Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Help us learn the truth about the Spy of Shadow Hills

For more than 80 years folks in and around the San Fernando Valley have been repeating rumors about a man named Auguest Furst.
He came to California in 1936 and built The Old Vienna Gardens Restaurant on Sunland Blvd. in what's now called Shadow Hills.
Before long, rumors were flying that this Bavarian born man with a thick German accent was a spy for Germany.
August Furst died more than 35 years ago and the old restaurant has changed hands several times.
But the rumors still persist.
I heard the rumors when I was a kid in nearby Sun Valley, and I heard them again 30 years later.
That's when I decided to get to the bottom of the rumors.
I got a magazine assignment and did some research, but the magazine folded before I could write the story.
The investigative files sat on my shelf for another 30 years.
But when a wonderful friend told me in January that he and the new owner of the restaurant (I introduced them to each other) were going to open it as an Italian restaurant, I decided that now was the time to finish the investigation and write a book about it -- :The Spy of Shadow Hills -- Rumors or Reality?
The non-profit I formed a few years ago, The Endangered History Project, Inc.., will be publishing the book in March -- but we need your help raising the money to print the book.
If you would, please take a look at this Kickstarter video and then read all about the project -- and the ways you can help.
And whether you help out or not, would you please be kind enough to share this with every human being you've ever met? Or at least to your good friends?
Thanks so very much.
Please click here to see the video and read about the campaign 

Sunday, July 17, 2016


Here's you chance to see Don Ray and Fritz the Sassy Service Dog on the History Channel.
The story is about a particular suspect who I first investigated in 1978. I also talked about the story in dozens and dozens of classes and lectures over the past decades.
D.B. Cooper was that name a man used when he hijacked a plane in 1971 and then disappeared.
I'm posting it here so that my wife's friends will have an easy way to find the video.
If you click on the link below, the video will start moments before they introduce me, Don Ray.
I'm the fat guy in the yellow shirt. Fritz is the dog on the floor.
Click here to see the video

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Don Ray's Ugly Mug Shows Up on History Channel

Just in case you read this today, July 10, 2016, I'll be on History Channel's two-part series, "D.B. Cooper -- Case Closed? tonight. It starts at 9 p.m. (8 Central) and repeats at 11 p.m. (10 Central). I think you'll see my small contribution (or at least me talking about it) during the second half of the show this evening, Sunday. I don't think I'll be seen on Monday night's episode (same times), but you'll certainly see the results of my work.
If you're reading this after July 10th, I have a feeling you can watch it on the History Channel's website.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Come one come all to Don Ray's pity party

This is a whiny, pity me story 

My 8th grade English teacher, Mr. Resnick, took me aside at the end of our morning class to tell me that I'd have to sit through both of that day's school-wide assembly.

The auditorium wasn't large enough to accommodate all of the student body, so they'd repeat it.

From my seat in the middle of one of the middle rows, I watched with envy as the “smart” and “special” students sat on the special bleacher on the stage awaiting their prizes.

It was the Awards Assembly, and I had dreamed of one day sitting on those bleachers and being recognized for something I had accomplished.

One by one, the smart kids accepted their awards for scholarship, sports, student government and other stuff.

Then Burbank's fire chief came on stage to announce the winners of the Fire Prevention Essay contest.

The first place winner walked proudly from her seat on the stage bleacher to accept her certificate.

Then the second place winner followed to accept hers.

When he announced the third place winner, nobody came down to receive the certificate.

He repeated the name.

Holy shit! It was my name!

I had to “pardon me” past the other students in my row in the auditorium and then walk down the aisle toward the stage.

When I got there, there was no stairway or anything I could use to get on the stage, so I hoisted myself up as if I were climbing out of the swimming pool.

People chuckled.

When the fire chief shook my hand and gave me the certificate, I didn't want to jump back down into the auditorium and struggle to get to my seat, so I just walked backstage.

Now I understood why I had to attend both assemblies.

When the first assemble ended, I waited backstage and watched the smart and special students take a short break and then return to their bleacher seats on the stage.

At least I got my picture in the local paper
Me? I just hung around backstage until I heard the fire chief call my name again.

This time, I walked from backstage, shook hands and walked backstage again with my certificate.
When the second assembly ended, Mrs. Scarf, the mean drama teacher who ran the assembly walked up to me and chewed me out.

“Young man, why did you refuse to sit in your assigned seat on the bleacher?”

I guess that Mr. Resnick wanted to ensure that my writing award would be a surprise.
Yes, I felt proud, but sad at the same time.

In the late 1980s, I had my dream job as an investigative segment producer.

It was at KCBS-TV in Hollywood.

I worked for two of the most dishonest managers I've ever encountered.

I wouldn't know it until later, but my immediate manager was having a secret relationship with the young woman who was our unit's researcher.

He did everything in his power to convince his corrupt boss that she should replace me and I should be demoted to researcher.

When the news director called me and my manager's corrupt manager to his office to tell me that I was being reassigned, I quoted from the “confidential memo” my lying boss had sent to his lying boss.

I made reference to his remarks that I had no producing experience.

To make a long story short, the news director agreed to look at my earlier work (something nobody there had looked at).

Afterward he assigned me to produce a story that would tell the truth about the ZZZZ Best Carpet Cleaning scandal.

It would be the first story that told exactly what was going on --- and how the L.A.P.D. was completely wrong in its claim that the case involved drug money.

A few months later, when my lying manager announced that he and the researcher were getting married, management realized that he had intentionally tried to do me in.

They ended his contract, broke up our investigative unit and then announced that the station had to lay off people --- and that I was the last hired and the first to go.

On my own, I submitted to the L.A. Press Club the ZZZZ Best story I'd written and produced.

I entered it in the “Best News Writing” category in their awards contest. 

I also submitted another story that I had completed on my own time after my layoff (but before I was officially released). I entered it into the “Best Investigative Reporting” category.

Long story short, both of my submissions won first place in their categories.

I was proud to accept the two awards at their big ceremony, but sad that I won them only after I had lost my dream job.

Two more wins – the same sadness. 

Today, I learned that the Azerbaijan Supreme Court ordered the release from prison of my longtime friend and colleague, Khadija Ismayalova.

She had been locked up for a year and a half of her seven-year sentence on bogus charges.

The real reason they arrested her was because she was writing stories about the corruption of that country's presidential family.

A year ago, I was in Sarajevo, Bosnia, working with a wonderful team of investigative reporters on the Khadia Project in which we were continuing Khadija's corruption investigations.

The message was, if you imprison a journalist, there will be dozens who will continue her work.

Truth be told, when the project wrapped up last year, the project leader was unhappy with something I was or wasn't doing.

I failed completely in my attempts to create a two-way dialog with him, so I left as an outsider.

I was delighted a while back to learn that the Khadija Project had won the most prestigious award for investigative reporting.

One of my life dreams would be fulfilled, while at the same time, I knew it would not be likely that I would be able to join the team when the investigative news organization hands out the award next month in New Orleans.

I had gotten over that sad, pity me feeling until today when I heard the great news about Khadija's release.

Today, I'm immersed in my own pity party because there's no appropriate place for me to shout out how proud I am.

I've been in this lonely place so many times in my life.

What's a difficult-to-get-along-with misfit to do?

There's nobody else to blame except me.

Maybe the answer is some form of the a simple phrase.

Grow up!