a child. I’d never seen a roach in Texas, and didn’t know what they were. I was about to learn.

My father rented a little wooden house on a hill surrounded by orange groves in the country east of Tampa. It had been sitting vacant for some time. Before we unloaded the U-Haul trailer containing all our furniture and belongings, my mother swept and mopped the floors. It didn’t matter. Little did we know that hordes of giant cockroaches, also known as palmetto bugs, lurked in hiding, waiting for darkness.

Hour later, we went to the grocery store to stock up on food. It was November, and night came early. When we returned, the little house was pitch black inside. Grabbing grocery bags, we climbed the steps and entered. My mother hit the light switch and screamed.

The wood floor was covered in a living carpet of roaches, thousands of them. The light interrupted what they were doing, and for a moment the tableau was frozen. My mother’s scream set them off, and they rushed helter-skelter in every direction. In moments they disappeared, as if they had never been there.

Heated discussion ensued between my parents. My mother was rethinking the wisdom of moving to Florida, freaked out by our unwanted house guests. My father drove to the store for a can of roach spray. Little did he know that the huge roaches would be hardly affected by the spray. All he did was stink up the place when he sprayed the baseboards.

Sometime during the night I woke up and stumbled through the dark house toward the bathroom. With every step, something crunched beneath my bare feet. Turning on the light switch, I stifled a scream of my own. The floor, toilet and sink were crawling with the stinking, detestable palmetto bugs. For an instant they froze, then scuttled out of sight. Beneath my feet I saw the crushed corpses of more cockroaches that hadn’t gotten out of the way, when I’d stumbled, half asleep, through the darkness. I left the bathroom light on as I made it back to my bed.

The next day, my father related the events to a neighbor who came to see who we were. He laughed and told my father about a product called “Holiday Fogger.” He said to buy two Holiday Foggers, wait until dark, close all the windows, set off the foggers, and take the family to the drive-in movies. When we got back, the roach problem would be gone.

It worked. The foggers were like poison gas for roaches. Upon our return later that night, my mother nervously entered the house and hit the light switch. Again, the floor was carpeted with roaches, this time, however, they were dead and dying, on their backs, some twitching.

My mother cussed and swept, cussed and swept, sweeping up dead roaches with a dustpan and dumping them in the trash. I would have never believed that little house could hold so many giant cockroaches if I hadn’t seen them myself. That night, when I tiptoed to the bathroom, not a roach was to be seen.

Eventually, the foggers gave way to the Orkin Man, who came out once a month and sprayed for roaches, ants, and fleas, and every other creepy crawly that infests Florida. It is a battle we can’t hope to win. The cockroaches ruled the planet millions of years before we showed up, and they’ll probably still be creeping around after we are gone.

Unfortunately in prison, the humans in charge have given up without a fight. Roaches are everywhere. Not so many of the giant palmetto bugs, although we smash a few every week, but the smaller, peskier German cockroaches, which crawl everywhere, even on our faces when the lights are out.

When a prisoner goes to lockup, they carry his locker to the officer’s station, a glass-enclosed work area, where the guards inventory and pack up his personal belongings to send to him in confinement.

A sergeant told me recently that four prisoners in one dorm on the other end of the compound went to lockup at the same time, resulting in four steel lockers lined up in the officer’s station for inventory. As the various belongings, photos, legal papers, books and Bibles were taken out of each locker, hundreds of the small, half-inch German cockroaches ran everywhere, freaking out the guards. They’d been busily breeding for months and months, unmolested by non-existent spraying for insects, doubling and redoubling their populations, merrily building up their forces, a “roach surge.”

They are everywhere. Don’t get me started on the prison chow hall! They are even worse there.

I can’t remember the last time I saw a pest control person spray for roaches inside the dorms. It has been a couple of years at least. The guy ran through there like he was in “The Amazing Race,” trying to pump out as little of the watered down juice along the hallways as fast as he could, and get out of the Roach Motel before the cockroaches rallied their forces and counterattacked. Forget about spraying the lockers. Those bad boys have used the stuff for mouthwash.

The prisoners, at least, are making a half-hearted grass-roots effort to knock back the roach population. I went to the water cooler and waited until another prisoner, who was on his knees poking around the baseboards, grabbed something and stood up.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Catching roaches for my lizard.”

Grinning, he held up a squirming cockroach trapped between his fingers, then dropped it in a plastic baggie holding several other cockroaches. Ugh!

A number of prisoners are obsessed with “pets,” lizards, spiders, even small snakes, any critters they can catch and keep in small boxes or carry around. Some of the spider-lovers will put two spiders together, betting on which one will eat the other. Some men spend their days trying to catch flies to keep their spiders fed, while others have a cottage industry catching grasshoppers on the recreation field and selling them to the owners of spiders and lizards. It seems that cockroaches have become the “food du jour” for the pet lizards. They are abundant, easily caught in the daytime when they are groggy, and the lizards readily eat them.

As someone who grew up with dogs and cats, more sentient creatures, it actually gives me the creeps to watch another prisoner have conversations with a small, cold-blooded lizard, telling him “to eat that damned roach,” or he’ll be punished.

One prisoner bought a lizard from another, and I watched amazed as he petted and kissed it, talking to it like it was a baby.

“I never had a pet before,” he said.


“We lived in an apartment in New York. It wasn’t allowed.”


“I’m learning how to take care of her.”


“Yeah. I’m not too good at catching roaches yet, but I’m getting better.”

“Keep up the good work.”

Perhaps we can blame it on those silly Geico commercials with the talking gecko. Impressionable prisoners believe whatever they see on TV. Perhaps they think that the lizards actually understand them, and hope for one to respond with a British accent some day. Or they are so lonely and isolated from society that feeding roaches to a pet lizard provides them with a lost connection, memories of a family, and being the breadwinner. At least they are trying, and their efforts are knocking down the burgeoning roach population a little bit.

The prisoner whose face the roaches used as a playground filed a grievance, complaining that federal prison standards required regularly-scheduled pest control. Someone in authority responded, stating that a work order would be submitted, but when the technician, an outside contractor, came in to spray, they said the prisoner would not be allowed to talk to him. That was weird. A subsequent complaint resulted in the statement that the work order was filled two weeks ago.

Funny, but no one saw a bug sprayer, and the cockroaches were out in force last night. One man killed twelve crawling around his bunk. Perhaps the new pest control contractor is Casper the Friendly Ghost or The Invisible Man. Meanwhile, the roaches run this motel. We are just visiting.