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Alan Shalleck knew a thing or two about storytelling: how to engage his audience and build suspense, how to bring a character to life. He honed those skills in the pioneering days of children's TV and directed the first animated shorts featuring Curious George.
That all took place when Shalleck, a family man with a wife and two sons, resided in New York. In South Florida, though, Shalleck lived out the second act of his life: divorced, broke, and lonely. He turned himself into a children's book reader called "Gramps" who would show up at libraries, schools, and bookstores wearing a straw hat and spectacles. The children would cluster around the sturdy gray-haired man, offering to turn the pages of his book and trying to climb into his lap.
But in South Florida, Shalleck also emerged with a more private and less conventional persona, as a devotee of spanking. In early 2006, the 76-year-old ran a personal ad in the Fort Lauderdale gay magazine 411 that read:
TO SPANK OR BE SPANKED
To endure the outrageous pleasure/pain of a mighty
hand, paddle or cane OTK [over the knee]. That is the quest. Let's
go beyond and stretch limits to tears of joy.
Satisfied his prose would arouse the curious, Shalleck signed his middle name, Jay, and added his phone number. And the curious called.
That's why, as the Pittsburgh Steelers pounded the Seattle Seahawks on Super Bowl Sunday two years ago, Alan Shalleck's alter ego was awaiting a flogging at his trailer home in Boynton Beach. It would be, he hoped, a kinky test of endurance, one of many romps. Shalleck was to be the master that night, with a younger man bent over his knee. He'd thwack and smack until that fella's bare tush was crimson, until he couldn't take another hit, until someone cried "uncle" — when the fantasy would end. At least that's how it was supposed to transpire.
It didn't. The playmates that February night, enticed by Shalleck's ad, thwarted his rules. They came seeking cash, reasoning an older man would have money stashed somewhere in his home. The spanking session turned bloody: Shalleck would die from multiple stab wounds. His killers grabbed jewelry, checkbooks, and anything else that seemed valuable and then fled, leaving Shalleck's body in his driveway like a bundle of trash. It would be nearly two days before anyone noticed him there.
Shalleck had been barely scraping by. His career in television and film had ended a decade earlier in personal bankruptcy. There were no royalties rolling in. He lived modestly off Social Security checks and a part-time job as a bookseller at a Borders store.
The night he died, Shalleck spoke one last time on the phone with his old college buddy, actor Jerry Stiller. That was the sort of friendship he'd boast about at cocktail parties but not to his spanking partners. There was no need to chitchat with playmates or even know their names. Several fetish acquaintances say they didn't learn of Shalleck's showbiz ties until after the murder. Likewise, plenty of friends never guessed he might be fooling around with men. And paddles.
Shalleck wouldn't even discuss his spanking fetish with gay friends. He told them they couldn't possibly understand and empathize with his true desires. Jerry Bailis, a friend of 35 years, says Shalleck was an old-fashioned guy stuck somewhere in the 1930s with his Cole Porter tunes. Bailis, who is 72 and openly gay, says his friend was just beginning to acknowledge that men might be the objects of his desire.
Shalleck kept his facets separate, like mismatched swatches of fabric that form an intricate quilt. Few who were close to him ever glimpsed the whole pattern. His sons, David and Adam, and his ex-wife, Joan, are so alarmed by the sexual details surrounding his death they don't want to talk much about the man, especially because he worked with kids. "He was a professional at entertaining children," says David Shalleck, who at 46 is the eldest son. "I hope to God down there [in Florida] they don't perceive someone with a dark side as anything other."
Alan Shalleck was born in Manhattan in 1929, the youngest of three boys. He told friends he was a "mistake baby" conceived many years after his siblings and that his mother wished he were a girl. She didn't want him to get dirty playing outside, he claimed, so he never got into sports. He grew up on the Upper West Side and then moved upstate to study drama at Syracuse University.
In 1950, he got a job in the CBS mailroom in New York. From there he moved into production of network shows. In Jerry Stiller's memoir Married to Laughter, he recalls marrying Anne Meara in 1953 before Manhattan Municipal Judge Ben Shalleck, his buddy Alan's uncle. Since the judge was once married to Broadway singer Lillian Roth, Stiller wrote, his presiding over the ceremony "seemed to stamp the moment with some sort of showbizzy significance." Shortly after the wedding, Stiller remembers, Alan arranged for the young couple to appear on The Price Is Right, where Shalleck was assistant director; they won a turkey.