This past Saturday, Dennis Buckley, Editor of the Neighborhood Extra, ran a story about my two plays, Scratchin’ on the Eight Ball and Bloody Mary. I have learned over the years that any “ink” on me and my work, helps to sell books. So I greatly appreciate friends like Dennis who still take an interest in my projects.
In 1976, I first appeared on the front page of the Journal and Star when I was just 19. Then, I was involved in trying to start a recreation center in Havelock. I had a lot of support from two police officers, a local priest from St. Patrick’s, a minister’s wife from a local church, dozens of kids, and even received an offer from a group of inmates at the State Pen. to help purchase pool tables if we ever rented a building.
However, when calling upon the late, great Helen Boosalis, Mayor of Lincoln, she shot my plan down in a heart-beat. I remember walking into her office and the first thing she said was, “You have two minutes!” And before those two minutes were up, Helen told me, “Havelock does not need a recreation center. The city is currently focusing on a rec. center for the southeast area of town.”
I said, “Southeast? Kids over on that side of town have rec. centers in their own basements! In Havelock, this past year one boy died from inhaling deodorant! One girl hung herself, and two other kids committed suicide, while five more were sent to YDC in Kearney. Don’t you think we could prevent any more tragedies like these, if we gave kids something to do rather than gettting high down at Havelock park?”
For an answer, Helen said, “Your two minutes are up! You may leave now!” And that was my one last hope for gaining support for Havelock’s recreation center.
In 1982, I hit the front page of the Journal and Star with a photo of me seated at my desk in my new house on Kearney Avenue. I had just had 5,000 copies of Scratchin on the Eight Ball published by an educational publisher, and the article was all about this first book.
In 1987, I hit the front page of the Journal and Star again with a full-color photo of me and my neighbor kid, Trevor Klimm. We had just started Kastleland at Camp Kitaki, and Trevor and I were photographed standing before our dragon we had built out of an old duck blind we’d found in Salt Creek. We both held flaming swords, and fire shot from the nostrils of the dragon. The reporter then did an inside story on the obstacle course that we had included in our anti-drug program, and she took up an entire page with photos of kids going through the trials course.
In 1988, I was in the paper again with a full-page article of The Jewel Folk, the first book in my Lionstone fantasy series. It was a half-a-page photo of the book cover, illustrated by former Lincoln Police sketch artist Lee Hammond. Lee is a good friend of mine and she illustrated three of my books covers, donating her time.
In 1992, I hit the front page again and had another half-a-page story on the reprinting of 8-Ball and its sequel The Kid, the Cop and the Con.The article was about the Havelock Business Men being investors in my publishing venture. You see, I not only borrowed $7,000 dollars from seven local Havelock business owners, Gary Gablehouse and Ted Lannam of Fairfield Research and Linda Dagerforde of Dagerforde Publishing helped me get 4,000 copies of both books in print. I also had a list in the back of The Kid, which gave credit to the 90 supporters who pre-paid for a copy of the book. The topper of it all: The librarians of the Lincoln Public Schools allowed me speak at their media centers and sell books on site. In six weeks, I had paid my investors back their $7000.
In 1996, I appeared in the Daily Nebraskan and the Neighborhood Extra, one article was about my truancy work I performed in which I contracted with the State in order to see that State Wards got to school, to drug treatment, and to their hearings at Juvenile Court. The other article was about how I used my art to connect with kids.
In 1998, I appeared in both the Journal and Star and the Omaha World Herald in regards to my copyright infringement lawsuit against the YMCA’s Camp Kitaki. I won a Federal Injunction in which Kitaki was forbidden to use my program without prior permission. The article read: “Local author, David slays the Giant. Local author walks into the dragon’s den and slays the dragon.”
After the dust had settled on that lawsuit, the Treasurer of Kitaki’s board called and asked to lease Kastleland to them. I almost fell off of my chair, because this is what I suggested they do in the first place, before we went to court over the matter. I told him, “Yes, I will do you one better, how about leasing Kastleland from me for $1 per year?” He told me he would go back to the board with my proposal. Unfortunately, no one took me serious, and they didn’t take the Injunction serious because eventually they created a substantially similar (18 substantial similiarities) program and instead of Kastleland they renamed it Knight-Quest.
In a nutshell, my anti-drug program included a play in which 7 Dragons confronted campers, the three heroes in the play then invited the campers to go through a challenge course to earn Words of Power to defeat these dragons. The program ended with a campfire confrontation in which all 200 campers shouted the Words of Power at these seven dragons and defeated them, including the Dragon of False Dreams which gave me my opening for an anti-drug speech which brought the show to a close. Knight-Quest, Kitaki’s new program, had 4 Shadow Lords confront the 200 campers, the three heroes in the play invited campers to go through a challenge course to gain the Camp Words to defeat them, and at the end 200 campers were led by the heroes to shout the words at these Shadow Lords to defeat them. Sound similar? I certainly think so.
Unfortunately, when I took them back to court, the judge of the Omaha Federal courts did not enforce the injunction he gave them back in 1998, and in my eyes, he gave Kitaki a pass. Although my lawyer appealed his decision taking it all the way to the Appelate court in St. Louis, those three judges refused to overturn this Nebraska judge’s verdict.
In 1998, I appeared once more in the paper, front page news with a damning false allegation and a photo of me that looked like Charles Manson, lacking the carved swastika on my forehead. This was the death knell of my career in official youth work. At 16, I worked as a street contact for the Freeway Runaway Shelter. At 19, I worked as a Juvenile Care Specialist at the Attention Center. At 20, I took in my first foster kid. At 26, I had my first book for at-risk kids published. At 28, I started Kastleland my anti-drug program that eventually would reach 15,000 kids. At 30, I contracted with the State to start my truancy tracker program in which I played the heavy in regards to getting 60 some state wards to school, treatment, and court. At 33, I had worked with hundreds of kids through juvenile court, down at Havelock Park, and by then had been involved in dozens of crisis inteventions, once talking a gun away from a kid who wanted to kill himself in the middle of a snow storm down at the park, once talking a kid out of jumping off the Rampark garage, sixth stories above the streets. So by the time this damning false allegation struck, I was too well known in the field to let things go away quietly, and when it was finally dismissed, with sworn depositions from my accuser who admitted he lied in the first place, they printed a small article on page 10, which few people ever bothered to read.
Despite all this, I still continue to do youth work. Last year, another article appeared in the Neighborhood Extra regarding my 8-Ball play, and 400 folks showed up at the Joyo Theater to watch the play and to buy my books.
So, yes, life goes on.