NEW YORK - David Berkowitz, the convicted
He told the times that he is now a born
June 21, 1999
The families of victims who fell prey to the Son of Sam's violence in the late '70s have an unlikely advocate in their opposition of Spike Lee's Summer of Sam the Son himself, David Berkowitz.
In an interview with the Sunday New York Times, the 46-year-old serial killer said, crying, "This madness, the ugliness of the past is resurfacing again all because some people want to make some money."
Berkowitz is serving six consecutive life sentences at Sullivan Correctional Facility, one term for each of his victims. Upon his arrest 22 years ago, the former postal clerk said he was following orders given by a black Labrador retriever named Sam. A born-again Christian, Berkowitz now blames Satan for the killings.
"I am absolutely convinced that I was demonically possessed and controlled," he tells the Times. "I allowed these spirits through my own ignorance to control me. The murder and the mayhem was a result of that."
Berkowitz said that he monitors "everything there is" about the director and his family, going so far as to discuss them by name.
"I pray for [Lee] and his family: his wife, Tonya; his two children, Jackson and Satchel," the convict says. "God does not want me to be angry with anybody."
The parents of Berkowitz's victims are angry enough, it seems. They have repeatedly accused Lee of exploiting their pain for the lure of the moviegoer's dollar.
"Spike Lee [is] out there to make a buck, but he could have been much, much nicer to the families," says Neysa Moskowitz, 66. Her daughter, Stacy, was Berkowitz's final victim; a scene of Stacy's murder is included in Summer.
About this movie I just wanted to say one thing, it says a lot about our society, when a convicted serial killer becomes the voice of reason. I think in our rush to cash in on the latest tragedy we are increasingly losing site of the fact that there are people still living, and dealing with the horrendous facts we would turn into an evenings entertainment, popcorn entertainment. (Okay, I'm going to say more than one thing) I think we have to weigh our need to tell the story, against the victims (which includes the families of those who lost their lives) need not to be revictimized.
I think horror is a noble pursuit, and the examination of horror is a noble pursuit, because I think when done well it paints a moral picture, of hero and villain, right and wrong, it puts our ids into perspective, and our demons into relief. I think when done well, violent movies, movies about monsters, are like the story of Gilgamesh, they are about what is best in us, triumphing over what is worse. But I think in our need to examine monsters, we must tread carefully, we must not in the pursuit of monsters become monsters, and we must not in our examination of inhumanity become inhuman. We must always when telling a tale, be cognizant, of whose story we are telling, and give to them the same decency and courtesy and if necessary privacy, we would want given to us in those circumstances. I think before recreating the death of a man's child, or a man's wife, or a man's mother, a man who still lives, and breathes, and suffers that loss, then if we are human we must face that man first, we must give him that much input or else we repeat the crime, become beneficiaries of the crime. We reduce the families to being powerless victims again, all for the benefit of selfish pleasures. We become the crime and the criminal; and the morality is lost, and the wrong message sent.
I feel Victims should be considered, I feel people should be considered. Because yes companies pay millions for screenplays, but these families have paid more, they have paid in blood, and in years, and in smiles they will never see again. The story is important yes, but how we get the story, is more important. I don't think the studios did the right thing by the families, I don't think Spike Lee did the right thing. If you're a man, you have to look these people in the face first, and say, "this is what we want to say about what happened". Ultimately as director, you must take the praise or blame not just for what's on the screen, but ultimately who you have to step on to put it there. If we are to learn anything about horror, about that summer of 77, it must be this, bad things happen when we feel we have more rights to a persons life than they do. David Berkowitz felt that way over twenty years ago and we put him in jail. Spike Lee feels this way in 1999 and he gets millions.
Don't get me wrong, I don't set out to attack Spike Lee's craft, only his judgement. He is admittedly a riveting, powerful director, but like so many people in this age he is very close minded, very unwilling to see a viewpoint other than his own, suffering other than his own. And that keeps him from being a great director. Sometimes Spike Lee talks faster than he thinks, another symptom of our times, like his recent attack on Charlton Heston for his NRA position. It's symptomatic of a larger intolerance that goes from the white house to your house, our inability as a society to disagree without disrespecting.
Our inability to treat others with the same courtesy we expect, we demand for ourselves. our inability to empathize. If it was your family butchered all those years ago, you might tend to view the movie differently. Maybe you would decide some of this money needs to go to those who deaths allowed you the privilege of a movie, to the families of the victims, or at least to some charity or victims rights group picked by the family. If we are human that's the least we can do.
I have no desire to see SUMMER OF SAM in theaters. This has nothing to do with the quality of the movie, ironically enough I think it will be a good movie, perhaps a great movie. I think it is the movie that will finally show Spike Lee as a larger director, someone who can see beyond his own backyard and own experiences to tell a larger tale. This might be the movie where he grows beyond his prejudices and pitfalls, to fulfill the promise of movies like DO THE RIGHT THING and MALCOLM X and become a great director. I was equally impressed to see Spike Lee also wrote this project. Will I see it on video? maybe. I can't explain why I don't want to see it in the theaters, except that I have some ridiculous idea, that every ticket bought justifies how this movie was made over the tops of the families. I think however feebly, its necessary to have the strength of our convictions. To however feebly speak out against those things your guts tell you are wrong. My gut tells me its important to say no to this movie at the box office, against how these type of movies are made without any care for the people behind the story, I think it's important to send a message.
It doesn't matter if the message goes over, doesn't matter if you win, life isn't found in the end, we have to live it for the striving.. the striving toward an end. What matters is that you try to send the message. A message that peoples lives and their deaths should have some meaning, some right, some dignity. And whether you are a big head of a studio, or a big producer, or a big director, you have to get down off your high horse, and you have to look at the world you will emulate. You have to give truth to the dead, and respect... respect to the living.
My recommendation for this movie? Wait for video, deny them their big summer hit, send a message however meekly, however softly, that our lives... our lives matter. They have to ask us for our lives. They the producers, they the studio heads, they the directors... they have to ask us for our lives and our sufferings and our deaths.
I know, you're saying it's a lost cause. The movie is out there, the juggernaught released, this is no time for a statement, and maybe you're right, maybe it is a lost cause. But so what. It's not the winning or the losing that determines if we fight for a thing, but whether that thing is right, or whether that thing is wrong. It is in the trying that we are judged, in the trying against all odds, and against all endings. What was it Jimmy Stewart said in that movie that was playing all this weekend, something about lost causes, and how they are the only causes worth fighting for. The causes that need fighting for. It was Frank Capra's MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON.
If you can, wait for SUMMER OF SAM to come out on video, and tell your friends to do the same, and while you're at it drop an e-mail to the studios. Tell them you won't see the film, tell them they need to compensate the victims. Tell them... tell them, (to paraphrase Hemingway) "the world is large and good, and worth fighting for".