’90s TV, cold cases, and Charles Manson’s son

Fran Fine's dress sense

Here are the features I have written in 2018 for news.com.au, The Guardian, and SBS

The pair of orange socks that link two grisly murders

How Magic Johnson forever changed the public perception of HIV

Daniel Johns: His darkest days

Jessica Small: The unsolved Bathurst hitch-hiker murder

David Koresh and the Waco siege: 25 years on

Cold Case: Who abducted Cindy Song?

REVIEW: Bohemian Rhapsody is an enjoyable piece of fictional film-making

What happened to missing newsreader Jodi Huisentruit?

Sarah Fox murder: Her ritualistic slaying, and a psychic suspect who formed his own religion

The McDonald’s murders: unsolved, thirty years later

Robin Graham disappearance: A chilling Hollywood mystery  Involving a suspect from the Manson Family who may be the Zodiac Killer

Hollywood’s most fascinating kids: Jaden and Willow Smith  The future is in good hands.

Non-union conditions, homophobia, low pay, and near-death experiences: On the set of the Power Rangers in the ’90s

The Colonel who piloted the Queen – and was also a murderous night-stalker

The Village Voice journalist who took on a strip club ring, then disappeared

The OC: How Mischa Barton killed herself off

The rise and fall and rise and fall of Justin Bieber

The unsolved murder of 87-year-old Frank Newbery: the gentleman grocer

Who is the Somerton Man? The clues that could provide an answer to Australia’s most baffled cold case

How Fran Drescher’s stalker ordeal forever changed how sitcoms are made. 

Friends is still insanely popular: How Gen Y are nostalgic for an era they didn’t experience.

Cold case: Family’s anguish over bungled investigation of baffling murder. About Tony Jones, who disappeared in 1982 while backpacking in QLD. The cops kept bungling the case.

Dark days on the set of That 70s Show

The serial killer that won a TV dating show during his murder spree. Here is the tale of Rodney Alcala, who is one of California’s most notorious serial killers. During his murder spree, he managed to take time out to appear on (and win!) a TV dating game show.

Twenty-six-years later, SA girl Rhianna Barreau remains missing. A really depressing cold case I wrote about for news.com.au.

Doctor Sneha Ann Philip is officially a hero. A spooky 9/11 story about a doctor with a dark double life who most likely used the Twin Towers attacks as an excuse to disappear. I’ve been obsessed with this story for years, so it was good to write about it.

Manson’s son and his unlikely connection to Charles’ right-hand man. The second piece I wrote about Matthew Roberts, Charlie’s estranged son.

Who is the mystery man found in the Hawkesbury, tied to a crucifix?

A snapshot of how Brisbane’s music scene is thriving (for The Guardian.)

And here are the features I wrote in 2016/2017, for news.com.au, SBS, NYPost, and Junkee. (my archive of writing for THE BRAG in 2017/2018 can be found here)

How I found out my dad is Charles Manson: In which I became pals with Manson’s estranged son.

How an eccentric heiress and Australia’s most notorious mass killer forged an unlikely friendship: Martin Bryant, an old lady, and a house filled with animals.

The Weather Underground: I interviewed genius Bill Ayers about the current U.S. election, his revolutionary days with The Weather Underground, and all number of other things.

Talking to Heaven’s Gate survivors about matching Nikes and everlasting life

Who Put Bella In The Wych Elm? One of the weirdest dead body mysteries in history.

Baker-Miller Pink: the shade of pink that can reduce anxiety, appetite and aggression. 

20 years on, is Happy Gilmore still a good film? (Spoiler: It is). Also about Sandler’s legacy

The QLD man who thinks he is Jesus (Spoiler: he probably isn’t)

Inside the Aetherius Society: An interview with the leaders of my favourite UFO cult

Somebody knows what happened to Gordana

Catching up with the ’90s cast of Home and Away

Which show spawned more Hollywood stars, Neighbours or Home and Away? A scientific analysis.

Reefer Madness: Laughing at the old marijuana propaganda films.

How drugs drive musical movements

In praise of the Daria soundtrack

Gotta CAPTCHA them all. How those annoying things are helping to digitalise historical texts

Daniel Amalm – how being on Home and Away in the ’90s was rough on him.

Interview with Harvey from Sabrina. (What a dude)

Heartbreak High stars – where are they now? (I tracked a bunch of them down for your reading pleasure)

Meet Ellie, the robot therapist treating soldiers with PTSD

The sweeter side of South Park. (It’s not all dick jokes)

Checking in with the experts: How close are we to marijuana being legal in Australia?

An interview with Asia McClain, about how the ‘Serial’ podcast blowing up made her fear for her safety.

About how our environment completely tricks us into eating more. Spoke to an interesting scientist from Cornell University over the phone and his enthusiasm was infectious.

About Edward Wayne Edwards, who was probably America’s worst serial killer, with links to the West Memphis Three, Jon Benet Ramsey, Teresa Halbach… oh, and he may have been the Zodiac Killer!

An interview with Christine Elise – who played Emily Valentine on 90210 – about dealing with mental fans, and mental co-stars.

Storylines from ‘Friends’ that would be the subject of a million angry opinion pieces the next day in the current super P.C. climate.

About the NFL and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and the murky legal, social and moral questions it throws up.

About the sad passing of Prince, and his lack of concern regarding the rules.

Another Prince article, this time detailing what Prince’s songs were really about.

Jean Spangler: A Hollywood murder mystery

About how it’s in a lot of people’s best interests for Sydney Kings to be a winning team next season.

About Finland’s plan to introduce a basic universal living wage. It’s the future.

Father Yod and the Source Family: a ’70s cult (or group of people living commune-style in Hollywood Hills) who had a house band that put out records, ran a hip, hugely-successful health-food restaurant (Yoko and John were customers) and then moved en masse to Hawaii.  – NY Post |

Charles Manson was house-buddies with Dennis Wilson, recording with Brian and Carl Wilson, and how badly that all turned out. – news.com.au

The Kardashian Kurse – a study of the highly-functional people who are dragged into the Kardashian vortex and fall apart. Also about ‘The Life Of Pablo’. – news.com.au

On the miserable conversion rate when it comes to successful actors attempting to parlay this success into a music career. Contains the only positive review of Brian Austin Green‘s album to date and the only negative thing I’ll ever write about Lindsay Lohan. Also a list article. – news.com.au

Michael Jordan summer-trained his way to an NBA record season (1996 Bulls: 72-10) and a championship on the set of Space Jam –thanks to the custom-built ‘Jordan Dome’, a training facility which cost $10,000 a week just to air-condition. Also, George Clooney would drop by for pickup games because that’s just the kind of thing you’re dealing with on the set of Space Jam. – news.com.au

Was ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ merely an elaborate, expensive way for Stanley Kubrick to toy with Tom Cruise?

Where experts, naysayers and everyone else saw the internet heading in the ’90s

Forget everything you thought you knew about Jesus

The AIDS hysteria of the ’80s


Love in the time of Tinder: my new column

Nathan Jolly's relationship column

I have started writing a weekly dating/relationships/life/mere male column on news.com.au. It is published each Sunday. Below is the archive for your reading pleasure. It works best on Sundays, though.

The Five Love Languages: revisiting a ’90s pop psychology classic (30/10/18)

On planning a wedding without spending the GDP of a small country (23/09/18)

Men are from Earth, women are from Earth (16/09/18)

Old friends, new lovers: What to do when your friend starts dating someone you hate (09/09/18)

Dating deal-breakers: The most common relationship red flags (02/09/18)

Tinder kills any chance of a romantic first meeting (26/08/18)

Do teenage boys care about how they lose their virginity? (19/08/18)

Going to the movies is the worst first date idea ever (12/08/18) 



The apartment fire saga

Part 1: So, this morning my apartment burnt down…

Two weeks ago, I accidentally dead-bolted my best friend Ben in my apartment. I had no idea it was even possible, but he had been staying with me since returning from NYC a few weeks back, and while he was in the shower, I absentmindedly locked my door, as I’d done countless times before, left for work, and later received a call from him.

“Um, I think you’ve locked me in.”

A few frantic calls and an overpriced locksmith later and he was freed to go about his day. I felt guilty about it for far too long, and we discussed how dangerous it is that you can lock a human in a house without any chance of escape. As with most houses in Newtown, the windows are barred, there are blankets and wood everywhere, and the entire thing is a fire-trap.

A week later it was his birthday and we’d been slowly, steadily drinking all day. I left in the later afternoon, went home, and proceeded to pass out on my bed. My best friend and my girlfriend both tried and failed to get into my apartment despite much knocking and phone calling; he poked me through the window with a fence paling in order to wake me up.

These twin thoughts raced through my brain this morning as my entire apartment block was in flames. I wasn’t there at the time of the fire, but my best friend was. He awoke to a frantic knock and the yell of someone announcing the building was on fire. By the time I arrived, the entire top storey had been razed, the residents spilled onto the street and the entire block was covered with fire trucks, police who wouldn’t let me near my apartment, and ambulance workers. My real estate agent apologised to me as if she’d set the fire, and offered to get us coffees.

There was an ominous bag of asbestos sitting in the driveway; labelled loudly as if in a cartoon. I obsessed over what this meant until, “babe, the entire building is probably made of asbestos” somehow calmed me down.

Bag of asbestos

My best friend was fine — or seemed fine — but my girlfriend’s eyes welled up a few hours later upon the memory of his sick, stressed face. The police questioned him in an alarmingly direct way; he realised as they were asking who he was with, what he’d done the night before, all these seemingly unrelated questions that he was perhaps the main suspect, should this be the type of fire in which a suspect was to be suspected. He doesn’t live there, the actual tenant was absent on the night in question, and he had all his worldly possessions in a travel bag (from returning from overseas), ready to quickly exit. Then hang around and be polite and forthcoming with questioning. That’s where the police case would fall apart, I imagine.

Want to hear something wild?

Ben says as everyone was frantically leaving the apartment block, a few of them saw some guy who they didn’t recognise in hi-vis gear. He left, exited the scene and was never seen again. Maybe he started the fire. Maybe he lived in the apartment block; none of the neighbours knew him, and I realised I don’t know any of my neighbours.

I still don’t know when or if I can return, if any of my thoroughly unimportant things still remain, or what this all means to me – if anything much at all.

As we were preparing to leave, a young guy came up to us and asked if we lived in the building. He pointed to the house next door — a house that I have peered into countless times, a house with a porch light that shines angrily into my window if they come home late at night — and said that we could shower, grab some water, use his house for whatever we needed.

I thought that perhaps I should get to know my neighbours, then wondered if they were my neighbours anymore.

Apartment fire in Newtown

Part two: And then the junkies moved in

When I walked into my burnt apartment a week after the fire, there was a used needle and a tin of Milo sitting on my bed. Neither of these things were mine. Milo, after all, is a disgusting habit.

The day after the fire we were allowed in for a few minutes in order to grab a few clothes and necessities – enough to fill a suitcase. At that stage there were a few dripping faultlines in the ceiling, one of the corner eaves had been displaced, and the floor was muddy and trampled by firemen and police – but everything was relatively undisturbed.

It had been a pain to gain access again, as the building had been condemned, and insurance agencies make a living out of mitigating risk, and instilling fear. The idea of my items safely entombed in a building that I couldn’t gain access to caused me to have a twelve-hour panic attack over the weekend: we visited the building, now caged in steel and warning signs, and I manically climbed the fence ready to leap in, sans-plan, before my girlfriend calmly explained how terrible an idea this was. So I waited.

The second time we entered, things were a lot messier. The floor was a nest of records, books, and clothes.

Junkie nest

Heroin needle and milo

It was a broken, rather nice Corelle bowl near the door — which I also definitely didn’t own — that made me realise someone had been living in there. There were other weird items in my house, too, which suggested the junkies had looted all the other burned-out apartments, decided mine was the most livable, and settled in for a few nights with their treasures, their heroin, and their Milo. I get it; it was still a pretty cozy place, as far as burned out apartments go.

They were respectful to a degree; they only ransacked drawers, cupboards, places people might hide money, drugs, or jewellery. After the initial rush, they seemed to leave the place relatively unharmed. Books were left neatly in shelves or stacks, photos and DVD collections remained calm.

They stole a bunch of rare seven inches though, which suggests that at least they were cool junkies. Come to think of it, they only took the good guitars too, leaving a few cheapen beaten up guitars, and a shitty off-brand five-string bass a previous neighbour had gifted me before moving out — it’s garbage and largely useless unless you happen to be in a Korn covers band, but it’s hard to justify turning down a free bass, despite the extra string and sharp metal-band design.

I’m sure they plan to resell the guitars, but I like to think they’ll keep them and start a junkie jug band. They emptied a coin jar which had about ten dollars in shrapnel – probably what they brought the tin of Milo with.

They were young junkies I assume; two camcorders remained, as did the TV, DVDs (Seachange season one, too!), books, most of my records, and all the electrical gear. Plus, check out that vintage dope-cooking gear in the photo below. That’s stylish paraphernalia, from the era of opium dens and smoking jackets.

There were piles of clothes dragged out of the wardrobe and dumped onto the floor, too, but I feel those were removed to sleep on.

As far as makeshift beds go, it did look rather comfortable. I pick up the needle, and place it in the Milo tin, and wonder where they are right now.

Vintage dope cooking gear

(I’m on Twitter now, check me out @nathanjolly)

Magic eye, Melbourne Cup, and Bunnings – my archive of writing for The BRAG


Here is a collection of my best (read: favourite) articles from the past eighteen months or so writing for The BRAG.

The complete archive containing 730 articles* is here, if you enjoy reading about weird Sydney stuff from the present and the past, fast food wars, nostalgia, conspiracy theories, or the history of Bunnings. Enjoy!

*It’s 73 pages with ten articles on each. I didn’t count them all. I’m not a maniac.

R U OK? If so, ask someone else if they are – ‘cos they might not be

12 glorious highlights from the history of the Melbourne Cup

Why can’t some people see Magic Eye pictures? An investigation

Which musical landmarks in Sydney should be recognised with plaques?

Lunatic asylums and war-ships: How Bunnings came to rule hardware and sausage sizzles

There don’t seem to be many upsides to marrying a prince

Looking Back: Silverchair’s Freak Show, 20 Years Later

The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtrack reviewed, 18 years later

Every song from the 2016 Triple J Hottest 100 reviewed in one(ish) sentence

Every song from the 2017 Hottest 100 reviewed in a sentence or two (part one)

Every song from the 2017 Hottest 100 reviewed in a sentence or two (part two)

The community notice board at Banana Joe’s is peak Marrickville

Some well-deserved props to Jack Antonoff for a massive 2017. That’s all.

Some well-deserved props to the Madden brothers. That’s all

Why doesn’t RAGE repeat song info towards the end of clips? An investigation

Looking at the most iconic Royal Easter Show bags of all time

Your guide to the very best Spice Girls merch (once) available

Make no mistake, your ‘My Health Record’ will be hacked and made public

Domestic violence spiked 40% last night due to the State Of Origin

How to tell if you’re dealing with a Centrelink ‘robo-debt’ recovery robot

Let’s revisit all those Nintendo commercials from the ’90s, why don’t we?

Let’s revisit all the best rides from Australia’s Wonderland, why don’t we?

Let’s revisit those Aussie fast food ads from the ’90s, why don’t we?

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