DATE July 26, 2005 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: William Brittain-Catlin discusses his book "Offshore: The
Dark Side of the Global Economy"
DAVE DAVIES, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, filling in for Terry Gross.
By one estimate, $800 million in US banking deposits are sitting in tax-exempt
accounts registered in the Cayman Island in the Caribbean. My guest, William
Brittain-Catlin, explores the use of offshore tax shelters and shell
corporations in his new book "Offshore: The Dark Side of the Global Economy."
The Cayman Islands are one of many offshore jurisdictions around the world
whose laws allow companies and people to set up accounts and corporate
subsidiaries that are free from taxation and regulatory scrutiny. That kind
of secrecy has served as a cover for fraud and money laundering for decades,
and though reforms are in the works, offshore tax shelters are still being
used by almost every major company in the world. William Brittain-Catlin is a
producer for the BBC. He said he got interested in the offshore economy when
he was working as an investigator for Kroll Associates, an international
Mr. WILLIAM BRITTAIN-CATLIN (Author, "Offshore: The Dark Side of the Global
Economy"): Kroll is a private investigations company, and I worked for their
London office, and I was working there in the kind of boom period of the
economy at the end of the 1990s. And I would be working for clients who were
involved in deals with counterparties in Russia, American clients who would be
doing business in Russia or South Africa or Israel or anywhere like that. And
it would very soon become apparent that the people we were looking at, their
business that you were looking at would be held together at the end, at the
bottom by an offshore company. And this happened time and time again.
It seemed to me that this was absolutely key to the way that modern business
was actually being done on the ground. I would encounter these offshore
companies all the time, and they would be frustrating as an investigator,
because you couldn't get behind them because of the secrecy aspect. And at
the same time, they were quite seductive, these entities, these offshore
entities, because there was a kind of mystique around them. There they were,
and you couldn't do anything about them. They kind of stood apart from the
normal realm of life.
DAVIES: Now as you studied the offshore world, I mean, your book deals in
large part with the Cayman Islands, which a lot of people know as one of the
most famous offshore tax havens. Give us a sense of how this island in the
Caribbean became a tax haven, what kind of transformation it underwent.
Mr. BRITTAIN-CATLIN: It underwent an absolutely total transformation. I
mean, here you had an island where they fished for turtles in the sea. They
made fishing nets, and really, that was about it. And the menfolk used to
work on the oil tankers, were taking up oil across to North America. Now
imagine that. That was a small, pretty undeveloped country only about less
than 50 years ago. And now it's the fifth-largest financial center in the
world with all the major banks, all the major financial institutions there and
all the main corporations, all the American multinationals having subsidiaries
there. I mean, that's a huge change.
DAVIES: So what drove the transformation of the Cayman Islands into a tax
Mr. BRITTAIN-CATLIN: Some smart lawyers who'd been around in the area--They'd
made a fortune in the Bahamas, turning that into a tax haven--saw Cayman as a
place that was ripe to turn into another tax haven. So they came there, and
they came to the government, and they said, `Look, we can make you a lot of
money if you let us write the laws that's going to enable us to turn this
island into a tax haven.' So what does that mean, what sort of laws? Well,
that means the laws to register offshore corporations, to register trusts, to
register offshore banks. A whole raft of legislation was kind of grafted onto
the Cayman Islands from these lawyers who'd had experience of doing it in
places like Bahamas, like I said. And the Cayman Islands just happened to be
ready and ripe for it.
DAVIES: Well, let's look at how these offshore havens like the Cayman Islands
actually work and how multinational companies operate there. You have
described going to the Cayman Islands to look at the corporate registry. Now
people in the United States--reporters, investigators--are used to being able
to figure out who owns a corporation. There are registries with real
information. What do you find in the Caymans when you go to look for
information about a corporation?
Mr. BRITTAIN-CATLIN: Well, it's an interesting story. You turn up at a sort
of government office called the registry for the island, where everyone's
registered, all the people who live there, births and deaths and marriages.
And there's also a little office where all the companies are registered there.
In Cayman, companies are like people. There's more companies than there are
people anyway, and their companies are very important to them. They bring in
an enormous amount of revenue.
So you go in to the company registry office, and, you know, your hopes are
high. You think, `Here I am. I'm going to find out about some Cayman
company. You fill in your form with the name of the company. You hand over
your 50 Cayman dollars. Put the name of the company in, maybe Bronco
Investments Limited, something like that, and you wait, and you see some
people scurrying around in the background, taking out things out of files.
Then you get handed a piece of paper, and it tells you really no more than you
went in with in the first place. It tells you the name of the company, the
date it was set up, where the registered office is, and that's it, and also,
whether the company is active or whether it's been closed down. And that's
all the information you get.
DAVIES: Do companies there even have an office, or are many simply a mail
Mr. BRITTAIN-CATLIN: They don't have an office at all. They're registered
with law firms. In the old days, each and every company that was registered
at a law firm would have the old brass plaque up outside the front door of the
law office. There it would be: Bronco Investments Limited. These days,
because there are so many companies in Cayman, it's all computerized. You go
into the lobby of the law firm, there's a computer screen. It's got the
letters A through to zed, and you touch a letter you want to check companies
under, and up come a hundred companies on the letter C, which is only like a
small proportion of all the companies beginning with C.
DAVIES: So that's what a Cayman company is? It's literally an electronic
listing at a law firm?
Mr. BRITTAIN-CATLIN: It's an electronic listing in a law firm, and you can't
get any further than that.
DAVIES: Now you describe how multinational corporations use offshore networks
of interlocking companies, many of them housed in offshore havens, to minimize
their taxes and maximize their profits. Give us an example of how this works.
You, for example, cite British Petroleum, and it has an associated company
called Cayman 97(ph). How does it use that company to maximize its profits?
Mr. BRITTAIN-CATLIN: Yeah, I mean, this is not a co--BP is one of the world's
largest oil companies, exploration and production of oil. Now it happens to
have a lot of companies offshore, one of which is a company called Caymans
97(ph). Now this company will hold interests in parts of the BP empire across
the world. For example, oil rigs off the coast of Nigeria, for example, or
pipelines running through Russia. It will hold interests in those. It will
hold interests perhaps in parts of the business in Europe as well.
But the point is that this offshore company is the place where all the profits
from those businesses on the ground in Russia and Nigeria and Europe, they all
accrue back to this one offshore company. The idea is that you're keeping the
money away from the onshore world of nation state, as I like to call it.
You're drawing it away. You're pruning it away and taking it to this offshore
company. You're bringing it all together. You're accumulating all your
capital into one place where you're allowed to do it and where there won't be
people prying on you, where you don't have to release any information, where
you don't have to release any accounts. You're pulling all this money
together, and we're talking about millions, hundreds of millions here.
Now when you have this money in this nice offshore pot, you can--well, you're
not paying any tax on it by keeping it in Cayman. The objective of any
company that's working offshore and onshore in the way I've described is that
you produce your product, you manufacture your product, you distribute your
product in the country, wherever it is across the world, but all the financial
capital aspects of that, all the profit side of that has to be taken back to
the offshore corporation and preserved there, because then, no one can touch
DAVIES: No one made heavier use of the Cayman Islands than Enron. Don't try
and take us through all the details of Enron's machinations, but is there
anything about their experience in particular that tells us--that reveals
something about Caymans' role in the international economy?
Mr. BRITTAIN-CATLIN: Yeah, I mean, Enron is a textbook example. I mean,
there in Cayman, they had 700 subsidiaries in Cayman and several hundred
others in other tax havens across the world. Now there were two things going
on here. One of those, the main reasons for all these offshore tax haven and
corporations was for tax. I mean, between 1996 and 2000, Enron was making
billions, and it only paid $17 million in those four years of tax. So these
offshore companies were integral to how Enron structured itself across the
world so that it paid the least tax. That's the tax reasons, and then it was
not the only company in that period to be paying that small amount of tax on
the profits it was making.
Now what was going on at Enron--and this has happened in other companies, like
Global Crossing, for example--was that the offshore companies were set up to
hide the losses of business essentially. Business was going wrong. Enron was
not the wonderfully valuable company that the public saw. Really what was
behind the wonderfully high share price in the late '90s was a company that
was losing money big time on some really bad investments that it had made. So
what they did at Enron was to incorporate companies in Cayman in which to hide
the losses that they were making. It's quite complicated, because what they
were doing was setting up companies to act as an insurance against the losses
that they were making. So they were kind of spreading their risk into these
Now typically, if this was a legitimate operation, you'd have a third party
who would take the risk, a third party who would hedge against any potential
losses that you made or that you would make. In Enron's case, these were its
own companies that it was setting up offshore. Now the flexibility and
freedom and secrecy that Cayman allowed Enron in the setting up of these
companies to hide the losses, which it shouldn't have been doing--and that was
against the law; it was crossing the line of accounting legitimacy there--only
Cayman could give them that kind of freedom. Well, and other tax havens, but
let's just say Cayman as the representative example here. And as these
offshore subsidiaries that, in the end, they brought about the collapse, these
were the secret parts of the Enron empire which had been set up to kind of get
Enron out of its troubles, but it caught up with them, and they ended up
causing Enron to implode.
DAVIES: My guest is William Brittain-Catlin. His book is "Offshore: The
Dark Side of the Global Economy." We'll talk more after a break. This is
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: We're speaking with William Brittain-Catlin. His book is "Offshore:
The Dark Side of the Global Economy."
In the 1990s, several Western nations and some international economic
institutions made noises about cracking down on the use of offshore tax
havens. What was happening?
Mr. BRITTAIN-CATLIN: Well, the world in the 1990s was alight with capital,
being suddenly liberated from the shackles it has been held in, for example,
in Russia or parts of the Soviet bloc, and capital was flowing all over the
world like it had never done--like it had never done before. And a lot of
this money was going into Russia. Russia was the great--was going to be the
great revolution, turning a backward Socialist bloc country into a new,
beautiful market economy. So there was a lot of money flowing around, but a
lot of this investment in Russia from the IMF and from Western corporations,
all this money going into Russia, as it was getting there, the Russians
themselves were taking it out. They were taking it off to offshore tax
Now what happened was, to cut a long story short, that this money that was
coming out of Russia, Russia was essentially being asset stripped. The
oligarches were taking the money out and shoving it into their offshore
companies. You needed to bank this money somewhere. Now the best place to
bank dirty money is in the most respectable banks that you can find, and this
is what happened with a lot of Russian dirty money, is it found itself in
American bank accounts in America. Now when that came out with the Bank of
New York, where it was discovered that millions of dollars of money had come
from all sorts of questionable sources in Russia and was in American bank
accounts, people got pretty alarmed about what had happened with this great
explosion of capital across the world.
DAVIES: And they began...
Mr. BRITTAIN-CATLIN: Well, they...
DAVIES: ...cracking down on offshore tax havens?
Mr. BRITTAIN-CATLIN: Well, I guess what they saw was the dark side of the
global financial system. The global financial system was hailed in the '90s
as this great mechanism by which capital from one part of the world could go
off to another part of the world, and foreign investment could be made and,
you know, the whole world would trundle along in a really fluid, liberal
market economy kind of way. Now when you discover that, in fact, a lot of
this money is being--a lot of this money is dirty money from mafia money or
money that's come out from asset-stripping institutions in Russia, for
example, that, in a word, it's money that has been made illegitimately. When
you discover that this money is in a bank account in New York and it's on, you
know, your shores, you kind of see that this system, this international
financial system, has gone wrong.
Not only that, what was happening in Russia, the economy collapsed. And
before that, the economy had collapsed in Asia and before that in Latin
America. And what the IMF found at each and every turn was that offshore tax
havens, offshore banks had been responsible for covering up the huge debts
that these countries had. These countries had spent beyond their means.
Money was pouring in from Western banks to build up these emerging market
economies. And there was a bubble, and when things started to go wrong, the
losses becoming self-evident, and the losses were parked away in offshore tax
havens. No one knew they were there. So when it was suddenly revealed that
all this was debt to these offshore banks, then economies fall apart.
So what I'm saying is that this global financial system, at the end of the
'90s, was almost tripping itself up with these offshore networks which were
hiding the way that money was really being worked across the global economy.
It wasn't so fluid and so liquid and so transparent as perhaps the people who
were really pushing for global capitalism at the time had thought.
DAVIES: So in June of 2000, what was then the G7 generated, in effect, a list
of 15 money-laundering havens which they wanted to crack down on. And then in
the wake of the September 11th attacks in 2001, there was enormous concern
with international terrorism and the way it could use banking secrecy to hide
the financing of its own activities. When all of this happened, what was the
effect on the Cayman Islands? Was the party over?
Mr. BRITTAIN-CATLIN: Yeah, they thought it was over. It was a really very
poor time for them. And I was over there in 2003, and they were really
getting worried, because they had the effect of the blacklists of 2000, as you
said, where they were basically told to clear up or, you know, the G8
countries weren't going to do business with them anymore, effectively making
them ostracized in the global economy, which would have been pretty
devastating. And then, of course, the focus following 9/11, when the focus
was on tracking down terrorist financing, and obviously offshore jurisdictions
became the focus in that.
There were other measures as well that were European-specific about Cayman,
because it's a British-dependent territory, having to release information
about savers, about the financial information of people from the European
Union who were saving money in the Cayman Islands. The Cayman authorities
were going to have to give up that information to tax authorities in Europe.
So you can see the whole pack of cards that they'd built up around their tax
haven business looked as though it was going to fall down.
So they--I think, by and large, it wasn't just Cayman, though. And I suppose
this is where it, you know--this was happening to all the offshore
jurisdictions. They all have to kind of be much more careful about who they
were doing business with, the transparency of corporations, the governance.
There was a lot of kind of `know your customer.' It's more people's attitude
to offshore tax havens that changed rather than what's changed in reality. I
think corporations and wealthy people are going to be less kind of keen to
extol the virtues of offshore this and offshore that these days. It's more of
a kind of language thing. Sure, they've actually had to open their books to
tax investigators in Cayman more than they've ever had to before. Yes, money
has gone off. It's gone off to places like Singapore and Hong Kong and the
Bahamas. Cayman, is a UK-dependent territory. It's, in that sense, part of
the European Union weirdly.
So if you send your money off to somewhere outside the European Union, which
is what's been happening in Cayman, you can get around it. You can keep the
same kind of secrecy again. And the offshore world is like that. It's a
mutating, changing world. Sometimes you have places where there's a lot of
surveillance, a lot of investigation of the bad things that are going on there
with capital. Other places are left alone, and there's a lot of these places
around. There's, like, 73 tax havens.
DAVIES: Well, William Brittain-Catlin, thanks so much for spending the time
Mr. BRITTAIN-CATLIN: Thank you very much, indeed. I enjoyed it.
DAVIES: Writer and BBC producer William Brittain-Catlin. His new book is
"Offshore: The Dark Side of the Global Economy." I'm Dave Davies, and this
is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: Coming up, we'll talk with Martin Moran. As a young teen-ager, he
was sexually abused by a former counselor at a Catholic boys camp. As an
adult, Moran went to visit the man at a convalescent home. He'll tell us what
happened when they met again.
(Soundbite of music)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: Martin Moran discusses his new book and one-man
play, "The Tricky Part," which deals with a three-year abusive
relationship when he was a boy
DAVE DAVIES, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies sitting in for Terry Gross.
Three years ago my guest, actor Martin Moran, tracked down and confronted the
older man who had sexually abused him for three years when he was an
adolescent. This encounter at the age of 42 provides the opening for Moran's
book, "The Tricky Part." The book explores the impact the abuse had on
Moran's life. "The Tricky Part" is also a one-man play, which Moran is
currently performing in Seattle. The book and play are full of unsettling
complexity as his rage at his abuser, whom he calls Bob, is mixed with his own
sense of guilt for his role in the experience. Ben Brantley of The New York
Times wrote, `What gives "The Tricky Part" its disturbing immediacy is Mr.
Moran's gift for summoning the confused boy he was with exact sensory detail.'
This note for parents: Some of the material in this interview may not be
appropriate for children.
You were 12 when this first happened. Tell us where you were in relation to
puberty, in relation to sexual awareness generally.
Mr. MARTIN MORAN (Author, "The Tricky Part"): Well, part of what feels so
huge and mythic to me about what happened in this story was that I was
literally on the cusp. I didn't quite know I was on the cusp of puberty, but
I found out that night when he first seduced me. I was 12 years, three months
and nine days old, as I remember so clearly and state in the book. And what
happened that night is that I had my first experience, my first orgasm as well
as my first experience of anything sexual. And so that's, I think, part of
why the collision felt so extreme for many, many reasons. Being a Catholic
kid and a naive altar boy, that was my very first experience of any kind.
DAVIES: How did this first encounter occur?
Mr. MORAN: Well, it--there were several factors. I mean, I had first met
this gentleman at a Catholic boys camp called Camp St. Malo, which is a
beautiful--it was a beautiful camp outside of Denver, a Catholic boys camp,
and most of the counselors there were or were thinking about becoming
seminarians. And I always assumed in one way or another this guy was a kind
of seminarian because he was the head priest's assistant. And I was 10 at
that time. And it was two years later, when I was 12 years old, that a
neighborhood buddy of mine, George, sort of pudgy, paperboy--a fellow paperboy
said, `Hey, remember that guy from Camp St. Malo? He's starting a camp of his
own up on a ranch. You want to go?' I was like, `Wow, a ranch.' And one
thing led to another and I went that following weekend and sort of knew and my
parents sort of knew who this guy was because he'd worked at this reputable
camp. And that evening after a day of milking cows and learning to drive a
tractor and, you know, just an incredible afternoon and evening on the ranch,
that night he pulled me into his sleeping bag and thus it occurred.
DAVIES: Did you know what was happening?
Mr. MORAN: Yes and no. I mean, to have somebody touch you and you've never
experienced it before was, you know, it was horrifying and thrilling and
pleasurable. It was, like, I knew it was a crime. I knew it was wrong, and I
also couldn't deny the fact that it was this enormous awakening.
DAVIES: After that weekend--I mean, you were away with just your friend
George and this man, Bob, who was really clearing land and getting this camp
together--he drives you home for the weekend and all these things are swirling
through your head. Did you think then about telling an adult, your parents at
Mr. MORAN: You know, oddly or not oddly, I absolutely did not. Honestly, it
was as though from that moment, those events were utterly like a fractured
compartment of myself tucked down deep inside, because I think, too--this is
part of what grips you so much--I had an instant sense of being
complicitous, that I allowed it to happen. Any other good boy, any other
good person, any other strong person would have said, `Stop. Stop. What are
you doing?' But I didn't. I allowed, and that made me feel deeply, from the
second it happened, complicitous. And that complicity sealed my silence.
And always each time he contacted me, there was this wrestling match of I
cannot return. I cannot do this. But it felt almost inevitable that my
body, my feet took me that way. He was the only one who knew my secret, and
being the only human being who knew my secret, it was the only place I found a
few moments of relief, of what felt, in a sense, like forgiveness.
DAVIES: You never initiated any of these contacts with him?
Mr. MORAN: I think as time went on I did, yes. I mean, there was--I
remember a long period of time, for instance, where we weren't in contact. By
that I mean maybe three months had gone by. And there was a sense of missing
him, of, you know, missing this guy who knew this secret. And there were
moments, too--one time my minibike was stolen, as crazy as this sounds, and I
was absolutely devastated. I'd--it was a lot of paper route money and I'd
lost my--my minibike had been taken, and my father--it's because my father had
taken it down the street, God bless him, and, you know, had left it out front.
And I was beside myself. And you know who I called? I called him, Bob, the
man, and I said, `I'm devastated. I'm angry' and talked to him about it. And
I remember thinking, I'm calling this guy to discuss with him this huge pain
I'm having about my lost minibike. And I remember we ended the conversation
with him saying, you know, `Maybe somebody else in the universe needed that
bike more than you and you've gotta trust that God has reasons for things.
And you know what's important: You've gotta forgive your father for taking
your bike down the street.' And that was the kind of conversation I had with
him. So, by way of telling you that this was deeply complex, it's not like
the guy was a complete monster. He was also someone in whom--with whom I was
in relation of some sort, as crazy as that may sound.
DAVIES: As these encounters continued, did you ever--did you get to know
other boys that he might have molested?
Mr. MORAN: There were two in particular who were my same age and my same
build. In fact, you know, there was a kind of--at one point, as I'm
reflecting on it, I say `we.' You know, I had this sense that we were a
group, this little kind of blue-eyed blond-haired bordello of some sort of
his. That being said, that's the 45-year-old me talking.
At that time, there was, I think again, a subconscious awareness that this was
going on with these other boys, but I did not witness it at that time, and I
didn't--you know, it was not something you partook in together. There was one
day--I mention this--where there was an incident where we were making
breakfast, this guy and I, this fella that was my same age, a boy, and Bob
called him up to the bedroom, and he looked at me and I looked at him and
we--and I knew. And off he went, and, you know, 20 minutes later he was back,
and we continued making breakfast and then Bob called my name. And he looked
at me and--we were sitting there frying bacon and he said--and he said--this
is a 13-year-old kid and he looked at me and said, you know, `I'll continue to
fry the bacon. You go get in the frying pan.' So that was a way of--and he
laughed. And there was a moment of us laughing. I mean, it was just--how
were we in this absurd secret situation? And it was the closest moment to
saying something out loud, and it was couched in a witty joke by a 13-year-old
DAVIES: You're gay. I'm wondering, did you and Bob ever talk about
Mr. MORAN: Yes, in the cont--in this context. That I was--as I got a little
bit older, as I was 13 1/2, 14, early 14 year--you know, 14 and some months, I
had this great sense, you know, I'm moving toward manhood and I'm really on a
bad path. I'm really, really screwing up here. I'm involved with this guy.
I know it's illicit and secret and criminal. And, again, him being this--the
guy who knew my secret, I finally one day found the courage to ask him. I
said, `You know, I'm terrified that I'm going to turn out to be homosexual.'
And in that Catholic world and that Catholic context, I was terrified of that.
I was terrified of being damned for being gay, for being homosexual. And I
asked him and he said, `Oh, no, no. That's--you're not going to be.' And I
said, `But look at us.' And he said, `No, no, no, we're not like that.
We're--we love each other and homosexuals are people who have no love. But we
love each other, we care about each other and that's different.'
So to say the least, I don't know where that twisted thinking came from,
that--you know, the guy was a sick pedophile and in addition he was a
homophobe. And it took me many years to pull the pieces apart and understand
that my authentic sense of self had to do with being a gay man, that I came
into the world that way. And that--I think, what happened with Bob, though it
had dollops of being a clue to who I might be, really more than anything
robbed me of whatever peaceful steps toward an authentic sexual self I would
have had in those adolescent years. It took me many years into my early 20s,
mid-20s before I came to any sort of peace about being gay.
DAVIES: This, the contact with Bob, went on for three years. How did it
finally come to an end?
Mr. MORAN: It finally came to an end primarily because I became more and
more deeply terrified that he would get into trouble. I had an
awareness--there were other boys; I had an awareness that--I just had this
instinctual sense, this guy's going to get into trouble. In addition to that,
I had a profound sense--I was leaving grade school to go into an all boys
Catholic Jesuit high school where my father had gone, my grandfather, my
cousins, my uncles. It was time now. I have got to become a man. I've got
to grow up and be a good person. My sense was that if I had any hope at
getting--extricating myself from this dark path I'd gone down, that I had to
break off all contact with this man. So I--I just--I actually confronted him
and said, you know, `I don't ever want to see you again. I'm ashamed of
everything that happened between us.' And I was 15 years old on that night I
drove up there to see him. And I did not see him again for 30 years when I
was 42 and he was 60 and I found him again in a veterans hospital in Los
DAVIES: My guest is Martin Moran. His book and play, "The Tricky Part,"
deal with his experiences of being sexually abused as a child. We'll talk
more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: My guest is Martin Moran. He's written a book and performs a play
called "The Tricky Part." It deals with him coming to terms with the damage
he suffered from a three-year abusive relationship with a sexual predator as a
Well, Martin Moran, after you ended the relationship with this man, Bob, you
were always a good student and were a good student for a while, but there came
a point at which the emotional damage just really caught up with you. How did
this present itself?
Mr. MORAN: Well, it presented itself essentially as the wish to die, to get
out of here. I mean, I can remember very rationally sitting there at, you
know, my little high school desk and more at my desk in my room and thinking,
you know, there are good things in the world. God made beautiful
things--those bushes, that tree, those birds--but I am not of the natural
world. Something went wrong. I am a mistake. And it was a very rational
thought. As a mistake, I must be erased, and I must have the courage to erase
the mistake. And it was this, you know, profound feeling that my one way out,
the one thing that was the responsible thing to do was to kill myself.
DAVIES: There's a remarkable moment in the book where you describe a way you
found of--I think you described it as seeing a source of light and moving
toward the light. And it came when you and your family were watching, I
think, "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory."
Mr. MORAN: Yes, I look back at that as the first hints--there was Gene
Wilder and the gang singing on the television, and there was that (singing)
oompa, boompa, doobity, day--whatever that song was. And I started singing in
the kitchen at the top of my lungs and I remember my sister, with her raggedy
blond hair, looking up at me and saying, `God, you've got a loud voice.' And
there was something, as I look back, about the notion of voice and the notion
of singing and music. And for some reason it was as though that was a clue,
this huge clue, and not a month a later I found myself literally following my
feet, following my body to signing up for an audition for a musical at George
Washington Public High School where I went to school in Denver. And there was
this wonderful theater program there, and that was the beginning of, as you
say, a kind of light.
DAVIES: You then went through a lot of high school plays, went to college and
did performing, found you were good at it, got voice training and grew up,
became a gay man with a stable, long-term relationship with your mate, Henry.
Mr. MORAN: Yes.
DAVIES: But you've said and you write in the book that the legacy of this
abusive relationship as a child kept reasserting itself in the way you thought
about and pursued sex.
Mr. MORAN: Yeah.
DAVIES: What was the--what was happening?
Mr. MORAN: Essentially what was happening was I found that I was undeniably,
uncontrollably sexually compulsive, that I sought out sex that was secret and
dangerous and apart from what I considered to be my public self, my good self,
the self that Henry knew. And I did not put this together with what happened
when I was a kid for a long time. It took me a long time to sort of make
the--to connect the dots that I was, in a sense, gripped by and repeating a
thing that had entered my nervous system, my psyche as a young boy. And
ultimately I was able to share this with Henry and get help. And it took a
long, long time. It was well into my mid and late 30s when I--before I began
to put the pieces together.
DAVIES: You go through a lot of therapy and come to terms with a lot of this,
and eventually in a climactic moment of your book, I'm sure of your life, is
when you tracked down Bob, the man who abused you as a young adolescent,
who's now old and feeble in a veterans--I guess, a veterans hospital.
Mr. MORAN: Yeah.
DAVIES: Tell us about that encounter. I mean, were you there to exact
retribution, to express your rage? What happened?
Mr. MORAN: Well, the most abiding feeling I had at that time was I needed to
lay eyes on the evidence. I needed to look into the face of the man who for
all these years in one way or another had gripped me, or I thought he'd
gripped me, that he had a grip on my life because of the wickedness and
badness I felt of what happened when I was a boy. And it's hard to describe
the complexity, the many, many feelings that I experienced in facing him.
There was a way in which, though, it was kind of very calm. He--here was this
wizened old man sitting in a wheelchair. Here I was, a 42-year-old guy who'd
finally tracked him down, and the first instant feeling I had was that this
man who lived inside of me--who I thought lived inside of me as a myth of some
gigantic mountain, shrunk to the size of a wizened little human being,
gray-haired and slumped and pathetic. And I said the things I felt I had to
say. I did not feel rage in that moment. I went through many times in my
life where I felt a kind or rage and I would fantasize strangling him or I
don't know what--smacking him. But all I could say was there was this little
human being and here I was. And I said what I had to say, you know, `Bob, do
you realize how much I've thought about you? How many--how much I've been
gripped by what happened?'
And what happened that was the most surprising to me was that I saw in some
profound kind of way how ultimately he was beside the point, that I had
to--that forgiveness had so deeply to do with me. I once heard a guy say that
he thought the truest definition of forgiveness was a complete letting go of
all hope of having had a different or a better past. And I thought, in 10
years he's going to be 70 or dead and I'm going to be 50 and 60. How long am
I going to have this sense that this man has a grip on me? And the gift of
that day was that I realized more than anything, I'd come there, put my arm
around a 12-year-old and forgiven myself.
DAVIES: The most important thing about the encounter may be, of course, what
you came to terms with.
Mr. MORAN: Mm-hmm.
DAVIES: But I think we're also interested in what--I mean, did he ever
confront the gravity of what he had done, I mean, the kind of damage it does
to take a kid who was 12 and put him through what he did?
Mr. MORAN: Well, this is a sticky point because that's probably I--you know,
one of those things I deeply wanted was to see in his eyes a complete and
utter acknowledgment of the wrong. But I have to say that that never really
occurred. He never really looked me square in the eye and said that was
absolutely unforgivable and wrong and a violation of your very being.
He--you know, he had a line--he had a moment in there where he said, `I guess,
on the one hand, you see, I wanted to build you up, but on the other I was
tearing you down, and I'm sorry you went through all of this.' That's the
closest he got to a genuine apology, not a full acknowledgement, not a full
emotional present human being saying to you, `I wronged you.'
DAVIES: My guest is Martin Moran. His book and play are called "The Tricky
Part." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: My guest is Martin Moran. His book, "The Tricky Part," is also a
one-man play in which he deals with the consequences of three years of abuse
he suffered as a child at the hands of a man who'd been a camp counselor.
When did your parents learn about the abuse you suffered, and how did they
Mr. MORAN: There was a way in which the story remained hidden for a long
time, like locked away inside of me, inside of my body and being, and there
was a way in which by tiny dribs and drabs over the years it began to be
revealed. My father--I can remember having a slight awareness of it in my
early college years, when I was, like, a freshman or my first year or two at
Stanford. There was a time which he and I spoke, and he mentioned something
about it, and I realized that--only then that I had said something to my
oldest sister, for instance, you know, a little about the story, and she had
mentioned something to my dad. And so my dad asked me a question, you know,
that was--what happened with that guy? And, you know, he made some veiled
reference, `Oh, that's the guy who made you gay' or something. That was his
take on it at that point. That was the end of the discussion. Mom, nothing
Then as I--as the years went by, in the same way I began to scribble the story
and feel this need to make sense of it and write about it, slowly bits and
pieces of it began to be revealed. I would say in my late 20s, early 30s a
few details came in, you know, here and there. And there was an awareness I
think that that guy, Bob, had been in trouble or arrested at some point, but
there was never talk about it in my house. I don't remember ever actually
seeing it in the newspaper when I was growing up.
But to tell you the truth, you know, the whole shebang didn't hit the table
and really get discussed until, lo and behold, here I am doing a play about
it, about--you know, started developing this play two and a half years ago
with my director--my friend the director Seth Barrish. And by virtue of doing
the play, then things really began to be talked about, how long it went on,
what really happened. So it was a life-long revelation for them. I think
there was this sense of pain, of culpability, of how did we let this happen.
There were my discussions with them of `I don't blame you.' You know, and
they were in the middle of a divorce and lots was going on.
And there's been a lot of pain around it for them. Mom has chosen to see the
play, read the book, talk it through with me. My father passed away recently
just a couple weeks ago. He was very proud that I was writing it, I think,
and very proud that the play existed, but he did not, in any way, shape or
form want to read it or see it. It was too much for him.
DAVIES: You bring a very, as you say, complex and nuanced view of this abuse
you suffered, which you say was also a relationship of types. And your book
and your play bring all that complexity. And I wonder if some audiences or
some activists criticize you for humanizing a child molester.
Mr. MORAN: Yes. Yeah. It's uncomfortable as hell, isn't it?--to, like, look
at somebody and say, `Well, I'm trying to say that, yeah, the experience I had
was--that at one point in the encounter with this guy who violated me as a
kid--at one point, I put my hand on his shoulder and say to him, well, I
don't hate you.' You know, and I don't understand exactly why I did that in
that moment. That's what I genuinely felt. And I don't understand totally
why the book and the play came out the way it did, not as a rant but as an
inquiry into the complexity of this.
But, yes. To answer your question, I've had a fair amount of people come up
and say, `I don't understand what you're talking about. Why aren't you more
angry? Why aren't you--you're in denial. You're not angry enough.' And all
I can say to them is, I have been angry. I probably will be angry again, but
anger and blame was not yielding understanding for me. The anger and blame
felt like a wall to me.
DAVIES: We've learned that the guy who molested you, Bob, had two convictions
for this, for which he served, really very little time: I think four months
in one case and was virtually none in a second case. Did you ever contact--or
did you ever speak to other victims of his?
Mr. MORAN: Recently I did. Last summer I performed the play in Denver, and
at that time I reconnected with a young man, a man who I knew back then when I
was a boy, and I reconnected with him last summer. He came to see my play.
And we saw each other afterwards, and he threw his arms around me and began to
tell me of his experiences with the same man. And it was--you know, it was
hard and it was amazing, and it was--and his experience, of course, was
distinct from mine. We each had a very separate kind of experience with Bob,
and one of the things that happened with him was that he said when he read the
article about the play is when he first sat down with his family and said, `I
want to tell you something that happened to me 30-something years ago.' And
she--he's married with two kids--and he began to be able to talk about what
happened so many years ago.
DAVIES: Do you find that over time you gather new insights into the
experience? Does your thinking about it continue to change?
Mr. MORAN: All the time. I think I'll probably--it will be fluid and
changing until I die. It's been this--look, it's a book now. I mean, I look
at the book. I still can't believe it exists. It's a play. It's a--it bore
fruit. There's a way in which somehow my craft as an actor and this story
that I thought of as so dark all came together, and I have the opportunity to
do this for a while. I--you know, I don't want to do it forever, do this
DAVIES: Well, I was going to ask whether you worry about being defined by
this, by this experience and this book and this play.
Mr. MORAN: I haven't worried about that, no, because I just basically have a
sense of faith that I'm doing exactly what I'm meant to do in life right now.
And, you know, you can worry about the perception or you can worry about--but
I've in some ways never been happier, never been fuller. I just celebrated 20
years with my partner Henry. I--you know, I can pay this week's bills, thank
God, because the Intiman Theatre has hired me to play--do the play. And, you
know, in November I'll do the play at San Jose Rep, and it'll be over about
mid-November, and then I feel like I'll be on to new adventures.
DAVIES: Well, Martin Moran, thanks so much for speaking with us. We wish
you success with the book and for the healing.
Mr. MORAN: Thank you, Dave. It's been a real pleasure to speak with you.
DAVIES: Writer and actor Martin Moran. His book and one-man play are called
"The Tricky Part." Moran is currently performing "The Tricky Part" in
(Soundbite of music; credits)
DAVIES: For Terry Gross I'm Dave Davies.
(Soundbite of music)
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