David Koresh & the Branch Davidians: 5 Odd Facts from the Debacle on Its 20th Anniversary
Things you didn't know....
It was 20 years ago today (as the Beatles might say) that a crazed religious kook sparked a debacle of a federal-government raid that left 83 dead, including 28 children.
Arguments have raged endlessly since that Waco raid, with a hard core of people saying the blame for the deaths sits squarely on the shoulders of Attorney General Janet Reno, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
(One IMDb review of the movie Ambush in Waco: In the Line of Duty: "It fails to mention the point that the only reason that the AFT made the raid in the first place was because they had budget hearings pending and they needed a good publicity coup for those hearings." Yeah, that's what happened.)
Rather than wallow in the back-and-forth over obscure memos and coincidences that make you go "Hmmmm," we instead offer five facts about the event you may not know:
Battle of the Piney Woods: SFA vs. SHSU
TicketsSat., Oct. 1, 3:00pm
University of Houston Cougars Football vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 15, 11:00am
Rice University Owls Football vs. UTSA Roadrunners Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 15, 6:00pm
Rice University Owls Football vs. Prairie View A&M University Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 22, 2:30pm
5. David Koresh actually had what might be the most Texan name ever. Koresh was born -- in Houston!! -- and came into the world with the name Vernon Wayne Howell. Fact: Scientists (in my mind) have done extensive studies on the matter and have concluded it is impossible for humans to say the name "Vernon Wayne Howell" without resorting to a hick accent.
Your typical human might pronounce "Vernon" all right, but about halfway through "Wayne," his mind begins to recognize a pattern and fires off neurons, or whatever the actual term would be, telling the tongue to add an extra syllable or two to "Wayne," depending on where the speaker lives and how familiar he is with a Southern accent.
Then comes "Howell," and all bets on the syllable over/under are off.
It's science. You can't fight it.
4. Movie titles don't lie. The character "David Koresh" has shown up in 11 nonfiction documentaries, according to IMDb. While the following conclusion is not as rigorously peer-tested as the previous research about Koresh's name, we can only say that if you're in documentaries titled The Decline and Fall of America, Shock-X-Treme, Vol. 1-- Snuff Video, The Many Faces of Death, Part 6, Mugshots and American Justice, your application to be a Walmart greeter might not get all the attention you would hope. Although you might get lucky and be dealing with an HR guy who wants to argue the merits of The Many Faces of Death, Part 6 versus Parts 2 and 5.
3. The Bible: A Macker's Guide to Women. We don't know what Bible you're reading, but Koresh was apparently reading the Playboy version. (The Last Supper is a "quip 'n' sip" cocktail party, we guess)
From the always-reliable wiki:
At his mom's church Koresh "fell in love with the pastor's daughter and while praying for guidance he opened his eyes and allegedly found the Bible open at Isaiah 34, stating that none should want for a mate; convinced this was a sign from God, he approached the pastor and told him that God wanted him to have his daughter for a wife. The pastor threw him out, and when he continued to persist with his pursuit of the daughter he was expelled from the congregation.
Oh, and various Bible quotes were very helpful when it came to Koresh rationalizing his penchant for statutory rape. 2. You have to find your niche in Hollywood. The most well-known film version of the events in Waco is Ambush in Waco: In the Line of Duty, a film that delved so deeply into the various issues surrounding the Branch Davidians that it took weeks, if not months, to write, cast and shoot, coming out in 1993.
Tim Daly played Koresh, but more important, the soundtrack was by Mark Snow.
So what, you say? You've never heard of Mark Snow? Well, sir, it turns out Snow is your go-to guy when you want a soundtrack for your creepy-guy movie. Among his credits: Helter Skelter (the, ummm, 2004 version), She's Too Young, D.C. Sniper: 23 Days of Fear, Dirty Pictures, A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story, Her Final Fury: Betty Broderick, the Last Chapter, The Danger of Love: The Carolyn Warmus Story, Mr. Murder and Wife, Mother, Murderer.
We're pretty sure if you turn on the Lifetime channel at any time, you're going to hear Snow's music. So if you're going for the whole fem-jep angle on a Koresh movie, let's just say you got this guy on speed dial.
1. You wouldn't have seen this.
The raid on Koresh's compound was a well-planned event, or at least it was supposed to be. But it was the feds deciding when to go ahead, not Koresh.
We imagine that any president, of any party, would have "media relations" as a big part of the planning. Reporters would be kept well away, tempted by command-post press conferences and hand-outs, and the skies over Waco would have had a drone or two checking things out.
Instead of the haphazard "planning" that went into selling the feds' side of the story to the public (and really, how do you come off as the unsympathetic side when you're dealing with a child rapist and abuser?), today's raid would be a well-oiled media event, storyboarded like a Hitchcock movie, focus-grouped like a new car roll-out and obsessed over in a way that Stanley Kubrick would find over the top.
Hell, everyone would be more concerned about what's happening on The Voice and Dancing with the Stars anyway.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.