Zoned Out

For her hot new dog-mauling book Red Zone, eye-pleasing author Aphrodite Jones re-created dialogue and scenes; her publisher and the Chron don't seem to mind

In an interview a few weeks after the story ran, Costantinou admitted she had misgivings about the reporting in the book, but didn't think her story was the place to raise them. "One of the things that did piss me off as a reporter was that there was no attribution, you never knew who the source was for all this stuff," said Costantinou, who somehow found herself in the four-page acknowledgement at the end of Red Zone, alongside Joan Didion, Norma Jean, and "the legacy of Lewis and Clark." "I don't read much nonfiction, but apparently that's a common device -- the re-creating of scenes."

Maybe, but perhaps a bit more detached skepticism on the part of the Chronicle would have spared it the wrath of its readers, who can clearly distinguish thinly sourced dramatization from real journalism.

"On the prurient-interest scale, I consider myself average," wrote Greta Heinemeier of Mountain View, one of several who sent letters to Datebook the week following the Red Zone story. "However, after reading a couple of paragraphs of your article about Knoller and Noel, I quit in profound disgust, not wanting to participate one more second in such utter trash. I have absolute disdain for everyone involved, from the prisoners, to the 'author,' to those involved at the Chronicle.

"Comparatively, the dogs started looking benign."


It's 5:30 p.m. in South Florida, and Melanie Bonvicino, personal assistant to Aphie (as everyone calls her), is about to dash to a party. But first she's trying to convince an SF Weekly reporter to run the same kinds of photos -- Marjorie Knoller in lingerie, sketches Schneider made of the unholy trinity -- that the Chronicle did. "What the Chronicledid was credibilize Aphrodite's story," Bonvicino explains. "The most important thing is the veracity. Aphrodite might not be an easy personality, but the truth is she's worth everything and then some."

When the reporter demurs, asking only to speak with Jones about her book, Bonvicino makes one last desperate pitch: "This could be a career-maker for you."

Jones' career needs no such help. In addition to her writing and TV commentary, she's become an animal advocate, speaking at wildlife centers and charity benefits about protecting natural habitats. "We need to start realizing we have a crisis on our hands, and my main message is that activists confuse and twist the issue of saving animals with the idea that we can't eat meat, or wear suede and leather," Jones says. "I wear fur and leather, I'll tell you right now. When I'm in Sundance, at the film festival, I wear a fur coat. I'm freezing, I'm thin, I need to have something around me."

She's fielding offers to write about other high-profile crimes, and poking around the Bonnie Lee Blakely murder, which actor Robert Blake has been accused of committing. "People have asked me again and again, 'Will I do Laci Peterson?' I'm not going to say I'm notgoing to do Laci Peterson, but I don't think I will ...." There's a long pause on the other end of the phone, as if she's contemplating whether the story is worth her acumen, whether it's worth becoming an "Aphrodite Jones story," with all that implies. "Then again," she says, her voice suddenly transformed into a breathy tease, "I might."

Lucky us.

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