Tag Archives: Morgain McGovern

Open letter to Press and Law Enforcement regarding Ben Stein the pedophile.





I had a terrible, traumatic experience when I was 12 and 13
years old from 1986-1987 in California and Connecticut with a
celebrity pedophile/economist/political speechwriter/pundit/
journalist named Ben Stein who is currently a correspondent
with CBS Sunday Morning News.
I would like law enforcement or a children’s advocacy group/
union/SAG to start an investigation of Ben Stein and his
ongoing predatory, pedophiliac behavior.
I want to make sure that I clarify this in my statement and make
as clear as possible the urgency of this situation after what I
discovered recently with photos posted of children overseas
linked to his Facebook account.
This story and situation affects a lot of industries and

In my part of this story, we moved a lot and it’s over
a long period of time. I tried to edit this as clearly as I can and
cut down as much as possible.
Here is my public statement regarding my experiences with Ben
Stein when I was 12 and 13 years old and recently trying to
report him to law enforcement starting in 2009 when I got a
literary agent (Jill Marr, at Sandra Dijkstra in Del Mar) and in
2014 when I went to Jim Clemente to report what happened to
I have posted documentation about ongoing Ben Stein’s
predatory behavior on my Facebook page, Twitter account and
personal blog.
I started writing about Ben Stein privately in 2009, but emailed
a retired FBI agent and former co-worker named Jim Clemente
in Nov 2014 about my experiences being groomed and stalked
by Ben Stein when the Bill Cosby story came out.
I came forward to Jim Clemente in 2014 when the Bill
Cosby story came out because he was an expert in child sex
crimes and dealing with pedophiles.

I also believe I reported this in 1988 to my school in Fairfield, Ct in the 8th grade.
I want to protect other child actors and children in the
entertainment industry and expose his predatory behavior that I
had experienced with him when I was 12 and 13 years old and
change the way children audition in the entertainment industry,
and also with the people who immediately surround them in the
casting process and at all times on set.
I publicly named Ben Stein as a pedophile in January of 2017.
I believe he is still targeting children and child actors and he is
still has predatory behavior due to my recent discoveries online
and also another person came forward to me (via Twitter when I
went public with his name in January 2017) with their
experiences with him as well and her account of Ben Stein’s
stalking of she and her friends.
I believe that he’s a pedophile and/or predator and should be
evaluated by a professional and/or law enforcement and he and
his wife should never work with children.
I believe his predatory behavior and status conferral of the
media have given him an exploitative advantage over children,
because of my personal experiences with him when I was 12 and
13 years old.

A thorough investigation should be done with the photos I
discovered online linked to him, his background and his
employers and colleagues and especially any children or
children’s shows who have worked with him in the
entertainment industry.
Ben Stein groomed me, took photos of me at his home and paid
me $50 cash for them, brought me in for auditions at Universal
Studios in a quid pro quo situation with the photos, stalked me
over state lines, sent my mother cash to fly me out alone to
California, offered me gifts and shopping, and then asked me to
have sex with him when he was visiting a nearby city when I
was 12 and 13 years old.

Details and timeline
Sherman Oaks, CA House on Morrison Street by the
Galleria 1986
This all took place from about May-December 1986
We were on the road by Dec 15th from CA to CT because
on my thirteenth birthday and we stopped in Albuquerque, NM on
12/15/86 and my sister bought me a ring from the Indians.
May-June 1986 Sherman Oaks
Ben Stein wrote two separate articles in the Los Angeles Herald
Tribune about my mother and our family in 1986 (Articles I can
email you or at LA Downtown Library and also photos of
articles from microfilms on my Twitter) and I have
documentation and photos I can email you.

There were other
adults, my mother’s friend from Balcom Street, Jodie Avery,
who was there when he came over. I think Ben Stein came over
once or maybe twice to our house on Morrison Street.
After I met him when he came to our house to interview my
mother and our family and some of the random people living at
our house, he offered to help me become a working actor and
told me he could get me a job on a TV show like Charles in
Charge and audition for that show when I was 12, and brought
me in to Universal to Al Burton’s office at the bottom of
Universal Studios.

I thought getting a job as an actor on a TV when I was 12 would help my family out of poverty.
A lot of checks started coming in from people who read the
articles and thought my mom was a saint for taking care of all
these unwanted kids. Checks started coming to our house
because he wrote an article about how great my mother was and
took care of vulnerable children when in reality she was a con
artist and exploited teenage kids to do her scams for her. My
mother knew he was a pedophile and used me as bait to extort
money from him.
I was born in Los Angeles, California to a performing family.
My father was a Broadway actor which is how I became a child
actor. Most of my parent’s friends and all people I knew as a
child and my friends and siblings all went to auditions and were
performers and/or worked in the entertainment business or arts
so I have been going to child acting auditions since infancy and
performing is part of my human fabric.
My mother has borderline personality disorder and was
frequently arrested. My father was on theatre tours mostly and/
or working or not home and mother has been diagnosed with
borderline personality disorder and we moved frequently and
she was in and out of jails (and later prisons).
I have participated in arts and the performing arts since I was an
infant and later on was represented by a SAG child agent and
performed in an early Disney kid’s game show in 1983.
My love for acting is how Ben Stein exploited me, in the
There was an enormous amount of dysfunction at my home at
the time and my mother was frequently arrested and mentally ill
and/also untreated pill addictions. We moved about every three
months to a new house or state. Sometimes we would live in
motels or hotels and on stolen credit cards or stolen rental cars.
He only brought me in to audition at Universal Studios after I
had let him take photos of me at his home in the hills and his
wife (Alexandra Denman) was home that day and I met her.
She did not look me in the eye. She was in the kitchen.

My sister Nora and mother came to the “photo shoot” too.
Taking Photos at his house in the hills of Sherman Oaks, CA
June-July 1986
I think it was June of 1986 when this happened.
He took a special interest in me at the original interview of our
family at our house on Morrison street with my sisters and my
mother for the article in the LA Herald Tribune and I told him I
wanted to be an actress and he said he had a nephew who lived
back east who was my age and he would think I was pretty. I
was my mother’s “golden child” and pet.
He called our house a few weeks or days after the interview and
told me that he wanted to show his nephew how pretty
California girls were and wanted to take photos of me by his
pool at his house.

It might have been after the article came out and the checks were
coming in and we had groceries and everyone was happy
because they thought I was going to get on a TV show and save
the family from poverty.
He requested that I wear a bikini to take the photos but my
mother said I must wear shorts and and t shirt and he agreed.
My younger sister Nora came too and he did not take photos of
her because he didn’t think she was “cute” enough.
Ben Stein’s wife, Alexandra Denman, is on the board of the
California Children’s Law Center and works with vulnerable
children and she was home the day he took photos of me by the
pool and paid me $50 with a personal check when I was 12.
After we left, my mother said I should be grateful because my
sister worked at Solley’s deli and she had to work really hard for
I believe A. Denman is complicit with his exploitation of
children. His wife should not be working with children because
she was home the day he took photos of me and it was not
normal behavior of the auditioning process.
Nor is it professional for any producers or directors when
working with children to ask of kids in bikini’s at their home and
not in an office.
After I let him take photos of me, he then brought me in for
auditions at Universal Studios to Al Burton’s office and I also
met his assistant, Steve Stark, and read with him a few times and
kept in touch with him as an actor over the years.
I think I came in for 2-3 auditions at Universal in Al Burton’s
office on the first floor at the base of Universal Studios. They
had an outside patio where Steve Stark took photos of me at the
office for casting in one of their T Shirts for a show called
“Together We Stand”.
Mr. Stark was really kind and professional and supportive of my
book later and tried to help me find a platform but to no avail
and he said they passed on my story in 2005, this was before I
started writing my book and I have the email correspondence.

The recently tagged children’s photos of children and
infants in other countries that link to his Facebook page and
several articles about a pregnant woman he harassed on
social media and the internet recently are disturbing and
have all documented and can upload to you.
2014 when I went to Jim Clemente for the first time and
emailed him on Facebook and he said he’d notify the FBI of
what I told him. I don’t know why he didn’t tell me to go to the police and file a police report ASAP. A year and a half after I told him, he told me to file one after I told his co-worker, Allison Hope Weiner.
I have written about my experiences online on my blog
with Ben Stein at first not naming him due to fear, and
reported him to a retired FBI Agent Jim Clemente in
November of 2014 when the Bill Cosby story came out and
asked him to report to the FBI.
I met Jim Clemente when I was a stand in for the character
Garcia on Criminal Minds for four years from 2007-2011
and he and Kirsten Vangsness both were supportive and
gave me a quote for my book and blog after I got a literary
I have posted my discoveries of his predatory behavior and news
articles on my Twitter account as well and have tagged his
employers at CBS.
Sherman Oaks, CA to Westport, CT
House on Greens Farms Road (243?)
by ocean inlet (details in statement)
After we moved to Westport, Connecticut in December 1986
and into 1987 (about two or three months after the Universal
auditions) I was a student in the 7th grade at Long Lots middle
and elementary school in Westport. CT.
He contacted my mother via telephone and she spoke to him
mostly. I only spoke to him a few times on the phone and the
last time in CT is when he asked me to sleep with him.
I confronted Ben Stein later in California when I was 19 via
telephone and he pretended like he didn’t remember me or my
family after I met with Al Burton again in 1992-1993 for another
actor/producer meeting at his office on Miracle Mile when I was
about 19-20 years old and Al Burton gave me Ben Stein’s phone
number and told me to call him, I hung up the phone after
confronting Ben Stein and that was the last time I spoke to him.
Everyone told me to let it go because he was really powerful in
Hollywood and later on had his own game show on Comedy
Central with Jimmy Kimmel.
I believe he sent my mother money a few times for a plane ticket
to fly me to California to meet him and stay with him there. I
was in the 7th grade at the time. I think it was under the guise of
auditioning for roles. She just kept the money and stringing him
The last time I spoke to him in Westport, CT sometime in early
1987 when it was dark early outside and crowded house was on
the radio station every 5 minutes, is when he called and asked to
speak with me and told me he was coming back East to NYC
and asked me to meet him in the city and “sleep” with him when
I was 13 years old. I was in the 7th grade at Long Lots Middle
School. I believe he used the words “sleep in the same bed and
sleep at my hotel in the city” or something to those words but
basically I was offered a shopping trip and to sleep with him
overnight in his hotel room in the city with him, by myself and
nobody else.
He asked me on the phone, with witnesses in the room, to meet
with him in Manhattan and offered to take me shopping and buy
me gifts and asked me if I would like to sleep with him
overnight in his hotel in Manhattan after we went shopping.
I was really nervous and told him I’d have to ask my mom.
1987-1988 We moved from Westport to Fairfield
Hoydens Hill Lane or Road by the Black Rock Dam and
Golf Course
Red FarmHouse
I believe I snapped sometime in Spring 1988 when I was 13-14
in the 8th grade at Tomlinson Middle school when my little
sister was upset in the 7th grade and I didn’t want to leave our
farmhouse in CT and my mother couldn’t find a job and I knew
she was going to start conning people again. Weird people
started living in our yard again.
I reported Ben Stein’s stalking behavior to my school in
Connecticut a year later in 1988 at Tomlinson Middle School in
Fairfield, CT, because there was so much pain and trauma at
home and my mother was so dangerous, I went to the guidance
counselors at the school to tell them everything I knew about my
mother’s illegal activities, arrests, police, child sexual abuse,
Ben Stein and the trauma at home.
After I burst into the counselors office and told them everything,
the guidance counselors from Tomlinson middle school took us
(myself, age 13-14 and my little sister Nora 12-13) Got my little
sister out of class around 1-3pm and drove us from Fairfield to a
separate admin school building in Bridgeport, CT and were
upset at what I had told them and what my little sister Nora had
I think I told them everything and the counselors and
psychiatrist tape recorded my Ben Stein story, the grooming,
photos taken that started in Los Angeles and then we moved to
Connecticut and he continued to pursue me and sent money to
my mother and asked me on the phone to meet him in the city
and spend the night with him in Manhattan after he took me
I believe I originally reported Ben Stein’s harassment in the 8th
grade but due to the chaos at my home and now believe I had
some sort of trauma and shock and denial going on at the time,
we moved a few weeks later up to the woods in the Adirondacks
and not sure.
I remember my mom coming to pick us up at the counselors
office in Bridgeport and she was supposed to go back but we
moved right after that. I remember her yelling at me on the ride
home that it was my fault we had to move again but we were
already getting evicted from the farmhouse.
May-June 2016- At the urging of Allison Hope Weiner and Jim Clemente,I
Reported to LAPD and filed a police report about Ben
Stein’s child aggravation in 1986 and 1987 to Detective
Brandstetter at the Van Nuys LAPD Station.

When the Elijah Wood comments last year came out in the
media I contacted Jim Clemente again after a social media post,
and asked him if I should go to the police and file a report
because Alison Hope Weiner (a journalist and lawyer) saw my
comment on social media about being mentally and spiritual
violated by a celebrity pedophile when I was a child actor, she
and said I needed to go to the police and file a report
So I called Jim and asked him if I needed to and he encouraged
me to go to the police and tell them what happened. I don’t know why he didn’t tell me to go orginally in 2014 when I told him about Ben Stein.
At first I was hesitant and fearful to go to the LAPD and file an
actual report because of the stress, risk to my new business/pet
hotel, acting, my book, my friends and family, my reputation,
stress, stress for my family’s reputation and also my personal
safety dealing with a man of his status and predatory nature
because he’s someone that stalked a 12 year old girl from a
vulnerable, dysfunctional family.
I had finally found happiness in my life and pet sitting business
and but because of what happened to me I knew I had to come
forward about this horrible man and his behavior due to my
conscious and what I discovered recently about him.
This year 2017 have come forward publicly with his name and
have tried to email all news outlets that he has worked for and
also his wife is on the board of the California Children’s Law
Center and works with vulnerable children.
My sister Nora and most of my family relatives have recovered
from growing up in a dysfunctional family, and will confirm
what I have written and have become reputable characters and
are productive, kind members of society, triumphing over a lot
of problems and survivors themselves of enormous trauma of
growing up in a dysfunctional family.
I own a pet hotel and have a thriving, happy pet sitting business
and live on an urban farm in LA and have 5 star reviews on Yelp
for my business, Moon Dogs Urban Farm.
I have reported this in 2016 at the urging of Allison Hope Weiner after the Elijah Wood comments regarding Hollywood pedophiles preying on child actorsand given a statement to the police at the Van Nuys police station to Detective Brandstetter and have all the
documentation as well but so far they have done nothing and
said there is nothing they can do because of the statue of
Connecticut has a 30 year law of some sort of child
exploitation of some sort but not sure and it would have to be
filed this year because it happened in 1986-1987

Please let me know the best way to proceed with this and
making sure he doesn’t work with children and hasn’t harmed
any or can harm any more kids.
Thank you,
Morgain McGovern

The Travelling Roadshow Of The Countess Maritsa

Erin, Sue (family friend), Katie, Morgain

On The Road- Mt.Shasta 1983

 The Travelling Roadshow Of The Countess Maritsa is a memoir written by Morgain McGovern, who grew up in a gypsy-like family of four rebellious sisters headed by their mother, Maureen, a brilliant con-woman on the run.

 The book starts when I was seventeen, hiding out in a Parisian hotel room with my fugitive mother, who was wanted by the French authorities, British authorities, Interpol and the FBI.

 As I lay in bed watching old “Kojack” reruns in a pill induced haze in our hotel room, I saw my Father’s episode dubbed over in French. The story then melts into our family’s history in  “The Bionic Woman” and against the backdrop of his acting career in 1970’s Los Angeles.

 Some of my earliest memories were stories of trashed movie trailers and tales of adventure with his wild actor friends: John Quade (Clint Eastwood films), Roscoe Lee Brown, Julius Harris, Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper and Warren Beatty.

 But after one too many affairs on movie sets and theatre tours, Mom left her womanizing husband & took her four little girls (and a furry menagerie of our animals) on the road in a Winnebago.

 Mom had a Samsonite case full of pills and borderline personality disorder, but her gift was a sharp knack for crime.

mom and paul zindel 1959

Mom and Paul Zindel 1959?

Her story is in some of his books.

   In the “Mad Men” era of the mid-nineteen sixties, New York Herald Tribune journalist Maureen Smith met Don McGovern, a Broadway actor and stage manager (1963-66) of Lincoln Center in the East Village-who also moonlighted as a Mafia henchman.

He taught her everything he learned about crime, and while running a nightclub for a famous mob family in the meat market district, Dad got knifed in an argument with a “made” man- his boss- and the couple knew it was time to hit the road and drive to a new life in California.

At first, it was an ideal family life, having four little girls and living on our ranch in trendy Agoura. Mom’s sisters lived nearby in Los Angeles and provided some stability and guidance. We visited our father’s movie sets and went to studio parties with the glitterati, but the sepia toned memories and happiness were soon fleeting.

My father’s roles (Easy Rider, The Wicked Die Slow, The Bionic Woman, Killer Bees, the Last Detail, Sleeper, Kojack and others) gave him the acclaim he needed, but alcoholism and the lure of other women soon engulfed him.

The Wicked Die Slow 1968

Dad The Wicked Die Slow Psycho Joker

One of his favorite stories was when he and his best friend Mike Whitney (Twiggy’s ex-husband) got drunk at our house in Laurel Canyon and then decided to cement over Ali McGraw’s footprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, because they didn’t think she deserved the honor.

Dad, Mom, Lana Saunders, Mike Whitney

About the time Dad & Mike Whitney

cemented over Ali MacGraw‘s footprints at

Graumanns’ Chinese Theatre

                    Caravanning across America, we lived in gorgeous houses in affluent areas then when luck ran out, we crashed in run-down motels across the country & abroad. Rarely staying in one town for more than six months, Mom raised us with artistic ideals, to seek truth and beauty, kindness and compassion.

Mom’s regular form of income was fraud, of all kinds, but she really came alive when she got on the phone- wheeling and dealing, putting deals together with rich people. Some of them were spectacular. She was gifted at real estate and quit claims-because she had the knack of knowing what land was about to be valuable, get the rights to buy it somehow and sell it to whoever really wanted it at a much higher price. She did this with no actual money of her own and it was dazzling. When it was working in her favor, her mind was her greatest asset.

Mom loved big, rambling farmhouses out in the country and my sisters and I would pick wildflowers and plant gardens at whatever new house we lived in, putting down roots in the ground, as if it were some sort of magic spell to make us stay in one place. As I planted, I knew we wouldn’t be there the next spring to see hollyhocks come up-but I left my mark on the earth, I had been there.

Wherever we moved, Mom would invite strange people to live with us.

She’d find them at the DMV or pick up people spare-changing for food outside of the local grocery store. We were a family like Robin Hood, doing the right thing and helping these strange drifters that Mom had found. She told us that it was the kind thing to do, people should help each other. But as I got older, I realized they were her henchmen.

They would live in our guesthouse, attic or basement and fixed things around the property. As time went by, Mom’s choice of house guests would get scruffier and lower on the moral ladder. Drug addicts, dealers, low-lifes, crackers, swamp trash, anti-socials, squatters, whores, trailer trash, junkies, whatever she could find-the dumber, the better. The more affluent ones had their van or trailer they’d been living in towed to our newest property.

They would lights cars on fire, burn things down, return stolen items back to a pricey store (for cash or store credit), stage a robbery or whatever else she could think of to collect the insurance money.

Sometimes, they would get high, drunk or just completely misunderstand Mom’s directions and fuck things up so badly that we’d have to move sooner than anticipated. Most of her vagabond victims would only be around for a few months and the smart ones moved on to roam after they collected their share.

She’d order one of them to roll a dying car with a shot transmission off of a cliff or flood the basement of whatever house we were renting. We would gather up all of our clothes we were sick of, broken electronics (and anything else we didn’t want or feel like packing) and throw it into the dark, smelly lake that used to be our playroom. She told us that the basement had flooded overnight and while it was an unfortunate accident, we could get new stuff this way.

When my oldest sister Meagan was about ten, she got electrocuted when she flipped on the basement light before Mom could warn her. She looked down and realized she was standing in deep, electrified water on the top step but her puffy rubber-soled moon boots saved her from death.

Before we’d leave town and move on to our next new life, our basements morphed into something that looked like the end scene of the movie Titanic, with a shaved head Barbie doll floating face down in the black water, dismembered and abandoned to a watery death.

But when Mom was really upset or nervous, she would set things on fire. Torching rental houses was her signature way of letting the world know that she was angry, horrifying hysterical landlords who wanted their three-month’s of back rent.

My sisters and  I would wave goodbye from the back of the station wagon with our cats and dogs to the bad town that wasn’t right for us. We knew other people led normal lives but Mom told us the new town was going to be better. This town was bad luck.

In some classrooms we’d be popular and never want to leave, in others, we’d be pariahs and didn’t bother with doing our homework. We knew it was only a matter of time before we were on the road again.

After our eighth or ninth school, my sisters and I began to create cover stories to tell our newfound friends. Growing up in chaos created a defiant kind of camaraderie for us. The secrets of our sisterhood banded us together to kept us sane.We began to realize what our Mom was, but we didn’t have the word for it. I told friends that my mom was freelance writer with a gypsy streak. We knew that soon she’d find a real job as a writer, eventually.

Some dogs we stole.

The magic box of pills that also doubled as a seat for me in the front of the van.

Halloween 1982. Kingwood, Texas.

With warrants and detectives trailing us, the bills were paid with insurance fraud, clever scams and bad checks.We wanted to believe our mother- that the next move was permanent and we would settle down, but we all knew better.

Our father called occasionally, and told us he never wanted to be a parent, just an artist in a garret.

Morgain and Mom 1986
Cousin Judy, Morgain, Katie. Moved to Oregon, 1985

Mom’s brilliant mind would come through and save us every once in awhile.

When I was in the 3rd grade, she auditioned and became a contestant on a trivia game show called “Sale Of The Century”. She gave the other contestants a beating, and after a long week of tapings, she  won $75,000 in cash, plus a bunch of prizes and a trip up to Monterrey, California.

Her winnings on the show changed our nomadic lives. For the first time, we went to a school for two years in a row and even though we still took road trips in our custom van up to Oregon, Washington and Idaho; we had a home to go back to in Los Angeles. We had food in the refrigerator and the cops didn’t come by to arrest Mom every few months. It was peaceful.

Things got bad again once the money ran out.  We ended up living in a motel on Sepulveda Boulevard for three months until Mom could think of something. I’ve driven by that motel recently and families are still living there.

Three years later, we were living in a motel in Upstate New York when Mom found out that the game show was hosting a “Return Of The Champions” and wanted her to be a contestant on the show to defend her game show queen title-in Australia.

The show was a huge hit in Australia and the producers were willing to fly her and one other person to Melbourne and put her up in a hotel for at least a week or so. She convinced them to pay for Me and Erin to go, since we were both under fifteen. Mom had warrants out and detectives looking for her in New York-so a trip to Australia to escape certain jail time in New York was an opportunity that Mom couldn’t refuse.

Crocodile Mumdee

When we got to Melbourne, There were about thirty other “champions” from various “Sale Of The Century” shows around the world, mostly Britons, Americans and Australians. I’ve never seen people who loved to drink so much (and for free) in a hotel bar.

All the contestants were shuttled to the studio every day, and the producers would randomly pick the contestants who would be on the show for the day. Everyone would come back by five or six for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the lounge. Mom finally had a 9 to 5 job.

Erin and I would take the trolley all around Melbourne and explore. It was brilliant.

It was in the lounge where Mom picked off her prey. Mom liked pills more than the drink, so she would wait it out while the other contestants got drunk and mingled. In 1989, there was no Internet. It was hard to tell if a credit card was stolen and they were run by hand machines and carbon copies. The stores would only phone in a suspiciously large purchase, so it would be weeks before English banks would know anything was up.

Mom’s day to finally be a contestant on the show came-and she didn’t do well at all. She was very sick on the day of the taping and only made about $1700. It was time to go back home to the states.

We tried to look on the bright side, even though she didn’t bring in the kind of money we needed, at least we had gotten a free trip to Australia. We tried to reassure her, the cops from New York were probably looking for somebody else by now.

For a last hurrah, Mom rented a car and drove us to see the fairy penguins march up the beach at dusk, back to burrow in their sand cave homes, all nestled in and warm with their furry families in the cliffs overlooking the Tasmanian sea.

We started to drive the car north, through the Snowy River Forest and then up to ninety mile beach where massive waves  and a blue wall of water could come up slowly or quickly, and if you weren’t paying attention, you’d get soaked sitting 100 feet from the faded water lines.  We were on our way to Sydney-we were going to fly back to the States from there.

After we got back to New York, we crashed at Katie and Meagan’s apartment. My sisters and I couldn’t joke about this anymore, we all started to unravel. We needed a Mom and she was wanted by the police all over New York for various thefts and fraud.

Mom checked herself into fancy mental hospital because she said that the cops can’t arrest you if you’re a patient. The four of us were on our own until she could figure something out. She was there for a few weeks when the cops found her and it was a matter of time before they figured out a loophole in the mental patient protection law. Mom checked herself out and announced that we were moving to Hilton Head Island, in South Carolina. Tomorrow.

Rich people from Ohio, New York and Connecticut usually go to the Carolinas for a vacation and expect to find golf, warm weather and Margaritaville. They’d have someone safe watch their kids at the hotel so they could go out and party.

Mom was waiting for them like a grandma spider nanny in a beautiful  hotel. After the kids came back from swimming, tennis or golf lessons, Mom would put them to bed and help herself to whatever cash or jewelry she didn’t think the parents would miss. Most of the time, they hadn’t realized they’d been robbed until they got back to their northern homeland and sobered up.

Mom had a way of making sure she only robbed super rich people who on their last day of vacation and were leaving early for the next flight back home.

“I was a boutique thief, I never robbed anyone who’d be left with nothing”, she told me recently. “Morgain, there is no honor among thieves, I’ve never seen it. But I never stole from someone who’d be left with nothing. I stole from the rich.”

Detectives were searching the house on a regular basis and Mom got arrested for grand theft, robbery and insurance fraud. Meanwhile, New York State had several warrants out for her and was trying to extradite her back.

My sisters were done. They decided to move back to upstate New York and break free from Mom, but I couldn’t. For years, we had been raised on a roller coaster ride of torched houses, cross country road trips, international hotel rooms, run down motels, a gunfight, foreign authorities, Australian game shows, addiction and madness.

After Mom posted bail on Hilton Head, my sisters had already left and I was alone with her. Mom presented me with a new plan. We were going to start a new life in England. I knew how sick she was, but I couldn’t leave her. She had already programmed me to protect her.

In England, I started going to a posh school in Kensington and started hanging out with my friends. I tried to stay away from home as much as possible. While I was at school, Mom had started doing some very bad things and ended up in Holloway Women’s Prison, in London. The detectives confiscated my passport and I was trapped in London, homeless for the rest of the winter.

After Mom escaped from her bail hostel in Oxford, we left England in the night. From there, our journey took us to Spain, France and back to the United States-which escalated into a FBI manhunt and America’s Most Wanted.


For years, we were raised on a roller coaster ride of torched houses, cross country road trips, international hotel rooms, run down motels, a gunfight, foreign authorities, Australian game shows, drug and alcohol abuse, a Parisian dungeon, French nuns, a house chicken and madness.

The Travelling Roadshow of the Countess Maritsa a story about the American dream unraveling.

As the Internet age came upon her, Mom was caught just before her segment on “America’s Most Wanted” aired, and she was sent to Federal prison for several years. One detective in Fort Bend, Texas thought she was affiliated with the notorious “Irish Travelers” band of gypsies, but nothing has ever been proven.

The Countess

London To Paris-On The Run

March 1991

London to Paris
On the Run

March 1991-London

Most people seldom realized my mother was insane when talking to her, but I knew.

When I was young, standing around my mother’s knees, I loved listening to her voice and watching people fall under her spell. At the time, I thought everyone loved her as much as I did. She had a smooth throaty voice that was rich yet feminine and it could turn into velvet when she wanted something.  It wrapped around you like the warm blanket of an opiate high.

With all the adventures and carpetbaggery and pills in her life; she still could keep all the lies together in that racing, manic mind and spin tales so casually when dealing with her newest victim.

Mom told tales of woe that were simple for others to understand- but her specialty was finding people with money and getting it out of them.

My mother was a master illusionist. Most people who got swindled by her would agree later on; she had a way about her.

She was witty, educated and articulate-with a genuine protectiveness for the uneducated and downtrodden.

Her face would captivate you; she had bright blue eyes of a true Irishwoman and the smooth white alabaster skin of her Mother’s Polish roots that had bewitched many a lover during her days in Greenwich Village on Jane Street. Despite being heavy later on in life, she was always considered beautiful because she carried it well.

On the day she jumped bail after several months at Holloway Women’s Prison, she called me from a pay phone at her bail hostel in Oxford. If she stayed for her court date, she said, she’d be locked up for more than a year. She told me to start packing, because she’d be by to pick me up in an hour.

Looking back now, I realize I would have done serious time had I been caught helping her escape, but, I was seventeen and thought I could save her from herself.

Anyway, I knew it was time to get the fuck out of dodge; it was just a matter of time before I caught for performing the traveler’s check scam she taught me. The con had kept me fed while I was on the streets, but it was still considered theft in the eyes of her majesty’s courts and I didn’t want to end up sharing a cell with my mother.

It was around mid-afternoon when I heard her pull up to Amanda’s apartment in a black shiny London taxi. I was rushing around, packing up the last of my shit, when I looked out of the open window, down to the wet street and saw her getting out of the cab. I dropped my cigarette with a shaking hand and stared at her.

The few short months in prison had changed and hardened her, she’d lost weight and her face was ashen. For the first time, she’d been in prison for months, not just the few days that she was used to. I had told her over and over again that the computer age was upon us, but she kept running her old scams and ended up in all the systems. I began to believe her when she told me England was trying to kill us.

“We have to go,” Mom said as she walked in Amanda’s East end apartment in Stoke Newington. She looked around at the bare living room and her eyes settled on me, she was edgy and restless. “Now.” she looked at her watch. She didn’t bother to chat with Amanda; who was by the window, smoking a silk cut.

I looked at Amanda and she understood. She and I were the same age and became friends in a strange way. Our mothers were cellmates together at Holloway.

Mom had begged Amanda’s mother to let me live with her daughter, because it was winter in London and I was sleeping on the streets or at friend’s houses. Her mom showed great compassion and Amanda and I bonded immediately.

We had a lot in common-we liked to get as drunk as we could on Thunderbird, smoke hash and laugh at the absurdity of life.

Amanda had a thick Cockney accent and was of mixed race. She wore matching Addias hoodie tracksuits and always had her hair up in a ponytail. She was Sporty Spice.  She had creamy cafe latte skin, with a spattering of freckles across the bride of her nose and her eyes were hazelnut colored with flecks of copper. She should have been a Bennetton model, but she was stuck in the ghetto and didn’t know how to get out.

Amanda had talents and one of them was being a professional when it came to rolling spliffs. She taught me how to roll quick, small ones you could puff on and toss in the bushes if a cop was nearby. Pipes were too much evidence to carry and get busted with.  Joints, as we Americans call them. Spliffs in England.

The Brits also have a different way of smoking out. When you smoke weed in a circle of friends in the U.S, you take a hit and pass it. In England, one holds on the joint for a few puffs and smokes 3 or 4 hits while everyone chats. If you pulled that shit in California, you would get your ass kicked for Bogarting the joint. Puff, puff pass, bitch. Everyone needs to get high. Now.

Oh, and they don’t have weed, grass, chronic or any of the green stuff over there. They smoke hash. And if you smoke too much or try to smoke it like grass, you will puke in a few hours.

Reality was something we didn’t like to deal with while our mothers were in prison together, so we got high. And drunk. But high during the day. We knew that if you drank during the day, you were an alcoholic. So we smoked hash.

Amanda would pull out a brown sticky square of hash and flick her lighter over the end corner of it. She would carefully sprinkle the crumbly brown hash over tobacco, which had been ripped out of a Silk Cut cigarette. She rolled it up in a Zig Zag paper and  light it. She squinted as the cloud of smoke wafted in her face.

She took a long drag of a joint and held it in as she spoke,  “Morgain, I’m just a half caste girl living in the ghetto. ” She blew it out and her eyes watered. “What kind of job can I get? I ain’t got nuffink, mate. No fucking education, no fucking money, not even me Mum.” She shook her head ruefully. She looked up at me, like maybe I had the answer.

I replied,  “At least your mum left you a house to live in when she went down in flames, my Mom left me holding a bag of shit. Pass that spliff.”

We’d dissolve into the giggles and insulate ourselves against the harsh world with laughter. The highs from the hash would take us to an innocent place where we could be like children again. She was the only girlfriend I’ve ever had that also had a mom in prison and we could tell each other the truth.

I’d smoke and smoke, taking deep long hits into my lungs, so it would fill up the aching in my chest. The fuzzy, creeping feeling that spread through my body made me feel safe.

I felt bad that Amanda didn’t have any sisters to share the misery of having a parent in Prison. At least I had my three sisters when Mom got arrested in the States. I thought about them and knew they were worried about me, but there wasn’t anything they could do. They didn’t have money to send me and were trying to stay alive themselves. And, I was too ashamed to tell them that she’d tricked me, again.

Now, Mom was back. I wasn’t sure why I felt so uneasy around her, but I could tell that she was in the dark places of her mind where not even I could reach her. My mother was gone, replaced by a strange, sinister woman with a wild, leaping look in her eyes.

Usually when it was time to run, Mom would laugh and say to us, “Let’s get this show on the road, kid!” or “You go where I go amigo!” but not this time.

I was packing my stuff in the bathroom and I caught my reflection in the mirror as I looked up from the sink. I was very pale and my eyes had a strange glimmer to them as well. They weren’t my eyes, they were like a street cat’s, skittish and not sure who to trust. Mom’s long stay in prison must have changed me too.

I said goodbye to my friend, thanking her for saving my life and from the bitterly cold London streets where I had been wandering, humiliated after I had to leave my posh school and friends in Kensington. I lugged my suitcase down the stairs and we got into the waiting taxi.

As the taxi puttered along to train station, I took a long last look out the window. When we fled from the detectives in the States, Mom told me she was going to turn her life into something good here and get a job as a writer. I had loved this city and all the hope it held for us in the beginning. Then everything had turned dark, like it always did before we had to leave in a hurry.

Waterloo station was coming up and I thought of the long trip before us. Getting out of England was going to be hard. Mom was supposed to be back at the bail hostel by now and it was getting dark. They would start looking for her soon.

Mom and I got out of the cab and headed towards the train station. She was slow and creaky from age and I turned around to wait for her. The wind whipped her grey hair up in tufts, in a comical way, like a picture of fun times from the rollercoaster rides at an amusement park. She smiled at me and I knew I couldn’t leave her. Another round in prison would kill her.

We could start over. Mom would never be able to get a job with all the police and detectives looking for her, but somehow, starting over sounded right.

Going to France would buy us some time to come up with a solution. Maybe the detectives would realize she was mentally ill and needed help, not prison.

She was supposed to be back at the bail hostel in Oxford by dusk, and it was definitely dark now. We still needed another hour on the train south to the ocean.  Then we had to get on the ferry in Portsmouth.  Somehow, we had to get on the boat without Mom getting caught through their checkpoint and sent back to Holloway Women’s Prison.

When we got to the Waterloo train station, I realized sporting events were finally good for something. The British were invading France for the weekend so see their soccer team.  A massive crowd of  rose-cheeked men from Liverpool in soccer jerseys were flooding the station, trying to get on the last trains to the ferry. The were jumpy and excited, looking for a fight and a fuck.

These Celtic men were on fire and they were determined to stay as functionally drunk as possible. They carried cases of beer under their arms and most had backpacks filled with more supplies in case they ran out on the nighttime ferry ride over.

For once, the ancient rivalry between these two countries helped women. Well, they helped two Irish American gypsy women evade the law. Thanks, soccer.

As we went into Waterloo Station, I hugged her. Then we went over to the ticket window to buy our tickets to Portsmouth, where the ferry would be waiting.



Late on Sepulveda

gleaming brown bodies sway, 

women of the night

reflect the light

of helicopters hunting its prey. 

Circling and circling,

deep dives and swims

sea creatures of the air

hunt the pilgrim.

Blue night

killer whales of the sky

take deep breaths 

and plunge from up high

illuminating the lawn

and junkie eye

Flickers of hope

Rhythmic beating


heart full of dope

They came to save her

But I know better. 

~Morgain McGovern

May 2012