Last night I learned of the death of two former business associates. Paul Scott and PJ Birosik, both prominent in the world of new age music, committed joint suicide in January 2006.
It’s a sad story with a horrible ending.
I met Paul and PJ in 1998 when I attended the International New Age Trade Show as the music buyer for New Leaf Distributing, one of the world’s largest distibutor of “mind/body/spirit” (read: new age) products. In a colorful industry filled with colorful people, Paul and PJ stood out. He was a tall, thin Englishman with monstrous sideburns and shoulder-length hair; she was much shorter and more rotund, with hair dyed multiple colors and clothing that ranged from shamanistic to flashy. He was the manager of the North American office of a large British new age record label; she was an independent marketing consultant. I hit it off with both of them, and over the next few years whenever I was in Denver we would get together for dinner, and one time they entertained me in their stunning, 3000 square foot home in the Rockies, above Boulder, with a majestic view and more than enough room for their living space, both their businesses, an impressive collection of Native American art, and a parrot that PJ doted over.
The entire time that I knew Paul and PJ, I was Pagan-identified and was struggling to establish my own very modest career as a Pagan author. In my eyes, they were people who had it all: businesses they seemed to love, a gorgeous living/working space, and lives that appeared to seamlessly integrate art, commerce and spirituality. I admired them and hoped that someday I would enjoy the same level of professional and financial success.
We really were more business associates than true friends, and when I left New Leaf, I lost touch with them. The last time I saw Paul was in 2003, when I was at INATS promoting one of my books; he seemed to brush me off and flatly turned me down when I suggested having dinner together. At the time I wondered if I had done something to offend him during my last months at New Leaf. In retrospect I realize that because I was no longer directly doing business with him, he probably didn’t see any need to hang out with me; and also by then the depression that would set into motion the catastrophic last year of his life may have already been underway. I returned to Denver again in 2005 to promote the last of my Pagan books; neither PJ nor Paul were anywhere to be seen at INATS. I think I asked one or two folks if they knew what was up with them, and I don’t remember if I got a clear answer from anyone or not — I think someone may have told me that Paul was dealing with legal troubles, or facing deportation. But I can’t recall for sure, so whatever I was told didn’t make that big of an impression on me, and I never even tried to follow up with them.
Last night I was on the web looking up an old friend whom I knew had done business with PJ, so I went to her website, where I found a brief note mentioning her untimely death. Saddened, I googled her, looking for an obituary but finding far more than I had bargained for.
In March 2005, Paul was arrested — for solicitation of a child prostitute online. Apparently he had provided over $12000 to an undercover cop posing as a pimp who promised him sex with two girls: one eight years old, and the other one sixteen. But this tragic-enough story of predatory crime has a bizarre twist: Paul wanted the older girl to kill him as part of their tryst.
But instead of getting a twisted fantasy fulfilled, he got busted, and after striking a deal with prosecutors he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of soliciting child prostitution. He was facing up to 12 years in prison and almost certain deportation. He was scheduled for sentencing on January 9, 2006. But he never went to prison or even learned of the exact details of his punishment, for two days earlier he and PJ, after sending a seven-page suicide note to local media, went out into their yard, each with a gun. They both shot themselves in the head. In the note, they blamed his crime on the fact that he was depressed, and opined that it was better to kill themselves than to be torn apart and have to endure living shattered lives as they aged.
One final bizarro element to this story: they left everything to the parrot. Apparently while planning the suicide, they set up a trust fund to turn their palatial home into a sanctuary for the bird. I couldn’t find anything on the web to contradict this, so I suppose the bird is living there to this day.
Well, I’m saddened, shocked, angered, grieved. He was 54 and she 49. He was affable and likable in a British rock and roller sort of way; she was a fireball of energy with a heartfelt love for music and indigenous spirituality. At least when I knew them, they had too much life in them to have it snuffed out so violently. But of course, I wasn’t intimate with them and had no real knowledge of the demons they faced, alone or together. Obviously, I don’t know the whole story of his arrest and conviction; It boggles my mind not only that he would fantasize about predatory sex and having his lolita kill him, but that he would trust a stranger with lots of money supposedly to provide such a “service.” But as my wife matter-of-factly pointed out, depression can make people do some pretty weird things. One take-away for me, especially as I work to reinvent my writing career in a Christian context: just because it looks like you have it all, don’t mean nothing. “He who has found his life will lose it” (Matthew 10:39).
Today is the Pagan festival of Beltaine. It’s a festival of life, of celebrating fertility and fecundity. How ironic that I would mark that event this year with learning of such a spectacular and senseless display of death.