To Hell and Back: A NUVO Series

Theresa Rosado, a reporter with Nuvo: Indy’s Alternative Newspaper, has written a four-part series on the people behind the inspiration of Armistead Maupin’s “The Night Listener”.  Here is an excerpt:

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, children of New Horizons met with a man they called Doctor Z. They described Doctor Z — whose legal name was Marc Zackheim — as if he were a horrid monster from a fairy tale: a large man with drooping jaws, long arms, a pointy nose and beady eyes that walked with a stoop. “Everyone was deathly afraid to talk to him as they would say he was very, very creepy,” says a former Escuela Caribe student. Other students describe being touched by Doctor Z. “He would always stand behind me and rub my shoulders and he always asked me about masturbation, how often I did it. When, where and how.” Boys at Zackheim’s group home in Plymouth, Indiana made jokes about him when he visited, feeling uncomfortable with how he touched them. With the absence of testimonies from New Horizons and other facilities where Zackheim counseled, he fought molestation charges and won an acquittal in 2006, based on a story given as a testimony. However Zackheim’s stories caught up with him — tales unwoven by documents and contradicting statements created by him and his wife Vicki.

Vicki Johnson Zackheim concocted one of those tales. She was best known as the adoptive mother of Anthony Godby Johnson. Anthony Godby Johnson is the pen name of the 1993 bestselling book A Rock and a Hard Place: One Boy’s Triumphant Story. The book was originally sold as an autobiographical memoir, but questions about the story’s authenticity and Tony’s existence began to surface.

Screenwriter and producer Armistead Maupin accepted galleys from Anthony and formed a lengthy friendship with him over the phone. Maupin and other celebrities wrote blurbs for Tony’s book, deeply inspired by his story. As the years passed Maupin grew to feel very close to Tony but was prevented from seeing him. Maupin grew doubtful of Tony’s existence. Maupin published the novel Night Listener in the year 2000, considering the book a semi-autobiographical account of his experience with Tony. In 2006 Night Listener became a movie starring Robin Williams.

Here are links to the 4 part article.

Th Hell and Back: Part 1

To Hell and Back: Part 2

To Hell and Back: Part 3

To Hell and Back: Part 4

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