All these years later, my heart still registers a skip and a bump when I think of the aftereffects of Bob Hansen’s “summertime” project. This time it was the Robin Pelkey DNA identification that pushed me. It was a reminder of my always fraught encounters with the sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, step-fathers, cousins. No one is untouched.
Take the family of Angela Feddern. There was no escaping the aftereffects.
I first met her family members — Angie’s mother and sister — on the Sally Jessy Raphael program. It wasn’t the best of venues for an in-person meeting. We were supposed to be antagonists. Luckily, I’d already had a phone chat with Kim Richardson, Angie’s sister. She was down-to-earth, quick-witted and no-nonsense. After the show, she wondered why the producer kept pushing us to be enemies. “It’s television,” I told her. It was the best I could come up with.
On the show, Kim talked about Angie’s drug use. And how she tried to help her. And how her best efforts failed. How she lost her. How the drugs led to other things. More dangerous things.
In the end, it seemed to come to a few paragraphs. A few very sad paragraphs. The aftereffects.
But it wasn’t that simple. Things like this are never that simple. Someone had to place a death notice. The words sparse, the emotion burbling through the crisp template of the obituary. Angie was one of the lucky ones. She still had family who remembered her.
Paula Goulding was another story altogether. She has always been an outlier in Robert Hansen’s universe. For one thing, she was considerably older than the median Hansen victim. She was in her thirties. Most of Hansen’s dancers were in their late teens or early twenties. There was something else about Paula.
She seemed to be a wanderer. A wanderer as in someone who’d left a lot behind. She was born in Arizona, moved to Hawaii, and ended up in Fairbanks. As a secretary. A different profile, one might say.
When Paula got to Anchorage, her life took an unexpected turn. She was the one who never quite made the transition into the strip club ethos. Or, rather, she reluctantly came to terms with what it demanded. And when her body was found, it was her teeth that gave her away. Her beautiful teeth. Her beautiful, well cared for teeth.
The sadness of Paula was that she was another of the lonely ones. Like, really, so many of the other sex workers and dancers that became Robert Hansen’s prey. The Life is inherently isolating.
Alaska was so far from Arizona. So far from Hawaii. Cut off from the rhythms and cadences of what Hawaiians call The Mainland. Up there, in Alaska, everybody was supposed to be a hustler. A fortune hunter. And if you failed?
It could kill you. But Robert Hansen knew how to act like a protector. To lure the lonely ones into his lair. He was harmless, right?
Like a Snake
Harmless like a poisonous snake. And Paula Goulding’s obituary told the somber tale. There were no known survivors.
Copyright Leland E. Hale (2021). All rights reserved.
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