It can be a dangerous job. He does his best to keep everyone out of harm’s way. But if something goes wrong, he is not a bodyguard. In case of trouble, his advice is simple: Duck low. Run fast. That’s exactly what the crew of Ross Kemp: Extreme World did last summer when a pissed-off pimp pulled a pistol.
Kemp and his crew were in town to do a show about heroin in Chicago, one of America’s smack capitals. They had learned about Scott from Hughes and hired him to take the six-member crew into dope dens and introduce them to a pimp called Silk and to Baby, one of his prostitutes. Silk agreed to allow the crew to film Baby as she walked the street, trying to pick up customers. The money shot they were after was Baby getting into a car with a trick. The longer Scott and Silk talked, the more into the idea Silk got. He even asked Scott if he wanted him to slap Baby around on camera. Not too hard, Silk added. Scott declined.
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.’’