Of the many yarns that wind through the searching new Netflix docuseries, “Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness,” one of the more digressive threads explores how a jailhouse cellmate of David Berkowitz connected him to a doomed Hollywood producer — who the inmate said collaborated with the notorious serial killer, and the cult he’d supposedly fallen in with, to create a snuff film during what became his final killing.
Roy Radin was a marginally well-known and oft-maligned vaudeville show producer who’d become notorious for the sex and drug-fueled orgies he allegedly threw at Ocean Castle, his massive, 72-room mansion in the Hamptons. In fact, after one of his parties, actress Melonie Haller said that she had been raped there after refusing to join in on group sex. She also claimed that her sexual assault was videotaped — a detail of the horrific crime that later became significant to “Son of Sam” obsessives.
A Broadway producer’s son who dropped out of school at 16 to enter show business, Radin was an early success — a millionaire by the age of 20. His shows, featuring comics like Tiny Tim and Milton Berle, were financed creatively — touted as having ties to charities, sold-out performances were at times sparsely attended. As New York magazine reported in 1980, an investigation by the Department of Justice found just 27% of funds raised really went to charities.
In an attempt to transition his career in his early 30s, Radin hooked up with legendary film producer Robert Evans to finance “The Cotton Club,” the 1984 crime drama about the famed Jim Crow-era Harlem nightclub starring Richard Gere and Gregory Hines. It was the complicated deal to finance the notoriously over-budget film that led to Radin’s death at the age of 33.
A few weeks after he’d gone missing on May 13, 1983, from a limo in L.A., Radin’s grotesquely mutilated body was found by a forest ranger in Gorman, California, as was reported in a 1990 Los Angeles Times feature. He’d been shot in the head and his body was severely decomposed. Years later, four people were charged in his death, including Karen Greenberger, a drug dealer/fledgling movie producer who apparently believed she was being undercut on “The Cotton Club” deal.
As detailed in the Netflix series, Berkowitz's former cellmate, a man named Vinny, had reached out to Gannett newspapers reporter Michael Zuckerman, saying that while jailed with Berkowitz, he’d been told the final “Son of Sam” killing, of Stacy Moskowitz, was in fact meant to be a snuff film. A man named Ron Sisman was the camera operator; he was connected to a shady Long Island man, “RR,” who, Vinny said, had a penchant for mondo underground films.
The “Sons of Sam” series spends a piece of its winding four episodes detailing how Zuckerman and obsessive journalist Maury Terry figured this mysterious “RR” figure was Radin, as Terry fell deep and hard into the theory that Berkowitz was not acting alone as he terrorized New York, but was actually part of an apocalyptic cult bent on social armageddon. Terry, while looking into the Radin connection, went out to California and discovered a King James Bible near where the murdered producer’s body was found, as was reported in Los Angeles Magazine in 1988.
“It was deliberately folded open,” Terry wrote in “The Ultimate Evil,” his 1987 book, which was published as the "Satanic Panic" mass hysteria was spreading. “[It was] bent at the spine so that its left-hand pages were beneath those on the right. To ensure that it remained open to the intended passage, the front cover and the first few hundred pages had been torn off.”
That passage was Isaiah, Chapter 22. In part, the passage reads, “And behold, joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine; let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die.”
To Terry, this apparently seemed to be absolutely clear evidence of Radin’s involvement in Satanic activities. Terry also believed it was yet more proof that what Berkowitz had been saying as he changed his story from behind bars — that the string of killings he’d confessed to actually involved multiple gunman and accomplices and that he’d entered into a satanic cult in Yonkers — was all actually true.
In the end, however, the “RR”/Rubin theory fell apart as the facts of his kidnapping and killing were revealed in the early 1990s. Terry was in his late 30s as the sensational details of the “Cotton Club Killing” splashed across headlines. But Rubin’s non-role in the never-ending “Son of Sam” story was just a single thread he’d unravel and discard in his lifelong pursuit of answers to unsolvable questions.
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