I should have known better. Yes, I swore off “should-ing” all over myself back in 2011, but it somehow feels appropriate this time around. I am an intelligent, educated, strong woman. So how in the world did I get taken on such a psychological head trip that sounds like the plot for a Made-For-TV Movie? I’m writing this as a cathartic exercise to see if I can pinpoint exactly how I became the victim of what turned into a bizarre escapade into fakery and betrayal.
It started out innocently enough. Over two years ago I received a Facebook friend request from a woman who for all intents and purposes, I’ll refer to as Beatrice in this article. After doing my usual pre-friending-page-perusal and surveillance of mutual friends, I accepted. She apparently was a publisher and was very taken with my music. There it is: Fatal Flaw #1: Someone was enthusiastic about my music – therefore from that point moving forward, I am blinded by flattery.
Beatrice became an avid “promoter” of my music on Facebook and Twitter, generously donated $75 to my first fan-funded CD campaign, and then started emailing me and becoming a “friend” by divulging personal information about her past. It included heart-wrenching tales of drug riddled family members, poverty and struggle that ultimately led to her fighting her way to success in the music industry. Fatal Flaw #2: I can’t help becoming emotionally invested in other’s tragedies, and even more so, their triumphs. Now I not only feel for her, I admire her fortitude.
As our “friendship” developed, Beatrice revealed that she had started her publishing company back in Nashville in “Hal Ketchum’s” home. Ok, it was believable. There was even a picture of her in said office in said home of Mr. Ketchum. Wow! This woman really has a history! I’m excited. She loved my music and wanted to play it for some of her close contacts.
Beatrice also revealed on her Facebook Wall that a dear friend was dying of cancer, and would anyone be kind enough to set a poem she wrote for her dying friend to music? I sent a private message expressing how sorry I was. Beatrice asked me if I wanted to take a crack at writing some music and forwarded me a copy of her poem. I had been playing around with a musical idea that had no lyrics…why not? I messed around with Beatrice’s poem, and it kind of worked. I was ecstatic! I quickly videoed myself performing the rough draft to see if Beatrice liked it.. Well, she LOVED it and asked if it was at all possible for me to record it so that her dying friend could hear it. “Of course!” I responded. I went to work with my husband, Gian. We recorded and produced the track and delivered it in time for her friend to hear it on her deathbed. It was even apparently played at her funeral. Beatrice was kind enough to send me a digital scan of the program handed out at the memorial. Fatal Flaw #3: I have to help everyone, so now I am linked to Beatrice musically.
Some time passes and Beatrice and I discuss how to handle the copyright for our new song. She told me that she didn’t have a PRO (Performing Rights Organization) affiliation and that I should “go ahead and use your publishing company. If there are ever any royalties, I know you’ll send me my half.” Well, ok. I would have preferred that everything was split as it should be and all the legalities taken care of, but fine, I’m trust worthy. No worries…or so I thought. Fatal Flaw #4: I don’t practice what I preach. I on occasion teach music business workshops and ALWAYS warn my students how imperative it is to make sure that all of your music is protected with the appropriate agreements and filings. Oy. If I only had a crystal ball to view the future with.
Our relationship really amped up when Beatrice revealed to me that not only did she have a working partnership with Hal Ketchum, but also Jason Mraz. In fact, early on in Jason’s career, he came to her publishing office to pitch himself as a songwriter. Sadly, Beatrice’s partner at the time just wasn’t hearing it and sent poor Jason on his way. Beatrice was smart. She rescued Jason’s tape from the trash and contacted him. She heard the potential and was determined to help him in his musical endeavors. She made phone calls, sent him on meetings, and wouldn’t you know it? He got signed, and well, the rest is history.
You’re wondering right now-I can feel it over the internet. “Jason Mraz? You really believed this woman helped out and was now dear friends with Jason Mraz?” I too questioned it of course. But the story was so seemingly benign, and shortly thereafter Beatrice was writing very publically all over her Facebook wall about how she would soon be joining Jason on the road. That was followed by detailed tales of touring with Jason. We also shared a mutual Facebook friend who I knew in real 3D world who HAD worked with Jason. I asked her, “Do you know Beatrice, and is her connection to Jason the real deal?” My real-life friend said she had never met Beatrice in person but was under the impression that she worked for his foundation. Huh. Ok then, she’s for real! Fatal Flaw #5: I believe the things that people put on their Facebook Walls. I mean, I tell the truth on mine. Hmmm.
Wait. It gets better. As time passes, Beatrice let’s me know that she played my music for Jason, and he LOVED it. By then, I was having serious doubts. I’m not trying to sound self-deprecating, but my music comes from an entirely different planet than Jason Mraz’s. Jason is all about the groove, his music is optimistic and infectious. Mine is introspective and moody. He loves my music? I read the message to my husband. He is perfect in his response. “I could imagine someone of his talent loving your music because he’s very accomplished. Why wouldn’t he love your music?” Very good answer honey. Of course, he too had his doubts.
I then received a follow up message. Jason would love to meet me the next time he’s in NY, and, wait for it…he would like me to open for him when the big tour he’s on right now is over and he’s doing smaller, more intimate venues. I nearly exploded with ecstasy! I’m finally going to get my long overdue break. This time it’s going to happen! I can just feel it. Fatal Flaw #6: I still believe. I can’t help it. Inside me there is still this belief that I will someday attain the audience for my music that I have worked so hard for. At the moment, I’m still onboard with this particular flaw.
The next chunk of time involved numerous ups and downs and close encounters. Jason was playing Jones Beach theater, and had Beatrice “known I was so close, would have invited” me. He’s playing Madison Square Garden, but it was “such a last minute add-on, we were in and out.” I could drag you on and on into the maze that Beatrice dragged me through. Instead I’ll flash forward.
Before I forget to mention it, at some point during the two years, Beatrice herself developed Cancer. It was stage IV. She told me she had been fighting it for years. Her medical bills were astronomical, so both Jason and Hal agreed to cover them for her to the tune of over $500,000. Wow, what wonderful generous friends Beatrice has! I was upset about her cancer, but she assured me that she was in very good hands and, I’m going to paraphrase, was going to live everyday left of her life to the fullest. Oh and her husband also had cancer and died. Truly tragic. Please refer to Fatal Flaw #2.
At this point, I was in the midst of my second Fan Funding Campaign for the next CD. I received an enormous $500 donation from Beatrice. I immediately contacted her. “Beatrice, you’re sick and have your own struggles. I appreciate it so much, but I can’t accept your donation!” She assured me that she could absolutely handle it and wouldn’t hear of me giving it back. Oh, I forgot to mention, by now, since her husband had passed and she no longer had any reason to stay in her home, Jason moved her into his home on an avocado farm in San Diego. I wanted to mail her a bracelet – just a small “thank you” for all of her “support”. When I asked her the address, I was told that I wasn’t allowed to know it because, well it’s Jason Mraz’s home. Of course I understood. I sent the bracelet to her old address where a “friend who is watching the house” will forward it to her in CA. We corresponded via email. She confirmed receiving the bracelet and we proceeded to discuss the next CD and the song that we co-wrote going on it. It was the least I could do-right?
My campaign successfully funded with a week to go. We were going for stretch funding. Beatrice was in full gear. She was posting, she was tweeting. It was exhilarating! And then it happened. I get a Facebook Message from Beatrice; “Marci – check your email. It’s an extra $1000 from Jason anonymously…sort of..”
What? I checked my Kickstarter campaign, and there it was , $1000.00 and I had now surpassed my stretch goal. I was shaking. I was in tears. I called my husband who instantly asked “What’s wrong???” and I told him. He was blown away. I was blown away. Then there was a posting on my wall via Beatrice from “Jason and Raining Jane” (the band he tours with) congratulating me on successfully reaching my goal. Holy cow! It was beyond surreal. Of course, I instantly contacted Beatrice, thanking her profusely, and then I had a realization. Wait a minute – the pledge says it was made by Beatrice. I questioned her and she let me know that Jason couldn’t make the pledge himself because he was on tour and also had to be careful due to his recording contract who he publically backs. This sounded weird to me, but the $1000.00 was real. It cleared after the campaign was over. The money got transferred into my bank account. And then unfortunately….it all started to spiral downward.
I had specifically put on my Kickstarter campaign that the CD should hopefully be done by December 2014, released sometime early 2015. I knew this one would take a while to record and wanted to let people know so they didn’t get anxious about their pledges. In August 2014, Beatrice was by now, emailing me constantly and asking me for status updates. I kindly and politely let her know that we were making wonderful progress and that there had been a few scheduling issues with some of the musicians, and that we also had some tuning challenges with the piano, but everything looked like it was right on track to be done when promised. This was not good enough for her. She started getting volatile and snapped at me in subsequent emails. Then she told me she just wasn’t feeling well and to forgive her. We webcast the recording sessions, and holy cow, who was watching? It was Beatrice and Jason!! And they were chatting away while we recorded. All was good. Or so I thought.
By September 2014, she is demanded a budget and recording schedule on behalf of Jason who was “concerned.” I asked other friends who have run fan funding campaigns in the past if they had ever encountered anything like this. I mean, I back friend’s campaigns all the time and recalled one that took TWO YEARS to get done. I decided that she must not be feeling well, or was just used to big budget projects that go in big name studio cats who are hired to stay and record, and finish an album in two weeks.
Further into the month, Beatrice wanted to know how I planned on handling the copyright for our song that we co-wrote. I reminded her of our previous conversation and she blasted me “OF COURSE I HAVE A PRO!!!!!!! AND THE POEM IS ALREADY COPYRIGHTED!!!! YOU NEVER EVEN ASKED MY PERMISSION TO USE IT!!!!!” Whoa, what? Permission? She ASKED me to write the song, and was excited about it being on the CD. I also know that, legally, a co-write independently and individually allows for all contributing parties to record and release the song the first time, but ok, I could tell that she was upset and I had so much to thank her for. I wrote her and offered a variety of solutions. I suggested that SHE copyright it, or amend the copyright for the poem to include the new version with music. We could just not put it on this CD and put it on a future CD once we sorted all of this out. Whatever would make her happy.
At this point, she was not only furious with me, but apparently Jason was too. Without belaboring the harassing details, I will say that we wrote back and forth to one another for days. I even offered to call her, Skype with her, anything to clear things up. It was obvious that everything I offered infuriated her. I then suggested that we just dissolve the song. She could have her poem back, I my music and we could just forget the whole thing.
The next occurrence was so bizarre, it’s almost hard to write. I received an email from “Hal Ketchum.” He was mad. Crazy mad at me. How could I do such horrible things to his wonderful friend Beatrice? He went on to tell me that she was one of the most respected people in the music industry and not only would he (Hal) NEVER work with me (because he was considering it), but he was going to make sure that everyone in the industry was told about me and what an awful person I was. He assured me that no one in the industry would ever give me the time of day ever again. Fatal Flaw #7: I expect good things to blow up in my face, and therefore, they do.
After reading it over and over again, a calm came over me. I decided to do a trace on Beatrice’s last bunch of emails to me and then “Hal’s” email. Lo and behold, they came from exactly the same IP address-EXACTLY THE SAME. They also did not originate in San Diego or anywhere near CA. Ironically, they originated from original Beatrice’s home state, that place I sent the bracelet to.
And then it all started to unravel. Beatrice is not only volatile, but she’s a nut…and probably doesn’t know Hal, oh God, or Jason. I was nauseous. Gian came home and read the email. He was fuming. The next day he called Hal Ketchum’s management and spoke with a very nice manager-man who confirmed that not only did that email not come from Hal, but he had never even heard of Beatrice. We forwarded over the fake “Hal” email and he was almost as shocked as we were. Gian then spoke with Jason Mraz’s management and they too confirmed that they had never heard of Beatrice, she had most certainly never been on tour with Jason or any of the other claims she made (which, at that point, also included writing half of Jason’s catalog). They too asked that we forward any correspondences and Facebook messages, and we complied. As I archived and forwarded years of lies, I was taken over by a wave of darkness.
The next week was a blur of conversations with friends, my husband, attorneys and a lot of crying, self loathing and loss of interest in pretty much everything. Gian kept assuring me that it could happen to anyone and pleaded with me to stop beating myself up. I couldn’t. I was so angry at her, and me, and at the world. I imploded. Fatal Flaw #8: I instantly abandon myself when things go wrong and assume that it’s all my fault.
There were a barrage of bizarre email exchanges that Gian had with Beatrice, and then Beatrice’s “Friend” who was writing on her behalf because apparently Beatrice hadn’t been in that house or near that computer in ages and “haven’t you ever heard of identity theft?” Once confronted, Beatrice claimed she had never said she had such relationships with either Hall or Jason… but then proceeded to post on her Facebook wall the very same day about how she was “looking forward to going back on the road with Jason soon!” Wow… I then spoke with a friend who divulged to me that, he too was taken on the Beatrice crazy train. We compared stories and it was almost comical how identical they were. I told Gian and he proclaimed “She’s a Serial Cyber Stalker!” He was right. Part of me felt better – at least I wasn’t the only one. Part of me felt worse – she’s still out there. I blocked her on Facebook and unfriended her.
So I’m sure some of you may not completely understand why I consider myself a victim here. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I literally went through all the phases of loss. I mourned, I got angry, I was in denial, etc. It really scared me that I allowed myself to be so gullible. Not to mention the highs and lows of anticipation about connecting with a super star, and what it could potentially have done for my career.
I’ve also had friends who laughed about it and said “hey, at least your Kickstarter got funded!” And yes, it did. But here’s the deal. I’m just not wired that way. I can’t feel good about a woman who is obviously not right in the head and who takes musicians on an emotional roller coaster. I also don’t feel good about the money. Ok, let me rephrase that. The money is great in that it will help me make the best CD that I can possibly make. What isn’t great is finding out that it came from a crazy person who can’t help herself and who may or may not have cancer. Fatal Flaw #9: I feel badly for people who hurt me.
So at the conclusion of this possibly cautionary tale to others, I find myself starting to feel a little more centered. I noticed the sun and blue sky and for the first time in a while, realized I was breathing again. What I walk away with from this experience is that I trust people a little too easily and I’m slightly at peace with that. It comes from a place inside of me that is still innocent, and more so from an incredibly high ethical standard that I keep for myself that makes me honest almost to a fault.
I do wonder if she’ll every truly understand how much damage she did to my self-esteem. I hope that she stops preying on the souls of my fellow sensitive creative’s. I deeply question what would have happened if I found her out before the Kickstarter Campaign, or after the CD was released. I currently feel grateful that I didn’t release a CD with her poem on it. I also feel grateful that I finally know the truth.
I am most grateful that throughout my recent episodes of self-flagellating my husband has maintained his belief in me and has loved me even more, if that’s even possible. I wish for Beatrice that she gets help. I also wish she would apologize, but I truly don’t believe she is capable of it. I do wish her well, and I do appreciate her generosity, even if it came from a really weird place. Fatal Flaw #10: I eagerly forgive.
I am still sad. Sad that the friend I thought I had never really existed. Sad that Jason and Hal have no idea that any of this went on and that they were used to propagate a psychological war on me and others. Sad that my big break didn’t come, and pragmatically I surmise, may never come. Mostly I am still glad that I am who I am, flaws and all because at least I tell the truth…and yeah, I still believe that good things may come.
Marci Geller is a touring singer/songwriter who lives with her husband Gian and cat-daughter Catrina.
To contact Marci directly, please visit the website at: http://www.MarciGeller.com