New York Times reporter Charles V. Bagli, on Tuesday afternoon at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, talked about his coverage of real estate scion Bob Durst, and about the HBO documentary—The Jinx—that brought Durst’s story renewed national attention.
“I think this is actually a typical real estate story,” Bagli said. “There’s a lot of bloodletting behind the scenes.”
When asked how he began covering Bob Durst, Bagli told NY1’s Errol Louis, who moderated the discussion, that the Times had been tipped off to a Daily News story in the works.
“I had never heard of Bob Durst,” Bagli said, though he knew the Durst Organization and other members of the family.
Bagli’s first story about Bob Durst appeared in November 2000, and he’s become perhaps the foremost journalistic chronicler of Durst.
Durst, who recently pleaded not guilty to two gun charges in Louisiana, is expected to face a murder charge in California related to the death of his friend Susan Berman.
“The current state of affairs would not exist without that documentary,” Bagli said of The Jinx, the six-part HBO documentary series that concluded March 15.
Bagli said that he talked with Durst, and did a “wrap-up,” after each episode of the show aired. “What’d you think, Bob?” Bagli would ask, he recalled Tuesday. Bagli said that Durst was nervous after the third episode, and seemed concerned about what else could be contained in the last three episodes of the series.
Bagli said that he saw three possible motivations for Durst’s participation in The Jinx, which was directed by Andrew Jarecki: to tell his side of the story, to “unburden” himself, and “to drive his brother [Douglas Durst] out of his fucking mind.” (Bagli said that Durst was probably most successful with his third objective.)
Bagli also dropped an interesting tidbit about some of the source material utilized by Jarecki and his team in producing The Jinx. The documentary relies in part on a video-taped deposition of Debra Charatan, Durst’s second wife, who Bagli said did not support Durst’s participation in the documentary.
Said Bagli: “At one point, Bob said [to the Jinx team], ‘You want some more stuff, I got like 60-65 boxes in Orange County.’ He didn’t remember what was in there. So, like one of his conditions was: ‘You can ask me anything, but don’t talk to Debbie.’ … So they say, ‘Ok.’ But then he says, ‘Go ahead up there.’ So they’re crawling through 65—they go up there with a van and a copying machine and a scanner. … And they find a video-taped deposition of Debbie. And that’s what you see in the first episode. And I said to Bob: ‘Bob, you told them that they can’t talk to Debbie, and then you gave them, what’s up with that?'”
Durst’s response, according to Bagli, was “poor, poor Debbie,” which Bagli said was Durst’s version of “oops.”
Summing up Durst’s predicament, and the events of the last few months and years, Bagli said: “It’s a rich story and it’s going to continue.”
Later, he added: “I don’t think Bob is getting out of jail. Ever.”
By Jeremy Barr