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Column: Musician Tom DeLonge adds a new resumé item — executive producer of a TBS series

ENCINITAS, February 25, 2017 | Blink-182 co-founder Tom DeLonge, who is no longer with the band, in
Blink-182 co-founder Tom DeLonge, who is no longer with the band, is shown in his shop, To the Stars, in Encinitas in 2017. An animated series is being produced for TBS based on his graphic novel, “Strange Times.” No air date has yet been announced.

Tom DeLonge would be the first to tell you that “Strange Times” are, indeed, happening.

The former Blink-182 member’s fascination with UFOs and extraterrestrial intelligence has blossomed into a second career. He runs a To The Stars book store and boutique in Encinitas.

Now, Variety reports that the graphic science fiction novel, “Strange Times,” that DeLonge penned nearly four years ago, will be turned into an animated series for TBS. It follows the adventures of five irreverent teen skateboarders who attempt to solve paranormal mysteries while eluding Deep State government agents in a whirlwind of kickflips, ollies and grinds.

The musician confided to Variety that the lead characters are loosely based on “the tribe of degenerate skateboarders” he grew up with around the same time he co-founded Blink-182. He was living in Poway at the time. He noted that the punk rock song, “Suburban Home” would be his ideal choice for a theme song.

DeLonge is co-executive producer for the project with, among others, Aaron Karo, who is writing the script based on ”Strange Times.” DeLonge describes the series as a “science fiction Disney.”

In announcing the project, he made this telling statement: “My love for all things paranormal and skateboarding are sometimes only superseded by my love for offensive humor. ...This series combines them all into one.”

His “To the Stars” store, along with merchandise, contains career memorabilia, including Angels & Airwaves, the band he formed in 2005 after departing from Blink-182. He appears to be masterful at merchandising as he is at music, offering Black Friday deals and special 12 Days of Christmas discounts.

Rufus Hannah, left, who was featured in the Bum Fights videos years ago, now works at a La Mesa townhome complex, owned by Barry Soper, who has helped him along his journey. The two are shown here at the complex on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010.
Rufus Hannah (left), who appeared in "Bumfights" videos, is with Barry Soper who give him a job at a San Carlos townhome complex he owns. They were photographed in 2010, the year they co-wrote the book, "A Bum Deal."

Bumfights resurface: Remember the public outcry over two homeless San Diego men becoming the unwitting stars of the degrading 2002 video “Bumfights: A Cause for Concern?”

Rufus Hannah and Donnie Brennan were likable alcoholics and best friends who lived and slept on the streets of La Mesa. Then they were befriended by teenage filmmaker Ryen McPherson who gave them alcohol, cigarettes and sometimes a little cash, and encouraged them to attempt dangerous stunts of the MTV “Jackass” series ilk for his documentaries. McPherson soon joined with others to create Indecline Films, producing a series of “Bumfights” films.

After irate public and media reaction (“60 Minutes” ran an exposé in 2006), criminal misdemeanor charges and a civil lawsuit filed against the producers, Hannah and Brennan collected a settlement enabling them to turn their lives around.

Hannah became sober, married his former girlfriend, spoke out on behalf of the homeless and returned to Georgia to live near family members. Sadly, though, he was killed late last year when a car in which he was riding was T-boned by a truck.

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A 2002 photo of Donnie Brennan, right, with a BUMFIGHT tattoo on his forehead, sitting with his homeless friends in La Mesa behind a Mobile station at Fletcher Parkway at Jackson Drive. Brennan was one of several featured in the "Bumfights" videos.

Brennan, who has vacillated between rehab and relapse, still lives in San Diego County. (When I tried to reach him the other day, he was residing in a sober living center.)

A lengthy update was published online recently by Rolling Stone. It included McPherson’s assertion that he had a friendly relationship with the two transients, especially Hannah, providing them food, places to sleep and occasionally a few helpful dollars. To this day, McPherson, who relocated to Las Vegas, where he still produces edgy documentaries and films, maintains that he and his film partners were doing the homeless men a favor.

San Diego attorney Barry Soper, who had befriended the two men, provided them jobs at a housing complex he owns in San Carlos. He also encouraged their sobriety and collaborated with Hannah to write a book, “A Bum Deal” (2010), about their “Bumfights” exploitation. Soper has a far different view of McPherson’s motivation.

While delighted that Hannah’s story of redemption was told, Soper condemned the Rolling Stone article’s portrayal of McPherson as “far too sympathetic,” giving a “distorted picture of his cruelty and lack of caring.”

Because of those alcohol-fueled video stunts, Hannah sustained permanent head trauma and double vision which meant he could no longer drive a car, Soper said. Brennan became crippled and now uses a wheelchair. “Yet McPherson and his buddies still believe that they ‘helped’ Rufus and Donnie ‘get off the streets,’” Soper added. “They have expressed absolutely no remorse for their actions...”

Meanwhile, the transients’ story may once again be in the spotlight. Soper says a movie version of “A Bum Deal” is in pre-production. “I’ve reviewed the script, and I love it.”

Dennis Shepard, Judy Shepard
Judy Shepard, left, and her husband Dennis Shepard, right, spoke at a law enforcement roundtable discussing hate crimes on Oct. 29, 2018. Their son, Matthew Shepard, was brutally murdered in 1998 and has come to symbolize the plight of the LGBTQ community in America.

Shepards invited to San Diego: Longtime LGBTQ allies Judy and Dennis Shepard, whose 21-year-old son Matthew was brutally tortured and murdered in a gay hate crime in Wyoming 20 years ago, will be honored in a 7 p.m. ceremony Sunday at the Courtyard by Marriott in Liberty Station.

Nicole Murray-Ramirez, a gay community activist and member of the city human relations commission, announced the couple will receive the Imperial Court de San Diego’s highest annual humanitarian award named for assassinated San Francisco Mayor George Moscone.

It recognizes the foundation they established to promote student tolerance of diversity. Matthew Shepard’s ashes were interred last October next to Helen Keller in the Washington National Cathedral where his resting place can be safeguarded from vandalism.

The San Diego History Center and KPBS each will get civil rights awards named for the late gay activist Harvey Milk for their gay history exhibit and documentary work.

diane.bell@sduniontribune.com

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