Scott and the film crew set up out of sight as Baby began her stroll. They squatted down “in a thicket of bramble, trees, weeds, thorny bushes,’’ he recalled in an e-mail. The humidity was high, the mosquitoes greedy. Everyone was a little jittery. Another prostitute approached Baby and began yelling at her that Baby was trespassing on her corner. Then the woman spotted Scott and the crew and phoned her pimp, while screaming at them to stop filming her “likeness.’’ Scott tried to calm her and explain what they were doing. She continued to curse and scream.
A few minutes later a car whipped around the corner, screeched to a halt and the driver jumped out. One of the crew yelled, “He’s got a gun.’’ The gun, in fact, was pointed at them. Everyone ran.
No one was hurt, though, and it turned out the pimp with the pistol, a woman, was a friend of Silk’s, and she apologized to Scott. “No worries,’’ he responded. The shaken crew headed back to where they’d left Baby. She was getting into a car with a customer.
They missed the shot.
A few years ago, producers of WBEZ’s Eight Forty-Eight morning news program were searching the halls of academia for a scholarly voice of authority to explain the ways of Chicago street gangs to their listeners. The producers found Scott. They quickly learned that gangs and thugs were “just a portion of the research he did in the street,’’ said Aurora Aguilar, the program’s senior producer. Scott pitched twenty of his own story ideas to Aguilar, including a series he longed to do about the Brickyard. By the time he met her, Scott had already collected dozens of hours of video and audio recordings of addicts, shooting up and spouting off about life on the edge. His story pitch lasted three hours. “We were amazed that he was able to learn so much about these people and gain their trust,’’ she said.
Scott reported and produced a four-part series on the Brickyard. His work went on to win a Peter Lisagor Award from the Chicago Headline Club and a National Headliner Award. “It’s the proudest moment I’ve had at the radio station in nine years,’’ Aguilar said. “We took the first piece on spec. This was the first time we worked with someone who had absolutely no experience producing radio. It was definitely a little risky to have someone who didn’t go to Ethics 101, who has been involved with resuscitating someone who overdosed, and knew a lot of these people because he had given them clean needles. But he’s responsible. He’s careful. We can’t wait to work with him again.’’
His work, she said, was down to earth, a little rough around the edges, different, real, the stories and voices raw. The first piece began with the voice of a man named Hoss singing “Amazing Grace.’’ Later, Hoss described life in the Brickyard, which Scott’s narration called “this conflicted community of addicts.’’
Hoss: “Everybody will fuck over a friend. They allow the drug to demoralize them. They forget who they were in the heart. And forget what the basics of life were: respect thyself, respect thy neighbor, and respect thy friend.’’
Plainfield, Indiana, where Scott grew up, is a long way from the Brickyard. When Scott was a boy, Plainfield was home to about 9,000 people. “There were four hundred students in Greg’s high school class,’’ his father, Randy, said. “No minorities. One of the students had a tan.’’ The family had moved to Plainfield from Indianapolis for the “rural environment and vastly better schools,’’ Scott’s father said. But Scott longed for the big city. He said, growing up, “I always felt like an outcast.’’
And for as long as Scott can remember, he has been drawn to marginalized people and outlaws—“criminal entrepreneurs’’ as he put it, revealing the geeky sociologist in him. Maybe he inherited his gangster love from his mother, Barbara. “She read everything she could get her hands on about serial killers,’’ he said. When Scott was ten, he started a “detective agency.’’ He distributed fliers up and down his street, asking potential clients, “Do you have a cheating spouse?’’ A neighbor called his parents. “We had to close up the agency,’’ he said.