Nate Thayer was a friend, journalist, anti-fascist and all around great guy. Nate and I had been linked on social media for a few go-rounds of the sun, but in the past year became truly great friends in real life. Since we met, I’ve spent countless hours chatting with Nate– taking trips to the beach, or sometimes just singing songs on his Dad’s old guitar– much of the time, with Lauren Pespisa. We’ve helped Nate move twice, and talked on the phone almost every other day.
Sadly, Nate has passed.
Nate and I met in person because the proverbial bat-signal was sent out that an anti-fascist journalist in the area was sick and couldn’t get his medication, and in immediate need of help. At that time, all I knew about him were his occasional inquiries about the local neo-nazis, to which I’d happily respond. On that alone, I got in the car and made the two-and-half-plus hour trek to Wellfleet/ Cape Cod. Nate didn’t immediately come to the door– but once I managed to get him out of bed, we hopped in the car with his beloved dog Lamont, and we drove to the pharmacy. The meds made him projectile-vomiting-sick, and as he twisted and turned descending into his fever dream, the most extraordinary stories– (spoken in a state of half-consciousness) began to flow out of him. I wasn’t even sure at that time if any of it was real.
The following day, I drove back down to check on Nate again, I asked about the crazy stories he was shouting as he was falling asleep. As it turns out, Nate had spent 15 years in the jungle tracking down Pol Pot, the Cambodian dictator responsible for the Cambodian genocide which took the lives of millions. Nate not only confronted Pot regarding the genocide at Pot’s show trial, he did the same with 15 top Khmer Rouge leadership including Ta Mok, otherwise known as “The Butcher.”
Being a documentarian, I asked if there had ever been a film made about it. I then got to hear how Nate had turned down an offer of a million dollars from Rupert Murdoch, choosing instead to let Ted Koppel and ABC News tell his story for $350 thousand. While he was still in the Far East, Nate got a call from Koppel saying Nate had been awarded the Peabody. But ABC not only never paid him his $350k, they went against their agreement regarding photo rights. Nate told Koppel “fuck you,” and refused the award— the first time in the Peabody’s history. Nate put forward a lawsuit on principle, and was awarded 1.2 million dollars. Nate was approached by Oliver Stone, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt who all wanted to tell his story. He turned them all down, saying his articles and his book was good enough.
In the past couple of months, Nate started having trouble using his hands making it hard to type, and he asked Lauren and I to start recording his stories. We did– mostly just on audio. But in the last while, he asked us to put him on camera, and I started making animations to use as visuals to go with Nate’s words. He was struggling so hard in the end. He kept telling me he has so much more to say that he needed to get out. I’m so angry there wasn’t more time to help him do that.
I guess I’m just glad I got to be there to share the time that we had.
Lamont is warm and safe and well fed. And now it’s time to take him for a walk.
Nate Thayer is dead.
Long live Nate Thayer.
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