Investigator Investigated

Oliver Mackson: GOSHEN — Mabel Waingrow outlived her husband, her only son, all five of her brothers and her sister. She closed up her coffee shop out on Route 94 in Blooming Grove and lived alone as she entered her 90s, bedeviled by loneliness and convinced that someone was stealing from her.

Ten years ago, her complaints about the thievery fell upon the ears of Nick Stagliano Jr., a veteran criminal investigator for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Stagliano investigated the complaints and determined that they were unfounded. But he remained friendly with Waingrow after the investigation ended. He started running errands for her, cut her grass and helped her around the house, changing her sheets and assisting her in the bathroom.

Waingrow became close to him. She told a judge, “He is wonderful. He does everything for me. I feel he is like my big brother.'”

In 2001, she wrote a will that made Stagliano the sole beneficiary of her $990,000 estate. Shortly afterward, a court named Stagliano as Waingrow’s legal guardian because she couldn’t take of her own affairs.

In 2003, she died. She was 99. That year, Stagliano was the only one who showed up to celebrate her birthday.

Fire of God

T Lake: On the 84th night of the revival, the air was charged with collective energy and the floor shook from pounding feet. A spine-tingling roar rose from the crowd. They were calling to God for oil and fire. • Eight thousand people filled the tent. They had come from all around the world, bringing walkers and wheelchairs and chronic pain. They were here for the Florida Outpouring in Lakeland, the hottest thing going in religion these days, and some wore T-shirts that said It’s Hell Without Jesus.

Above them stood their spiritual leader: Todd Bentley, 32, a stout, balding Canadian with flames tattooed on the back of his neck. He was known to boast about healing through violence. He had been videotaped telling stories about kicking a woman in the face, slamming a crippled woman’s legs against the stage and knocking out a man’s tooth. This was done, he claimed, on behalf of the Holy Spirit.

“Kaboom-boom!” he shrieked. “God’s been pouring the gas. And then the match. KABOOM-BOOM!”

Bentley paced the stage as he spoke, head sometimes jiggling like a bobblehead doll. He said his staff was working overtime on a catalog of healings and resurrections, verified by X-ray and blood test.

Top of the Heap

Hank Stuever: TEMPLE, Pa.

The only satisfying thing left to do on television is clean up people’s houses.

In a half-baked, slovenly era of sub-accomplishment, organizing closets can feel like God’s work. Symbolic outsiders (sassy black women, gay men) swoop in and sort the “keep” from the “toss.”

These houses you see on cable makeover shows all seem to have the same kind of blobby Americans living in them — shopaholic victims helpless in the face of their own affluenza, people you can judge and yell at, while you sit there on your own crummy couch not cleaning your own cluttered house. These are the houses where the bedrooms all look like the closets have vomited. The family rooms all foretell what a Kmart might look like if every third customer were a suicide bomber.

250 guitars

Lon Wagner: Man, Greg Sipe can’t just start off with his best guitar story.

Stories are like rock songs, man, every layer’s important. You need the drums and bass to push that baby forward, and the guitars… Dude, don’t even start.

Greg loves guitars, especially Gibson guitars. Loves them so much, he’s got 250 of them stashed in his Chesapeake house, and they’re worth a few million bucks.

When a friend asks to see Greg’s collection, his wife, Susan, warns: “There’s a story for every one, and it takes a while to see them.”

Vaseline-Colored Breakers

Ben Montgomery: Melissa Parrot drains her Coors Light, slips out of her T-shirt and hops off the tailgate of her Texas Edition Ford F-150. The pickup gets 20 miles per gallon of gas, which costs $3.96 at Exxon, which gets petroleum from the earth beneath the brown saltwater she’s about to step into. “You’re going to get in?” asks her friend. “Why not?” Melissa says. “Look at it,” he says. “We drove all the way down here,” she says. They live north of Houston, 70 miles away. “Might as well get in.” Melissa walks down Galveston’s East Beach, where the signs say “Drinking Is Legal,” past cigarette butts and beer bottles, toward breakers the color of Vaseline and a horizon dotted by oil rigs, into water so cloudy you can’t see your feet a few steps out. What’s the difference between the beaches of Florida, where offshore oil drilling is prohibited, and the beaches of Texas, which opened its shores to drilling 40 years ago? “This looks like crap,” says Melissa’s friend Kenneth Lyons, 19, still planted on the tailgate. “It’s not something you want to get into.”

The Right Guy

Tom Lake: LUTZ — In the church on the stage by a tall white cross stood a man with a red guitar. He flexed his facial muscles as he played, the way guitarists do when they reach a crescendo, and the sound was swift and warm, like a solar wind. In his abandon he jerked the neck so hard that the capo went flying and bounced at his feet.

The man was Jeff Calhoun. He had searched a long time for the fleeting transcendence that comes when musicians lock together just right. He had tasted it in jazz clubs, in recording studios, at outdoor shows with the Lexington Philharmonic, but now he believed that feeling was nothing less than the physical presence of God.

Calhoun believed all good things were from God. He could see divine architecture in the curves of a lily and the seed patterns of a kiwi fruit. All through Scripture he could see people using their talents to glorify God: Solomon with the temple, David with the harp. Calhoun had a guitar, a Paul Reed Smith McCarty the color of a Lambert cherry, capable of emitting face-melting solos like those of Carlos Santana and Prince.

The Price Of Gas

Someone asked a while back about new looks at the lame gas prices story. Here’s Tom Hallman (thanks, Audrie): From his perch behind the gas station’s cramped counter, Austin Egland looks out the window at the empty pump islands. He wonders whether he has time to run to the bathroom before a customer arrives.

The Arco station, at Southeast 39th and Belmont, is one of the city’s busiest, selling an average of 9,000 gallons a day. Egland has learned to seize slow moments.

He grabs a key from a wall hook and hustles out a side door. Soon, he’s back behind the counter, adjusting the cigarette display and lining up the coffee pots. He watches a fellow pump jockey, outside near the pumps, use the break to bite into a pastry and gaze at the traffic buzzing by.

The Graves

Michael Weinreb (thanks, Nigel): It’s true, what she says about the graves. I went to see them not long after I heard Lonise Bias tell an incredible story to a group of South Carolina high school students: While witnessing the burial of her son Jay, she looked down and realized she was standing on the grave of her eldest son, Leonard. I had assumed it was a rhetorical flourish, a metaphor crafted for effect by a guest speaker who was getting paid to whack some sobriety into a room of spaced-out pubescents with self-image issues. But then I drove to the cemetery, in a Maryland suburb of Washington called Suitland, and I trudged up a hill, and I found the markers, a couple of rectangles blotched with age, stamped into the dirt and rocks and tufts of grass. And it is true — there is perhaps a foot of space between her boys. They are, quite literally, resting side by side.


Claire Hoffman: It’s dawn on a hot sunday morning in June, and Amy Winehouse is inside her North London home, staring at her reflection in a dark tinted mirror, looking the tiny little body in front of her up and down, assessing the emaciated tattooed limbs, the jungle of a black beehive weave, the hallucinatory glow of her transparent green eyes. All around her, Winehouse’s home is in disastrous disarray: Discarded bags of potato chips, crumpled nuggets of tinfoil, beer bottles, lingerie boxes and scattered old credit cards tell of a long night that hasn’t ended in weeks, maybe months.

While Winehouse’s Saturday isn’t really over, her Sunday has begun with a shriek. The tabloids have hit the pavement and slapped her out of her weekend reverie with yet another high-decibel scandal. This time it’s photographs and videos — leaked from a lost digital camera — that show Winehouse in various states of dereliction, all shot by her now-imprisoned husband, Blake Fielder-Civil. What’s scandalous this time isn’t the pictures of Winehouse surrounded by crack pipes (there have been too many of those this year) but a video of her singing to Fielder-Civil a ditty chockablock with racial slurs: “Blacks, Pakis, gooks and nips . . . deaf and dumb and blind and gay,” she and a girlfriend sing goofily.

The morning headline reads “Sex, Drugs and Racist Rant,” but at Winehouse’s place, there’s no publicist or manager to be seen, no crisis-management squad deployed to save one of the decade’s most successful female vocalists from public shame. That’s not Winehouse’s style — it’s just her and a girlfriend. British singer Remi Nicole pores over the paper, annoyed, telling her friend that all this scandal has to stop.