By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
If the publisher was after "moolah," that goal was certainly achieved. Only a day after Atlantic won the bidding war, the book's foreign rights went for exorbitant sums in a feeding frenzy at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The press was similarly ravenous, although more to look at Scott than to hear him. Vibe, the hip-hop magazine, was the only mainstream publication to offer him a writing assignment. The broadcast media salivated to get him on their sets. Prison officials turned most of them away, but 60 Minutes, the most-watched television news program, was soon setting up its cameras in the visitors' room to produce an episode on his life and times -- entitled, in a quaint effort at gang-hip, "Monsta." "Over the years, no gang has received more attention than the Crips and no gangster has become more notorious than Kody Scott," narrator and host Steve Kroft intoned. "For nearly two decades, the tattooed, bullet-scarred veteran of L.A.'s gang wars robbed, mugged, and murdered his way to the top ranks of the gang underworld, earning the name 'Monster Kody' for his distinctive brand of brutality." The preamble ended on an Entertainment Tonightnote, with the observation that this "handsome" and "bright" new author had a book contract worth "a quarter of a million dollars" and "now Hollywood mogul Michael Ovitz's agency is peddling the movie rights."
When Kroft asked Scott about his response to a good review in The New York Times, Scott said: "I kinda jumped around the cell a bit. It's the first time I've ever been recognized by a civilian for something other than aggression, naked aggression." But he was on 60 Minutesin recognition of the sort of "naked aggression" displayed on the book cover, the sort that made him, in Kroft's account, "a full-fledged ghetto star." And that was why Kroft asked the media's favorite gang question, the oft-repeated question that would begin to eat away at Scott. "Do you have any idea," Kroft asked, "how many people you've killed?" Scott, already annoyed by the media's eagerness for graphic body counts, retorted: "No, no, I don't know, no! I wonder how many people Oliver North killed? Or Norman Schwarzkopf. He's a hero, isn't he?"
One moment in the interview revealed another side of Kody Scott. "You don't have most of the usual excuses," Kroft said disapprovingly. "You didn't grow up in the projects, you had a very strong mother, your biological father is . . ."
"Absent!" Scott interrupted. "Absent! Missing in action . . ."
". . . an NFL football player," Kroft continued, as if Dick Bass' celebrity made up for his absence.
But, Scott said, "While my father was on the football field . . . I was in the street, you know what I mean? . . . And Dick never came."
"Do you resent that?" Kroft asked.
"To a great extent. No doubt about it. I hate him. Because I think about what I could've been. I can't dig that, runnin' out on your kids, you know. The father thing, that's just heavy to me now, that's just heavy to me."
As he spoke, his head ducked in and out of the shot. It was soon apparent what he was doing. He hands were chained and he was trying to rub his face on his shirt -- to wipe away the tears. It was the one unposed, unpracticed moment of the interview and, according to Scott, it almost wasn't aired. After the taping, he recalled, "Steve Kroft wanted to cut it out. He kept telling me, 'We can cut that out.' He didn't want people to think that I was not who they perceived me to be."
"I may have told him don't worry about it," Kroft said, and explained that he was probably just protecting Scott's feelings. "I may have asked him if he was upset, but I don't think I'd promise not to use it. There are ways you can cut something like that so he wouldn't be quite so teary. It wasvery teary."
Anguish over paternal abandonment was an ever-present phantom in my conversations about manhood and media recognition with both Kody and Kershaun Scott. "I am the product of a man who wasn't there," Sanyika Shakur -- Kody -- told me more than once, with a bitterness absent from his commentary on his most mortal gang enemies. "My father never passed any knowledge to me." In early 1999, Shakur spoke to the man he believed to be his father for the first time in his life. Shortly thereafter, Shakur returned to prison. Four months later, I learned of the call from Dick Bass. "He just called to give me an update," the retired running back told me of his only conversation with his possible son. "He was working on some project, I don't remember what it was, maybe a TV script. He asked me if he could call me 'Dad,' because he said he'd never been able to call anyone 'Dad.' I said okay." Then, Bass recalled, "I said, 'Maybe we can get together.' But we never did."
But even if Dick Bass had been around all those vital years, what sort of knowledge could he have deeded a son? Bass wasn't likely to pass on the ability to become an NFL football player. That isn't the sort of "skill" one can generally teach; as in all celebrity vocations, every man is on his own. Ironically, that was the lesson Kody Scott learned even in Bass' absence, though his quest for stand-alone celebrity followed a more violent path.