Archive for atlanta

Sacrifice – The Reason We have a 4th of July

Posted in The Good Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2011 by chrisdurant2000

(NOTE: This story was originally written for Hooters Magazine, back when I was still in their employ. I have dusted it off and redacted minor portions of it for this publication.)

Today one would be hard pressed to find someone whose life has not been touched by our country’s efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas of the world. This is the story of how my life has been touched. It is a story of dedication, belief, desire, and sacrifice. I am sure many of our readers have similar stories that will relate to their lives and experiences, and as such please feel free to change the names as appropriate.

My closest friend, Major Wade Deliberto and I met about nine years ago at the Cumberland Hooters here in Atlanta. It took about a year of macho posturing for us to get through our two opposing Alpha male egos before we became fast friends and eventually best friends – brothers.

A United States Marine and United States Naval Academy graduate, Wade exemplifies the American spirit. Out of the Marine Corps for four years with his Inactive Ready Reserve Status about to expire (meaning he could not be recalled, but would have to volunteer for future service), Wade again felt the call of duty to his country. It was the call to those who have the will to serve. Although set in a comfortable career as a bank manager, Wade spent months scouring DOD postings and making numerous phone calls trying to find a billet to fit his MOS (Military Occupational Specialities). As persistent and determined as I know Wade to be, I am sure the particular Marine Staff Sergeant had grown annoyed at the constant barrage of emails and phone calls inquiring into Wade’s position on the list of potential candidates until finally the Ssgt responded “SIR, you are the list!”

Thus began a second run at sacrifice and dedication to one’s country. Wade signed up for a six month reserve tour in Afghanistan under the Combined Forces Command (CFC-A). Immediately, like a mother, father, spouse or other family member, I began to think about the perils my “brother” would face in the line of duty. I began to think about sitting at Cumberland Hooters looking at across the table at another empty stool and another framed portrait of a memorial marquee. I already have enough of those.

Reservations notwithstanding, we talked, we discussed, we debated, and ultimately we parted. Wade, my brother, was heading into war. The feelings I had were the same as I sense many families have at the finality of this news – Pride, Fear, Desperation, Hope.

Wade’s commitment to the Marine Corps ideology of “God, Country, Corps” strikes a deep chord in me for a couple of reasons. First I have not served our country through military service. One of the biggest regrets of my life – we will not get into the others – is having not served as the other men in my family have. Second, I have lost very few people in my life. I feel extremely fortunate in that respect. But to imagine a family whose loved one(s) are in harm’s way 24/7 adds a different dimension to care, love, and missing as this absence becomes final.

Throughout Wade’s tour, we talked as often as possible and emailed much more frequently. He kept me apprised of life in the ‘sandbox’ and I tried to keep him up to date on the goings on of life back here – the who’s dating who, how’s so-and-so is doing, the weather and other such other trivial matters. I think we both relished the calls and the emails albeit for different reasons. For me it was an opportunity to know my brother was doing well and hear the resolve in his voice. For him, I think it was more of simply gaining a little normalcy and sense of home in a place that is far from either.

Wade has since returned from Afghanistan and is currently in his second [volunteer] tour. Seeing him and hearing the stories first hand and in person has helped to better shape my perspective. The camaraderie that our military personnel share with one another is something that us non-servers can never truly understand but must appreciate, if not envy. And while that bond is closest while under fire and in harm’s way it cannot replace the feelings, touches, and souvenirs of home.

Welcome Home, Brother!

[the remainder of this story has been REDACTED]

Chris Durant –
March 29, 2007

As a final update, Wade has now served two tours between Afghanistan and Iraq and stints at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and at the Pentagon. He is back stateside now (at an undisclosed location), safe, for the moment and content to wake every morning and don the Marine Corps BDUs.

This weekend, if you see a service man or woman or a veteran, please be sure to thank them for their service as we celebrate our nation’s independence and remember it is only because of people like them that we are able to live as we do in the “Land of the Free and (certainly in) the Home of the Brave.”

Through Her Eyes – by Chris Durant

Posted in Michael Vick with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2011 by chrisdurant2000

As Virginia looked outside at the world around her, she wondered if she would ever be adopted. The home she was at was okay, but she missed her brothers and her sister. They had all already been adopted and taken to new homes. Virginia was the last and that made her sad. She was glad that the others had all gone off to good homes but she often wondered if something was wrong with her. Why hadn’t anyone adopted her?

She had beautiful honey colored hair and big brown eyes that shone with a subtle glint of gold when the sunlight would hit them just right. She was like most young females her age, she liked to play and run around outside and be with friends, but when it came to boys, well you know how that goes.

Her last sibling had been adopted three weeks ago and the time since had been miserable for Virginia. She didn’t have anyone to play with and no one to talk to. She was so lonely.

Then, one day it finally happened. Her savior had arrived. He was the one who would take her away to her new family. When she saw the big gleaming black truck pull up, she immediately thought “Wow, that is a really nice car; big shiny wheels. Looks expensive. Maybe He’s rich.” She thought wishfully.

When the Man got out she saw that he had three friends with Him. ‘Oh, boy,’ she thought, ‘this is even better than I thought. If He has so many friends, maybe there will be others at his home for me to play with too.’

Virginia tried to stay calm, but she was so excited. She watched as the men talked with the man and woman who had been keeping her. She couldn’t really understand what they were saying, but it looked promising. They all looked her way, then she heard her name, “Virginia”. The Man with the big black truck smiled brightly, He nodded enthusiastically and shook her keeper’s hand. ‘This is it!’ She thought excitedly. The four men followed the man and woman into the office and after several minutes they all came back out to where Virginia was playing.

Virginia’s heart was racing, she was beside herself. She couldn’t believe that this day had finally come and she was going to her new home. And a good home, she told herself. She thought about the rich Man and how He would spoil her. A big house with a big yard and lots and lots of toys. It would be like heaven. Her brothers and sister would be so jealous if they knew where she was going.

The Man with the big truck and the bright smile walked over to her and said the words she’d been dying to hear, “Come on, Virginia. Let’s go.” She literally ran after Him as he turned and started back to his truck.

During the drive, she looked out at the passing countryside. It was so beautiful up here. She stayed quiet, just watching the landscape pass by. When she felt the truck begin to slow, she looked around and saw it. It was gorgeous, a huge white brick home surrounded by a big white fence. The truck pulled through the gate and went around to the back of the house. This was way better than she could have anticipated. There were boats, a basketball court, and even a swimming pool. Her eyes scanned the area taking in all of the wonderful sights. As the truck passed through another gate, Virginia looked up and saw them. They seemed to be everywhere, new friends for her to play with. ‘No,’ she thought, ‘not friends, family. My new family.’

When the truck finally stopped, the men got out. Virginia jumped out of the back and followed them. She was so excited. She looked around at her new family. There were so many of them. She couldn’t wait to meet everyone and play, and play, and play. This was surely how Pinocchio must have felt upon arriving at Pleasure Island; little boys everywhere with no school, no work, nothing to do but have fun. She wanted to immediately run to them and introduce herself, but miraculously she somehow stayed calm. She didn’t want the Man to think she was wild and undisciplined.

Before she had an opportunity to be introduced to everyone, one of the other men led her to a big black building. She followed him in and he closed the door behind them. Another man was already there. ‘He must be a doctor.’ Virginia thought. She recognized the long white lab coat he wore and on the table where things like she had seen during her last visit to the doctor. It was not a very fun experience, she remembered, but it wasn’t too bad. Her previous doctor had been pretty nice and he did give her a treat before she left for being a good patient.

While the doctor was checking a few things he and the man who led her in made small talk. After a couple of moments, the other men joined them inside. He was there too, the Man with the big smile. Virginia looked up at him, she so wanted to please Him, to make Him happy. She stood quietly, waiting to see what would come next.

When the men began talking, their words were foreign to Virginia. She thought could understand some of what they said but mostly she could really only recognize her name and an occasional word.

“Alright, let’s see what we’re looking at here. Get her up on the scale.” The doctor told the men.

Two of the other men picked Virginia up and lifted her onto the table which had also been fashioned into a make shift scale. Although she was a little startled, she didn’t resist. She let them move her effortlessly onto the large examination table.

The doctor checked the scale. “Fourty-two pounds.” He told the Man with the smile. The Man nodded silently. He seemed to be thinking.

“Kinda light, huh?” One of the others asked. “Whatcha wanna do with her?”

The Man with the smile looked at Virginia, it seemed as if he were sizing her up. She looked back at him, her eyes were wide and filled with an as yet unwarranted love. She sat up on the table proudly, hoping to impress him.

“B & B.” He said, nonchalantly.

“Alright.” The doctor sighed. “Boys if you don’t mind get her off the table for a second.” One of the men grabbed Virginia and lifted her off the table and set her back onto the ground. She looked up and around, curious to see what was going on.

The doctor pulled an odd looking contraption from the corner of the shed. It was heavy and made a loud sound when he dropped it onto the table. Virginia looked at it, she had never seen anything like it. It was a large, rectangular, metal frame with adjustable posts rising from the two far ends. Each of the posts was topped with a semicircular band of metal and had thick leather straps attached to them. The doctor grabbed an cordless drill and bolted the device down onto the top of the examination table.

As soon as he had finished he looked at the men and nodded impatiently. “Okay, let’s go!”

Two of the men again grabbed, Virginia and lifted her back onto the table, more roughly this time than before. As they placed her over the frame, one of the men grabbed the back of her neck and began to push her head down into the circular support. Virginia was scared. The man’s grip on her neck was tight, it was strong and forceful. She instinctively resisted. She fought back, trying to hold her head up and away from the weird metal contraption. As the man continued to press down on her head, her instincts got the better of her and she twisted her head around and bit the man’s wrist. He jerked his arm back and rubbed his wrist.

“Goddammit!” He exclaimed as the others laughed at him. Then without warning he reared back and struck Virginia in the side of the face with his powerful fist. “You little bitch!” He growled at her. The strength of the blow stunned her. She cowered and whimpered pathetically as her body fell limp. The doctor stepped up quickly pushed her head back into the metal structure and fastened the leather straps around her neck. It was tight, so tight. Virginia couldn’t move her head no matter how hard she tried, she was stuck, strapped to the cold metal frame. She looked around with her eyes, searching, pleading for someone to help her. She looked at Him. He just stared at her, his face was devoid of emotion.

She had no idea what was happening. She was so scared. Her face hurt from where the big man had punched her. Why didn’t the Man with the smile do something? Why didn’t He help her? Her neck was tied down so tightly it made it hard for her to breathe. She couldn’t find her voice, she could merely whimper. Then she felt the men grasp her midsection. She tried to kick free but they were too strong for her. They held her down, pushing her stomach into the remaining support and tightened the strap around her. No matter how much she struggled, she could not move. Her legs kicked and she struggled to find a footing, but there was none. She was trapped, her body suspended from the bizarre apparatus.

Virginia was terrified. She looked back to the Man with the smile. Why? Why was He letting them to this to her? What were they doing?

“Let’s get on with it.” The Man said coldly.

The doctor had turned back to his table and retrieved several instruments. He handed one to the man who Virginia had bitten. He glared down at her evily. “You ain’t gonna like this. But you damn sure ain’t gonna be biting no body no more.” He scoffed at her.
With that he grabbed her under the chin, his fingers gripped her jaw like a vise. She tried to clamp down and keep her mouth closed. But finally, her will and her strength were outmatched by the man and her mouth began to slowly open. Instantly he shoved a wooden hammer handle lengthwise through her mouth. He then got behind her and began to twist the handle back towards him like a motorcycle throttle. Virginia tried to bite down on the stick to keep the man from pulling it back. Her teeth dug into it as the man continued to turn, leaving deep gouges in the wood. With one final pull and twist, he jerked the thick wooden shaft all the way back, effectively forcing her mouth open wide. The handle was lodged back behind the molars, locking her jaw open.

Virginia was so young and innocent. She could not fathom what these men were doing. What had she done? Why were they doing this to her? Whatever it was she was sorry, so sorry. She didn’t know. She didn’t mean to be bad. She wanted to be good for the Man. Fear began to consume her. She couldn’t struggle, she had no footing, her neck and body were securely fastened to the evil metal stand.

As the doctor turned back to her, he carried a pair of pliers. Virginia could see and even smell the dried blood on them. Sensing danger, her fight began anew. Her legs kicked wildly as she searched for the ground. She tried to move her head. It was hopeless. Her jaw ached from the pressure exerted by the stick in her mouth. She was terrified, how had her day, her life gone so wrong? All she wanted was to love and to be loved. She had never imagined anything like this. Not knowing what evils awaited her, her mind and her body somehow sensed the impending danger. Her bodied convulsed and her bladder let loose. She began to urinate uncontrollably.

As the doctor neared her, he gripped her lower jaw and inserted the pliers into her mouth. They found their target, her right, upper incisor. She could feel the metal scrape against the tooth. The sensation sent a chill down her spine. Then she felt the pliers clamp onto the tooth. The doctor used both hands to grip the pliers as he twisted and yanked down.

The pain was excruciating. Virginia cried out, unable to do anything more. Blood poured from the gaping wound inside her mouth. She could taste the thick salty fluid as it covered her tongue and dripped from her mouth. The doctor tossed the tooth onto the floor and began the process all over again on the next tooth.

There was no relief for Virginia, no anesthic, nothing but intense, excrutiating pain. The men all stood around watching as the doctor repeated the savage procedure again and again, it was as if this hideous torture was commonplace to them – it was. Virginia felt so weak, her body lie draped across the metal frame, limp, practically lifeless, all she could do was cry. But no one there seemed to care or even listen, not even Him, not even the Man with the big smile.

After the fifth tooth had been forcibly removed, Virginia’s mouth gushed blood. It dripped in long sticky cords from her mouth pooling in a large black-red mass atop the table. Any fight that Virginia had in her had been extinguished. She had no energy, barely a sound escaped her broken body. Only an occasional whimper.

“How much longer can this go on?” She wondered pitifully. Her head was pounding, her body was sore and she seemed to be awash in a nightmarish fog. Her mouth was being ripped apart and she could do nothing to stop the pain.

But little did Virginia know, this was only the beginning of her violent new life. There would be so much more, more pain, more suffering, more humiliation and abuse, torture and repeated rape with her body strapped to the vile device. And when finally the men had had their fun and they no longer had a use for her broken body, she would be killed in some way that would sicken any normal human, but seemed to excite this evil men.

If only she could have truly told her story and let the world hear of these horrors as experienced Through Her Eyes.

Author’s Note:

This is a fictionalized account of how a female dog could expect to be treated by Michael Vick, Purnell Peace, Tony Taylor and Quanis Philips – the men who ran Bad NewZ Kennels. In the story Virginia was bought to be bred and ultimately serve as a bait dog. She had all FORTY-TWO of her teeth forcibly removed so that she could not bite and fight back. She was repeatedly raped. She was severely beaten, kicked, malnurished and abused. At the end of her days, when the men no longer had a use for her, she was dragged from her cage by a chain. Once they got her to the posts, one of the men wrapped the cold metal chain around her neck. Then with the help of another, they begin to lift her body off of the ground. One final time, her legs kicked violently, searching once again for the ground. It was not to be found. Virginia struggled for about three minutes before her body finally stopped. Three slow minutes of agonizing pain as the men watched and laughed.

On May 21, 2012 Michael Vick’s federal probation will terminate and he will once again be eligible for dog ownership. Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States has said:

“I do think that if his rehabilitation progresses and he handles the probation period flawlessly, it could be a good thing for Michael Vick’s family to have a pet at the end of that process.” – Wayne Pacell

The Humane Society’s Mission Statement is – “Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty”

There is a glaring disconnect between the organization’s core intent and its leader’s very flawed judgement. It is ludicris for a man who is in charge of an organization like this to support an admitted abuser, torturer, and murderer of numerous dogs (for his pleasure) in owning another dog – EVER! I urge you to stop supporting the HSUS until Wayne Pacelle is no longer at its helm, or until he publicly and openly reverses his stance on Michael Vick’s future dog ownership.

Sign the Petition to have the Board of th HSUS remove Wayne Pacelle from his position as CEO.
Demand Pacelle Step Down as Leader of HSUS

Thank you for reading.

Chris Durant

This story is dedicated to the dogs that had the torturous misfortune of encountering Michael Vick and Bad Newz Kennels, and to all of the dogs that have ever been subjected to this type of barbarism. It is also dedicated to the Immortal “Gypsy” who has become the face of this murderous bloodsport and to “Smokey” – the best looking dog I never met who survived being doused with acid and left to die in the sweltering desert. Finally, it is dedicated to the brave and giving individuals who have worked with and adopted the survivors and continue to help them enjoy a better life.

To Michael Vick: If your children wonder why they can’t have a dog right now, perhaps you could read them Virginia’s little bedtime story.

USEFUL LINKS:

Michael Vick Deserves a Pet – A Pet Rock Join me in sending a Pet Rock to Wayne Pacelle at HSUS headquarters on May 20, 2012 for Michael Vick to adopt.
Michael Vick was WRONGLY CONVICTED! Do not be misled by the title, it is not what you may think. It also includes links to the original court documents and more.
Join Chris Durant on Facebook

Join the “NO WAY Subway” Movement on Facebook

Join the “Boycott Nike for Signing Michael Vick” Movement on Facebook

The Very Debonair "Smokey"

A Pirate Looks at 40… and the Death of Peter Pan – Chris Durant

Posted in The Good Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2011 by chrisdurant2000

Today is my birthday. Now normally that would not be a big deal, at least to me. But this is a milestone birthday. It is not a milestone in the traditional sense – such as turning 21, or even reaching that 30th or 40th ‘Over the Hill’ status so often celebrated, albeit more like a Roast, instead of a real party. No, those days have come and gone. This birthday is a milestone because I have finally accepted and even more surprising embraced my age. Today I turned forty-two.

This is only a big deal because for the last 6 years I have been perpetually stuck at 36. It started innocently enough as I am sure it did for Zsa Zsa Gabor. At a time when I was acting and modeling, I began to notice that there was a definitive gap in casting calls for males between 35 and 49. It seemed that everyone was either under 35 or over 50. Well, I still held much of my natural youthful appearance so I decided I would be 35, again, and again. Once I was a little better known I let myself drift comfortably upwards to 36, but it stopped there, until today. I mean with the exception of a few close friends and family most people probably still think I am 36.

Now, for all practical purposes I am Joe Schmo. I have never hit the winning home run in the World Series. I have never brought a newborn into this world nor have I ever delivered the State of the Union address. And the only touchdown I ever scored was a defensive one. But, by all measurable accounts, there are about 11.2 million (US Census Data 2009 estimates: men aged 40-44) men just like me running around the U.S. This writing is for them and for those who love them and for those who don’t really understand them – or us, I guess. Obviously I am still coming to terms with this.

As I sat down to write this, I was immediately reminded of that timeless Jimmy Buffet song ‘A Pirate Looks at Forty’ in which he half-handedly acknowledges his misgivings about the whole Peter Pan Syndrome. It seemed appropriate, for that, too, is exactly how I feel. I often find myself looking back with a certain longing for the warmer days of yesteryear. But rather than lament, I am truly prepared to celebrate. Celebrate life and especially the life that I have been so fortunate to have been brought into and to have lived so vigorously.
Now, many of my peers and certainly my elders would tell you that I have pissed away far too many opportunities, that I have lived simply for the moment and have not crafted a worthy existence. In their eyes that may well be the case. But through mine, I see a life that has been rich with family and friends, a life that has been filled with adventure and experiences, a life that has been exciting and rewarding and yet, has had its share of regret and disappointments. This is my story.

My childhood was not extraordinary. It was a normal childhood. My parents John and Linda were married in March of 1968. They were twenty at the time. I popped out and onto the scene in November of that same year. Now neither of my parents came from overly affluent families. Instead both were raised in sturdy, middle class families of the sixties. And while, again, my family in its many arms was not extraordinary I can honestly say that I have not met another who has a family as steeped in love and tradition and value as mine. As I look back, I often muse that Norman Rockwell must surely have known my grandparents and peeked in on our family gatherings, for they were certainly the stuff of inspiration. And for the record, my parents have now been married for forty-two years. Actually no one has ever even been divorced. Well, almost no one.

I was the first of my generation of now six grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. And I am the eldest by seven years. So for seven wonderful years I ran the show. I was the only twinkle available to light up anyone’s eye, and to that end I did my upmost. Perhaps it was those seven years of sole attention that began ever so subtly to spoil the Prodigal Son, and morph me into the self-proclaimed black sheep. But no one in my family would ever tell you that. Miraculously, I still held that glimmer of a twinkle. For my many faults and flaws I have never wanted for their love, their understanding and their complete acceptance.

Throughout my life I have been afforded some of the best role models a young man could ask for. And they were right there, central figures in my life. They weren’t the story book heroes so many often dream of emulating. No, mine were real flesh and blood; men and women so full of vigor and yet so humble in constitution.

Three such men stand out above all in forging who I am today with their often subliminal messages and lessons. My father, John, is a simple man with simple tastes and perhaps most importantly, simple needs. However, he has always provided for his family in ways that can’t be charted in monetary terms but that have a value far greater than those expressed through shallow lives of so many uber wealthy individuals and grocery store checkout celebrity jokes of the day. Well read on a variety of topics and intellectually immersed in meaningful current and historical events he is the one person I often find myself on the losing side of in Trivial Pursuit. Through all of my rebellious youth, which to some degree just recently subsided, Dad has been there. He rarely yelled, although sometimes emotion would get the best of him. But mostly he was there, in my corner, with an understanding that young men make mistakes, with advice and with the unwavering love of a father.

My Grandfather, Daniel Monroe Sharpe, was another of those ten foot tall men in my life. He was the one person who seemed most closely tied to me, both in temperament and physiology. We were both hard core Type-A’s and yet we shared a bond that defies words. I recall Saturday mornings lying on the floor with him and watching cartoons and then Florida Championship Wrestling. Invariably during these moments he would effectively con me into scratching his back for almost the entire duration of our viewings. I never gave it a second thought. In all of my fondest childhood memories he is there. Not always in the forefront, but he is there. But I think the most memorable lesson I could take from him was the old adage that if you are going to do something ‘Do it Right’. By today’s weaker standards, some quack doctor would probably diagnose him as OCD, but in my mind he was simply detailed oriented and driven to perfection. He was the man in the neighborhood who seemingly used a protractor and guide ropes to mow his lawn. It was immaculate. A lesson I surely must have absorbed long ago but effectively suppressed for it is only now, to my father’s dismay, re-emerging. Like most teenagers I used every means at my disposal to shirk my lawn duties. Today, it is one of my many passions. I lost my grandfather several years ago and I still miss him like it was yesterday. Some voids can never be filled.

Professionally I owe my biggest debt of gratitude to Gary Cassell. The first real boss I ever had and certainly the one with the most impact on me. Gary, like my dad and my grandfather, was a no nonsense kind of guy. He didn’t require or even like a lot of pomp and circumstance and would just as easily tell you to “cut the bullshit and get on with it”. While he was not a hardass, Gary was exacting. Gary was detailed and Gary was thorough. He was a solid manager who led his team with an even hand guided by measurements and firm accountability. He was the management mold which cast me.

So, with all of these great role models and a supportive family in my life, one might ask “so what have you done with all of this?” Hmmm, good question. And one that has had me re-evaluating the last forty-two years a lot lately. And here is what I have come up with: I have lived. And not in the blasé fashion that seems to scream at an existence rife with the mundane and essential tasks such as breathing and eating and sleeping. No, I mean I have really lived.

I have been afforded wonderful opportunities in my personal and professional lives and I seized most every one of them with everything I am, never looking back. The twelve years I spent with UPS were awesome. They gave me a chance to work with, for and lead some truly gifted individuals. But more than anything, there were the learning experiences I garnished from my time there. Of course the travel plan wasn’t bad either. After being transferred to Atlanta in 1996, I have now visited almost every state in the Union (there are a few of the truly western ones with practically zero population density that just didn’t warrant a trip at the time, however they are still on my radar) and several countries I would have probably never visited otherwise. I’ve held a never to be witnessed again 360 degree view from the top of the World Trade Center. I’ve walked in the predawn mist and fog at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve toured a snow covered German country side and sampled a bevy of really funky foods. But UPS also positioned me well to enter the market as a “Free Agent”. I once had an Account Executive tell me that the UPS diploma was like resume gold. He was right.

So, after my little project began to wind down, I took my gold and I ventured off into the land of consulting. After a few short restructuring stints, I decided to change direction and really showcase my self perceived political prowess. In 2002 I began a short lived run for the United States Congress representing Georgia’s 5th District. Did I mention this was short lived? I mean even Ralph Reed and the State Republican party told me not to run. It took a while for me to really comprehend their message. On the bright side, I do have my name in the Congressional Record as having ran, and I still have some pretty cool business cards and stickers.

After this failed attempt, I spent five years training military and law enforcement personnel in force on force tactics. I am still not exactly sure how I lucked into this, but this was my dream job. I got to play soldier and cop without the lethality associated with the real thing. And I got to play with the best of the best; SWAT, SEALs, Marines, Air Force PJs, and special operators from all over the world. Sure I got beat up, several times, I got shot with less lethal and less than lethal rounds which gave me a clear understanding of the phrase “hurt not injured” and I’ve even been Tasered on three separate occasions – only one of which was actually for my certification, the other two were just stupid. But I was getting paid for this and I was having a blast. But as all good things, this too came to an end. I got bored or something.

So, I wandered back into more of a traditional corporate role. But this, oh this one had a corporate jet which seemed to plant me in the coolest locations, at just the right time for the event of the moment; in the garages for the Daytona 500, behind the scenes of the Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant, and skybox seats to pretty much any sporting event or concert you wanted to go to, private tours and tastings at Napa Valley’s finest vineyards. And since we were seemingly sponsored by BudLight and had our own dedicated rep and travel partner, I never wanted for a beer. And you really wonder why my personal growth has been stunted?

By some very odd stroke I found myself dabbling in the acting world. This was pretty weird since the last thing I had previously acted in was the 2nd grade Thanksgiving pageant, and I don’t really remember enjoying that, at all. But this was different and I was hooked, for a little while anyway. At the end of the day, I can say that I have truly starred as a lead in nine television episodes, one direct-to-DVD movie, and several short films. Additionally, I have had roles in a number of independent films and industrials. I have been an extra in several major motion pictures and not to be outdone, I even have my own romance novel cover… and that’s pretty cool. The Virtual Man - Chris Durant
The acting world, however, unlocked and unleashed a previously hidden and certainly as yet unutilized side of me, the writer. It began with subtle rewrites for “Atlanta Homicide”. Then I wrote my own episode, the one that really delved into my character. That was it. I haven’t stopped writing since. I currently have three screenplays in various stages of festival readiness and exposure. One is being back-written into a novel and I have copious notes for my next two. So, we’ll just have to see where this road leads us, but in the meantime, my creative little hobby is my passion.

But it hasn’t all been work-related living. Work just seems to have provided the catalyst in many of the occasions. Nowhere was work involved one night after a Kenny Chesney concert and too many of the aforementioned BudLights, when I successfully caught a opossum with my bare hands. Now, I say it was successful but I definitely do not recommend this. I had no idea how long their teeth were or how insanely flexible their necks could be. But he didn’t bite me and after my careful placement, Hurly, as I affectionately know him now, scurried off into the darkness and security of the brush, both of us unscathed. There was also the time while snorkeling over the Crystal River springhead when I ran head on into a Manatee and I do mean I ran into. To a twelve year old kid, this thing was like a submerged Volkswagen with eyes. I was scared shitless. Looking back, I don’t even think Manatees have teeth, but still, it was huge. Today, I can proudly say that it has been over twenty four years since I have killed another animal. Bugs and cold blooded reptilian creatures do not yet fall into this safe-zone category, nor do the ridiculously over-populated turtles that my mother has contracted me to rid from their pond, but I am learning. On a hypocritical side note: I am almost strictly carnivorous.

In an effort to protect the innocent and guilty alike, all names have been omitted from this next section. Personally, I have loved and I have been loved. I have hurt and I have been hurt. I was even married once. Wow, yeah, that didn’t really work out at all. But, uh, I do wish her new husband the very best. In friendships, like so many I, too, have been burned. And this is an area I which I am absolutely unforgiving. As a result I have a lot of acquaintances and one true friend, Major Wade Deliberto – ‘hey, Wade’. A friend to me is someone that no matter how good or how bad a situation might be, they are there. And they are there without expectations and without strings. Wade is that friend to me. Whenever I have needed him, which seems, at least to me, to be a lot, he was there. I can only hope that I throughout the course of our lives I can prove to be as valued a friend to him as he has been to me.

Life isn’t worth living without mistakes and just plain dumb decisions. How else are we to learn those lessons so infinitely valuable? Needless to say, I have made enough for several lives. And I didn’t always learn that valuable lesson on the first try or even ever in some cases. But I truly believe that without these experiences and these failures I would be a completely different person, and not necessarily in a good way. I believe that often my failures gave my father the opportunity(s) to impart his wisdom and teach his son those things he felt were most important for me to learn.

Throughout my life, I have drunk too many beers and I have smoked way too many cigarettes. I even experienced a Clinton-esque moment with Marijuana in college. Relax, it was like twenty-five years ago, and I didn’t like it. I got suspended from High School for a week one time and rather than fess up and tell my parents, I attempted to find a surrogate father to accompany me back to school when my sentence was up. Yeah, that was a really stupid idea, but thanks anyway, Amy. I even died my hair blonde in some misguided David Beckham Moonie moment. And I don’t even like soccer.

Through it all I have been selfish and I have been self absorbed, almost to the degree of megalomania mixed with the perfect balance of narcissism. But I am learning. I am learning to be a better person. I am learning to be more patient and understanding of others. I am learning to give rather than to take. Each new day, I am learning and more importantly I am applying Newton’s law that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Peter Pan didn’t have that kind of insight, so I guess I’m evolving.

After our final breakup, my high school sweetheart, a pretty smart and well read young woman, gave me a poem which I think was supposed to make me feel better about the situation. It didn’t. But it did move and inspire me. And to this day its words still reassure me that everything is going to be okay, that no matter how bad I think it is it could be worse. Its simple words drive me to just keep moving forward and not look back.

Comes the Dawn

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security,
And you begin to understand that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises.
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head held high and your eyes open,
With the grace of a man, not the grief of a child.
You learn to build your roads
On today because tomorrow’s ground
Is too uncertain for plans, and futures have
A way of falling down in midflight.
After a while you learn that even sunshine
Burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and you decorate
Your own soul, instead of waiting
For someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you can really endure,
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and learn … and you learn
With every hello and goodbye you learn

So, with all of this worldly experience under my belt, the obvious question is ‘what’s next?’ To which I can honestly say ‘I don’t really know.’ What I do know is that I want to continue to enrich my life while hopefully adding value to those whose lives I touch. I have recently started a new career that I am sincerely excited about. But more than that, I want to continue to live and experience all that is available to me. I want to be able to look back over my next forty-two years with a sigh of contentment knowing that I got the best of this world. Sure I have goals and things I want to accomplish but the most important ones, the ones that really matter are not measurable, they are more intangible, more personal. I want a family of my own. I want to be able to share and pass on the love and tradition that was and is still so important to me, to give my children the kind of memories I have. I want to live up to the expectations of my family. This doesn’t mean I am going to be a doctor or a CEO, it means I am going to be happy, I’m going to be responsible, I’m going to become the type of role model that I had. I want to learn Russian and to play the violin. I want to write something really great and I want to change someone’s life for the better. And I want to maintain my traditional values. These are my life goals.

If I can do these things, I think I may finally and effectively relegate Peter Pan back to my more youthful days where he belongs and replace him with a man, a man in the truest Renaissance sense of the word, not a man for the moment, but a man like my father and like my grandfather. And that, well that’s my true end goal.

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The Death of “Atlanta Homicide”

Posted in Atlanta Investigations:HD, Screenwriting with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2008 by chrisdurant2000

As most of you know, I became involved with the start up TV show “Atlanta Homicide” (later known as “Atlanta Investigations:HD/ AI:HD”) back in December of 2007.  The premise in its origins was a crime drama set in Atlanta and like most others in this genre it attempted to balance the character stories of the principal actors with the drama of solving crime.

After working on nine episodes – five of which actually aired (on ColoursTV), one currently in post-production, and three others that seem closer to a beginning than an ending, I have decided to leave the show and have terminated my relationship with the overall project.  This is something I feel is unfortunate and I that regret must come to pass but is for the betterment of my career.

Sources inside the AI:HD camp have reported me being labeled a “Narcissistic, Ego-driven, ass*!&%” which, although probably not that far from the truth, still saddens me because of my prior commitment to the show.

From day one on the set of AI:HD I was prepared.  I stayed as long as I was needed and went above and beyond my role as simply an actor on the set.  Many times I had to re-write scripts on set so that they made sense.  I have re-written lines for people so that they flowed better and were easier to deliver.  I have bought food.  I have catered and hosted a network night when one of the producers and co-creators of the show could not be there and the other one showed up 30 minutes before the event was over.  I supplied props for myself and others.  I knew what day in the script we were shooting and usually had to educate others on what wardrobe went with what “day”, etc.  And ultimately I have waited – countless hours on the co-creators/director/cinematographer and other cast members who would show up when it was convenient for them – at times up to 3 and 4 hours late, leaving those who were on time to wait.

So why did I leave you ask?

I took this show and this project very seriously – as I do every one that I work on.  My reputation speaks volumes about who I am and my character on and off the set.  I am a professional and act as such.  I cannot say the same about many of the others involved with AI:HD.  When the co-creators and primary producers don’t treat this as an absolute priority and a professional endeavor, others will not either.   That is where I feel AI:HD is now.

Overall there is a total lack of communication and follow up.    Planning and organization are non-existent.  This has to change.  Casting is done on the fly and as a result we ended up unable to complete episodes because now “so and so” lives out of state, etc.  There are currently 3 unfinished episodes that involved me – one which we began filming in FEBRUARY!  We did not have production meetings, table reads or even call sheets, all of which I feel are critical to planning and ultimately executing a successful episode filming.

On my last day on set, our scheduled call time was 10:30 a.m.  I got a call at 10 a.m. indicating that the call time had been moved to 11:30 a.m.  Upon arriving at the studio on time, I found the parking lot completely empty – no crew, no cast, other than me!   A phone call later, I found out that the director was enroute and would be there with in 15 minutes and our producer/cinematographer would be there shortly (undefined).  At 12:15 p.m. the director showed up and shortly there after assorted background cast members began to trickle in.    At 1:05 p.m. the producer/ cinematographer finally showed up and immediately left again.   Fortunately I was out in the parking lot detailing my car, so at least I was somewhat occupying my time.   Now by 2:30 p.m. I was done with the car and getting a little impatient.  My ultimatum to the director was if we were not shooting by 3:00 p.m., I was leaving.  Everyone involved knew that I had to leave no later than 5:00 p.m.  Finally at 2:55 our producer/ cinematographer showed up.  None of the equipment was set up and we were still waiting on my partner for this episode.  It was doubtful if not impossible that we could get anything filmed prior to my 5:00 p.m. cut time.  So after several discussions I left.   I should point out at this point that I had passed on a well paid, modeling assignment to dedicate my day to filming for AI:HD.

The following day I was fortunately able to perform the second half of the shoot that I missed on Saturday (for the remaining half of the total compensation).  Afterwards, my phone began blowing up with calls from cast and crew members of AI:HD asking me to come to the studio to film.  I refused.   After the final straw of Saturday’s absolute waste of time, everything else really came into perspective.  And as such I realized that I could not commit any more time to this project unless steps were taken to address the many production downfalls (see above) that had become the norm.  To date, I still do not believe that these opportunities for improvement and paramount needs have been addressed.

To those actors and crew members still working on AI:HD, I wish them the very best.  I would not have spent the amount of time and energy I did if the show was not something I believed in.  However, it was just time for me to move on.

Now, as far as the promised compensation of copy and credit I would issue this warning to anyone associated with AI:HD as well as independent directors and producers.  When you indicate “COPY and CREDIT” as the only compensation, it is your absolute responsibility to provide that to your actors.  And actors, it is your absolute right to request, repeatedly, even if you have to demand it from your director/producer.

With AI:HD I had to write numerous emails requesting that my IMDB.com (Chris Durant on IMDB.com ) page be updated before they finally were.  That takes care of the credit portion, so how about copy?  Beg, borrow, steal and maybe with a little ardent encouragement you’ll get it.  I even went so far as to give a pack of 50 DVRs to our co-creator/director/cinematographer.  I am still waiting on two of the finished and aired episodes.

Now this brings us to the present day:

As many of you know I had written a script titled “Vendetta” for the show that delved into why my character, Detective Winslow, was who he was and why he acted the way that he did.  I already had 95% of the roles cast.  I had the bulk of the locations secured.  I had the prop list compiled with the vast majority of them being supplied by me – including visual and graphic effects.  I had a world renowned producer prepared to score the episode.  And as important to the production planning process as I feel they are, I had undated call sheets prepared so that during our preproduction meeting/table read we could plan out our shoot days based on everyone’s availability all at once.  Many of the people I had worked with in putting this together were leery to commit knowing the (not so good) reputation of AI:HD but also knowing me, they agreed to participate as a favor to me.  I guess they’re off the hook now.  I wanted to use this opportunity to showcase AI:HD to those who had heard not so good things about this production and show them where we were had come to now.   Or not!

As a result of my departure from AI:HD I am rewriting “Vendetta” into a short and also a feature length film to be shot by my newly formed production company – Twisted Window Productions.  So thanks for the inspiration.

Chris Durant ®

“Atlanta Homicide” becomes “Atlanta Investigations:HD”

Posted in Atlanta Investigations:HD with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2008 by chrisdurant2000

Atlanta Homicide – Atlanta Investigations HD

 AIHD Chris Durant & Kal CauthenAtlanta Homicide News

Atlanta Homicide is changing its series name to Atlanta Investigations HD (Homicide Division) as it prepares for Colours TV broadcast in July.

The show features stars Kal Cauthen as Detective Bryce, Chris Durant as Detective Winslow, and Angelina Cortez as Detective Wilmore.

CoLours can be found in all 50 states in the top 100 TV markets, in front of over 18 million television households. Find them on EchoStar/Dish Network channel 9407 and on local cable affiliates, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. CoLours’ technical information is Satellite Intelsat Americas 13, Transponder 6. CoLours also features an online presence. Go to our web site at www.colourstv.org for more information.

Atlanta’s “Cold Cases” get TV Treatment

Posted in Atlanta Investigations:HD with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2008 by chrisdurant2000

Chris Durant, Angelina Cortez, Hattie Lemon on the set of AIHD

This article was originally printed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and on AccessAtlanta.com.

CRIME/TELEVISION

Atlanta’s ‘cold cases’ get TV treatment
New cable series based on true crimes filming in Roswell


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/20/2008  

The idea is to take crimes from the streets and put a fictional spin on them to produce an Atlanta cop drama that will alter the image of this city the way the HBO series “The Wire” has reimagined Baltimore.

But there are problems on the set of “Atlanta Investigations: HD,” a shoestring production that, at this moment, is shooting an episode in an abandoned gym without air-conditioning on a boiling June afternoon that makes everyone on the set feel like something in the oven for dinner.

PHIL SKINNER / AJC
Actress Angelina Cortez gets ready for shooting scenes of ‘Atlanta Investigations: HD’, a new TV series based on real Atlanta homicide investigations.
 

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The generator powering the lights just ran out of gas. Carl Millender, the show’s creator and video camera operator, groans. “I only brought enough gas to run it [the generator] two and a half hours,” he tells the actors.

He pauses, thinks a second.

“Everybody move over by the window — we’ll shoot it there.”

If there’s an instinct vital to survival in the industry of TV on the cheap it’s knowing how to adapt. Millender, 38, the owner of Alpharetta-based StarMaxx Media, has honed that instinct in nine years of trying to survive on the margins of television production in Atlanta.

“They say we’re supposed to shoot an episode on a budget of $100,000,” he says of the show, which will begin airing on The Dish satellite network Thursday. “We’re more like $20,000.”

There’s no disguising the cut corners from viewers used to watching slick cop productions such as “CSI” or “Law & Order,” which carries an average per episode production budget of $4 million.

In early episodes of “Atlanta Investigations: HD,” the lighting, camera work and sound are patchy. And for actors — who are unpaid until the series airs — the work has been a test of mettle.

“We’ve been at both extremes shooting in this gym,” says Chris Durant, 34, who plays strictly-by-the-books Detective Stephen Winslow. “In January we were freezing. The beginning of June we’re sweating our tails off.”

Yet, says Millender, “Atlanta Investigations: HD” (the HD stands for homcide division) is about more than just making a hit show.

About 90 shows and series have been shot in Atlanta in the last 35 years, most recently Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne,” but “Atlanta Investigtions: HD” would be the first dramatic series set and shot in the city with Atlanta in the name.

And that’s huge, Millender says.

“Atlanta is the Mecca of the South, and the center of the music industry, but there’s no TV show ever been based here, and there’s no TV industry here. This is what we’re trying to do. And we’ve been getting a lot of help.”

And they’ve needed it. Millender and co-creator and director Hattie Lemon know their way around the TV business. And they’re doing what they can to juice the show’s appeal, such as casting celebrity guest appearances (comic Arnez J) and hiring Michael Moore — who produced music for episodes of “The Sopranos” — to write the show’s high-energy theme.

But, when it came to running even a fictional homicide division, Millender and Lemon were complete tyros.

They asked for help in a most unexpected place: The Andrew Young Foundation. Millender got in touch with former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young’s brother, Walter, an Atlanta dentist who works with the Foundation, and told him he was trying to produce a cop show in Atlanta that would help solve crimes and give the city a lot of publicity.

Within two days Walter Young arranged a meeting with local police chiefs. Over dinner at the Four Seasons restaurant, Millender bounced his ideas off Atlanta Police Chief Richard J. Pennington, DeKalb Chief Terrell Bolton and former Atlanta chief and current Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell.

Bolton, for one, told the producer Millender he should change the name of the show, which was originally titled “Atlanta Homicide,” recalls Millender. “He said that wasn’t the right image for the city.”

With Pennington’s blessing, Millender met with the head of the Atlanta Police Department’s homicide division, Lt. Keith Meadows, who watched one of the early episodes and offered advice.

“I thought it was pretty good, though you could tell it was low budget,” said Meadows, who teaches a crime scene class in the department’s Citizens Academy. “But they had a lot of unrealistic parts I told them they needed to fix.”

Meadows told Millender and Lemon, who attended this crime scene class, to clean up the language — “Homicide detectives don’t talk in the kind of slang they did” — and put coats and ties on the crime scene detectives.

“Their investigators were wearing T-shirts and bandannas,” Meadow said. “That’s a no-no. If an investigator of mine showed up like that I’d send him home.”

The show now has a full-time cop consultant and, for script ideas, a pipeline to Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue’s “Rewards Office,” which offers money to help solve hard-to-crack crimes.

At the end of each episode, which are fictionalized versions of the real-life crimes, viewers are asked to come forward if they have evidence in the case.

“It’s a great show, good for the police and good for the city,” says Billy Johnson, a specialist in charge of extradition and rewards in the governor’s office who is also on the board of the Georgia Film, Video and Music Office.

The show is fictionalizing: gang-related drive-by shootings in Clayton County in 2005; a 2007 triple murder in Powder Springs; the case of a woman missing from LaFayette since 2007; and the case of a newborn found dead and abandoned in 2007.

All that will come to naught if the show doesn’t catch on with viewers, concedes Arthur Thomas Sr., VP of Colours TV, which is syndicating the show on The Dish satellite network. Locally, the show will air the evening of July 3 on The Dish at Channel 9407.

But the show’s appeal may be its lack of polish.

“It’s got a great cast, real stories, and a kind of gritty indie feel to it,” says Thomas. “If it’s a good story, people will accept the production values. And I think Atlanta is hungry for a show about Atlanta.”

Character Bio – Detective Stephen “Step” Winslow

Posted in Atlanta Investigations:HD, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2008 by chrisdurant2000

ATLANTA INVESTIGATIONS:HD – Star Maxx Media

  
 

 

Character Bio: Detective Stephen “STEP” Winslow    

    

Name: Stephen “Step” Winslow

Age:     34

Height:   6’1”       Weight:  180lbs     Build:  Athletic

Hair:     Brown     Eyes:  Hazel

Marital Status:   Single

Religion:  Baptist

Father:   John Winslow, VP with local bank

Mother:  Carol Winslow, Retired Elementary School Teacher

Brother:  Wade Winslow, Major, United States Marine Corps, Pentagon

Education:

            High School:   Pace Academy, Atlanta, Georgia

            College:           United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD

 

Military:   United States Marine Corps, Captain, Force Recon, Bronze Star, Operation ENDURING FREEDOM

Atlanta Police Department:

·         Academy – Top of his class – 6 months

·         Patrol, Zone 2 – 18 months

·         Training Group – 24 months

·         SWAT – 36 months

·         Homicide – 6 months – current

 

Background:

Stephen “STEP” Winslow grew up in an affluent, upper middle class family in the Buckhead suburbs of Atlanta.   The youngest of two sons, Step looked up to and seemed to idolize his older brother, Wade.  The boys learned their values in a firm, yet loving household.  John (a VP with a local bank) and Carol (retired school teacher) provided excellent role models for the two boys.

 

Step attended and graduated from the prestigious Pace Academy in the heart of Buckhead.  And then followed in his brother’s footsteps and was accepted into the United States Naval Academy.  After graduating from Annapolis, Step received his commission in the United States Marine Corps.  He continued to follow Wade’s lead and joined Force Reconnaissance and served five (5) years in the Corps including a deployment to Afghanistan.

 

After being Honorably Discharged from the Marine Corps, Step returned to Atlanta and against the wishes of his parents joined the Atlanta Police Department.  Top in his academy class, Step went on to work patrol in Zone 2 for 18 months before moving into the training group where he served as a Firearms Instructor specializing in Tactical Pistol, Shotgun and Patrol rifle, Basic Weapons Handling as well as Taser and “Force on Force” training for officers and SWAT.  Still longing for the action of the Marine Corps, Step joined SWAT and served on the team for three (3) years before passing his detective’s exam and moving into his current role in Atlanta’s Homicide Division.

 

As the newest addition to the division, many of the other detectives are still feeling Step out.  A private person who seems to keep to himself off the job, Winslow is seen as a bit of a loner and is often thought of as arrogant because of his no-nonsense demeanor; a stereotype which has been further solidified by his refusal to take lip from ANYONE including his superiors who seem to look the other way at times.

 

His morals are beyond reproach and he is a “strictly by the book” officer/investigator.